This page includes, in addition to news about historians, news about political scientists, economists, law professors, and others who write about history. For a comprehensive list of historians' obituaries, go here.
SOURCE: Steven Erlanger in the NYT (10-7-06)
Rashid Khalidi’s latest book, “The Iron Cage,” is at heart a historical essay, an effort to decide why the Palestinians, unlike so many other peoples and tribes, have failed to achieve an independent state. To Mr. Khalidi’s credit, the answers are not very comforting to Palestinians, whose leaders have often made the wrong choices and have not yet built the institutional structures for statehood.
He often contrasts the weakness of Palestinian decision-making, especially before 1948, with the more organized behavior of the Jewish population of British Palestine, known as the yishuv.
At the heart of the book is his anguished question about what the Palestinians call al nakba, the catastrophe — “why Palestinian society crumbled so rapidly in 1948, why there was not more concerted resistance to the process of dispossession, and why 750,000 people fled their homes in a few months.”
Mr. Khalidi has his own set of external culprits: British colonial masters like Lord Balfour, who refused to recognize the national rights of non-Jews; lavish financial support for Jewish immigration; the romanticism and cynicism of Arab leaders, themselves newly hatched from the colonial incubator.
Like Britain before it, he argues, the United States “consistently privileged the interests of the country’s Jewish population over those of its Arab residents,” helping Israel to push “Palestinians into an impossible corner, into an iron cage” from which, he suggests, a viable Palestinian state may not, in the end, emerge.
But he has plenty of blame for the Palestinians, too — for the rivalries among rich Palestinian families who competed to serve their colonial masters, for leaders who failed to see the impact of Hitler on Jewish immigration to Mandate Palestine, for those who mismanaged the 1936-39 Palestinian revolt against the British and especially for Yasir Arafat, who, along with his colleagues in Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization, has a special place in Mr. Khalidi’s pantheon of Palestinian failure....
SOURCE: Ralph Luker at HNN's Cliopatria (blog) (10-10-06)
In the movie, Tom Hanks would play K. C. Johnson. He's the most impressive of the"bloggers who have closely followed the case," in the Times' tacitly pejorative construction. But Johnson is the Platonic ideal of the species—passionate but committed to rigor and facts and fairness, a tenured professor of U.S. history (at Brooklyn College), a 38-year-old vegetarian who lives alone in a one-bedroom Bay Ridge apartment and does pretty much nothing but study, teach, run, and write.
Johnson has no connection to Duke. (His B.A. and Ph.D. are from the Harvard of the Northeast.) His attention was grabbed in April by the"deeply disturbing" public comments of Duke faculty that righteously indulged in invidious stereotypes and assumed the lacrosse players' guilt."One area that the academy, especially since McCarthyism, is supposed to stand up is cases where due process is denied," he says.
He usually posts at least once a day—not standard autoblog rim shots, but carefully argued, deeply researched essays running 1,000 words or more."I need to ensure that it meets what I consider to be an acceptable level of academic quality." He has traveled to Durham several times. When he wanted to find out if Nifong's unfair photo lineups were standard provincial practice—they're not—he spent days talking to fifteen North Carolina police departments and prosecutors.
People assume he's a right-winger."I'm a registered Democrat who has never voted for a Republican in my life." Not that he doesn't wildly speculate—he is a blogger. I wondered why, after Nifong won his primary, the D.A. didn't start tacking away from the case, setting himself up to drop the charges. Because, Johnson argues, if it doesn't go forward, he would be vulnerable to civil suits from the indicted players, and disbarment."This is someone whose career is on the line. He has no choice."
The Times has not addressed any of this. For the past few years, I've tended to roll my eyes when people default to rants about the blindered oafishness or various biases of"the mainstream media" in general and the Times in particular. At the same time, I've nodded when people gush about the blogosphere as a valuable check on and supplement to the MSM—but I've never entirely bought it. Having waded deep into this Duke mess the last weeks, baffled by the Times' pose of objectivity and indispensably guided by Johnson's blog, I'm becoming a believer.
You can find KC's postings on the Duke lacrosse case at Durham-in-Wonderland. They are marked by his characteristically thoughtful and relentless energy. I'll be a happy man when the Duke lacrosse case is resolved and KC will be posting regularly with us again.
SOURCE: NYT (10-9-06)
Hofstadter’s essay introducing the term was inspired by his observations of the radical right-wingers who seized control of the Republican Party in 1964. Today, the movement that nominated Barry Goldwater controls both Congress and the White House.
As a result, political paranoia — the “sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy” Hofstadter described — has gone mainstream. To read Hofstadter’s essay today is to be struck by the extent to which he seems to be describing the state of mind not of a lunatic fringe, but of key figures in our political and media establishment.
The “paranoid spokesman,” wrote Hofstadter, sees things “in apocalyptic terms. ... He is always manning the barricades of civilization.” Sure enough, Dick Cheney says that “the war on terror is a battle for the future of civilization.”
According to Hofstadter, for the paranoids, “what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil,” and because “the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated.” Three days after 9/11, President Bush promised to “rid the world of evil.”
The paranoid “demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals” — instead of focusing on Al Qaeda, we’ll try to remake the Middle East and eliminate a vast “axis of evil” — “and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of frustration.” Iraq, anyone?
The current right-wing explanation for what went wrong in Iraq closely echoes Joseph McCarthy’s explanation for the Communist victory in China, which he said was “the product of a great conspiracy” at home. According to the right, things didn’t go wrong because the invasion was a mistake, or because Donald Rumsfeld didn’t send enough troops, or because the occupation was riddled with cronyism and corruption. No, it’s all because the good guys were stabbed in the back. Democrats, who undermined morale with their negative talk, and the liberal media, which refused to report the good news from Iraq, are responsible for the quagmire....
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (10-9-06)
In that article, Seymour Hersh reported that President Bush's administration was preparing an airstrike against Iran, including the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons.
The president himself dismissed the report as "wild speculation." But Mr. Dabashi, a professor of Iranian studies and comparative literature at Columbia University who has been active in the antiwar movement since the attacks of September 11, 2001, heard a call to action.
The article prompted him to dust off an essay that he had written a few years before and publish it in the June 1 edition of the Egyptian English-language newspaper Al-Ahram. His target? Not President Bush or the Pentagon, but Azar Nafisi, author of the best-selling memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran and a visiting fellow at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, in Washington.
Ms. Nafisi's memoir, published by Random House in 2003, blended a harrowing portrayal of the life of women in post-revolutionary Iran with a powerful personal testimony about the power of literary classics. The book found a wide audience, and its success made Ms. Nafisi a celebrity.
Gazing at the book through the lens of literary theory and politics, Mr. Dabashi had a much less favorable reaction to it. His blistering essay cast Ms. Nafisi as a collaborator in the Bush administration's plans for regime change in Iran. He drew heavily on the late scholar Edward Said's ideas about the relationship between Western literature and empire and the fetishization of the "Orient" to attack Reading Lolita in Tehran as a prop for American imperialism. He also pilloried Ms. Nafisi personally for what he described as her cozy relationship with prominent American neoconservatives.
"By seeking to recycle a kaffeeklatsch version of English literature as the ideological foregrounding of American empire," wrote Mr. Dabashi, "Reading Lolita in Tehran is reminiscent of the most pestiferous colonial projects of the British in India, when, for example, in 1835 a colonial officer like Thomas Macaulay decreed: 'We must do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, a class of persons Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, words and intellect.' Azar Nafisi is the personification of that native informer and colonial agent, polishing her services for an American version of the very same project."
