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Monday, September 29, 2003

FINAL: The Strange Case and Harmful Influence of Edward Said, the Guru of Politically Correct Cultural Studies

If the title line allowed for a longer description, it would be followed by something like this to flesh it out and more accurately describe what this commentary is about : "The Strange Case and Harmful Influence of Edward Said . . . The Guru of Politically Correct Cultural Studies, with their built-in intellectual animosities --- a mental kink, it seems, of self-loathing and outwardly projected personal identity-crises --- toward Western civilization in all its varieties, including the liberal democratic version that prevails in West Europe and the US."


The intellectual harm wrought by Said, who died last week, wasn't confined to cultural studies alone. He also had a deplorable, long-lasting impact on Middle East studies in this country and more specifically on its failures, fatuities, and dogmas since the late 1970s on --- at any rate, down to 9/11's terrorist attacks, which were totally unpredicted, or even suspected, in Middle East Studies establishment circles . . . busy with their hobbyhorse obsessions.

Four Harmful Results Stand Out

(i) One result of this scholarly abdication and drift into politically correct ideology of a simpleminded sort has been a plethora of systematic apologetics coming out of US universities, including Middle East Studies Centers created and funded by lavish Saudi Wahhabi oil-money, for extremist Islamo-fundamentalism and at times even terrorism . . . all the generous donations, of course, made for no other reason than unqualified love of scholarship. (On Wahhbi extremism and hatreds, see Stephen Schwartz article, Schwartz himself a convert to Suffi Islam. More generally, on the root of Islamist extremism and support for terrorism, another article ) For that matter, The Center for Middle East Studies at UCSB --- created in this way, a big Saudi benefactor originally --- was purveying Jew-hating racism like blood-libel conspiratorial idiocies that came out of the Middle East as late as 2002 . . . since which time, fortunately, a backlash has ensued and the center has backed away from such hate-charged extremism. A couple of years earlier, the UCSB Center's notion of a balanced panel of specialists on Middle East and Islamic studies --- a workshop for public school teachers! --- consisted of Edward Said, Robert Fisk a British journalist so notoriously biased and full of vitriol and exaggeration that "fisking" has become a legendary term for textual analysis of dogmatic nonsense, a Pakistani novelist Arundhati Roy whose claim to be on the panel, apparently, was her hatred of the US, which she later blamed for causing the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and another Pakistani by origin, a Briton, who heads the radical Marxist-inspired journal, the New Left Review. (Even the well-known left-wing critic, Todd Gitlin, called Roy an anti-American ideologue in a review of her book in the leftist Mother Jones). On the notorious UCSB panel here, which happened to be financed by US government funds --- our tax dollars --- see the testimony before Congress this last June by Stanley Kurtz, reprinted in the National Review It's a hard-hitting survey of politically correct conformity in Middle East studies in US universities financed by our government, as well as in some other area studies.

(ii) A second result has been the systematic failure on the part of the luminaries and rank-and-file scholars in the Middle East Studies Association to anticipate anything like the Islamo-extremist terrorism of 9/11, when 3000 New Yorkers and several hundred Pentagon workers were killed. This wasn't, please note, just a matter of failing to anticipate a specific terrorist attack, by particular means, on a given date --- but any form of Islamist terrorism on the US, any time, any where, and in any form despite two decades of such attacks on Americans abroad, and repeatedly . . . not to forget the earlier 1990s' attack by a group of Islamo-extremist terrorists on the World Trade Center itself. And not just predictive failures here, mind you. Rather, total mental blockage . . . a perverse head-in-the-sands reluctance, rooted in dogmas and pressure for conformity, to confront the realities of what other, non-dogmatic observers had been warning could happen for years, including Bernard Lewis, probably the greatest scholar of Islam in the last several decades --- and one of Edward Said's prime targets in Orientalism, his famous, notoriously defective work of 1978.

