“When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism!” Martin Luther King was supposed to have said this at a dinner party in Cambridge, Massachusetts, shortly before his death. Critics claimed he could not have said this because he could not be placed in Cambridge at the time. They thus insinuated that the quote must have been invented by Harvard’s Seymour Martin Lipset, who reported it. The author relies on King’s papers to establish a firm address, host, date, and time for the dinner. But he also bring evidence (from FBI wiretaps) of King’s profound ambivalence about Israel’s 1967 victory. King supported Israel’s right to exist, but he thought Israel would have to disgorge its military conquests.
Amalgamates and revises three posts from Kramer's blog Sandbox.
Kramer, Martin. “The Exodus Conspiracy.” In The War on Error: Israel, Islam, and the Middle East, 245-52. New Brunswick, NJ and London: Transaction Publishers, 2016.Abstract
The author examines the oft-repeated claim that the famous 1958 novel Exodus by Leon Uris was set in motion by a scheming New York advertising man, and not by Uris himself. Through the testimony of witnesses who were there, the author shows that this is untrue.
Originally a lecture delivered to the graduate proseminar "Approaches to Middle Eastern Studies" at Harvard in 2007. This is its first publication. The Persian translation, also here in pdf, appeared in the magazine Ghalamo, no. 8, Dey 1396 (December 2017-January 2018).
Conventional wisdom holds that the Israeli-Palestinian status quo is "unsustainable." Yet it has been remarkably resilent in the face of the distruptive changes sweeping the Middle East. This article explains why the status quo has been so durable, and why it is likely to endure in the future.
Kramer, Martin. “Repairing Sykes-Picot.” In Lines That Bind: 100 Years of Sykes-Picot, edited by Andrew J. Tabler, 79-85. Washington, DC: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2016. Entire bookAbstract
A century after Sykes-Picot, much confusion reigns about its actual legacy. Some of its provisions faded into history, but a few have persisted. This article looks at what has lasted and what has not, and asks whether it should be dismantled or repaired.
Israel in its early years built the foundations of its national security in defiance of the United States. Israel's growing dependence on the United States since 1967 has eroded its freedom of action, posing a question of whether it will be able to act decisively should its future leaders wish to do so.
On the 100th birthday of Bernard Lewis, his student and friend Martin Kramer recalls Lewis's prescience in his 1976 article "The Return of Islam," and situates it in the great historian's vision of the relationship between Islam and the West. The follow-up, "The Master Historian of the Middle East," responds to respondents, and adds further insights.
Many believe that the 1916 Anglo-French partition of the Ottoman Empire, known as the Sykes-Picot agreement, was a precursor to the Balfour Declaration. To the contrary: Zionists regarded it as "fatal" to their plans, and they worked to undermine it. The Balfour Declaration negated Sykes-Picot, and superseded it.
In The War on Error, historian and political analyst Martin Kramer presents a series of case studies, some based on pathfinding research and others on provocative analysis, that correct misinformation clouding the public’s understanding of the Middle East. He also offers a forensic exploration of how misinformation arises and becomes “fact.”
The book is divided into five themes: Orientalism and Middle Eastern studies, a prime casualty of the culture wars; Islamism, massively misrepresented by apologists; Arab politics, a generator of disappointing surprises; Israeli history, manipulated by reckless revisionists; and American Jews and Israel, the subject of irrational fantasies. Kramer shows how error permeates the debate over each of these themes, creating distorted images that cause policy failures.
Kramer approaches questions in the spirit of a relentless fact-checker. Did Israeli troops massacre Palestinian Arabs in Lydda in July 1948? Was the bestseller Exodus hatched by an advertising executive? Did Martin Luther King, Jr., describe anti-Zionism as antisemitism? Did a major post-9/11 documentary film deliberately distort the history of Islam? Did Israel push the United States into the Iraq War? Kramer also questions paradigms—the “Arab Spring,” the map of the Middle East, and linkage. Along the way, he amasses new evidence, exposes carelessness, and provides definitive answers.
The author recalls his long friendship with the late Shabtai Teveth, renowned journalist and the biographer of David Ben-Gurion. Teveth, largely unknown to younger readers, may have been the first to challenge the excesses of the “new historians," and his work deserves to be rediscovered.
Much maligned for his truth-telling about Arab political culture, Fouad Ajami became the bête noire of the Middle East studies establishment. Some went so far as to call him “pro-Israel,” even a “Likudnik.” The author knew Ajami from his student days, and often assisted him on his visits to Israel. The article sets the record straight on Israel in Ajami’s worldview.
Martin Kramer's address at the inauguration of the Rubin Center at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya, Israel is devoted to a discussion of Barry Rubin's view of U.S. policy in the Middle East, especially under the Obama administration. The relationship between the administration's ideological commitments and more traditional foreign policy realism is explored.
Barry Rubin, analyst of the Middle East, followed an improbable journey, from a radical of the 1960s American left, to a hard-nosed Israeli critic of Arab politics and U.S. policy. Martin Kramer recalls his long friendship with Rubin, and traces the stages in his evolution as an intellect and scholar.
The Israeli documentary film Censored Voices purports to uncover damaging testimonies of war crimes dating back to the June 1967 Six-Day War, massively censored by the Israeli military. Martin Kramer looks critically at the evidence, and finds that the claim is a fabrication.
In a changing Middle East, some argue that Israel should align itself with the region's minorities. Martin Kramer warns against the reliance on the weakest elements in the region, which are more likely to drain Israeli power than enhance it.
Kramer, Martin. “Anwar Sadat's Visit to Jerusalem, 1955.” In Nationalism, Identity and Politics: Israel and the Middle East. Studies in Honor of Prof. Asher Susser, edited by Bruce Maddy-Weizman and Meir Litvak, 29-41. Tel Aviv: The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, 2014.Abstract
Anwar Sadat's 1977 visit to Jerusalem was considered an unprecedented breakthrough. But for Sadat himself, this was his second visit to the city. In 1955, he made a one-day visit to Jordanian East Jerusalem, including prayer at the Aqsa Mosque, as secretary of the Cairo-based Islamic Congress. Sadat used the visit to undermine efforts to bring Jordan into the Baghdad Pact, and to counter the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and especially Jerusalem. The article covers the visit, primarily on the basis of East Jerusalem newspaper reports, and reconstructs its various contexts.
Martin Kramer's critique of the chapter "Lydda, 1948" in Ari Shavit's bestselling book My Promised Land, including responses by Efraim Karsh and Benny Morris. The debate focuses on whether there was an Israeli massacre of Palestinian Arabs following the conquest of Lydda in July 1948.
The article includes responses from Efraim Karsh and Benny Morris. It was republished in The War on Error (2016). This entry includes pdfs of the web version (including illustrations and map), and the book chapter version (including footnotes).