Humanism, Scholarship, and Politics: Writing on the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
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This essay discusses the role of the intellectual in writing on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, exploring the relationship between scholarship and politics and the writer’s moral and political responsibility. A personal account based both on the literature and on the author's two decades of experience researching and writing on Palestinian-Israeli issues, the essay addresses three recurring themes—objectivity and partisanship, process, and dissent. In so doing, it challenges the essentialist positions that argue against the role of individual judgment and subjectivity in the conduct of research, especially on politically sensitive issues. The essay addresses the critical tasks of the humanist scholar who writes on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the ways in which scholarship can play both a pedagogical and moral role.

SARA ROY, a senior research scholar at Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, is the author of more than 100 publications on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-development (IPS, 1995, 2001, revised third edition forthcoming). The current essay is adapted from the preface of her latest book, a collection of her selected works, entitled Failing Peace: Gaza and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict (Pluto Press, 2007).

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WHEN I SET OUT to reflect on writing about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, I envisaged an academic examination of the role of scholarship and politics in the presentation of politically charged issues. However, after months absorbed in the literature, I realized that such an examination had already been done, and done exhaustively. [1] The core issue underlying the discussion—the intellectual’s role in society—is an old one with an extensive history of study and debate. There is a great deal of inconsistency, confusion, and ambiguity surrounding the nature and activities of intellectuals, and there is no single accepted definition of what an intellectual is or has to be. Not wanting to stray into a review of the literature or a summarizing report, I decided to combine what I had learned from the literature and from my own two decades of experience working on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict into a more personal reflection on certain themes that have recurred in my work. These themes are objectivity and partisanship, process, and dissent.




There is perhaps no issue in my work that has been more contentious than objectivity and its stated antithesis, partisanship. Given the politically sensitive nature of my research, I have consistently been accused by those who disagree with my analysis of being non objective and lacking balance—that is, of being pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli, a polemicist for the Palestinian “side,” even a self-hating Jew. The attacks often have been personal, impugning my motives, rather than methodological or academic. According to some, the relationship between humanistic scholarship and politics in writing about the Middle East must be based upon some immutable (and to my knowledge, yet to be agreed upon) standard of objectivity, which mandates deference to balance, neutrality, dispassion, even indifference. In the absence of these criteria, the critique maintains, lies advocacy rather than scholarship. This argument lies at the heart of the long debate on intellectual responsibility and how it is exercised.


Yet, a review of the literature reveals something quite different. It reveals an argument that calls for individual judgment and imagination in the conduct of research and exposes the inadequacy of detachment, objectivity, and essentialism as exclusive moral goals. Indeed, it embraces the subjective as an essential component in scholarship, rejecting what Northrop Frye refers to as the “naive ferocity of abstraction.” [2]


The issue of objectivity as a utopia for scholarship is not a given despite current protestations to the contrary. The great philosopher Theodor Adorno argued that truth cannot be found in the aggregate but in the subjective, on the individual’s consciousness, “on what could not be regimented in the totally administered society.” [3] The philosopher Stuart Hampshire echoed a similar sentiment. When writing during the Vietnam War, he decried the subordination of scholarship and critical analysis to society with a capital “S,” which he said is often defined as “some giant boarding school in which we’re all required to prove ourselves as of sound character.” [4] The inevitable result of such intellectual subordination, said Frye, is a dystopia—“a society maimed through the systematic corruption of its intelligence, to the accompaniment of piped music.” [5] Perhaps George Orwell put it best—if not most eloquently—when he wrote that uncritical and unthinking accommodation to the status quo in some false quest for objectivity has the effect of giving “an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” [6]


These writers and many others do not dispute the importance of “detachment,” or a certain degree of it, as what Frye calls a “precondition for knowledge,” but not to the point where one becomes indifferent to consequences and unable to engage in “a range of imaginative sympathy.” [7] For Frye, “indifference is the vice of detachment,” [8] and its only corrective is concern, unrelieved concern, which “has nothing directly to do with the content of knowledge” but which “establishes the human context into which the knowledge fits, and to that extent informs it.” [9]


