Sunday, January 4, 2009

Things a History Professor Doesn't Need to Know

History, for example, else how to explain Juan Cole's long description of Israel's history.

I suppose I could write an entire book full of facts to refute his post, but I already have. I hope, for his students, that the professor is better informed about the things he teaches in his university courses, because what he has posted here is about as factual as you'd expect from an overly enthusiastic high-school junior with a blog. That's the factual part I'm talking about, statements such as
Hamas pursued the tactic of sending small home-made missiles against nearby Israeli towns, mainly Sderot, emulating what Hizbullah had been doing to the Israeli colony in the occupied Shebaa Farms in 2005-2006.
My italics. Do you think the professor can find that colony on the map? If so it would be quite a feat, since it's not there and never has been. Or how about
Egypt launched the 1973 war as a surprise attack, and used sophisticated underwater sand-moving equipment to get across the canal and penetrate into the Sinai.
Sounds sinister, doesn't it. Rubber boats, most decidedly on the surface, otherwise the Egyptian commandos would have drowned.

Then you get the conceptual parts of his lecture, which are by definition slippery because they're speculation, not fact. Still, even when merely ruminating, I do think one can expect more of a university professor than paragraphs such as this:
Israel's political tradition seeks expansion if possible; if not possible, it seeks a balance of power with its enemies. If that is not possible, it seeks to be held harmless from its avowed foes. If that is not possible, it is willing to wage total war to punish the enemy population until it accepts at least a cold peace. Where necessary, Israel is willing to give up territorial expansion to get the cold peace.
Set aside that the professor couldn't substantiate this paragraph even if he spent ten years in the appropriate archives (assuming he knew the language); just try to figure out the syntax of that paragraph, and if you wish, come back and tell me what it means.

I never studied at an American university, but I sure hope this fellow is a rotten apple, not your standard professor. Where I studied, an undergraduate seminar paper of this quality would have been thrown out.


rashkov said...

That paragraph says: Israel (the Jew) is greedy for land, yet also cowardly when it gives land for peace.

Very anti-semitic, isn't it? I would not have looked for that subtext before reading your brilliant book, Right to Exist. It continues to have a profound effect on my world view.

Before that, my introduction to the topic was Alex Grobman's Nations United: How the United Nations Undermines Israel and the West, which I recommend since I am personally acquainted with Mr. Grobman.

I was not previously aware of this post-enlightenment strain of anti-Semitism. Perhaps I was expecting a more traditional sort of anti-Semitism, having come from the FSU, but now I recognize that anti-Zionism is mostly a form of anti-Semitism. I still have trouble with the term anti-Semitism, because of its powerful historical baggage. I will have to seek out a deeper treatment of the topic.

joseph said...

Dr. Lozowick,

I assume that you were preparing this post before I left my comment, but I'm glad to know I was on the right track, though you explained the situation far better than I ever could.
The real problem with instructors like Cole is that they have a preconceived notion of what the outcome of the educational experience should be, that is, the indoctrination of the student. Back in the old, old, old days when I went to college, I ran into teachers like that. I always thought that the purpose of a college education was to search for a deeper understanding of the subject matter. Most good professors tell me that they learn as much from their students as they teach. I'm going to guess that students of Cole who come to a different conclusion than he would like don't do well in his course, no matter how well they research or reason.


Brian Dunbar said...

Egypt launched the 1973 war as a surprise attack, and used sophisticated underwater sand-moving equipment to get across the canal and penetrate into the Sinai.

I took that to mean not the boats the Egyptians used to cross the canal but the sophisticated means they used to break down the berms so they could move heavy equipment across and through the berms.

Firehoses and pumps, if I recall correctly.

Which (give them their due) was innovative.

If my memory is not faulty it is interesting that in this gentleman's view hoses and pumps are 'sophisticated' ...