Archive for the ‘Academia’ Category

Actually, Brandeis got it very wrong

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014
Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

The recent controversy over Brandeis University’s withdrawal of its offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali is symptomatic of the disconnect from reality prevalent in academia. Let’s look at Hirsi Ali’s “virulently anti-Muslim public statements” quoted by the Brandeis faculty members who signed a letter to the university president, urging him to rescind the offer:

David Cohen quotes Ms. Hirsi Ali as saying: “Violence is inherent in Islam – it’s a destructive, nihilistic cult of death. It legitimates murder. The police may foil plots and freeze bank accounts in the short term, but the battle against terrorism will ultimately be lost unless we realise that it’s not just with extremist elements within Islam, but the ideology of Islam itself….Islam is the new fascism” (London Evening Standard, 2-7-07). Rogier van Bakel quotes her as follows: “Jews should be proselytizing about a God that you can quarrel with. Catholics should be proselytizing about a God who is love….Those are lovely concepts of God. They can’t compare to the fire-breathing Allah who inspires jihadism and totalitarianism.” Van Bakel notes religions’ ability to bring about change for good: “Do you think Islam could bring about similar social and political changes?” Ms. Hirsi Ali responds, “Only if Islam is defeated.” Van Bakel asks, “Don’t you mean defeating radical Islam?” To that she responds, “No. Islam, period.” (Reason, 11-07)

These are the statements which caused 87 faculty members to be “filled with shame,” because, in part, they “cannot accept Ms. Hirsi Ali’s triumphalist narrative of western civilization, rooted in a core belief of the cultural backwardness of non-western peoples.”

They are entitled to their opinion that the “non-western peoples” that mutilated Ms. Hirsi Ali and murder women for the crime of being rape victims are not culturally backward, but I think she is certainly as well and probably more qualified to make this judgment than the Brandeis faculty.

It is hard for me to see why her position should fill them with shame to the point that they won’t allow their university to honor a woman who has quite literally put her life on the line to end these practices!

I was unable to find an argument worth discussing in the faculty letter, so I turned to Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the former head of the Union for Reform Judaism. Here is why he believes that “Brandeis got it right:”

Ms. Hirsi Ali’s sweeping statements of condemnation do not make vital distinctions that civilized people must always make. I am referring to the distinctions between radical and fanatic versions of Islam and moderate and centrist versions of Islam. As we Jews know very well, there are real consequences when entire populations are represented in the public imagination by their worst elements.

If any major American university were to award an honorary degree to a political or cultural figure who had spoken in such broadly condemnatory terms about Jews, the Jewish community would be outraged — and rightly so. The task of American Jews and all Americans is to join with our Muslim friends in the fight against religious fanaticism in Islam and in all other religious traditions; it is to promote the values of justice, love, and moderation that are common to all the major religious faiths. But we cannot do that if we insist on honoring those who, however sympathetic their backgrounds and moving their personal stories, have made the mistake of demonizing all Muslims and bashing Islam.

Rabbi Yoffie himself fails to make a critical distinction, that between an ideology and a population. Hirsi Ali criticizes Islam, with which she has intimate knowledge, as an ideology, one which has elements that are pro-violence, intolerant, anti-democratic, misogynist, anti-Jewish and more. She believes that these elements are inherent in Islam, that they are an essential part of it. Hence she “bashes” Islam.

But she does not “demonize all Muslims.” This is an entirely different thing, and one that Hirsi Ali is careful to avoid. I am sure she would agree with Yoffie that there are radical and moderate Muslims; but in her analysis, a moderate Muslim is one that, for whatever reason, does not act out the more offensive parts of the Islamic ideology.

Criticism of ideologies, even vituperative criticism, has been part and parcel of legitimate discourse in the West since the Enlightenment. I’m sure that many members of the Brandeis faculty curse capitalism every morning before breakfast, and nobody is “filled by shame” by this. Half of the world’s Internet sites would go dark and there would be no more political speeches if one couldn’t criticize ideology.

To shut down critical discussion of an ideology by trying to assassinate the character (and in the case of Ms. Hirsi Ali, the person) of the critic, simply because the ideology is a religious one, is unreasonable.

Yoffie’s comparison to criticism of Judaism is instructive. He conflates Jew-hatred — the ‘racial’ form practiced by the Nazis, the religion-based version of the Spanish Inquisition, or the conspiratorial type preached by Frazier Glenn Cross (or Miller), which are clearly unacceptable, with ideological objections, which are not.

For example, there are misogynist and intolerant threads in Haredi Judaism which I oppose, as I oppose the universalist themes and conflation of Jewish ethics with leftist politics that appear in Reform Judaism. Public expression of this criticism does not make a me a bigot who hates Haredim or Reform Jews, or even wishes them ill.

There is a difference between Judaism and Islam, which is that the pernicious parts of the ideology that are found in Islam form an essential part of it, and one which at the present time is becoming more and more prevalent in the normative practice of Islam. One could say that more and more Muslims are becoming ‘radicalized’, or as I prefer, beginning to act according to Islamic ideology.

Normative Judaism, in which the understanding of the texts has undergone a process of moderation through the rabbinical tradition, strongly negates the idea that violent episodes (e.g., genocide in the book of Joshua) should be a guide to behavior today — precisely the opposite of what is happening in Islam with the spread of Islamist doctrine.

Muslim organizations like CAIR are trying to make it unacceptable to voice any “criticism of religion,” which they equate to a form of bigotry. But disagreement, no matter how vehement, with an ideology is worlds apart from hating its adherents.

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Sandra Korn’s academic totalitarianism

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

I’ve often said that the best thing about Hamas is that they say what they think. None of the two-faced English vs. Arabic stuff we get from the ‘moderate’ PLO. They say they want to kill us, because they mean it.

So for the same reason, I enjoyed the Harvard Crimson piece by Sandra Y. L. Korn, “The Doctrine of Academic Freedom.” Korn is not ashamed to put forth the idea that academic freedom should be limited when it conflicts with the political prejudices of the “university community”:

If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?

Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of “academic justice.” When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.

And how does it “ensure” this? She provides examples, such as disruption of classes “with a bullhorn and leaflets” and the academic boycott of Israeli institutions. The irony in advocating coercive action to oppose research or speech that she and her peers consider politically incorrect is palpable, especially since the bullhorns and boycotts are reminiscent of the SA tactics of the 1930s.

While she understands that the purpose of academic freedom is to see to it that research is not “restricted by the political whims of the moment,” she apparently fails to grasp that the reason for this is that political whims are just that — whims. During Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Chinese students took the lead in what Ms Korn must (at least, we hope she must) admit were terrible injustices. Their views were doubtless shared by most of the “university community,” but so what?

The principle of academic freedom does not require, as Ms Korn’s “academic justice” does, an omniscient and perfectly good community to decide which ideas may be discussed and which not. It says in effect “don’t suppress any ideas, let them compete on their merits,” because we are not smart enough to decide a priori (Korn thinks she and her friends are).

The fact that she chooses a boycott of Israeli universities as an example of a just limitation of academic freedom is a perfect example of the defect in her approach, because as a matter of fact, the ‘oppression’ of the ‘Palestinians’ is at bottom a whopper of a lie intended to cover up the desire of the Arabs to eliminate the state of Israel, and even in many cases to perpetrate a genocide of the Jewish population (viz., Hamas Covenant), something I am sure Korn would disapprove of.

Probably all of Ms Korn’s friends agree that only a right-wing Zionist nut would believe that. Maybe this is because the only voices that they hear are those of, er, left-wing anti-Zionist nuts. Academic freedom is intended to allow all (scholarly) points of view to be heard, in order to help us avoid precisely this situation.

Korn’s “academic justice” is more like academic totalitarianism!

This seems blindingly obvious to me, who did not go to Harvard (but like Ms Korn, did study the history of science, in which I learned about politically incorrect scholars like Galileo Galilei). So why doesn’t she get it?

Her bio indicates that she is “a joint history of science and studies of women, gender and sexuality concentrator.” And there could be the explanation: perhaps whatever she learned in her History of Science classes was overwhelmed by the main lesson taught in gender and ethnic studies, which is that there is no such thing as objective truth, there are only the political consequences of belief.

To illustrate, consider the example that opens her essay:

In July 1971, Harvard psychology professor Richard J. Herrnstein penned an article for Atlantic Monthly titled “I.Q.” in which he endorsed the theories of UC Berkeley psychologist Arthur Jensen, who had claimed that intelligence is almost entirely hereditary and varies by race. Herrnstein further argued that because intelligence was hereditary, social programs intended to establish a more egalitarian society were futile—he wrote that “social standing [is] based to some extent on inherited differences among people.”

