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Editorial Article

Other Schools - Another star from the lunatic fringe in Israeli academia: Daniel Boyarin of UC Berkeley

By Lee Kaplan, www.isracampus.org.il

His resume is quite impressive, because he is a Talmudic scholar and has written copious works about Judaism, its history and scripture. A citizen of Israel, he once taught at Ben Gurion University and Hebrew University and is currently a professor of Near East Studies at UC Berkeley. Since UC Berkeley is a campus that, although it has a large Jewish population, also is home to many anti-Israel Arab academics in the United States, one might not be surprised that Daniel Boyarin has a negative opinion of Israel’s self-defense as is found among so many of Israel’s intelligentsia working in Arab dominated US Middle East Studies programs. But Daniel Boyarin is particularly notorious for how he displays a virulent hatred for the Jewish people of Israel whose Talmud he studied for so many years, particularly Israelis who practice self-defense against Arab irredentism. In addition, Boyarin’s overlooking of anti-Semitism and his embracing of anti-Semites at UC Berkeley make him particularly difficult to comprehend for most rational people, given his academic background.

Incredibly, Boyarin describes himself as an Orthodox Jew but Ahavat Yisrael hardly seems part of his ideals. But, then again, Daniel Boyarin is a very conflicted man.

Not even the clowns in the Neturei Karta, an obscure sect of Orthodox Jewry that accepts money from the PLO to curse a Jewish state and assist anti-Semites in their work, are quite like Daniel Boyarin. Some of the NK’s justify their work for the Arabs as their particular interpretation of scripture, but their leadership is on the Arab payroll. Not so, for Boyarin, who has been described as a “purple-faced anti-Zionist” whose cursing of Israel is done for free. Boyarin has compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians with the Nazi treatment of Jews during the Holocaust, an inaccurate but repetitious Big Lie of the anti-Israel propagandist crowd. The Palestinian population isn’t shrinking but growing and Israel continues to release terrorists who kill Jews again, but nothing Israel does appears to be acceptable to Boyarin who also considers Zionism as inherently “violent.” Boyarin’s objections to Israel and Zionism is predicated on a notion that Jews are inherently weak and Jews who choose to defend themselves (like Israelis) rather than bury themselves in books all day like Boyarin are plagued by an Oedipus complex and desire to kill.

Let’s face it, Boyarin is just a weird egg, and what he says and does is frequently not in the realm of reality or reason, just as the passionate mantra of the Arabs to dismantle Israel by any means necessary something his allies on the UC Berkeley campus call for regularly.

Boyarin hails from a family of avowed communists/Marxists, and is what is sometimes referred to as a “red diaper doper baby.” His brother, Jonathon Boyarin, is also an avowed Marxist communist and was the Robert M. Beren Distinguished Professor in Modern Jewish Studies at the University of Kansas where, like Daniel, he interspersed Talmudic study with communist Marxist doctrine. It could be said in this case the family that supports anti-Semitic totalitarianism together, stays together.

Jewish communists today play an enormous role in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute by keeping alive Stalinist and communist doctrine against a Jewish state. The International Solidarity Movement is replete with such Jews. There have always been Jewish communists, even those who were oppressors of other Jews, but there is really no such phenomenon as “Jewish communism”. The problem lies in the religious zeal by which such Jewish adherents to communism embrace such radical socialist ideas to be a replacement of the Jewish faith. The groupthink of communism contributes to anti-Semitism among Jewish communists because they do not rely on common sense to promote their views, but on an established dogma that includes anti-Semitism.

And this for an “intellectual” like Boyarin, his Judaic Studies served more to promote his anti-Semitism and justify his ditzy behavior rather than to promote Jewish ideals. As a younger man, Boyarin, made aliyah to Israel in the 70’s where later on he began to recognize the stirrings of homosexuality within himself. Today, his writings almost always intertwine Judaism with homosexuality. But as an Orthodox Jew, Boyarin is married to a woman and has fathered children. Such a conflicted soul no doubt is very angry with the world which might explain his virulent dislike for the ideas behind Zionism as a means of Jewish self-determination. After all, homosexuality is considered anathema in Orthodox Judaism, despite all the attempts of Jewish homosexuals to mainstream the sexual orientation.