It's something we'll return to, Lewis's marginalization in Middle East studies establishment work around US campuses since the 1980s. Lewis, note, wrote a long withering dismissal of the Said polemic in the New York Review of Books back in 1982, excerpts of which will also be given in a few moments. On the heads-in-the-sand denials to confront the realities of Islamist-extremism and support for terrorism, see the gordon-newspost article on the Middle East Studies Association's annual conference . . . held in late November 2002, almost 15 months after the 9/11 attack. Hundreds of papers and dozens of panels were held on a variety of topics on the Middle East, only two of which dealt with terrorism . . . and even then the word in the papers' titles was put in quotation marks, presumably not to offend terrorist sensibilities. Only one paper ever mentioned Al Qaeda. Note to worry though. There were rousing panel discussions that involved luminous works like "Rug Producing bazarris of the Holy City of Qum," along with such exciting topical matters as "Ceramic Production & Consumption in Almohad Seville." Very conveniently to for the chronic apologists of Islamist subjugation of women, only one paper dealt with Islamist views here. Feminism is rife in US cultural studies, sometimes with fatuous results, other times with more scholarly work. Apparently, out of deference for dogmatic shibboleths that prevail in the Middle East Studies Association, its influence seems essentially nil.

(iii) The next deplorable result?

The impact of Orientalism and the copious studies and views of Islam and the Middle East it encouraged on the Arab world itself, where fundamentalist spokemen drew strength from the rancorous assaults on Western scholars and the western world that Said claimed to have exposed. As a distinguished Arab-American writer and scholar put it --- Ibn Warraq, whose web-site courageous stands for Islamic reformism and acceptance of secular politics and religious tolerance --- Said's works and influence reinforced "the Arab art of self-pity," as though all the faults and problems of Arab politics, economics, and knowledge could be traced to insidious Western influences. Specifically:

And yet, ironically, what makes self-examination for Arabs and Muslims, and particularly criticism of Islam in the West very difficult is the totally pernicious influence of Edward Said's Orientalism. The latter work taught an entire generation of Arabs the art of self-pity – " were it not for the wicked imperialists , racists and Zionists , we would be great once more "- encouraged the Islamic fundamentalist generation of the 1980s, and bludgeoned into silence any criticism of Islam , and even stopped dead the research of eminent Islamologists who felt their findings might offend Muslims sensibilities , and who dared not risk being labelled "orientalist ". The aggressive tone of Orientalism is what I have called " intellectual terrorism, " since it does not seek to convince by arguments or historical analysis but by spraying charges of racism, imperialism, Eurocentrism, from a moral highground; anyone who disagrees with Said has insult heaped upon him. The moral high ground is an essential element in Said's tactics ; since he believes his position is morally unimpeachable , Said obviously thinks it justifies him in using any means possible to defend it, including the distortion of the views of eminent scholars, interpreting intellectual and political history in a highly tendentious way, in short twisting the truth But in any case, he does not believe in the "truth" .

See the Institute for the Secularization of Islamic Society

Are Warraq's views those of an isolated voice among Arab or Arab-descended scholars? No, there are others who have been appalled by Said's Orientalism, especially for the harm it has had on Arab intellectual life. The gifted Iraqi scholar, Kanan Makiya --- a courageous opponent of Saddam Hussein, who had to take refuge in this country --- wrote that:

" Orientalism as an intellectual project influenced a whole generation of young Arab scholars , and it shaped the discipline of modern Middle East studies in the 1980s.The original book was never intended as a critique of contemporary Arab politics, yet it fed into a deeply rooted populist politics of resentment against the West.The distortions it analyzed came from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries , but these were marshaled by young Arab and " pro-Arab " scholars into an intellectual-political agenda that was out of kilter with the real needs of Arabs who were living in a world characterized by rapidly escalating cruelty , not ever-increasing imperial domination .The trajectory from Said's Orientalism to his Covering Islam ...is premised on the morally wrong idea that the West is to be blamed in the here-and-now for its long nefarious history of association with the Middle East.Thus it unwittingly deflected from the real problems of the Middle East at the same time as it contributed more bitterness to the armory of young impressionable Arabs when there was already far too much of that around."

