Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Christopher Columbus Wasn't

You'd think that after the public rebuke by The Economist, Juan Cole would tread carefully for a while. You'd be wrong. Yesterday he explained to his readership that the Jews' connection to Jerusalem is largely myth (and of course, that Israel's politics on the matter are illegal, harmful and so on).

Bill Clinton apparently once told Yasser Arafat that in his insistence on denying a Jewish connection to Jerusalem he was offending Clinton's sensibilities as a Christian. To which one might add that when revisionist history goes so far as simply to deny inconvenient chapters of the past while trampling on the entire methodology of knowing about it, they offend anyone invested in the attempt to think rationally about what cannot be known through immediate experience. Once you're ready to do that you're in Orwell's 1984: you can't prove the French Revolution ever happened; George Washington never lived; Martin Luther was a fable; Thermopylae was invented by the sports equipment companies, and of course Alexander the Great is the brain-child of cynical Greek politicians unhappy with the disintegration of Yugoslavia. (Need I mention that the Nazis never killed Jews?)

I'm not going to fisk Cole's silliness. He's not important enough, and if his followers accept nonsense such as this that mostly tells us about them. I will however briefly note that his entire edifice is based on two hugely controversial books. One by Shlomo Sand, and the other a collection of articles from the Copenhagen School of Thought. Like Cole, this is not my specialty, so I won't go so far as to say that the Copenhagen scholars are truly as unprofessional as the Holocaust deniers; I will however say that they are at the extreme edge of what the scholarly community has to offer. Ah, and they first appeared a year or so after the Six Day War.

Propounding a historical thesis based on these folks alone, as if their argumentation is accepted knowledge and given truth is, how to put it, not serious.

PS: Remember this?


Barry Meislin said...

Cole has higher ambitions unfettered, unencumbered, unrestrained by such miserable, paltry, bourgeois, capitalist, colonialist concepts such as truth, scholarship and accuracy.

How dare you even suggest that he be bound by them (in the pursuit of his most cherished goal)?

AKUS said...

To the extent that riots can be considered amusing, I was amused bu the calls by the Arabs to come to Jerusalem to defend Al Aksa against the Jews who want to build the Third temple.

Third Temple?

Does that mean that deep down they know there was a First and Second Temple? Despite all their claims to the contrary?

A bit of cognitive dissonance there that reveals the truth.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

I looked at that site concerning the copenhagen school.

They speak of discrepancies and what has not been found. Of course, a lot has been found as Netanyahu pointed out the other day to AIPAC. He spoke of a signet ring [cylinder seal] from First Temple times with the name Netanyahu in ancient Hebrew script [about the same as Canaanite, Moabite, etc].

One of the reason for the discrepancies is reliance on the accepted Chronology of Egypt, itself a scholarly construct based on astronomical and other conjectures, on the several versions of Manetho's kinglists, etc. A number of critics have attacked this accepted chronology --bear in mind that no continuous Egyptian chronology has come down to us. Foremost among these critics was Immanuel Velikovsky. Others include the British archeologists Peter James, John Bimson, etc.

Velikovsky argued that the accepted chronology puts many Egyptian events about 600 years ahead of their real time. Peter James said only 300 years ahead. The discrepancy between the accepted chronology and history and the dependence of histories and dating outside of Egypt on the accepted Egyptian chronology has led to endless quarrels over the date of the Trojan War, for instance, and whether it even took place. There are earlier and later dates for it separated by about 300 years.

Defenders of the generally accepted Egyptian chronology overlook the discrepancies that it produces, such as the finding of tiles with Greek letters in an Egyptian tomb dated conventionally to about 1250-1200 BCE. However, at that time, the Greeks did not have an alphabet. So the weak excuse was invented that later tomb thieves brought the tiles into the tomb. Why would thieves bring in tiles?? Wouldn't they be more likely to take things out??
Then there are a whole set of problems related to dating of the an Egyptian hymn inscribed in the tomb of one of Akhenaten's generals which is similar to Psalm 104.

An Israeli archeologist following the accepted Egyptian chronology claimed in an article in BASOR that
Egyptian cylinder seals found in a Canaanite cemetery here in Israel had undergone secondary use, rather unlikely in my view.

So it would be necessary to investigate and refute that whole accepted Egyptian chronology, known to have been constructed by Judeophobes such as Breasted and Flinders Petrie, in order to find what the Copenhagen school does not really want to find. This effort would also help to put some order into ancient Greek history too.