In an interview published on the Web site of the left-wing publication Z Magazine on August 4, Mr. Dabashi went even further, comparing Ms. Nafisi to a U.S. Army reservist convicted of abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. "To me there is no difference between Lynndie England and Azar Nafisi," he told the magazine.
"The reason that I decided to publish [the essay] was fear," says Mr. Dabashi over a cup of tea in his office at Columbia University. "Fear of another war."...
SOURCE: Wa Po (10-9-06)
The historian, Tony Judt, is Jewish and directs New York University's Remarque Institute, which promotes the study of Europe. Judt was scheduled to talk Oct. 4 to a nonprofit organization that rents space from the consulate. Judt's subject was the Israel lobby in the United States, and he planned to argue that this lobby has often stifled honest debate.
An hour before Judt was to arrive, the Polish Consul General Krzysztof Kasprzyk canceled the talk. He said the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee had called and he quickly concluded Judt was too controversial.
"The phone calls were very elegant but may be interpreted as exercising a delicate pressure," Kasprzyk said. "That's obvious -- we are adults and our IQs are high enough to understand that."
Judt, who was born and raised in England and lost much of his family in the Holocaust, took strong exception to the cancellation of his speech. He noted that he was forced to cancel another speech later this month at Manhattan College in the Bronx after a different Jewish group had complained. Other prominent academics have described encountering such problems, in some cases more severe, stretching over the past three decades.
The pattern, Judt says, is unmistakable and chilling.
"This is serious and frightening, and only in America -- not in Israel -- is this a problem," he said. "These are Jewish organizations that believe they should keep people who disagree with them on the Middle East away from anyone who might listen."
The leaders of the Jewish organizations denied asking the consulate to block Judt's speech and accused the professor of retailing "wild conspiracy theories" about their roles. But they applauded the consulate for rescinding Judt's invitation.
"I think they made the right decision," said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. "He's taken the position that Israel shouldn't exist. That puts him on our radar."
Judt has crossed rhetorical swords with the Jewish organizations on two key issues. Over the past few years he has written essays in the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books and in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz arguing that power in Israel has shifted to religious fundamentalists and territorial zealots, that woven into Zionism is a view of the Arab as the irreconcilable enemy, and that Israel might not survive as a communal Jewish state.
The solution, he argues, lies in a slow and tortuous walk toward a binational and secular state.
He has, of late, defended an academic paper -- co-authored by professor Stephen M. Walt of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and John J. Mearsheimer, a professor at the University of Chicago -- which argues the American Israel lobby has pushed policies that are not in the United States' best interests and in fact often encourage Israel to engage in self-destructive behavior....
SOURCE: Tom Reiss in the NYT Book Review (10-8-06)
In November 2005, Fritz Stern received an award for his life’s work on Germans, Jews and the roots of National Socialism, presented to him by Joschka Fischer, then the German foreign minister. With a frankness that startled some in the audience, Stern, an emeritus professor of European history at Columbia University, peppered his acceptance speech with the similarities he saw between the path taken by Germany in the years leading up to Hitler and the path being taken by the United States today. He talked about a group of 1920’s intellectuals known as the “conservative revolutionaries,” who “denounced liberalism as the greatest, most invidious threat, and attacked it for its tolerance, rationality and cosmopolitan culture,” and about how Hitler had used religion to appeal to the German public. In Hitler’s first radio address after becoming chancellor, Stern noted, he declared that the Nazis regarded “Christianity as the foundation of our national morality and the family as the basis of national life.”
Stern was of course not suggesting an equivalence between President Bush and Hitler but rather making a more subtle critique, extending his idea that contemporary American politics exhibited “something like the strident militancy and political ineptitude of the Kaiser’s pre-1914 imperial Germany.” At 80, Stern has just published a sprawling memoir, “Five Germanys I Have Known,” and as with that speech, he does not file away his experiences of Nazism in a geographical or temporal box....
... When Stern needs to pick a college major, he tags along with his mother, who is interviewing Albert Einstein at Princeton, and he asks Einstein whether he should pursue medicine or history. The discoverer of relativity does not hesitate: become a doctor.
Ignoring Einstein’s advice, Stern studies European history and literature under Jacques Barzun and Lionel Trilling, and he begins to sense his mission as a historian. Outraged by the facile interpretations of Nazism floating around in the 1950’s — “all the tomes and slogans about Germany’s inevitable path ‘from Luther to Hitler’ ” — he charts his own, more subtle interpretation of what caused the Third Reich. Over the years Stern protests the ways radicals abuse the memory of Nazism to support their present-day political agendas, whether the 1960’s students who called authority figures fascists and Nazis, or those today who compare foreign leaders they dislike to Hitler and cry “Munich” at every diplomatic gesture.
Yet the value of Stern’s work is precisely that it has refused to keep Nazism safely on the other side of a historical and geographic chasm. His first book, “The Politics of Cultural Despair” (1961), is one of the durable masterpieces of 20th-century history because it seems to locate the roots of a peculiarly modern malaise. As he explained in a later edition of the work, “I attempted to show the importance of this new type of cultural malcontent, and to show how he facilitated the intrusion into politics of essentially unpolitical grievances.”
Rather than looking for obvious parallels among contemporary dictators who ape the style of the Nazis, Stern looks for the nihilistic undercurrents in our own educated, commercial societies. Hunger and poverty have little to do with the politics of cultural despair. It thrives especially well at moments of plenty and prosperity, when people have enough social advantages to dwell on their inner alienations and resentments.
By probing history for answers to how Germany progressed from radical illiberalism to Nazism, Stern has created a cumulative canon of warning signs for the degeneration of any great nation’s politics. The more personal history in this book adds power to an argument that has been a lifetime in the making.
SOURCE: Steven Plaut in The American Thinker (10-5-06)
That institution is DePaul University.
This year will witness the most important decision in DePaul’s entire history, ever since it was first founded by the Catholic “Vincentians”. Over the next few months, DePaul will be deciding whether or not to grant Norman Finkelstein tenure on the basis of his “record”. The same university that fired Prof. Thomas Klocek for daring to defend Israel in a campus conversation outside the classroom is now seriously considering granting tenure to Finkelstein on the basis of his hate-filled pseudo-scholarly screeds. At DePaul, Finkelstein serves as assistant professor of political science at DePaul, but scholarship is the last thing that occupies his time.
Before coming to DePaul he had been fired from several adjunct jobs at academic institutions in the New York area for his lack of serious academic credentials and scholarship. Virtually Finkelstein’s entire publication record consists of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel books and non-professional articles. He has no publications whatsoever in any refereed academic journals, although he has hundreds in anti-Semitic, Holocaust Denial, and neo-nazi web magazines. The closest Finkelstein ever got to journal publication was with a couple of propaganda pieces in New Politics, a “socialist” non-academic magazine of far-leftist agitprop, sponsored by – among others – Noam Chomsky. This “journal” openly states that it “stands in opposition to all forms of imperialism, and is uncompromising in its defense of feminism and affirmative action.” Finkelstein also writes in assorted pro-terror Palestinian “journals”.
Finkelstein’s “books” have been dismissed as scholarly frauds and hate-filled propaganda by just about every serious historian or other scholar who has reviewed them. In the New York Times, Prof. Omer Bartov (Brown University historian) described Finkelstein’s book on the Holocaust as a “novel variation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the fraudulent essay concocted in the late nineteenth century by the Czarist secret police. He also described Finkelstein as “juvenile,” “arrogant,” and “stupid” (Aug. 6, 2000). Professor Marc Saperstein described Finkelstein’s Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history as a “prolonged diatribe,” replete with “outrageous ad hominem attacks” and written in the “rhetorical style of the arrogant academic pit bull.”
