Professor Joel Beinin, a former president of the Middle East Studies Association who advocated for the curtailing of American aid to Israel, recently left the post at Stanford University he�s held for more than 20 years, and is now the director of Middle Eastern Studies at the American University in Cairo.
"Stanford professors move to different institutions all the time for a variety of personal and professional reasons. I'm away because Stanford has demonstrated over the course of more than two decades that it has, at best, minimal institutional interest in the study and teaching of the modern Middle East. Since that's what I do, I prefer to be in an environment where it's considered important," he wrote j. via an email.
Beinin noted that he was "officially on extended leave of absence until the end of 2008."
As a matter of policy, Beinin's Stanford colleagues are forbidden to discuss personnel moves, and Beinin would disclose no further information. Because of this recalcitrance from both the university and the professor, it is unclear whether a return to Palo Alto is in the cards for Beinin--or whose idea it was for him to leave in the first place.
Beinin's prominence within the field of Middle Eastern studies led to his peers electing him president of MESA in 2002. Critics such as Daniel Pipes* and Martin Kramer pointed to that as typical of a field they claim is hopelessly biased against Israel and rotten to the core with ideology trumping scholastic aptitude in terms of advancements.
Beinin singled out both Pipes and Kramer for derision in a recent interview in the magazine Egypt Today as "emblematic of the reaction. They were failures in their academic careers. They couldn't get regular university posts."
Another of Beinin's fiercest critics, the right-wing pundit David Horowitz, labeled the professor one of the 101 most dangerous academics in America, and published his picture on a book provocatively titled "Campus Support for Terrorism." Beinin claimed he owns the copyright to the photo on the book's cover and sued Horowitz in April. That case is still pending.
When it comes to the charge that Beinin is "unbalanced" in his classroom views, however, both the professor and his critics might, for once, agree.
"It's said that Joel Beinin doesn't believe in balance as an intrinsically crucial goal in academic life," former Stanford colleague professor Steven Zipperstein told j. in 2002.
"The charge is accurate, and he would acknowledge it, I think."
*For Daniel Pipes's response, see: http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/166#K