NormanF said...

If that was all I had to go by, I could see Hitler's ghost in our world: the world still hates the Jews and wants to be rid of them.

I defy you to show me evidence it loves them and wants to prevent a Second Holocaust from descending upon them.

Empress Trudy said...

I asked Dr. Cole if those hundreds of shuls destroyed by Jordan in E. J. in 1948 came from space. I received no response.

Anonymous said...

The Arab claim to Jerusalem, of course, is firmly rooted in historical fact, what with Mohammed catching the overnight winged horse from Mecca with Gabriel, an angel, to the site of the Temple, followed by a side trip to heaven to meet Moses, Abraham and God, and home again for breakfast.

The only part of this that is disputable is the bit about an alleged Temple.

Paul M

4infidels said...

The Likud coalition in Israel does contest elections. But it isn't morally superior in most respects to the Syrian Baath. The Likud brutally occupies 3 million Palestinians (who don't get to vote for their occupier) and is aggressively taking over their land. That is, it treats at least 3 million people no better than and possibly worse than the Syrian Baath treats its 17 million.—September 9, 2004

If Cole thinks this is the case, where is his concern, in article after article, about those 17 million oppressed Syrians? I guess only if Israel were to "occupy" all of Syria would there human rights be of any interest to Juan Cole.

With some many of his statements does he reveal his selected outrage, his bigotry and fraudulent scholarship.

Gavin said...

I was kinda pleased when you grew bored with Cole & stopped mentioning him Yaacov. He's a total narcissist, his website is the blog version of preening oneself in the mirror. I find his kind contemptible & obnoxious, he has nothing useful or intelligent to offer. For the sake of our sanity get bored with him again quickly please!

Cheers, Gavin

Andrew said...

There's been a lot of conversation in the blog and pundit world as to the meaning of "pro-Israel." The New York Times published an online op-ed on that topic today. It's sort of a silly debate, but I'm a fan of language, so I enjoy it and the related discussions about who is really a "friend" of Israel's.

That said, I feel perfectly comfortable calling Juan Cole anti-Israel. One can criticize Israeli policies or leaders and still be a "friend" and "pro-Israel." One can not, as Cole does, consider the very existence of Israel a crime or at best a tragic error and still earn the coveted "friend" title.

I suppose on some level I can actually appreciate that. There's no law saying one must love, respect, admire or even like Israel, and at least Cole is being reasonably honest about his distaste. All things considered I prefer him to the group of critics who only ever express a fondness for Israel as brief asides in much longer castigations.

Anonymous said...

when Palestinians talk about the Third Temple they do this solely out of courtesy and deeply felt respect for the feelings of the Jewish people
You should really be ashamed of yourself for trying to imply sinister motives or ignorance to their choice of language ;-)


Anonymous said...

in a way you are right about Cole of course - on the other hand he shows up quite regularly in the "Historians in the News" newsletter and in there always read as a to be taken serious professional historian - so whoever takes on the daunting task of sawing away at his throne is to be lauded no matter how repetetive and boring the reports may become.

Just imagine what Finkelstein's standing would be had he become tenured/crowned - now he is a martyr that's not bad statuswise but not quite as good as having been granted the certificate Professor, at least in Europe the mantle that goes with it enhances credibility a lot just as a seal from the FDA etc does.


Gavin said...

If he was a serious historian he wouldn't have punted that map around Silke. Every profession has ethics, and no serious historian would allow their personal views to corrupt their professional integrity like Cole did there. He's a celebrity historian, there's nothing serious about him. And he's still a narcissist.


Anonymous said...

needless to say I agree
- but the fact remains that his colleagues seem to continue to treat him with all due respect - if you want to see for yourself here is the site which issues the NL
- I wonder who feeds stuff to that NL - if it is serious the Economist article should show up in it


Gavin said...

Had a look Silke & the third or fourth name I came across was David Irving. Need I say more?

Don't see Cole being treated with respect there, just has his name mentioned along with countless others who claim the moniker of historian. It's just a database of news stories about historians from what I can see.

Cheers, Gavin

Lee Ratner said...

This is only slightly related to the topic at hand but a lot of non-Muslims seem drawn to studying Islam and its associated civilizations. Likewise, a lot of non-Japanese people or non-Chinese are drawn to becoming academics who devote their careers to Japan and China. How come Jewish studies departments seem to always consist entirely of Jews? Are there any non-Jewish academics who devote their scholarship to Jewish studies?

