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).
For almost two generations, major parts of academe have been alienated from America's exercise of power due to entrenched ideological differences with the federal government. Following President Obama's election, however, signs of a remarkable shift emerged, with more academics serving in policy positions, huddling with top officials behind closed doors, and otherwise extolling the virtues of "soft" or "smart" power. How can Washington take advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity to create more structured and effective partnerships with universities?
In this Policy Focus, Dr. Martin Kramer surveys the state of government-academe relations ten years after his bestselling book Ivory Towers dissected "the failure of Middle Eastern studies in America." Intended as a short field manual for government engagement with professors, deans, and university presidents, the paper describes how policymakers can better wield three of academia's most important levers: the clout inherent in peer review, the influence conferred by academic endowments, and the access created by sharing information despite the need to keep some of it classified.
The Obama administration is undercutting its own ambitious agenda, by signaling that the United States has lost some of its weight in world affairs. The “post-American” rhetoric of liberal internationalists and realists is setting off a scramble for advantage among the “middle powers” of the Middle East. Originally a lecture delivered on November 16, 2009, to the Columbia University International Relations Forum (CUIRF).
Remarks delivered on October 20, 2002 and published as Martin Kramer, "Inclusion or Exclusion? Islamism in Politics," in An Agenda for Action: The 2002 Doha Conference on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World (Washington: The Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, 2003), pp. 41-44.