Dear Mr. Spencer: About Those Things You Said About Me

Mr. LeVine is associate professor of modern Middle Eastern history, culture and Islamic Studies at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of the upcoming book, Why They Don't Hate Us (Oxford: Oneworld Publications) and a contributing editor at Tikkun magazine.

On December 7, 2004 published an article by Robert Spencer about historian Mark LeVine. Mr. Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and the author of Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West (Regnery Publishing), and Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith (Encounter Books).

Dear Mr. Spencer :

First of all, thanks so much for titling a piece you did about me"Noam Chomsky as Rock Star." This is the best blurb I've gotten yet for my forthcoming book!

For the record, while at one time I would have liked to have been a rock star, that sad truth is that marriage and children have made constant touring out of the question for the foreseeable future. And while I admire Noam Chomsky, I have never to my knowledge wanted to be Noam Chomsky. Linguistics is just way beyond me; just knowing a few languages is hard enough. Also, I have heard he drinks a lot of coffee. My stomach can't tolerate more than a cup a day.

More seriously, however, it seems that you did not read most of what I have written before writing your critique of my work. I say this because I have discussed in detail most every thing you have accused me of not discussing--the origins of Hamas, the immorality and futility of suicide bombings, hatred for Israel and the like. It would be nice to be accused of something that I didn't do, instead of being accused of not doing something I have in fact done. Then at least I could learn from the criticism, which is always a good thing. Perhaps you just googled a few recent articles of mine and made your judgements from those? It wouldn't be the first time a conservative has done that. Once the right-wing talk show host Dennis Prager called me a liar on national radio when I told him on his show that I'd witnessed Palestinian marches against suicide bombings. He did so after doing a google search during a commercial break. Unfortunately, the evidence was not googlable because the articles were too old, but was findable on Lexis-Nexis, as I explained to him after the show. He promised to have me on his show again to apologize but has yet to make good on this offer (I have written about the dangers of Google history in war time, if you're interested.)

You could also have checked my CV, which is online, and found articles in Le Monde, the Christian Science Monitor and Tikkun magazine dealing with these issues. May I suggest that it might be time for you to hire a new research assistant?

Your main issue with me, beside my taste in music and linguists, seems to be that I naively argue for a "hudna" or truce between Americans and Muslims, especially radical Muslims. This is certainly debatable advice on my part. In fact, I offered it precisely so it would be debated. However your criticism sadly does not contribute to a much-needed debate; instead it falls into the Orientalist trap of trying to use Islamic legal compendiums dating back well over 600 years (Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, the author of the source you cite for your analysis of "hudna," 'Umdat as-Salik, died in 1386) to define for all times what Muslims think about a particular issue. This is probably not the best way to understand what Muslims think about various issues today; just as basing the opinions of Jews solely on the writings of Maimonides or even Americans based solely on the views of the authors of the Declaration of Independence (or better, the Magna Carta) would likely produce a distorted understanding of contemporary views. But such thinking is among the primary ideological moves in Orientalism and the larger discourse of imperialism (if saying this makes me a "Saidist"--a term I've never encountered before. Shouldn't it be "Saidian"?--then so be it), as evidenced so well in James Mill's 1817 primer for British imperial rule of India, the History of India, which argued with great fanfare, and just as great error, that the thousands year old "Laws of Manu" were a primary basis for understanding, and so governing, Hindu society.

Some, or many Muslims, might want to use a truce to regroup or grow stronger in order to better attack "us" later. Some extremist Muslims do use medieval texts to justify terrorism or violating agreements (what the U.S. government uses to justify these things is an equally interesting matter, but it seems not to interest you). But if I were you I'd be a lot more worried about a billion plus Chinese with the fastest growing economy in the world, a huge percentage of America's debt, burgeoning high-tech sector and a lot of nuclear weapons, than a billion plus Muslims, if you're looking for the main strategic threat to whoever it is you think the "West" is in the near future.

