Jewish People and Israel

From David Bernstein at The Volokh Conspiracy:

"OUTRAGEOUS, IF TRUE: According to the Columbia Spectator, Barnard religion professor Alan Segal was asked by the university to provide a list of archeology experts to comment on the controversial tenure case of Nadia Abu El-Haj’s tenure–archeologists who ‘preferably’ were not Jewish. Segal quite properly refused, noting that religion ‘has nothing to do with what you say as a professional."

"El-Haj’s ‘scholarly’ work is premised on the idea that Jewish Israeli archeologists invented evidence of ancient Jewish settlement of the Land of Israel to justify Zionist claims to the land. Besides the issue of discrimination, which would be unthinkable in any other context related to any other group, the request to Segal seems like an implicit endorsement of her thesis, that Jewish archeologists cannot be trusted to be objective in their work related to Israel (which makes one wonder why the university would trust El-Haj, of Palestinian Arab origin, to be objective)."

If I were Nadia Abu El-Haj I would prefer, all else being equal, that Jewish people not be among those evaluating my scholarship for tenure.  So as not to be accused of anti-Semitism let me say that my mother and wife (although not my father or myself) are Jewish.  But based on my experience, Jewish people on average have a far more positive view towards Israel than non-Jewish people do.  El-Haj’s scholarship directly attacks Israel and so on average I would suspect that her scholarship would get a more favorable review from non-Jewish than Jewish archeologists.

In a world without bias the religion of El-Haj’s reviewers wouldn’t matter.  But we don’t live in such a world.  Given that this bias exists, it is rational to try to minimize the harm it might cause El-Haj.

Imagine that El-Haj’s research consisted of archeological evidence that she tried to use to disprove the historical accuracy of parts of the Koran.  Wouldn’t it be reasonable to try to avoid Islamic reviewers for her tenure case?

Religious beliefs often cause people to be bias towards those who attack such beliefs.  To deny this, or to assume that college professors are too professional to allow such bias to influence them, is silly.

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