The following is an excerpt from her comments:
As an undergrad, in my class on Jewish historiography with arguably the country’s best-known Jewish scholar, Jacob Neusner, we learned how Jewish historiography served as a secular replacement for Judaism as a mechanism for preserving the narrative of Jews as the chosen people. I wrote an entire paper on it and got an A. The basic concept seems to me to be hardly different from El-Haj’s critique of Israeli archeologists. At the time, however, I don’t recall an outcry about Neusner because of his thesis.
For a substantive, line by line vetting of the distortions in the petition that opponents of El-Haj have posted, read Tikun Olam’s excellent analysis. Silverstein also talks about archeologists Neil Asher Silberman and Israel Finkelstein, who, like El-Haj, “also take on the Israeli archaeological establishment and its sacred cow notion of a glorious united Davidic kingdom.” Their work certainly has created a stir, but is well within the tradition of Neusner and other scholars who, like good academics, seek to look beyond myth-making.
Read also the post written by Richard Silverstein in Tikun Olam (mentioned above).
I have not read El-Haj’s book and cannot judge whether the book is biased. However, in academic circles the system of tenure is designed to protect dissenting views similar to the ones espoused by El-Haj.
The university system is a market of ideas. Students are exposed to different views and some of them are radical views that deny some of the very things that made this country great. Students are free to accept those views or reject them but controversial views cannot be suppressed from an academic setting.
I favor the system of tenure and believe that El-Haj should be granted tenure on the merits of her scholarship, not on the merits of her political views. The professors at Bernard should consider El-Haj’s scholarship and the potential contribution she can make to scholarly dialogue and then consider whether she deserves tenure.
I just wonder if those same professors at Bernard would grant tenure to conservative Christian scholars on the basis of their scholarship.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Tags: Academic Freedom, Facts on the Ground, Nadia Abu el-Haj, Tenure