Scapegoating Israel, Again; the Imperfections of the Jewish State Roil the Academy

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 26, 2013 | Go to article overview

Scapegoating Israel, Again; the Imperfections of the Jewish State Roil the Academy


Byline: Suzanne Fields, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

'Tis the season of the long holiday for toilers in the Groves of Academe. Learned professors of the American Studies Association (ASA), who recently adopted a call for a boycott of contact with Israel's academic institutions, presumably to protest Israel's treatment of Palestinians but perhaps because they just don't like Jews very much, should take a break from grading papers, or partying with academics who think exactly as they do, and use the time to reflect on something important. One such topic should be why they single out the one democracy in the Middle East for criticism of its imperfection.

It's not an academic question.

These academics teach interdisciplinary approaches to history, religion, literature and philosophy in the American culture, but many of them obviously missed their own critical study of intellectual history. How else to explain why they're unable to distinguish between scholarly arguments and arguments extracted from their own attitudes, prejudices and uninformed opinions?

Perhaps they've been too busy researching scorn to heap on the United States for presentation in a learned paper at their next convention. The latest call for ASA scholarship is to provide papers on The Fun and the Fury: New Dialectics of Pleasure and Pain In the Post-American Century. (You might want to wait for the movie, which is not likely to be coming soon to a theater in your neighborhood.)

It's a long time since we've looked to tenured professors to guide moral thinking on anything, but this recent ASA resolution is political posturing of the worst order. Not even Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, favors the boycott of Israeli professors, who actually teach a multicultural mix of students in their universities, including, in addition to Jews, Arabs, Palestinians, Ethiopians and exiles from despotic countries who are enjoying academic freedom for the first time.

For an organization devoted to cross-disciplinary study, the ASA boycotters might refresh their recollections with unpleasant anti-Semitic models of intellectual boycotts, such as Hitler's order against patronizing Jewish businesses in Germany in the 1930s, or the Arab League's boycott in the Middle East in 1948, when it still held high hopes of seeing the extermination of Israel.

It's particularly bizarre for academicians to single out Israel to be the most imperfect of imperfect nations, since Israelis debate with each other with a passion that would set off a rush to the fainting couches in almost any American university, over such subjects as the treatment of the settlements, prospects for peace and the two-state solution. …

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