Moreover, you seem to think that all you need to do to understand Muslims is read religious texts and look at extremists. The 99.9 percent of Muslims who don't engage in violence against the West, the vast majority of whom don't base their life of the 'Umdat as-Salik (however important it might be for religious scholars), whose lives are incredibly diverse, complex and conflicted, and whose dreams for their futures and those of their children and their societies are in fact quite close to ours, just don't seem to count much to you. That's too bad--and if you don't believe me, believe the report by the Defense Science Board released last week that warns President Bush that Muslims don't hate our freedom and ideology but rather our support for all those supposedly "moderate" regimes which are in fact incredibly repressive and corrupt governments whose continued existence is owed to U.S. backing.

But let's get back to your arguments about the untrustworthiness of Muslims when it comes to honoring any hudna "they" might "sign" with "us." Let's leave aside the fact that Muslims might have some pretty good reasons not to trust us--in fact, a lot more reasons than we have not to trust them. Let's just take the example of Hamas, since you seem so knowledgeable, or at least interested, in this group. I have interviewed Hamas people who've discussed the truce issue and I have called them on it too. In fact, last time I met with a senior leader in Gaza I asked him whether the death of Oslo meant Hamas would join the calls for a one or binational solution being increasingly advocated by Palestinian and Israeli academics, or even push harder for an explicit Islamic state solution, as mentioned in various core documents of the movement. He looked at me like I was crazy, and actually said, "Are you crazy? We want a divorce, not to live closer to Jews." You can interpret it however you want. His interpretation, offered in his next sentence with a lot of exasperation, was "Just give us a state and leave us alone already."

However you want to interpret it, though, the reality is that Muslims have as little ability to "destroy the West" as Hamas has to destroy Israel. In fact, the Asian avian flu that Sec. of Health and Human Services Thompson is suddenly worried about after resigning could easily kill exponentially more people in the next year than Muslims could kill westerners in a hundred years of jihad. Sorry, i know that the threat of jihad to what you call "the West" is your big thing. If you're worried about loss of life, though, better to change your group's name from "Jihad Watch" to "Asia Avian Flu Watch". You'd save a lot more lives that way.

On a few other notes, who exactly do you mean by "aging rock glitteratti" that I supposedly hang "hobnob" with? And what exactly is "hobnobbing"? And since when has Noam Chomsky's star "faded." Please correct me if I'm wrong, but last I saw he had lot more bestsellers in the last three years than you and all your friends put together have had in your entire careers. As for Edward Said, didn't your mother tell you not to speak ill of the dead? And while I would love to take credit for making Chomsky and Said "cool again," can you show me when they went out of style? You also accuse me of making "no mention of the fact that Chomskyites and Saidists have placed Middle East Studies departments in American universities into an ideological straitjacket that would have made Stalin blush." That's because they have done more to open the field from the "ideological straitjacket" of the first three decades of its life as a Cold War invention than almost anyone else. Your argument that they've put it in a straitjacket is one made by someone who never has actually read them in any detail and in fact knows absolutely nothing about the field of Middle Eastern Studies, most of whose practitioners predicted exactly the terrorism that happened with 9/11 when our government and spy agencies were busy elsewhere, and who rightly predicted exactly what would happen when the U.S. invaded Iraq (so far that makes it Middle East Studies 2, Bush administration neocons 0 by my count).

In the same way you clearly haven't read my work in any detail. In fact, this may come as news to you, but op-eds do not the sum total of a scholar's intellectual production make. We also write articles in journals and even edit and write books, of which mine deal with the very issues you accuse me of not dealing with. How can I accuse you of this? Well, you write "LeVine owes his status [as wunderkind] to his willingness to place the responsibility for the strife between the West and the Islamic world squarely on the shoulders of the West." And where exactly did I write that I "place responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the West"? Can you please show me where I've written that? I'm not saying I haven't, but I sure don't remember doing so (perhaps all those years on the road have taken their toll). If I did write that somewhere, then that was not very smart of me and I appreciate your calling it to my attention.

