Posted in: Culture Wars & Censorship
Published on Mar 16, 2005 by Phyllis Chesler
The Palestinianization Of The Academy
On March 6, I delivered a speech at a historic conference which drew more than 500 people to Columbia University. The conference was co-sponsored by Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and by The David Project, the group that made the film “Columbia Unbecoming.” Hundreds of people had to be turned away. At least twenty newspapers sent reporters. Speakers included Minister Natan Sharansky, via satellite from Milan; Martin Kramer, via satellite from Washington D.C.; Charles Jacobs, founder of The David Project; Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America; and many others, including speakers from the Sudan and Mauritania who had been enslaved by ethnic Arab Muslims.
Palestine Solidarity Movement members infiltrated the conference and heckled, hissed, and cursed me while I spoke. Jews Against the Occupation rallied outside on Broadway. Security was very tight and sobering. Although Columbia’s president, Lee Bollinger, and its provost, Alan Brinkley, had been invited, neither came, nor did the faculty of MEALAC [Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures]. By contrast, Bollinger not only attended the memorial for Edward Said, he was one of the speakers, and Brinkley spoke at a conference together with NYU professor Tony Judt, a Jew who has called for a one-state solution in the pages of The New York Review of Books and elsewhere.
I will soon post a video of selected speeches, beginning with my own, on my website (www.phyllis-chesler.com). The text of my speech follows:
The reality is that the Intifada has gone global, and that master propagandists have hijacked both the world media and the Western academy. The reality is that as soon as we speak truth to one lie, a thousand more spring up in its place.
Yasir Arafat is, at long last, dead; both Iraq and Afghanistan have held elections; the Lebanese people have openly protested the Syrian occupation of Lebanon and its government has resigned – but the Intifada of 2000 is still alive and well on every North American and European campus, so much so that I fear that even if Israelis and Palestinians actually make peace on the ground in the Middle East, the academic Propaganda- Intifada, which demonizes both Israel and America and glorifies terrorism, will continue as hotly as before.
My friends, the problem we face goes way beyond Columbia University. The problem is not confined to those academics who specialize in Saudi- and Arab-funded Middle Eastern departments or institutes. The problem is this: The entire “politically correct” Western academy, including the feminist academy, has been fully and fatally Palestinianized.
Professors in every discipline are persuaded that the Palestinians, peace be upon those who have truly suffered at the hands of their own corrupt and vicious leaders, including the Islamikaze bombers, represent the world’s ultimate and most noble of victims. These same professors, well trained (or might I say brainwashed) by Columbia’s own Edward Said and others such as Noam Chomsky, now view both America and Israel as the real terrorists. Orwell would weep. Both President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon have been called “Nazis” and “worse than Nazis” by professors to whom we turn for the truth.
And here’s the problem. Today, they deal in lies, not truth; they deal in hate speech, not truth speech. They exaggerate complex and tragic realities in the service of the most vulgar Jew-hatred and in the service of death. They do not stand for democracy or freedom or tolerance, but stand against it. They condemn and despise the very country that allows them to have their say. Such progressive, liberal, left, feminist, and gay “politically correct” professors have also romanticized totalitarian Islamists.
Indeed, the “good” people – those who really want human suffering and injustice to end – have made an alliance with fascists and terrorists to bring down Western civilization. And why? Because it is not perfect, because it has not yet redeemed the entire world. But, until they can accomplish this anti-colonialist, anti-racist Armageddon, our “best and our brightest” are willing to settle for, God forbid, the destruction of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.
They scapegoat, demonize, and obsessively focus upon the most minor failings of the Jewish state – even as they look away from the ongoing genocide in Sudan, the “gender cleansing” of Sudanese women, the genocides in Rwanda, in Bosnia; even as they consign millions of Muslims and Christians to suffer in medieval misery under barbaric Islamic regimes.
“Politically correct” academics, including feminists, have failed to understand that what we have in America would constitute a revolution in any Islamic country. And that our standards for human rights should be universal.
In 2002, I was among the first to write that today the new-anti-Semitism is anti-Zionism; that the Jewish state has increasingly been treated as the Jew of the world and as the world’s most dangerous colonial power; that today, anti-Semitic propaganda is visually sophisticated, often doctored, hypnotic, and has a vast global reach; and that Western academics and intellectuals have made an alliance with Islamist totalitarian terrorists.
