- Professor of Middle East Studies at the University of California, Irvine
- Blames the U.S. and Israel for provoking Islamic terrorism
Mark LeVine, who earned a Ph.D. at New York University’s Department of Middle Eastern Studies in 1999, is a radical activist and guitar-playing Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine. His academic website explains: “My scholarship, activism and music are all tied to my commitment to struggles for social justice in the United States and around the world.”
Levine is 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. He is known for his frequent anti-American and anti-Israel diatribes that depict Washington and Jerusalem as aggressors in a war against Islam.
Professor Levine has performed musically with 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.” An antiwar activist who frequently guest-stars at “peace” rallies, LeVine views globalization, capitalism, and any form of nationalism — particularly American and Israeli nationalism — as forces of evil that 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.”
On his website, Levine casts himself as a latter-day Renaissance man. He describes 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 professes to be “uniquely positioned to offer such analysis in a manner that will be especially appreciated by members of generations X and Y.”
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, he 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 only one cause of global evil — capitalism.
When the United Nations Development Program and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development released the Arab Human Development Report 2002, a devastating account of the failures of the Arab world, written by Arab intellectuals, Professor LeVine criticized the Western media for their enthusiastic acceptance of its chief premise, which was to hold Arab states accountable for their 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 prevent Arabs from instituting substantive reform. It is the capitalist West, according to LeVine, that is responsible for the Arab world’s inability to create economic prosperity.
When an Israeli Defense Forces bulldozer inadvertently killed pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie as she tried to prevent it from destroying a tunnel used for weapons smuggling, Professor LeVine praised her “spirit and courage” and extolled the International Solidarity Movement, 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.”
Israel, says Levine, “as the occupying power bears primary responsibility for the continued conflict,” and constitutes a “belligerent,” “autocratic,” and “violent” regime that should receive no funding from the West.
Professor LeVine’s view of the War on Terror boils down to a single point: if Islamic terrorists harbor murderous rage against America (which Levine calls “a criminal nation that must be stopped”) and Israel, then America and Israel are responsible for that fury. The causes of terrorism are capitalism and American and Israeli imperialism, and have nothing to do with social and religious issues within Islam: “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.”
“[W]ar and occupation,” Professor LeVine writes, “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.”
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 (MESA) convention three months later, members voted overwhelmingly in favor a resolution that sets the stage for MESA to adopt BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) in 2015. To view a comprehensive list of this letter’s signatories, click here.
In a December 2014 rant on Facebook, Levine condemned Cary Nelson, a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) 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 [boycott, divestment, sanctions]. 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 addition to his professorial duties, Levine is also a blogger for the Huffington Post.