Zachary Lockman is a professor of Middle Eastern Studies and History at New York University. In 1983 he received his doctorate at Harvard University and has since served as President of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) and as an editor of the Middle East Report. He is the author and editor of numerous books and articles. Apart from his own radical views, Lockman has drawn scrutiny for supervising the doctoral candidacy of Mohamed Yusri, who was convicted of material aid to terrorism.
Lockman has been part of a movement, initiated by Edward Said, to transform Middle Eastern Studies departments into mouthpieces for anti-Israel and anti-American propaganda. He routinely calls Israel the “Zionist entity” and the “Zionist project,” while referring to Palestinians as the “indigenous people” of the land “occupied” by Israel. Like many of his colleagues, he subscribes to the view that Israel and America, like the old European powers before them, are perpetrators of colonial aggression against the Arab world. Lockman sees their colonial ideologies, moreover, as inseparable from Israel’s present hegemony, declaring at a 2009 ULCA event that “colonialism is Zionism.”
Joel Beinin, a Marxist professor of Middle East history at Stanford University and a former President of MESA, particularly helped to propel Lockman’s early academic career by co-writing with him the 1987 book Workers on the Nile: Nationalism, Communism, Islam, and the Egyptian Working Class, 1882-1954. Together the authors criticize the “the world capitalist system,” “the capitalist mode of production,” and the “reactionary and parasitical class of large landowners.”
In one of his own books, Comrades and Enemies (1996), Lockman interprets the history of Palestinian-Jewish relations through the prism of Marxist ideology, painting an idealized portrait that champions the activism of the Left, both Arab and Jewish, while demonizing “Zionism’s goal” of establishing “a Jewish ‘commonwealth’ in all of Palestine. Regarding the aims of Palestinian socialism, Lockman describes how socialist Jews “vigorously opposed both the Zionist leadership’s demand for Jewish statehood in all of Palestine and any partition, advocating instead the establishment in an undivided Palestine of a binational state in which Arabs and Jews would have political parity regardless of their numbers.” In Lockman’s revisionist history of the Middle East, therefore, socialist activism was a force for justice and equality, while those who followed Zionism had simply re-perpetuated the colonial crimes of the past.
Lockman also applies this neo-Marxist theory to explain how the war on terror emerged in the 21st century. In Contending Visions of the Middle East (2006), Lockman asserts that Israel, like the many colonial powers before it, used the term “terrorism” to control Arab identity:
“As with British, French, and other colonialisms earlier on, official Israeli insistence on depicting the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Palestinian nationalist movement it led as [being] about nothing but terrorism, was a way of deflecting attention from the deeply rooted grievances and aspirations that motivated the Palestinians.”
Lockman especially targets Benjamin Netanyahu as a chief example of how Israeli politicians have created a narrative of terrorism “to win Western support for a hard-line Israeli policy toward Palestinian nationalism and the Arab world by weaving the PLO, Islam, Arab nationalism, Libya, Syria, Iran and Soviet communism into one seamless web of ‘international terrorism.’”
Lockman sees two perspectives in America, one conservative and the other liberal, vying for control of international relations. On one side are the “hard-liners – generally on the right – [who] tended to argue that terrorism perpetuated by Muslims had strong roots in Islam.” For them, Lockman contends, the material reasons for terrorism were irrelevant; terrorists only needed to be “eradicated.” By contrast, those “mainly on the liberal or left side of the political spectrum [have] argued that the problem of terrorism could not be dealt with effectively by purely military or police methods.”
Lockman’s Manichean view of the terror war in which conservatives desire only to kill their enemies and liberals want to understand them exemplifies the ideology that has come to dominate Middle Eastern Studies departments throughout the nation.