Martin Kramer

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Martin Seth Kramer (born September 9, 1954, Washington, D.C.) is an American-Israeli scholar of the Middle East at Shalem College in Jerusalem. His focus is on Islam and Arab politics.


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]

  • Tel Aviv University, 1971-73 – Middle Eastern Studies
  • B.A. Princeton University, 1975 (summa cum laude) – Near Eastern Studies
  • M.A. Columbia University, 1976 – History
  • M.A. Princeton University, 1978 – Near Eastern Studies
  • Ph.D. Princeton University, 1982 – Near Eastern Studies[2]


Martin Kramer was the founding president of Shalem College in Jerusalem, where he continues to teach the modern history of the Middle East. He is also the Koret visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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.

Political involvement[edit]

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]

Ivory Towers on Sand[edit]

In 2001, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy published Kramer's book Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America.[6] In the book (as reported by the New York Times), Kramer argued that Middle East experts "failed to ask the right questions at the right time about Islam. They underestimated its impact in the 1980's; they misrepresented its role in the early 1990's; and they glossed over its growing potential for terrorism against America in the late 1990's." His critics claimed that “there is an agenda here, which is to discredit the entire Middle East establishment.”.[7]

Views on aid to Palestinians[edit]

At the February 2010 Herzliya Conference in Israel, Kramer caused controversy in a speech in which he advocated eliminating Western aid in what he termed "pro-natal subsidies"—such as food and funding for refugee children's education— to Palestinian refugees in Gaza as a means of discouraging population growth among Palestinians in order to "crack the culture of martyrdom".[8]

Aging populations reject radical agenda and the Middle East is no different. Now eventually, this will happen among the Palestinians, too. But it will happen faster if the West stops providing pro-natal subsidies for Palestinians with refugee status. Those subsidies are one reason why in the ten years, from 1997 to 2007, Gaza’s population grew by an astonishing 40%. At that rate, Gaza’s population will double by 2030 to three million. Israel’s present sanctions on Gaza have a political aim, undermine the Hamas regime, but they also break Gaza’s runaway population growth and there is some evidence that they have. That may begin to crack the culture of martyrdom, which demands a constant supply of superfluous young men.


Patrick Williams comments on the controversy, "the image of Palestinians as creatures mindlessly driven to reproduce and kill themselves is as dehumanising as anything to be found in the archives of Orientalism."[10] At the time, he was a National Security Studies Program Visiting Scholar at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, and some critics called on Harvard to distance itself from him. Deans at Harvard University's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs rejected these calls, stating, "Accusations have been made that Martin Kramer's statements are genocidal. These accusations are baseless." They found that Kramer's critics "appear not to understand the role of controversy in an academic setting" and rejected any attempts to restrict "fundamental academic freedom."[9]



  • Political Islam (1980) ISBN 0-8039-1435-0
  • Islam Assembled (1985) ISBN 0-231-05994-9
  • Shi'ism, Resistance, and Revolution (1987) ISBN 0-8133-0453-9
  • Hezbollah's Vision of the West (1989) ISBN 0-944029-01-9
  • Middle Eastern Lives: The Practice of Biography and Self-Narrative (Contemporary Issues in the Middle East) (1991) ISBN 0-8156-2548-0
  • Arab Awakening and Islamic Revival: The Politics of Ideas in the Middle East (1996) ISBN 1-56000-272-7
  • The Islamism Debate (1997) ISBN 965-224-024-9
  • The Jewish Discovery of Islam (1999) ISBN 965-224-040-0
  • Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America (2001) ISBN 0-944029-49-3, download
  • The War on Error: Israel, Islam, and the Middle East (2016) ISBN 1-4128-6499-2

Journal Papers[edit]

Kramer on interpreters of the Middle East[edit]

Kramer on Key Middle Eastern Figures[edit]

Kramer on U.S. and Israeli Policy[edit]


  1. ^ Martin Kramer/Juan Cole: Oppo Research
  2. ^ Martin Kramer, CV and List of Publications
  3. ^ From Afghanistan to Araby by Martin Kramer, National Review, December 10, 2001
  4. ^ When I Hear "Arab Democracy," I Reach for My Seat Belt by Martin Kramer, October 11, 2002
  5. ^ Rudy's Man in the Middle East, "New York Observer", August 21, 2007.
  6. ^ download
  7. ^ Middle East Experts Points Fingers at One Another, "New York Times", November 3, 2001.
  8. ^ Savarese, Katharine M. (2010-02-04). "Weatherhead Fellow Incites Controversy". The Harvard Crimson.
  9. ^ a b Anti-Zionism on Campus: The University, Free Speech, and BDS, Andrew Pessin and Doron S. Ben-Atar, Indiana University Press, pages 151-155
  10. ^ Nash, G.; Kerr-Koch, K.; Hackett, S. (2013). Postcolonialism and Islam: Theory, Literature, Culture, Society and Film. Routledge Islamic Studies Series. Taylor & Francis. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-134-64745-3. Retrieved 2018-11-08.

External links[edit]