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Contentions

Harvard’s Unbalanced Middle East Program

A former colleague alerted me to this item, a book talk tonight being sponsored by Harvard University’s Middle East Initiative:

Book Talk: Brokers of Deceit

Wednesday, April 10, 6:00-7:00pm

A conversation with Rashid Khalidi about his new book: Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East. Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University.

This event will be moderated by Stephen Walt, Robert and Renee Professor of International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School.

Location: Bell Hall, 5th Floor, Belfer Building, Harvard Kennedy School

Now, make no mistake: Harvard University has every right to sponsor such a talk. Free speech, however, does not excuse imbalance and poor scholarship. Both Rashid Khalidi—a Columbia University professor and former PLO spokesman—and Stephen Walt have, in recent years, substituted polemic for research, sought to score political points by massaging facts to fit theses, and otherwise undercut basic standards of academic integrity.

Tonight’s book talk could be valuable if Harvard—true to its embrace of veritas, truth—encouraged a real debate with professors who hold different views. Hagiography should have no place in the university. Alas, it seems increasingly the most prestigious academic institutions are most reluctant to encourage broad debate in which professors and guests directly challenge each other’s ideas. That was why just over a year ago, Harvard University blessed a remarkably one-sided conference on the region. Any professor with an iota of self-confidence in the quality of his work should not fear challenge. If this event is an indicator, Harvard’s Middle East Initiative has become more interested in indoctrination than education.