"Orientalism ", Makiya went on in this vein, " makes Arabs feel contented with the way they are, instead of making them rethink fundamental assumptions which so clearly haven't worked ....They desperately need to unlearn ideas such as that " every European " in what he or she has to say about the world is or was a "racist" ....The ironical fact is that the book was given the attention it received in the "almost totally ethnocentric " West was largely because its author was a Palestinian ...."
Quoted in Warraq's essay, Debunking Edward Said., p. 55.

(iv) Which brings us quickly to the last deplorable result. As a general thing, with few exceptions, a systematic opposition in the Middle East Studies establishment to the US doing anything firm about the threats of Islamist extremist, terrorism, and terrorist-supporting or terrorist-indulging dictatorships, like the Taliban in Afghanistan until 2001 or Saddam Hussein's mass-murdering regime until this year.


Since then, we've been luckier. And So Has Arab Intellectual Life.

More and more voices critical of those politically correct, dogmatic circles and Said's harmful influence on them have spoken out knowledgeably and at length . . . some of them prominent Middle East scholars themselves like Martin Kramer --- the author of a book that caused a big welcome flap in those circles and the wider US media right after 9/11, Ivory Towers in Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America --- who've wearied of the establishment's lopsided and often hateful assaults on Israel and endless, apologetics for Islamist extremism and ultra-fundamentalist vitriol and animosity that, with few exceptions, reject most of what we cherish: equal rights for all, tolerance of all religions, a strict separation of religion and political authority, democratic rule, women's full equality, respect for scientific query even when it conflicts with faith, likewise for political and literary expression that conflicts with it no less, and a rooted constitutional respect for the right of every individuals to pursue happiness in light of his own quest within an ambit of equal respect for the rights of others.

(Note, as our final preliminary point, that we'll give links to Kramer's hard-hitting criticisms of Edward Said, the Middle East Studies Association, and other failures and dogmas that prevail in Middle East studies in this country, including not just systematic biases of Israel, the only democratic country in the Middle East, and the only country where 1 million Arab citizens have democratic rights --- as opposed to 22 Arab despotic governments that exploit their people by efficient, self-enriching ways and various degrees of repressive violence (actually only 21 now that Saddam Hussein's brutal blood-splotched regime has been destroyed) --- but at times voiced hatred of Jews and Judaism by professors in Middle East studies here. All of these fatuities and biases are captured nicely in the title of Kramer's influential book of late 2001. At the end here, too, several other links to other knowledgeable critics of Said and these related topics will be catalogued.)

Even in Arab intellectual circles, a welcome fresh breeze blew into the Middle East in 2002 that counters the kind of blame-shifting self-pity and conspiratorial views about the problems in the region: failed states, uniformly despotic, corrupt regimes (which vary mainly in brutality or incompetence), female oppression, a cumulative GDP of the 280 million Arabs in 22 countries lower than that of Spain with its 40 million people --- Spain itself one of the poorer countries in the EU --- and the worst literacy levels on the globe . . . lower even than in tropical Africa, with its far lower per capita income.

In particular, in the spring of that year, a relentlessly unsparing self-examination of home-generated failures within Arab life and countries to come to terms with the modern age --- written by a group of Arab intellectuals and scholars --- was unfolded in the UN's Arab Human Development Report 2002. Contrary to the kinds of blame-shifting and excuses that Said's and similar work in the Middle East Studies Association have encouraged in Middle East intellectuals circles --- where the once cosmpolitan Arab intellectual classes in Beirut, Cairo, Baghdad, Alexandria, and the French-speaking North African countries who flourished until the end of the 1960s have been either repressed by despotic governments or intimidated into silence or killed off by fundamentalist fanatics or forced into exile (the fate of some former Ph.D. students of mine, now professors here in this country) --- the UN report explicitly blamed the of economic backwardness, marked intellectual lag, and corrupt, nepotistic despotism on three home-grown problems: a lack of democracy, subjugation of women, and close-mindedness to modern knowledge.