The eminent historian Daniel Jonah Goldhagen has dismissed Finkelstein as an anti-Semitic crackpot, as a pseudo-scholar, and as an apologist for the Hamas terrorists. The historian Israel Guttman dismissed Finkelstein’s book as an anti-Semitic buffoon. Professor Hans Momsen from Germany described it as “a most trivial book, one that appeals to easily aroused anti-Semitic prejudices.” University of Chicago Professor and author Peter Novick dismisses Finkelstein’s writing as “trash”. Novick has written,
“Such an examination reveals that many of those assertions are pure invention… No facts alleged by Finkelstein should be assumed to be really facts, no quotation in his book should be assumed to be accurate.” 
“I had not thought that (apart from the disreputable fringe) there were Germans who would take seriously this twenty-first century updating of the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion.’ I was mistaken.” (Offene Fenster und Tueren,’Sueddeutsche Zeitung, February 7, 2001)
The Anti-Defamation League has repeatedly characterized Finkelstein as an open Holocaust Denier. So has the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The French group “Avocats Sans Frontieres“ (Lawyers without Borders) filed a suit in a French court against Finkelstein and his publisher two years back for libel and Holocaust Denial. Finkelstein readily adopts the language of neo-nazis; his web site a few days ago described a meeting of pro-Israel Jews in Europe as an assembly of the “Elders of Zion”. His personal web site recently carried a banner heading asserting that the Jews themselves fabricated photos of the murdered at Auschwitz..
“The field of Holocaust studies is replete with nonsense, if not sheer fraud,”
writes Finkelstein. Among his most famous pronouncements is,
“If everyone who claims to be a survivor actually is one,” my mother used to exclaim, “who did Hitler kill?” (Norman Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry, Verso, London 2000). ....
SOURCE: Clare Spark, in an email sent to H-HOAC: A Forum for scholars, serious students, and all who want to participate in a scholarly discussion of the History of American Communism (HOAC) (10-5-06)
The putative child abuse was not the only trial the heroic Bettina Aptheker has endured. Here is how Professor of Women's Studies Aptheker described her educational background for Out In The Redwoods (easily located through Google):
[Aptheker:] I arrived in Santa Cruz in the fall of 1979 to begin my graduate studies in the History of Consciousness Program. I had two young children, and I was finalizing a divorce from my husband of thirteen years. I was also struggling to claim my lesbian identity. Brutalized by the police and FBI because of my Communist affiliation and radical activism in the 1960s and 1970s, ?coming out? for me was at once traumatic and exhilarating.
Recall that the review describes her sudden recollection, previously repressed, as having come to her while writing her memoir. Does this seem plausible to anyone here? Let us assume that father committed incest with young Bettina for years, yet she had no memory of what had to be traumatic. The cynic in me wonders if she is not beefing up her history to demonstrate that she has overcome yet another assault by authority, undeserved and extreme, of course. Why would she do that? Nothing like a famous and controversial father to expose as a way of getting attention from reviewers for her book, published by Seal Press, described on the internet as a small feminist press. The historian in me recalls that the feminist theory informing women's studies requires that patriarchy be viewed as the primary social contradiction, and indeed there was a job posting for teaching Women's Studies at UC San Diego while I was in graduate school, stating that adherence to feminist theory was a prerequisite for hiring. What could be more dramatic proof that the male desire to control women trumps class and other forms of illegitimate domination?
SOURCE: Ig Noble website (10-5-06)
[Ig Noble Prizes are a spoof of the Noble Prize. They are awarded annually to those with quirky achievements. In 2005 people doing history won several prizes: " James Watson of Massey University, New Zealand, for his scholarly study, 'The Significance of Mr. Richard Buckley’s Exploding Trousers.' " The American Nudist Research Library of Kissimmee, Florida, USA, for preserving nudist history so that everyone can see it.]
SOURCE: Email from David Beito to members of Richard Jensen's CNET list (10-4-06)
Those AHA members who are willing to do so should write as soon as possible to David T. Beito at email@example.com Please respond today. There is no margin for error. RESOLUTION ON SPEECH CODES AND ACADEMIC FREEDOM Whereas, The American Historical Association has already gone on record against the threat to academic freedom posed by the Academic Bill of Rights; and v Whereas, Free and open discourse is essential to the success of research and learning on campus; and
Whereas, Administrators and others have used campus speech codes and associated non-academic criteria to improperly restrict faculty choices on curriculum, course content, and personnel decisions; and
Whereas, Administrators and others have also used speech codes to restrict free and open discourse for students and faculty alike through such methods as"free speech zones" and censorship of campus publications; therefore be it
Resolved, The American Historical Association opposes the use of speech codes to restrict academic freedom.
SOURCE: MESA (10-3-06)
We, the Middle East Studies Association of North America’s Committee on Academic Freedom, are writing to express our grave concern and dismay over the Department of State’s denial of a visa for a second time to a world-renowned scholar of Islam, Professor Tareq Ramadan. It is apparent that this decision was made on purely political grounds, in clear violation of the principles of academic freedom and free speech, both of which are critical to the functioning of a healthy democracy. We urge you in the strongest terms to review and reverse this decision without delay.
The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has more than 2600 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.
On August 30, 2004, we wrote asking for clarification regarding the Department of State’s then-recent decision to revoke the visa Dr. Ramadan had already been granted so that he could take the prestigious Luce Chair at the University o Notre Dame. As specialists in the region familiar with Ramadan's record, we stated that there was absolutely no evidence for the allegations then circulating in some media outlets claiming that Dr. Ramadan had advocated violence or had been associated with groups that perpetrate violence. On the contrary, numerous reputable scholars from prestigious universities had testified to his academic credentials and his character as a researcher and teacher.
In response, in a letter dated 3 September and addressed to MESA’s Executive Director, Dr. Amy Newhall, the State Department stated that the visa had been revoked “prudentially based on information that became available after the visa was issued” and that “Due to the confidentiality of visa records, as provided for in the Immigration and Nationality Act, [the Department of State] was not able to provide any details concerning this matter.”
Following the June 2006 ruling by a federal court which ordered the State Department either to grant the visa to Dr. Ramadan or provide an explanation for not doing so, Department spokeswoman Janelle Hironimus stated that Dr. Ramadan was denied a visa “for providing material support to a terrorist organization.” This charge is apparently based on the fact that he made donations between 2000 and 2004 in the amount of 600 euros to French and Swiss organizations that provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinians – donations which Dr. Ramadan himself disclosed in his visa application. Thus, in denying him a visa, the US government is apparently using Section 411(a)(1)(A)(iii) of the Patriot Act, related to excluding individuals believed to have provided “material support” for terrorism.
That contributions to European organizations seeking to provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians living under Israeli occupation is viewed by the US government as constituting support for terrorism, already speaks volumes about the administration’s lack of understanding of the region and the quality of its stated concern to promote freedom and democracy in the Middle East. It is also unreasonable to expect that Dr. Ramadan should have had advance knowledge that the United States would at a future date put the organization to which he was contributing on its list of groups supporting Hamas; it figured on no such list at the time he made his donations.