SDS then got out their bullhorns, to Ms Korn’s great approval. But does she approve of trying to stifle Herrnstein because she believes that his research was bad (how would she be able to tell if he were drowned out by the bullhorns)? Or is it enough for her that she believes that it “promotes or justifies oppression?” Does she also reject the theory of evolution on the grounds that it can be used to support social Darwinist policies that she (justifiably) dislikes?

I began by mentioning Hamas, and I should apologize to Ms Korn for comparing her to them, even in respect to their honesty. I’m sure she has never fired a rocket at a civilian population in her life. But there is something else that she shares with Hamas, which is a belief in ideology above all.

That is about as pernicious an idea as you can get.

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“We simply don’t want to hear from you”

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

The naivete of the Left is sometimes almost touching (almost, but not quite). Here is a clip from a Ha’aretz article written by a young woman named Or Tshuva, a postgraduate student in the department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths University of London.

Left-wing Israeli academics have in the past few years faced a great challenge. Threatened with censorship, prosecution and ostracism in their home universities, they have been subtly forced to hold their tongues when it comes to publicly expressing their political opinions. In 2009, Neve Gordon nearly lost his job as a politics professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev after writing an op-ed arguing that Israel has become an apartheid state that can only be saved by an international boycott. One year later, in 2010, world-renowned art theorist Ariella Azoulay was denied tenure by Bar-Ilan University apparently due to her pro-Palestinian political views. These incidents send Israeli academics a clear message: tolerance of critical opinions is running out.

It is for exactly this reason that many Israelis pursue academic careers abroad. But in the international academic community, they often find that no matter how far left or pro-peace they are, their “Israeliness” remains an obstacle. Universities and scholars that explicitly support boycotting Israeli academic institutions are still relatively rare, but it seems that to avoid undesirable political rows, many universities choose not to collaborate with their Israeli counterparts or offer scholarships to Israeli students. In many cases, Israelis looking to participate in student-exchange programs or pay for postgraduate studies in Europe, and especially the United Kingdom, are unable to find any opportunities. When it comes to funding, they tend to discover Israel is neither part of the Middle East nor of Europe. Israelis are usually not entitled to apply for the scholarships available to other foreign students.

While their Palestinian fellows enjoy the political and financial support of active pro-Palestinian university societies and generous scholarships designed specifically for them, the implicit message to Israelis is often: “It doesn’t really matter what you say or think, because we simply don’t want to hear from you.” For example, British Member of Parliament George Galloway walked out a debate at Oxford University three months ago simply because he learned that his student opponent was an Israeli citizen. The fact that the student was about to explain the necessity of an agreement recognizing both Israel and a Palestinian state did not matter.

What will it take for you to understand? They don’t want you. Not the Brits, not the academic world in general, and certainly not the Palestinians. It doesn’t matter how far you go in negating your own people’s right to self-determination, no matter how much of a good Jew you are, you will not be good enough.

Thus it always has been for Jews in the Diaspora. Your experience is the best argument for the Zionism that you despise. (h/t Israel Academia Monitor)

Shabbat Shalom!

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Pro-Israel professor harassed and defamed

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin

For some years, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin has been almost the sole faculty voice in the University of California system speaking out against harassment of Jewish students who support Israel. Here is an excerpt from a complaint she filed with the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights in 2009:

Professors, academic departments and residential colleges at [The University of California, Santa Cruz] promote and encourage anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish views and behavior, much of which is based on either misleading information or outright falsehoods. In addition, rhetoric heard in UCSC classrooms and at numerous events sponsored and funded by academic and administrative units on campus goes beyond legitimate criticism of Israel.  The rhetoric – which demonizes Israel, compares contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis, calls  for the dismantling of the Jewish State, and holds Israel to an impossible double standard – crosses the line into anti-Semitism according to the standards employed by our own government. …

The impact of the academic and university-sponsored Israel-bashing on students has been enormous.  There are students who have felt emotionally and intellectually harassed and intimidated, to the point that they are reluctant or afraid to express a view that is not anti-Israel.

In the snake pit of academia, where unfashionable explicit Jew-hatred has morphed into enthusiastic and widespread over-the-top anti-Zionism, Rossman-Benjamin stands out — even among pro-Israel faculty members, most of whom are happy to  keep their mouths shut and their noses clean for the sake of promotions and tenure.

Now it seems that her enemies have decided to make an example of her, attributing to her the worst possible sins — the 21st century equivalent of witchcraft — racism and Islamophobia.

In the fantasy world of our universities, being accused of crimes against political correctness can get you in big trouble. And there is a degree of viciousness there that those of us who live on Earth and have real jobs can barely imagine. Rossman-Benjamin recently wrote a letter to University of California President Mark Yudoff, where she wrote in part,

… I have recently come under a vicious and unjustified personal attack from a pro-Palestinian student group on my campus, the Committee for Justice in Palestine (CJP) and members of affiliated Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) groups on other UC campuses. They claim that I made “openly racist” and “Islamophobic” comments about the SJP and Muslim Students Association (MSA) during a talk I gave at a synagogue near Boston last summer. …

Most recently, in response to a 2-minute video clip taken from a much longer video of my talk last summer, the UCSC CJP and affiliated SJP groups on other UC campuses have not simply voiced dissent but waged a virulent and harmful campaign to assassinate my character that includes: posting and promoting a defamatory on-line petition accusing me of racism and censorship and calling on you to condemn me; widely posting defamatory flyers about me on the UCSC campus; launching over a dozen videos about me on YouTube that wrongfully accuse me of being “hateful,” “dangerous,” and “Islamophobic;” instructing SJP students UC-wide to fill out hate/bias reports against me on their respective campuses; passing libelous resolutions condemning me for my “inflammatory, hateful, and racist assumptions” in the UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, UC Davis, and UC Irvine student senates; and, perhaps most egregiously, appearing to collaborate with groups sympathetic to terrorists (e.g. the International Solidarity Movement) and associated on-line publications (e.g. Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss) to more widely circulate these defamatory materials about me.

Please understand that the CJP/SJP’s targeted and well-orchestrated campaign of intimidation, harassment, and defamation has caused me to feel real concern for my safety and my ability to carry out my responsibilities as a faculty member at UCSC.

It is no longer remarkable that supporters of the most racist, misogynist, homophobic, intolerant, anti-free-speech and violent forces in the world today — for example, Hamas — take shelter behind Western concern for the complete opposite of all of those. They are expert at the game of political correctness (here is another example). At the same time, their behavior conveys veiled physical threats against their targets.

I find it interesting to recall the atmosphere on campus when I went to school, before the upheavals of the mid-1960’s. One significant difference was the attitude of the Jewish students, who weren’t cowed and apologetic, still not having been beaten into submission to the idea that the Jewish state was an evil, apartheid, Nazi-like oppressor of ‘indigenous’ brown Palestinians. How this happened is a long story, but there certainly is no hope for reversing it if the few faculty members who can serve as models and mentors for Jewish students are intimidated or even driven out.

Check out Rossman-Benjamin’s request for letters of support here.

Previous posts about Tammi Rossman-Benjamin are here and here.

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In support of free speech — Updated

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013
Leila Khaled

I’m Leila. Fly me to Damascus!

The University of British Columbia Alma Mater Society (what is usually called the ‘Student Union’ in the US) has a Social Justice Centre (motto: “We work toward progressive social change”).

So whom do they invite to speak to the students but Leila Khaled — because nothing is as progressive as airline hijacking.

Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) took part in the hijacking of TWA flight 840 in 1969 (no one was injured, but the plane was blown up in Damascus), and in a foiled attempt on El Al flight 219 in 1970 in which a crew member was killed by another hijacker. She was turned over to British authorities — after being beaten up by passengers — who managed to hold onto her for about a month before she was released in exchange for Western hostages held by the PFLP.

Well, actually, UBC is only inviting the virtual Leila, because the real one, being a convicted if not punished terrorist, is not allowed into Canada. So they are doing it by Skype.

Nevertheless, some have objected on the grounds that an actual terrorist is not a good role model for students.

Naturally, the university is defending the idea. Lucie McNeill, UBC Public Affairs Director, said

A university is an open community and there are all sorts of groups that think, believe and state their opinions differently … You expect different schools of thought to contend on a campus.

