Lori A. Allen, who earned a PhD in anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2005, spent some time during her graduate-school years residing in the West Bank in order to observe and study the Middle East conflict first-hand. As part of her research, she wrote a 1999 piece entitled “Discipline, Punishment and Position Abuse: The Case of Palestinians under Israeli Torture.” Like virtually all of Allen’s writings on this subject, the article mostly blamed Israeli transgressions for the ongoing strife in the region.
In a 2002 article which she wrote for the Middle East Report, Allen characterized the Second Palestinian Intifada, which was in high gear at that time, as a mostly nonviolent movement that the media were misrepresenting as bloody and brutal. “Contrary to the claim that ‘the concept of non-violence was totally foreign to the Palestinians’,” she said, “civil disobedience and other non-violent methods of protest have been cornerstones of the resistance to [Israeli] occupation…. [T]he armed actions carried out by Palestinians over the past two years have been minor compared to the many other mundane acts of resistance [such as] strikes, sit-ins and marches … organized regularly throughout the Palestinian territories.” And whatever Palestinian violence there was, Allen added, was largely a result of the fact that “Israel’s brutal excesses” had “severely eroded [Palestinians’] faith in the efficacy of nonviolent strategies.”
After completing her PhD studies, Allen was awarded postdoctoral fellowships at Brown University’s Pembroke Center and at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. From 2007-13, she was a Lecturer of Contemporary Middle Eastern Politics and Society at the University of Cambridge. And in 2011 she served as a Fellow at King’s College in London.
In 2008 Allen published an article titled “Getting By The Occupation: How Violence Became Normal During The Second Palestinian Intifada,” in the journal Cultural Anthropology. Lamenting that in recent years “more than 4,600 Palestinians have been killed as a result of Israeli actions,” the piece failed to put Israel’s military initiatives in their proper context as responses to a relentless wave of Palestinian terrorist attacks. In the same vein, Allen wrote that during the Second Intifada’s early years in particular, Israeli “checkpoints and roadblocks appeared and were moved without notice or predictability”; “the gates in the separation barrier Israeli is building around and through West Bank lands were closed and opened on an uncertain schedule”; “missiles and gunfire rained from the sky and neighboring Israeli settlements”; Israeli “bulldozers uprooted olive groves and destroyed houses”; “Israeli snipers hid on rooftops and jeeps circled through the towns enforcing curfews and arresting young men”; and “Palestinian cultural centers and government ministries were ransacked and defiled.” Moreover, Allen complained that Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield—a 2002 military operation in the West Bank—had “caused an estimated $342 million in material damage.” Yet she made no mention of nearly 300 Israelis who had been murdered by Palestinian terrorists (mostly from the West Bank) during the preceding 18 months.
Such biased historical narratives by Allen once prompted Middle East expert Martin Kramer to observe that “Allen’s projects are textbook cases of how to disguise agitprop as scholarship.” Allen’s anti-Israel orientation continues to this day, as she is active in the Hamas-inspired Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
In January 2011 Allen was a signatory, along with more than 150 fellow college and university professors, to “An Open Letter to Barack Obama,” exhorting the president to back the efforts of Arab Spring protesters in Egypt to overthrow their longtime pro-American, pro-Israeli president, Hosni Mubarak. Specifically, Allen and her fellow academics urged Obama to “move beyond rhetoric to support the democratic movement sweeping over Egypt,” where, “[f]or thirty years, our government has spent billions of dollars to help build and sustain the system the Egyptian people are now trying to dismantle.” “Mubarak should resign from office and allow Egyptians to establish a new government free of his and his family’s influence,” the letter added, asking Obama to “undertake a comprehensive review of U.S. foreign policy on the major grievances voiced by the democratic opposition in Egypt and all other societies of the region.” Other notable signers of this letter included Joel Beinin, Noam Chomsky, and Hamid Dabashi. When President Mubarak was ultimately driven from office, he was replaced by Mohammed Morsi, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In 2013 Allen published her first book, The Rise and Fall of Human Rights: Cynicism and Politics in Occupied Palestine. That same year, she took a position as a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study (SOAS), where her work continues to focus on Palestinian politics and what Allen describes as “the problems of hegemony, and what allows and prompts people to oppose domination.”
In addition to her academic and literary pursuits, Allen is also a founding member of the Task Force on Middle East Anthropology, a member of the Middle East Studies Association‘s Committee on Academic Freedom, and an emerita Editorial Committee member for Middle East Report.
Further Reading: “Lori Allen” (TheConversation.com and Crassh.cam); “Palestinians Debate ‘Polite’ Resistance to Occupation” (Lori Allen, 2002); “Al-Aqsa Intifada” (Jewish Virtual Library); “Getting by the Occupation: How Violence Became Normal During the Second Palestinian Intifada” (Lori Allen, August 2008); “The Academic Intifada” (Martin Kramer, 11-21-2005); “Operation Defensive Shield” (Jewish Virtual Library); “An Open Letter to Barack Obama” (Lori Allen, et al, 1-30-2011).