Martin Kramer defends Bernard Lewis against the charge of being “the last Orientalist.”(Revised June 11,2018)

Prof. Kramer defense of Bernard Lewis, is couched in the denial that he was the ‘last Orientalist‘, should not surprise the reader, as Bernard Lewis was Prof. Kramer’s thesis director.

Kramer began his undergraduate degree under Itamar Rabinovich in Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University and completed his B.A. in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University. He earned his Ph.D. at Princeton as well, under Fouad Ajami, L. Carl Brown, the late Charles Issawi, and Bernard Lewis, who directed his thesis. He also received a History M.A. from Columbia University.[1]

Kramer earned his undergraduate and doctoral degrees in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University, where he prepared his thesis under the supervision of Bernard Lewis. He then spent twenty-five years at Tel Aviv University, where he directed the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies. Kramer has taught as a visiting professor at Brandeis University, the University of Chicago, Cornell University, Georgetown University, and The Johns Hopkins University (SAIS). He has also served as a visiting fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington and Harvard University’s Olin Institute for Strategic Studies.

Kramer was an early advocate of attacking Saddam Hussein in the wake of 9/11, arguing in December 2001 that regardless of a possible involvement, he posed a threat to the entire Middle East.[3] However, he was critical of the shifting rationale for the war in October 2002, questioning the United States’ “tools of social engineering” needed to promote an eventual democracy process in the Arab world.[4]

He was a senior policy adviser on the Middle East to the Rudy Giuliani Presidential Campaign in 2007.[5]

The fact that Prof Kramer was ‘senior policy adviser‘ to Rudy Giuliani is indicative of his politics. But his visiting fellowship at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy can leave no doubt that Prof Kramer is a Neo-Conservative. And that Lewis was one of an  Orientalist Vanguard that provided the Neo-Conservatives with the rationalizations that legitimized their bellicose  imperial ambitions. The Washington Institute was the political offspring of AIPAC only confirms Prof. Kramer’s Neo-Conservatism.

Steve J. Rosen and others at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) created the Washington Institute in 1985 to draw from the experience and scholarship of academics and former high-level government officials.[5] The Institute would “focus on cutting-edge research on regional issues that were not being addressed comprehensively by existing organizations.”[1]

Martin Indyk, an Australian-trained academic and former deputy director of research for AIPAC, helped found WINEP in 1985. Indyk sought to produce nonpartisan scholarship and disinterested assessments on the Middle East; he saw the institute as “friendly to Israel but doing credible research on the Middle East in a realistic and balanced way.”[6] The research was thus designed to be more independent and academic-quality.[7] At the time it was founded, the Institute focused research on Arab–Israeli relations, political and security issues, and overall U.S. Middle East policy.[1] In the 1990s, prompted by the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Persian Gulf War, and changes in regional strategy, the Institute expanded its research agenda to “focus on Turkey and the rise of Islamic politics.”[1] Under Indyk’s leadership, the institute gained notability as a center for the study and discussion of Middle East policy, and attracted Arab intellectuals to its events.[8] Indyk would go on to serve in several U.S. diplomatic posts including U.S. ambassador to Israel, special envoy for Israeli–Palestinian negotiations, special assistant to President Clinton and senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs at the National Security Council and assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. Indyk is currently vice president and director of the Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.[9]

Another question that might be asked: why would Kramer frame his defense of Lewis in a rhetorical frame of ‘last Orientalist’ as Orientalism was the title of  Edward Said book? Here is a review in the May 9, 2008 Times Literary Supplement of Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism by Ibn Warraq and Reading Orientalism: Said and the Unsaid (Publications on the Near East) by Daniel Martin Varisco. A screen shot of the review in question and a link, behind a pay wall:

Didn’t the interventions  of Warraq, Varisco and Irwin’s equivocating about Said’s book,   check the potency of the idea of Orientalism as an invention of Said’s act of historical/literary incompetence tinctured in mendacity? Or should this duo of Said’s critics published in 2oo7 , and reviewed in the TLS  of 2008, of a book published in 1978, be judged as what? Yet even in the year  2018, Prof. Kramer’s imperative is to deny that his mentor,  and ersatz hero, Bernard Lewis in not the Last Orientalist.  Prof. Irwin, in this paragraph of his review, provides some valuable insights about Prof. Kramer’s personal loyalties and his politics:

KramerDefendsLewisTLSMay092017June 112018

American Writer





About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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