Martin Seth Kramer (Hebrew? ?; 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 the history and politics of the Middle East, contemporary Islam, and modern Israel.
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.
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 Walter P. Stern 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.
Kramer is a senior and past editor of the Middle East Forum's Middle East Quarterly. Primarily a scholar of twentieth century Islamist intellectual and political history, Kramer has also published columns in the National Review magazine and on the websites of the History News Network.
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. 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.
Kramer is a critic of Middle Eastern studies programs in the United States which he thinks are left-wing and backed with poor scholarship.
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. 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 1980s; they misrepresented its role in the early 1990s; and they glossed over its growing potential for terrorism against America in the late 1990s."The book was given positive mentions in The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Washington Post
John L. Esposito, accused Kramer of trying to discredit the entire Middle East establishment. Zachary Lockman, professor of modern Middle East history at New York University, admits that Kramer's criticism of Middle East scholars general failure to anticipate the rise of Islamist movements in the 1970s is well-deserved but maintains that "[o]verall, Kramer's approach is deeply flawed as a history of Middle East studies as a scholarly field."
Kramer was one of the most vocal supporters of HR 3077, a bill in the United States House of Representatives designed to reform area studies in the US. Saree Makdisi argues in a Los Angeles Times op-ed that the bill "poses a profound threat to academic freedom".
At the February 2010 Herzliya Conference in Israel, Kramer caused controversy by advocating for the elimination of Western aid in what he termed "pro-natal subsidies" to Palestinian refugees in Gaza in order to discourage population growth and Islamic radicalization:
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.
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." Kramer later referred to the speech as "experimental" and deliberately "provocative."