But one thing I do know is that almost everything I write I make sure to discuss exactly how and why blame has to be shared, and Muslims like Americans (or Israelis and Palestinians) need to take responsibility for their actions. In my chapter in the book Twilight of Empire: Responses to Occupation, that I co-edited, I specifically argue this. But now that I think about it, I say that in the very "Truce with the Muslim World" article that clearly got you upset enough to spend ten minutes or so writing your article about me!

Perhaps you should have read it to the end. Here's the link.

What I did write was, among other things: "Clearly, a different kind of truce is needed; one that signals the first step in a genuine reappraisal of U.S. (and to a lesser extent European) core positions and interests as well as those of Muslims, so that genuine peace and reconciliation become conceivable." More to the point, I wrote: "Beyond the criminal minority, the 9-11 report was right to demand that Muslims worldwide confront the violent and intolerant version of their religion that is poisoning their societies and threatening the world at large. Religious leaders and ordinary citizens alike must engage in soul-searching about the toxic tendencies within their own cultures similar to the one they demand of Americans and the West more broadly.... Muslim political leaders should begin a process of rapid development of participatory civil societies and hold internationally monitored elections within specified (short) time periods or their regimes will face censure and sanctions by the international community. This is the surest way to build a foundation for defeating terrorism. "

I dunno, but I think that this is pretty much what you accused me of not writing, isn't it? And you didn't have to look any farther than the very article you read. Is it inappropriate for me to suggest that you get some tutoring in effective reading strategies before your next expose?

And while we're at it, you quoted but never answered or rebutted the following argument of mine: "Not just Palestinian activists, but foreign peace activists and even Israelis are routinely beaten, arrested, deported, or even killed by the IDF, with little fear that the Government of Israel would pay a political price for crushing non-violent resistance with violent means…. Not surprisingly considering this dynamic, a poll I helped direct earlier this year revealed that Hamas has now surpassed the PLO as the most popular Palestinian political movement.” I think it's a good argument, so thanks for publicizing it. But can you rebut it? I don't think so...

It's getting late and my wife is kicking me to stop typing and go to sleep already--I wonder if rock stars and Noam Chomsky have to worry about this when they want to work late. Let me close, Mr. Spencer, by saying that I would be happy to debate you publicly if you'll take the time actually to read what I write rather than going off about what you wish I'd have written. You have a standing invitation to come to UC Irvine anytime. I'll get a nice big room and some bottled water. You make arrangements with C-SPAN, as I assume you have better connections there than do I. Not being a rock star, and considering the budget cuts at the University of California, I can't offer you a free dinner, sorry. However, since you seem to need help thinking straight how about inviting Daniel Pipes and Bernard Lewis along to help you? I'd love to get the three of you on a stage. For that, I'll spring for dinner.

I assume you know how to reach me, although I'm not sure why you didn't bother to do so before writing your wonderfully titled expose.

Best and peace,


This article was first published on Juan Cole's blog and is reprinted with permission of the author.

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Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

What I most liked was LeVine's decision to attack Google for failing to locate the Palestinian anti-suicide bombing he "witnessed." Blame the messenger.

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

I'm sure LeVine will help us by providing all the details of these alleged rallies. Was I correct in thinking that his defense of the rodentine Edward Said was merely that Said is dead?

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

"Perhaps, LeVine participated in an Israeli protest against suicide bombers at which some Palestinian Arabs also attended."
Maybe. Or sme people he thought looked a bit like they might be Arabs . . .
It's odd that "Andrew Todd" used the search engine he discredited (Google) to search for my accomplishments.

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

I think "Andrew D. Todd" needs to look up "ad hominem" in the dictionary. But if he insists on reducing everything to the origins of my name, I think we need first to establish his credentials as a scholar of middle european languages. Still, he's inadvertantly showing how useful Google is, and how LeVine's imaginary Palestinian rally was unattributable because it was a lie.
Sandor (mostly I'm called Sandy, which I don't like) is indeed a Hungarian name, and I am indeed of Hungarian/Turkish ancestry. Lopescu is what probably happened to Lupescu, via Constantinople and Ellis Island. I'm not a juvenile, but I am a grad student. Now it's your turn "Andrew."