And we agree with her, as does our correspondent Joel B. Shapiro, who sent her and some others the following email:

From: Joel B. Shapiro
Sent: May-01-13 8:52 AM
To: ‘lucie.mcneill@ubc.ca'; ‘public.affairs@ubc.ca'; ‘presidents.office@ubc.ca’
Cc: ‘BCHumanRightsTribunal@gov.bc.ca'; ‘communications@bnaibrith.ca’
Subject: I applaud your defense of free speech on campus

Dear Lucie McNeill,

I applaud your defense of free speech, open dialogue, and political debate on campus, as described in Globe & Mail this morning.

In appreciation and affirmation of your point of view, and UBC’s official (current) policy, I would like to apply for permission to hold the following three annual events on the UBC campus. With whom can I meet to submit and discuss the applications? And would you be so kind (and politically progressive) as to help me champion these important political debates at UBC? The three events:

  1. A conference comparing the lethal techniques of Palestinian terrorism (and Islamist terrorism in general) to non-lethal forms of self defense employed by Israel—and the implications for Canadian and international law. Just in case you are not aware of this issue, here are a few tiny examples (just the tip of the iceberg): the terrorists target innocent civilians, maximize civilian casualties, and use their own people as human shields. Israel, conversely, uses checkpoints and security fences (including the infamous “wall”), tries to minimize civilian casualties, and of course, attempts to protect its citizens rather than using its own people as human shields.
  2. Saudi Apartheid Week: protesting and debating gender apartheid (misogyny), homophobia, state-sponsored racism, slavery, sectarian violence (which is a lethal form of racism)…and support of terrorist violence throughout the Arab world. The meetings and demonstrations will focus on presenting legitimate evidence against Arab nations so as not to target the Muslim religion directly, which of course is not “kosher” in Canada. (Although we will point out the repugnant irony that criticizing Muslim racism and violence is almost always criticized as a racist act, especially on the left, and that insofar as Islam is both a religion and a political ideology, we can & must treat its ideology as we do every other ideology in the world, i.e., with cautious respect and vigilant critique.)
  3. Finally, we wish to have a visual type demonstration to help student understand the dilemma posed by terrorism and the root cause of Israel’s defensive actions. The demonstration would look something like this: perhaps there can be a fake explosion, fake blood and body parts, and loud air raid sirens in the cafeteria or large classrooms, and everyone has to evacuate their classrooms for 5 minutes — to remind everyone and encourage debate about Palestinian terrorism.

We will, of course, conduct all of the above with the utmost honesty, integrity, dignity, and scholarship—free of any hint of racism, and with the only purpose of encouraging debate, dialogue, awareness, and political action against clear injustices in the world. After all, who is not against state sponsored racism, misogyny, homophobia, slavery, targeting innocent civilians, using people as human shields, etc., etc.? We also promise, unlike the Palestinian groups, not to invite any speakers who are convicted terrorist or who call for violence or racism of any kind, but only those who, conversely, stand opposed to racism and violence.

Given that UBC has been so supportive of anti-Israel events, and even hosting a convicted terrorist to speak on campus, I expect that UBC will be equally supportive of (i) a far less racist and far more honest defense of Israel, and (ii) legitimate political dialogue around much greater evils (which are in fact, ironically, root causes of Israel’s self defense anyway). We do not ask for any kind of favoritism, but we do request equal time and consideration.

Supporting the one cause but not the other would expose UBC’s policy (and motivation) as not being grounded in free speech but rather in the one-sided war against Israel and against Jews on campus. Please choose free speech over (or in addition to) your (inadvertent?) promotion of Palestinian & Islamic terrorism on campus.

Your current one-sided approach contributes to a climate of fear for Jews in Canada—so much so that Canadian Jews are afraid to speak up out of fear of reprisal. What better place to encourage that debate than a university campus that is already out there promoting free speech and political debate.

Thanking you in advance for your consideration and support.

Sincerely,

Joel Shapiro, Ph.D.

Update [1857 PDT]: The dialogue continues:

From: McNeill, Lucie
Sent: May-01-13 4:24 PM
To: Joel B. Shapiro
Subject: Re: I applaud your defense of free speech on campus

Dear Mr Shapiro,

The group organizing this event at UBC, the Social Justice Centre, is an Alma Mater Society (AMS) resource group.  The AMS is the student union at UBC and is completely independent from the university.  The AMS does not represent the University of British Columbia.

At the following URL, you will find UBC President Stephen Toope’s letter to the UBC community on respectful debate which expresses UBC’s core values:

http://president.ubc.ca/files/2010/04/respectful_debate_20100303.pdf.

Best wishes,

Lucie

***

From: Joel B. Shapiro
Sent: May-01-13
To: McNeill, Lucie
Subject: Re: I applaud your defense of free speech on campus

Hi:

Thanks for the quick response. But you have not answered my questions:

  1. Will you help me sponsor those three events through an AMS / if I go through an AMS – or not?
  2. And will UBC allow those three events to take place, as they have allowed “anti-Israel weeks” in the past? You will definitely get some pushback.

Or are you saying that I do not need permission, buy-in, or cooperation from you (or UBC) in any way, and that I can just go ahead and do whatever I want if it is in conjunction with an AMS and adheres to your core values?

I would of course prefer your full support. And I assure you that my three events will be far less dishonest and racist than the pro-Palestinian events—which means that if pro-Palestinian / anti-Israel events are allowable according to UBC’s core values, then my events will definitely be. We will, of course, study and respect your core values while promoting the event and while on campus. I would also be happy to organize some internationally renowned speakers to help raise the international profile of UBC in the process (no terrorists, of course).

Thank you.

Joel

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Israeli professor a victim of political correctness — updated

Monday, April 29th, 2013
Scene at Claremont McKenna College, near Los Angeles

Scene at Claremont McKenna College, near Los Angeles

Here is a little story: Claremont McKenna College is a private institution near Los Angeles. On March 4, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) held a “West Bank checkpoint simulation,” for which they had written permission from the Dean of Students, Mary Spellman.

The simulation consisted of blocking the entrance to the college dining hall and rudely demanding that students show their IDs in order to enter. One wonders what went through the mind of the dean — did she see educational value in this activity?

In any event, a student was distressed by the event and called an Israeli Economics professor, Yaron Raviv, who went to the dining hall.

He reported he arrived to find students blocking the entrance, so he asked the dining hall manager to move them away from the door.

Soon after, the verbal altercation took place, as reports indicate [SJP member Najib] Hamideh – upset [that] Raviv aimed to move them – said, “Oh, you are faculty? I will hunt you down!” The professor responded: “What? You will hunt me down? You’re a fucking little cockroach.”

Exactly what was said remains unclear, but campus officials’ probe into the incident – during which nearly a dozen witnesses were interviewed – indicates that’s roughly the exchange between the two.

Raviv told administrators the “hunt you down” comment was particularly offensive because of his Jewish heritage, according to the review. Hamideh, for his part, denies saying it.

Students for Justice in Palestine also filed a bias complaint against the professor, stating “the term ‘cockroach’ must be taken in its specific historical context as hateful, racist, enemy imagery.”

The first thing that I want to say about this is that when I went to college in the early 1960’s, such a demonstration would not have been permitted, because the administrators would quite correctly assume that it would have turned into a brawl. Jewish students would have found it offensive enough to push back physically, right away.

The second thing is that it is interesting how the incident immediately became a contest about who made the most ethnically offensive remark. Is it worse to tell a Jew that you will ‘hunt him down’ or to call a Palestinian a ‘cockroach’? In his defense, Raviv argued that Israelis don’t call Palestinians ‘cockroaches’, and anyway he had no way of knowing Hamideh was Palestinian (he had grown up in the US and had no accent). On the other hand, said Raviv, it was obvious that he was Israeli and likely Jewish.

Everyone involved knew that there is no greater sin in their world than making an ethnic/racial slur. Even a physical threat.

Hamideh filed an ‘informal written grievance’ against Raviv, and the administration performed a ‘review’ of the incident, which involved the dean, the president of the college, etc. I’m sure that quite a bit of very expensive administrative time was consumed.

Note that nobody seems to have objected to the fact that the ‘street theater’ was essentially mendacious, since it portrayed an Israeli ‘checkpoint’ without including the Arab terrorism that makes such checkpoints necessary. There is also the unspoken fact that this kind of ‘theater’ is intended to intimidate the other side. Neither the ‘actors’ nor pro-Israel students will admit it (for different reasons) but the objective is that the ‘audience’ will become afraid of confronting the ‘actors’ in other contexts.

