By Jacob Laksin
FrontPageMagazine.com | July 28, 2006
Question: What’s the difference between the Arab League and the academic Left that despises Israel? Answer: Only the Arab League is willing to condemn Hezbollah.
The surreal politics of this war finds Saudi Arabia attributing “full responsibility” to Hezbollah and calling on the terrorists to “alone shoulder the crisis they have created;” it finds Kuwaiti journalists lauding the “operations of Israel in Gaza and Lebanon [that] are in the interest of people of Arab countries and the international community,” even as hundreds of American professors rush to denounce Israel for firing back at genocidal killers sworn to her destruction.
More than 1,000 such professors have signed a petition that is currently circulating on American college campuses. Written in the name of “academics who condemn Israel’s aggression against Lebanon and Gaza,” the petition waxes indignant about Israel’s alleged crimes, including a “brutal bombing and invasion of Gaza,” and “acts of Israeli state terrorism” in Lebanon.
More noteworthy, however, is what the petition does not say. Not only is there no mention of Hamas or Hezbollah, but reading the petition one might conclude that terrorism plays no part in the current conflagration. Instead the petition calls for the immediate release of jailed terrorists, euphemistically described as “Palestinian and Lebanese political prisoners,” and effectively erases the role of anti-Israel terrorism in precipitating the current by asserting that “Israel’s destructive and expansionist policies are primarily to blame for the seemingly perpetual ‘Middle East crisis.'”
Never mind that Israel has withdrawn from both Gaza and Lebanon, and that the current offensive was prompted by the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers, first by Palestinian terrorists and then their Lebanese counterparts. Never mind, too, that the “expansionist policies” in the region have been pursued by Arab powers who launched four major wars against Israel since 1948; by Islamist jihadists who have never reconciled themselves to a Jewish presence in the Middle East; and by rogue states like Iran and Syria, who rely on terrorist surrogates to succeed where the earlier efforts failed. These details are aggressively ignored for, as a review of the petition’s signatories makes clear, the rewriting of history to serve the interests of Israel’s enemies commands no small following in the increasingly radicalized academic world.
In fact, some professors have gone far beyond the petition in declaring their support for the terrorists’ war on the Jewish state. Chief among them is Rabab Abdulhadi, the Palestinian-born director of the Center for Arab American Studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. To appreciate the depth of Abdulhadi’s disdain for Israel, one need only consider that she dismisses as a “myth” the easily demonstrable fact of “Arab armies invading Israel in 1948.” Adapting a theme from the Hamas charter, which lays claim “to the land of Palestine,” Abdulhadi has charged that Israeli settlers are “living on stolen Palestinian land, sucking out the water which is very much needed from Palestinians and making lives.” Not only that but, according to Abdulhadi, “what Israel is doing in the occupied territories, in some instances, looks like what Nazi Germany did.” Abdulhadi consequently sees the Palestinian Authority’s admonitions against terrorism—infrequent and never unequivocal—as evidence that the PA is “exercising maximum reserve.”
Yet Abdulhadi is moderation personified next to another name that appears on the petition. Dr. El Guindi, an Egyptian-born professor of anthropology at the University of Southern California, has alleged that “Israel is engaged in practices muted by the media: massacres and genocides, trafficking of human organs, genetic experimentations, inhumane torture.” Hamas’s most zealous propagandists could not improve on the inflammatory rhetoric. And much like them, El Guindi has never offered any evidence for the charges, relying on innuendo and conspiracy theories to make her case. Failing that, she considers terrorism the answer to the Palestinians’ woes. In contrast to the petition, which at least condemns the killing of civilians in Israel even if it absolves the actual murderers, El Guindi has embraced anti-Israel terrorism as an acceptable form of “resistance.” Of Palestinian terrorism, she has written that “[i]t is a universal and legitimate right,” one appropriate to “colonized people.”