But such a conflict has paid Boyarin well. UC Berkeley’s Middle East Studies Center was catching heat from the local Jewish community because the Saudi funded department was pushing the false Arab diatribe of Jews ethnically cleansing Arabs. Then one millionaire Jewish donor donated five million dollars to the Department to lend more balance to the Jewish and Israeli point of view. The Arab Chair chose Daniel Boyarin to head his new Jewish studies department and with good reason. He could say he had appointed a Jew, so could not be accused of bias, yet he knew Daniel Boyarin was the type of Jew who would push the Arab agenda against Israel like the Arabs do themselves.

As a reporter, I first came across Daniel Boyarin when I was also guiding a group of Jewish students on the Berkeley campus organized to present a strong pro-Zionist image of Jewish Berkeley students in support of Israel. On a visit to the Cal campus for the Shoah Memorial that year, the Jewish students were surrounded by screaming pro-Palestinian students with bullhorns calling for a commemoration of what they described as the Deir Yassin Massacre. Many had been bussed to the campus from nearby San Francisco State and UC Santa Cruz for the event. Surprisingly, a good number of those dressed as “Palestinians” with keffiyahs were in fact Chicanos, from Mexican irredentist groups against the United States, like La Raza and La Voz De Aztlan. For that day they were “Palestinians” to the unknowing in the zoo that made up the Berkeley audience. Still, there were plenty of members from the Students for Justice in Palestine from that campus present also, including some radical Jews from radical socialist, communist and anarchist groups on campus, most linked to the International Solidarity Movement.

As a volunteer, I was reading the names of the dead from the Holocaust in a yizkor service when I was asked by a member of the campus Hillel to not participate because I had an Israeli flag on my jacket. “It upsets the Jews for Palestine,” I was told by the sincere young woman from Campus Hillel. At UC Berkeley, being Jewish is no guarantee someone is pro-Israel or pro-Zionist any more. In fact, some of the biggest campus anti-Semites are Jewish at UC Berkeley. Later that same day, the Students for Justice in Palestine rioted and entered a building where Jewish students were also commemorating the Holocaust injuring a policeman and getting the campus club banned for a year by the administration. Boyarin, of course, leapt to their defense.

I first learned exactly who and what type of man Boyarin is when a 22 year-old Cal student, Susanna Klein, a young Orthodox Jewish woman, called me. She was taking an advanced class in Arabic at UC Berkeley and the instructor, Abbas Khadim, an Iraqi ex-pat, told the class that the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion was a genuine book that had been written by “the Jews.”  Susanna had first tried complaining to the Near East Studies Department where Boyarin was the Dean, but was completely ignored. However, Boyarin immediately began a smear campaign against Ms. Klein stating in an email to the local Jewish newspaper that "This complaint has been investigated by the deans and they have concluded that it is a lie....The department has no need to go anywhere from here, except perhaps to consider disciplinary action with respect to a slanderer."

In fact, Boyarin, never even interviewed the student or did any investigation at all, openly calling her “a liar” in the campus and community newspapers and threatening to have her expelled from campus as one would expect in the most totalitarian Arab society. The instructor, Khadim, was never disciplined, nor did he change his view that the Protocols were probably genuinely of Jewish authorship, nor was he even instructed not to report anti-Semitic propaganda as historical fact. Some of his students in Susanna’s class after being interviewed in the campus paper after the brouhaha also professed that the Protocols could have been written by Jews thanks to Boyarin’s dubious concern for scholarly truth. Susanna Klein eventually graduated and moved on. But Daniel Boyarin stayed on to teach other young minds.

The next I heard of Daniel Boyarin was when former Israeli PM Ehud Barak came to speak on campus. Anti-Israel groups on campus were out in force trying to prevent him from speaking and heckled him throughout his speech declaring he offered the Palestinians “nothing at all.” Boyarin, who helped lead the demonstrators outside, many proclaiming themselves Jews for the PLO, called Israel’s most decorated war hero, “a bad man, a violent man” and objected to his speaking on the Cal campus calling him an “evil racist and liar.”

It would seem a habit of Boyarin to call people “liars” if they do not fit his agenda.