Raviv may or may not have escaped from the confrontation unscathed, at least from the standpoint of disciplinary action. From the college’s review:

The faculty member’s statements to the student were not in compliance with the expectations set forth in the College’s Statement on Professional Ethics, but these statements, when viewed in context, were not sufficiently severe or pervasive as to constitute a violation of the College’s Harassment Policy. The faculty member has acknowledged that his statements were inappropriate and unprofessional, and has apologized for his statements. Any additional personnel-related actions that may be appropriate will be confidentially addressed by the Dean of the Faculty’s Office.

Although Hamideh denied threatening Raviv, another student reported that Hamideh later used the expression again, saying that he would ‘hunt down’ the faculty member. The review of the incident does not mention that any action is contemplated against Hamideh, but it seems to me that he may have committed the crime of “making a criminal threat” (CA Penal Code 422 – 422.4). One hopes that a police report was made.

Raviv gave an interview to the Claremont Independent, which is worth reading. It describes the incident from his point of view, including mentioning that Hamideh said “now I’ve got you” after the professor’s intemperate remark! Compare this to Arab/leftist demonstrations at Israel’s security barrier, where they deliberately try to provoke IDF soldiers.

It also includes some examples of hate mail he received afterwards:

Raviv: So, this is an email, for example, from “Juice2”: “Hitler had the right idea, he was just an underachiever. I thought you might enjoy that since you seem to be such a huge supporter of genocide. Cheers.”

I got several like this: “I am one of your students. What right do you have to call one of my colleagues a ‘cockroach,’ you filthy Israeli cunt? Please, could I ask you to leave the U.S. and return to the land of Zion-Nazis where you can slaughter innocent cockroaches at whim? See you in class you wasted inbred.”

Raviv’s account is apologetic, and he is clearly hurt and worried:

Raviv: I poorly chose my words. I regret using bad language. We should all aspire to higher standards and not chaos. That’s not appropriate, so I’m sorry for that. But we need to understand what provoked this kind of language. What the student did to me, there’s no equivalence. Worst case scenario, I curse at somebody. But he has caused me real damage.  …

[Student newspapers that published his name] really damaged my reputation. I have some Arab students in the class, I have some Palestinian students in the class, and they accused me of being a racist.

This has never happened in the college, this kind of persecution just because of political views. And you try to ask yourself, if I was an Irish-American, would they accuse me of being a racist? Or are they accusing me only because I’m an Israeli-Jew? So now, I ask you, where is the bias-related behavior? If I was an American and I said, “Fucking little cockroach,” would they accuse me of being racist?

Update [30 Apr 1255 PDT]: The Campus Safety Officer, Mario Trinidad, who overheard the conversation “corroborated certain aspects of each individual’s description of this interaction, but did not fully corroborate either individual’s description,” according to Dean Spellman. A March 15 article in a student newspaper includes this quotation from the report:

I arrived at 1738 hours and noticed the performers standing near the doorway of Collins Dinning [sic] … As I walked towards the group a male adult approached me and stated he did not want the demonstrators blocking the entrance to the dining hall,” Trinidad wrote in the incident report. “At this time a white male, a member of the performance group, approached the male adult and asked him for identification and who he was. The male identified himself as a professor and told the white male to ‘fuck off.’ The performer replied[,] ‘[W]hat did you say?’ and followed up by asking, ‘Do you have permission to be on campus?’ The professor quickly flashed his CMC identification card and told the white male that he was a cockroach and to mind his own business. The professor then left the area. The performer was angry but in control of his emotions.

Now compare this to Raviv’s account of the interaction:

The [Campus Safety] officer arrived and he parked his car 30-40 feet south of the entrance in front of Story House. I saw the guy and wanted to go talk to him to explain what was going on. I started to walk toward his direction, and a [student from the demonstration approached me] and told me to my face, “Who are you? Show me your ID! Are you faculty or a visitor? If you are a visitor, you cannot be on campus after 5:00 p.m. Show me your campus pass!” I told him, “I will never show you my ID. It’s not your business who I am. I can be a faculty or a visitor; it’s not your business.” I kept walking toward the officer and this guy is in my face, you know, like overly aggressively. I started to talk with the [Campus Safety] officer and I said, “Listen, this student event has been approved for this demonstration, but they cannot block the entrance, you need to move them 10 feet aside.” To give [the Campus Safety officer] some validity to what I was saying, I pulled out my faculty ID. The [student] who was in my face basically said, “Oh, you are faculty! I will hunt you down!” And I said, “What? You will hunt me down? You’re a fucking, little cockroach.”

So [the student] heard that and said, “Oh! Now I’ve got you!” The moment he said that, I was really concerned—not because of the “cockroach,” I was concerned because of the f-word. I immediately disentangled because I didn’t want there to be a physical [altercation], so I went back to the Pitzer student who had asked for my help. I told him, “Listen, campus safety is here. They will take it from there.” And I left.

Do we have Trinidad’s complete report? Keep in mind that it is in the interest of the college to make this whole thing go away. They would prefer not to discipline Raviv — not that I think he deserves disciplining — and even more, not to have a student arrested for threatening a professor.

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Show me the money!

Monday, March 11th, 2013
Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin-Talal speaks at Harvard, 2012

Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin-Talal speaks at Harvard, 2012

Rob Vincent is back, with a follow-on to his previous piece, “How the heck we got here.” This time he asks the question “how come we don’t know where we are?”

The corruption of public discourse over Israel
By Robert K. Vincent

Ideally, here in the U.S. and also in other Western societies, one would expect a relatively free and open forum of discussion for competing points of view, in what some have called the “marketplace of ideas”.  In this realm, the venues for discussion are academic institutions, and for the public at large, national-level print and broadcast media organizations.  These venues – which I would collectively term as the “organs of thought control” – define the acceptable parameters of debate on any issue. Points of view that are deemed unacceptable in these realms, rightly or wrongly, are relegated to the fringes of public discourse, and thus have little chance of influencing public opinion or policies where relevant.

Inherent in the concept of being a “marketplace” of ideas, the relative competitiveness between various points of view should be measured in terms of who has the better command of facts, of logic, and pertinent history.

But what if this “marketplace” were corrupted, in a manner analogous to the “fixing” of actual marketplaces?  What if, as was the case during the “robber baron” days of 19th century America, a “Standard Oil” could buy out or otherwise shut down any form of competition?  From there, a narrative of questionable veracity and authenticity could nonetheless dominate public discourse unopposed, leading to negative policy outcomes.

On the international stage, we have already seen this dynamic play out in at least one successful instance.  Consider the course of the Vietnam War.  In this conflict, the U.S. had every material advantage as these are normally calculated in warfare.  Yet, in unprecedented fashion, despite winning every battle, we lost the war.  Though many cite the failure of American will as the primary reason for American defeat, this only tells half the story.  American failure of will was brought about as a result of deliberate calculation and tactical genius by our foes.

Without delving too greatly into the specific history here, it can fairly be said that while the U.S. concentrated on a two-dimensional battlefield focused on the clash of arms, Vietnamese leaders recognized the impact that could be brought to bear by a clash of perceptions that were vulnerable to manipulation in the modern media age.  This was a revolutionary development, on a par with the groundbreaking historical significance of Nazi Germany’s “blitzkrieg” tactics of WW2.

Indeed, everything of this nature that was done to the U.S. during the Vietnam War is being done to Israel today.  Terrorism, combatants routinely disguised as civilians, the deliberate use of civilians as human shields for media impact, child warriors, suicide bombers, and agitation on college campuses, all of these tools which sound so familiar to those of us involved in the defense of Israel were pioneered, in their modern form, by the Vietnamese communists.

That we see these very same tactics used against Israel is no coincidence:  Yasser Arafat traveled to Hanoi during the late 1960s in order to glean wisdom from North Vietnamese leaders regarding the methods by which he could defeat a materially superior foe.  Here, he was exposed to the techniques North Vietnam used in order to change the terms of the debate regarding the conflict in question, of manipulating public opinion to one’s own advantage.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Now, consider the Cold War.  During this time, starting most noticeably in the 1970s, the Soviets employed what they called “active measures” aimed at swaying opinion in Western countries so that the threat they posed would be minimized in the minds of Western publics.  They admitted to spending some $50 million annually on such efforts.  Although the recipients of such funds would not be publicly acknowledged for obvious reasons, as a student at the University of Michigan in the early 1980s, it was easy for me to spot the campus agitators and activists who promoted the Soviet line.  In the national media of that era, it was almost as easy to spot the various journalists, syndicated columnists, etc., who reflexively blamed the West in general or the U.S. in particular for every issue of contention between the West and the Soviet Bloc, who opposed every major American weapons program while remaining utterly silent about the Soviet arms industry, and so on.  Some of this “noise” might have been arrived at independently and honestly by those who made it, but the Soviets admitted to paying for at least some of it.  $50 million might have only bought a squadron of fighter jets in those days (it would buy maybe one today), but it would certainly grease a lot of palms.

