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: Neve Gordon in the Nation (5-13-08)
The Jewish celebration of Passover and Israel’s 60th anniversary coincide this year, and seem to be a good time to reflect upon, and perhaps explain, my passionate commitment to Israel. No doubt having been born and raised in Israel makes me feel most at home there. My family and friends live in Israel. I like the smells and the tastes, and I am not surprised or taken aback by the forthrightness, the occasional arrogance or the cynical humor, which characterizes many Israelis. My familiarity with the culture helps me identify and understand the nuances of social interactions. Yet this particular intimacy, which comes from recognizing and grasping the “rules of the game,” is in no way unique to me or to Israel, and I imagine many people feel the same way about their country of origin.
Israel is, however, special for and to me in several other ways that I do believe are unique. My concern for it does not originate from the materiality of the place, if one means by this the country’s landscape and architectural edifices. The Wailing Wall simply does not do it for me. Indeed, I have often criticized the tendency to idolize the land, showing how such reverence has contributed to the cycle of violence in the region. Rather, my feelings derive from what one might call the country’s soul, by which I mean its history, people and cultural idiosyncrasies.
I have a friend, a French woman, who as a teenager visited Israel with her father. It was the 1950s, and they toured the country for several days with a group of French diplomats. Towards the end of the visit the diplomats were taken to meet Israel’s president. My friend recounts how the group was shown into the small auditorium where the president receives guests, and how the bus driver, who had driven them across the country, followed suit as if it were only natural that he too should join the meeting. This moment, which may seem inconsequential, had a great impact on my friend. She was astounded by the lack of rigid social boundaries and at that very moment decided she would one day immigrate to Israel.
Israel has, to be sure, changed a great deal since the 1950s and today it is unlikely that a bus driver would follow foreign diplomats to meet the President. Nonetheless, in Israel social space continues to be divided very differently than in other countries, and ordinary citizens have greater access to the public arena.
A few years ago, I directed a high school program that attempted to teach teenagers how to struggle for social change. Within less than a year, fifteen and sixteen year-olds were talking regularly to Knesset members, high ranking civil servants and well-known journalists about such topics as the trafficking of women and the violation of environmental regulations. How many teenagers in the US can pick up the phone and speak directly to a senator (and not an aide)? This kind of access does not mean that the Israeli teenagers managed to bring about social change; indeed, mostly they failed to do so. But it does mean that their voice was heard in the public sphere.
The relative ease with which citizens can access sites of power has to do with Israel’s particular cultural norms and the country’s small size. In contrast to the standard six degrees of separation, in Israel people claim that the degree of separation is, on average, a person and a half. This in itself facilitates access to power, which produces, in turn, a sense that one can make a difference. While this sense is often misleading, it is nonetheless very important. It helps ensure that ordinary citizens, people like you and me, are not reduced to mere spectators who merely observe the political processes that affect our lives (a feeling one often has in countries like the US). Rather, this sense helps Israelis conceive of themselves as active participants who have an opportunity to influence local political processes.
Intricately tied to the citizens’ ability to participate in politics is the range of public debate in Israel, which is much broader than in most countries. This is most apparent with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. People like Israel Harel on the right and Amira Hass on the left regularly contribute editorials to Ha’aretz. Their views are beyond the pale of what respectable papers like The New York Times routinely print, and yet they are acceptable in Israel.
It is ironic but not surprising that my views are considered extreme only outside Israel. Over the years, for example, my university has received several complaints about my criticism of the Israeli government, and, without exception, these complaints have come from overseas. My students at Ben-Gurion University have never questioned my commitment to social justice in Israel, even though many strongly disagree with my views; my students are familiar with and have been exposed to views like mine and consider them part of the legitimate discourse. By contrast, American students have on occasion reported what I have said in class to different monitoring groups; apparently, in their minds I say the unsayable.
The relative openness of Israeli social space and the broad spectrum of public discourse as well as the country’s small size are all conducive to the formation of grassroots political communities. Over the years, I have had the good fortune to be a member of a number of groups that have tried to make a small dent in Israel’s history -- groups like Ta’ayush (Arab-Jewish partnership) and, more recently, Hagar Association, the bi-lingual Jewish Arab kindergarten and school in Beer-Sheva. I have found that in Israel it is often much easier than in other places to organize resistance to social oppression. Moreover, anyone even slightly acquainted with the history of struggle in Israel is aware that while many of the grassroots political movements have failed to achieve the objectives they have set out to accomplish, they have nonetheless created thousands of stories of resistance. On their own, the individual stories may not be significant, but their sheer number reveals something precious and beautiful about Israel: Israel is a site of ongoing struggle for social justice.
I would like to think that this characteristic can be traced back to the biblical tradition. After all, the prophets teach us time and again that criticism and social justice are two sides of the same coin and are part and parcel of a healthy society, particularly if the criticism is directed towards those who suppress and exploit the poor and the weak.
All of which brings me back to the exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt, that is, the liberation of an enslaved people from bondage. The message of freedom and liberation continued to be central to the teachings of Jeremiah, Amos, Isaiah, and Micah as well as to all the other prophets. And this message was universal. As Leon Roth, who in 1927 established the philosophy department at Hebrew University, pointed out: “when the prophets wish to lay down our duty in this life, they say: ‘God hath told thee, O man, what is good.’ The prophets do not say: ‘O Englishman, O Frenchman, even O Jew; but O man.’” Even though Israel, as a state, has not followed the words of the prophets, it has, I believe, created a space where these words can potentially be followed and that is no minor feat.
SOURCE: Lee White at the website of the National Coalition for History (NCH) (5-9-08)
The administration’s Centennial Initiative, announced in 2007, proposes $3 billion in new funds for the National Park Service over the next ten years in time for the Park Service’s 100th anniversary in 2016. $1 billion of that amount is the “Centennial Commitment”—$100 million in additional annual appropriations for each of the next ten years. The other $2 billion would come from the “Centennial Challenge” – the challenge to individuals, foundations, and businesses to contribute at least $100 million annually to support signature programs and projects. Each year, $100 million in donations would be matched by $100 million of Federal funding from the National Park Centennial Challenge Fund.
