Daily Briefing: NORMALISING ANTISEMITISM ON US AND CANADIAN CAMPUSES (June 9,2020)

McGill BDS launch (Source: Flickr)

Table Of Contents:

I’m an Israeli-American. Let’s talk About It.:  Zohar Levy, The Stanford Daily, May 25, 2020


Finally Getting a Place at the Academic Table—A New Faculty Chair in Palestinian Studies at Brown University:  John Mason, Arab America, June 3, 2020


The Pessin Affair:  Jonathan Marks, SPME, May 26, 2020


Another U.S. Holocaust Museum “Scholar” Denounces Israel:  Moshe Phillips, Matzav, June 9, 2020

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I’m an Israeli-American. Let’s Talk About It.
Zohar Levy
The Stanford Daily, May 25, 2020

Does the United States have a right to exist? Do the statements and actions of President Donald Trump unilaterally dictate U.S. values or intentions? Is the U.S. military a terrorist organization?

Most Americans would reject these questions as unreasonable and unfair. Many would feel attacked at the very core of their national identity. Even the few who might argue that the U.S. does not have a right to exist virtually never argue for its dissolution. Yet the Stanford community widely accepts these questions as justifiable when “U.S.” is replaced with “Israel.”

In the face of rising anti-Semitism, including violence against Jews and Jewish community centers and outlandish accusations that Jews started COVID-19, one might expect Stanford’s student body to stand up against these injustices rather than contribute to them.

Nevertheless, as an Israeli-American student, I’m constantly asked to defend my nationality. On my first day of freshman fall, after my classmate and I exchanged our names and their etymologies, they asked my opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the brief moments before class started. My peer demonstrated that mentioning Israel, or even Hebrew, on campus immediately eliminates any of the social norms that empower us to spend time respectfully engaged in intricate and vulnerable conversations. Instead, students seem to feel entitled to demand my nuanced opinion in a 10-second soundbite.

Moreover, the term “Zionism” has lost the conversation it deserves, as many are quick to categorically condemn it. I do not believe that anti-Zionism is always anti-Semitic, and I do not insist that Israel is flawless. As in the U.S., many Israelis also criticize their government and its policies. It is everyone’s civic duty to encourage all nations to work toward peace, prosperity and equality. Like any other country, the state of Israel has work to do. But questioning the legitimacy of Israel’s very existence is anti-Semitic. Jews have a right to self-determination and national aspirations, just like all other people. Zionism is not as simple as people make it out to be.

Zionism is the Jewish national aspiration to establish a homeland (preferably in Zion, the Land of Israel, but not necessarily so). It does not define the borders of such a state. It does not necessitate removing people from their homes. It does not propose an exclusively Jewish nation, nor does it deny the right of Palestinians to have their own state. Zionism is simply a movement to establish a state for a people that has been persecuted around the world for millennia. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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Finally Getting a Place at the Academic Table—A New Faculty Chair in Palestinian Studies at Brown University
John Mason
Arab America, June 3, 2020

The first faculty endowed chair in U.S. academia dedicated to the study of Palestine and Palestinians was announced by Brown University. Renowned professor Beshara Doumani has been named the first holder of the ‘Mahmoud Darwish’ Chair of Palestinian Studies. Doumani is a noted scholar who has mentored generations of students and written numerous books and articles that have defined the field of studies aimed at understanding and appreciating the Palestinian peoples and their quest for recognition as a society deserving of statehood.

Named after Mahmoud Darwish, the Chair in Palestinian Studies follows in the tradition of that great thinker, regarded as the Palestinian national poet. The Brown University announcement of the new chair characterized Darwish as “a towering and beloved figure of Palestinian and Arab literature and humanistic values.” Darwish was born in 1941 in the village of al-Birwa, Western Galilee, Palestine. Following the destruction of his village by Israeli forces in 1948, he and his family fled to Lebanon. Later, they returned to a place near Acre, in the newly formed Israeli state. Darwish attended school in Haifa and became associated with the Israeli political left. After joining the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Israel barred him from reentering the country, though sometime later he was able to settle in Ramallah on the West Bank.

