As the American Historical Association (AHA) prepares to vote this week on a symbolic resolution that affirms support for the right to education in the occupied Palestinian territories, apologists for the Israeli regime’s policies against Palestinians are putting forward nonsensical rationalizations for their opposition to the measure. Writing in History News Network, University of Maryland History Professor Jeffrey Herf essentially argues that his profession has no practical value:
“as historians we have neither the knowledge nor expertise to evaluate conflicting factual assertions about events in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.”
If historians should not evaluate the veracity of factual assertions about an issue then what exactly is the use of historical studies? To merely compile and organize documents? Surely a historian’s job involves analytical – in addition to technical – skills.
And surely their methods include empirical analysis — no different than a scientist testing a theory. If someone says the earth is round but another person says the earth is flat, that doesn’t mean the scientist should throw his hands up in the air and say “as scientists we have neither the knowledge nor expertise to evaluate conflicting factual assertions.”