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Ben-Gurion University
[BGU] As Haggai Ram fails the grade as a scholar of international relations, he moves on to hashish/marijuana


BGU Professor Haggai Ram

Editorial Note:

Professor Haggai Ram (BGU) participated in a demonstration organized by Combatant for Peace and the Israeli Disarmament Movement against alleged Israeli plans to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.  Identifying himself as a professor of Middle East studies, Ram expressed his concern that Israel would rush into an act whose consequences it could anticipate.   As a citizen, Ram has the right to contribute to the debate about the best way to contain Tehran’s drive to its military- nuclear project.

As an academic though, Ram fails the grade.  In a March 1996 interview in Haaretz, “The Demon is Not So Terrible,” Ram blamed the government, the media and academics for disseminating “distorted images” of Iran, a tactic aimed at domestic consumption.   Finding that the regime in Tehran uses foreign policy to mobilize its population, Ram urged a comparative study of Zionism and Khomenism.     He also lamented that the Center for Iranian Studies inaugurated in 2006 at Tel Aviv University would “adopt a security agenda that endorses the military and government policy.”

In a 2009 book Iranophobia. The Logic of an Israeli Obsession, Ram furnished two reasons for this alleged pathology.  He charged that, as a result of the Holocaust trauma, Israelis exaggerate threats, turning Iran into an alien “folk devil.”   Equally important in his view, is  Israel’s anxieties stemming from the country's domestic crisis of modernity since the 1970s: “Iran served as a backward Islamic and, threatening Oriental “outsider within” who threatened the Western cosmopolitan character of Israeli society.”  To prove his point, Ram dismissed the possibility that Tehran develop nuclear weapons in order to hurt Israel; he noted that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threat to “wipe Israel off the map” was mistranslated.  He went so far as to accuse Israel of “framing” Iran in the Karin- A affair in early 2002  (a reference to a ship loaded with Iranian weapons destined for the Palestinian Intifada captured by the Israeli navy).   Ram asserted that the affair should be viewed in the context of efforts by Israel and Jewish neo-conservatives in Washington “to break up the emerging ties” between the United States and Iran.  He also quoted from a book by Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian-American Council, an Iran lobby group, which helped to create the “Israel firsters” theory, i.e. the notion that American Jews working in cahoots with Israel, highjacked American foreign policy and tried to force it into a confrontation with Iran.

As IAM reported, this “it is all in their head“ theory has been popular among radical scholars, notably Adi Ophir and Daniel Bar-Tal who are unwilling to entertain the idea a nuclear Iran poses a threat to Israel and rest of the Western World.  This puts Ram and his colleagues at odds with the international community which has sounded the alarm on Iran and took harsh measures to contain it.

In any event, Ram is planning a change in expertise.  According to his website, his new book will explore "the history and culture of hashish\marijuana use in Israel\Palestine since the early 20th century," Hopefully, the new subject would not cloud his vision even more.


TA rally against attack on Iran musters 24 protesters

By BEN HARTMAN, Jerusalem Post

02/10/2012 03:54

Protesters outside Defense Ministry worry attack will have "consequences that Israeli leaders cannot foresee.” By Reuters A small crowd of around two dozen gathered outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on Thursday evening to voice their protest of an Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear program.

Organizers of the protest, which was held under the banner “No to military attacks, yes to talks,” included members of Combatants for Peace and the Israeli Disarmament Movements.

Protesters held signs with slogans such as “No to an attack on Iran,” and two demonstrators held red paper hearts on the end of sticks.

In a statement released ahead of the protest, Israeli Disarmament Movement director Sharon Dolev said, “When the heads of Israel’s defense establishment are convinced that it is not possible to eliminate the Iranian nuclear program through military means, the only way is through dialogue.”

She also called for the two countries to hold talks to establish a weapons-of-mass-destruction- free zone in the Middle East.

One demonstrator, Haggai Ram, a professor of Middle East studies at Ben-Gurion University, said he was there as “a concerned citizen” and that he had become more concerned after seeing the very small crowd of protesters.

Worrying that “the rhetoric [against Iran] will turn into action,” he said he believed such an attack “would have consequences that Israeli leaders cannot foresee.”


Department of Middle East Studies

Professor HAGGAI RAM

Ph.D. 1992, New York University

Email hram@bgu.ac.il

Phone 972-8-6472476

I teach and write about secularism, religion, colonialism and popular culture in the modern Middle East, with particular emphasis on Iran and Israel. In recent years I've become increasingly intrigued with the exaggerated anxieties about Iran among Israelis, as well as with the overall failure of much of the literature to make sense of these anxieties outside the domain of geopolitics. As a result, I turned my "gaze" to Israeli society and set out to study the cultural logics at work behind Israel's anti-Iran phobias. Two books were born in the process. The first, Likro iran be-yisra'el (Reading Iran in Israel), was published in 2006. The book was well received (see, e.g.Book Review Reading Iran); and an Arabic edition it, which soon followed, won praise in the Arab printed and electronic media (see e.g. http://www.daralhayat.com/special/issues/09-2007/Item-20070916-0f8b34e9-c0a8-10ed-00c3-e8c44e3434e3/story.html). The second book, Iranophobia: the Cultural Logics of an Israeli obsession, is a radically revised and expanded version of the Hebrew edition and is due for publication with Stanford University Press.

The two books differed from each other in their scope of empirical research, in their methodologies, in their narrative strategies, and in the subject matters they covered. Nonetheless, they provided a crucially innovative approach to the study of the relationship between domestic and foreign policies in the manufacturing of the Israeli polity. Inspired by works that read metropolitan and colonial cultures as zones of encounter, the two books demonstrated that Israeli anxieties about Iran were fashioned and comprehended on the basis of what Israelis believed to be the (dis)ordering of their society at home. Israelis went about setting Iran apart as fanatically religious and outrageously dangerous precisely because they have come to see in it the "Oriental," ethnic and religious "outsiders within" that threatened their own identity. Although the Israeli sense of danger emanating from Iran derives from legitimate strategic concerns, it is also linked to defensive mechanisms of the home in view of the peril of the Jewish state becoming foreign and unrecognizable to itself.

Currently, I am considering writing a book-length manuscript on a topic that would radically depart from all of my previous research preoccupations: the history and culture of hashish\marijuana use in Israel\Palestine since the early 20th century. It has now become patently clear to me that this intriguing subject begs for a serious scholarly engagement, especially in light of recent path breaking interventions made by social scientists and historians who have unraveled the social and cultural underpinnings of drug use in other parts of the world. By contrast, the history and culture of drug use in Israel has not yet been written. I intend to rise to the challenge.

Selected Courses Taught

Introduction to the Modern History of the Middle East - broad survey course, NYU, BGU

Iran: Genealogy of a Revolution - undergraduate seminar, NYU, Skidmore College, BGU

The Evolution of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies: Reading Seminar - graduate seminar, BGU

Entangled Histories: Modernity in the Middle East and Beyond - graduate seminar, NYU, BGU

Historiography and Historical Consciousness in Modern Iran - graduate seminar, BGU

Colonialism and Nationalism in the Middle East - undergraduate seminar, BGU

Popular Islam: Histories and Doctrines - undergraduate seminar, NYU, BGU

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