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

Thanks Andrew-- I seem at least to have convinced you to stop making fun of my name. Rather than respond to the patronizing tone of your lesson about what sort of critique is acceptable, I'll simply defer to your superior authority on this issue. Going on your third decade in graduate school, you do probably know more than a twenty three year-old.

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

Certainly, and I promise never to say "rodentine" again.

N. Friedman - 12/18/2004


One further clarification. I do not think the war in Iraq does all that much to help us win the war declared on us by the Jihadis. Which is to say, I have never supported the Iraq war.

N. Friedman - 12/18/2004


One clarification. We are, in fact, in a war like situation with the Muslim world. We need to do what is necessary to win that war. Which is to say, I hate war but when war exists, I believe in winning.

N. Friedman - 12/16/2004

I found the below article which is intended as Mr. Spencer's reply to Professor LeVine:

"Mark LeVine does not blame only the West," by Robert Spencer, at .

His website also contains a reply to Professor LeVine by one Hugh Fitzgerald:

"Hugh Fitzgerald on Mark LeVine," at

N. Friedman - 12/15/2004


The LeVine argument is a bit too facile. At least, that is my view.

The rise of Islamism is occurring in nearly every country where there are Muslims in any large numbers. Which is to say, it is probably not repression that is the motive force or, at least, such is certainly not the only and probably not the main force involved.

More than likely, the most important forces involve the partial withdraw of European domination from the Muslim dominated world so that such region is slowly reverting to what existed when Islam dominated. Such, you will note, explains the interest in restoring the Caliphate and such explains the revival of Jihad, Shari'a and the dhimma, among other things.

In Europe, the policy of the European governments to allow massive immigration of Muslims while, at the same time, not only doing very little to integrate such people into Western society but even actively keeping such people aculturated toward their places of origin - places which are, as I said, reverting to what had been -, helps explain things. However, note: Muslims are not repressed in Europe yet Islamism is on the rise there.

The notion that repression drives things is likely derived from Said. The theory has some logic to it. On the other hand, it does not explain things sufficiently well and, in some instances, it provides no explanation (e.g. the rise of Islamism in tolerant regions). As I said, we are dealing with a global phenomena - something like a great awakening -, not a mere regional one that only crops up where Muslims are repressed.

Regarding Hamas, LeVine is mistaken. Such allegation is made often. However, the facts are somewhat more complicated to the point of calling such a position a complete distortion. Consider, first, that Israel legitimized a group which, at the time, claimed to oppose the use of force. Which is to say, what we now call Hamas and what Israel legitimated are really unrelated entities. Consider also, among other things, that groups like Hamas (which considers itself an offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood) have sprung up all over the Muslim world and, for that matter, in the West so that singling Israel out is hopeless naive and a gross distortion of reality.

Brennan Stout - 12/15/2004

If you read LeVine a little further you will likely discover him mentioning that the reason why the "fundamentalists" have become populare is because they have been one of the only groups that is permitted to express themselves while facing limited retribution. The politization of the Mosque is a result of repressive Arab governments cornering unmoderated speech to the Mosque rather than the public square.

In essence, political Islam has been the only political branch tolerable to the ruling dynasties in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Some of this responsibility is attributable to the United States and Western policy of marginalizing pro-Soviet voices, ie Communist and Marxist parties, throughout the region.

While I am new to M/E Studies, LeVine is the first scholar I read that said Israel was one of the first supporters of Hamas in the late 80s. He wrote that the support was granted in an attempt to alienate the PLO to create competition between the two. Now that the PLO polls lower than Hamas, perhaps Israel has received what they planned and supported.

N. Friedman - 12/15/2004

Re: Reading for the ignorant... (#48845) by chris l pettit on December 15, 2004 at 7:10 AM

To Chris,

You so thoroughly misunderstand my take on things. I never said or suggested that I advocate war. That is in your head. In fact, I hate war.

Your other comment, namely, "The idiocy that compels Mr. Friedman and others to claim some sort of overwhelming Islamic hatred is fascinating to me," simply mistates my view.

