Dr. Haya Bambaji-Sasportas

The middle eastern writings of the Jewish intellectual and historian Elie Kedourie

Haya Bambaji-Sasportas teaches  history of the modern middle east at Ben Gurion University of the Negev and at Sapir and Achva Colleges. Until recently she was the academic coordinator of the Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies & Diplomacy. Among other things she was also one of the first editors of Jamm’a –a   leading periodical  on middle east studies published in Israel. Her  M.A  thesis (2000) examined  the construction of the formal Israeli discourse  of the Palestinian refugees problem(1948-1952),  especially among the experts of Arab affairs in the foreign office.

Her  Ph.D  dissertation, which was written under the guidance  of Prof. Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin and Prof. Dror Zeevi (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev 2014), revisits and reanalyse the middle eastern writings of the Jewish intellectual and historian Elie Kedourie (1926-1992). Kedourie  was one of the leading icons of the modern middle east historians in British academy after WWII . The study shows that in spite of  his conservative postulations relating cardinal concepts of modern political thought and Mehta-historical issues such as nationalism, imperialism liberalism and the liberal thought,  Kedourie’s views were quite radical. In the current academic discourse his radicalism would be identify as postmodern and postcolonial but it also opens some new possibilities regarding the way we observe conservativism and  conservative viewpoints and positions. Kedouri’s biography in its broader sense: his familial elitist Jewish-Baghdadi background and the implications of imperialism and nationalism on the middle east in general and in Iraq in particular, together with  the intellectual realities in  British academy after WWII in the fields of knowledge where he acted, made possible not  only his complex and multifaceted intriguing positions, but also his ability to change  perspectives and positioning. Kedourie was always “different” and distinct among his  surroundings.  He was anti-nationalist (be it European, Arab or Zionist) traditional-Jew who favored “Empire” as a political idea due to the implications of nationalism, particulary in the middle east and Iraq, but also as a conservative who acted in  a liberal intellectual-academic and political environment.