With all of the above in mind, let us return to the Arab-Israeli conflict.  There could not be an issue for which debate and reportage over the same, in the “organs of thought control”, has become more outrageously one-sided.  Finding a professor at a major university who will openly take the side of Israel is harder than finding a bag of pork rinds in the Rabbi’s pantry. With the partial exceptions of FOX and the Wall Street Journal, finding a major national or international-level print or broadcast news organization that does not take the Arab side against Israel in nearly every instance is also next to impossible.

The “marketplace of ideas”, where this issue is concerned, simply does not exist.  Here, there is only one “product” for sale and the consumer can either accept it or ignore it, but it is amazingly resistant to any challenge in the form of genuine debate.

This phenomenon is so pervasive and comprehensive, it beggars belief that it could simply come about as mere coincidence.  Could so many legions of professors and journalists be so willfully and consistently ignorant to such an enormous degree, on the same issue, all at once?

Remember the Soviet’s “active measures” program:  What if a smear campaign aimed at demonizing Israel and promoting the Palestinian narrative, while at the same time, obscuring the true medieval, barbaric nature of Israel’s foes, wasn’t supported by a paltry $50 million per year…but instead by hundreds of millions of dollars every year, year in and year out, for literally decades?  That would grease many, many palms, wouldn’t it?

Precise figures are impossible to come by, but we know they are doing this.  Reports of multimillion dollar Saudi grants to major universities are legion.  In 2005 alone, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal – the nephew of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and reportedly the fifth richest man in the world today – awarded grants totaling $40 million to Harvard and Georgetown universities in order to “advance Islamic studies and further understanding of the Muslim world”…even as many of his own subjects are mired in poverty and illiteracy. Where media organizations are concerned, it has been reported, this very same Saudi prince owns a 7% stake in NewsCorp, the parent company of both FOX and the Wall Street Journal.  This is the second largest share of any investor.  This does not tell the whole story; his stake consists of special “preferred” stock that gives him the equivalent of 40% voting rights on their board of directors.

Now, consider what happened to Glenn Beck in 2011.  Whatever you may think of him, there was no question but that he was an incredibly staunch and courageous supporter of Israel.  His special program on that subject, scheduled to air in early April of that year, was abruptly cancelled for no stated reason.  Speculation was rife in many quarters that weekend that he was being taken off the air, and eerily, in classic Stalinist style, columnists such as Dana Milbank, writing in the Washington Post, were already writing his journalistic obituary, incredibly accusing Beck of being an “anti-Semite”!  His Israel special aired the following week anyway, but his show was ultimately cancelled in June of that year, even though his contract had him running until December.  But he had scheduled his “Restoring Courage” event in Israel for later that summer; some “coincidence”.

Stop and consider the implications of this.  What could be so controversial about someone coming out in support of one of America’s most important and staunch allies?  Why was this so objectionable, when the solid majority of Americans support Israel in any event?

Academia and the media are not the only places petrodollars are finding their way so as to influence public perceptions of Israel.  Churches are also being targeted.  For example, in 2012, the Presbyterian Church USA’s General Assembly Mission Committee endorsed a resolution that would require that church to divest from holdings in Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett-Packard due to the relationships these firms have with Israel.   What possible interest could a Christian church of any denomination have in punitive actions against Israel, the only Middle Eastern country where Christians can freely practice their faith?  Can leaders of these churches be so completely ignorant of the growing violent persecution of Christians throughout much of the Muslim world?  In Egypt alone, since the overthrow of Mubarak, Islamist persecution of Coptic Christians there – to include Church burnings and deadly mob violence – has led some 100,000 Coptic Christians to flee that country so far.

Yet, even in the face of this propaganda juggernaut, arguing the case for Israel is not a waste of time.  We need to make every effort in this regard for the sake of strengthening the convictions of our friends and enlightening the genuinely curious and uninformed.  We have one important advantage:  The other side has to convince the public that 2+2=5, whereas we only have to remind people that 2+2=4, a far easier task.

After all, what are Israel’s detractors supporting?  Israel does not exist in a vacuum, in isolation.  She is engaged in a state of war at one level or another with most of her neighbors, who make no secret of wanting to see her destroyed.  By casting Israel as being “bad”, this, by logical extension, by default, casts her adversaries as “good”.  Let us take a moment to remind ourselves – and resolve to remind anyone we debate or inform – just who Israel’s adversaries are.  I would submit to you that the political and philosophical gulf between the West and Muslim SW Asia is greater than between the West and the Soviet Bloc during the Cold War, or even between the Western allies and Nazi Germany.  At least in the USSR or in Nazi Germany, a woman could drive a car or get a job.

Consider Saudi Arabia.  This is a society where there is no free press, no freedom of religion, no labor rights, and no women’s rights as we understand these.  But it gets much worse than that.  In Saudi Arabia, the courts have sentenced women to death – to death – for allegedly casting a spell on their husbands that made them impotent.  This is a country where pre-adolescent girls are routinely forced into marriages with grown men in their thirties, forties, or even fifties.  Here, 19-year-old rape victims are flogged for the “crime” of being in the company of an unrelated male.  And these pathologies are hardly limited to Saudi Arabia; in various forms, they are rampant throughout the region.  I sometimes wonder if this entire fantastic charade of demonizing Israel is not really some giant smokescreen intended to distract the rest of the world from the horrific nature of their own societies, to “keep the closet door closed”, so to speak.

Make no mistake, however.  The Saudi-led propaganda campaign against Israel is not simply wanton hatred for its own sake.  This has a very calculated objective.  The Saudis and their friends mean to inflict upon Israel what was carried out against Rhodesia in the 1970s.  Unable to defeat Israel on the battlefield, unable to compete with her economically, this is the only effective weapon in their arsenal.  Israel is to be branded a pariah state and strangled through political, diplomatic, and economic isolation.  The immediate objective in this campaign at the present time is to deprive Israel of her most important major power ally and strategic partner for the past four decades, the U.S.

When American Jews advocate for Israel, some even among our own criticize our efforts as amounting to “single-issue” politics, as if this were somehow unacceptably selfish to engage in.  But at this point in history, in view of the very real possibility that we stand to lose the anchor of our claim to people hood, with all the attendant consequences, I would implore you all to ignore such criticisms.  We can still care about the disadvantaged, about education, about the rights of those who are discriminated against, as we always have.  As a people, we have done so much for so many others outside of our community, that I submit to you that we have earned the right in the present moment to put ourselves first as that is expressed in the defense of Israel.

We must never allow ourselves to be intimidated or silenced.  We must do all we can to speak with as loud and unified voice as we can muster as a people.

As daunting as this task may seem, remember that the Soviet Union collapsed anyway, even as the government there had total control of the ‘organs of thought control’.  The Vietnamese communists may have won their war, but it turned into a hollow victory.  The Maoist ideal of Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam has never been realized.  Their leaders now come begging to their former capitalist, “imperialist” foes for trade and investment.  Most ironically, Vietnam today is aggressively courting Israel as a source of such support.

Beyond our own grassroots efforts, my greatest hope is that more will be done to publicly expose the petrodollar propaganda machine.  I would compare this enterprise of theirs to “The Wizard of Oz”:  An impressive show of noise, light, and power, all based on illusion, all controlled by some little old man hiding behind a curtain, pulling levers and pushing buttons.  We must tear that curtain away and expose that little man for the pathetic wretch he is, expose his corrupt friends for what they are, and in this way, ensure our place as a people, in the eyes of all other peoples in the world.

Robert Vincent, a U.S. Army veteran, obtained his BA in Russian and East European Studies from the University of Michigan, his MA in International Relations from the University of Chicago, and his MBA from the University of Findlay.  He lives and works in Northwest Ohio.

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A Jewish state can be democratic and moral

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Joseph Levine is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and he has published an essay in (where else?) the New York Times, in which he argues that the proposition ‘Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state’ is false.