Both Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV) and Subcommittee on Natural Parks, Forests and Public Lands Chairman Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ) expressed frustration with an inability to find the necessary offsets elsewhere in the federal budget to fund the program. The pared down version of the legislation was adopted to allow the bill to move forward while bi-partisan negotiations continued to find a solution to the budget conundrum. Key players in both parties in the House support the creation of the Centennial Fund and have agreed to craft a compromise that would pave the way for consideration of the bill by the House....
SOURCE: Robert Irwin in Times (UK) (5-7-08)
So many academics want the arguments presented in Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978) to be true. It encourages the reading of novels at an oblique angle in order to discover hidden colonialist subtexts. It promotes a hypercritical version of British and, more generally, of Western achievements. It discourages any kind of critical approach to Islam in Middle Eastern studies. Above all, Orientalism licenses those academics who are so minded to think of their research and teaching as political activities. The drudgery of teaching is thus transformed into something much more exciting, namely “speaking truth to power”.
It is unlikely that the two books under review, both of which present damning criticisms of Said’s book at length and in detail, will change anything. Daniel Martin Varisco is a professor of anthropology who has specialized in Yemeni agriculture. It is perhaps because of this that he takes exception to Said’s “textualism” and his consequent neglect of anthropology, sociology and psychology. Varisco has a multitude of other charges to bring against Orientalism and he is able to draw on an astonishingly long list of witnesses for the prosecution, including Sadiq Jalal al-’Azm, Bryan Turner, Malcolm Kerr, Ziauddin Sardar, Bernard Lewis, Nadim al-Bitar, Victor Brombert, Ernest Gellner, Jane Miller, John Sweetman, John Mackenzie and many others. But the chief concern of Varisco, who hovers over Orientalism’s text like a hawk, is to expose Said’s rhetorical tricks. For example, Varisco quotes a passage in which Said sought to distinguish between latent and manifest Orientalism, before continuing as follows:
"Before teasing out the meaning of this passage, it is important to look at Said’s rhetorical style. Beyond the working definitions outlined at the start, this distinction here is what he “really” means, the heart of the matter. Notice how this passage sidesteps a totalizing sense by qualifying “unconscious” with “almost”, “found” with “almost exclusively”, and “unanimity, stability, and durability” with “more or less”. This trope of the adverbial caveat dangled like catnip before the reader allows Said to speak in round numbers, so to speak, rather than giving what might be called a statistical, and thus potentially falsifiable, sense to his argument. As a result, any exceptions pointed out by a critic are pre-mitigated. The caveats appear to flow from cautious scholarship, but the latent intent is that of a polemicist."
Elsewhere, Varisco notes how “a dogmatic assertion at one moment is softened in the next”. This is a kind of rhetorical giving and taking away.
Then there is Said’s use of pejorative vocabulary. Varisco, following the scholar of comparative literature Brombert, wonders why Said describes the grand nineteenth-century Orientalist Antoine Isaac Silvestre de Sacy as having “ransacked the Oriental archives”. What licence has Said for the use of “ransacked” here? What about “read”, “consulted”, or “examined” instead? Again: “Another dimension of Said’s dismissal of difference is guilt by association, a tendency to cite a litany of all-alike Orientalists”. He was a specialist in producing “laundry lists” of ill-assorted but allegedly villainous Orientalists which damned some individuals by association with others.
But there are worse things than rhetorical tricksiness. Tampering with quotations is one of them. According to Said, Gustave Flaubert wrote “Inscriptions and birddroppings are the only two things in Egypt that give any indication of life”, which would be damning if true. But, in the original French, what he wrote was “les inscriptions et les merdes d’oiseaux, voilà les deux seules choses sur les ruines d’Égypte qui indiquent la vie”, which is unexceptionable. (Since Flaubert’s diary and letters from Egypt were not intended for publication, Said’s decision to characterize him as an archetypal Orientalist travel writer is also questionable.) Varisco further demonstrates how Said systematically misrepresented the political scientist P. J. Vatikiotis by furtively dropping individual words and whole paragraphs from his purported quotation from an essay by Vatikiotis on revolutions in the Middle East. Said seems to have been blind to irony (in, for example, Mansfield Park) and indifferent to humour. Although he listed Mark Twain as one of the leading Orientalist travel writers of the nineteenth century, Said’s reading of Twain’s The Innocents Abroad seems careless, or he would surely have noticed that it was intended as a satire on textual Orientalism.
SOURCE: scoopo8.com (4-22-08)
Julian Zelizer: This is one of the most interesting periods to follow. We are at a moment when the conservative movement is struggling. The movement, which had a huge impact on American society, is struggling politically and intellectually. Yet, at the same time, conservatives have deep roots in American politics so their influence won't disappear. As a result, we are in a moment of transition and uncertainty which is usually the most exciting to follow.
AH: How would you begin to compare the rightward turn America experienced in the 1980s—following the coalescence of conservative elites and laymen in the 70s—to the Republican successes since 2000?
JZ: The conservative mobilization in the 1970s, which we document in our book, was a period of grassroots organization, ideas, and movement building. Then, conservatism was young and its heart and soul was still outside positions of political power. The movement thus enjoyed a certain measure of freedom and energy that has long since disappeared. Once conservatives were in power, particularly after 2000, they started to struggle with some of the challenges that come from being the Washington elites rather than fighting against them. Even if Sen. McCain can win the election, which is clearly possible, conservatives need to regroup, to figure out what ideas and policies they stand for, and demonstrate that they can represent the voice of the future and of innovation.
AH: With John McCain at the helm of the Republican Party in 2008, are the old-school conservative forces built in the 70s destined for death?
JZ: No. Just as liberalism did not die after the 1960s and continues to influence our politics and culture, so too will conservatism. The institutional, organizational, and intellectual changes born out of the conservative movement are very extensive. Even if we have a more liberal government for the next eight or twelve years, they will have to grapple with what they inherit from conservatives—just as conservatives in the 1970s inherited the accomplishments of liberalism.
AH: McCain has claimed throughout the primary season that he was a proud "foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution." Besides a few photo-ops with the president in the Oval Office, how truthful is McCain's assertion—and would the late president agree?