Dr. Ramadan is a leading scholar and public intellectual whose writings and statements make clear his opposition to violence and terrorism. Indeed, the basic concern that motivates much of his work is one of reconciliation and interfaith coexistence. It seems clear that Dr. Ramadan’s charitable contributions in fact have nothing at all to do with the visa denial: its origins lie elsewhere. By his own account of the visa interviews conducted at the US embassy in Switzerland, the focus of the questioning was his positions on Palestine and Iraq. On these questions, like many others, Muslims and non-Muslims, Americans and non-Americans, scholars, intellectuals, and average citizens, Tareq Ramadan has been a critic of US policy in Palestine/Israel and Iraq. It appears that this visa denial has nothing whatsoever to do with his donations, but instead is punishment for his political views.
As we stated in our letter of 2004, “denying qualified scholars entry to the United States because of their political beliefs strikes at the core of academic freedom. On that basis alone, the decision to deny Dr. Ramadan access to our country is unacceptable.” We also find the decision profoundly counter-productive to the stated aims of US policy, which is to develop a better understanding of Muslims and the Muslim world. It is clearly in US interests to encourage dialogue and exchange with Muslims, particularly prominent and highly regarded members of Muslim communities who do not espouse violence, regardless of what their positions on US foreign policy may be. How does it serve the interests of the United States, which is currently seeking to improve its ties with and image in the Arab/Islamic world, to exclude from entry one of that world’s most highly regarded thinkers and scholars?
We are deeply troubled by this second denial of a visa to Dr. Ramadan. It is a clear violation of academic freedom and of the principle of free speech. We respectfully request that you review and reverse this decision without delay.
Juan R.I. Cole
SOURCE: Christopher Phelps in the Chronicle of Higher Ed (10-3-06)
... Now we have knowledge of a far more painful contradiction in the life of Herbert Aptheker than his simultaneous defense of black freedom and Soviet authoritarianism, one long buried in silence. Intimate Politics (Seal Press), the stunning new memoir by Bettina Aptheker, a professor of feminist studies and history at the University of California at Santa Cruz, will prompt a re-examination of her father, whom American historians now tend to honor as a pioneer in recognizing the centrality of the black past to American history.
Aptheker enjoys at least a fraction of her father's notoriety. She is listed in David Horowitz's book The Professors, for example, which purports to identify the "101 most dangerous academics in America." (The entry, regrettably, is replete with errors, such as the claim that she was expelled from the Communist Party in 1991, when in fact she had resigned from it a full decade earlier.)
Born in the year following publication of American Negro Slave Revolts, Bettina Aptheker was a sole child whose father was at the center of the family's Brooklyn household and of her own perception of the world's possibilities. Her mother, Fay, was her father's first cousin (their fathers were brothers), and she kept his social calendar between the tours she chaperoned to the Soviet Union.
"When I was a little girl I wanted to be just like my father," writes Bettina Aptheker. "Whatever he did, I did, or tried to do."
This powerful evocation of a child's boundless love makes the book's central revelation, conveyed in an indelible paragraph, all the more devastating:
"My father and I played other games too, besides baseball. I was three or four years old when we began playing choo choo train. We were in the living room in the apartment on Washington Avenue, crawling around on the Persian rug my mother treasured. Many years afterward, this memory came to me: My father was behind me, and then the train arrived 'at the station,' and we had to wait for the 'passengers' to get off and on. Our train rocked back and forth, back and forth, and my father had his right arm tightly around me. He was the 'locomotive' even though he was behind me. Our train shuddered just before it was supposed to leave 'the station,' except it didn't leave. I was wet and sticky and I remember my father was crying and I was sitting on the floor next to him and he had put a towel down so we wouldn't dirty the rug. I remember stroking his hair and saying 'It's okay, Daddy. It's okay.' And then he stood me up and we went into the bathroom and he washed me off, very gently. It didn't hurt. He never hurt me. And I knew not to tell. As I grew bigger we played different games, but they always had the shudder. Older still, I knew it was not a game. I still knew not to tell because he told me 'terrible things will happen.' My father stopped molesting me when I was thirteen and we had moved to a new house."
Incest is only the most painful of a series of hard truths about Herbert Aptheker that we confront in Intimate Politics. We discover that he underpaid the family's black housecleaners. We learn that his celebrations of black resistance were attempts "to compensate for his deep shame about the way, he believed, the Jews had acted during the Holocaust." We are told that to cope with Stalin, the war, the party, and his family, he "lived much of the time in a fantasy world of his own making."
What makes Intimate Politics remarkable, however, is that none of its damning truths are told with rancor. Bettina Aptheker is a powerful witness to her father's contradictions precisely because of her emotional honesty. Her baring of her own shortcomings makes the book far more shattering than any shot ever fired by Eugene Genovese. Intimate Politics could not have been published, one senses, when Herbert and Fay Aptheker were still alive, but it is not governed by a spirit of vindictiveness....
SOURCE: Tariq Ramadan in an op ed in the Wa Po (10-1-06)
First, I was told that I could not enter the country because I had endorsed terrorism and violated the USA Patriot Act. It took a lawsuit for the government eventually to abandon this baseless accusation. Later, I reapplied for a visa, twice, only to hear nothing for more than a year. Finally, just 10 days ago, after a federal judge forced the State Department to reconsider my application, U.S. authorities offered a new rationale for turning me away: Between 1998 and 2002, I had contributed small sums of money to a French charity supporting humanitarian work in the Palestinian territories.
I am increasingly convinced that the Bush administration has barred me for a much simpler reason: It doesn't care for my political views. In recent years, I have publicly criticized U.S. policy in the Middle East, the war in Iraq, the use of torture, secret CIA prisons and other government actions that undermine fundamental civil liberties. And for many years, through my research and writing and speeches, I have called upon Muslims to better understand the principles of their own faith, and have sought to show that one can be Muslim and Western at the same time.
My experience reveals how U.S. authorities seek to suppress dissenting voices and -- by excluding people such as me from their country -- manipulate political debate in America. Unfortunately, the U.S. government's paranoia has evolved far beyond a fear of particular individuals and taken on a much more insidious form: the fear of ideas.
In January 2004, I was offered a job at the University of Notre Dame, as a professor of Islamic studies and as Luce professor of religion, conflict and peace-building. I accepted the tenured position enthusiastically and looked forward to joining the academic community in the United States. After the government granted me a work visa, I rented a home in South Bend, Ind., enrolled my children in school there and shipped all of my household belongings. Then, in July, the government notified me that my visa had been revoked. It did not offer a specific explanation, but pointed to a provision of the Patriot Act that applies to people who have "endorsed or espoused" terrorist activity.
The revocation shocked me. I had consistently opposed terrorism in all of its forms, and still do. And, before 2004, I had visited the United States frequently to lecture, attend conferences and meet with other scholars. I had been an invited speaker at conferences or lectures sponsored by Harvard University, Stanford, Princeton and the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Foundation. None of these institutions seemed to consider me a threat to national security....
[The US now says that Ramadan's application for a visa was denied because of two donations he had made to charitable organizations serving Palestinians.]
In its letter, the U.S. Embassy claims that I "reasonably should have known" that the charities in question provided money to Hamas. But my donations were made between December 1998 and July 2002, and the United States did not blacklist the charities until 2003. How should I reasonably have known of their activities before the U.S. government itself knew? I donated to these organizations for the same reason that countless Europeans -- and Americans, for that matter -- donate to Palestinian causes: not to help fund terrorism, but because I wanted to provide humanitarian aid to people who desperately need it. Yet after two years of investigation, this was the only explanation offered for the denial of my visa. I still find it hard to believe.