What I have said is that to understand the violence coming from the Muslim world - particularly in Israel's dispute with the Palestinians -, you have to understand that violence in the context of Muslim history, with its twin institutions of Jihad and dhimma.

Do you know anything about the dhimma, Chris? Are you aware of the oppression of Christians, Jews, Hindus, etc., due to the dhimma?

It seems to me, Chris, that you either know nothing at all about the history of the Muslims or you are consciously disengenuous. Indeed, the Muslims built a great civilizations but that is not the end of the story. In fact, for those conquered by the Muslims, life was rather hellish. Whether or not the political arrangement for the conquered non-Muslims was, for its time, advanced - an arguable position -, the fact is that the revival of the dhimma today is not. And, to note, wherever you find the reinstitution of Shari'a (i.e. Islamic law) today, it includes great violence against non-Muslims and, moreover, the oppression of non-Muslims.

I gather, however, that you do not much care about those oppressed by Muslims in the Muslim dominated region of the world. Here is an interesting seminar for you to read. It might help you understand how some of us do not see only peaches and cream coming from the Muslim world. See, "Symposium: The Muslim Persecution of Christians," . From the Symposium:

"Interlocutor: Welcome to Frontpage Symposium ladies and gentlemen. Let’s begin with the question that will build a foundation to this discussion: how widespread is the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world?

Marshall: Very widespread, there are few Muslim countries where it does not occur.

It takes four forms. First. there are direct, violent attacks by extremists on Christian communities. These occur in Egypt, Algeria, Iran, Yemen, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Phillipines, Nigeria, Indonesia (the list is not exhaustive). In most of these cases the Government is either unable or unwilling to stop the attacks.

Second, there is civil war and communal violence where the Christian community has resisted the spread of radical varieties of Islam. Since the National Islamic Front (formerly the Muslim Brotherhood) took power in Sudan in the late 1980's two million people have been killed, mostly Christians and animists. In Nigeria some 11,000 people have been killed in the last three years over the introduction of Islamic sharia law. There is a similar death toll in eastern Indonesia, where paramilitary militant organizations such as Laskar Jihad, allied to international terrorists, have slaughtered local populations.

Third, there is widespread discrimination against Christians in Muslim countries. They are frequently at a disadvantage in marriage, custody and inheritance cases, are forced to subsidize Islam through taxes, are severly restricted in building and repairing churches, and are often excluded from government positions. This happens in most Muslim countries. In some cases, as in Pakistan or Iran or Nigeria, the testimony of a Christian counts less in a court case.

Fourthly, blasphemy and apostasy laws disproportionately target minorities.

In Saudi Arabia, Christianity is entirely forbidden."

chris l pettit - 12/15/2004

Islamic Jurisprudence: A Modern Perspective by Judge CG Weeramantry

Most of our inspiration for international law, including humanitarian and human rights law here in the West (starting from Grotius and the Treaty of Westphalia) draws from Islamic jurists 800 years earlier.

There will always be fundamentalist nuts in all religions and is the nature of "us" versus "them" ideology and the idiocy of thinking of humanity as anything less than a single species. Mr. Friedman and his ilk will continue to advocate war against all those they don't like in the name of "American values". The Islamic extremists will continue to foment their hatred. Extremist Christians like Bush and the born again crowd will continue to claim that their god's genitalia is bigger than every other god's and that the values that they mistakenly attribute to that invisible man are to be imposed and brought to the rest of the world. The idiocy that compels Mr. Friedman and others to claim some sort of overwhelming Islamic hatred is fascinating to me. Most people just want to live in peace. It is those in power who take advantage of their control over media and education to influence the more impressionable individuals who dont have the access to the type of materials and information we do as academics. You can cite polls all you want, but these are flawed as well, by the perceptions of those asking the questions and the questions asked. We are dealing with a small percentage of extremists, just as we are dealing with a small percentage of extremists here in the US. Unfortunately, it is the extremists who have the power at the moment, whether they come from the democratic or republican side.