Anonymous said...

Lee -

Tom Bird professor of Yiddish at CUNY Queens College.


Yaacov said...

Lee -

I can't say about Jewish studies departments in America. In Germany they are staffed by non-Jews, and some of them do fine work (see the Simon Dubnow institute as an example).

Seen from another angle: I have a son who's studying Chinese in the East Asia studies department at Tel Aviv University. From what I can see, it's a large and vibrant department - though I expect most of the students are interested in making money through trade with the various East Asians, more than in the minutiae of, say, Samurai traditions in the 16th century.

zionist juice said...

did you see cole's list off who has the best claims to the holy land, beginning with the muslims, including various empires that do not exist anymore and including iraq because of the babylonian occupation.
funny isn't it? he is mentioning all this non existent political entities or groups that are no political entity.
but the one political entity that is existing and governing the country has no right to rule.
if that is his mindset, why doesn't ge start some peace treaty with some of the native of the great lakes.
oh, they do not threat to kill him , mmmh...
why is that guy a scientist?

Anonymous said...

got me there Gavin ...
remember it as a perfect example of how easy it is to fool us "normals" by throwing around academic titles and how automatic our stance of reverence is
I'll be even more careful in the future and include my preferred corner of academics in the general distrust


4infidels said...

Under any reasonable definition--even the most-broadminded possible--Juan Cole is rabidly anti-Israel.

The question is whether or not he is anti-Semitic. A few of the troubling signs:

-He can't seem to distinguish between the views of Kahane and Jeffrey Goldberg; they're both Zionists and, like all Zionists, repulsive to Juan Cole.

-He compares Jewish nationalism to the nationalisms of the 20th century that were responisble for killing millions of people. You know Zionism and Naziism are just two sides of the same coin. The Jews haven't committed genocide yet, but that is where their fascist ideology is leading them.

-He reads the worst possible explanation into every Israeli statement or action and the best possible explanation (most reasonable; least hostile; most peace-loving) into every Muslim statement or action regarding Israel.

Unfortunately none of this has prevented Cole from being quoted in major media publications and being awarded positions in academia beyond where his poor scholarship should have taken him. Ideology trumps everything, and is the only thing that has enabled his success. Yet this man has a personal problem with supporters of Israel; those are the scapegoats for everything in his life that didn't go as he wished.

Sergio said...

That those cranks-with-doctorate abound,
mainly in lit-crit, humanities and science-ignorant philosophy departments, is the result of years of postmodernist nonsense that penetrated universities, with their lazy, muddled and anti-scientific stance, full of "hegemony"-"narrative"-"paradigm breaking"-"deconstruction" talk. Free from the opressive chains of traditional checks-and-balances of true scholarship (that annoying hegemonic narrative), they go around happily spewing their crap to any one willing to listen, particularly journalists, which after all were "educated" in the same environment.

This is Heidegger, Lacan, Derrida, et caterva bearing their rotten fruits.


Anonymous said...


it seems you are in very good company - here is an attack on your "favourites" from another angle


on Paul Berman's upcoming ""The Flight of the Intellectuals."

PS: if another one needs bodyguards it isn't all over the news after all it isn't as important as a tourist getting molested in Jerusalem (I am no advocate for tourist molesting - the Greeks had a nice solution at one monastery I visited - even if you wore a long jacket over your slacks you still had to rent a skirt - terribly sexist;-))) - but it provides an income to a villager and helps the monks to keep up the quiet life and it is their monastery and their country)

Sergio said...

Thanks Silke, I'll keep an eye on it.



Anonymous said...

I had to let that Evelyn Gordon piece sink in a bit in order to be able to translate it into my Weltbild and become an "of course" i.e. absent a "peace process" there are clearer cut lines and thus less opportunity for wedges to be driven in just like in an office with a strong and determined authoritarian boss there is less infighting though more whining and moaning.

Therefore it is likely that any negotiations will drive up violence because it means that lots of actors will see their chance to grab a piece from the cake, make themselves heard or just have some "fun" or become a celebrity. What a conundrum!

Here is a defense for (West-Bank) settlements as a strategic asset and a take on Gaza that makes Gordon's proposition to go back in there look like a not good idea. - How I wish I could have a peak at a picture of what Ariel Sharon really had in mind ...