SOURCE: Cambridge University Press email to HNN (10-2-06)
Q: You argue in Triumph Forsaken that much of what is traditionally believed about the Vietnam War is not true. Let’s start with your views on South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem. The traditional thinking is that he was unpopular among the South Vietnamese people and that, after his crackdown on the Buddhist monks, the United States administration was happy to see him go and gave Diem’s generals their blessing for the coup against him in 1963. You believe that this school of thought is misguided. What do you think is the more accurate assessment of Diem and why?
A: Diem enjoyed the respect of many Vietnamese because of his asceticism, personality, and dedication to the welfare of his country. He governed in an authoritarian way because he considered Western-style democracy inappropriate for a country that was fractious and dominated by an authoritarian culture. The accuracy of this belief would be borne out by the events that followed his assassination, events that heretofore have not been covered adequately. Diem was not as heavy-handed as the Vietnamese Communist leader Ho Chi Minh, and Diem’s traditional, but not reactionary, ideology had more appeal among the Vietnamese people than Ho Chi Minh’s radical ideology. Diem did not kill tens of thousands in the process of redistributing land or stifle religion as Ho Chi Minh did. For most of Diem’s tenure, the South Vietnamese government outfought the Vietnamese Communists. In the late 1950s, Diem succeeded in eliminating most of the Communist agents who had remained in the South after the partition of Vietnam in July 1954. During 1960 and 1961, however, the Viet Cong made considerable headway in launching a large-scale insurgency. The war took another dramatic turn in 1962, with the Diem government regaining the upper hand. Relying on young leaders whom Diem had begun cultivating in the 1950s, the South Vietnamese government fortified its local militia forces and its mobile units during 1962 and 1963. It inflicted numerous defeats on the Viet Cong’s armed forces and re-established control over most of the territory where the Viet Cong had made inroads in 1960 and 1961.
Diem’s critics believed that the Buddhist protest movement of 1963 stemmed from popular dissatisfaction with a government guilty of religious intolerance. The Buddhist protesters were, in reality, a small, politically-minded group that made false charges in an effort to unseat the government. The leaders had close ties to the Communists or were themselves Communists, and Communist secret agents participated extensively in their protest activities. In Vietnam, where a government lost face if it condoned strident public protest, Diem ultimately had to suppress the Buddhist movement in order to preserve his government. He suppressed it very effectively on August 21, 1963, by arresting its leaders and clearing the pagodas where it was headquartered. This maneuver was actually proposed and executed by Diem’s generals, a critical fact lost on those Americans who sought to remove Diem for suppressing the protesters. Most remarkably, the anti-Diem Americans decided that Diem should be replaced with these very generals. While Diem’s generals thought that he remained the best man for the Presidency, the ensuing renunciations of Diem by the U.S government and press ultimately caused some of them to remove him from power. President Kennedy did not personally consent to the coup that ousted Ngo Dinh Diem; U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge instigated the coup without notifying Kennedy and in direct violation of Presidential orders. A few days before the coup was to commence, according to previously untapped documents and presidential audio recordings, Kennedy learned that Lodge was encouraging the conspirators behind his back and he sent messages of protestation to Lodge but did not take decisive action to reign him in, primarily because Lodge was a leading candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination in the 1964 election. Lodge’s incitement of the coup that overthrew Diem in November 1963 was by far the worst American mistake of the Vietnam War. As the title of the book indicates, the coup negated the great military and political gains that the Diem government had made in 1962 and 1963. Contrary to later assertions by the coup’s advocates, the South Vietnamese war effort had not entered into a period of decline during the last months of Diem’s rule, as is proven by previously unexamined North Vietnamese sources. The deterioration did not begin until the period immediately following Diem’s overthrow, when the new leaders failed to lead, feuded with each other, and arrested untold numbers of former Diem supporters.
Q: You come down harshly on President Lyndon Johnson and his administration for not taking a stronger stance against the North Vietnamese more quickly. Can you discuss this a bit more?
A: Previously unexamined North Vietnamese sources reveal that Lyndon Johnson’s lack of forcefulness in Vietnam in late 1964 and early 1965 squandered America’s deterrent power. Johnson’s generals favored striking North Vietnam quickly and powerfully, but he chose to follow the advice of his civilian advisers, who advocated an academic approach employing small doses of force to convey America’s resolve without provoking the enemy. Johnson made only a token attack on North Vietnam following the Tonkin Gulf incidents of 1964 and undertook no military action thereafter. Instead of inducing the North Vietnamese to reciprocate with self-limitations as advocates of the academic approach had predicted, however, the limited character of the American response convinced Hanoi that the Americans would not mount a major defense of Vietnam in the near future. This perception, in concert with the disintegration of the South Vietnamese government following Diem’s demise, led the North Vietnamese to invade South Vietnam with North Vietnamese Army units for the purpose of winning the war swiftly.
Q: One of the justifications for the US involvement in Vietnam was the so-called “domino theory,” the idea that if Vietnam fell to the Communists, then the rest of Asia would succumb as well, dangerously shifting the balance of power in the Cold War. While many claim that history has proven the domino theory to be false, you assert that it was indeed a legitimate theory. How so?
A: The U.S. government’s fear of falling dominoes in Asia was based on a sound understanding of the countries in Southeast Asia and the surrounding areas, not on simple-mindedness or paranoia as is usually alleged. For most of the region’s countries, the evidence available both then and since overwhelmingly indicated that South Vietnam’s defeat would have led to either a Communist takeover or the switching of allegiance to China. Some of these countries were strategically vital for the United States, most notably Indonesia and Japan. In 1965, China and North Vietnam were aggressively trying to topple many of the dominoes, and the dominoes were very vulnerable to toppling. Asia’s leaders believed that if the United States pulled out of Vietnam, then most of Asia would lose all confidence in the United States and would have to bow before China or face destruction. Every country in Southeast Asia and neighboring territory, aside from the few that were already allied with the North Vietnamese and Chinese Communists, advocated U.S. intervention in Vietnam, and most of them offered to assist the South Vietnamese war effort. American intervention in Vietnam would contribute to changes that would prevent the dominoes from falling when South Vietnam fell in 1975, including the widening of the China-Soviet split, the onset of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and the civil war in Cambodia. Unbeknownst to previous historians, America’s willingness to hold firm in Vietnam played a critical role in convincing Indonesian generals to take power from the pro-Communist Sukarno and destroy the Indonesian Communist Party in late 1965 and early 1966, one of the most momentous events of the Cold War.
Q: You are critical of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations for not recognizing the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos as vital for the maintenance of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong supply lines into South Vietnam. Many historians let Kennedy and Johnson off the hook but you assert that disrupting the Ho Chi Minh Trail early in the war was essential. Can you discuss this further?
A: The Joint Chiefs of Staff repeatedly recommended putting U.S. ground forces into Laos to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail, but both presidents rejected the recommendations. While some historians have endorsed the view that the Ho Chi Minh Trail was not essential to the Communist war effort, new evidence on the trail and on specific battles disprove this contention. The Viet Cong insurgency always depended heavily on North Vietnamese infiltration of men and equipment, and it could not have brought the Saigon government close to collapse in 1965, or defeated it in 1975, without heavy infiltration of both. Other historians have argued that an American ground troop presence in Laos would not have stopped most of the infiltration, but much new evidence contradicts this assertion as well. American, North Vietnamese, and Soviet experts all have said that a few American divisions could have shut down the infiltration routes. In 1960, when the North Vietnamese infiltration had involved no motorized traffic, a South Vietnamese force
roughly the size of one division had severed the first Ho Chi Minh Trail—which lay within Vietnamese territory—by controlling the South Vietnamese section of Route 9, a stretch that comprised one-fourth of the entire route. In 1964, with the infiltration effort heavily reliant on trucks, the United States could have detected and stopped most infiltration of materiel much more easily because trucks could cross the Laotian segment of Route 9 at only a few intersections.