It is obvious that you really need to open your minds and actually educate yourselves...unless you see some sort of self interest in adopting the extremist power based which you are merely selfish and have no regard for the human race in general...making you as culpable as those extremists that you rightly call out as disagreeable.


Andrew D. Todd - 12/15/2004

Well, will you accept an apology, then?

Andrew D. Todd - 12/14/2004

I would not call myself a scholar of Middle European languages. Before I switched over into History, I used to be an anthropologist way back when, and in the course of that, did linguistics. Linguistics works out to bits and snippets of various languages, mostly concentrating on whatever features they have that other languages do not have, and a speaking knowledge of none. I'm presently ABD in history at West Virginia University. I'm also an engineer, and as you may notice, a lot of my HNN posts deal with things like energy.

I rather jumped to conclusions about you, on the strength of phrases like "rodentine Edward Said." On inspection, the rest of your comments seemed to be along the same lines. They didn't show any sign of pursuing whatever your distinctive knowledge or expertise is. I was looking for you to write a good two hundred words bringing some distinctive knowledge to bear on an issue, and that was what you didn't seem to be doing. I wrote some fairly snippy things about Edward Said myself in a book review of Orientalism, along about my second year of grad school (in anthropology, in the late 1980's), having lost my temper and not addressing his arguments, and got a failing grade on the essay in consequence. We all go through it.

Proof of Google's functioning? Well, I would take it as an indication of the limitations of Google. It did not turn up all kinds of incidental scrap, things like high school reunion notices, etc. I believe Google has a bias towards densely linked clusters of documents. I should have remembered this, but Google is rather heavily biased to prevent being manipulated by people who are trying to be all things to all people, trying to redirect all searches towards a website selling something. The effect was to make you look more like a HNN post, and less like a person.

If you're new here, then you wouldn't know about the business which went on a year or two ago, and in consequence we have rather a sense of something equivalent to waiting for the spammers to find a way to break through the spam filters and flood the place with spam. Under the circumstances, "rodentine" was perhaps not the best choice of words.

N. Friedman - 12/14/2004


You write: "Once you concede that a few Palestinians might have turned up at an Israeli anti-terrorism demonstration, even in wartime, you raise the question about whether more might be induced to come forward under better circumstances."

In reply:

You make a very good point. However, that some small number has been coaxed into standing up to the Jihadis (assuming that such is the case) hardly means that others will be or, more to the point, that large numbers of people will be. For what it is worth, I think that such is unlikely as it would, in essence, render the entire strategy of the Intifadah illegitimate. In Western terms, such means, in effect, that such people are arguing that the Intifadah does not qualify as a just war.

In Middle Eastern terms, the Intifadah is more accurately termed a Jihad. The Palestinian Jihad has, in fact, employed time honored techniques of terrorizing people as a means of controlling them. Such, you will note, goes to the very heart of the Jihad dhimma institutions. And, you will note, the occurrence of an intifadah represents, by any stretch of the imagination, the Islamization of the conflict from the Muslim Arab point of view.

In short, the Jihadi massacre techniques are not a product of the conflict but, instead, of the institution of the Jihad as religious warfare. Which is not to suggest any prejudice by me against Muslims but, instead, my attempt to understand a phenomena within the context of Muslim history. If my theory is correct - and I think it is readily defendable -, such means that actually ending the Intifadah will prove exceedingly difficult no matter what the Israelis do short of committing suicide.

N. Friedman - 12/14/2004


I think that LeVine's opponents lambast him for not taking the Islamists seriously and for overestimating the interest in Palestinian Arabs in making a permanent and final settlement with the Israelis wherein Israel remains a democratic Jewish state.

I note that we are some 83 years since the Palestine Mandate and 56 years since Israel's birth and 37 years since the Six Day War and more than 4 years since the Intifadah became primarily violent. During that time, the evidence that Palestinians and other Arabs, at the street level, have reconciled themselves to Israel's permanence is minimal. And, by contrast, the evidence to the contrary is rather strong. In the meanwhile, an incredibly intolerant ideology has taken root in the Muslim world by virtue of which the best will in the world will preclude any real settlement of the dispute.

