Jeffrey Herf

The Blind Spot of Middle East Studies

I posted an essay on “The Blind Spot of Middle East Studies” at the website of History News Network in the United States. It concerns the reluctance of many scholars in Departments of Middle East Studies to address the issue of anti-Semitism when it emerges in connection with Islamist, Arab or Iranian sources.

I conclude as follows:

“The greatest irony about Middle East Studies and the Jewish question is that avoidance of facts about the affinities between Islamism and Nazism—with the European extreme right—has become a leftist academic signal of anti-colonial militancy. Rarely if ever has avoidance of research on the history of anti-Semitism found a more effective banner than that of the slogans of leftist anti-racism and anti-Zionism. Yet perhaps out of the chaos, violence, death, terror, and destruction engulfing the Arab Middle East today there will emerge a young generation of intellectuals and scholars for whom the above-mentioned scholarship will prove important as they realize that the Jews, Zionism, and Israel were not and are not the “problem” that is preventing their societies from achieving political stability and economic success. If so, perhaps these young scholars, disillusioned with the era of Islamist fanaticism, will be able to contribute to a much needed, yet now blocked, scholarly advance on the Jewish question within the Arabic and Islamic context.”

The link to the whole essay is here:

About the Author
Jeffrey Herf is Distinguished University Professor in the Department of History at the University of Maryland, College Park, USA. He has published extensively on modern German and European history including Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, He is completing a study entitled “At War with Israel: East Germany and the West German Radical Left, 1967-1989" (Cambridge University Press, 2016). His "Israel's Moment: The United States and Europe between the Holocaust and the Cold War" is forthcoming.