Nadia Abu El Haj: Barnard grad starts petition to block permanent appointment of Nadia Abu El Haj

Historians in the News

Israeli writer and Barnard College graduate Paula Stern has begun a petition against the permanent appointment of a Muslim anthropologist, who asserts that the Israeli Biblical kingdoms are "pure political fabrication."

In an open letter to Columbia University and its Barnard College affiliate, Stern charged that anthropology Prof. Nadia Abu El Haj is unqualified for tenure at the institutions. Her book Facts on the Ground alleges that archaeologists have "created the fact of an ancient Israelite/Jewish nation" and that the ancient Israelite kingdoms are a "pure political fabrication."

Stern argued that El Haj's evidence is not professional and ignores evidence pointing to the existence of the Biblical kingdoms and that many statements are made without sources.
Read entire article at Israel National News

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Joachim Carlo Santos Martillo - 8/16/2007

Muzzling Scholars of Arabic Ancestry
by Joachim Martillo (ThorsProvoni@aol.com)
"Recovered Roots: Collective Memory and the Making of Israeli National Tradition" by Yael Zerubavel discusses the construction of memory and the invention of traditions in Mandatory Palestine and in the State of Israel. The book describes some unusual Israeli or Zionist practices associated with Masada and Bar Kochba archeological excavations.

Rather like Nadia Abu el Haj in "Facts on the Ground: Archeological Practice and Territorial Self-fashioning in Israel," Zerubavel describes the use of archeology and other scholarship to construct Zionist national identity.

Other scholars have investigated the political use of archeology in various contexts. Not only Max Weinreich and Eric Hobsbawm provide similar analysis in their published works, but "Constructing 'Korean' Origins: A Critical Review of Archaeology, Historiography, and Racial Myth in Korean State-Formation Theories" by Hyung Il Pai addresses precisely that same issues with regard to the development of Korean national consciousness.

Even though Abu el Haj focuses more narrowly on professional archeologists whereas Zerubavel looks at Israeli society as a whole, both authors make similar points in their books, and Zerubavel provides support for some of the claims for which Nadia Abu el Haj has been most criticized.

Zerubavel received the 1996 Salo Baron Prize of the American Academy for Jewish Research for her work while Nadia Abu el Haj is the target of an international campaign to drive her out of Columbia/Barnard. The difference in the responses evoked by the two authors merits a scholarly study in itself.