Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Guest in a Hostile Society: Notes of the First Professor from an Arab University on Sabbatical Year in Israel

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Guest in a Hostile Society: Notes of the First Professor from an Arab University on Sabbatical Year in Israel

Article excerpt

Guest in a Hostile Society: Notes of the First Professor from an Arab University on Sabbatical Year in Israel, by Mohanna Haddad. Tucson, AZ: Hats Off Books, 2005. 166 pages. $14.95 paper.

This short book is both a memoir and a statement of philosophy by a Jordanian professor who chose to work, publicly, at two Israeli universities during the period 19982000, and suffered personally and professionally as a result. I was coordinating joint Arab-Israeli academic projects at the Truman Institute of Hebrew University, one of the Israeli institutions that hosted Professor Haddad at the time, met with him many times both in Israel and Jordan, and was thus particularly interested in reading about his reflections and perceptions about his visits.

Professor Haddad acknowledges that by temperament he is something of a contrarian, and that this was one of the factors that led him to take a step that almost all his friends and colleagues warned him against. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is his attempt to convey the atmosphere towards Israel and towards Jews that he grew up with, and that he feels is still prevalent in the Arab world, though in many ways significantly exacerbated. He contrasts this with his personal experience being in Israel and his many talks with Israelis, both Jewish and Arab. He is by no means uncritical of Israel but makes very clear the huge gap between his expectations and his experience. Though he does not see the need for a Jewish state, his bottom line is that peace and acceptance of its existence are the only solutions for Arabs, but that Israelis must give up the sense of superiority that he often perceived both from individual Israelis and in Zionist ideology.

The book is of mixed utility on its facts; some (for example, the repeated claim that Israeli Palestinians cannot join the umbrella labor union, the Histadrut) are simply wrong. The organization and syntax are also a bit wobbly. But the views and personal experiences are of the sort that cannot be easily found elsewhere, and the degree of introspection and self-examination of Arab society is of interest to Arabs, Westerners, and Israelis alike. …

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