On the latter score, the Report noted that in the last 1000 years, the 280 million Arab people have translated fewer texts into Arabic than Spain, a county of 40 million, does each year! And Spanish, of course, is a language spoken by about twice as many people in the world as Arabic happens to be. For an excellent detailed survey of the report, see The Economist's article on it. The full report can be found at a UN site.


Edward Said

They say you shouldn't speak bad of the dead --- at least those who just died, as Edward Said, a professor of English at Columbia did last week --- and maybe as a general maxim, it's worth following. We make exceptions though, plenty of them: especially for those who have caused massive ills in the world, starting with extremist ideologues of the left and right who gained power and killed hundreds of millions in the last century: first in Communist Russia, then in the fascist countries of Central, Southern, and Eastern Europe --- above all Hitler's Nazi Germany --- then after WWII in China and the rest of Asia with their murderous forms of Communist totalitarianism. Edward Said wasn't, of course, in this company of evil men: far from it. Despite being caught throwing a stone in 2000 in Southern Lebanon at retreating Israeli forces --- withdrawn, as a preliminary it was hoped to completing the Oslo Process of negotiations between Israelis and the Palestinian Authority, shepherded by Clinton administration --- he wasn't a terrorist or a bomb-thrower or bomb-maker. He did have a harmful influence all the same, above all else on the decline of objectivity and the quality of US Middle East studies after the publication of his book, Orientalism, in 1978 . . . and more generally, on a flourishing miasma of cultural studies in US universities that amount, for the most part, to venting the writer's biases and resentments, with little concern for accuracy or fairness or ability to anticipate and answer counter-arguments, all the ingredients of what we call scholarly objectivity.

For that matter, note the reference to the Oslo Process. Said, an Anglican Palestinian by origin --- who grew up in a rich family in Cairo in the 1930s and 1940s, his father a former resident of America who returned to the Middle East --- denounced the Oslo Process, the best hope his former people ever had since the rejection of the British offer to partition Palestinian markedly in their favor in 1937, and then again 10 years later of the UN partition similarly favorable to the Arabs of the contested country. His opposition to Arafat's negotiating with the Israelis under the Oslo Agreement of 1993 (specifically, the Interim Agreement Oslo II) was so extreme that he was removed from his position on the Palestinian Council, followed in 1996, when he more courageously criticized Arafat's dictatorship and corruption in Gaza and on the West Bank, by the decision of Arafat's self-governing Palestinian Authority --- busy jailing all its political opponents and censoring the media anyway --- to ban all his writings. ( See this link.)

Increasingly, Said's grudges and resentments --- not least aimed at the US --- began to unhinge his mind. Last April, he wrote that

"In the US, the hardening of attitudes, the tightening of the grip of demeaning generalization and triumphalist cliché, the dominance of crude power allied with simplistic contempt for dissenters and 'others,' has found a fitting correlative in the looting, pillaging and destruction of Iraq's libraries and museums." See Christopher Hitchens

When you see such wild stuff, you can only rub your eyes and wonder about the sanity of the man saying it. After all, it was Iraqis who looted the libraries and museums of their country last April, not Americans; and for that matter, after all the hullabaloo, it turned out the looting itself was restricted in scope, with about 40 artifacts not found or returned. But that's Said's trademark, wild exaggeration. He also vented his rage at the Democratic opponents of Saddam Hussein, including Iraqi intellectuals in exile in this country like Kanan Makia, a courageous opponent of that blood-soaked dicator's brutalities and hold on Arab imagination and western purveyors of apologetics. Mainly, though, in the last couple of years after 9/11's terrorism --- which he would never deal with squarely --- his rage was directed at the Bush administration and even the US. He thought the administration had come to power in a putsch --- an armed seizure of power --- and was launching war against Saddam Hussein in order to carry out another putsch in rigged elections next year.


Were These Exaggerations only?

Yes, there's an established pattern to his writings --- about the Middle East and Middle East studies, the US, the West, and even about himself --- of not just lopsided exaggeration, but ideological rigidity and playing fast-and-loose with the truth.