Q: Could the United States have won the war by invading North Vietnam?
A: After the overthrow of Diem, as the South Vietnamese war effort deteriorated, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other U.S. military leaders repeatedly advocated an invasion of North Vietnam. Johnson and his civilian advisers, however, rejected this advice, in the belief that such an invasion could spark a war between the United States and China. Historians have generally concurred in the assessment that Chinese intervention was likely. The evidence, however, shows that until at least March 1965, the deployment of U.S. ground forces into North Vietnam would not have caused the Chinese to intercede. Having suffered huge losses in the Korean War, the Chinese had no more desire than the Americans for a war between their country and the United States. The North Vietnamese and Chinese agreed that in the event of an American invasion, North Vietnamese forces would retreat into the mountains rather than stand and fight, for they knew that superior U.S. firepower would annihilate North Vietnamese forces defending fixed positions. The United States would not have won the war quickly had it invaded the North, but it would have faced a far better strategic scenario than the one it ultimately accepted by not invading.
Q: You believe that many journalists at the time, including David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan, were inaccurate in their assessment of the Diem regime in South Vietnam and that their reporting in major media outlets in the US did tremendous damage. Can you expand on this a bit more?
A: Halberstam and Sheehan repeatedly filed erroneous reports on military events, regularly overemphasizing the South Vietnamese government’s shortcomings. John Paul Vann, the central figure in Sheehan’s book A Bright Shining Lie and a leading critic of the Diem government, was more dishonest in dealing with the press than Sheehan ever acknowledged. Halberstam and Sheehan presented grossly inaccurate information on the Buddhist protest movement and on South Vietnamese politics, much of which they unwittingly received from Communist secret agents. Ignorant of cultural differences between the United States and Vietnam, they criticized the Diem government for refusing to act like an American government when, in fact, Diem’s political methods were far more effective than American methods in treating South Vietnam’s problems. The reporting of Halberstam and Sheehan did much to turn Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge and other influential Americans against Diem. South Vietnam’s elites regularly read Vietnamese translations of American press articles and they viewed the New York Times and other U.S. newspapers as mouthpieces for the U.S. administration, so negative articles on the Diem government also undermined South Vietnamese confidence in Diem and encouraged rebellion. Although the American journalists hoped that their reporting would bring about the installation of a better South Vietnamese government, it actually led to the installation of a series of ineffective governments, inflicting enormous damage on South Vietnam and on American interests. Once the coup that they had promoted led to political and military disaster, exposing them to blame for the crippling of South Vietnam, Halberstam and Sheehan and Stanley Karnow falsely disparaged Diem so as to claim that South Vietnam was already weak beyond hope before the coup. Their writings popularized the negative images of Diem.
Q: Do you believe that the war could have ended without a major deployment of US military personnel if the United States had fully supported the Diem regime?
A: Yes. Because of Diem’s accomplishments in 1962 and 1963, the Viet Cong lacked the ability to defeat the government at the time of Diem’s death, and for a considerable period thereafter. Had Diem remained in power, the Viet Cong could have kept the war going as long as they continued to receive new manpower from North Vietnam and maintained sanctuaries in Cambodia and Laos, but it is highly doubtful that the war would have reached the point where the United States needed to introduce several hundred thousand of its own troops to avert defeat, as it did under Diem’s successors. South Vietnam might well have survived under Diem without the help of any U.S. ground forces. The men who led South Vietnam from November 1963 to the time of the American intervention prosecuted the war much less effectively than Diem had, and this weak performance helped overcome Hanoi’s great reluctance to send the North Vietnamese Army into South Vietnam. If the North Vietnamese Army had invaded the South at some later date with Diem still in power, South Vietnam might have withstood the onslaught with the help of U.S. air power but without U.S. ground troops, as it would in 1972.
Q: What does your book tell us that is relevant to the current conflict in Iraq?
A: I did not mention Iraq in the book because my objective was not to make points about Iraq but to render the history of the Vietnam War accurately. That being said, there are some important similarities, as well as some important differences, between what is described in the book and what is taking place today in Iraq. In 1954, the armed forces of South Vietnam faced some of the same challenges that the Iraqi security forces face now. South Vietnamese President Diem removed numerous officers from the South Vietnamese Army, though the armed forces were not dismantled completely as was the case with the Iraqi army after the defeat of Saddam Hussein. American advisers arrived early in the development of the South Vietnamese
Army and they did much to improve its proficiency. The most important factor in the effectiveness of a South Vietnamese Army unit, however, was always the quality of its leadership. In a culture with authoritarian traditions, such as Vietnam or Iraq, effective leadership is especially important. Advisers could impart knowledge and they could embolden through the display of courage, but they could not teach charisma, intelligence, and other key leadership attributes. Oftentimes the most important contribution of an American adviser was his assessment of South Vietnamese leaders, for it could help convince the South Vietnamese national leadership to replace ineffectual personnel. Because Diem inherited a weak corps of officers who had been trained by the French, he set out to develop his own leadership corps. He succeeded in creating a new generation of dedicated nationalist leaders, but it would take seven years before these individuals came into key positions and had a major impact. The South Vietnamese experience, therefore, suggests that strong Iraqi leadership can only be developed over a prolonged period of time. It is also not clear at this time that Iraq has a person or group that can effectively orchestrate the cultivation of new leaders as Diem did; Diem had greater freedom of action than Iraq’s leaders do today, for he was not confronted with democratic or legal constraints, or with rampant assassination of prospective leadership candidates.
Forming a government that can develop a leadership corps and adopt the necessary security measures will also require that Iraqis overcome intense internecine strife, something that South Vietnam faced on several occasions. In an effort to surmount such strife, the United States pressed for political liberalization in South Vietnam as it has in Iraq, though it was much less aggressive in pushing for complete democratization than in Iraq. In both the South Vietnamese and Iraqi cases, many Americans were too hasty to assume that liberal government could easily be transplanted into places with no liberal democratic traditions. Americans tended to project their own worldview onto others, and they paid too much heed to local elites who advocated liberalization but were out of touch with the masses in their own country. Enacting liberalization in South Vietnam would have prevented the Diem government from undertaking the stern measures needed to suppress subversives and gain the respect of the masses. When Diem first assumed power in 1954, he faced several large groups that possessed their own armed forces and did not want to submit to the authority of the central government. The U.S. embassy urged Diem to reach a compromise, not understanding that by trying to compromise and by tolerating open defiance from these groups, Diem would lose face with the masses. Ignoring American advice, Diem used force to compel these groups to submit to his authority. Rather than leading to alienation or civil war, as the Americans had predicted, he strengthened his power and won the respect of the masses. He then proceeded to build strong national armed forces. This particular episode suggests that the central government should control all armed forces during a period of civil strife, in order to ensure their loyalty to the central government and increase the government’s prestige. Such centralization, however, may no longer be possible in Iraq, or at least in
northern Iraq, where the Kurds enjoy autonomy and possess very formidable armed forces of their own.