Commenting on the politics of censorship in American academia, the historian Joan Scott similarly stated:


conflicts of values and ethics, as well as of interpretation, are part of the process of knowledge production; they inform it, drive it, trouble it. The commitments of scholars to ideas of justice, for example, are at the heart of many an important investigation in political theory, philosophy, and history; they cannot be suppressed as irrelevant “opinion.” And because such commitments cannot be separated from scholarship and teaching, there are mechanisms internal to academic life that monitor abuses, distinguishing between serious, responsible work and polemic, between teaching that aims to unsettle received opinion and teaching that is indoctrination. [10]


For Edward Said, the intellectual’s contribution must be a “critical and relatively independent spirit and analysis and judgment . . . But whereas, we are right to bewail the disappearance of a consensus on what constitutes objectivity, we are not by the same token completely adrift in self-indulgent subjectivity.” [11]


Complete detachment and the struggle to achieve it—a struggle informed by “a moral concern that is unstained by any emotion traceable to an origin in personal history” [12]—are ultimately impossible. It is also undesirable, for the “reconciliation of emotion and scientific objectivity need imply no ultimate sacrifice of objectivity.” [13] Again, quoting Hampshire: “My suggestion is rather that committed writing, and committed scholarship in the humanities, is always an imaginative working out of problems that are felt to be urgent, in some external, resisting material. The concern ultimately has its roots in an individual history, but the problem has been displaced and given an objective form.” [14]


If pure objectivity is unattainable and, as argued, undesirable, then to what should the scholar be committed? What should scholarship embrace as its final goal? Again, there is some consensus: the scholar should seek accuracy (or, as some have defined it, a detached point of reference) instead of objectivity, a requirement as essential in the humanistic and social sciences as in the natural sciences. An important corollary of accuracy, of course, is the criticizing function of the intellectual—the critical sense of inquiry that seeks to break down stereotypes and reductive categories, which is the basis of his or her moral authority. This must always precede solidarity, or what Julien Benda referred to as “the organization of collective passions”—national, political, or ideological commitments. No one, in my view, embodies these values more than Noam Chomsky, whose standards of accuracy and morality are unimpeachable.


The intellectual’s moral and political responsibility is a theme that pervades the discourse. It points to the unresolved tension between knowledge and power, between individual reasoning and collective allegiance, between scholarship (with assumed standards of objectivity) and ideology (with none at all?). [15] Given the virtual seamlessness between the public and political realms, can intellectuals ever truly be nonpolitical, and should they be? Edward Said asks whether we as scholars must always depoliticize context, as if we were trying to clear up an infection. He, like others before him (including Benda), argues for the importance of passionate public engagement—the desire for articulation over silence—that is informed by a commitment to principles (notably tolerance) and a willingness to confront those impregnable structures of belief and unmediated assertions that remain unchallenged and undiscussed.


Humanism, writes Said, “should be a form of disclosure, not of secrecy or religious illumination.” [16] And this disclosure is not meant to consolidate and affirm what we have always known. Rather, it is a means of disarming what we have always known by making more information available to critical scrutiny, by presenting alternatives too often marginalized and thereby contesting our comprehension of reality, so long protected and inviolate. The danger lies not in taking a position, but in doing so unthinkingly, mechanically, ritualistically, unconscious of the patterns of tyranny within us. [17]


The need for continuous questioning, demystification, and testimony that are required of humanistic scholarship—particularly as the artificial demands for greater objectivity become more hysterical and irate—reflects certain problems that have always been central to my own experience with the Palestinian- Israeli conflict and writing about Israeli occupation in particular. These include the absence of a more accurate model of occupation; the “absence of a greater sense of abhorrence” (to quote Gabriel Kolko), one based essentially on empathy with the sufferings of Palestinians rather than only Israelis; the ways in which policy—American and Israeli—has numbed or, perhaps more correctly, mutilated our understanding of reality,impoverishing and narrowing our vision; and the seeming impossibility of achieving an undomesticated, let alone commonly accepted, representation of that reality. [18]


The disinterested pursuit of knowledge—that is, objectivity—in writing about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict aims, among other things, to create balance or equity where none in fact exists. Consequently, not only does the process of inquiry become severed from the local realities it is called upon to examine, it has the effect of displacing sustained attention to those realities and their damaging impact, blinding us to what is taking place before our eyes. Instead, the “need” to be objective results in ideological warfare and political gamesmanship where the stronger party, Israel, predominates. Within this paradigm, to borrow from Said, it becomes easy to denigrate, demonize, and dehumanize Palestinians on presumably humanistic grounds.