Consider his background. For decades, Said systematically falsified and distorted his origins: he let the myth develop that he had lived as a child and teen-ager in Palestine and was evicted from his Jerusalem home by the Jewish victory in 1948 when the Palestinian leadership rejected the UN partition of the country and 4 surrounding Arab states, plus Iraq, invaded the new Israeli state. He gave the impression, again and again, that he had grown up in that house --- "my beautiful old house" --- and was pushed out of it with his family by the Israelis. Little or nothing was said about his lavishly stylish upbringing in private English-speaking schools in Cairo and membership in exclusive tennis clubs that his rich family could afford, with only very limited visits to Jerusalem --- little, that is, until an Israeli writer looked into the record and published the falsifications in a long and detailed article that appeared in 1999 in Commentary. See a reprint here. With the best letters column in the American media --- some letters as long as 10-15 pages in manuscript --- Commentary then ran an extensive exchange between Said's defenders and debunkers, followed by the Israeli writer's reply. You can find the reply here. .

As Justus Weiner, the Israeli writer noted in that follow-up, the Jerusalem house in question was never owned by Said's parents, rather an aunt, and Said --- aware of Weiner's investigations --- had to revise his views in a subsequent memoir. As Weiner noted about it:

Indeed, in his new memoir Out of Place (1999), published after he became aware of my investigation, Said presents a radically revised version of his life in which he describes his Cairo childhood in great detail, and we learn that his schooling from age 6 to 16 took place in three different Cairo institutions. The publication of Said's new memoir a month after my article appeared in Commentary placed his defenders in an untenable situation, because without admitting to the inconsistency with his previous autobiographical writings, Said completely confirmed the core discoveries of my research.

The cause of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, to which so many of Said's friends assert their devotion, is not well-served by historical lies. The fact is that the "best-known Palestinian intellectual in the world" (as he was recently described on the BBC) made wholesale political use of the supposed circumstances of his childhood, weaving an elaborate myth of paradise and expulsion from paradise out of one or two circumstances and a raft of inventions. Edward Said was never a refugee from Palestine, but he is certainly a refugee from the truth.


Orientalism, which appeared in the late 1970s, made Said, a professor of English literature, famous. A work claiming that the corpus of French, British, and American writings on the Middle East, Islam, and Arabs were little more than propaganda for imperialism ---- Said never even dealt with the impressive pioneer and subsequent works of German specialists on these topics, presumably because Germany wasn't an imperial country there --- Orientalism lets its strident polemical tone sound quickly at the outset:, it then unfolded in a mishmash of turgid, convoluted writing over hundreds of pages that post-modernist and cultural theorists seem to emit in their mental outpourings with the same instinct, and more or less similar impact, that an octopus, when frightened, resorts to by emitting large quantities of murky ink. One of Said's favorite targets, Bernard Lewis --- first of London University, later Princeton, and probably the greatest scholar of Islam in the last few decades --- noted in what remains a masterpiece review-essay of matchless insight and devastating dismissal that the whole book was a puffed-up piece of pretentious errors, tendentious themes, and an imagination that saw conspiracies all around:

"Imagine," Bernard Lewis observed at the outset, "a situation in which a group of patriots and radicals from Greece decides that the profession of classical studies is insulting to the great heritage of Hellas, and that those engaged in these studies, known as classicists, are the latest manifestation of a deep and evil conspiracy, incubated for centuries, hatched in Western Europe, fledged in America, the purpose of which is to denigrate the Greek achievement and subjugate the Greek lands and peoples. In this perspective, the entire European tradition of classical studies—largely the creation of French romantics, British colonial governors (of Cyprus, of course), and of poets, professors, and proconsuls from both countries—is a long-standing insult to the honor and integrity of Hellas, and a threat to its future. The poison has spread from Europe to the United States, where the teaching of Greek history, language, and literature in the universities is dominated by the evil race of classicists—men and women who are not of Greek origin, who have no sympathy for Greek causes, and who, under a false mask of dispassionate scholarship, strive to keep the Greek people in a state of permanent subordination.

