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And this re academic freedom, professor Sucharov

Sunday, February 28, 2016 22:32
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Mira Sucharov is Associate Professor of Political Science and Assistant Dean at Carleton University, in Ottawa, Canada, and a blogger at Haaretz.

It was my first encounter with Ms Sucharov’s blogging – this article in Haaretz titled Crying Wolf on Campus anti-Semitism: The Vassar College Talk Was No Blood Libel, and I have to say that, even being somewhat familiar with the subtleties of the modern progressive discourse, I spent the reading time in amazement and disbelief. Political Science is marching forward, leaving us heathens in the dust.

There is much to fisk in the article, but I shall leave it for later, trying to focus on something that seems to me (at the moment) to be a very important point. Which in this case is the famous issue of stifling the anti-Zionist discourse and freedom of speech, so dear to prof Sucharov’s. “Academic freedom”, as she specifies it. The danger to freedom of speech, academic or not, according to prof Sucharov, comes from an article in Wall Street Journal, titled Majoring in Anti-Semitism at Vassar, which expresses a highly negative opinion of goings on in Vassar in general and of the lecture by an anti-Zionist professor, one Jasbir Puar, in particular. The WSJ article, co-authored by two respected scientists with a good deal of experience in education, riled the progressive community so much that, according to prof Sucharov,

Meanwhile, hundreds of faculty members from across the United States have issued a statement to Vassar’s president asking her to “write a letter to the Wall Street Journal…condemning in no uncertain terms the unjustifiable attack on Vassar and on Professor Puar.”

In one particular example of the condemnation:

Ian S. Lustick, a professor of political science at University of Pennsylvania, told me by email that he signed the statement “to show solidarity against the campaign to restrict the space of politically correct discussion on anything pertaining to Israel and Palestinians.”

So the article in WSJ is restricting the “politically correct” (how absurd is that – you be the judge) discussion and stifling the academic freedom? I have read that article twice and can’t, no matter how I tried, find a shadow of an attempt to stifle anything. Derision – yes, criticism – in droves (not that prof Sucharov even tried to respond to it) – but nothing to suggest that the authors propose to forbid or otherwise restrict the disgusting phenomenon.

While I can’t compete with a political science or gender studies professors in arcane uses of professional English, there are two English words that the nowadays progressive scientists might re-learn, to their benefit. The first one is “debate“:

Debate (Noun): A discussion in which reasons are advanced for and against some proposition or proposal

Here is an example of debate:

The other word is “stifling“. The word is a beloved battle cry of the modern anti-Zionists, trumpeted everywhere from the very same platforms the said anti-Zionists claim to be not allowed to.

Stifling (Noun): Forceful prevention; putting down by power or authority. “the stifling of all dissent”

And here is an example of stifling, practiced far and wide in the institutions of high learning in North America lately, with total lack of resistance (and sometimes even with support) from the progressive teachers:

So, to conclude this part: The WSJ article is a good example of debate. Nothing to do with stifling – of academic or any other freedoms. And, speaking about Vassar – here is more stifling, in all its revolting glory.

The rest of this text is about fisking prof Sucharov’s Haaretz blog post. Click on “Read more…” if of interest.

Anyone familiar with this blog will know how much I hate to address the issue of antisemitism. Murky as it is, sometimes overused as it is, sometimes underused – it is a matter for endless and fruitless debates in the modern media and by modern politicians.

But the way prof Sucharov, dispassionately and scientifically, analyzes anti-Semitic acts in her article, even before coming to the Jasbir Puar lecture, is highly suggestive. Here is an example:

The report also noted a “decade” of “increasing hostility” at the University of California-Berkeley in 2015, ” including “vandalizing Jewish property, spitting at Jewish students, threatening violence, and physically assaulting Jewish supporters of Israel.”

But the remedy to the above “incidents” – to borrow the liberal use of quotation marks – is quite a surprise:

Incidents like these should be called out strongly.

I don’t know what to say. One will be tempted to call the law enforcement folks to catch and punish the perpetrators or, in lieu of that, just to catch and punish them. But “should be called out strongly”? Would a finger, diligently waggled by a PoliSci professor, suffice, I wonder? At least in this case prof Sucharov doesn’t deny the anti-Semitic nature of the UCB goings-on. She does it, though, in case of the above mentioned Jasbir Puar. For instance:

In the talk (of which I received a transcript), Puar made two particularly jarring claims. About the bodies of 17 Palestinian youth that Israel kept for two months at the end of 2015, Puar said, “Some speculate that the bodies were mined for organs for scientific research.” (These youth, it is important to note, had been attacking Israelis. Puar described these Palestinian youth as having been involved in “stabbing” and as part of a “peoples’ rumble” but called their deaths “field assassinations.”)

Puar also suggested that Israel engages in “weaponized epigenetics where the outcome is not so much about winning or losing nor a solution but about needing body parts, not even whole bodies, for research and experimentation.”

I count at least four “jarring claims” in these quotes, but let’s not go into that. Because then comes the question:

But is Puar’s scholarly breach anti-Semitic?

The question is followed by a rather unrelated quote from another professor in defense of free speech (?) and his immediate and unsubstantiated ruling that all of the above is not anti-Semitic. And what is prof Sucharov’s own answer to the question?

Unfortunately, the unsubstantiated charge of using “body parts for experimentation” cuts close to the bone of blood libel myths.

One couldn’t be more gentle in dealing with this, fairly obvious, case. So the clear instance of blood libel “cuts close to the bone”, whatever it means in the modern scientific lingo. Let’s add a few wrinkles to the ugly picture of Ms Puar’s “scientific” lecture, to start with its title: “Inhumanist Biopolitics: How Palestine Matters“.

Ms. Puar began by exhorting the students to support a boycott of Israel as part of “armed” resistance.

Ms. Puar passed on vicious lies that Israel had “mined for organs for scientific research” from dead Palestinians—updating the medieval blood libel against Jews—and accused Israelis of attempting to give Palestinians the “bare minimum for survival” as part of a medical “experiment.”

When asked, she agreed with a questioner that Israeli treatment of Palestinians amounted to genocide but objected to the term itself, which she said was too “tethered to the Holocaust.”

She spoke of Jews deliberately starving Palestinians, “stunting” and “maiming” a population.

If the above examples are not enough proof to satisfy the meticulous scientific approach of prof Sucharov, maybe a reminder about this definition of anti-Semitism will. Specifically these examples of typical antisemitic discourse:

  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

At this stage I would like to quote David Toube, who remarked on the subject:

Similarly the Nazis were not anti-Semitic because they raised concerns about Jewish dominance in German life. Antisemitism is only and can only be the charge of deicide.

Being more of a cynic than Mr Toube, I would add that, apparently, even the latter could be excused from the accusation of antisemitism by the modern academics.

And to end the whole long megilla: there is one thing that bugs me even more than the vacuous mulling on the anti-Semitic nature of prof Puar, her “lecture” and her likes. It is the fact that is mentioned in all reports about this wretched lecture:

None of the Vassar professors challenged the presentation at all.

Are we men or mice, prof Sucharov? This should be the question you might want to ponder for a while.


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