The Jewish Canary
Asaf Romirowsky, May 15, 2005
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The Claremont Institute (Writings)*
September 11th strengthened the bond between the United States and Israel. Ilan Berman, Vice President for Policy at the American Foreign Policy Council, explained: "Israel's stable, pro-Western and democratic character, its robust defense infrastructure and modern military, and its strategic location in the volatile Middle East have only grown in importance to the United States since September 11." Both nations are also engaged in a war against the same terrorism. But unlike the United States, the legitimacy of the Jewish State is still questioned on a daily basis.
September 11th has also put academia on the defensive. Many professors defended the forces that perpetrated the attacks under guises of liberalism and freedom of speech. Some argued that bin Laden's motivation somehow included concern about world poverty or that the U.S. itself precipitated the attacks—anything other than bin Laden's medieval fanaticism. As George Orwell wrote, "some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals could believe them." The stupidity that Orwell referred to has shadowed the views of many academics when it comes to how they portray the relationship between Jews and the Muslim world. The victimizer has become the victim, and liberal political correctness has become its smokescreen.
For example, Ward Churchill, the chairman of Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Colorado, earlier this year depicted the 3000 people massacred at the World Trade Center on 9/11 as "little Eichmanns." Nicholas De Genova, an assistant professor at Columbia University, declared at an anti-war rally in March 2003, that "U.S. patriotism is inseparable from...white supremacy" and then expressed the "wish for a million Mogadishus in Iraq" referring to the 1993 incident in Somalia when eighteen U.S. troops were killed.
At a rally in San Francisco organized by the far left group International A.N.S.W.E.R., Hatem Bazian, a senior lecturer in Islamic studies at Berkeley, declared "It's about time that we have an intifada in this country that change fundamentally the political dynamics in here." These incidents, and the academic boycotts, divestment petitions, and other discriminatory actions against Israel, are precursors to a general reexamination of issues surrounding academic freedom, campus extremism, including incitement to violence, university autonomy, and classroom politicization. The division between academia and the rest of society grows larger and larger.
College campuses have become podiums for those hostile to Israel, as different human rights, anti-globalization, and anti-imperialism groups that have adopted the Palestinian cause as the single most important confront academics. As Phyllis Chesler, author of The New Anti-Semitism, states,
American campuses have bred a new and diabolical McCarthyism. Academics now have the right to teach brazen lies, which they expect to be protected in the name of 'free speech. Worse, when an academic tries to teach the truth - the truth - about Israel or about America, or about Jews, [he or she] will be ostracized, bullied, demonized, and accused (by the new McCarthyites) of leading a McCarthyite witch hunt against left-wing freedom of expression, which, in my view, is really the censorship of any view that does not conform to a left-wing and anti-American view.
In academic circles, individual scholars' views are often turned into a political litmus test. For example, Fouad Ajami, the articulate interpreter of Arab culture and politics who teaches at Johns Hopkins University, has been subject to scathing attacks from Arab critics such as Asad Abu Khalil in a review of Ajami's book The Vanished Imam. And Daniel Pipes has noted that the Nation asked a Jewish leftist, Andrew N. Rubin, to critique Ajami's book for being too supportive of Israel.
What's worse, money from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia is being pumped into departments vis-à-vis chairs, grants, and fellowships. They determine what topics related to the Middle East are taught. The liberal Left that dominates many campuses is more than ready to accept these funds and to promote the implicitly anti-American agenda they bring. Only some of these gifts are brought to the public's attention, as in the case of the Harvard School of Divinity, which returned a $2.5 million gift from the president of the United Arab Emirates, who also funds vicious anti-Semitic and anti-American groups. If not for the efforts of students such as Rachel Fish, who exposed the gift, I doubt that the administration would have returned this gift.
Academia has made Jews the canary in the coal mine in the sense that if universities are indicators of social trends, and anti-Semitism is becoming more acceptable there in the guise of anti-Zionism, then there is a problem society-wide. Our students must recognize that there is never justice in terrorism. It is unacceptable that some should even speak of eliminating a living and breathing state like Israel. But you'd be surprised how common such statements are on campus. These advocates are the ones that should be on the defensive.