There are many things in the article to complain about, but I am going to content myself with pointing out the single massive howler by which his argument collapses.

He makes the distinction between “a people in the ethnic sense” and in the “civic sense,” which means either residents of a geographical area or citizens of a state. He generously grants that there is a Jewish people in the ethnic sense who live in Israel, but only an ‘Israeli people’, which includes Arabs, in the civic sense. Then he tells us,

…insofar as the principle that all peoples have the right to self-determination entails the right to a state of their own, it can apply to peoples only in the civic sense…

But if the people who “own” the state in question are an ethnic sub-group of the citizenry, even if the vast majority, it constitutes a serious problem indeed, and this is precisely the situation of Israel as the Jewish state. Far from being a natural expression of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, it is in fact a violation of the right to self-determination of its non-Jewish (mainly Palestinian) citizens. It is a violation of a people’s right to self-determination to exclude them — whether by virtue of their ethnic membership, or for any other reason — from full political participation in the state under whose sovereignty they fall…

Any state that “belongs” to one ethnic group within it violates the core democratic principle of equality, and the self-determination rights of the non-members of that group. [my emphasis]

His exposition is much more lengthy and you should read it. But I think I have extracted the gist of it.

Interestingly, while he explains what he means by ‘a people’ and draws a distinction between two senses of the expression, he does not even hint about his understanding of the concept of ‘democracy’ and especially “the core democratic principle of equality,” the violation of which he believes disqualifies Israel from continued existence as a Jewish state.

Levine explains how Israel violates these principles:

The distinctive position of [a favored ethnic people] would be manifested in a number of ways, from the largely symbolic to the more substantive: for example, it would be reflected in the name of the state, the nature of its flag and other symbols, its national holidays, its education system, its immigration rules, the extent to which membership in the people in question is a factor in official planning, how resources are distributed, etc.

Actually, concerning the “more substantive” things, Arab citizens of Israel are doing quite well: they have the right to vote, to hold political office, and a large degree of control of their educational system; there are rules against discrimination in housing and employment (with exceptions related to national security), etc. In other words, they have full civil rights.

Naturally there are differences in the treatment of Jews and Arabs. Some are due to cultural differences — Arab towns are governed by Arabs and distribute resources differently — some are related to security, and some to anti-Arab prejudice. But the degree of prejudice in Israeli society is not particularly great compared to other advanced nations like the US, and nobody is suggesting that the US does not have a “right to exist” unless all discrimination can be eliminated.

In any event, discrimination in what he calls “substantive” ways are not essential to the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, and there is a general consensus that such discrimination is wrong and should be eliminated.

Israel’s immigration rules are certainly unequal. But immigration rules by definition do not apply to citizens; and few — if any — of the world’s nations permit free immigration.

Levine also does not consider security issues at all. If Israel ignored them it would cease to exist without philosophical arguments. This would be bad both for the Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel (just ask any of them if they would prefer to be citizens of Israel or the Palestinian Authority).

Levine is quite correct, though, that symbolic items like the name of the state, the flag, and the national anthem belong to only one group of citizens. But are these included in the “core democratic principle of equality?” Why should they be?

After all, many states with ethnic or religious symbolism associated with them have been called ‘democratic’ since the word was invented by the ancient Greeks (incidentally, most of the residents of Athens, the paradigm of democracy, weren’t even citizens).

I could argue strongly that only civil rights are essential to democracy, and that “equality” in many senses is not. And Arab citizens of Israel have civil rights, even if they find the national anthem — which they are not required to sing — offensive.

And here we come to the fallacy in Levine’s argument. Can you say petitio principii? No? Then how about “assuming what you purport to prove?”

Because that is exactly what this Professor of Philosophy has done. He has built the negation of the fundamental idea of an ethnic nation-state — the expression of the beliefs, yearnings and fellow-feeling of an ethnic group in the symbols and moral principles of a state — into his definition of ‘democracy’, and then ‘proves’ that no such state can be democratic, and therefore ought not to exist in that form!

Another way of looking at it is that there is a hidden premise that is not true. In this case, that would be that democracy entails “group political equality” in which every group, whether a majority or minority, has an equal vote on all matters. But the usual idea of democracy is that each individual has a vote, as long as the civil rights of minorities are maintained. This is quite different.

There is another hidden premise, which is that if a state is not completely democratic, it is morally defective. This is also not self-evident; indeed, both Plato and Aristotle thought the opposite.

Many years ago, I had a short career as a college teacher of Philosophy. This is an undergraduate error; Levine should be embarrassed.

***

But now I have further questions for Professor Levine:

Why did you not write an article about whether Saudi Arabia has a right to exist as a Kingdom, or indeed whether any of the kingdoms, dictatorships, Islamic ‘republics’ or other undemocratic entities have a ‘right to exist’ as such?

Why did you not argue that the Kingdom of Jordan should not exist as such, not only because is it an undemocratic monarchy, but because a minority of Bedouins there rule over a majority of other Arabs? This is especially relevant, because Transjordan was created from the territory called ‘Palestine’, precisely to create an Arab state that would be a counterpart to the Jewish National Home that Britain was supposed to nurse into existence in Western Palestine.

Why do you find the relatively mild discrimination against Arab residents of Israel — especially in the context of the security situation — important when so many other Middle Eastern states with ethnic or religious minorities completely disenfranchise, even viciously oppress them (e.g., the Kurds or the Palestinians in Lebanon)?

You will say that this is because the question of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is much-discussed today, and as a philosopher you are equipped to add clarity to the discussion.

But it is discussed today precisely because those who deny it primarily do so not as an academic exercise, but in the context of a desire to end Jewish sovereignty, to establish insecure borders, and to allow the almost 5 million claimants to ‘Palestinian’ nationality (an absurdity if there ever was one) to enter the territory, which would result in the re-dispersal  of the Jewish people and quite probably the deaths of many of them. If this isn’t an antisemitic enterprise, I don’t know what is.

So your focus on Israel among states, your hypersensitivity to its perceived (by you) moral defects, your fallacious attempt to lend support to those who would destroy it, is de facto antisemitic, even if some of your best friends (and relatives) are Jews.

The antisemitic shoe fits. Wear it proudly.

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Evergreen State — a total immersion experience

Sunday, September 9th, 2012
'Israeli settlement' built on Evergreen campus by "TESC Divest!" student group

‘Israeli settlement’ built on Evergreen campus by “TESC Divest!” student group

Recently I wrote a couple of posts about Rachel Corrie (here and here). I was particularly interested in what prompted her to go to Gaza with the International Solidarity Movement [ISM], a group which sends idealistic young Westerners to serve as human shields for Hamas or PLO guerrillas in the front lines of the low-intensity Arab war against the Jewish state.

A few of these ‘internationals’ have been seriously hurt, or, like Corrie, killed, sacrifices on the altar of anti-Israel propaganda.

How does it happen that young people are prepared to risk everything for a cause which, by any logic, is not theirs; and which, as causes go, is not especially pressing (the Palestinian Arabs in Gaza or Judea/Samaria are better off in every way than Palestinians in Lebanon, Copts in Egypt, Sunnis in Syria, etc.)?

The answer is that there are well-tuned systems set up on many of our campuses which recruit, process and send students off in service of the Palestinian Cause. These machines have a permanent nucleus of a few dedicated faculty members, which is orbited closely by student organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine, the Muslim Student Association, Jewish Voice for Peace, and more.

There are also peripheral groups that support the projects of the central players, usually because of a perception of shared ‘colonial oppression’ — this sometimes includes LGBT groups, immigrants’ rights organizations, etc.

Students drawn into these psycho-political cyclotrons are insulated from all other voices, and what begins as a concern for human rights is amplified by contact with more and more extreme expressions of anti-Israel ideology until they fly off, completely one-dimensional, often white-hot with hatred for the Jewish ‘colonialists’, prepared to cooperate if need be with murderous terrorists because of their perception of the overwhelming justice and need of their Cause.

The Evergreen State College [TESC] of Olympia, Washington, where Rachel Corrie was recruited, has provided a disproportionate number of ISM volunteers. As I wrote before, faculty members Steve Niva and (former faculty) Simona Sharoni were mentioned several times in Corrie’s diaries as important influences on her decision to go to Gaza.

If we look at the overall environment of Evergreen, perhaps we can understand the way today’s Corries are submerged in the Palestinian narrative and Israel-hating ideology. A student group called “TESC Divest!” — which, for some reason does not appear in the list of official student organizations on TESC’s website — is the center of several boycott-divestment-sanctions [BDS] projects, as well as various “informational” activities and events.

