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Monday, August 4, 2008

Faking University Fairness with Token "Self-Hating Jews"

Those "mid-east" studies departments a stoked with anti-Israel professors, Jew haters and holocaust deniers. The "scholarly" papers that come out of those groups are usually "revisionist" history, usually coming up with some way to claim that there was never a Jew in the holy land. Now the Universities are taking a new tact to show that the Middle East Studies departments are not loaded with anti-Semites...hire a Jew. But their token Jew is usually the "Norman Finkelstein type. In the interest of fairness and diversity, the Universities are hiring the self-hating, Israel-bashing Jews to round out their Middle East Studies rouges galleries:

In Academia, Hiring Token Jews
by Asaf Romirowsky
Washington Times

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict long ago spilled over into America's departments of Middle East studies. In an attempt to appear balanced in the face of charges of anti-Israel biases, some departments or programs of Middle East studies have added Israeli scholars to their ranks—a move that at first glance appears welcome.

Yet many of these Israeli academics have built their reputation on scholarship that is harshly critical not only of Israeli policy, but of Israel's very existence. Anti-Israel scholars who hail from Israel are cited favorably by the entire range of Israel's critics, from pro-Palestinian groups like PSM, the Committee to Stop Demolition of Houses in Palestine, the Committee to Stop Torture, and Breaking the Silence to Jewish anti-Zionist groups like the American Council for Judaism, from neo-Nazis to Islamists.

The international standing of such scholars received a boost in the mid-1980s with the rise of the so-called "new historians" in Israeli universities. These scholars sought to debunk what they claim is a distorted "Zionist narrative" in Israeli historiography. In practice, they twisted the history of Israel's rebirth by, among other tricks, dismissing the efforts of the Arab states to destroy the new-born Jewish state as a Zionist myth, and claiming that Israel is built on ethnic cleansing and brutality towards the Palestinians.

Given this hostility to Israel's very existence, Middle East studies departments in the United States are tempted to hire anti-Israeli Israelis: they inoculate the employer against charges of anti-Semitism while seemingly legitimizing their claims of ideological balance gained through presenting an Israeli viewpoint. All this is achieved without changing the radical, anti-Israel, Arabist prejudices of their departments.

This problem is noted by leading Middle East historian Efraim Karsh, who in his book Fabricating Israeli History observes that propaganda in the field of Middle East Studies has become the accepted norm. In other disciplines, this would have created a serious crisis of credibility. Yet, Karsh notes:

Not so in contemporary Middle East Studies. For such is the politicization of this field that the New Historiography's partisanship has been its entry ticket to the Arabist club and its attendant access to academic journals, respected publishing houses, and the mass media.

Today, these "new historians" teach at many North American and European universities. In practice, it ensures that students are taught an ahistorical, one-sided interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Some recent examples illustrate the problem:

  • Ilan Pappe formally of Haifa University and now with the University of Exeter in England, was one of the driving forces behind the academic boycott movement against Israeli academics that began in the United Kingdom. Pappe believes that Zionism is a genocidal, racialist movement. Here he describes the founding years of the Jewish state:

The number of Jews coming into the country increased by the day—although even at that point, during the 1930s, the Jews were just a quarter of the population, possessing 4 percent of the land. As resistance to colonialism strengthened, the Zionist leadership became convinced that only through a total expulsion of the Palestinians would they be able to create a state of their own. From its early inception and up to the 1930s, Zionist thinkers propagated the need to ethnically cleanse the indigenous population of Palestine if the dream of a Jewish state were to come true.

  • Neve Gordon of Ben Gurion University of the Negev was a visiting professor at the University of Michigan this academic year. He has been described by Alan Dershowitz as, "One of the world's most extreme anti-Israel academics, [Gordon] belongs to the class of rabidly anti-Israel far-left professors whose trademark is the delight they take in comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany." Gordon believes that:

Israel is not a democracy. One-third of the demos does not enjoy a series of basic rights which make up the pillars of liberal democracies. The state of Israel has existed for 55 years and has controlled the Palestinian population in the occupied territories without giving them political rights for two-thirds of this period. Accordingly, the notion that the occupation is provisional or temporary should, by now, be considered an illusion concealing the reality on the ground.

