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Emet m'Tsiyon

Thursday, November 22, 2007

More on Nadia Abu el-Haj's Frauds

UPDATING ADDITION as of 12-14-2007

Since I last posted on Nadia Abu el-Haj, Columbia University gave her undeserved tenure.

The Current, a publication at Columbia, invited three scholars [Fall 2007 issue] to consider Abu el-Haj's book, which apparently won her tenure. Tenure means that a professor cannot be dismissed. [Here is the link]. These scholars are David Rosen, an anthropologist, James Russell, a specialist in Armenian studies, and Dr Jonathan Rosenbaum, President of Gratz College in Philadelphia. Let's just take a few quotes from Rosen and Russell and comment on them.

David Rosen, Professor of anthropology, Fairleigh Dickinson University:
Facts on the Ground takes issue with the archeological exhibition at Burnt House, a museum located in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. The official interpretation is that Burnt House is the home of a wealthy Jewish family, possibly of the priestly class, that was destroyed during the Roman siege and conquest of Jerusalem in 70 AD. El-Haj participated in a tour of this Museum and other related sites along with an "American writer" and a "British archeologist," both of whom are unnamed. El-Haj recounts that during the tour, the unnamed and uncited American writer whom she describes as "having authored several books and articles on the politics of archeology in Israel" objected to the established narrative of Burnt House. He argued that the destruction of the house might have resulted from class conflict among Jews in Jerusalem, the result of the simmering anger against Jerusalem's nobility by working class laborers whom Herod the Great had imported to build the temple. He postulated that Burnt House might have been burnt down by an angry Jewish mob long prior to 70 CE. The curator countered that a coin found at the site and dated to approximately 66 CE suggests that the house was burnt close to the 70 CE time period. (The building of Herod's Temple began in about 19 BCE. Herod died in 4 BCE, but the building project may have continued well past his death.) El-Haj counters that this evidence does not preclude the possibility that the site, including the House, may have been burnt down more than once. The unnamed "British archeologist" apparently adds another view by asserting that "most cities burn every twenty to twenty five years."
The point here is that El-Haj suggests there are possible interpretations other than the established narrative. If the Museum were to present either the class struggle narrative or the natural cycle of fire narrative as alternative possibilities, it would, in her view, be a strong corrective to the narrative of national loss and ascendance that she believes wrongfully pervades Israeli archeology. But the text offers no evidence that either of these alternate narratives is probable or even plausible. What weight would any scientific study accord to this exchange other than it demonstrates a passion for contested narratives? It certainly offers nothing probative of the existence of any facts different from those now presented at Burnt House. Certainly it would be interesting and important if El-Haj were actually able to demonstrate that the ethos of Israeli nationalism screened out important and contradictory data. But she offers nothing stronger than anecdote to make the case. Given its methodology, Facts on the Ground accords carefully constructed archeological evidence and off-the-cuff anecdote exactly the same weight.
Here are two bizarre "alternative" narratives about the Burnt House in Jerusalem, on a hill [once called the Upper City] overlooking the Temple Mount, now in the Jewish Quarter. The Upper City was the home of prosperous citizens of Jerusalem. Many residents there were priests [kohanim, כוהנים, "Cohens"] who wanted or needed to live close to the Temple. Let's first look at the bizarre claim that "most [ancient?] cities burn every 20 or 25 years." Ancient cities did burn sometimes as modern cities have. Rome burned under Emperor Nero just a few years before Roman forces --including Arab auxiliaries-- set fire to the Jerusalem Temple. But are there other fires registered in historical records that destroyed all of Jerusalem in the Second Temple period?? On the other hand, the fire that devastated Jerusalem when Vespasian & Titus' forces conquered it from Jewish rebels in 70 CE is registered in a book in Greek by Josephus Flavius [The Jewish War, Book VI: 4:5-5:2], a Jew and protege of Vespasian's family, the Flavians, while the same war is described --from an offensively Roman imperialist viewpoint-- by Tacitus, a Roman historian [The Histories, Book V:1-13]. So this "British archeologist" clown is raising the hypothetical possibility of a hitherto unknown fire at a different time in order to discredit the evidence of written history and of artifacts found in place --such as stone utensils and furnishings-- which point to prosperous inhabitants who carefully observed Jewish dietary laws [I have been in the Burnt House]. Among the artifacts found in the Burnt House was a stone weight inscribed in Aramaic in Hebrew letters: דבר קתרוס , meaning " belonging to Bar Kathros" OR "belonging to the son of Kathros". The Kathros family was a prosperous priestly family mentioned in the Talmud. Further, excavators found Roman coins as well as Jewish coins minted by the rebels for the years 67-69 CE, and none later. Thus, the date of the latest coin found helps set the earliest date for the fire.

The next clown believes the fire resulted from a class uprising by laborers forced by King Herod to work on rebuilding the Temple. Again, is there any written evidence in contemporary historical accounts or in inscriptions that mention or indicate such a mutiny of laborers working on the Temple? Nevertheless, we know something about the Temple builders. Herod recruited kohanim to rebuild an enlarged Temple. In other words, the laborers belonged to the priestly class and most likely would have considered it an honor and a holy duty to rebuild, enlarge and embellish the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. Now, the kohanim --who were a large group in the population-- were divided into shifts or watches [mishmarot, משמרות , sometimes translated as the "courses" of the priesthood]. There were 24 of these watches, based on descent/lineage. Each watch was ordinarily called upon to serve in the Temple in rotation for two weeks at a time. Now, the kohanim as builders were most likely subject to the same periods of service as the kohanim doing purely priestly work at the Temple. In such circumstances, they would not feel like prisoners on a chain gang or shanghaied sailors. They would likely feel pride in doing holy work which was reserved for kohanim alone. Besides, there are other problems with the notion of a laborers' mutiny or riot causing the undeniable fire in the Burnt House. Yet Abu el-Haj in her profound ignorance and malice, in order to further her political purposes, takes the very unlikely hypothesis of a laborers' mutiny seriously. And for this, she gets tenure at a university that ought no longer be considered prestigious.

