By Cinnamon Stillwell
Campus Watch | May 16, 2007
Stanford Middle East history professor and former president of the Middle East Studies Association Joel Beinin is known for letting his one-sided political perspectives invade the classroom. As former Stanford professor Steven Zipperstein told The Jewish Weekly of Northern California in 2002, “It’s said that Joel Beinin doesn’t believe in balance as an intrinsically crucial goal in academic life. â€¦The charge is accurate, and he would acknowledge it, I think.”
He denounces American “imperialism” on Al-Jazeera Television. A former Zionist, he refers to jihadist suicide bombers as “martyrs.” He praised Mideast scholars for ignoring the issue of terrorism, and he regularly repeats the most twisted and paranoid claims of Islamist regimes as though they were historical fact. â€¦If one individual can showcase all the flaws of Middle East Studies in academia, Joel Beinin is that man.
Although the exact details are somewhat murky due to Stanford’s policy of not allowing colleagues to discuss personnel moves, according to Beinin, he’s “officially on extended leave of absence [from Stanford] until the end of 2008.” In the interim, Beinin has taken up residence at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, where he is the director of Middle East studies.
Beinin recently re-surfaced via alef, the University of Haifa’s “Academic Left” mailing list. He posted a message (reprinted below) regarding the case of Los Angeles journalist and activist Rachel Neuwirth and UCLA Hillel director, Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller. Readers may recall that Seidler-Feller verbally and physically assaulted Neuwirth outside a speech by Alan Dershowitz in October 2003, an act he publicly apologized for according to the settlement of a civil suit brought by Neuwirth.
Beinin managed to insert himself into the matter by giving Seidler-Feller a deposition, or so he claimed, accusing Neuwirth of sending him “death threats.” I spoke to Neuwirth about the case and she is unaware of any deposition filed by Beinin. As to the alleged “death threat,” she merely left a message on Beinin’s answering machine (following a previous phone call in which they discussed his academic work) stating: “Just remember, Hitler killed those who betrayed their nation first because he said that if they betrayed their own, why wouldn’t they betray me?”
Somehow Beinin managed to construe this as a death threat and he filed a complaint with the Stanford police to that effect. When they contacted Neuwirth about the complaint, she reiterated the content of her e-mail to Beinin, noting that “if you can’t note a historical fact to a history professor, then what are we learning?” The officer she spoke to agreed that the death threat claim was ludicrous and apparently the court concurred, for Beinin’s “evidence” was dismissed.
That appeared to be the end of the matter until Beinin posted the following comment at the ALEF list on May 14 in response to a posting on the subject:
Rabbi Chaim Feller’s lawyer has my deposition on Rachel Neuwirth’s death threat to me. He will probably share it with you. But why, I wonder, do you think that her lawyer’s letter to you is “a naked attempt to cow the progressive Jewish blog world into submission”?
There isn’t much of such a world that anyone with their head screwed on right should worry about. Aside from the likelihood that Ms. Neuwirth doesn’t have her head screwed on right, I rather see her behavior as an attack on the civilized world and an expression of how an ultra-Zionist understanding of the world can easily lead one to embrace a fantastical and racist understanding of the world.
Director of Middle East Studies
American University in Cairo
Professor of History Professor
(on leave 2006-08)
Considering Beinin’s own behavior in this case, one might wonder who exactly is taking a “fantastical” view of the world. In addition, this isn’t the first time that Beinin has employed falsehoods to suit his purposes. In a 2004 interview with Egypt Today, Beinin accused Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes of not being able to “get a permanent academic position, despite the fact that his father [allegedly] tried to engineer one for him at Harvard.” As pointed out by Pipes at his blog, both statements are untrue.
When a professor has to lie to make his point, it hardly inspires confidence in his ability to provide students with an accurate and unbiased education.
(Posted by Cinnamon Stillwell)
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