* Professor of Middle East Studies at the University of California, Irvine
* Blames the U.S. and Israel for provoking Islamic terrorism
Born on June 12, 1966, Mark LeVine earned a Ph.D. at New York University’s Department of Middle Eastern Studies in 1999. Since 2001, he has been a Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). He is also an accomplished guitarist. “My scholarship, activism and music,” LeVine explains, “are all tied to my commitment to struggles for social justice in the United States and around the world. I attempt to bring these three fields together through the practice of ‘culture jamming,’ which brings together leading artists, scholars and activists in critical dialog and performance on issues of concern to young people. I have held these culture jams in LA, NYC, Philadelphia, Paris, Rome, Baghdad, Casablanca, Beirut, Cairo, Tunis, Prague and other cities.”
LeVine casts himself as a latter-day Renaissance man. He describes, for example, how he “interviewed senior international political figures, reported from Beirut’s green line, taught the Qur’an to Muslim Brothers, performed from Woodstock to Paris to Damascus Gate, lived next door to Hamas mosques, stood against bulldozers, dodged terrorist bombs, and uncovered damning files in dusty archives.” He professes to know “the history, politics, religions — and most important, the peoples — of the region as a friend, but with a highly critical eye.” LeVine also claims a “long history of blending art, scholarship and activism,” and claims to be “uniquely positioned to offer such analysis in a manner that will be especially appreciated by members of generations X and Y.”
LeVine has performed musically with such luminaries as Mick Jagger, Johnny Copeland, Chuck D, Albert Collins, and Ben E. King. He considers himself, with his long blond hair and rock persona, a “disgruntled ex-hippie” who renounced his Jewish faith in his late teens after — as he puts it — witnessing his father’s death as well as “a lot of suffering and injustice.”
LeVine’s worldview encompasses a quasi-communist utopia, a classless future as envisioned by Marx, where all racial, nationalist, and cultural identities are dissolved. To bring this socialist millennia to fruition, LeVine claims, it is necessary to “dig beyond the easy symbolism of ‘freedom,’ ‘democracy,’ ‘Zionism equals racism,’ and other mantras and challenge a matrix of discourses — modernity, colonialism, capitalism and nationalism; what I call the ‘modernity matrix’ — that are each based on the creation of zero-sum oppositions between (individual or collective) Selves and Others, us and them, and which together have supported a five-hundred-year-old world system that supports slavery in the Sudan and Mauritania and IMF bailouts, organized terrorism and ‘le peuple du Seattle’ alike.”
In LeVine’s view, there is one principal cause of global evil — capitalism. His distillation of virtually every global conflict to issues of money and power — or what he calls the “modernity matrix” — and his mitigation of or disregard for other salient factors, reflects the thought of Marx, Engels, and other communist thinkers.
LeVine views globalization, capitalism, and all forms of nationalism as forces of evil that inevitably promote war and misery. “What I am is anti-nationalist,” LeVine told the Orange County Register. “Each nation has an exclusive identity, and that’s been an abysmal failure. They need to imagine an identity that isn’t dependent upon excluding the other.”
“Most Americans have never experienced globalization physically, materially, and spiritually, in the way that the majority of citizens of the developing–and especially Muslim–world have felt its effects. Globalization’s consequences for Muslims–massive politically and economically motivated population migrations, economic marginalization of the Muslim world, and intense cultural penetration and even military occupation by the forces of globalization in their home countries–all have created a potentially poisonous brew of alienation and rootlessness that groups like Al Qaeda expertly exploit to recruit.”
LeVine further claimed that in bombing London, al-Qaeda was merely adopting and copying corporate America’s longstanding tradition of enhancing its own “brand”: “As a brand with its own ‘lifestyle’ and image attached to it, Al Qaeda is using the strategy developed by many of the biggest corporations in the global era. While in the 20th century, major industrial corporations such as General Motors or General Electric actually made the products they sold in their own factories, today, global corporations such as Nike or Microsoft are primarily brand-producers, engaging in research and development of products that are manufactured by others (mostly subcontractors in the developing world).”
“[W]ar and occupation,” LeVine wrote in 2005, “are wonderful opportunities for corporations to make billions of dollars in profits, unchecked by the laws and regulations that hamper their profitability in peace time … Because of this, in the postmodern global era, global corporations and the government elites with whom they work have great incentive to sponsor global chaos and the violence it generates.”
Levine’s contempt for capitalism squares perfectly with his hatred for America, which he has frequently denounced as a “criminal nation.” Four days after 9/11, for instance, he called upon Americans “to engage in the honest introspection of what our role has been in generating the kind of hatred that turns commuter jets into cruise missiles.” For LeVine, Osama bin Laden‘s aggression derived not from Islamic ideologies, but from American political dominance and globalization in the Middle East. “Without both an acceptance of responsibility for past policy and the transformation of future policy toward the Islamic regions of our planet, there will be no solution to terrorism, only continued violence and war,” wrote Levine.
