Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Chairs in Israeli studies versus chairs in Pakistani or Bangladeshi studies in the US

I looked at this ad at Princeton for a position in Israeli studies.  It made me wonder: why on earth are there even chairs (visiting or permanent) for Israeli studies in the US?  The decisions to create those chairs are purely political and sectarian decisions and have nothing to do with academic standards.  I mean, why the tiny small country of Israel would attract so much academic attention (aside from political and media attention which is easier to explain) when there are no chairs in Pakistani or Bangladeshi studies and when the populations of those countries are so much bigger, and when they hold much bigger roles in the future.  Hell, there are more courses taught on tiny insignificant Israel than on India, for potato's sake.  Even the teaching of Hebrew (and I studied Hebrew): I am in favor of teaching Hebrew but are you telling me that the fact that there are more courses in Hebrew on college campuses in the US (when the language is spoken by less than 10 million people of the world)  than in Urdu or Dari is due to pure academic and not political standards?  There are scarce resources on college campuses and yet there are decisions made to promote this little tiny insignificant country (in historic terms) and its small population.  If you measure it by population and size: imagine that there are chairs all over the US for professors who teach "Lebanese studies" and that there are centers for "Lebanese studies" all over the US, and that there are courses all over the country for the teaching of Leventine Arabic.  I mean, there are more courses and more chairs dedicated for Israel than there are for Iran, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh combined.  It is just absurd.

PS The Princeton Center for Near East studies has become the main center for the production of largely Zionist PhDs to staff the think tank and government positions dealing with the Middle East.  Its role seems to have risen especially after the near demise of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University.  Call it the legacy of Bernard Lewis.