I Don't Feel I Need to Apologize





Ms. Brand, president-elect of the Middle East Studies Association, is Professor of International Relations, University of Southern California.

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Among the predictions about the war that didn't pan out, there is one that hasn't been subjected to post-war ridicule, but that very much deserves it. This is the December letter, signed by over 1,000 academics, predicting and warning against Israel's possible "ethnic cleansing" of Palestinians in the "fog of war." The letter ended with this recommendation: "We urge our government to communicate clearly to the government of Israel that the expulsion of people according to race, religion or nationality would constitute crimes against humanity and will not be tolerated."

These people have (once again) brought shame on their discipline.... And they are now collectively in the moral position of owing apologies to the Israeli people and the Israeli government--of Ariel Sharon.-- Martin Kramer, April 25, 2003

Because I have now received several letters in response to HNN's publication of Martin Kramer's April 25 article, I would like to take this opportunity to provide some additional information that will help readers better understand the issues it raised.

Let me begin with the title: "The Petition Middle East Scholars Wish They Could Forget." I will admit to not having surveyed the entire list of more than 1000 petition signers - my guess is that neither has Mr. Kramer - but speaking for myself, and those whom I do know personally, no one has expressed regret or embarrassment over having signed this petition. Hence, the title itself is inaccurate, reflecting Mr. Kramer's wishes, certainly not mine nor, if I may venture to guess, those of my colleagues. [Note: The editor of HNN was responsible for the title, not Mr. Kramer.]

Second, the author failed to mention several key elements which help both explain our position and undermine his "argument." As he knows, but omitted in his presentation, the petition was drafted in response to a similar statement from more than 200 Israeli colleagues, expressing their concern that their government might attempt a "transfer" -- the euphemism for expulsion - of Palestinians, should there be a war. Given the public statements that have been made by various political figures in or close to the Sharon government regarding "transfer," such a statement from our Israeli colleagues was something that we took seriously, and hence to which we decided to respond by signing the petition.

Just as important, as Mr. Kramer also knows, the petition we signed did not predict transfer. It warned that it might occur. Those who are students or practitioners of politics know well that making people aware of the possibility of a problem may in some cases prevent its developing. Moreover, contrary to what Mr. Kramer's article suggests, there were consultations between the US government and the Israeli government, as well as the Jordanian and Lebanese governments in the lead up to the war against Iraq regarding the need to keep their respective borders quiet; that included, although it was not limited to, ruling out any possibility of expelling Palestinians. We are all thankful that "transfer" did not occur, but we are certainly not embarrassed for having been aware of and having spoken out about the possibility.

Third, Mr. Kramer singles out the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), because I am president-elect, as in particular need of forwarding an apology regarding the petition. His confusion here is a bit difficult to understand. I signed the petition as a scholar of the Middle East -- my university affiliation was for identification purposes only, as is usually the case in such matters. I did not include my MESA affiliation; indeed, I do not believe my election had even been announced at the time that I signed the petition. For those who are not familiar with MESA, it is an academic, not a political, organization. It encompasses students and scholars, as well as professionals outside the academy, of diverse backgrounds, disciplinary interests, and methodological and political tendencies. MESA had no role in the petition.

For those who would like more information on the petition, I would direct them to: http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=261886

Finally, as for who is the "propagandist," the term Mr. Kramer used, I leave tone of his April article to speak for itself.



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Elia Markell - 5/20/2003

Ms. Brand tells us, "the petition we signed did not predict transfer. It warned that it might occur."

This is a distinction without a difference. Let me demonstrate: A FAR, FAR more likely result of the war on Iraq, apparent to everyone before the war, that "might occur" and that DID occur, was the use by Baathists of civilians as human shields in hospitals, schools, and elsewhere, ther forcing of men into battle against their wishes by threatening the lives of their families, etc. etc. Yet this "might occur:" did not trouble Ms. Brand or her fellow historian hypothesizers enough to lead them to issue any petitions calling on Saddam not to do these things. No, the lives of THOSE ARABS, Saddam's Arabs (and Kurds of course), were no concern of MESA's.

So the question is not the prissy fine print distiinction between a prediction and possibility. The question is why ISRAEL was singled out for anticipatory genocide charges with respect to a war it stayed out of completely while the real and actual perpetrator of genocide, and the very subject of that war, went unmentioned? My conclusion is that MESA is wittingly or unwittingly complict with an anti-Semitic double standard that now extends to criticizing Israel in advance for things it has not done while excusing by silence those of its neighbors who HAVE done those things.

Or, as the bard once put it, "you who philosophize disgrace, and criticize all fears, take away the rag from your face, now ain't the time for your tears."


Elia Markell - 5/20/2003

Ms. Brand tells us, "the petition we signed did not predict transfer. It warned that it might occur."

This is a distinction without a difference. Let me demonstrate: A FAR, FAR more likely result of the war on Iraq, apparent to everyone before the war, that "might occur" and that DID occur, was the use by Baathists of civilians as human shields in hospitals, schools, and elsewhere, ther forcing of men into battle against their wishes by threatening the lives of their families, etc. etc. Yet this "might occur:" did not trouble Ms. Brand or her fellow historian hypothesizers enough to lead them to issue any petitions calling on Saddam not to do these things. No, the lives of THOSE ARABS, Saddam's Arabs (and Kurds of course), were no concern of MESA's.

So the question is not the prissy fine print distiinction between a prediction and possibility. The question is why ISRAEL was singled out for anticipatory genocide charges with respect to a war it stayed out of completely while the real and actual perpetrator of genocide, and the very subject of that war, went unmentioned? My conclusion is that MESA is wittingly or unwittingly complict with an anti-Semitic double standard that now extends to criticizing Israel in advance for things it has not done while excusing by silence those of its neighbors who HAVE done those things.

Or, as the bard once put it, "you who philosophize disgrace, and criticize all fears, take away the rag from your face, now ain't the time for your tears."

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