This points to the kinds of choices intellectuals make when writing on the Palestinian-Israeli issue. Although there are many exceptions, among which I humbly include myself, the propensity is to reflect extant divisions rather than bridge them, to reproduce accepted orthodoxy rather than confront and possibly redirect it, to remain silent rather than articulate a different way of thinking. In this way, the intellectual mainstream can (continue to) define and control the terms by which the conflict is understood and set the boundaries of legitimate (and illegitimate) debate. To disengage from such public identifications or otherwise reject them violates a status quo that has long demanded and assumed our silence.


Intellectual transgressions have seldom gone unpunished. Punishment is typically in the form of an attack against one’s character, motives, or academic rigor (within which the objectivity argument is often couched). I have always found the latter most disturbing, though the easiest to address. Just as there is historical evidence that distinguishes history from legend, so are there natural facts that distinguish political repression and social injustice from polemic. Exposing the mechanisms that govern such repression may not end or even mitigate the attacks, but at least it provides hard data that are difficult if not impossible to assail.


There are two important lessons here I have learned over time, particularly concerning the issue of objectivity. The first is that every individual involved with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, to whatever extent, has a position. Any claim to neutrality, or, for that matter, objectivity, is in my experience nothing more than calculated indifference. In any case, the concern should not be with the position but with how it was formed, how it evolved, and on what it is based. The second lesson is that challenging the consensus in and of itself is insufficient and ineffective; what is important is to do so on rational, methodologically rigorous, and evidentiary grounds, which can be far more powerful—regrettably or otherwise—than any moral argument. As Frye said, “It is fatally easy to name things that are not there.” [19]




The gross lack of objectivity of which I am often accused involves, among other things, the issue of who I represent. The common response, of course, is that I represent the Palestinian side as an advocate or polemicist. This answer reduces years of study, research, and analysis to mere ideological positioning. I have never represented the Palestinian point of view. In the end, I represent only myself and what I believe. Certainly,my commitment is not to neutrality or objectivity, in any event impossible to attain. Neutrality is often a mask for siding with the status quo, while objectivity—pure objectivity at least—does not exist, and claiming it is dishonest. My commitment is to accuracy, to representing the facts to the best of my ability. The commitment, fundamentally, is to be as close to knowledge as possible rather than to truth with a capital “T.”


The really difficult issue for any scholar involves the kinds of problems and questions we choose to address, and our reasons for choosing them: Why do I do what I do, and how is my work constructed? What is my starting point? Why do I look for the material I do? What does it mean to examine a certain problem? What constitutes rational evidence? What is justifiable to include that others exclude? What is a legitimate set of guiding principles on which to base my analysis? What is intolerable for people to think about, and why? Who benefits from my work and who does not? Who is my natural constituency? What does my work reveal about my choices and priorities?


Committing oneself to a given issue forces one to confront the consciousness of what one really is and wishes to be. When intellectuals represent something to their audience, Said argued, they also represent something to themselves. Who I am, what I represent, and the basis of my work are deeply tied to my Holocaust background, which cannot help but transform how I look at the world. The concerns that propel me are rooted in the belief that there is an essential humanity in all people. As a child of Holocaust survivors I have, throughout my life, experienced, insofar as I was capable, the meaning of lives extinguished, futures taken, histories silenced. Although my parents survived the horror and went on to live full and productive lives, they were never again who they once were. There was always within them a reservoir of loneliness, a mournful longing for those they loved so much and lost, that could never be resolved.


One of my greatest struggles, as a child of survivors, is how to remember those who perished. How do we speak of their lives—how do we celebrate those lives—beyond the carnage and destruction? How do we preserve and protect their identity as human beings while grieving for them? The themes of my life have always centered on the loss of humanity and its reclamation, and on its amazing resilience even in the face of unimaginable cruelty. That these themes would extend to my work with Palestinians and Israelis was not random.