TESC Divest! probably represents the majority of the students and faculty at Evergreen. For example, in 2010, Evergreen students voted to pass two BDS resolutions with huge majorities, both over 70%. And here is a list of faculty and staff that endorsed them:

Anne Fischel, Ph.D, Communication
Anita Lenges, Ph.D, Curriculum and Instruction
Bob Woods, M.F.A. Sculpture
Carolyn Prouty, D.V.M., Veterinary Medicine
Davi Zielinski Koska, Evergreen Staff, Community Activist
E.J. Zita, Ph.D., Physics
Elizabeth Williamson, Ph.D., English Literature
Erik Thuesen, Ph.D., Biological Sciences
Gillies Malnarich, Co-Director of the Washington Center for Improving Undergraduate Education
Jean Eberhardt, Evergreen Staff — [advisor mentioned in Rachel Corrie Diaries — ed.]
Jon Davies, Ed.D
Jose Gomez, J.D. from Harvard Law School
Judith Gabriele
Larry Mosqueda, Ph.D., Political Science,
Laurie Meeker, M.F.A., Film Production
Lin Nelson, Ph.D., Spanish
Liza Rognas, M.A., Information Resources and Library Science,
Lori Blewett, Ph.D., Speech Communication
Marianne Hoepli
Michael Vavrus, Ph.D., Instructional Development and Technology
Paul McMillin, M.L.I.S., Library and Information Science
Peter Bohmer, Ph.D., Economics
Ruth Hayes, M.F.A., Experimental Animation
Sarah Ryan, M.A., Labor and Industrial Relations
Savvina Chowdhury, Ph.D., Economics
Susan Preciso, M.A., English
Ted Whitesell, Ph.D., Geography
Therese Saliba, Ph.D., English; Fulbright Scholar, 1995
Tony Zaragoza, Doctoral Studies, American Studies
Zahid Shariff, Doctor of Public Administration
Zoltan Grossman, Ph.D., Geography

And here are student organizations that also endorsed the resolutions:

Student of Color Union (SOC-U) — [because we are all colonized — ed.]
Black Student Union (BSU) — [because Palestinians aren’t racists — ed.]
Native Student Alliance (NSA)
Women of Color Coalition (WOCC)
Asian Pacific Islander Coalition (APIC)
Synergy
Evergreen Bike Shop — [because Palestinians are green — ed.]
Counter Point Journal (CxPJ)
Mideast Solidarity Project (MSP)
Latin American Solidarity Organization (LASO)
Committee In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)
Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA)
Developing Ecological Agriculture Practices (DEAP)
Women’s Resource Center (WRC) — [because Palestinians are feminists — ed.]
Evergreen Queer Alliance (EQA) — [because Palestinians are LGBT-friendly — ed.]
Hip Hop Congress

Evergreen State College is a total immersion experience — immersion in anti-Israel propaganda.

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Rachel Corrie and Evergreen State

Thursday, August 30th, 2012
Shrine to St. Rachel Corrie at an Olympia art studio

Shrine to St. Rachel Corrie at an Olympia art studio

I recently wrote about the tragedy of Rachel Corrie (it’s always tragic when a young person dies, more so when she dies for a mistaken cause, and even more when she is cynically brainwashed by a group like ISM which is directly connected to terrorist groups).

Rachel was a student at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, when she proposed an independent study project for her senior year to establish a sister-city relationship between Olympia and Rafah, a town that lies directly on the border between the Gaza strip and Egypt, a nexus of conflict between the IDF and terrorists smuggling weapons into Gaza.

Evergreen is a paradigm of the progressive cause-based model of education, where you can get what author Howard Jacobson (The Finkler Question) called a “modular degree.” For example, the home page for the “Gender and Sexuality: History, Culture and Politics” program includes this bemusing note:

Enrollment is open to any Evergreen student with sophomore through senior standing. It is likely that many students will have a sexual or gender identity, but this is not a prerequisite for enrollment. If you have such an identity, switching it out at any time is also perfectly fine.

Hmmm… everyone that I know has a “sexual of gender identity,” although they don’t “switch it out” too often (not that there would be anything wrong with that).

Among the many courses in gender and ethnic studies, activism, etc., I did not find anything like a course in Western Civilization. The closest to one in American History was “The Formation of the North American State,” described thus:

This program will examine the movement of the North American colonies in their separation from Britain to the emergence of the United States through the election of 1800. It will investigate the conflict; the social, racial and class divisions; and the distinctly different visions of the proper social, economic and political system that should predominate in the new nation.  Much conflict surrounded the separation of the settler colonies from Britain, including a transatlantic revolutionary movement, development of slave-based plantations and the birth of capitalism. Capitalism was not a foregone conclusion. …

I just bet it wasn’t.

Rachel didn’t get her sister-city project off the ground, although it is presently being pursued in her name. What she did do on arrival was join up with several ISM activists (Olympia and Evergreen have provided a disproportionate number of members to the ISM) for a training session, then traveled to Gaza, where she did her (unfortunately effective) best to throw herself against the machine of Occupation.

Shockingly, Evergreen State College is proud of her, and offers an annual scholarship in her name:

Rachel Corrie, a lifelong Olympia resident, Evergreen student and community activist was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Rafah, Gaza, on March 16, 2003, while defending the home of a Palestinian family against unlawful demolition.

This [$2,000] scholarship is for students dedicated to gaining a better understanding of the Middle East and to working locally or internationally to further Middle East peace. Applicants must show how they will use their studies to promote human rights and social justice through community activism and/or political advocacy.

Areas of interest related to the Middle East may include: Arab culture and Arabic language, US Policy in the Middle East, and peace, justice and conflict resolution studies.

There has been some speculation about the faculty members who encouraged her and perhaps approved her “independent study.”  Simona Sharoni, who called Rachel her “beloved student and friend,” and Steve Niva, who “met with Rachel Corrie before she left for Gaza,” appear to have been among them.

Sharoni is aggressively anti-Zionist. Now department chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at SUNY Plattsburgh, she coined the term “compassionate resistance” as she

…struggled to reconcile my grief, frustration and anger with the empathy, love and compassion I felt for people who put their bodies on the line to resist oppression.

I could find no expression of empathy, love or compassion in her writing for the Jewish victims of Palestinian terror, except insofar as she sees them as misguided. Indeed, she criticizes left-wing Israelis who are involved in dialogue with Palestinians because they don’t sufficiently understand that the needs of the occupied Palestinians take priority over those of the Jewish occupiers, even leftist anti-occupation types.

Steve Niva is a professor in Political Science and Middle East Studies, and a long-time boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) activist. He’s a frequent contributor to the viciously anti-Israel (and anti-American) “Counterpunch” newsletter. A list of some of Niva’s courses will give you an idea of his ideology:

Spring 2012. US Foreign Policy and the Roots of Terrorism. This program examined debates over the nature and causes of terrorism in the Middle East and considered alternatives to the policies adopted in the  “war on terror.”

Fall/Winter 2013-14: Alternatives to Capitalist Globalization. This program will explore and critically analyze the diverse social movements and alternative visions for creating more just global and national institutions and societies.

Spring, 2013: Beyond Protest:  New Theories and Practices of Political Action. This program will explore the theory and practice of new forms of oppositional political action that go beyond familiar modes of public protest.

Both Sharoni and Niva are mentioned several times in Rachel Corrie’s Journals, and clearly they were important in her decision to go to Gaza. The radical community in Olympia/Evergreen has beatified Rachel Corrie while demonizing Israel; Rachel is not the only one who bought the Palestinian story hook, line and sinker.

Doubtless those adult mentors believe that they are free of guilt for her death. They are not. Rachel Corrie’s Journals mentions a “Joe F.” who was her Arabic teacher — there is a Joe Fahoum teaching Arabic at Evergreen — who, according to a footnote (provided by the family), urged her not to go to Gaza.

Possibly he understood the real nature and objectives of the ISM and the danger Rachel would be in, and unlike the others, cared enough to see her as a young woman with a future rather than as a pawn to be sacrificed in the war against the Jewish state.