In the period after Diem’s assassination, an array of South Vietnamese factions struggled with each other for influence. American prodding induced the South Vietnamese government to permit freedom of speech and freedom of protest, which facilitated subversion by the South Vietnamese government’s mortal enemies, and the same problem is now recurring, to some degree, in Iraq. The United States pressured South Vietnam’s rulers to make their government more “inclusive” by bringing in individuals from all groups in society. When the South Vietnamese did so, however, the results were discouraging, for the new individuals often were unqualified for their jobs and were more concerned with serving their own group’s interests than with operating an effective national government. Nor did inclusiveness or the promise of elections do much to reduce the hostility among the different groups. In terms of governmental effectiveness, a dedicated minority may be best suited to national leadership, in Iraq as well as in South Vietnam; Saddam Hussein’s government, like Diem’s government, was more effective in maintaining internal security and administering the country than its successors. Of course, the United States has already done a great deal to eliminate the power of the Sunnis and others who held power under Saddam Hussein and it is not clear that another dedicated elite is prepared to step in. Although the United States is inherently reluctant to support something short of democracy in a country for which it bears responsibility, many Americans at this point would be content with non-democratic rule in Iraq if it meant that the Iraqi government would be strong enough to enable the United States to withdraw its troops. By the middle of 1965, the United States had become so frustrated with governmental instability and ineffectiveness in Vietnam that it consented to a military dictatorship, which restored political stability and led to gradual rehabilitation of the government’s capabilities. In South Vietnam, and in many other countries with no democratic traditions, authoritarian rule was more effective than liberal rule in quelling internal subversion. The difficult process of liberalization generally succeeds only once the subversives have been suppressed, and it usually requires a gradual transition, not an abrupt change.
The differences of opinion between the U.S. civilian and military leadership over Vietnam resemble those of the past few years over Iraq. President Lyndon Johnson, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and other leading civilians disregarded advice from top military officers to strike North Vietnam harder and insert U.S. troops into Laos to block the Ho Chi Minh Trail, either of which would have given the United States enormous strategic advantages. The civilians believed that their smarts and their youthful vigor trumped the experience and accumulated knowledge of the military officers. Under the administration of George W. Bush, leading civilians have shown similar disregard for the military’s views on Iraq, especially during the planning and initial execution of the occupation of Iraq, with similarly unfortunate results. While the judgments of military officers are not infallible, they deserve greater attention from civilian leaders, particularly those with visions of dramatic departures from past military practices.
SOURCE: Rutgers News (9-18-06)
A new film about Newark, to be broadcast in October, will change that. “The Once and Future Newark,” a documentary hosted by famed historian Clement A. Price, will premiere on NJN Public Television in New Jersey on Oct. 4, at 6:30 p.m., and will be rebroadcast on Oct. 5 at 9 p.m. The film, which was produced by Rutgers University, Newark in association with Blackbird Media Group, also will be previewed at Rutgers- Newark on Sat. Oct. 1, and on Wed., Oct. 4, featuring a Q & A with Dr. Price (See biography on page 3).
The program follows Price as the Newark resident tours the city with colleagues, visiting 18 historical, cultural, and in some cases, uniquely Newark sites. These include Branch Brook Park, the Ironbound, Weequahic High School,
the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Essex County Courthouse, and the Newark campus of Rutgers, where Price is Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor specializing in urban history, African-American history and New Jersey and Newark history. The film also incorporates a treasure trove of historical images.
Price has led tours of Newark for decades, inspiring students, educators and many others to be fascinated by Newark’s past and the promises of its future. Many who tour the city with Price have gone on to develop a personal connection and active interest in Newark.
"The growing interest in the new Newark that is taking shape has truly heartened my role as a New Jersey and public historian, “ Professor Price noted. “The film enables me to reach thousands of people who live, work and study in Newark, those who left the city years ago and, to be sure, those who deserve an opportunity to better understand New Jersey's largest and most important regional center."...
SOURCE: The Australian (10-2-06)
Michael Fry, a former Scottish candidate for the Conservative and Unionist Party, says the break-up of Britain is essential if Scotland is to thrive.
His conversion is a symptom of the growing support north of the border for a separate Scotland, with more people now saying they would back independence rather than the status quo in a referendum.
Fry's epiphany came as he was writing a book on the union between Scotland and England, with the 300th anniversary falling on May 1 next year.
The tercentenary comes two days before Scottish parliament elections due on May 3, in which the Scottish National Party is expected to make its strongest challenge for power so far.
As a Conservative candidate in the 1980s and 1990s, Fry was a staunch defender of the union with Britain - but now he is a nationalist. "I have changed my mind," he says. "I believe in an independent Scotland. I will do what I can to bring it about."
His change of heart was brought about by the failure of the devolution of power from London to Edinburgh, he said. "Devolution has proved to be completely hopeless, if anything making Scotland a worse country rather than better. You can do more, and do better, under independence than you can by basically rattling the begging bowl at the British Government, saying, 'Can we have some more money'."...
SOURCE: Common-Place.org (10-1-06)
The nearly universal notice of my religion got me thinking about passion, commitment, and balance. What is the place of personal values and beliefs in scholarship? Our personal commitments are certain to bias our work, and yet is that necessarily bad? Historians write with passion about slavery, race, women, war and peace, freedom, and injustice. Is their work marred by their belief? Beyond question, their values shape the work. After the civil rights movement, we write differently about women and race than we did a half century ago. Are the biases that play about our scholarship prejudices to be purged, or are they powerful and useful motivations?
An impassioned graduate student once announced in a seminar that she could find traces of gender on a blank wall. Her commitment had sharpened her eye for evidence that less engaged researchers missed. I can remember the time when historians sighed that since so little evidence about slaves survived slavery, slave lives, regrettably, could never be recovered. Nowadays one would pause before saying that about any subject. As the Gospels say, those who search, find. Passion may introduce bias but it also produces persistence—and data.
Okay, that may be true, we say, for gender studies or investigations of race, but does it work for Joseph Smith with his angelic visitors, gold plates, and a Urim and Thummim? Isn’t that a different kind of commitment that borders on the crazy? How can belief in such oddities be allowed any place in scholarship?
I would be the first to admit that my account of Joseph Smith shows greater tolerance for Smith’s remarkable stories than most historians would allow. I write about the visits of angels as if they might have happened. I do not assume, a priori, that Joseph Smith’s stories are fraudulent, any more than I would automatically write about Mohammad’s visions or the biblical miracles as obvious deceptions. But I hope that my readers see that my writing as a believer is not just a personal indulgence. I would like them to understand the benefit for historical inquiry as a whole in writing out of my convictions. The bizarre nature of Joseph Smith’s stories makes historical work by a believing historian all the more useful.
One reason is that skepticism about the gold plates and the visions can easily slip over into cynicism. The assumption that Smith concocted the stories of angels and plates casts a long shadow over his entire life. Everything he did is thrown into doubt. His exhortations to godly service, his self-sacrifice, his pious letters to his wife, his apparent love for his fellow workers all appear as manipulations to perpetuate a grand scheme. Cynicism has its advantages in smoking out hypocrisy, but it does not foster sympathetic understanding. Every act is prejudged from the beginning....
SOURCE: Znet (10-1-06)
The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war.
-- David Ben-Gurion writing to his son, 1937
There is no such thing as a Palestinian people... It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn't exist.
-- Golda Meir, statement to The Sunday Times, 15 June, 1969
As Israel stands accused by Amnesty International of committing war crimes in Lebanon following its almost 5-week bombardment of that country, which left over a thousand civilians dead and almost a million displaced, a prominent Israeli historian at Haifa University revisits the formative period of the State of Israel to investigate the treatment of the indigenous Palestinians.