Other than that, things between the Arabs and the Israelis are all peaches and cream.

Andrew D. Todd - 12/14/2004

Google does a good job of indicating what is available to the general public on the internet. That's just the point. Not everything is available to the general public on the internet. Interestingly, one of Levine's links to one of his own articles bounced (, giving an "access forbidden" notice. I suppose he probably pasted it in without realizing that the server was only allowing his access because he was connecting from a specified IP address on the UC Irvine campus. My guess is that he probably signed standard assignments of copyright without thinking through access issues. I know that when I wanted to web-post an article I had published back in the 1980's, I had to talk extensively with the publisher to clarify the issues and get a letter of permission in acceptable terms. Often, the more prestigious the journal, the less incentive the editor has to come to terms with the internet, and the more difficult it is to get things web-available.

At any rate, Levine was reproaching his opponents for denying that he had in fact written certain articles, and not addressing their merits, simply because these articles could not be found in the usual place, even though he had told them where these articles could be found. He further complained that this was used as the basis of a public accusation of making up citations; that his opponents were deliberately and maliciously abusing the public's ignorance of technical issues to go from the kind of reasoned but qualified argument that N. Friedman is offering to a more unconditional argument.

Once you concede that a few Palestinians might have turned up at an Israeli anti-terrorism demonstration, even in wartime, you raise the question about whether more might be induced to come forward under better circumstances. In January 1944, Willy Brandt had long since decamped to Norway, and the July 20th conspirators were being very careful to make sure that no one had ever heard of them. It was easy to make overly positive assertions about the total absence of a democratic movement in Germany. War drives these kinds of things underground, and forces people into the simplistic posture of "my country, right or wrong." Abbas and Sharon have both recently displayed a surprising ability to marginalize the extremists, and this may be grounds for cautious optimism.

I tried searching on "lopescu" by itself, and got 55 hits in various languages. It seems to be a typographical error or misspelling of "lupescu" (14,800 hits). Wildly disproportionate numbers of usages of "lopescu" are in connection with Vlad Dracula, sometime prince of Wallachia, back in the fifteenth century. A few of the usages seemed to be Argentine, reflecting the way a Spanish speaker would mangle a Rumanian (Vlach) name. However, that is not the kind of error people very often make about their own name. "Sandor" is of course a Hungarian (Magyar) given name. It is not by any means impossible that someone should be named "sandor lupescu," perhaps in Transylvania or the Banat, but the 138 hits on "+sandor +lupescu" do not seem to yield any such person. In every case "sandor" is part of one person's name, and "lupescu" is part of another person's name. Presumably Vlach/Magyar relations never recovered from the events of the 1940's.

About a year ago, Rick Shenkman decided to ban noms-de-plume on HNN on the grounds that they were being grossly abused by "trash-talkers." One of the pseudonyms used by one of the trash-talkers was "Emilliana P. Noether." This was the name of a German mathematician who flourished in the 1920's. Her main claim to fame was that she was taken as sort of patron saint by Mary P. Dolciani, the noted author of high-school algebra textbooks, and written up in a sidebar. The choice of pseudonym revealed something about the trash-talker's identity.

I think that "Sandor A. Lopescu" needs to tell us something more about himself.

N. Friedman - 12/14/2004


The issue, of course, is LeVine's assertion about the possible occurrence of protests against suicide bombings by Palestinians.

If such protests had really occurred, you can be sure that they could be found on Google and prominently in every paper in the West and there would be editorials in the European press celebrating that Palestinians now also condemn suicide bombings. Which is to say, you would not have to do much hunting to find such information - if it were real -. Perhaps, LeVine participated in an Israeli protest against suicide bombers at which some Palestinian Arabs also attended.

In considering the substance of what LeVine claims about his opponents, the Google claim regarding Dennis Prager appears to support the opponents, not LeVine. After all, LeVine stands behind the significance of supposed protests that are, at best, a freak occurrence such that one has to wonder about his judgement.