I have been wrestling with Jew-hatred on the Left and among feminists and gay liberationists since the late 1960’s. By 2000, matters took a decided turn for the worse on every academic and feminist [Internet] listserv group I belonged to – the propaganda became filthier and the intolerance to any other view more menacing. I was gravely concerned by how many Israeli civilians were being slaughtered, and by how indifferent the media, the United Nations, the Academy all were. All international bodies continued to blame the Israelis for their own deaths.
The New Anti-Semitism was a book I had to write. My people, Western intellectuals and academics, progressives – the “good” people – had betrayed both the Jews and the truth. One could no longer reason with them. It was as if they had been brainwashed. I am a psychologist. I do not say this lightly.
My book came out in the summer of 2003. Few feminists, few liberals, and no leftists congratulated me on my truth-telling. On the contrary. Many stopped talking to me. The places that have reviewed nearly every one of my eleven other books (often front page and positive reviews) did not review it. I was not interviewed in the usual places. Reporters who wanted to interview me were stopped at higher levels. In the fall of 2003, I interested one such reporter in doing a story about the anti-Israel bias on North American campuses. She too was stopped at higher levels.
In my opinion, American campuses have bred a new and diabolical McCarthyism. Academics now have the right to teach brazen lies, which they expect to be protected in the name of “free speech.” Worse, when an academic tries to teach the truth – the truth – about Israel or about America, or about Jews, [he or she] will be ostracized, bullied, demonized, and accused (by the new McCarthyites) of leading a McCarthyite witch hunt against left-wing freedom of expression, which, in my view, is really the censorship of any view that does not conform to a left-wing and anti-American view.
The First Amendment and free speech are very important. But professors especially have a responsibility to teach the difference between a truth and a lie. Too many have abdicated this responsibility. This is a point I tried to make to the president of Duke University, a university which houses my archives (whose welfare I fear I may have endangered by my strong pro-Israel stand). Not a single faculty member at Duke challenged Duke’s decision to allow the Palestine Solidarity Movement … a distinguished place to meet [and] academic credibility.
This is my third speech at Barnard and Columbia on this subject in the last fourteen months. On November 8, 2003, I spoke at Barnard on what was the [anniversary of the] eve of kristallnacht. What happened was far from pleasant and I have written about it widely. In short: The assembled feminists, mainly women of color, loved my speech, sighed and clapped and laughed and groaned – but they went crazy and became menacing when, in response to a completely out-of-context question about “where I stood on the question of the women of Palestine,” which I took to be a question about where I stood on the question of apartheid, I said that Islam was the largest practitioner of gender and religious apartheid on the face of the earth.
The place went crazy. “What about the humiliation at the checkpoints?” “Not as serious as being murdered by your brother or your father because you want to go to college, or choose your own husband.”
Feminists do not question the nationalism of former European colonial powers such as England, France, and Germany, nor do they challenge formerly colonized Islamic nation-states with abysmal human rights records, against women especially. Feminists do criticize and challenge American and Israeli nationalism. And, they remain divided, contradictory, confused about the use of military power in foreign affairs.
There is a slight thaw underway. Last week, one feminist leader said, all of a sudden, out of the blue: “Everyone knows you’re right.” But then she immediately changed the subject.
On April 27, 2004, I spoke at the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs, together with a representative from the American Jewish Committee, and from the Anti-Defamation League. Rabbi Charles Sheer of Columbia Hillel joined us. Long before The David Project aired their important and influential film, Jewish graduate students had organized the evening in response to the indifference and hostility towards Israel on their campus. All that talent – and only eighteen people came, and that included a friend of mine. No faculty, and no non-Jewish graduate students came.
Today is obviously quite different. Today I am not alone as I was at the Barnard speech. Today there are also a few more than eighteen people here.
Academics must tell the truth. We must start teaching that Jews and Americans do not cause anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism, and that both Jews and Israel have been the targets of massive hate campaigns against them. Academics must monitor this campaign and get it to stop.
Academics and intellectuals must stand up proudly and loudly, and say that Zionism is not racism or colonialism or apartheid, that it is the liberation movement of the oppressed …persecuted Jewish people.
We must fight back, not appease or justify the terrorist who would like to bomb us all back into the Arabian 7th century.
Academics must take back the campuses. We must civilize and de-politicize them. I am especially interested in restoring campus civility and freedom of truth speech in America. Twenty-first century Western intellectuals must become a force for democracy. We must oppose dictatorships and totalitarian movements that crush liberty and the rights of people.
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