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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Another academic hindered anti-Israel views

And by anti-Israel we mean calling attention to Israel's human rights abuses and violations of law or stubbornness without either justifiying Israel's actions in some way or slandering Palestinians.


I have flirted with the idea of supporting an economic and cultural boycott on Israel. Not that that would mean anything if I made a big announcement or anything. OK, more than flirted, but I’ve had reservations about it- though I can't really say why.

What I’m saying is that an economic boycott is what people expect for countries behaving badly. It is the go-to punishment. It has been argued- and I tend to agree- that boycotting them in academics, music, sports, etc in addition to economics would be more effective. This is rather controversial and seems to generate more cries of anti-Semitism than your average criticism or action. I also am a bit wary of supporting this all out boycott- I don’t want it to be about hatred for the Jewish culture or traditions. On the other hand, I don’t want the US to have an “unbreakable bond” with a country that is blatantly and brutally oppressing an entire population of people either! These seem like desperate times when you look at what Palestinians are up against.

Then you hear about these sorts of things. Israel banning Norman Finkelstein or Noam Chomsky from entering the country because of something they wrote said in a speech that mentions Israel’s human rights abuses without justifying them.

In the US, a professor is fired for mentioning the same sorts of concerns about human rights in Israel. This time, specifically, a man is nominated for an honor, has it shelved due to his political views on Israel, then reinstated.

I wonder why we can’t discuss cultural boycotts (without feeling a twinge of guilt that perhaps they are right-you are an anti-Semite) for vast human rights abuses (a la S. Africa), but it’s perfectly ok for Universities to fire professors and revoke honors if they aren’t sufficiently supportive of Israel and apparently all the crimes it commits?

Maybe some people use academic freedom as a reason not to support a cultural boycott. If that’s valid, then more people should be up in arms when people are fired for expressing concern for the way Israel treats Palestinians.

Maybe it’s not about academic freedom.



CUNY was going to give Kushner, a playwright, an honorary degree. They tabled it after a long diatribe by Wiesenfled. Then they reinstated him when people balked at the disregard for academic freedom.


I don’t know why Wiesenfeld was listened to. His diatribe took things Kushner said out of context (which even then didn’t reveal anything worthy of the horror Wiesenfeld portrayed; and his actual position is actually pretty mildly critical) and referred a lot to Norman Finklestein (whom he also demonized for his criticism of Israel) instead of to the subject matter for which Kushner was being honored- his work as a playwright.



“…heinous anti-Israel views, including his belief that the Jewish State was responsible for “ethnic cleansing.”

The second page, if you dare go there, is a heroic attempt to show the real victim to be the guy who got up to oppose the Kushner degree with a pretty wild speech. People who called for the guy to resign were called Marxist and Communist- don’t know if they are and I know it doesn’t matter for the question at hand. An effort (criticism of Weisenfeld) to “chill potential criticism of Israel demonization in the future” is mentioned with horror and indignation.

It ends with a report of a letter in which alumni are threatening to pull their donations to CUNY if it doesn’t address the “assault on Jews” disguised as anti-Israelism (???) and make CUNY friendly to supporters of Israel again.




This turned in to quite a list and I'm sure it's not even comprehensive. Wow.

Just for kicks I decided to write down a few others (off the top of my head and web search) who have suffered the same sort of thing- some more, some less than the current victim:

Early 2000s project by Daniel Pipes (still ongoing?) urging students to report on any professor they deem anti-Israel that usually results in some sort of pressure by groups (ADL, etc) and individuals (Dershowitz, among others) to get them fired or silenced.

Sami AL-Arian

Helen Thomas

2003 cartoonist Malcolm Evans

2006 surprisingly a Christian radio host

Octavia Nasr CNN, She expressed empathy on the death of Sheikh Sayyed Mohammad Fadlallah, a man who was considered the founder of Hezbollah


Norman Finkelstein denied tenure at DePaul

2/2009 Joel Kovel  Bard College

3/31/2009 Ottawa College, Denis Rancourt

1/31/2011 Kristofer Petersen-Overton, adjunct professor, Brooklyn College

3 offers to speak rescinded over “anti-Israel comments”, Harvard, 2002 and 2007


NYU historian Tony Judt

Harvard University professor Stephen Walt and University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer

Jimmy Carter Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid

2005 Joseph A. Massad- urged Columbia to fire by Anthony Wiener, a Democratic member of Congress
Rashid Khalidi- Columbia

2004 prof targeted by ADL
ADC campaign to help

And there's Odeh's murder if we move away from academics and into the more blatant silencing...

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