- Middle East history professor at Stanford University
- Former President of Middle East Studies Association
- Blames United States and Israel for Middle East conflict
- Passionately anti-Israel
Professor Joel Beinin teaches Middle East history at Stanford University and is a former President of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA). Once a Zionist, Beinin now refers to jihadist suicide bombers as “martyrs.” He directs his ideological hostilities against the state of Israel and its citizens, including those who were refugees from persecution in Arab countries. He denies that the exodus of Jews from Arab lands after 1948 was caused by the historic persecution of Jews in Arab countries and intensified by the creation of Israel. According to Beinin, this exodus of hundreds of thousands of Jews from nations they had inhabited for millennia was the result of “provocative actions by Israeli agents.”
Born in 1948 to Labor Zionist parents, Beinin experienced an ideological transformation at age 22 while living on Kibbutz Lahav. He joined the “New Left” at Hebrew University, then migrated to Trotskyite anti-Zionism and finally to Maoism. A Marxist ever since, he earned his BA, MA, and Ph.D. at Princeton, Harvard, and the University of Michigan, respectively. He has received Ford Foundation grants, and has taught in France, Britain, Israel and Egypt.
The violence of the first Palestinian Intifada (1988-92) was, in Beinin’s view, actually a “strike for peace.” He has praised “the first martyr of the uprising,” and has excused the “small number of violent incidents” against Israelis.
In 1991 Beinin dismissed U.S. concerns over Iraq’s invasion and attempted annexation of Kuwait as “patently ridiculous,” insisting that the real American goal was not to stop Saddam Hussein’s aggression, but rather to maintain weak, unstable “mini-states” in the region, thereby assuring cheap oil and generating demand for U.S. weapons.
Just before the 2003 Iraq War, Beinin appeared on Al-Jazeera Television to condemn U.S. “imperial” policy in the Arab world, despite the fact that the United States never had a Middle East colony, and that in 1956 the U.S. famously supported Egypt’s defense of the Sinai against America's own allies, the colonial powers Britain and France. Beinin told Al-Jazeera’s Arab audience that President Bush was plotting to establish “a puppet regime” in Baghdad to benefit U.S. oil interests and to force “Israeli dictates” on the Palestinians.
Once the war began, Professor Beinin accused Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and other U.S. policymakers of colluding with “Israel’s Likud Party,” and asserted that America and Israel had collaborated with Arab regimes to block “democracy and economic development in the Arab world.” Beinin claimed that the U.S. was bent on displaying its “overwhelming military power … to make and unmake regimes and guarantee access to oil.” American conservatives, in his opinion, wanted to provoke “Islamist forces” so that they would “forsake legal political action and engage in armed struggle.”
Beinin has coined the derisive term “terrorology” to mock the notion that the terrorism of the War on Terror is the creation of fanatical Islamicists themselves. A year after 9/11, Beinin congratulated fellow members of MESA for their “great wisdom” in refusing to recognize Islamic terrorism as a threat to international stability, and for thereby refusing to succumb to imperialistic prejudices against oppressed peoples.
After 9/11, Beinin focused not on Osama bin Laden’s fatwas calling for global jihad against the West, but on “Israel’s disproportionate use of force” against Palestinians as a root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In the face of the explicit programs of Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Islamic groups calling for the “liberation of Palestine from the Jordan to the sea,” Professor Beinin steadfastly denies that Palestinian terrorism “pose[s] an existential threat to Israel.” Moreover, Beinin has criticized the Ford Foundation for not financing NGOs that support Hamas.
In 2002 Professor Beinin initiated a petition that accused Israel of planning the “ethnic cleansing” of Arabs, which allegedly would commence with the war in Iraq. He predicted that Israeli premier Ariel Sharon would use the war as an opportunity “to push the Palestinians into Jordan.” This is the opposite of what actually happened: Sharon proposed the withdrawal of Israelis from Gaza instead.
Beinin and his wife Miriam support Jewish Voice for Peace, a suspected Palestinian front in the Bay area. The professor appears regularly on Pacifica Radio, blaming U.S. policies for the major problems facing the Middle East. Despite staggering diplomatic efforts and vast sums of American money given to the Palestinian Authority, Beinin sees only a “consistent [U.S.] denial of independence and self-determination” for the Palestinians.
As MESA’s President, Beinin influenced the education of middle- and high-school students through the Teachers’ Curriculum Institute (TCI), which writes textbook entries and social studies curricula to meet standards in 20 states. Beinin filled TCI's Middle East Committee with such ideologues as Betsy Barlow (a U.S. coordinator for the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center), Glenn Perry (of Indiana State University) and Kamran Aghaie and Abraham Marcus (both of the University of Texas). One TCI high-school handout gives Hamas greater political significance than Israel’s Labor and Likud parties. TCI textbooks include class “exercises” that pit students in roles of “advantaged” Jews against others posing as “disadvantaged” Palestinian Arabs.
The Stanford Review, a conservative campus newspaper, describes Professor Beinin’s courses as “expensive training for the Marxist press corps.” When students in his class rejected his request to attend an anti-Iraq war protest in lieu of the class, Beinin trumped them by holding his lecture at the protest itself.
Beinin conducts an online course sponsored by Oxford, Stanford and Yale Universities, called “Palestine, Zionism and the Arab-Israeli Conflict.” The “Zionist lobby” in Washington, he informs his students, has the power to induce Washington to adopt an “uncritically pro-Israel foreign policy.” For “serious” reading, he recommends Egypt’s state-run Al-Ahram, a newspaper that routinely features anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, endorses Holocaust denial, likens Israeli leaders to Nazis, and praises suicide bombings. (Al-Ahram’s editor Ibrahim Nafie was actually sued in France for publishing a piece claiming that Jewish rituals require the use of Christian children’s blood.)
Beinin is an Advisory Board member of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.
Portions of this profile first appeared in an article titled "Stanford's Islamist Threat," written by Alyssa Lappen and published by FrontPageMagazine.com on December 21, 2004.