JZ: I don't think the claim is so out of line. Clearly, McCain has broken with conservatives on many issues, including campaign finance reform and immigration. But on some of those issues, like immigration, McCain is closer to Reagan than his more conservative colleagues. On many issues where McCain has stood with Republicans, such as the war or social issues, one could argue that McCain really has continued the Reagan Revolution: he has called for a tougher posture on national defense, he has railed against the corruption of Washington, and he has supported conservative stands on social policy.
AH: In the 2008 GOP primary story, Mike Huckabee was the reincarnation of...
JZ: That's a tough one. I don't think we have seen anyone put together a campaign of conservative populism in quite the way he did.
AH: Part of the 70s cultural backlash and counter-revolution was led by the likes of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Ralph Reed. Some claim that the Evangelical brand of Republicanism no longer has a monopoly on the party. Do you agree?
JZ: I don't think they ever had a monopoly on conservatism. One of the things that we learned was that social conservatives played an important role in conservative mobilization, but that elected conservatives often disappointed them. Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and even George W. Bush all found that once in power there were substantial limits to how much they could please these elements of the party. Many Republicans did not agree with their policies and many Americans would simply not tolerate a more aggressive form of government intervention on social issues....
SOURCE: http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen (5-10-08)
Israel has faced five wars in the past six decades -- and in this anniversary year, many have wondered if the future of the beleaguered state promises any more security and safety than its past has delivered.
But Sir Martin Gilbert, one of Britain's premier historians and longtime student of Israeli history, believes this is a uniquely promising time -- that the nation is on the brink of winning peace with a large part of the Palestinian people with whom it has disputed entitlement to the land on which it sits.
"I believe there is a new dynamic that seeks only peace for two peoples, a peace that Israelis and Palestinians have seemed on the brink of achieving several times -- and which, given enough will, may come now, and even quite soon."
Sir Martin, who is probably best known as the official biographer of Winston Churchill, has written about Israel and Jewish matters for four decades. He was in Ottawa this week to speak at the Ottawa International Writers Festival about the newly released second edition of his book, Israel: A History. The new edition includes two new chapters and an epilogue to cover events of the decade that has elapsed since the book was first published.
Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (the PA) nearly came to an agreement in 2000 at Camp David. Only last November, U.S. President George W. Bush convened 40 nations at the Annapolis Conference in Maryland, which marked the first time that a two-state solution was agreed upon as a solution to six decades of dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.
"Everyone -- the Israelis, the Palestinian Authority, the Americans, the Russians, the EU, the UN -- are all closely committed to it, and it's now just a matter of (Israeli president) Ehud Olmert and (PA president) Mahmoud Abbas coming to an agreement -- and they are 99.9 per cent of the way there," Sir Martin says.
Much of this has already been reported, but the public seems oddly skeptical that current developments will succeed any better than the myriad attempts of the past. Why is this so?
SOURCE: Frontpagemag.com (5-13-08)
This preparation for genocide makes headlines every day in the world press. Rejecting the international community's call for negotiation and statecraft, Iran's Ahmadinejad, Hizbollah's Nasrallah, and various spokesmen of Hamas instead prepare for the obliteration of Israel. From the goose-stepping soldiers of Hizbollah, Syria and Iran to the broadcasts of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion on al-Jazeera and Egyptian TV, homage is paid to the Nazi past by radicals throughout the Muslim world. In their sermons and public proclamations the most virulent Jew-hatred since the dark of days of the Third Reich is trumpeted. And unlike the Nazis they do not conceal their malevolent goal.
It is one thing for such toxic ideas to be conceived in the clandestine meeting places of international terror organizations, however, but quite another for them to be promoted in the campus offices of recognized student groups. But this incitement of hatred is exactly what is taking place during the UC Irvine Muslim Student Union's week of "Nakba" events.
How destructive is the agenda of "Nakba" week? Consider the roster of speakers the MSU has assembled:
· The notorious Norman Finkelstein, who demeans the Holocaust as an "industry" and is so extreme in his hatred of Israel that he is scorned by true scholars and denied tenure by his university department.
· Mohammed al Asi, who spreads the lunatic notion that 9/11 was actually caused by agents of the Mossad and CIA who had infiltrated "Islamic combatant groups."
· Amir Abdel Malik Ali, who believes that Ahmadinejad is "a pretty good guy" and has praised Palestinian mothers whose children become suicide bombers....
SOURCE: BBC (5-13-08)
The place of classics in the great British education has declined in recent years.
Once upon a time, an Oxbridge classics degree was considered the cream of all qualifications, a gold standard for young people planning a career in the professions, the civil service and even government.
Boris Johnson's father Stanley summed it up in a newspaper interview at the weekend, saying: "In the days when Britain ruled more than a quarter of the world, a classical education was considered more than adequate training for the job of handling populations certainly as large and diverse as London's."
Johnson himself has spoken of the value of the classics in understanding modern politics, having written a book comparing the European Union with the Roman Empire, and suggesting every child be taught Latin....
SOURCE: Email to friends (5-13-08)
Three weeks after publication, The Candy Bombers continues...to take off. Sales and buzz are continuing to grow. What I've heard back from old and new friends is that some people like it as a history of an exciting and largely unknown moment in our past, others as a story with some very memorable characters, and still others for its contemporary resonance as a reminder of when America was doing the right things as a country and was beloved for it by people around the world. For excerpts, photos, book blog, and other information, check out: www.thecandybombers.com.
But now The Candy Bombers is about to get its toughest test: I'll be going one-on-one with Stephen Colbert on "The Colbert Report" this Thursday, May 15. Wish me luck...I'll need it. Check local listings.
Thanks to all who've read the book and have let me know what you think. If you haven't gotten your own copy yet, I'm so sure you'll like it that I'm offering a money back guarantee. (Even if you don't read it, the book makes an excellent paperweight or dining room centerpiece). And remember, while Scurvy Awareness Day has passed, Father's Day, Graduation Day, and National Hamburger Day are fast approaching: http://thecandybombers.com/cherny-buy.htm
The book has been lucky enough to receive some generous praise and reviews: from the Washington Post express ("everything one could want from a work of history - engrossing, informative and stirring"), the Dallas Morning News ("a successful work of popular history...an enjoyable, timely narrative"), Kirkus Reviews ("writing with the flair of a novelist"), Walter Isaacson ("an exciting, inspiring, and wonderfully-written book"), and Douglas Brinkley ("reminds me of Stephen Ambrose at his best.")
