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Juan Cole: Profile

By Stand4Facts.org
 


Overview

Don’t let Juan Cole’s history professor credentials intimidate you. He may seem well-informed and even balanced, but he distorts history and facts, and demonizes Israel. But he’s careful. He seems to criticize only Ariel Sharon and the Likud party, so when he promotes the conspiracy theory that Zionists controls American foreign policy, he instead says “likudniks” do.

Cole is not a frequent speaker on the campus lecture circuit, but you are likely to run into him because he is a prominent anti-Israel academic in the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) and because the media has often interviewed him as a Middle East expert. Cole was elected president of MESA in November 2004 but he won journalists’ attention because the blog he started in April 2002, “Informed Comment” became popular, reportedly getting 200,000 page-viewers a month.[1]

The blog won respect because Cole expressed reasonable positions that were not just reflexively anti-American and anti-war, which is also why he might be difficult to counter if he comes to your campus. He supported US actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, though he expressed reservations about American unilateralism, and called himself “an outspoken hawk on the war on terror.”[2] He vigorously criticizes nationalism, observing that “historians are unkind to nationalism of any sort,”[3] a view that fits comfortably with modern sensibilities. In addition, he can seem reasonable about Israel. His blog supports Israel’s right to exist in the 1967 borders, argued that it would be worth American lives to defend Tel Aviv,[4] praises Yitzhak Rabin[5] and even condemned Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, who, he wrote, should not be made into a hero. It is “wrong to consider Ahmed Yassin a hero. His ideas were bigoted and hateful, and the tactic of killing civilians is despicable (I'm not favorably disposed in general toward killing anyone at all if it can be avoided).”[6]

But don’t be fooled by this apparent balance and fairness. Such comments are few and far between on Cole’s blog. Instead, Cole shares the anti-Israel positions of most Arab propaganda, arguing that Israel was simply a colonialist project, that Israeli nationalism is racist, that the existence of Israel is the cause of the Middle East’s problems, that US support of Israel is the reason Arab and Muslim nations are anti-American and that Israel is uniquely evil for ‘stealing’ Palestinian land. In addition, Cole doesn’t just claim “likudniks” control American foreign policy; he also attacks a wide range of think tanks and programs associated with pro-Israel positions. Cole denounced Daniel Pipes for including him on Campus Watch and recently, he condemned MEMRI, the think tank that translates articles in the Arab press for English-speaking audiences, for bias against the Arab world and for being somehow linked to the Likud party.[7] Finally, Cole offers some peculiar-and false-‘facts’ about the history of Israel.

Some comments you are likely to hear from Cole include:

*“The real question here is whether it is all right to dispute the Zionist version of history. The David Project, AIPAC, the American Jewish Congress, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the Middle East Forum, Campus Watch, MEMRI, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, the Zionist Organization of America, etc., etc., maintain that it is not all right…”[8]

*"[K]nee-jerk US support for Israeli expansionism is at the root of anti-Americanism in the Arab world."[9]

*It would have been preferable for the British to have simply accepted Jewish refugees "rather than saddling a small, poor peasant country with 500,000 immigrants hungry to make the place their own."[10]

*"[T]he rise of Israel put pressure on Arab budgets, when a different sort of neighbour might have allowed them to invest the money in more fruitful areas than the military."[11]

*T]o any extent that contemporary Muslims have a problem with Jews, it is largely driven by what they see as injustices done by Zionists to the Palestinians."[12]

*“The David Project wants Middle East historians to reproduce faithfully in the classroom the Zionist master narrative as the `true’ version of history.…Next…the American Nazi Party will maintain that the Third Reich is presented unsympathetically….Ethnic nationalisms if allowed to dictate the teaching of history would destroy the entire discipline.”[13]

*“…Judaism has given us so much that is noble in ethical religion, and what the Likud is doing is an insult to that long and glorious tradition. Likud's real roots lie not in the Bible but in Zionist Revisionism of the Jabotinsky sort, which is frankly a kind of fascism.”[14]

*“Israel's policies toward the West Bank are unparalleled in the contemporary world…There are no other countries that insist on occupying a people whom they do not wish to absorb, but only to steal from.”[15]

*"Much of the Arab world has a formal peace treaty with Israel.”[16]

"It may be that the powerful Likudniks inside the US government are deliberately engineering a diplomatic rift in NATO, so as to ensure that Paris and Moscow cannot position themselves to influence Washington's position (usually supine) toward Sharon's excesses.”[17]

*“The most dangerous regime to United States interests in the Middle East is that of Ariel Sharon, not because he fights terrorists, but because he is stealing the land of another people and is brutalizing them in the process--and those are people with whom the rest of the Middle East and the Muslim world sympathizes.”[18]