Many of the people—Jewish and otherwise—who write about Palestinians fail to accept the fundamental humanity of the people they are writing about, a failing based on ignorance, fear, and racism. The suffering inflicted on Palestinians directly by Israel and indirectly by the larger Jewish (and non-Jewish) community does not affect us or our view of the world. Such willful blindness can cause the destruction of principle and the destruction of people. Hence, if one of my greatest struggles is remembrance, then one of my greatest fears is indifference.Within the Jewish community especially, it has always been unacceptable to claim that Palestinians are like us, that they possess an essential humanity and must be included within our moral boundaries, ceasing to be “a kind of solution,” a useful, hostile “other.” [20] It has been unacceptable to claim that any attempt at separation is artificial, an abstraction.


By refusing to embrace proximity over distance, we find ourselves living in a dissonance borne of fear and uncertainty. As Brian Klug has written, “We do not honor the dead if, in memorializing them, we dishonor the living.” [21] Do we choose to be among “those who memorialize the dead in institutional and liturgical settings,” asks Marc Ellis, “or those who recognize and accompany the victims created in the shadow of the Holocaust?” [22] What is at stake in our continued representation of the other is the loss of our own humanity.


By reflecting on who we are and what we stand for, we are also engaged in a process of self-investigation, of judging and understanding our own behavior from viewpoints not our own. If real detachment is possible and has a role, it is in enabling us to see ourselves as others see us, using what Doris Lessing called the “other eye.” And a critical component of this lies in maintaining a living connection with the people whose problems we are trying to understand, experiencing with them the conditions of their lives, “tak[ing] into account the experience of subordination itself,” [23] making those connections that allow us to “unearth the forgotten” [24] and create linkages too often denied—helping us learn “what to connect with, how, and how not.” [25]


At the core of this needed connection, writes Jacqueline Rose, lies a “plea for peoples, however much history has turned them into enemies, to enter into each other’s predicaments, to make what . . . [is] one of the hardest journeys of the mind.” [26] This was a crucial part of Said’s quest as a humanist and scholar, for it is only with such understanding of the other—especially, perhaps, a shared understanding of suffering and loss—that we can humanize him, allowing us to find and then embrace what joins and not what separates us.


Humanizing the other, who is often perceived as the enemy, is, in my view, a critical task of the humanist scholar. In order to do so, however, one must hold to a universal and single standard of basic human justice (and of seeking knowledge), despite ethnic or national affiliation. There can be no other way. If it is wrong to harm Israelis, then it is just as wrong to harm Palestinians, Rwandans,  or Americans. Anything short of this requires a kind of ethical and intellectual contortion and inconsistency that has no place in humanistic scholarship. A lesson I learned from a very young age from my mother and father was that justice applied selectively is no longer justice but discrimination. Moral ambivalence ceases to be moral and becomes, inevitably, repression. The task, ultimately, of the humanist scholar is to universalize crisis, to give greater human scope to suffering, and “to associate that experience with the sufferings of others.” [27] The challenge is “how to reconcile one’s identity and the actualities of one’s own culture, society, and history to the reality of other identities, cultures, peoples.” [28]


Connor Cruise O’Brien takes the lesson further, arguing that intellectuals must also pay attention to those parts of the world over which their societies have power, looking at their involvement elsewhere and what that involvement has wrought. He writes:


Professor Frye . . . has said that “the only abiding loyalty is one to mankind as a whole.” The principle is surely sound, though the expression in practice of “loyalty to mankind” is extremely difficult, since one’s conception of what is good for mankind is conditioned by one’s own culture, nationality, and class, even when one speaks in terms of transcending such limitations. But if we are to move in the direction of a meaningful loyalty to mankind, the first step must be the realization of moral responsibility in relation to those regions over which our society has power—open economic and partly concealed political power. That is to say, if the intellectual community is going to be moral at all, its morality, whatever form it takes, must concern itself with those great and populous regions which live, to use Graham Greene’s words, “in the shadow of your great country.” On postulates of morality and responsibility, imaginations should be haunted by these regions and their peoples. On the same postulates, intellects should be preoccupied with their problems. [29]


Yet, this is seldom the case. We are not haunted or preoccupied, seldom comparing our behavior to a moral norm. To the contrary, we fight hard for our known beliefs, refusing to change the pattern of our understanding and lacking the courage to confront a history that demands to be retold.