Still a young man in the 1970s, Darwish was revered by the people as “the essential breath of the Palestinian people, the eloquent witness of exile and belonging.” A central theme of his writing is the idea of watan, or homeland, which brought him many awards, including one from a U.S. foundation, for Darwish’s recognition that “people whose extraordinary and courageous work celebrates the human right to freedom of imagination, inquiry, and expression.”
Darwish is widely seen as a Palestinian symbol and a leader in the opposition to Israel. He rejected the idea that he was anti-Semitic, saying he did not hate Jews, though he was no lover of Israel. Though he was critical of both Israel and the Palestinian leadership, Darwish still believed that peace between the two was possible.

Following in the Footsteps of Mahmoud Darwish—Beshara Doumani

Brown University’s announcement of Professor Beshara Doumani’s appointment as the first holder of the Mahmoud Darwish Chair in Palestinian Studies is effective July 1, 2020. The appointment to this chair is the first of its kind at a major research university. It is a result of Doumani’s scholarship, his empowerment of students over generations, and promotion of the understanding of the Palestinian condition: its hopes and trials and tribulations. One of his initiatives has been to institutionalize understanding of Palestinians called ‘New Directions in Palestinian Studies.’ The University announcement aptly characterized him as “the soul of Palestinian studies.” It furthermore expressed confidence in Professor Doumani to begin “a new era on Palestinian studies, not just at Brown but in the academy at large.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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The Pessin Affair
Jonathan Marks
SPME, May 26, 2020

Salem on the Thames: Moral Panic, Anti-Zionism, and the Triumph of Hate Speech at Connecticut College. Richard Landes. Published by Academic Studies Press, 2020. $32.95 pp.218

At Connecticut College, in the Spring of 2015, Andrew Pessin, a professor of philosophy was grossly mistreated. He was grossly mistreated by student and faculty activists, by faculty members who went along with the activists, and by Connecticut College’s administration, who encouraged and rewarded Pessin’s tormentors. By the 2015-16 academic year, when protests swept across campuses and received obsessive media coverage, Andrew Pessin had already taken medical leave. He had been driven out in part as a result of stresses caused by the tarnishing of his good name, by multiple betrayals on the part of a community of which he had long been a valued member, and by death threats. He would not return until Fall 2017.

Although this incident received some coverage, most prominently from David Bernstein for the Washington-Post-hosted Volokh Conspiracy blog, it has not received the attention it merits. Salem on the Thames, edited by Richard Landes, remedies that deficiency. Landes, a historian by trade, does not pretend to be an investigative reporter. He adopts “the perspective of the victim,” Andrew Pessin, who, to this day— Landes plausibly assumes that there, is a non-disclosure agreement—has not been properly heard. But if Landes and the other contributors to this volume make no bones about whose side they are on, their account is supported by extensive documentation—emails, public statements, newspaper articles—that readers can examine for themselves here. In addition to providing a detailed account of events, Landes and his co-contributors consider the Pessin affair as a “microcosm of events in the current global academic community,” reflection on which “offers important lessons to that community.” Landes’s fellow contributors include Ashley Thorne of the National Association of Scholars, John Gordon, Professor Emeritus of English at Connecticut College, and Fred Baumann, Professor of Political Science at Kenyon College. Asaf Romirowsky, of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, provides the Introduction.

Let’s begin with the account of events, which is the most shocking and effective part of the book. To understand what happened at Connecticut College, one starts with the August 11, 2014 Facebook post, by Andrew Pessin that set things in motion. Here it is:

“I’m sure someone could make a cartoon of this, but one image which essentializes the current situation in Gaza might be this. You’ve got a rabid pit bull chained in a cage, regularly making mass efforts to escape. The owner, naturally keeps the thing in the cage, but being kind-hearted or something, regularly feeds it, waters it, takes care of its health needs, etc. But liberal hearted world is outraged at the cruelty of keeping in in the cage, keeps pressuring the owner to let it out. Every so often the man relents under pressure, opens the cage a crack, and the pit bull comes roaring bounding out, snarling, going for the throat. A short battle ensues, the pit bull gets put back in… and almost immediately liberal world pressure starts complaining about the cruelty to animals and insisting he open the cage. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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Another U.S. Holocaust Museum “Scholar” Denounces Israel
Moshe Phillips
Matzav, June 9, 2020

Yet another scholar at the U.S. Holocaust Museum has denounced Israel as racist, colonialist, and murderous. Is this an appropriate use of our tax dollars?