Similar sentiments frequently issue from Middle Eastern Studies departments. In keeping with tradition, the most notorious of these departments, Columbia’s department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC), boasts no fewer than four representatives in the recent petition. Most prominent among them is Hamid Dabashi, the Columbia professor of Islamic studies who despises not only Israel, which he views a “ghastly state of racism and apartheid,” but also Israeli Jews, to whom Dabashi ascribes a “vulgarity of character that is bone-deep.” His crude bigotry notwithstanding, Dabashi has his followers at Columbia, among them the Iranian-born Golbarg Bashi, a visiting scholar and a protégé of Dabashi specializing in “anti-colonial theory” and “black and Third World feminisms,” whose name likewise appears on the petition. Other MEALAC faculty who endorsed the petition are Suhail Shadoud, a Syrian professor of Arabic language, and Jeffrey Sacks a lecturer in Arabic who in recent years emerged as a leading advocate of divestment from Israel at Columbia. MEALAC’s reputation as a hotbed of political extremism is plainly well deserved.
Although the petition attracted the support of many disgruntled Arab and Muslim academics—such as New York University professor Sinan Antoon, an Iraqi exile who has written that “America tattoos its imperial insignia into the bodies of Iraqi children”—it also underscored the fact that some of Israel’s most unscrupulous antagonists are themselves of Jewish ancestry, including three of the most prominent signatories: MIT’s Noam Chomsky; Norman Finkelstein of DePaul; and Joel Beinin of Stanford University.
Why these professors would sign on to a petition assailing the “psychic terror of the Israeli military campaigns in Gaza and Lebanon” while maintaining a studied silence on the actual terror that was its cause is readily explained. Chomsky is a longtime defender of Hezbollah, a sympathy born of a common hatred for the United States and Israel and demonstrated most recently when the aging radical traveled to Lebanon to pledge his support for the Shiite terrorist militia and to defend its refusal to disarm and, implicitly, to carry on its campaign of targeting Israeli civilians. Along with Chomsky, Beinin has urged that Hezbollah be regarded as an “activist” movement rather than as a terrorist group. Finkelstein, for his part, has little interest in the activities of terrorist organizations, preferring to focus on what he calls the far more egregious “state terrorism” supposedly practiced by Israel.
Behind the obscene double standard set forth in the petition, wherein Israel is attacked for defending its right to exist and terrorists escape all blame, is a conviction, all too common among the academic Left, that Israel’s very existence is both regrettable and undesirable. Thus Judith Butler, another Jewish academic who signed the petition, has declared against Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, writing that “political sovereignty based on religious status is misguided, undemocratic, and discriminatory, in principle and in practice.” (That this is precisely the end sought by Hamas, Hezbollah and their terrorist brethren is a contradiction conveniently ignored by Butler.) Another signatory, Marguerite Rosenthal, a professor of Social work at Salem State College, is an activist with a radical group calling itself Jewish Women for Justice in Israel Palestine, which blames Israel for the 60-year war waged against it. Sighing over the “desperate suicide attacks by Palestinians,” the group claims that “[f]ifty years of conflict have increasingly compromised the ideals that contributed to Israel’s founding.” In the eyes of Rosenthal and countless others who committed their signatures to the petition, Israel alone can do wrong.
Of the more than twenty professors contacted for comment about the petition by FrontPageMag.com only one, NYU’s Sinan Antoon, responded. But rather than explain why he supported a petition demanding that Israel cease defending itself, while urging no such restraint on terrorist groups seeking its annihilation, Antoon attacked FrontPageMag.com contributor Daniel Pipes, whom he called “fascist and racist,” saying that the magazine’s association with Pipes made it “fruitless to engage.”
Indeed, the only acknowledgement of the existential threat underlying Israel’s current offensive was apparently made in jest. The petition carried the signature of one “Mr. H. Nasrallah,” who identified himself as the occupant of the “Joseph Goebbels Chair in Communications, Duke.” How telling that the only professor backing the petition to cast Hezbollah in its proper light doesn’t even exist.