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LAURIE BRAND Printer Friendly Page

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By Lee Kaplan
December 7, 2004

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  • Professor of International Relations at the University of Southern California
  • Former President of the Middle Eastern Studies Association
  • Anti-Israel/Anti-America crusader


Laurie Brand is a professor of International Relations at the University of Southern California (USC). Her published work mainly concerns the Palestinians, and prior to her arrival at USC she worked at the Institute of Palestine Studies. In 2004 Brand was elected President of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), a position in which she was succeeded by Michigan University professor Juan Cole in 2005.

Chief among Brand's political agendas is her antipathy for Israel. Placing the blame for the Arab-Israeli conflict on Israel alone, Brand has said: “There is no peace without justice, and there is no justice under [Israeli] occupation.” 

In 2002 Brand’s name appeared on a letter co-signed by a number of anti-Israel academics accusing Israel of advocating the “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians from the disputed territories. It read, in part:

"Americans cannot remain silent while crimes as abhorrent as ethnic cleansing are being openly advocated. We urge our government to communicate clearly to the government of Israel that the expulsion of people according to race, religion or nationality would constitute crimes against humanity and will not be tolerated."

Brand is equally critical of the United States. In the run-up to the 2003 war in Iraq, Brand, then temporarily working in Lebanon, took to the streets to protest the planned U.S. invasion. She drafted a letter of protest to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, which she promptly dispatched to the U.S. embassy in Beirut. Signed by 70 Americans, the letter, affecting to speak on behalf of “Americans living in Lebanon,” stated that “‘regime change’ imposed from outside is itself completely undemocratic.” “We refuse to stand by watching passively as the U.S. pursues aggressive and racist policies toward the people around us,” said the letter.

In a May 2003 email to the USC campus newspaper, the Daily Trojan, Brand said she was “dismayed that so many Americans have been seduced by the Bush administration’s lies about its reasons behind this war.”

In July 2003 Brand appeared at a conference at the German embassy in Beirut, where she accused the Bush administration of having availed itself of lies as a “systematic element”; of presiding over nothing less than a “propaganda program”; of having no interest in fostering democratic government in Iraq; of aiming to destroy democracy in the United States; and of demonstrating “systematic disregard for democratic institutions and values.”

In October 2004, Brand joined Scholars for a Sensible Foreign Policy, a self-described “nonpartisan group of foreign affairs specialists,” in signing an open letter condemning the war against Iraq. The letter advanced such claims as: “the war in Iraq is the most misguided one since the Vietnam period”; “[t]here is no evidence that Iraq assisted al-Qaida, and its prewar involvement in international terrorism was negligible”; “[e]ven on moral grounds, the case for war was dubious”; and the “results of this policy have been overwhelmingly negative for U.S. interests.” 

Brand followed this up with a November 2004 address to MESA, titled “Scholarship in the Shadow of Empire.” Therein she revealed what she held to be the principal source of strife in the Middle East: “Given the current situation in the region, especially, but far from exclusively, in Iraq and Palestine/Israel, and the US’s role in these conflicts, I cannot remember when I have been more continuously outraged,” she stressed. 

In Brand’s view, professors have a “special responsibility” to “teach history in a way that enables students better to understand their place in it; political science so as to instruct in the content of the uses and abuses of power; economics to interrogate the reality of the impact of markets whether free or state-controlled; anthropology and sociology to help portray the complexity and the richness of societies beyond these borders; and language to give access to the dreams and desires of those upon whom America often uncritically projects and inscribes its own.”

In short, Brand’s notion of “special responsibility” is defined by the critical stance it takes on American policies and actions. “What greater abdication of responsibility,” asks Brand rhetorically, “as both citizen and scholar, than to remain silent in the face of Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and Fallujah?”



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