Cinnamon Stillwell

I’m the West Coast Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum that focuses on Middle East studies. I was a political columnist for SFGate.com (San Francisco Chronicle online) from 2004-2008. I've written for the American Thinker, Frontpage Magazine, Family Security Matters, Accuracy In Media, Newsbusters, Israel National News, The Jewish Policy Center, J-The Jewish News Weekly of N. CA, Intellectual Conservative and many others. More info at CinnamonStillwell.com.

Friday, December 05, 2008

R.I.P. Dan Kliman

Earlier this week, I was shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Dan Kliman, 38, who was a founding member of San Francisco Voice for Israel (SFV4I). I knew Dan from my days as a Bay Area pro-America, pro-Israel grassroots activist, which included a year-long stint with SFV4I. Alongside Dan, other SFV4I members, and members of Protest Warrior, I counter-protested the local Israel-haters on many an occasion and it became an integral part of my political education. (Read some of my after-reports here, here, and here).

Dan was dedicated, passionate, and very in-your-face, both as an outspoken Zionist and a gay activist. Indeed, his proud defense of Israel as the lone haven for gays in the Middle East was a wonderful contrast to the confusion of groups such as Queers for Palestine (now ludicrously known as QUIT or Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism). To make his point, Dan would often hold aloft an Israeli flag and a rainbow flag side-by-side, no doubt causing great cognitive dissonance on the other side. Between Dan and my staunchly pro-Israel, Palestinian-American friend Gus, we helped prove that being pro-Israel need not spring from one's creed nor political affiliation.

The suspicious circumstances surrounding Dan's death (he allegedly fell into an out-of-use elevator shaft in the building where he was taking Arabic classes) are difficult to ignore, particularly since he was a man who did not shy away from making enemies. And among them, no doubt, were those who hated him for being an unapologetic Jewish Zionist. However, the SFPD are maintaining that it was an accident, so for now, we'll have to take a wait and see approach. (Go to Zomblog for a round-up of links on the case and a photo tribute).

Whatever the case, Dan Kliman will be sorely missed. May he rest in peace.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Rashid Khalidi, Campus Watch & Middle East Studies

In an article appearing in the Winter 2008 issue of the Jewish Policy Center magazine inFocus, I take a look at the radical past and propagandistic career of Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi. Other examples of Middle East studies academics with radical assocations or sympathies come into play, as well as Campus Watch's role in shedding light on these important issues. Here are the opening paragraphs:
For a brief time during the 2008 presidential campaign, Columbia University's Edward Said professor of Arab studies Rashid Khalidi was the most famous Middle East studies academic in the country. Khalidi's relationship with now president-elect Barack Obama brought him national attention and unprecedented media scrutiny. At the heart of the controversy was Khalidi's role as a spokesman for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) when he lived in Beirut in the late 1970s and early 1980s. During those years, the PLO was listed by the State Department as a designated foreign terrorist organization.

But this was not the first time that Khalidi's PLO past had come back to haunt him. In 2004, Campus Watch (campus-watch.org), a project of the Middle East Forum, broke the story with a Washington Times article by Asaf Romirowsky and Jonathan Calt Harris titled, "Arafat Minion as Professor." Among other indicators, the authors pointed to a June 9, 1982, Thomas L. Friedman column in the New York Times describing Khalidi as "a director of the Palestinian press agency." Adding further confirmation, Middle East studies historian Martin Kramer, who has written extensively about Khalidi, recently augmented the compendium of attributions linking him to the PLO.

Propaganda As Scholarship

One need only examine Khalidi's history of anti-Israel and anti-American rhetoric to perceive his ideological underpinnings, something that Campus Watch has been doing since its inception in 2002. Given its mission statement of "reviewing and critiquing Middle East studies in North America with an aim to improving them," Campus Watch has consistently pointed to Khalidi as an example of the politicization and apologia that has compromised the field. As far back as 1986, Daniel Pipes, who would go on to found both the Middle East Forum and Campus Watch, reviewed Khalidi's book, Under Siege: P.L.O. Decisionmaking During the 1982 War, and noted its transparent partisanship. As he put it, "Under Siege is propaganda parading as scholarship."
Continue reading "Rashid Khalidi, Campus Watch & Middle East Studies"

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

To Ban a Book: The Fuss Over "Jewel of Medina"

My colleague, Campus Watch director Winfield Myers, has an article at Frontpage Magazine today examining the unnecessary controversy surrounding The Jewel of Medina, thanks in large part to University of Texas Middle East studies professor Denise Spellberg. Here are the opening paragraphs:
Political correctness is at its most parodic precisely when it seems beyond parody. The latest bit of history to support this adage is the Middle East studies establishment's reception of Sherry Jones's novel The Jewel of Medina (Jewel), a life of Aisha, the favorite wife of Muhammad. As Robert Spencer writes in his review of Jewel for the Winter 2009 issue of the Middle East Quarterly, Jones set out to "be a bridge-builder" who chose her historical sources selectively to ensure that her work would present a flattering picture of her subjects.

Enter Denise Spellberg, who teaches Islamic history at the University of Texas. She heard of Jewel pre-publication because Jones, in her naiveté, asked her then-publisher Ballantine, an imprint of Random House, to obtain an endorsement from Spellberg to splay across the back of the dust jacket. Spellberg is author of Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: The Legacy of Aisha bint Abi Bakr, which Jones cites as one of her sources. She is, in addition, a typical practitioner of the blatant bias toward things Muslim and, more particularly, Arab that has become almost ubiquitous among practitioners of Middle East studies. Put simply but accurately, this means that things Arab/Muslim = good; things American/Western = bad. Under this regime, dispassionate, fair-minded research that takes a critical look at the Middle East is more likely to be rewarded with professional ostracism than advancement.
Continue reading "To Ban a Book"