Israeli Academic Extremism
Martin Sherman in
Jerusalem Post on Israel's Academic Fifth Column
In fact, in the context of Israeli academe, the
contrary if true. It is the complacency/complicity/capitulation of
the academic mainstream visΰ- vis the radical leftists that has
constricted the freedom of expression and the scope of "permissible"
opinions and/or research. This is undeniable in light of the almost
total absence certainly the gross underrepresentation of
pro-Zionist perspectives, and certainly of robustly hawkish ones,
across the entire spectrum of the nation's faculties of social
sciences and humanities (including law).
This wildly disproportionate dearth is even
more remarkable and revealing given that over the past two
decades, the dominant dovish paradigms have been refuted by reality
apparently demonstrating that such "intellectual inbreeding" has
severely degraded the quality of academic output.
...The problem extends far beyond the
explicitly post/anti-Zionists who propose annulling the country's
status as a Jewish state and transforming it into a "state of all
its citizens," and/or openly condemn it as an ethnocratic apartheid
regime, meriting not only international censure but sanction.
Oren Yiftachel, for example, depicts Israel (on
both sides of the Green Line) as a "colonialist ethnocracy," and
Neve Gordon has explicitly called for a boycott of the country
because of its "apartheid policies."
By thy own hand
The growing menace of endogenic Judeo-phobia or how Jews fan
the flames of hatred against their own.
By MARTIN SHERMAN
"Thy destroyers and
thy demolishers shall emerge from within thee." Isaiah 49:17
"When people criticize
Zionists they mean Jews; you are talking anti-Semitism" attributed
Martin Luther King Jr., Harvard, 1968
Finally a belated realization is beginning to
dawn on the nation. The pace is still far too slow, the scale far
too small, and one can only hope that it will not turn out to be
"too little too late." But at least some semblance of awareness is
beginning to emerge that decades of delegitimization as the
nation-state of the Jews comprise the gravest strategic danger
In his column "Yes
to prosecuting subversion, no to McCarthyism" (January 13), Isi
Leibler gave an commendably accurate diagnosis of the malaise and
its roots: "We largely have ourselves to blame for enabling our
adversaries to succeed in embedding their false narrative in the
consciousness of the world." Aptly, he added: "Our failure has been
augmented by the small but influential far left post-Zionist
factions which systematically promote the Arab narrative and distort
our position in our own media and universities." Perhaps the only
defect in Leibler's analysis it that he understates the numbers and
diversity of the malefactors.
For this perilous
predicament has been precipitated not only by a small core of
dedicated post/anti-Zionist zealots. It has been greatly facilitated
by the complicity of a much larger allegedly pro-Zionist layer of
Israeli society and pro-Israel Jewry either passively through
benign neglect, intellectual indolence and/or a lack of stomach for
confrontation; or actively by providing the zealots with platforms,
prestige and position to promulgate their poisonous and arguably
perfidious political agendas.
such tacit cooperation (or craven capitulation), this kernel of
radicals would be severely curtailed in its capacity to propagate
anti-Israel malevolence. This has at least two consequences: It
provides a license for the abuse of academic freedom, essentially
lending it a veil of legitimacy for the perversion rather than the
pursuit of truth.
And it fuels not
only the growing drive for delegitimization of the Jewish state, but
fans the hatred against the Jewish people. The howls of protest that
inevitably arise at the mere mention of these effects are generally
of two kinds. Both must be summarily dismissed as either invalid or
irrelevant or both.
The first kind of
protest typically holds that any discussion of such things
constitutes a dire danger to freedom of expression, and an
intolerable infringement of the autonomy of intellectual inquiry,
the sine qua non for vibrant democracy.
In fact, in the
context of Israeli academe, the contrary is true. It is the
complacency/complicity/capitulation of the academic mainstream visΰ-
vis the radical leftists that has constricted the freedom of
expression and the scope of "permissible" opinions and/or research.
This is undeniable in light of the almost total absence certainly
the gross underrepresentation of pro-Zionist perspectives, and
certainly of robustly hawkish ones, across the entire spectrum of
the nation's faculties of social sciences and humanities (including
disproportionate dearth is even more remarkable and revealing
given that over the past two decades, the dominant dovish paradigms
have been refuted by reality apparently demonstrating that such
"intellectual inbreeding" has severely degraded the quality of
The second such
Pavlovian-like protest is that Israel is not and should not be
immune to criticism, and such criticism cannot and should not be
dismissed as anti-Semitism, nor should anti-Semitism be invoked as
grounds for muffling it.