What is the relationship between scholarship and everyday life, between the universal and the local? The scholar’s need for connection that I described above—for experiences actually lived through, for an association with people and their problems—is vital to our comprehension of knowledge. I have always felt that if people “outside” knew, saw, and lived—even in small part—what Palestinians do every day, they would be transformed and the boundaries between them would shift, creating possibilities that for now remain abstract. Thus, if authority’s role is to obfuscate, then the intellectual’s role is to reveal. The intellectual’s role is to challenge the dominant discourse by providing a different way of thinking about a given problem, by introducing a different set of questions, by exercising “criticism in a society of submissive courtiers.” [30] As Edward Shils often argued, the intellectual must be concerned with the “elaboration and development of alternative potentialities.” [31]


Being tied to a continuous and concrete experience in society means seeing realities as having evolved over time. It also means resisting the displacement of those realities into simple and rigid theoretical constructs. It is essential to see things not only as they are, but how they came to be, and to show that they are not inevitable but conditional, the product of human choices that can be changed, even reversed. [32] If my research teaches anything, hopefully it is that—that Palestine’s economic de-development, for example, was not natural but imposed, that the growing violence within Palestinian society is not predetermined or inexorable but the logical and tragic result of unabated oppression. Thus, under the right conditions, these problems can be resolved. By understanding how events occurred and why, they assume a history and rationale that defy static and reductive explanations, allowing, says Said, description (and explanation) to become transformation.


The kind of direct engagement I am calling for, one that situates the present in an unfolding and elaborative past, forces choices on the scholar he or she may be unwilling to make. Perhaps the most difficult choice is between inclusion and exclusion, and their attendant consequences.




Why is it so difficult, even impossible, to accommodate Palestinians in the Jewish understanding of history? Why is there so little perceived need to question our own narrative (for want of a better word) and the one we have given others, preferring instead to embrace beliefs and sentiments that remain inert? Why is it virtually mandatory among Jewish intellectuals to oppose racism, repression, and injustice almost anywhere in the world, but unacceptable— indeed, for some heretical—to oppose it when Israel is the oppressor? For many among us, history and memory appear to preclude reflection and tolerance, where “the enemy become not people to be defeated, but embodiments of an idea to be exterminated.” [33]


“No,” wrote Doris Lessing, “I cannot imagine any nation—or not for long— teaching its citizens to become individuals able to resist group pressures.” [34] Yet, there are always individuals who do. Within the Jewish tradition (but by no means exclusive to it), dissent and argument are old and revered values. They are deeply embedded in Jewish life, be it religious or secular, political or Talmudist, [35] but as in any tradition, they are less valued (and at times vilified) when the dissenter stands against his own group, against what Hannah Arendt called their organic sense of history. Those who challenge the assumptions held so sacred by their group are often disqualified as marginal and traitorous, existing outside the bounds of legitimacy and influence.


For me, being an outsider from within means speaking with an unclaimed voice, beyond what we as a people have been given and educated to see, but very much from within our own tradition. “We belong to something before we are anything,” wrote Frye, “nor does growing in being diminish the link of belonging.” [36] Being a part of the Jewish community does not mean accepting (often uncritically) the social laws that govern us, the self-perception of our members, or the collective “we.” It does mean situating oneself within a cultural value system and choosing ethical consistency over collective engagement, exposure over concealment.


In one of his last works, Edward Said wrote that the “intellectual is perhaps a kind of countermemory, with its own counterdiscourse that will not allow conscience to look away or fall asleep. The best corrective . . . is to imagine the person whom you are discussing—in this case the person on whom the bombs will fall—reading you in your presence.” [37]


How morally tenuous is our condition? Have we become brutal and desensitized? My mother was not shy about saying that we as a people must fight against our own savagery and struggle to maintain our moral center. Having suffered great horrors not only does not assure us of that center, but just as easily can dissolve it. The difference between maintaining our humanity and abandoning it is often slight and ultimately lies in remaining faithful to our ethics rather than to ourselves.




