The death threat is emerging as a popular weapon in the effort to silence defenders not only of Israel, but of evidence-based scholarship. Not actual death threats. No, the tactic here is for Israel-haters who have come under perfectly legitimate verbal criticism for making up facts and distorting history to assert that they have received death threats. The gullible not only believe them, but accuse "those opposed to" the kind of Big Lies told by Nadia Abu El Haj of sending "death threats."
Nadia El Haj, as readers of this blog will recall, is the Barnard College professor whose sole book, Facts on the Ground, argues that the ancient Israelite kingdoms never existed. All those PaleoHebrew inscriptions are a "pure political fabrication," not discovered but "created" by jingoistic archaeologists.
Small wonder that her book has come under severe criticism from academics who actually know some history.
Abu El Haj has made no public attempt to defend her work. Instead, in what appears to be an attempt to garner sympathy, she has complained that the heavy criticism of her work by historians, archaeologists and other academics has caused her to become the target of "death threats."
If true, this is terrible. But is it true?
The NYPD takes credible death threats very, very seriously. But where is the evidence that El Haj received a death threat, as opposed, that is, to an angry letter? Neither El Haj nor the college has responded to calls to produce evidence that an actual death threat has been received.
Excuse my skepticism as I hazard a guess that El Haj has received an intemperate letter or two. A woman who writes with fulsome approval when Muslim mobs tear down Jewish shrines might get a few angry letters.
And El Haj's anti-Israel buddies have a pattern of complaining about faux threats.
A couple of years ago, in the wake of publishing a notorious article in which he called Jews "Gestapo apparatchiks" and demanded that Israel "must be dismantled," Columbia Professor Hamid Dabashi complained that he felt "physically threatened." A graduate student had written him a critical letter , a letter that contains not so much as a hint of physical threat. Dabashi demanded that the university take "appropriate measures taken to protect my person from a potential attack by a militant slanderer. ." The Provost read the student's letter and told Dabashi to grow up. "I very much doubt the New York City police would have any grounds for intervening in this matter."
Joel Beinin is a Stanford University Professor so notorious that the Stanford Review actually has a feature called the "Beinin Watch," dedicated to documenting the professor's "support of terrorist organizations and… spearheading (of) antisemitic practices. " at Stanford. Beinin has recently complained loudly of receiving a death threat from a journalist. Both the journalist and Professor Beinin are Jewish, a fact that is relevant because what the journalist actually said was "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?" The Stanford police told Beinin to grow up.
Joseph Massad, an aggressively anti-Israel professor, was officially censored by Columbia for "angry criticism directed at a student in class because she disagreed." He attempted to deflect attention from his own misconduct by claiming that he was the subject of death threats.
Massad never published either the death threat or any evidence that the police considered the threat credible. But he did get a lot of mileage out of making such an accusation. The Columbia Daily Spectator accused students who objected to Massad's Israel-bashing of being responsible for threats to the professor's life. The pro-Israel students were accused of "unleashing a monster" and of irresponsibly releasing "social forces" of the kind that might murder a professor. www.campus-watch.org/article/id/1722
Massad continues to teach that the ancient Hebrews did not speak Hebrew, that Zion is the Hebrew word for penis, and other material so silly that Massad's scholarship has been called "crackpot."
Now Professor El Haj tells us that she has received death threats. Unless she produces a police report establishing that the threat is credible, cynics may be excused for suggesting that maybe, just possibly, she is attempting to deflect criticism of a book that the senior American archaeologist of the ancient Near East, Professor William Dever, has called "faulty, misleading and dangerous."