Fred is in the running for the correct answer at the Jihad Watch Mesa Nostra contest too. Irfan Khawaja writes in Campus Watch:
It can be amazing sometimes to discover the frequency with which appeals to academic expertise end up concealing utter nonsense. For a remarkable example of this, consider a letter from Fred M. Donner, professor of Near East Studies at the University of Chicago, in the Nov. 16 issue of Princeton Alumni Weekly, the alumni magazine of Princeton University. (To get to the Donner letter, click the preceding link, go to “current issue,” and then go to “letters to the editor.” The magazine typically goes by its abbreviation, PAW.)
For a few months now, a controversy has raged at Princeton over the possibility that Princeton might hire Columbia University’s Rashid Khalidi to serve as its (Princeton’s) Niehaus Chair of Near East Studies. Generally speaking, opinion on the matter falls into three relatively neat camps: (1) those opposed because of Khalidi’s views on the Israel-Palestine issue, (2) those in favor for the same general reasons, and (3) the indifferent. For months, the controversy has consisted of partisans of camp (1) attacking partisans of camp (2) and vice versa. (Personally, I fall into camp (3).)
One opens the Nov. 15 issue of PAW with the pro-Khalidi camp responding to the anti-Khalidi’s camp’s claim that Khalidi is “a pseudo-academic,” and “a person with a political agenda rather than a scholar”¦” The chief representative of the pro-Khalidi faction turns out to be Prof. Donner, a Princeton alum. The defense he offers of Khalidi is notable only for its astonishing illogic””illogic that does little to help Khalidi and less to enhance Donner’s credibility as a witness in Khalidi’s defense.
“I had the good fortune to be a colleague of Khalidi’s for almost 20 years,” Donner tells us. “I can assure [the reader] that Khalidi is truly a scholar of the first caliber, not a “˜pseudo’-anything.”
Fair enough: being someone’s colleague for 20 years can in principle give you a chance to get to know him well enough to comment on his capacities as a scholar. The trouble is, having been Khalidi’s colleague for twenty years, Donner doesn’t profess to know very much about Khalidi’s scholarship: “I do not follow the Israel-Palestine debates, or Khalidi’s writing, closely enough to know whether he has in fact declared his endorsement of a “˜one-state’ solution” to the Israel-Palestine debate.
Too bad that Khalidi’s scholarship is on”¦the Israel-Palestine debate.
Read it all.