In the end, who we are and what we offer is rooted in the people with whom we have lived our lives. For me, there is no question of my parents’ precedent and impact, especially my mother’s. There are so many stories, memories, and moments I could evoke to describe this woman’s profound example, but I will end this reflection with just two. These stories are from the Holocaust and were told to me not by my mother but by her sister Frania, with whom she survived the war.


One story that my aunt Frania has always insisted on telling me took place when she and my mother were in the Auschwitz concentration camp. She tells: “Whereas I was the stronger in the ghetto and took care of Tobka [my aunt’s name for my mother], your mother helped me survive in Auschwitz. Without her I would have died. She saved me because she hoarded and rationed our food, our few pieces of bread, spreading it out over time so that I had something to eat each day. Had it been up to me, I would have eaten it all at once and starved. Your mother also gave me her bread, sometimes part of it, sometimes all of it, which I ate as I cried. Do you know what this meant, to give up your bread to another under such horrible circumstances? Bread was life. People beat each other for it and some were killed for it. Mothers would steal from children and children from mothers, sisters from sisters and so on. In the midst of all this horror and shame your mother gave me her bread, an act of selflessness that I shall never forget. Of course I love her deeply but there is no person in my life for whom I have more respect and admiration.”


In another story, Frania describes how she and my mother were standing in line outside their barracks in Auschwitz. “I turned to Tobka and said, ‘Let’s start to run and they will shoot us. It will be quick and all of this will be over.” Frania says my mother refused, not out of fear but out of conviction and determination. “There is plenty of time to die,” she said to my aunt, “Let us concentrate on living. If we must die then let them kill us, but we will not kill ourselves.” She then held my aunt by the arms and said, “Whenever we are in a line together you must always stand in front of me, never behind. I will always follow you no matter where you go, even to death. I will not leave you. We shall survive together or we shall die together. You will never be alone.” Each of us is responsible for how we live our lives and the kind of society we want to create. My mother was a remarkable human being, and she left me an equally remarkable legacy, one I have always tried to honor. She and my father both are present in every word I have ever written.




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SARA ROY, a senior research scholar at Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, is the author of more than 100 publications on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-development (IPS, 1995, 2001, revised third edition forthcoming). The current essay is adapted from the preface of her latest book, a collection of her selected works, entitled Failing Peace: Gaza and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict (Pluto Press, 2007).


1. Some fine examples (from which many of the points in this section are drawn) include Edward W. Said, The Word, the Text, and the Critic (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983); Said, Representations of the Intellectual: The 1993 Reith Lectures (New York: Vintage, 1994, 1996); Said, Humanism and Democratic Criticism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004); David Barsamian and Edward W. Said, Culture and Resistance: Conversations with Edward W. Said (Cambridge: South End Press, 2003); Noam Chomsky, Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship (New York: New Press, 1969, 2003); Chomsky, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies (Boston: South End Press, 1989); Max Black, ed., The Morality of Scholarship (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1967); Julien Benda, The Betrayal of the Intellectuals (Boston: Beacon Press, 1928, 1959); Antonio Gramsci, The Prison Notebooks: Selections (New York: International Publishers, 1971); Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977, ed. and trans. by Colin Gordon (New York: Pantheon, 1980); Foucault, The Essential Foucault: Selections from the Essential Works of Foucault 1954–1984, ed. by Paul Rabinow and Nikolas Rose (New York: New Press, 2003); Doris Lessing, Prisons We Choose to Live Inside (New York: HarperCollins, 1987); Edward Shils, The Intellectuals and the Powers and Other Essays (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972); Shils, The Constitution of Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982); Shils, “The Intellectuals and the Powers: Some Perspectives for Comparative Analysis,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 1, no. 1 (Oct. 1958), pp. 5–22; Joseph Ben-David and Terry Nichols Clark, eds., Culture and Its Creators: Essays in Honor of Edward Shils (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977); Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life (London: Verso, 1978); Philip Rieff, ed., On Intellectuals: Theoretical Studies, Case Studies, 1st ed. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1969); Ian Maclean, Alan Montefiore, and Peter Winch, eds., The Political Responsibility of Intellectuals (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Edward W. Said and Christopher Hitchens, eds., Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship and the Palestinian Question (London: Verso, 2001); Tony Judt, The Burden of Responsibility: Blum, Camus, Aron, and the French Twentieth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998); Judt, Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944–1956 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992); and George Orwell, A Collection of Essays (New York: Doubleday Anchor, 1954).