James Russell, Professor of Armenian Studies, Harvard
The Soviet posture strengthened anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist trends in the Western Left. . .
Edward Said's 1978 book Orientalism. . . proposed a vague socialist agenda, a conspiracy theory, and a new set of victims of imperialism quite unlike the Soviets. These were of course the Arabs—and it was even better that the proximal villain was the ever-sinister, colonizing, comprador Jew. But there is a problem. Said dealt with the 18th and 19th centuries, for the most part, but the Arabs were not the political player in the region then: Ottoman Turkey, a powerful empire and seat of the Muslim Caliphate, ruled them. Millions of Christian Greeks, Romanians, Bulgarians, Serbs, and Armenians labored under Ottoman misrule too. The first four broke away, but the Armenian homeland was in Anatolia itself. So in 1915, during World War I, the Turks decided upon genocide, and carried it out.
Said did not mention the Armenians even once in his book, for it would have made his passive, victimized Islamic world look rather less passive and not at all the victim. It is a glaring omission. Said's book was properly dismissed by many prominent reviewers as amateurish and dishonest—though on other grounds. They did not even notice the Turkish and Armenian aspect. The book might have been consigned to well-deserved oblivion.
I'm not sure that Russell is right about the effect that exposing Said's failure to take the Armenian genocide into account in his propagandistic Orientalism would have had on the book's reputation. Of course, I agree with Russell that Said's omission is a major sign of his dishonesty.

As to Nadia Abu el-Haj, while she denies or minimizes the long-known history of the Jews in the land that the Romans called Judea, she --on the other hand-- espouses the invented notion of a "palestinian people," a big lie created with the purposes of delegitimizing Israel and --in the long term-- of erasing the memory of Jewish history in Israel and anywhere.

UPDATING ADDITION: That the builders assigned by Herod to rebuild the Temple were kohanim [כוהנים ] is attested by Josephus Flavius [יוסף בן מתתיהו ] in The Antiquities of the Jews [XV: 420][Also see Ehud Netzer, "Herod's Building Projects," in Lee I Levine, The Jerusalem Cathedra, vol I (Jerusalem: Yad Izhak Ben Zvi; Detroit: Wayne State University Press 1981)]:
Into none of these courts [of the Temple during reconstruction] did King Herod enter since he was not a priest [kohen, כהן] and was therefore prevented from from doing so. But with the construction of the porticos and the outer courts he did busy himself. . . [Antiquities, XV: 420]
This indicates that the laborers on the Temple rebuilding were not "imported" laborers but kohanim. Before Abu el-Haj undertook to criticize or debunk the generally agreed account of ancient Jerusalem, of Herod's rebuilding and embellishment and enlargement of the Temple, she should have been very familiar with the ancient sources, such as Josephus' account above. That might have saved her from making a fool of herself. On the other hand, maybe the gang of fools, liars, and fanatics that support her don't see her as a fool, since her foolishness or deceit or self-deluded fanaticism --or any combination of these-- fits in well with their own.

Another argument against the two bizarre "alternative" theories is that if the fire had taken place long before the Roman capture in 70 CE, the house would likely have been rebuilt in place as political control and the social order would have remained constant, resuming after the fire. Now, especially if the house had burned down in one of a series of "natural," recurring fires, it is likely that everyone would have had a chance to get away. Yet, the partially calcified skeleton of a young woman was found in the house, indicating that she had not gotten away and the body had not been removed later by survivors, which would likely have occurred in the case of the riot and recurring-fires "alternative" narratives. Nor was the body --in the cellar of a collapsed, burnt house-- removed by Roman soldiers who no doubt removed dead bodies from the city's ruins, but most likely did not bother to exert themselves digging through the ruins looking for bodies that they would not have known were present or not.
Historians hold that the city stayed in its ruined state for 65 years after its destruction in the year 70 CE, with some impoverished Jews living among the ruins. It was rebuilt starting in or shortly after 135 CE by Emperor Hadrian, after he had crushed the Bar Kokhba Revolt. He also renamed the city Aelia Capitolina [Aelius was his clan or gens name] and renamed the Province of Judea [Provincia Iudaea] --Provincia Syria Palaestina. Hadrian's rebuilding was done in a radical, drastic way, although it seems that in various places ruins were not removed but merely built over.

UPDATING OF 12-14-2007 -- additional ancient accounts of the Jewish revolt and its suppression by the Roman Empire
Orosius, VII, 9:5 f.
Sulpicius Severus, II
Dio Cassius [or Cassius Dio], Roman History [Italian edition: Cassio Dione, Storia Romana], LXIII, 22; LXV, 8:1-3, 9:2; LXVI, 1:1-4, 4-7, 9:2, 12:1
Menahem Stern, Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism, vol. II (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences 1980), pp 64-67.
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Coming: the big lies and pretenses of Annapolis, propaganda, peace follies, Jews in Jerusalem, Hebron, and the Land of Israel, etc.

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