When the United Nations Development Program and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development released their 2002 Arab Human Development Report, a devastating account of the failures of the Arab world, LeVine criticized the Western media for their enthusiastic acceptance of its chief premise, which was to hold Arab states accountable for their social and economic plight instead of blaming the United States and Israel. For LeVine, the report was an inherently flawed document because it failed to address the external “issues of money and power” that allegedly prevented Arabs from instituting substantive reform and achieving economic prosperity.
LeVine clearly articulated his core belief in America’s irredeemable guilt when he wrote in 2003: “It is time for the United States to declare a truce with the Muslim world, and [with] radical Islam in particular.”
Viewing the conflict between the U.S. and the Arab world almost exclusively in terms of money and class, LeVine claimed that America had invaded Iraq solely for oil and power in 2003. He could not envisage that Saddam Hussein‘s long history of murder and terrorism might have accounted, at least in part, for America’s invasion. Rather, LeVine wrote in 2005: “[I]n the postmodern global era, global corporations and the government elites with whom they work have great incentive to sponsor global chaos and the violence it generates.” In a similar vein, LeVine asked in a blog entry: “[C]an Wall Streeters get big enough bonuses to buy Ferraris unless the companies they cover are crushing poor third world farmers and workers? And would the multinational food conglomerates be crushing poor farmers if it wasn’t for the myopic, exclusive focus on monetary profits by Wall Street which drives so many corporations to view their bottom line in the most Hobbsian [sic] terms possible?”
To register his profound opposition to America’s involvement in the Iraq War, LeVine became an advisory board member to Iraq Occupation Watch, an organization created in 2004 (by Medea Benjamin and Leslie Cagan) to incite American soldiers in Iraq to request “conscientious objector” status and leave their posts.
Condemning America’s actions in the Iraq War, LeVine in July 2008 wrote in AlJazeera.com: “While the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis – for which Bush, and along with him, the American people who twice elected him, are responsible – is tragic, it should not be understated that the invasion itself was a crime against humanity. The war and invasion were in clear breach of the UN charter, which prohibits invading other countries except when an attack on one’s sovereign territory is about to occur or has just occurred. Add to that US torturing of prisoners, illegal secret renditions, and a host of other human rights abuses, and you have a long list of … war crimes and other violations of U.S. law.”
LeVine invited Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Ibrahim Al-Houdaiby (of Egypt) to speak to his class on October 8, 2008. UCI adjunct professor Gary Fouse, who was in attendance that day, described the event as follows: “Mr. Al-Houdaiby’s theme was that the Muslim Brotherhood opposes violence, condemned 9-11, is trying to achieve understanding with the West, and is trying to bring democratic reform to Egypt.”
LeVine’s contempt for the U.S. is mirrored by his equal measure of disdain for America’s closest Middle Eastern ally, Israel. In an April 3, 2002 article, he issued a call for a “massive influx of activists ready to put their bodies on the line” by stepping into harm’s way to “challenge the [Israeli] terror of tanks and suicide bombers alike” and thereby “create the space in which Israeli and Palestinian activists…can challenge and inspire their peoples toward a future of peace and reconciliation.” In 2003, LeVine wrote an article again exhorting activists to put “their bodies on the line for real peace and justice between Palestinians and Israelis.”
When an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) bulldozer inadvertently killed pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie in 2004 as she tried to prevent it from destroying a tunnel used for weapons smuggling, Professor LeVine praised the young woman’s “spirit and courage” and extolled the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a pro-terrorist organization which had recruited Corrie to her fatal occupation. “As America’s war on Iraq grows bloodier, we would do well to reflect on the meaning of Rachel’s life and death, and the powerful message of the International Solidarity Movement,” LeVine wrote at the time. “She and the other human shields, like their colleagues in Iraq, are true soldiers of peace.”
In 2005, LeVine said that author Tzvi Kahn’s description of the ISM as a terror-supporting organization was “utter rubbish.”
That same year, LeVine characterized Israel as a “belligerent,” “autocratic,” and “violent” “occupying power” that bore “primary responsibility for the continued conflict” in the Middle East. He likewise wrote that the Arab intifada in Israel was an understandable response to the “occupation, discrimination and dispossession” perpetrated by the Jewish state.
LeVine has also accused Israel of conducting a “slave trade.” Indeed, one of his graduate students once composed an entire dissertation devoted to that theme under LeVine’s careful direction.
Over the years, LeVine has organized many Israel-bashing “scholarly conferences” on the UCI campus — events described by former UCI professor Steven Plaut as “anti-Israel indoctrination camps” where “no dissident pro-Israel opinion may be expressed.” Among the Israelis who have participated in “panels” at these conferences were the geographer Oren Yiftachel, a zealous anti-Zionist from Ben Gurion University, best known for condemning Israeli “apartheid,” and Yoav Peled, a Stalinist professor of political science from Tel Aviv University.