2. Northrop Frye, “The Knowledge of Good and Evil” in Black, ed., The Morality of Scholarship, p. 9.


3. Cited in Said, Representations of the Intellectual, p. 55.


4. Stuart Hampshire, “Commitment and Imagination” in Black, ed., The Morality of Scholarship, p. 32.


5. Cited in Connor Cruise O’Brien, “Politics and the Morality of Scholarship” in Black, ed., The Morality of Scholarship, p. 73.


6. George Orwell, A Collection of Essays, p. 177.


7. Cited in O’Brien, “Politics and the Morality of Scholarship,” p. 68.


8. Frye, “The Knowledge of Good and Evil,” p. 14.


9. Frye, “The Knowledge of Good and Evil,” p. 16.


10. Joan Wallach Scott, interview, “Joan Wallach Scott on Threats to Academic Freedom,” Academe 91, no. 5 (Sept–Oct. 2005), online at


11. Said, Representations of the Intellectual, pp. 86, 98.


12. Hampshire, “Commitment and Imagination,” p. 50.


13. Max Black in Black, ed., The Morality of Scholarship, p. x.


14. Hampshire, “Commitment and Imagination,” p. 50.


15. See Bernard Barber, Intellectual Pursuits: Toward an Understanding of Culture (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998), pp. 109–38, chapter 5, entitled “Cultural Tension and Conflict in the Academy: Scholars and Scientists Versus Ideologists and Reformers.”


16. Said, Humanism and Democratic Criticism, p. 73.


17. See Lessing, “You Are Damned, We Are Saved” in Prisons We Choose, pp. 17–30, especially pp. 25–26.


18. See Gabriel Kolko, “On the Avoidance of Reality” in Richard Falk, Gabriel Kolko, and Robert Jay Lifton, eds., Crimes of War (New York: Random House, 1971), pp. 11–16, where he made similar observations with regard to the Vietnam War.


19. Frye, “The Knowledge of Good and Evil,” pp. 6–7.


20. Edward Said’s favorite poem by Constantine Cavafy, “Waiting for the Barbarians,” says, “they were, those people, a kind of solution.” See Constantine Cavafy, The Collected Poems of C. P. Cavafy: A New Translation, trans. by Aliki Barnstone (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006).


21. Brian Klug, “Holocaust Memorial Day: Recollecting the Point,” Catalyst: Bimonthly Debate and Analysis, 26 January 2006. In this regard, see a powerful essay by Herbert Kelman, “Dignity and Dehumanization: The Impact of the Holocaust on Central Themes of My Work” in Peter Suedfeld, ed., Light from the Ashes: Social Science Careers of Young Holocaust Refugees and Survivors (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001).


22. Marc H. Ellis, Practicing Exile: The Religious Odyssey of an American Jew (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002), p. 59.


23. Said, Representations of the Intellectual, p. 35.


24. Said, Representations of the Intellectual, p. 22.


25. Said, Humanism and Democratic Criticism, p. 78.


26. Jacqueline Rose, “‘Suffering and Injustice Enough for Everyone’—On Empathy and the Complexity of Political Life, Essay in Honor of Edward Said,” Draft, May 2004.


27. Said, Representations of the Intellectual, p. 44.


28. Said, Representations of the Intellectual, p. 94.


29. O’Brien, “Politics and the Morality of Scholarship,” pp. 66–67.


30. Ralf Dahrendorf, “The Intellectual and Society: The Social Function of the ‘Fool’ in the Twentieth Century” in Rieff, ed., On Intellectuals, p. 50.


31. Shils, “The Intellectuals and the Powers,” p. 8.


32. Edward Said spoke of this a great deal.


33. Frye, “The Knowledge of Good and Evil,” p. 14.


34. Lessing, “Group Minds” in Prisons We Choose, p. 62.


35. See Adrienne Rich, “Jewish Days and Nights” in Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon, eds., Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (New York: Grove Press, 2003), p. 159.


36. Frye, “The Knowledge of Good and Evil,” p. 28.


37. Said, Humanism and Democratic Criticism, pp. 142–43.

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