  • Oren Yiftachel, a geography professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and a Diller Visiting Professor at the University of California at Berkeley, states that:

The failed Oslo process, the violent intifada and—most acutely—Israel's renewed aggression and brutality toward the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, have cast a dark shadow over the joint future of the state's Palestinian and Jewish citizens …The actual existence of an Israeli state (and hence citizenship) can be viewed as an illusion. Israel has ruptured, by its own actions, the geography of statehood, and maintained a caste-like system of ethnic-religious-class stratification.

Sanford and Helen Diller endowed Yiftachel's position at Berkeley. Helen Diller admits that she was motivated by the pro-Palestinian activism on campus: "With the protesting and this and that, we need to get a real strong Jewish studies program in there.... Hopefully, it will be enlightening to have a visiting professor and it'll calm down over there more." Her comments, though well-intentioned, illustrate the core assumption that the presence of an Israeli scholar guarantees ideological balance in a department.

Sanford Diller has noted the risks involved in trusting the university to fulfill his and his wife's wishes, and stated that it was never their foundation's intent to supply a platform at Berkeley for someone of Yiftachel's views, to which he and his wife are strongly in disagreement.

In Middle East studies, politicized writing and teaching have displaced scholarship, and academic freedom has been redefined as the liberty to dispense with academic standards. Hence, Middle East departments at Columbia, University of Michigan, Georgetown, and elsewhere are populated or even run by individuals like Rashid Khalidi, Juan Cole, and John Esposito. Hiring token Israeli Jews who share their views eliminates debate while providing the illusion of balance.

Asaf Romirowsky is an adjunct scholar for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum, and manager of Israel & Middle East Affairs for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's not even just Middle Eastern Studies departments. I attend Indiana University, where it's actually called the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Department (i.e., the Saudi and Islamist Agenda Department). As if it weren't sick and horrible enough that I, as a Jewish woman, can be repeatedly stalked, accosted, and harassed by Muslim students (which makes them, btw, terrorists, since they actively terrorize me) under the sanction of every relevant office here at Indiana Third Reich Universitystan, but my department, the Department of Linguistics, is chaired by a "Jewish" dude, the only professor of Semitic linguistics, and likely Judaic anything at this university, but he's the most hardcore closet Muslim I've ever met in my life. He openly admitted to being an Egyptophile (how anti-Semitic can you possibly get, even if you're only interested in the pre-Arab culture!?!) and to accepting 4 out of 13 students to my class alone solely on the basis of national origin, or as he said, because they had qualified for "competitive" government financing. He used the fact that they have the stamp of approval from a nation with a 30% illiteracy rate, and whose higher educational quality scores 3.7 out of 7 where 4.5 is failing, and which ranks 119 out of 130 nations ( as a yardstick for measuring academic aptitude in order to intentionally and illegally ghettoize my department with a bunch of students who have all demonstrated not only the lack of a basic primary school education or any regard for the rights and freedoms of us civilized, decent students or of free-world values generally, but one of whom is unarguably retarded and slows the class down to a pace which would not be appropriate for 1st-graders.

He also operates on the assumption that everyone he does not know happens to be as illiterate and ignorant as your average Muslim, judging by the kind of ridiculous craziness he was throwing at me when I met with him over stalking/harassment issue, I guess expecting me to believe. Who does that? One group of people that starts with M. He also engages in endless acts of taqiyya in order to paint a rosy picture of that which knows full-well that no reasonable, decent, thinking, moral, ethical, civilized, evolved, outbred person could possibly regard as even approaching tolerable or defensible. Finally, he refuses to take responsibility for his actions, let alone the unbelievably dangerous, incredibly toxic, and quite potentially deadly consequences of those actions. What else does he have to do in order to convince people that he's a Muslim? Rape his daughter and then pimp her away at age 11 to a 70-year-old cousin for a pack of gum, and then kill her when she turns out to not be a virgin because he raped her?

Thank God the ICRC and the DEOCR have my back in dealing with this nightmare.