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Another California academic

Monday, July 30th, 2012
As'ad Abu Khalil, the "angry Arab"

As’ad Abu Khalil, the “angry Arab”

Will Zionists ever learn how much Arabs hate Israel?
My favorite Zionist delusion is the notion that the Arab people don’t hate Israel but that the Arab governments incite the people to hate Israel, when it is the other way round.  “London 2012 organising committee officials erected a makeshift curtain to split the two halves of a training gym at the ExCeL centre on Friday afternoon to placate the Lebanese team, which was refusing to train at the same time as the Israelis.” — As’ad (“Angry Arab”) Abu Khalil

I had intended to write about why so many peace projects — Oslo, the treaty with Egypt, improving relations with Turkey, etc. — have foundered on the rocks of Arab and Muslim hatred for Jews and Israel. I had planned to illustrate it with Mr. Angry Arab’s remark, as well as the video of Egyptian celebrities exploding in paroxysms of rage in the presence of pretend ‘Israelis’.

But the more I looked at Abu Khalil’s remarks, the more I realized that I agree with him about so many things! I thought it would be interesting to point this out.

Not Israel — he hates it and hates Zionism. I’m a Zionist and I love Israel. So we have an issue there.

For example, he wrote this about left-wing, anti-“occupation” musician Daniel Barenboim:

Can an Israeli redeem himself/herself?
I am often asked that question since I adhere to boycott of all things Israeli.  The answer is yes provided 1) the person refuses to serve in the Army or the intelligence service of the state as part of military service; 2) the person must leave the house he/she occupies and the land on which he/she stands on because chances are the house is occupied, in the literal sense, and the land is occupied, in the literal sense; 3) the person must engage in armed struggle against the terrorist state of Israel.  If an Israeli person fulfills those conditions, he/she should be acceptable from a pro-Palestinian point of view.

He often refers to “terrorist Israel” and repeats Palestinian folktales about the “Jenin massacre” and the reality inversions about the IDF targeting Palestinian children (when, on our planet, Palestinian Arab terrorists go after Jewish children). He travels around giving presentations on “The Case Against Israel.” Not much to agree with there.

But look, he’s an Arab who hates Israel. How refreshing, compared to the Jewish idiots that hate Israel, like Max Blumenthal, Philip Weiss or the editorial board and publisher of Ha’aretz!

And we do agree that both Bashar al-Assad and the “Free Syrian Army” are vicious criminals. We agree that the PA, Fatah and Hamas are corrupt organizations that screw the Palestinian Arabs. We agree that the New York Times is outrageously biased (although we disagree about the direction it leans). He doesn’t trust the Turkish regime (OK, it’s not anti-Israel enough for him), and he dislikes the House of Saud, its corruption and its international meddling. Me too.

What a guy! And he lives right here in Central California, about an hour up the road in Modesto.

He’s a tenured Professor of Political Science at California State University, Stanislaus, and a visiting professor at UC Berkeley. He taught at Tufts University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Colorado College, and Randolph-Macon Woman’s College.

He teaches courses in American Government, Comparative Politics: Middle East, Gender & Sexuality in the Middle East, and Politics of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (I can only imagine what this is like).

He’s paid — we California residents pay him — to teach our children.

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Endemic mass psychosis strikes universities

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Those of us who have not been hanging around US college campuses lately have no idea of the degree to which anti-Israel activities and discourse permeate the political atmosphere, especially where there are active chapters of groups like the Muslim Student Association, Students for Justice in Palestine, etc.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a Lecturer in Hebrew at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Leila Beckwith, Professor Emeritus in Pediatrics at UCLA, have attacked it head on, arguing that the over-the-top hatred of Israel constitutes antisemitism, which directly harms Jewish students. From their AMCHA Initiative  website:

In June 2009, Tammi filed a Title VI complaint under the 1964 U.S. Civil Rights Law that alleges that anti-Israel and anti-Jewish discourse and behavior in classrooms and at university-sponsored events had resulted in the intellectual and emotional harassment and intimidation of Jewish students at UC Santa Cruz and violated federal anti-discrimination laws. Her complaint, the first of its kind, is now being investigated by the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education.

They are now engaged in a dispute with the administration of CSU Northridge about a “boycott Israel resource page” maintained by Mathematics Professor David Klein on the University’s server and linked to Klein’s faculty page.

For example, here is a snippet from Klein’s page, under the heading “Israel is the most racist state in the world at this time:”

Zionism calls for a Jewish state.  Israel defines Jewishness, in part, in genetic terms.  A person is legally Jewish if his or her mother is Jewish, regardless of place of birth or religious belief. Israel is an apartheid state that systematically discriminates against the indigenous population, enforcing, for example, Jewish-only buses and Jewish-only roads.  The result of Israeli state policies has been a 63 year program of ethnic cleansing, including expulsion of the Palestinian population, military occupation, and mass murder.

Almost every proposition in the above is false.

1. Israel is a Jewish state like France is a French state and ‘Palestine’ would be a ‘Palestinian’ one. For comparison, the proposed constitution for ‘Palestine’ adds that Islam is its official religion and Islamic shari’a the main source of legislation. Israel does not have an ‘official’ or state religion and its legal system is not based on Judaism.

2. There is no apartheid in Israel and the Palestinian Arabs are no more indigenous than Zionist Jews.

3. There are no Jewish-only buses or roads. There are limitations on access to Israeli buses and roads placed on Arab residents of the territories for security reasons, but they are not race-based. Israeli Arabs are free to use them.

4.  Most of the Arabs that fled Israel in 1948 were not expelled. On the other hand, all of the Jewish population of eastern Jerusalem were kicked out at gunpoint, and many of the residents of Gush Etzion in Judea were massacred by the Jordanian army.

5. There has been no mass murder of Arabs by Jews, and today more than 95% of the Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria are governed by the Palestinian Authority, not Israel (all of Gaza is controlled by the genocidally antisemitic Hamas).

6. The Palestinian Arab population in Judea, Samaria and Gaza has more than doubled since 1990. This is evidence of mass murder and ethnic cleansing?

Rossman-Benjamin and Beckwith argue that Klein’s pages are antisemitic, and that his placing this kind of material on a CSUN server is misuse of University facilities.

I am not going to rehearse the argument, which I have made here, that extreme Israel-hatred is antisemitism by another name.

It’s true, but it doesn’t matter.

Advocating the destruction of a nation on the basis of lies and distortions — for example, the wholly inappropriate application of the concept of ‘apartheid’ — is no less vile than doing the same to individuals.

Accusing a nation of mass murder and ethnic cleansing that did not happen is no less vile than doing the same to individuals.

Calling for a boycott of a nation unless it agrees to commit suicide by admitting 5 million hostiles who claim to be descendants of refugees is vile, period.

Klein and others like him often concentrate on Israel to the exclusion of other issues. One would think that someone who worries about mass murder in the Middle East would note such actual mass murderers like Bashar al-Assad and his father Hafez, or Saddam Hussein. He does not. Only Israel and (to a lesser extent) the US merit discussion.

The irrational, obsessive, unbalanced, excessive, fanatical hatred of a nation that characterizes a person like Klein is a form of mental illness that attacks and destroys the moral sense found in a normal individual. En masse, it is a mass psychosis. In academia, it is an endemic mass psychosis.

The distinction between antisemitism and radical anti-Zionism is a red herring. Vicious, murderous, irrational hatred is evil and must be unacceptable in civilized society, regardless of whether it is directed at individuals or nations.

David Klein is supported by the interim president of CSUN, Harry Hellenbrand, who has written a remarkably incoherent response to Rossman-Benjamin and Beckwith, in which he suggests that they support Israel because of “God’s covenant” and the Holocaust, and accuses them of trying to impose ‘censorship’.

All of the above is nonsense. Censorship is not an issue; Klein can say whatever he wants in public, only not paid for by California taxpayers and on a website bearing the name of the state university. And speaking of God, only He knows where Klein found appeals to the Bible or the Holocaust in Rossman-Benjamin and Beckwith’s letters.

Hellenbrand isn’t a disinterested administrator. In December he joined Klein as a signatory (along with Fresno’s own anti-Israel power couple Vida Samiian and Sasan Fayazmanesh) on a petition against restarting the CSU system’s study program in Israel, which had been halted during the Second Intifada.

It wasn’t a bad idea to stop the program in 2002, when a number of American citizens were killed by Arab terrorists for being in the wrong pizza parlor or bus at the wrong time.

The petition suggested that going to Israel today was dangerous for American citizens, and cited the cases of Rachel Corrie and Furkan Dogan, the Turkish-American who was among the IHH thugs killed on the Mavi Marmara.

In other words, Klein and friends see no essential difference between the victims of anti-civilian terrorism and those hurt accidentally while taking part in activities intended to interfere with IDF operations.

Such are those that we trust to teach our children!

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