SOURCE: Carlin Romano in the Chronicle of Higher Ed (5-12-08)
Yet as the country celebrates six decades of reborn existence on May 14 and books about it cascade into stores, the most important among them, Benny Morris's 1948: The First Arab-Israeli War (Yale University Press), reminds us of a revealing bent among Israeli historians: their passion for the "yearbook," that subgenre of history that suggests precision by focusing on just one year or span of years.
"New historians" such as Morris and Tom Segev, who began to question crucial foundational beliefs of Israeli society in the late 1980s, especially favor it. Morris, the subject of enormous commentary by other historians, counts among his works The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949 (1987), Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-1999 (1999), and a volume of essays titled 1948 and After: Israel and the Palestinians (1990). Segev's classics include 1949: The First Israelis (1986) and 1967: Israel, the War, and the Year That Transformed the Middle East (2007).
It's as if by crisply saluting the calendar, one can defuse Israel's endlessly controverted history and perhaps reduce the belligerence with which Israeli historians tear one another's work to shreds. But Israeli history can't be saved by tricks of internal architecture from its hermeneutic plight. And the arc of Morris's career suggests the many complexities faced by an Israeli historian of the modern state.
A professor of history at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Morris first drew attention with The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, which, according to fellow historians Eugene Rogan and Avi Shlaim, "provided the first documentary evidence to demonstrate Israeli responsibility for the flight of Palestinians from their homes."
Conventional Israeli history held that Palestinians fled their homes in 1948 because their leaders ordered them to do so, confident they'd return once the five Arab countries that attacked Israel on its first day crushed the new state. But in that book, Morris attributed the flight of the Palestinians — called al-naqba, or "the catastrophe," by Arabs — to a mixture of causes. Some fled under direct attack. Some left in panic because they feared an attack. And some followed orders from Palestinian authorities. Morris also shook up standard Israeli history by declaring that Israelis, and not only Palestinians, committed massacres. (In a 2004 revised edition, he maintained those general views.)
In The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, Morris resisted the allegation that Jewish leaders before 1948 approved an official policy of "transfer," or expulsion, that prompted the flight of more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs, some 60 percent of Palestine's pre-war population. In a much-cited line, Morris stated that "the Palestinian refugee problem was born of war, not by design, Jewish or Arab." Morris also stressed that Palestinian flight ultimately resulted from the war launched in 1947 by Palestinians themselves, followed on May 15, 1948, by the attack on Israel by Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Transjordan. But few paid attention to that observation.
Israelis on the right denounced Morris as an "Israel hater," while Palestinians thought he didn't go far enough. The Palestinian anthropologist Sharif Kanaana, of Birzeit University, wrote that Morris's view was "more dangerous than the previous line of Israeli propaganda" because it was "more sophisticated."
Over the years, Morris has largely stuck to his scholarly positions, though some have evolved, along with his personal politics. In a 2001 essay, Morris said he'd come to feel that a "virtual consensus" grew among leaders of the Yishuv, the Jewish community of pre-war Palestine, in support of a transfer of peoples to solve the Arab-Jewish problem — a notion endorsed by Britain's 1937 Peel Commission report. He now believes, based on further archival research, that Israeli commanders, witnessing growing Palestinian flight in late 1948, decided to encourage it, with Ben-Gurion's connivance. He still rejects the idea that "any overall expulsory policy decision was taken by the Yishuv's executive bodies … in the course of the 1948 war."...
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (5-16-08)
Shakespeare's Wife was published last year in Britain (Bloomsbury) and recently in the United States (Harper/HarperCollins). Greer, who is author of such key feminist studies as The Female Eunuch (published in Britain in 1970 and America in 1971), has little doubt about what has driven so many Hathaway haters of the past 400 years: misogyny.
She charges "the Shakespeare wallahs" with erroneously concluding, for example, that Hathaway was sexually aggressive because she was three months pregnant when she went to the altar, and that her marriage must have been loveless because the playwright spent most of his life in London, apart from her. He did infamously stipulate, when he wrote his will in 1616, "I gyve unto my wief my second best bed with the furniture."
Greer, whose 1967 doctoral dissertation at the University of Cambridge was about love and marriage in Shakespeare's early comedies, has created a far more flattering portrait of Hathaway by poring over records of the social history of the period and the Stratford region where Hathaway lived and died. The woman who emerges was helpmate and capable businesswoman, without whom her husband couldn't have become an icon. For the most part, the Brits seem less receptive to Greer's argument — and her feminism — than American reviewers do....
SOURCE: Boston Globe (5-10-08)
Michael Bhatia, a Brown University graduate and a doctoral candidate at Oxford University in England, had been in Afghanistan since November, helping the Army's 82d Airborne Division to understand the country's tribal customs. He is among a handful of academics who have partnered with the US military in so-called human terrain teams to establish peace in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"He's as much of a hero as any soldier out there," said Steve Fondacaro, program manager for the military's Human Terrain project. "He willingly left a comfortable environment, where he could have continued to be the great scholar he was . . . Michael Bhatia is responsible for hundreds of people being alive today."
Bhatia was considered among his peers to be a scholar's scholar - always on the hunt for that last interview or piece of information that would solve a long-standing dispute in a war-torn area. His family said he made at least eight trips to Afghanistan since his 1995 graduation from Medway High School, and colleagues said he also had been to the volatile areas of the Sahrawi refugee camps near Tindouf, Algeria, along with East Timor and Kosovo.
SOURCE: http://www.jewishjournal.com (5-9-08)
"What troubles me most is that your criticism of Jews may be taken seriously by groups and individuals who both fear and hate Jews," Martin Fiebert wrote in a 12-point reply. "Your manuscript, unintentionally perhaps, reinforces the stereotype that all Jews, be they assimilated or not, are clannish, deceptive, and exploitive. I'm sure you would be dismayed to find that your book has a treasured place in the bookcases of neo-Nazis along with 'Mein Kampf' and the 'Protocols of Zion.'"