While Israel is
obviously not without blemish, and not every expression of
disapproval can or should be construed as motivated by
anti-Semitic impulses, this is only one aspect of a more complex
truth. For it cannot be denied that the persistent and pervasive
application of double standards to the conduct of the nation-state
of the Jews, and the endemic distortion of realities in it make
anti-Semitism an increasingly plausible explanation for the
unparalleled and unrelenting assault on nearly every position and
action taken by Israel.
NOR CAN it be
ignored that a growing body of opinion holds an increasingly
seamless nexus between anti-Israeli vilification and anti-Jewish
bigotry. Indeed, a significant number of pundits have identified
anti-Zionism as the new channel through which a major portion of
today's anti- Semitic sentiments are flowing. In effect, Israel has
become a "lighting rod" that attracts hatred and enmity toward Jews,
in a manner that provides these emotions with an aura of
acceptability and political correctness that overt anti-Semitism
has become a convenient surrogate for anti-Semitism, with hatred for
Jews as individuals (Jews as people) being replaced by hatred for
Jews as a collective (Jews as a people).
accounts of Israel and its actions, which cast unwarranted
aspersions on the country and its policies, or present it in a
one-sided, biased distorted, misleading, not to mention outright
mendacious light, contribute considerably to fueling the flames of
Judeo-phobic passions and validating Judeo-phobic prejudices.
pronouncements made by Israeli and/or Jewish individuals or
organizations have special value for the country's detractors
frequently used to validate their anti-Zionist condemnations and
"authoritatively" discrediting any rebuttals. Whether intentionally
on not, such pronouncements reinforce the insidious invective and
the demonic imagery used to portray Israel today.
extends far beyond the explicitly post/anti-Zionists who propose
annulling the country's status as a Jewish state and transforming it
into a "state of all its citizens," and/or openly condemn it as an
ethnocratic apartheid regime, meriting not only international
censure but sanction.
for example, depicts Israel (on both sides of the Green Line) as a
"colonialist ethnocracy," and Neve Gordon has explicitly called for
a boycott of the country because of its "apartheid policies."
It extends to
purportedly pro-Zionists who allegedly endorse the existence of
Israel as the nation-state of Jews, but provide hopefully
unwittingly anti- Semites with material and opportunity to promote
their Judeo-phobic agenda. This group includes figures such as Aeyal
Gross, who has described Israel as "a society where shooting at
children of the 'other' is the norm" and which "is in fact
indifferent or worse to Israel's widespread killing of Palestinian
youth" and Fania Oz-Salzberger, who in the wake of the Gaza flotilla
episode proclaimed in a Daily Beast article that she was
"ashamed of my country" presumably because young commandos were
compelled to use lethal force to extricate themselves from the
clutches of a brutal lynch mob a mob who, shortly before the
incident, had called for the Jews to "go back to Auschwitz."
significantly, it includes the bodies that provide institutional
support for the aforementioned individuals, and which facilitate the
propagation of their condemnation purposeful or otherwise
furnishing them with promotional platforms to mindfully endorse or
mindlessly enhance the process of delegitimization. These include
universities such as Ben-Gurion University, which promote
individuals like Neve Gordon to department heads, whose duties
presumably entail setting programs for seminars and conferences,
contacts with other institutions of higher learning, influencing the
choice of faculty and so on.
It includes Jewish
benefactors who set up Israel studies chairs/programs and ensconce
in them figures who provide at best a distorted portrayal and
at worse a demonized image.
It also includes major Jewish
organizations such as the American Jewish Committee, which invited
Peter Beinart as key speaker at its 2011 Global Forum. For not only
has Beinart expressed views (in his misleading 5,000- word piece in
New York Review of Books in 2010 which catapulted him
to celebrity status) that totally negate AJC executive director
David Harris's eminently sensible defense of Israel's democratic
credentials, but has publicly suggested that US Jewry ought to apply
the same value judgments to Israeli measures vis-ΰ-vis the
Palestinians as they do to events "in Bosnia, the former Soviet
Union and Darfur."
The net result of all this is that such
individuals, armed with the prestige of their formal positions,
become the prisms through which the wider public comes to view
Israel and to evaluate its essence and ethical foundations. Unless
these developments are urgently addressed and arrested their
tragic consequences are not difficult to predict. Perhaps the best
way to initiate such a corrective process is to inform the public
and foreign donors of the ongoing absurdity of these
self-destructive phenomena, and urge them to consider if this is
really the best way to use their tax shekels and dollar donations.
The writer lectured at Tel Aviv University
in Political Science and Security Studies for the past twenty years.
In 2009/2010 he was the visiting Israeli Schusterman Scholar at
University of Southern Californian (USC) and the Hebrew Union
College (Los Angeles). He served for seven years in the defense
establishment and is currently engaged in the establishment of a new
Policy Center in Israel.