*"Apparently [Bush] has fallen for a line from the neo-cons in his administration that they can deliver the Jewish vote to him in 2004 if only he kisses Sharon's ass."[19]

*"[1]f Sharon and AIPAC decide that they need the US government to take military action against Iran, it is likely that the US government will do so."[20]

*Al-Qaeda is "an odd assortment of crackpots, petty thieves, obsessed graduate students, would-be mercenaries, and eccentric millionaires."[21]

*"Chemical weapons are not weapons of mass destruction.”[22]

*:When a February 2004 poll revealed that 51% of Americans believed Iraq had WMD's at the start of the war, Cole responded that "Half the American public is terminally stupid.”[23]

"Saddam Hussein never gave any real support to the Palestinian cause, and he did not pay suicide bombers to blow themselves up….Supporting orphans is, in any case, not the same as funding terrorism.”[24]

 


[1] Efraim Karsh, “Juan Cole’s Bad Blog,” The New Republic, April 25, 2005 at www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20050425&s=karsh042505

[2] Efraim Karsh, “Juan Cole’s Bad Blog,” The New Republic, April 25, 2005 at www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20050425&s=karsh042505

[3] http://www.juancole.com/2005/04/new-york-times-supports-mccarthyite.html “New York Times Supports McCarthyite”

[4] Efraim Karsh, “Juan Cole’s Bad Blog,” The New Republic, April 25, 2005 at www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20050425&s=karsh042505

[5] http://www.juancole.com/2003/03/us-3rd-infantry-division-has-entered.html, “Untitled Juan Cole/Informed Consent Blog Entry, March 31, 2003”

[6] www.juancole.com/2004/03/sharons-murder-of-yassin-endangers.html , “Sharon’s Murder of Yassin Endangers Americans in Iraq and Elsewhere”

[7] www.geocities.com/martinkramerorg/2004_11_25.htm

[8] http://www.juancole.com/2005/04/new-york-times-supports-mccarthyite.html, “New York Times Supports McCarthyite”

[9] Cited in Efraim Karsh, “Juan Cole’s Bad Blog,” The New Republic, April 25, 2005 at www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20050425&s=karsh042505

[10] Cited in Efraim Karsh, “Juan Cole’s Bad Blog,” The New Republic, April 25, 2005 at www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20050425&s=karsh042505

[11] Cited in Efraim Karsh, “Juan Cole’s Bad Blog,” The New Republic, April 25, 2005 at www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20050425&s=karsh042505

[12] Cited in Efraim Karsh, “Juan Cole’s Bad Blog,” The New Republic, April 25, 2005 at www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20050425&s=karsh042505

[13] http://www.juancole.com/2005/04/new-york-times-supports-mccarthyite.html, “New York Times Supports McCarthyite”

[14] www.juancole.com/2004_02_01_juancole_archive.html#10775229655809048 , “Kwiatkowski on the Neoconservative Coup at the Pentagon”

[15] http://www.juancole.com/2003/03/us-3rd-infantry-division-has-entered.html, “Untitled Juan Cole/Informed Consent Blog Entry, March 31, 2003”

[16] "Reply to Yglesias", Juan Cole, Informed Comment 02/01/2004-02/29/2004, posted, 08:56:05 AM, Tuesday, February 03, 2004,

[17] "Wolfowitz Throws Tantrum at France, Germany, Russia, and Canada: The Failure of Emotional Intelligence", Juan Cole, Informed Comment 12/01/2004-12/31/2004, posted, 8:38:10 AM, Friday, December 12, 2003.

[18] http://www.juancole.com/2003/03/us-3rd-infantry-division-has-entered.html, “Untitled Juan Cole/Informed Consent Blog Entry, March 31, 2003”

[19] Cited in Efraim Karsh, “Juan Cole’s Bad Blog,” The New Republic, April 25, 2005 at www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20050425&s=karsh042505

[20] Cited in Efraim Karsh, “Juan Cole’s Bad Blog,” The New Republic, April 25, 2005 at www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20050425&s=karsh042505

[21] Cited at http://www.martinkramer.org/pages/899527/index.htm

[22] "No WMD. Nada. Bubkes.", Juan Cole, Informed Comment 01/01/2004-01/31/2004, posted, 07:30:18 AM, Friday, January 09, 2004

[23] "About Half the American Public is Terminally Stupid", Juan Cole, Informed Comment 02/01/2004-02/29/2004, posted 09:03:49 AM, Tuesday, February 24, 2004,