How prophetic Fiebert's insight turned out to be.
MacDonald, 64, has been deemed America's "foremost anti-Semitic thinker" by civil rights experts. A tenured psychology professor who lent his expertise to Holocaust denier David Irving, MacDonald has suggested restricting college enrollment and increasing taxes for Jews to mediate what he perceives as inequities with non-Jewish whites....
SOURCE: HNN Staff (5-11-08)
The magazine, owned for many years by Forbes, was threatened with closure when the buyer, Edwin S. Grosvenor, had trouble raising the money needed to complete the purchase on a tight deadline. Last Monday at the Society's annual New York banquet Fleming, then in his final moments as president of the organization, revealed that Grosvenor had been able to finalize the deal. Without going into details he said that the Society's appeal on the magazine's behalf had been critical.
Last December Grosvenor announced he had purchased the magazine but Forbes remained the legal owner until just two weeks ago when the final papers were signed, said Fleming.
SOURCE: Radio Free Europe (5-9-08)
RFE/RL: How did the Soviet Union use the experience of World War II to weld its empire together?
Norman Stone: I think in a funny sort of way the war turned the Soviet Union into a sort of superpower, in that quite possibly without the war the thing would have collapsed. It was in a terrible state in 1941, and if it hadn't been for the way the Nazis behaved [by invading], who knows what would have happened. You know, being forced to transport all that industry off to Kazakhstan and places like that forced them to rethink what they were doing and gave them a kind of patriotic mission to do. With the effect that it did in a way turn them into a superpower and postponed the collapse for quite a time.
RFE/RL: Do you think the Cold War was inevitable after the hot war?
Stone: Oh, yes. I think the way Stalin looked at the world, it was pretty well inevitable -- you know, the utter incompatibility of the two systems. The Americans at the end of the war were fully expecting to give Russia quite a lot of money and rope her into some kind of, if you like, anti-imperial alliance which would be against the British and the French in some ways, and it was the Russians' absurd behavior that turned everybody against them.
There was a scene in 1957 when [Soviet leader Nikita] Krushchev turned around on [former Foreign Minister Vyacheslav] Molotov and started ranting at him, saying, 'Look, at the end of the war you managed to turn places like Iran and Turkey into enemies' -- Turkey which in a sense had even been created by the Bolsheviks. It would not have existed if it hadn't had all the help from the Bolsheviks initially....
SOURCE: http://crookstontimes.com (5-8-08)
"I suggested to the Minnesota Historical Society several years ago that I write a multi-volume set (on Minnesota's history), but, in thinking about it now, it would have been inaccessible to most readers," Keillor said during a recent book tour that brought him to the Crookston Daily Times.
But with Minnesota celebrating its sesquicentennial this year, in other words, its 150th birthday as a state, the adjunct professor at Bethel University with a Ph.D. in history from the University of Minnesota knew there was an opportunity to be capitalized on. He wrote the book and, checking in at just under 300 pages and encompassing only a single volume, it's not only accessible, it's a relatively easy read that even casual history buffs will have no trouble digesting.
"I only had a year to work on it, but that turned out to be an advantage," Keillor explained. "It's written more for the lives of ordinary people, some 'greatest generation' memoirs, and it's more accessible and written in the popular style. I didn't have time to be definitive, and no one would have read that anyway."
SOURCE: AP (5-6-08)
The Smithsonian's governing board declined to move forward with any of the 11 proposals solicited from outside groups that involved plans to lease and refurbish the 127-year-old Arts and Industries Building. Proposals called for using the building as a food court, restaurant, exhibit space, visitor center or public auditorium, officials said.
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (5-8-08)
Those are conclusions from an American Historical Association study released this week in Perspectives. And the data come at a time that the job market for new historians is better than it has been in recent years – and that concern remains high about how long it takes to complete Ph.D. programs and their high rates of attrition.
The AHA study is based on a survey of 164 doctoral-granting departments in the United States and Canada (out of 184 total such programs). The programs in the United States received an average of 80.9 applications for admission during the academic year that is ending now, up from 74.1 the previous year. Programs anticipated enrolling 9.2 new students this year, up from 9.1 a year earlier. Canadian programs saw a decline in the number of applications, but also anticipated a modest increase in the number of students matriculating.
While the increases may appear modest for this year, they represent a significant growth over the last decade. The AHA report notes that in the 1997-8 academic year, the same programs were enrolling an average of 5.5 new students.
SOURCE: http://www.niu.edu (5-5-08)
So says Northern Illinois University’s prize-winning historian David Kyvig. His new book, “The Age of Impeachment: American Constitutional Culture Since 1960” (University of Kansas Press), chronicles the rise of a culture of impeachment that extends well beyond the infamous scandals surrounding Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
Kyvig, a Distinguished Research Professor at NIU, spent more than four years researching and writing the book, including a year in residence as a fellow of the prestigious Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., and another year at the Library of Congress.
The author also snagged some high profile interview subjects for the book. They included Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward; John Dean, former counsel to President Nixon and the star witness in the Watergate proceedings; U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, once a federal judge who was removed from office via impeachment; Sen. Daniel Inouye and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, the co-chairs of the committee to investigate the Iran-Contra scandal; Illinois Congressman Ray LaHood, who presided over the House impeachment proceedings of Clinton; and journalists Daniel Schorr and Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio.
The Wilson Center will hold an official launch of Kyvig's book from 2 to 4 p.m. (EDT) Wednesday, May 14. The event is expected to be covered by C-Span and will feature commentators Linda Greenhouse, a Supreme Court reporter for The New York Times, and James Reston Jr., a senior scholar at the Wilson Center.
What follows is a Q&A with Kyvig.
What did you set out to accomplish in this book? I wanted to examine how the process of impeachment has changed the culture of Congress and national politics. Impeachment, and even the threat of impeachment, has made the American political scene increasingly combative. When I started working on this book I had no idea we'd end up dealing with calls for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, yet that has been part of the political conversation in the last few years. It demonstrates how impeachment has gone from something people never thought about to a first response to unpopular political leadership.
