The Playgoer: Weiss on "Sharon/Herzl"

Custom Search

Monday, June 19, 2006

Weiss on "Sharon/Herzl"

I unfortunately was unable to go the Epic Theatre Center reading last week of my friend David Zellnik's play Ariel Sharon Stands at the Temple Mount and Dreams of Theodor Herzl, but mideast expert journalist/blogger Phil Weiss did and gives an intriguing glimpse.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Weiss is a good journalist -- but "mideast expert" is a designation I think he, himself, would regard as an exaggeration. As he said himself in his Nation piece on MNIRC, he is new to the subject. This is not to take away from his work -- it's been great. But just to be accurate. No need for hyperbole.

Philip Munger said...

anonymous is correct in this, but so few journalists who deal with the arts bother to get to know even as much as Weiss has learned on this subject, that, compared to his colleagues, he is an "expert."

Anonymous said...

Fair point, PM. But there are some arts/culture writers who do have expertise in the area built up over many years -- Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, Alisa Solomon, Esther Kaplan, Ella Shohat to name a few. But they don't get the story assignments anywhere. (Are they too radical? Too female? Okay, maybe in Shohat's case, more an academic than journalistic writer, but still . . . ) I think Phil Weiss is doing a great job and I hope he keeps it up for a long time -- nothing to take away from that. I only wish that even one of these women could get a regular perch at a place like the Observer or the Nation. I find it astonishing that no publication got Solomon to write for them on the MNIRC fiasco, for example -- a bona fide theater critic/journalist with longstanding expertise on Israel/Palestine. I would like to have seen more publications run more thoughtful pieces. One good piece in the Nation does not suffice. I guess it's not just our theaters that avoid thoughtful discussions of provocative issues from progressive perspectives. . .

Philip Munger said...

I hadn't thought about the "too female' angle on somebody like Alisa Solomon being overlooked back in March and April. You're right - she's well informed and very articulate, but passionate, which emotion the media was only accepting from Jews on the Zionist side of the story they (the media editors) hoped to control and quietly escort away from public view. Sorry to say, I'm unfamiliar with Kaye/Kantrowitz and Shohat, but I'll google their names and learn.

freespeechlover said...

you're all correct. And I do think that women have played very interesting political roles on both sides of the aisle in the MNIRC fiasco.

Weiss is great, because his voice lends legitimacy to points of view like those expressed here. He has written for the Nation and he comes with credentials. He doesn't have to be a Middle East expert, since there frankly aren't many real experts in the U.S., even inside the "liberal" academy. When it comes to the ME, the U.S. has bizarrely low standards for the media and ridiculously few Arabic speaking experts in academia who aren't somehow connected to AIPAC, various anti-Palestinian think tanks, the U.S. State Department and various "committees" revolving around it, etc.

So, yes, Weiss has gotten up to speed not only quickly but in a country where there are precious few experts who aren't on the dole to the U.S. policy money trail.

Anonymous said...

FSL is right about the right-wing think tanks and their grip on academia -- witness the groundless Congressional attacks on Middle East Studies by the liks of Kramer and Pipes a couple of years ago (which has not really let up). But please don't overlook or erase the many good ME scholars who do know Arabic (and often, also Hebrew) and are not beholden to AIPAC or other right-wingers and who are doing important work, often against serious odds: Zachary Lochman, Ella Shohat, Mark LeVine, Joel Beinin, Simona Sharoni to name just some of the Jews among them . . .

women AND men have played significant roles in the fiasco, true. But only men have had major venues for writing about it (apart from Viner, a player) -- as with most issues in most publications. (How many women can you find in any given issue of the Nation, NYRB, Harpers, Atlantic Monthly, New Yorker . .. ? far, far from parity even in the best of them; in many issues, a big fat zero.

freespeechlover said...

There are some excellent ME scholars; Rashid Khalidi at Columbia, comes to mind. And there is an excellent journal, the Journal of Palestine Studies, published by Univ. of Calif. Press that is reknown and has an international editorial board.

My point is relative to other academic fields, Middle Eastern Studies in the U.S. is small in number. Historically it was full of Orientalists like Bernard Lewis who is connected to people in the White House who got us into Iraq.

Post 9/11, there were stories in the media about the tiny number of students who graduate from U.S. universities who know Arabic, despite that the language has been at the top of the State Dept.'s list of languages in which experts are needed. There just aren't that many universities that teach Arabic in the U.S. I can think of Arab experts in the U.S. At major research institutes, they are embattled or having to step in and waste their time fighting for colleagues i.e. Rashid Khalidi at Columbia. I can count on maybe two hands the number of visible Palestinian scholars with positions in the U.S. academy.

I don't discount any of the scholars anonymous mentions. On the contrary the fact that they have done what they have within the institutional context makes their contributions all the more significant.