Dershowitz: Columbia Faculty Encourages Terrorists

Dershowitz Says Faculty Members Work To Encourage Islamic Terrorism (The New York Sun)

It’s not often that a professor tells a packed crowd at Columbia University that Edward Said was a political extremist and that faculty members in the school’s Middle East studies department encourage Islamic terrorism. The professor who made those statements yesterday isn’t from Columbia but from Harvard. Law professor Alan Dershowitz showed up at the intellectual home of Said, a literature professor who was a fierce critic of Israel, to rebuke Columbia’s faculty and administration for tolerating an atmosphere on campus that he said promotes the hatred of Israel. “This is the most unbalanced university that I have come across when it comes to all sides of the Middle East conflict being presented,” Mr. Dershowitz told hundreds of students and a smattering of Columbia faculty members. “I have never seen a university with as much faculty silence,” he said.


Drawing a few laughs, Mr. Dershowitz said the prospects of “peace in Israel itself are greater than they would be on this campus.” “The kind of hatred that one hears on campuses like Columbia, and let me say especially Columbia, is a barrier to peace,” Mr. Dershowitz said. “They are encouraging the terrorists. They tell the terrorists you will have academic support even if you oppose the peace process.”

Strong words, indeed. Columbia seems to be the chief hotbed of extremist anti-Israel scholarship among serious circles in the U.S. but it is not alone. In my experience, any discipline with “Studies” in its name at any campus is, at best, home to incredibly unserious scholarship. With no exception that I can think of, they all provide havens for those who want to write ideological polemics under the guise of scholarship. Every conference presentation by a co-panelist who did “Middle East Studies” rather than “political science” or “international relations” was a diatribe against Israel or a screed on the indignities suffered by the Palestinians.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. BigFire says:


    The words you’re looking for is job farm. They serve no real purpose other than employing unqualified people.

  2. Kappiy says:

    “…any discipline with “Studies” in its name at any campus is, at best, home to incredibly unserious scholarship.”

    Would the neo-liberal Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago fit into your categorization?

  3. Eric says:

    At Duke we used to joke about the “and Society” major, which would be made up of all the easy courses with …and Society in their name. Ecology and Society, Advertising and Society, Feminism and Society, the list went on.

    Of course, Duke also has a Canadian Studies department. I don’t recall if they offer Hockey and Society.

  4. Kappiy says:

    One other thing to keep in mind–Columbia doesn’t have a “Middle East Studies” program. Maybe you are referring to their Jewish Studies program which, I can tell you, is NOT a hotbed of anti-Israeli scholarship!

    While we’re on an anti-“Studies” backlash, why not impugn the “incredibly unserious scholarship” of Columbia’s Cellular, Molecular, and Biophysical Studies program!?!?

  5. Anthony says:

    I resent that! The War Studies department at King’s College London is first class – and what’s more, John Pilger has called for it to be shut down, accusing it of being a wholly owned subsidiary of the Ministry of Defence.

    I personally consider this to be something of a badge of honour.

  6. James Joyner says:

    Anthony: I think we can safely exclude Prof. Freedman and company from the generalization.

    Kappiy: I don’t know much about the Harris School.

    I’m mostly thinking of such “fields” as Women’s Studies, Afro-American Studies, Middle East Studies, Queer Studies, and the like.

  7. kappiy says:


    I was mostly kidding around with you–I recognize your concern. Although being a Kuhnian, I am sympathetic with the need to question disciplinary boundaries–something that these new “studies” “disciplines” are often concerned with.

    To the extent that they keep “traditional” disciplinary inquiry on its toes, i think its healthy to think interdisciplinarily.

    Although we could be looking back to the future–after all, the great ‘economist” Adam Smith was the Chair of Moral Philosophy at glasgow!

  8. James Joyner says:

    Yep. I like the idea of interdisciplinary research. Ideally, though, it’s conducted by people thoroughly grounded in their disciplines working together. When they form a separate department tied to an ideological view of the world, though, it tends to fall apart.