Why do you call this the age of impeachment? In the final four decades of the 20th century, Congress looked into as many serious proposals for impeachment as it had from 1789 to 1960. This includes not only calls for presidential impeachments but judicial episodes as well. The decade of the 1960s saw three impeachment efforts against Supreme Court justices. In the 1970s, President Nixon resigned under the threat of impeachment, while his vice president (Spiro Agnew) sought to be impeached in order to avoid an indictment. During the 1980s, President Reagan was threatened with impeachment over the Iran-Contra affair. And at the end of the next decade, Bill Clinton became only the second U.S. president ever impeached and tried by Congress.
How often is impeachment successful? Between 1960 and 2000, we had 12 proposed impeachments, three convictions and five resignations. So two-thirds of the time, a serious call for impeachment was successful in removing the person from office. It's no wonder impeachment is being used more frequently as a political tool.
How have judicial episodes of impeachment impacted the overall political culture? That’s where Congress has gotten most of its experience conducting impeachments. In the late 1980s, the Senate conducted three trials of federal judges. Those experiences served as preparation when it came time to deal with Clinton's impeachment....
SOURCE: Lee White at the website of the National Coalition for History (NCH) (5-7-08)
The National Archives received suggestions from the editors of the papers of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington, university publishers, and others in crafting a blueprint for providing access to the already completed print editions and the raw materials for the editions to come. The plan is designed to make available on-line work in progress with the already complete editions, accompanied by transcriptions of the papers yet to be published. To hasten the transition process, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission plans to invest $250,000 as a demonstration pilot project.
The plan outlines three basic steps toward completion:
Digitizing the existing 217 volumes and publishing the Papers on a single website to allow for research and inquiry across America’s Founding Era collections;
Transcribing and otherwise preparing for publishing on the web the remaining papers (approximately 90,000 documents) and replacing these raw materials with authoritative annotated versions as these are completed; and
Creating an independent oversight process to ensure that rigorous performance goals are established and met by the parties carrying out all aspects of the work.
To take advantage of existing online publication efforts of completed volumes and to accelerate the online publication of unfinished volumes, NARA proposes to engage a sole service provider to undertake transcription and document encoding for all Founding Father papers that have not yet been edited. This would prepare these documents for access on the Web.
NARA plans to issue a competitive request for proposals, as a test of concept, in 2008 to undertake work that will help put the unpublished papers in a usable format for online publication services, such as Rotunda.
SOURCE: WaPo (5-8-08)
It was Dec. 21, 1970, and Elvis had a mission: He wanted Nixon to give him a federal narcotics agent's badge so he could carry dope and guns wherever he went. Nixon didn't give Elvis the badge, but he did pose for pictures with the King of Rock-and-Roll.
Nineteen years later, newspapers reported that the Elvis-Nixon photos were the most requested pictures in the federal government's vast photo collection, and Tom Blanton responded the same way he responds to so many other interesting news stories: He filed a Freedom of Information Act request.
"When the president meets with anybody, there's a whole paper trail, so we filed a FOIA request and got the entire file released," says Blanton, who is the director of the National Security Archive, a private research group devoted to prying documents out of the federal government's files and making them public.
The fruits of Blanton's Elvis-Nixon FOIA turned out to be gloriously goofy: There was Elvis's handwritten letter to Nixon requesting a meeting and bragging that "I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse." And a White House staffer's memo suggesting that Nixon ask Elvis to "record an album with the theme 'Get High on Life.' " And the official notes of the historic meeting: "Presley immediately began showing the President his law enforcement paraphernalia, including badges from police departments . . . ."...
SOURCE: Alan Taylor in the New Republic (5-7-08)
... Despite this dramatic and important story, [Pulitzer Prize winner Richard] Kluger's book [Seizing Destiny: How America Grew from Sea to Shining Sea (Knopf)] often bogs down in long and repetitive accounts of the back-and-forth of diplomatic exchanges, recapitulating dead ends as well as actual consequences. After belaboring British and American negotiations over Oregon, Kluger observes that "by late August [President] Polk's patience had run out." Kluger's readers will understand how Polk felt.
To break the tedium, Kluger recurrently jolts readers with flamboyant metaphors. He likens one small colony to "a flea spitting into a hurricane" and Americans to "a porridge of diverse peoples ... not free of lumpiness." Kluger likes his metaphors well mixed. Of the American Revolution, he observes that "here was a substantiation that theirs was a truly indissoluble union and no mere display of pyrotechnics sent skyward to scare away their overseas masters. " Of the French Revolution, he observes that "French grievances were vented in alternating waves of liberation and repression that swept the overwrought masses toward the cauldron of anarchy. France became an inflamed society with a large and easily dislodged chip on its shoulder."
Undiscriminating in his use of sources, Kluger sprinkles his book with errors, large and small. He places the American attack on Quebec in late 1775 on the famous "Plains of Abraham," when in fact that assault targeted the Lower Town beside the St. Lawrence River. He confuses the Federal Constitution (1787) with the later Bill of Rights (1791) and the Fourteenth Amendment (1868), when he argues that the Constitution "provided a broad array of individual rights, installed brakes on tyrannical tendencies of the central government, and imposed prohibitions on the states to protect all their citizens against impairment of their liberties." In recounting the War of 1812, he colorfully refers to the "Tory-leaning province of Maine," when the region was actually an electoral stronghold for the Democratic-Republicans who declared war on the British. He labels the notorious John Randolph a "Federalist" when, in fact, he was a dissident Republican properly known as a "Quid."
Some of Kluger's bigger mistakes derive from a determination to cast the British as pompous exploiters of the poor American colonists. Kluger insists that the colonists blamed the British crown for the massive land speculation in frontier lands. In fact, leading colonists, including George Washington, were the speculators, and they bristled when the crown tried to regulate or restrict their aggressive intrusion into Indian lands. Kluger contradicts his colonial picture by later (and correctly) noting that the post-revolutionary land speculation "smacked of the same cronyism and inside dealing that marked the rampant abuse of public office in the colonial era." That similarity was hardly coincidental, given that the same sort of Americans speculated in land after, as well as before, the revolution. Similarly, Kluger repeats the hoary myth that a tyrannical king provoked the American Revolution: "the crown's demand for obedience and tribute money" was "a clear case--no matter how dressed up--of child abuse." But until 1776 the colonists hoped that the king would help them by intervening against the real culprit, which was Parliament, and its offensive taxation.