“The argument that this is a purely defensive war, launched only after Hamas broke a five-month old ceasefire,[…] is losing credibility…. The claim that Hamas will never accept the existence of Israel has proved equally misinformed…. The claim that Israeli forces have gone out of their way to diminish civilian casualties, long a center piece of Israel’s self-image as an enlightened and moral democracy even during war, are falling apart with each new family, 10, 20, and 30 strong, buried under the rubble of a building in Gaza.”
On December 27, 2009, AlJazeera.com published a LeVine article in which the author wrote: “Israelis are clearly incapable. Their addiction as a society to the illusion of violence-as-power has reached the level of collective mental illness.”
LeVine has consistently defended the extremist behavior of UC Irvine’s Muslim Student Union (MSU), including a February 2010 event where MSU members repeatedly shouted down Israeli ambassador Michael Oren, calling him a murderer and a war criminal. LeVine benignly described the incident as a “teachable moment.”
In a 2010 Al-Jazeera.com op-ed, LeVine portrayed the Turkish terrorist supporters who had recently been killed by Israeli commandos aboard one of the Free Gaza Movement‘s flotilla ships, as “martyrs,” “heroes,” and “warriors every bit as deserving of our tears and support as the soldiers of American wars past and present.” (For details of that violent confrontation, click here.)
In August 2014, LeVine signed a letter calling on Middle East Studies scholars and librarians to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Accordingly, at the annual Middle East Studies Association convention three months later, MESA members voted overwhelmingly in favor a resolution setting the stage for the Association to embrace the Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions (BDS) movement — a Hamas-inspired initiative designed to cripple and destroy Israel economically — in 2015. To view a comprehensive list of the letter’s signatories, click here.
In a December 2014 Facebook post, LeVine condemned Cary Nelson, a University of Illinois professor, past president of the American Association of University Professors, and an outspoken opponent of BDS. Wrote LeVine:
“[P]eople like Carey Nelson and other ‘machers’ [Yiddish for a self-important person] in the American Jewish community get up in arms about BDS. Well, Cary Nelson and the rest of you: F— you. Call me uncivil, but still, f— you. F— all of you who want to make arguments about civility and how Israel wants peace when this is what Israel does, it’s ‘mowing the lawn’ and ‘defending’ freedom. This is, in no uncertain terms, genocide. If you want to argue about it, come to Gaza with me. Come look at Palestinians in the eye … There is only one criticism of Israel that is relevant: It is a state grown, funded, and feeding off the destruction of another people. It is not legitimate. It must be dismantled, the same way that the other racist, psychopathic states across the region must be dismantled. And everyone who enables it is morally complicit in its crimes, including you.”
In 2014 as well, LeVine in a Facebook post bluntly called for the dismantlement of Israel: “F— all of you who want to make arguments about civility and how Israel wants peace…There is only one criticism of Israel that is relevant: It is a state grown, funded, and feeding off the destruction of another people. It is not legitimate. It must be dismantled, the same way that the other racist, psychopathic states across the region must be dismantled. And everyone who enables it is morally complicit in its crimes, including you.”
In 2015 LeVine wrote on his Facebook page: “F— the occupation. 50 years is enough.”
In a similar spirit, Levine wrote a June 2015 commentary in Jewish Journal advocating for the end of Israel as a Jewish state:
“[I]t’s clear that the Israeli state and the majority of the people are not willing to give Palestinians any kind of independence and want to maintain and permanentize [sic] the Occupation…. [T]he vast majority of supporters of BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions], including the rapidly growing number of Jewish and Israeli supporters, oppose not merely Israeli policy but the Isareli [sic] state as its [sic] presently conceived of and acts–as an ethnocratic, exclusivist state built upon decades of occupation and no willingness to relinquish these claims.
“I want to ‘undo the events of 1948,’ but not because I hate Israel or am anti-Semitic. Rather, it’s because I stay true to the Prophetic Judaism that has always been the core of my identity and the ideals of human rights and democracy for all that they demand. There are many alternatives to the present Israeli political system–confederation, parallel states, binationalism. Advocating for them, and even for the end of a Zionist state cannot be equated with anti-Semitism.”
On October 12, 2015, LeVine posted onto his Facebook page a photo of a small Palestinian child approaching Israeli soldiers to throw rocks at them. “If I was Palestinian, my son would be there,” LeVine commented.
In an effort to promote the BDS campaign against Israel, LeVine in April 2016 wrote a long letter attempting to pressure the famed musician Carlos Santana to cancel a concert he was scheduled to perform there. The very next week, LeVine wrote another letter expressing his “strong concern and anger” vis-a-vis the University of California’s chancellors’ decision to condemn a proposed academic boycott of Israel.
On July 17, 2016, AlJazeera.com published an article in which LeVine falsely accused Israeli leadership of “brazenly” cutting off the supply of drinking water to Palestinians during the month of Ramadan “without a care in the world.”
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