[24] "Arguing with Bush", Juan Cole, Informed Comment 04/01/2004-04/30/2004, posted, 07:30:34 AM, Wednesday, April 14, 2004, http://www.juancole.com/2004_04_01_juancole_archive.html#108192862382575758

Biography

Juan R. I. Cole is a professor of history at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He was born John (Juan) Ricardo I. Cole in Albuquerque, N.M. Oddly, he includes his family history on his website, which explains that his paternal line is of German stock that came to America around 1830, settling first in Pennsylvania. He also mentions that he married a Pakistani woman, Shahin Malik, in 1982.[1]

Cole has a traditional academic background; bachelor’s degree in history and literature of religions from Northwestern University in 1975, following by a master’s degree in Arabic studies and history in 1978 from Cairo’s American University and then finally his doctorate in Islamic Studies in 1984 from UCLA. He joined the University of Michigan faculty the same year he got his PhD; until 1990 he was a U of M assistant professor of history, then spent five years as an associate professor until becoming a full professor in 1995. From 1992 to 1995 he was director of the university’s Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies.[2]

Cole writes on the various Islamic movements worldwide and also has written extensively on Iranian culture, notably its minority Bahai religion. He speaks Arabic, Persian and Urdu and specializes in Shiite Islamic culture ran and Muslim radicals. Before settling permanently in Ann Arbor, he lived in the Arab world for six years plus about two-and-a-half more years on the subcontinent; in this same vein, Cole’s three Fulbrights covered research trips to Egypt, Pakistan and India and he also has done extensive research in Turkey. In Ann Arbor, Coleteaches modern Middle Eastern and South Asia history.[3]

Though Cole was prominent among his colleagues in MESA (the Middle East Studies Association) and was editor of its journal, The International Journal of Middle East Studies, for five years, he did not become well-known until he started his blog, “Informed Comment” in April 2002.[4] Within a year, the “Jim Lehr News Hour,” NPR and mainstream shows were turning to him as an expert, and he won the Koufax award in 2003 for the best expert blog.[5]

Despite his expert credentials, the useful information in many of his entries, his condemnation of terrorism and his occasional balance, historians outside MESA have been highly critical of his work. Historian Efraim Karsh remarked that “Unfortunately, Cole suffers from many other common Arabist misconceptions that deeply prejudice and compromise his writing. Having done hardly any independent research on the twentieth-century Middle East, Cole's analysis of this era is essentially derivative, echoing the conventional wisdom among Arabists and Orientalists…Worse, Cole's discussion of U.S. foreign policy frequently veers toward conspiratorial anti-Semitism. This is hardly the "informed" commentary Cole claims it to be.”[6]

Columnist Andrew Sullivan criticized Cole, observing that he makes“glib and easy assignment of ulterior motives and bad faith…and unproven accusations that this administration is deliberately working against the interests of this country. If you ask me, that's why the far-left Middle East academic elite has had so little influence over this debate. Their shrillness crowds out their expertise."[7] Jonathan Calt Harris wrote that “The ‘normal' level of conspiracy thinking, associated with Lyndon Larouche on the right or Noam Chomsky on the left, is barely adequate to contain Cole's frantic theorizing.”[8]

Books written or co-edited by Juan Cole include:

- Sacred Space and Holy War(IB Tauris 2002)

- Modernity and the Millennium: The Genesis of the Baha'i Faith in the Nineteenth Century Middle East (Columbia University Press, 1998)

- Roots of North Indian Shi`ism in Iran and Iraq(California, 1989)

- Colonialism and Revolution in the Middle East: Social and Cultural Origins of Egypt's `Urabi Movement (Princeton, 1993)

- Comparing Muslim Societies (Michigan, 1992).

- Shi`ism and Social Protest (Yale, 1986)

 




[1] www-personal.umich.edu/~jrcole/colegen.htm , Family Tree of Juan Cole

[2] http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jrcole/jcpers.htm, Personal Information/Curriculum Vitae of Juan Cole

[3] http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jrcole/jcpers.htm, Personal Information/Curriculum Vitae of Juan Cole

[4] Efraim Karsh, “Juan Cole’s Bad Blog,” The New Republic, April 25, 2005 at www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20050425&s=karsh042505

[5] http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jrcole/jcpers.htm, Personal Information/Curriculum Vitae of Juan Cole

[6] http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jrcole/jcpers.htm, Personal Information/Curriculum Vitae of Juan Cole

[7] www.martinkramer.org/pages/899527/index.htm

[8] Jonathan Calt Harris, “Juan Cole: Media-and MESA-Darling,” December 7 2004 at http://www.campus-watch.org/article/id/1414


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