A Barnard College professor who argues in her scholarly work that archeological evidence has been manipulated to justify the existence of a modern Jewish state has been granted tenure following a heated battle, a source at the college said last night..
Nadia Abu El-Haj, an anthropology professor at Barnard since 2002, is the author of "Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society," published in 2001.
In the book, Ms. Abu El-Haj, who is a Palestinian Arab, writes that Israeli archaeologists use their research to further an origin myth about the homeland of the Jewish people.
"Insofar as archaeology was an integral part of this project to build a new Jewish Quarter, archaeological remains themselves were made," she writes. "Ancient ruins were subsequently integrated into the contemporary urban design. These new phenomena, produced through archaeological practice, came to restructure the real, extending the boundaries of Jewish national territorial claims that emerged as taken for granted in the decades to come." Bulldozers may have destroyed the signs of other cultures and civilizations that existed on the land that the Jews claim is the ancient kingdom of Israel, she writes.
Ms. Abu El-Haj's bid for tenure, which required approval from Columbia University, has drawn fire from Barnard alumni, who threatened to withhold their financial contributions to their alma mater if the college lent its support to her scholarship. Some scholars said Ms. Abu El-Haj should be denied tenure not because she is pro-Palestinian, but because her ideology distorts and drives her scholarship.
"She is putting down and distorting undisputable facts," a Columbia professor and the co-coordinator for Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Awi Federguen, said. "It doesn't even rise to the level of asking is this good work or bad work."
The tenure decision comes as tensions surrounding issues in the Middle East have again taken center stage at Columbia University.
An invitation by the university to host President Ahmadinejad of Iran last month was followed by a string of racist and anti-Semitic incidents on campus targeting black and Jewish professors.