The latest attack on the Jewish state comes from the pen of an Israeli-born historian, Amos Goldberg, who last year served as a Senior Scholar-in-Residence at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington, DC.

Goldberg’s denunciation of Israel, which appeared in early June on the “+972 Magazine” website (and was co-authored by Alon Confino), was titled “To Understand Zionism, We Must Listen to the Voices of its Victims.” The article was published, coincidentally, just after several synagogues were graffitied with anti-Israel hate messages during the George Floyd riots.

According to Goldberg, Zionism is “a settler colonial movement.” The State of Israel is “based on segregation and discrimination.” Israel is “a wrongdoer, and an occupier” which carries out “crimes against the Palestinians” including “the plunder of land” and “the killing of innocents.” He also claims that the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who fled from Israel during the 1948 war “were in fact expelled.”

In another paragraph that reveals Goldberg not only as an extremist, but also as an incompetent historian. He writes that “Arab resistance to the Zionist movement”—that’s what he calls Arab terrorist massacres of Jewish women and children—“and later Israel, did not derive from antisemitism but rather from their opposition to the colonization of Palestine.”

So, according to Goldberg, when Arab leaders cite Koranic verses about Jews in ancient times, that’s not anti-Jewish, it’s anti-Zionist. When Arab newspapers publish cartoons of Jews with hook noses and dollar signs for eyes—that’s not anti-Jewish either, it’s anti-Zionist. And when Arab propagandists quote from the most infamous anti-Semitic book in history, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, they, too, are not being anti-Jewish, just anti-Zionist.

Another incredible aspect of Goldberg’s article—especially for someone who claims to be a Holocaust scholar—is his complaint that some Germans are too sympathetic to Jews and Israel. Until now, Germany “has been a model of coming to terms with its past,” he writes, referring to restitution and education. But that has “reached a dead-end,” because some criticism of Israel in Germany today is “deemed antisemitic” by some people. “This kind of philosemitism is disturbing,” Goldberg declares. In other words, he actually wants Germans to become more hostile to Israel.

Prof. Goldberg has a long track record of extreme views concerning Israel. For example, in a 2018 article in the Arab journal “Madar,” Goldberg charged that Yad Vashem’s emphasis on the persecution of Jews is “very narcissistic and problematic” and “perhaps even chauvinistic.” He claimed that Yad Vashem’s approach could lead to a “fascist enterprise” (in Israel) and “extreme violence” (by Israelis). … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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For Further Reference:

Outrage Greets Pro-BDS Petition to University of California Blaming Israel for Teaching Methods That Killed George Floyd:  Benjamin Kerstein, Algemeiner, June 4, 2020 — Outrage erupted on Thursday as a ferociously anti-Israel petition to the University of California blaming Israel for police brutality and the murder of people of color in the US circulated online.

Is There a Campus Antisemitism Pandemic?:  Mitchell Bard, Algemeiner, May 28, 2020 — It is difficult to find many bright spots in our current situation beyond the heroic efforts of first responders and health care professionals; however, I do take some pleasure in the fact that the Israel-haters were sidelined by the closure of college campuses.

Antisemitism and the Radical Anti-Israel Movement on U.S. Campuses, 2019: ADL– In recent years, criticism of Israel has become endemic on college campuses across the U.S. While it is very likely that most of that criticism is a legitimate form of political discourse, some of the more radical expressions of anti-Israel sentiment can create an environment in which Jewish students, many of whom say they have a personal or religious connection with Israel, may feel besieged or threatened. Radical expressions of anti-Israel sentiment may include Israeli flags being removed from their displays, calls by student activists to boycott all pro-Israel groups on campus, the heckling of pro-Israel speakers and calling Israel a settler-colonial state.

Antisemitism on Campus:  The Virus that Continues to Spread:  Friends of Simon Wiesenthal for Holocaust Studies, February 2020 –– Antisemitism is rapidly becoming the norm on the campuses of institutions of higher learning. Jewish students are being targeted, harassed, and physically threatened in blatantly inequitable ways. Antisemitism on Canadian campuses is not a new phenomenon.

Op-Ed: Self-hating Jews Who Enable The Evils of Anti-Semitism:  Sue-Ann Levy, The J.Ca, May 24, 2020 –– You can’t miss them. Wherever they turn up they make sure they’re in the midst of the action, right where they can be seen.