In addition to tedious stretches, bursts of overwrought writing, and frequent factual errors, Seizing Destiny suffers from an uncritical embrace of Frederick Jackson Turner's frontier thesis. Praising Turner as the "eminent Meistersinger of the farmers who carved America from the wilderness," Kluger tells a trite story: "When a new world was found across the sea, the set ways of the old one began to be thrown into question." A frontier of abundant and fertile land generated "an unpredictably feisty breed of restless colonials, scornful of authority and orthodoxy." Unable to abide the rule of British kings and aristocrats, that "breed" staged a revolution to create a democratic nation designed to seek "new land for its ill-disciplined, hard-charging people." This recycled Turner derives from Kluger's reliance on creaky scholarship from the early twentieth century, and on more recent pop histories that repeat the old cliches....
SOURCE: Press Release--Emory University (4-30-08)
Contact: Elaine Justice at 404-727-0643 or email@example.com
Funding will support HDOT.org translation into Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, Russian
Emory University Professor Deborah Lipstadt has received a grant of $120,000 from the New York-based Claims Conference (The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany) on behalf of her Web site, Holocaust Denial on Trial (HDOT.org).
The grant will be used to translate elements of the site into Arabic, Farsi, Turkish and Russian and to develop educational lesson plans.
Holocaust Denial on Trial chronicles Lipstadt's 1996-2000 British trial versus Holocaust denier David Irving. In 1996 he sued Lipstadt in British court alleging libelous content in her book "Denying the Holocaust."
Following her resounding victory in 2000, Lipstadt founded the site in conjunction with Emory to provide complete archives of the trial's documents. The site strives to empower readers to identify and reject the lies, distortions and misleading innuendo used by Holocaust deniers.
But there are still those who spread disinformation on the Holocaust. That's why Lipstadt began HDOT.org. She is out to make such distortions a thing of the past."When people don't have historically accurate information they are susceptible to all sorts of distortions and fabrications," says Lipstadt. "This is true for the Arab speaking world and the English speaking world as well."
Grant Will Fund Translation, Education Tools
The grant will allow HDOT.org to complete 50 myth/fact sheets about the Holocaust in Arabic, Farsi, Turkish and Russian, and to introduce two educational modules on the topic of Auschwitz denial for use in advanced secondary school and undergraduate college courses.
Adding additional languages and lesson plans is just the beginning, says Dan Leshem, web development specialist at Emory, which hosts the site. "We strive to be responsive to our readers' needs. For that reason, we also want to build a connection to the site's readership," he says.
Visitors can sign up for periodic newsletters and subscribe to an RSS news feed of Lipstadt's frequently updated blog entries. "The weight of this site is its integrity," says David Lower, a business analyst at Emory who oversees the site's development.
"We have to hold these translations to the highest possible standards. We know that deniers will look for any errors on the site to exploit for their own purposes."One example of precision in translation was the word "Holocaust" itself, says Leshem. "We transliterated the word and got 10,000 hits."
Then, based on a recommendation by a scholar of Arabic, they used another term for holocaust in Arabic that is much more common—it translates loosely as 'the catastrophe of the Jews'—and got 150,000 hits, simply because it is the more common term. "That goes back to the translators knowing the content," Leshem says.
So far, that diligence seems to be working. After posting the first translations of the myth/fact sheets in Arabic, Leshem copied the name "Anne Frank" in Arabic and did a Google search. HDOT.org was listed at number three.
SOURCE: Daniel Pipes Blog (5-1-08)
Joshua Muravchik of the American Enterprise Institute began a debate with me on the subject of lawful Islamists in a June 2007 piece titled"Pipes v. Gershman," to which I responded on July 6, 2007 at"When Conservatives Argue about Islam." Muravchik initiated a second round in February 2008 with an article (co-authored with Charles P. Szrom),"In Search of Moderate Muslims."
Here is my reply to the latter, in the form of a letter to the editor of Commentary magazine, published in the May issue. The following version differs in many small ways from the published one; in three places, where the print version differed substantially from my original text, I added square brackets to show the contrast:
To the Editor:
As a contributor to your pages since 1979, I write unhappily to defend myself from an article in Commentary. But, to paraphrase Lord Palmerston, I suppose magazines have no eternal allies; so, reply I must to Joshua Muravchik and Charles P. Szrom's"In Search of Moderate Muslims," in the February 2008 issue.
[Print version: As a contributor to COMMENTARY since 1979, I write unhappily to defend myself from Joshua Muravchik and Charles P. Szrom's arguments against me in"In Search of Moderate Muslims."]
In policy terms, there are, broadly speaking, three kinds of Muslims. Violent Islamists, we all agree, are the enemy; in contrast, moderate, pro-Western, anti-Islamist Muslims are unarguably allies. Non-violent Islamists, however, represent the murky in-between. Policy battles royal have already taken place over them, with many more to come. Tariq Ramadan provides a useful symbol of this disagreement: excluded from the United States on account of his support for terrorism, he is employed by the British government in its"roadshow" to dissuade Muslim youth from terrorism.
Official U.S. government policy since 1992 has been to treat these non-violent Islamists (whom I prefer to call lawful Islamists) as friends. Liberals widely adopt this position, but a number of conservatives have also promoted it, including Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Reuel Gerecht of the American Enterprise Institute, Robert Leiken of the Nixon Center, and, of course, Muravchik and Szrom.
To make their case more convincingly, these advocates whitewash lawful Islamists; [Print version: But such advocates of dialogue can succumb to whitewashing the records of the Islamists.] thus do Muravchik and Szrom dub Kamran Bokhari a"former Islamist." But a closer look reveals he is actually a"former violent Islamist" who is today a lawful Islamist. He has journeyed merely from overt to covert enmity.