"The poison," Lewis goes on to say, "has spread from Europe to the United States, where the teaching of Greek history, language, and literature in the universities is dominated by the evil race of classicists—men and women who are not of Greek origin, who have no sympathy for Greek causes, and who, under a false mask of dispassionate scholarship, strive to keep the Greek people in a state of permanent subordination. The time has come to save Greece from the classicists and bring the whole pernicious tradition of classical scholarship to an end. Only Greeks are truly able to teach and write on Greek history and culture from remote antiquity to the present day; only Greeks are genuinely competent to direct and conduct programs of academic studies in these fields. Some non-Greeks may be permitted to join in this great endeavor provided that they give convincing evidence of their competence, as for example by campaigning for the Greek cause in Cyprus, by demonstrating their ill will to the Turks, by offering a pinch of incense to the currently enthroned Greek gods, and by adopting whatever may be the latest fashionable ideology in Greek intellectual circles. Non-Greeks who will not or cannot meet these requirements are obviously hostile, and therefore not equipped to teach Greek studies in a fair and reasonable manner. They must not be permitted to hide behind the mask of classicism, but must be revealed for what they are—Turk-lovers, enemies of the Greek people, and opponents of the Greek cause.

"Those already established in academic circles must be discredited by abuse and thus neutralized; at the same time steps must be taken to ensure Greek or pro-Greek control of university centers and departments of Greek studies and thus, by a kind of academic prophylaxis, prevent the emergence of any further classical scholars or scholarship. In the meantime the very name of classicist must be transformed into a term of abuse. Stated in terms of classics and Greek, the picture is absurd. But if for classicist we substitute "Orientalist," with the appropriate accompanying changes, this amusing fantasy becomes an alarming reality. For some years now a hue and cry has been raised against Orientalists in American and to a lesser extent European universities, and the term "Orientalism" has been emptied of its previous content and given an entirely new one—that of unsympathetic or hostile treatment of Oriental peoples. For that matter, even the terms "unsympathetic" and "hostile" have been redefined to mean not supportive of currently fashionable creeds or causes". See The New York Review of Books

Follow-Up Links on Edward Said and Orientalism

Copyright regulations prevent more of this masterly debunking by Bernard Lewis of Said's ideologically dogmatic claims to be printed here. Note that in the late 1980s, Edward Said reflected on a decade of his book's influence --- which had radiated far beyond Middle East studies, where it became a bible for the post-1968 radical generation taking over the studies, abetted by copious amounts of money spent by the Saudi Wahhabi regime for creating and funding Middle East Studies Centers around the US, while simultaneously becoming a guru-status icon for the cultural studies pc-pifflers as well.

At the outset of this essay, Said claimed he wouldn't deal directly with the criticisms that the book had attracted from Lewis and dozens of other established scholars: he hadn't, you see, had sufficient time to absorb and reflect on them! Presumably, more decades would have to ensue before the absorption process was complete. Then, having evaded any detailed responses by this stratagem, he went on to say that only Muslims themselves who took Mohammed's revelations as unquestionably divine --- which you'd think would disqualify Edward Said himself, an Anglican --- had a right to write about Arabs and the Muslim world. A strange doctrine, no? Presumably, then, only Frenchmen should write on France, and true-believing Leninists and Stalinists on the Soviet Union, and ardent Maoists on China between 1949 and 1976, and convinced Nazis on Hitlerian Germany , and . . . well, the whole idea is absurd (Said's essay is reprinted in a useful collection on the Orientalist debate:


For those who wish to follow-up with some knowing commentaries on Said's harmful intellectual influence, here are some useful links.