In this controversial new book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Ilan Pappe uses recently declassified archival sources to investigate the fate suffered by the indigenous population of 1940s Palestine at the hands of the Zionist political and military leadership, whose actions led to the mass deportation of over a million Palestinians from their cities and villages, over 400 villages wiped from the map, and hundreds of civilians dead.
Exploring both the planning and the execution of the Jewish operations during the British Mandate period and the run-up to independence, Pappe focuses in particular on the activities of the Hagana, the Irgun, and the Palmach. Drawing on such meticulously-researched documents as the minutes from meetings of Ben-Gurion’s unofficial "war cabinet" as well as the personal diaries and memoirs of a large number of key officials in all sectors of the Jewish leadership of the day, Pappe pieces together and re-examines the attitudes and motivations that influenced the conduct of the Jewish community towards the indigenous population. He goes on to offer a detailed account of the events of 1947-8 that eventually led to one of the biggest refugee migrations in modern history. This is no moral rant against the past, but a passionate plea to acknowledge the Nakba, as Palestinians call the catastrophe that befell them in 1948, as the root cause of the ongoing Palestine-Israel conflict.
Many political commentators and historians trace the roots of the recent stages of the conflict back only so far as Israel’s occupation of the West Bank following the 1967 war, rightly regarding the occupation, the settlements and the Security Barrier as a violation of international law.
The first and second Intifadas may be seen as protests against the continuing occupation and a reflection of the deep despair of the Palestinians, who feel they have been severely let down by their own leaders, by Israel, by Arab states, by the United Nations, and by western powers.
Pappe argues persuasively, however, that the continued denial of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 and the consequent dispossession of a million native Palestinians from their homeland represents a gross injustice that requires redress. The refusal to acknowledge this event, and allow those dispossessed the right of return to their ancestral lands and homes, are not only an abuse of their human rights, but a rejection from the peace process of the essential foundation for a lasting peace in the Middle East and beyond.
An incisive, important and timely book, on an issue of continuing global concern.
Advance praise for The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
Ilan Pappe is a senior lecturer of Political Science at Haifa University. He is also Academic Director of the Research Institute for peace at Givat Haviva, and Chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies, Haifa. His previous works include the bestselling A History of Modern Palestine, The Modern Middle East and The Israel/Palestine Question.
Ilan Pappe is Israel’s bravest, most principled, most incisive historian.
-- John Pilger
The first book to so clearly document the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in
1948 of which the massacre at Deir Yassin was emblematic. Political Zionism has always been premised on the elimination of non-Jews who even today account for more than half of the population living within the borders controlled by Israel. Will the West continue to ignore this textbook example of ethnic cleansing, a crime against humanity?
-- Daniel McGowan, Executive Director, Deir Yassin Remembered, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Ilan Pappe has written an extraordinary book of profound relevance to the past, present, and future of Israel/Palestine relations.
-- Richard Falk, Professor of International Law and Practice, Princeton University
This is an extraordinary book - a dazzling feat of scholarly synthesis and Biblical moral clarity and humaneness.
-- Walid Khalidi, Former Senior Research Fellow, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University
An instant classic. Finally we have the authoritative account of an historic event which continues to shape our world today, and drives the conflict in the Middle East. Pappe is the only historian who could have told it, and he has done so with supreme command of the facts, elegance, and compassion. The publication of this book is a landmark event.
-- Karma Nabulsi, a research fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford University
If there is to be real peace in Palestine/Israel, the moral vigour and intellectual clarity of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine will have been a major contributor to it.
-- Ahdaf Soueif, author of The Map of Love
Fresh insights into a world historic tragedy, related by a historian of genius.
-- George Galloway MP
Groundbreaking research into a well-kept Israeli secret. A classic of historical scholarship on a taboo subject by one of Israel's foremost New Historians.
-- Ghada Karmi, author of In Search of Fatima
Ilan Pappe is out to fight against Zionism, whose power of deletion has driven a whole nation not only out of its homeland but out of historic memory as well. A detailed, documented record of the true history of that crime, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine puts an end to the Palestinian "Nakbah" and the Israeli "War of Independence" by so compellingly shifting both paradigms.
-- Anton Shammas, Professor of Modern Middle Eastern Literature, University of Michigan
SOURCE: Episcopal Life (9-30-06)
We find the advertisement’s celebration of Leonidas Polk – a slaveholding bishop who died in battle fighting to preserve a racist social order – and its proud association of Polk with the University of the South at Sewanee, an Episcopal institution of higher education, to be offensive and a cause for grave concern.
At a moment in time when the Episcopal Church, with every other province of the global Anglican Communion, is committed in principle and practice to the eradication of racism and the full inclusion and equality of all Christians, there is no place for such an advertisement. Its appearance at a General Convention when the church was trying to come to terms with its historic entanglements with slavery was particularly embarrassing.
Diverse in age, gender and race, we as members of the Board of Directors of the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church reject the assertion that Leonidas Polk is a “martyred bishop.” We reject the assertion that Leonidas Polk, through his role in founding the University of the South, was an advocate for the “religious training of the sons of the South,” knowing that he intended the school to be an institution for white males only and, indeed, only for a select portion of this group.
We reject the assertion that this advertisement redounds to the glory of the University of the South, which now encourages able students of both genders and all ethnicities and races to seek admission and, if accepted, to grow intellectually and spiritually on that campus. In fact, we think this advertisement is both deceitful and an insult to the University of the South in its present incarnation.
Although we respect the obligation of publications to be a forum for divergent voices, they have an ethical duty to ensure that material appearing in their pages meet basic standards of honesty and not be deliberately misleading. In this case, the advertisement misrepresents itself in ways that would lead readers to believe that the Episcopal Church had included Bishop Polk among those officially commemorated by the church and had endorsed the views expressed in the advertisement.
Fredrica Harris Thompsett, Ph.D.
President, The Historical Society of the Episcopal Church
Alfred Moss, Ph.D.
Chair, African American Episcopal Historical Collection Committee
The staff of Episcopal Life apologizes to those who were offended by the advertisement and will bring concerns expressed in this letter to the attention of Episcopal Life’s Board of Governors.
SOURCE: NYT (10-1-06)
In a nine-page memorandum, the two officials, Gordon R. England, the acting deputy secretary of defense, and Philip D. Zelikow, the counselor of the State Department, urged the administration to seek Congressional approval for its detention policies.
They called for a return to the minimum standards of treatment in the Geneva Conventions and for eventually closing the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The time had come, they said, for suspects in the 9/11 plot to be taken out of their secret prison cells and tried before military tribunals.
The recommendations of the paper, which has not previously been disclosed, included several of the major policy shifts that President Bush laid out in a White House address on Sept. 6, five officials who read the document said. But the memorandum’s fate underscores the deep, long-running conflicts over detention policy that continued to divide the administration even as it pushed new legislation through Congress last week on the handling of terrorism suspects....
Mr. Zelikow, who served as staff director for the national commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks, joined the State Department in early 2005 with strong views on the detention issue, other officials said. Early on, he began to push the idea that high-level C.I.A. captives held in connection with the 9/11 attacks should be brought to justice, these officials said....
In a passage that underscored the views of Mr. Zelikow, one official said, the paper argued that efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks must produce more than the chaotic trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the French-born militant who remains the only person to have been charged in an American court with involvement in the attacks.
The paper specifically called for taking Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and others held by the C.I.A. before military commissions, officials said, arguing that much of the information that would be disclosed by their trials was already widely known.
Officials said the memorandum was well received by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who forwarded it to senior officials at the National Security Council. But the hope that it would lead to a broader discussion of options within the administration was quashed by Mr. Rumsfeld, they said....