Muravchik and Szrom take issue with my term"moderate Muslim," calling it"perhaps unfortunate," and equating it with people who are"not too Islamic." But that is not what I mean by"moderate." Moderate Islam is fully Islamic, though not Islamist. It implies not a lesser quantity or quality of piety but an Islam at odds with the fundamentalists, radicals, literalists, Salafists, and other assorted extremists. By analogy, moderate leftists – Social-Democrats, Labourites, even Titoites – served as U.S. allies in the Cold War. Stalinism, like Islamism, represented a novelty, or in Islamic terms, bid`a.
Muravchik and Szrom also dislike my formulation that"mak[ing] a distinction between the mainstream Islamists and the fringe ones [is] like making a distinction between mainstream Nazis and fringe Nazis. They're all Nazis, they're all the enemy." Instead, they suggest that had there been Nazis"who clearly rejected violence. … Would they not have been meaningfully distinguishable from Hitler's crew?"
Such Nazis did not exist, but such communists did, so let us revert again to that analogy: Soviet and French parties differed deeply in their readiness to rely on brute force, but they shared a common goal and ultimately stood on the same side in the Cold War. To invest in lawful Islamists would be as foolish as having helped French reds seize power.
Muravchik and Szrom's gratuitous attack on the Center for Islamic Pluralism, a three-year old organization I helped put together, particularly dismayed me. Establishing the CIP required a full year of due diligence to ensure that it included only true moderates. To dismiss this small but worthy organization as"largely a one-man operation run by Stephen Schwartz, a former Trotskyist" is both offensive and inaccurate.
Indeed, Josh well knows its inaccuracy, having been critiqued by a joint letter signed by seven CIP members. He responded to it with a probing letter to 4 of the 7 co-signatories that attempted to pry them away from Schwartz. All four strongly rebuffed him, some with great verve. (The full correspondence can be found on the CIP website, at"The CIP-Muravchik File, 2007.")
[Print version: Indeed, Mr. Muravchik well knows its inaccuracy—a previous such swipe of his was subjected to criticism in a letter signed by seven CIP members. His subsequent attempt to pry them away from Schwartz was strongly rebuffed. (The full correspondence can be found on the CIP website.)]
The personal attacks on Schwartz also perturb me, so I offer two facts in his defense. His book, The Two Faces of Islam (2003) was banned in Malaysia, suggesting that he threatens Wahhabism in ways that Muravchik, Carl Gershman, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy do not. Also, about the time that Josh wrote a wide-eyed account of his"Saudi sojourn" as a guest of the sheikhs, Schwartz was working with the American Jewish Committee to organize two trips of moderate Muslims to Israel.
I hope Joshua Muravchik and Commentary will re-discover their stalwart and eloquent voices of old and re-enlist in the ranks of those who are fighting today's ideological enemy. It suits neither to be aligned with the accommodating left; and their current actions damage what I still hope is our joint cause.
Middle East Forum
Muravchik then begins the third round in his response to the above. Time availing, I will in turn answer him. (May 1, 2008)
Despite its heft, this book is too short. That is because the subject matter -- U.S. political history -- is so sweeping and the period dealt with -- nearly four decades -- is so long.
The title of Sean Wilentz's book grandly proclaims 1974 to 2008 as the Age of Reagan. But he notes right away that, absent Watergate, the country's late-20th-century move to the right could have been the Age of Nixon. His extension of the Reagan era through 2008 is also debatable, and his coverage of the George W. Bush years is necessarily incomplete, a limitation he acknowledges.
So this is not a book for the ages. It includes a persistent anti-Republican tenor, which an Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. (to whom the book is dedicated) would not have indulged, despite having more or less similar feelings. Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton, has made no secret of his political sympathies: He has actively supported Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy and accused Barack Obama of running a "deeply dishonest" primary campaign. Two years ago, he argued in an article for Rolling Stone that the current President Bush is "in serious contention" for the title of worst president in history. Reading The Age of Reagan, one wonders whether his singular praise for Bill Clinton's presidency is principally the judgment of a historian or of a party activist.
Nevertheless, Wilentz deserves kudos for biting off a challenge that few historians would have dared to undertake. All too many U.S. political chronicles have been written by specialists who present events in four- or eight-year segments minimally encumbered by a larger economic, political or historical context. By contrast, Wilentz goes for sweep, and in a number of ways achieves it.
He is correct, for example, that although a major trend to the right in U.S. national politics began in the 1960s, Democratic leaders time after time found some reason for perceiving an ongoing or restored liberal dominance -- in 1974, in 1982, in 1986-88 and at both the beginning and conclusion of the Clinton era. Reagan was the most successful Republican president of the 1960-2008 period, which can reasonably support naming the larger era after him. Most leaders on the right regard the man as their great hero, and his era -- the first term, in particular -- as the conservative equivalent of Camelot.
Wilentz is also reasonably correct when he says the unfolding conservative zeitgeist of late-20th-century America produced a string of excesses from Watergate and Vietnam down to the George W. Bush years.
On the other hand, by formally beginning his narrative in 1974, he manages to avoid any serious analysis of the three-tiered Democratic failure under Lyndon Johnson -- a bungled war, unleashed inflation and rioting cities -- or the debacle of the presidential nomination and defeat of George McGovern in 1972, which split the Democratic party like a ripe melon.....
SOURCE: Lee White at the website of the National Coalition for History (NCH) (5-2-08)
SOURCE: http://bupipedream.com (5-2-08)
On Thursday evening about 70 students and community members attended “Empire City,” a lecture by Kenneth T. Jackson, Ph.D., a professor of history and the social sciences, Jackson spoke about what makes New York City different from the rest of the United States.
Although all major American cities are diverse, New York represents the widest variety of cultures and ethnicities, Jackson said. The largest immigrant group, Dominicans, makes up just 13 percent of the population. With more than 8 million residents, one can see people from hundreds of different cultures every day.
Jackson believes this diversity is responsible for making New York City such a tolerant place.
“You’re forced to run into people all the time that are different,” he said. “You have no time to worry why that person has purple hair or speaks a different language.”
Audience members laughed in agreement as Jackson cited that examples of tolerance can be seen everywhere from the daily business interactions between Muslims and Jews to Time Square’s Naked Cowboy who earns a living playing music in his underwear.
“New York isn’t the friendliest city, but it is the most open place in the world,” agreed Ben Falber, a BU senior in attendance.