(1) Start first with Said's big influence on Middle East studies in this country since the late 1970s, which in effect led to apologetics about Arab fundamentalist extremism and a total failure to anticipate the terrorist attacks of September 11th, by Martin Kramer . . . a scholar whose book, Ivory Towers On Sand , came out shortly after the attacks and exposed the dogmas, illusions, fatuities, and apologies that passed for scholarly work on the part of a Middle East Scholarly establishment, the bulk of which, in Kramer's view, had got lost in a sandy intellectual desert of politically correct ideology, with scarcely any solid and fertile ground on which to base their biased writings. See the chapter on Said in his influential book --- which was talked about for weeks even in the mainstream press --- that appears at his website.

(2) More generally, here is Martin Kramer's website for sources and views on the Middle East,

(3) For a recent interpretation of Said's Orientalism and its harmful influence on Middle East studies and pc-infested cultural studies, see Keith Winshuttle's article.

(4) For a different view of what he calls Said's "totally pernicious influence" by a noted Arab-American scholar and writer, who runs an extraordinarily good site promoting Islamic secularism --- which bring him directly into conflict with pc-apologists for Islamist fundamentalism and extremism, to say nothing of the extremists themselves --- see Ibn Warraq's lengthy dismissive debunking that was published last year: Debunking Edward Said

(5) Despite his advanced age --- born in 1916 --- Bernard Lewis has continued his distinguished writings on Islam, the Arabs, and the Middle East, including two books since 9/11. Of these, the short The Crisis of Islam --- published last year --- is an outstanding book that details the problems of Islamic societies, especially in the Middle East, from coming to terms with the modern age after a distinguished inventive period of Arab dominance in the Levant, Persia, North Africa, Southern Italy, and Spain from the 7th century until the impact of know-nothing fundamentalists, Berbers, who overran Iberia in the 11th and 12th centuries and the subsequent hardening of Islam generally into rigid hostility to modern science, secularism, political philosophy, and social science. For a good survey of what the book is about, see the lengthy customer reviews at Amazon

(6) Such topics as raised by Lewis and others have been regarded in the pc-infested Middle East Studies Association as taboo; and yet a relentlessly unsparing self-examination of home-generated failures within Arab life and countries to come to terms with the modern age appeared in 2002, when the UN published its Arab Human Development Report 2002 that was written by a group of Arab intellectuals and scholars. This, recall, was discussed earlier in this article. The Arab writers blamed the backwardness and despotism and extensive corruption and nepotism in Arab life on three broad problems: lack of democracy, subjugation of women, and close-mindedness to modern knowledge. On the latter score, the Report noted that in the last 1000 years, the 280 million Arab people have translated fewer texts into Arabic than Spain, a county of 40 million, does each year! As we noted, an excellent detailed survey of the report, see The Economist's article on it.

(7) A staple of Middle East studies in this country since Said's influence spread rapidly --- along with the growing impact of Wahhabi-funded Middle East Studies Centers and so-called scholarship --- has been a systematic denigration of Israel and its democracy. And yet, repeatedly in Palestinian public opinion surveys --- carried out by Palestinian experts --- Israel is found to be the democratic country that the Palestinians most admire and would like to emulate. See the buggy professor article on this and extensive comments about why Israel is an advanced democracy and wealth knowledge-based country --- ranked third in the world by the World Economic Forum in 2000 in technological dynamism behind the US and then Singapore --- go here.

It also sets out an article by a World Bank economist specializing in labor matters in the Middle East who notes that the Palestinian areas, governed by Jordan until the 1967 6 Day War on the West Bank, were a backward water of the utterly backward Jordanian economy. The subsequent integration of the West Bank economy until the recent assumption of authority there by the Palestinian Authority in 1996, with its extensive corruption, nepotism, and incompetence, made it one of the two or three most prosperous Arab economies in the Middle East apart from the oil-rich countries: it also had the best health services, longevity, general literacy, and female literacy.

(8) Finally, on the clash of civilizations --- the famous thesis of Samuel Huntington --- a revised view of it that finds the clash is unfolding not between the West and Islam but in the heart of Islam and the especially Middle East between reactive fundamentalism and extremism on one side and modernizers on the other, see the buggy article on this published earlier this year. A follow-up article then appeared shortly afterwards.