Middle East Studies in the News
Prof's slip is showing - so's his anti-Semitism
Prof. Edward Said is an iconic figure at Columbia University and beyond. He is an esteemed expert on Jane Austen, a celebrated critic of American foreign policy and an eloquent advocate of the Palestinian cause. Admiring media profiles invariably mention that he is also a fine pianist.Naturally, Columbia regards such a Renaissance man as an adornment. Said holds the rank of university professor of English and comparative literature. Recently, an Edward Said chair of Arab studies was endowed at Columbia by a secret admirer.
Among his many pursuits, Said writes often for international journals, including the Egyptian Al Ahram Weekly. On Friday, he published an article there titled "A Monument to Hypocrisy." The piece covered a lot of ground familiar to students of Said's view that "the Perles and Wolfowitzs of this country" are leading America into a war "planned by a docile, professionalized staff in places like Washington and Tel Aviv."
But the article also contained a scoop: A senior member of the White House staff may be in on the conspiracy. President Bush and his advisers are, in Said's words, "slaves of power perfectly embodied in the repetitive monotone of their collective spokesman Ari Fleischer (who I believe is also an Israeli citizen)."
Fleischer believes otherwise. "It's not true," he says.
In the face of this denial, I contacted Said's office by E-mail and asked for a clarification. He did not reply.
Certain that a scholar of Said's stature wouldn't simply invent a rumor, I broke a longstanding practice and engaged in research. Nexis yielded nothing of interest for "ARI FLEISCHER" and "ISRAELI CITIZEN." But Google provided two references to Fleischer's Israeli nationality that seem to predate Said's own exposé.
The first appears in The End Times, a learned publication dedicated to fighting the Jewish effort to establish a satanic "Anti-Christ Beast System Rule of the Earth."
In a monograph titled "President Bush and the Edomites," I found this: "Some reports state that he [Fleischer] holds Israeli citizenship."
The claim was reiterated in WAR, an organ of the White Aryan Resistance movement. In a list of prominent Zionist agents (which includes Secretary of State Powell, who is said to have a Jewish ancestor on his father's side) Fleischer was fingered as "prominent in the Jewish community ... reportedly holds Israeli citizenship."
I am reluctant to accuse Said of ripping off the work of others. But he cited neither WAR nor The End Times as a source in his own Fleischer outing.
This week, Said's Al Ahram article was reprinted by Common Dreams News Center ("Breaking News&Views for the Progressive Community"). What Said humbly referred to as a mere belief about the Zionist in the White House already is hardening into an article of faith from the coffeehouses of Cairo to the Starbucks of Morningside Heights.
This is, of course, a tribute to Said's prestige. Equally, it is an insight into his role as a conduit in the right-to-left propagation of ideas that typifies the field of Zionist studies.
It isn't surprising Columbia is proud of a man with such global influence. Still, academic reputations are fragile. If Said has, in fact, appropriated the research of others, he should admit it, ask to be forgiven and be allowed to move on.
His colleagues and disciples will understand. After all, one reads so much neo-Nazi literature that it is difficult to recall the precise origin of one's every printed assertion.
Zev Chafets was born and raised in Pontiac, Mich. After graduating from the University of Michigan, he moved to Jerusalem, where he spent 33 years in politics, government and journalism. Chafets is a founding editor of the Jerusalem Report Magazine and the author of nine books of fiction, media criticism and social and political commentary. His column in the Daily News began running in the fall of 2000. He now lives in the New York area.
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