Andrew D. Todd - 12/14/2004

Sandor A. Lopescu obviously does not have any real understanding of the limitations of Google, nor of the unresolved problems about copyright and the internet. Google does not link to materials which are restricted to people with expensive subscriptions. There is a new subsidiary service, Google Scholar, which links to materials for which at least an abstract is freely published on the internet. If the publisher will not at least release an abstract, Google shakes its head and walks away from him. The best way to get an idea of Google's performance is to type in your own name, and compare the results against your own tearsheet file. In practice, Google seems to become unreliable before about 1995.

For that matter, most material published before 1972-73 is not even indexed by author and title in electronic form. When people were still using typewriters, indexing services were labor-intensive. Scanners are still pretty unreliable when dealing with stuff which was typed with a cloth ribbon, as distinct from mylar, and then offset-published.

These are simply the small change of doing research. One wonders about the background of someone who would not know this.

When I googled for "Sandor A. Lopescu," I found a total of three items, all on HNN, all in the last six months, and all being snappy one-liners of the type produced by teenage boys. A nom-de-plume, I take it?

N. Friedman - 12/13/2004


On your first point: do not bet on it. Peaceful protest by Palestinians, when it has occurred, has been very big news because it is so very unusual.

Said is not a historian but he is loved by people who have a political agenda to claim that the Muslim world is merely peaches and cream when, in fact, the most discernable trend today in the Muslim Arab dominated region is the resurgence of Classical Islam. Note: Classical Islam, long ago, produced a brilliant civilization but was also intensely agressive against others and treated those it conquered rather terribly. To the extent that LeVine wants to associate himself with the Said clique, the less likely it is that his scholarship is worth reading - other than as an example of political discourse.

N. Friedman - 12/13/2004


It is rather amazing that one has to search - and search hard - to find any Palestinians who stand up to the Jihadis. Which is to say, if there is a fairly large group which opposes such tactics - perhaps 20 - 35%) - they are, given the violence of the majority, forced into silence.

It would be interesting to learn what activity LeVine actually witnessed and how many people really participated.

N. Friedman - 12/13/2004


You will note that Spencer, Pipes and Lewis hold rather different positions on the issues. Spencer takes the view that Islam is itself the danger to the world we live in, Pipes holds the view that Islam is, in essence, held captive to regressive policital forces and Lewis takes the view that the Muslim world's Islamists are reacting to humilation which began, in essence, centuries ago at the gates of Vienna (i.e. when the Muslim armies were decisively defeated and began to decline and were later dominated by the West).

Lewis, you will note, is considered the world's foremost authority on Islam, is a greater admirer of Islamic culture, has lived in Egypt and is respected both in the West and in the Muslim world and, most particularly, in Turkey where he is adored, not to mention, very influential. I would anticipate, if all of these people debated, that Professor Lewis would humiliate Professor LeVine.

I might also note: in that Hamas is part of the Muslim Brotherhood which leads a sort of religious revival among Muslims, Spencer's point about the Hudna's signficance is not crazy. It is likely correct. By contrast, LeVine's point that a Hudna, being part of Classical Islam, is unlikely to mean much to people living in the modern world. He might also be correct.

On the other hand, LeVine's point that the Islamist movement is not a serious danger - which is not to diminish the danger that other rival world forces might someday pose - is, I think, rather naive. Which is to say, while Islamists cannot now possibly mount a military force - although such is clearly desired -, the fact is that they may be able, by other means, to affect their will - which is, after all, what power is all about -. Such, after all, is the point of the Jihad.

chris l pettit - 12/13/2004

I love the last much fun is it to get intolerants and academic misfits on stage and make them look foolish in front of all but their hard core ideological disciples? With certain people there is nothing you can do to sway their blind faith, so you have to make the point with a sledgehammer and flat out make them look foolish. It won;t draw them over to logic and common sense, but it may give others pause and cause them to actually examine their own ideological biases in an objective manner.

Cheers to you as well as Prof. Cole...and keep up the good work!

Peace and Solidarity


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