Laurie Brand

Laurie Brand

: Photo from Creative Commons / Author of Photo: USCPublicDiplomacy


* Professor of International Relations at the University of Southern California
* Former president of the Middle East Studies Association
* Views Israel as an oppressor nation that abuses the Palestinian people
* Highly critical of American foreign policy

Born on February 25, 1956, Laurie A. Brand earned a BS degree in French from Georgetown University in 1978, an MA in International Affairs from Columbia University in 1981, and a Ph.D. in Comparative Politics from Columbia University in 1985. She has been the Robert Grandford Wright Professor of International Relations and Middle East Studies at the University of Southern California since 2009, and has served on the USC faculty since 1989. Prior to her arrival at USC, Brand worked for five years at the Institute of Palestine Studies, an Arab organization set up to promote the Palestinian view of the Middle East conflict. Brand’s academic writings on that subject are largely indistinguishable from activist propaganda in behalf of the Palestinian cause.

Brand’s antipathy for Israel is profound. Placing virtually all blame for the Arab-Israeli conflict on the Jewish state alone, she has said: “There is no peace without justice, and there is no justice under [Israeli] occupation.”

In 2002 Brand and a number of other academics co-signed a letter accusing Israel of carrying out the “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians in the Middle East. Moreover, the letter demanded that the George W. Bush Administration “communicate clearly to the government of Israel that the expulsion of people according to race, religion or nationality would constitute crimes against humanity and will not be tolerated.”

Brand has been equally critical of the United States and its foreign policy. In the run-up to America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, for instance, Brand, who was on sabbatical and living in Lebanon at that time, took to the streets to demonstrate against the imminent U.S. action. She also drafted a letter of protest to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, which she promptly dispatched to the U.S. embassy in Beirut. Signed by 70 Americans, the letter, affecting to speak on behalf of “Americans living in Lebanon,” stated that “‘regime change’ imposed from outside” — a reference to U.S. plans to unseat Iraqi President Saddam Husein — “is itself completely undemocratic.” “We refuse to stand by watching passively as the U.S. pursues aggressive and racist policies toward the people around us,” Brand’s letter added.

In a May 2003 email to the USC campus newspaper, the Daily Trojan, Brand, who believed that President Bush had greatly exaggerated Saddam’s terrorist connections and genocidal ambitions — said she was “dismayed that so many Americans have been seduced by the Bush Administration’s lies about its reasons behind this war.” Two months later, Brand spoke at a conference at the German Embassy in Beirut, where she denounced the Bush White House for its “propaganda program” and its “systematic disregard for democratic institutions and values.”

In 2004 Brand was elected president of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), a position she held until Michigan University professor Juan Cole succeeded her in 2005.

In October 2004 Brand joined Scholars for a Sensible Foreign Policy, a self-described “nonpartisan group of foreign-affairs specialists,” in signing an open letter condemning the U.S. war effort in Iraq. The letter stated that: (a) “the war in Iraq is the most misguided one since the Vietnam period”; (b) “there is no evidence that Iraq assisted al-Qaida, and its prewar involvement in international terrorism was negligible”; and (c) “even on moral grounds, the case for war was dubious.”

Brand followed this up with a November 2004 address to MESA’s Annual Meeting, titled “Scholarship in the Shadow of Empire,” where she described the Bush Administration’s policies in Iraq as “dismal failures.” Moreover, Brand lauded American university professors who vocally condemned the Iraq War as “embedded patriots.” In that same speech, she asserted that professors had a “special responsibility” to “teach history in a way that enables students better to understand their place in it; political science so as to instruct in the content of the uses and abuses of power; economics to interrogate the reality of the impact of markets, whether free or state-controlled; anthropology and sociology to help portray the complexity and the richness of societies beyond these borders; and language to give access to the dreams and desires of those upon whom America often uncritically projects and inscribes its own.” Central to Brand’s notion of “special responsibility” was a highly critical stance on American policies and actions. “What greater abdication of responsibility,” she asked rhetorically, “as both citizen and scholar, than to remain silent in the face of [American transgressions in] Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and Fallujah?”

In November 2007, Brand delivered a speech titled “Palestine 101” at USC’s “Middle East Awareness Week” activities.

In 2008 the Carnegie Corporation of New York named Brand as a Carnegie Scholar, a title she would hold until 2010. During that period, the Carnegie Scholars Program was focused chiefly on Muslim-related matters, in an effort to “help Americans develop a more complex understanding of … Islam’s rich diversity.”

At a 2008 workshop at USC, Brand condemned the U.S. for what she regarded as its excessive, unsustainable, and counterproductive expenditures on the military: “[T]he United States alone spends more than the next two military spenders in the world – Europe and China.” These expenditures, she argued, were morally intertwined with abuses which the American military had perpetrated around the world: “When was the last time someone talked about the question of torture and the way that torture has been used as part of our external engagements?” Brand asked.

In December 2015, Brand blamed the United States and its foreign policies for the widespread suffering of Syrians and Iraqis in the Middle East. “The U.S. bears a huge responsibility for anything that happens in Iraq,” she said. “By extension, part of what was going on in Syria was the result of the instability and regional developments that came in the aftermath of the [2003] invasion and our occupation of Iraq. So to pretend that it’s someone else’s problem is to ignore that historical context.”

For additional information on Laurie Brand, click here.

Additional Resources:

Further Reading: The Professors (by David Horowitz, 2006); “Laurie Brand” (; “Laurie Brand: The Former Head of MESA … The Scholar as Activist” (History News Network, 11-21-2004); “Scholarship in the Shadow of Empire” (Laurie Brand’s address to MESA, 11-20-2004).

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