There is something incongruous about a man like Boyarin who would declare a career soldier who fought to protect the people of Israel from Arab groups that call openly to murder Jews a “bad” and “violent” man, yet support some of the most cutthroat organizations in history that engage in Jew-killing today. An absolute pacifist is easy to understand; someone who takes no sides in a violent dispute, but Boyarin’s passion against Israel and cozying up to the anti-Israel forces on the Berkeley campus knows no bounds.

If one were to listen to Boyarin, there is no anti-Semitism at UC Berkeley either, one of the most anti-Semitic campuses in the United States. UC Berkeley’s Middle East Studies Center was set up by Saudi Prince Bandar when he was Saudi Arabia’s head diplomat in the US. The funding foundation for the MESC at Cal had on its board of directors a Saudi sheik named al Jeraisy who was involved in funding al Qaeda and many of those involved in the foundation were sued in a trillion dollar lawsuit by the victims of 9/11. Perhaps such an atmosphere explains why Boyarin panders to the anti-Israel political base on campus. The Helen Diller Foundation donated $5 million dollars to UC Berkeley to set up a Jewish studies program in the MESC department only to have its Arab Chair hire every anti-Israel anti-Zionist Jew he could get his hands on with the money. The national divestment program from Israel that today is found on 150 US campuses was begun at UC Berkeley with Boyarin’s hearty support. He commits his own type of violence in a more subtle way than any decorated soldier by his support for boycotting and divesting from Israel, a violence that makes many of the elderly and children in Israel eat in soup kitchens and go to bed hungry at night. Of course, divestment from Jews was the first action taken by the Nazis in 1933, so what a comfort that 75 years later the same tactic is being practiced by the former Nazi allies, the Arabs. The only difference is today it is being done with the active help of Jews like Daniel Boyarin at UC Berkeley.

Boyarin also spouts all the classic anti-Israel propaganda, particularly that Israel is an “aparthied state.” The following is a quote from Daniel Boyarin, found among similar quotes in The Arabic News, an Arab propagandist website, replete with accusations by other anti-Israel “Jewish” faculty at Cal that are largely ignorant of historical or scholarly truth:

"During the 1970's and 1980's a very successful divestment campaign was waged in the US and Europe which undoubtedly had an effect on the end of Apartheid. The Israeli occupation of Palestine and destruction of human rights and democracy is at least as severe as that of the South Africans. A similar moral and political response is in order at this time."
- Daniel Boyarin, Near Eastern Studies and Rhetoric, UC Berkeley

So the Talmudic scholar, Daniel Boyarin , says that Israel, the only state in the Middle East that is not an apartheid state is worse than South Africa’s worst days of the racist practice. Boyarin voices this view in cooperation with the Students for Justice in Palestine on the Cal campus whose platform openly calls for Israel’s destruction.

Boyarin’s inanities include a commendation on the dust jacket of Norman Finklestein’s book on Holocaust denial and Jewish opportunism Beyond Chutzpah that accuses Jews of making a business out of the Holocaust. Finklestein is another Jewish “academic” who recently lost his job at De Paul University for poor scholarship.

Boyarin apparently sees himself as the promoter and self-protector of the anti-Semites on the Cal campus. A recent expose by writer Anneli Rufus that gave a true perspective of anti-Semitism at UC Berkeley drew Boyarin’s ire as he wrote a letter in rebuttal to the newspaper that ran the feature in which Boyarin accused a Jewish student interviewed in the article as being part of the Israel lobby and claimed that a Jewish student was arrested on campus for spitting on a Palestinian.

Just as with his complaints about Israeli apartheid, Boyarin had it wrong. The student was not arrested, but had in fact been ganged up by Palestinian students during a counterdemonstration, surrounded and pummeled. The Palestinian students then ran to a campus cop and claimed one of them had been spat on. When the truth came out, the charges were dropped. This type of untruthful behavior is common on the Cal campus and the administration does little to discourage it.

And who was the Jewish student Boyarin leveled his false accusations against?

Susanna Klein.

There’s nothing like someone who declares himself an Orthodox Jew beating up on an Orthodox Jewish woman to help out the supporters on his campus of the likes of Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad. But, to Daniel Boyarin, it’s all in a day’s work bashing Israel on the UC Berkeley campus.

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Op-Ed articles appearing on IsraCampus.Org.il are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinion of IsraCampus.Org.il