[Marxism] Witch-hunt at Columbia University

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Mar 2 10:32:54 MST 2005


Counterpunch, March 2, 2005
The Witchhunts Continue
Columbia University and the New Anti-Semitism

By M. JUNAID ALAM

     Political languageis designed to make lies sound truthful and murder 
respectable, and to give an
     appearance of solidity to pure wind.

     -Orwell

Rape, massacre, theft, torture, ethnic cleansing: these are not crimes 
which nations can defend with ease - especially when unearthed by their own 
historians. Israel recently faced this most troubling predicament. Combing 
through declassified state archives, Israeli scholars of the past twenty 
years have discovered their nation was founded upon the mass expulsion and 
deliberate destruction of the native Palestinian people. (1) Israel, it 
turned out, was far more Goliath than David. Since this presented somewhat 
of a public relations problem for a state still engaged in brutalizing 
Palestinians and stealing their land, a new self-justifying rationale 
needed to be authored.
Enter the "new anti-Semitism." This doctrine turns reality on its head, 
declaring criticism of Israel's racist behavior to be itself racist ­ 
"anti-Semitic." Empathy for Palestinians being beaten, bullied, and 
bulldozed out of existence, the doctrine goes, is nothing but some 
disguised expression of Jew-hatred. Goose-stepping Germans and uprooted 
Palestinians are portrayed as part of the same unbroken line of 
anti-Semitism, even though those inhabiting concentration camps today ­ 
"the largest ever to exist," says Israeli historian Baruch Kimmerling - are 
the Palestinians themselves. (2) But no matter. Abusing the memory of 
Holocaust victims to shut down criticism of Israeli crimes ­ crimes 
unearthed mostly by Jewish historians - may be obscene, but it is also 
effective.

Wielding this new ideological weapon, Israel's champions aim to cut down 
pro-Palestinian voices inside America with the same ruthlessness Israeli 
soldiers employ to shoot up Palestinian children outside their homes. (3) 
The latest targets in this well-organized hit are Arab-American professors 
at Columbia University who teach Middle Eastern studies. The targets have 
been judiciously selected. Since these particular professors are Arab in an 
age when bombing and torturing Arabs has virtually become a national sport, 
they make for easy prey; and since they have added to their original sin of 
being Arab the even graver sin of speaking the truth about Israel's past ­ 
no less in a country which subsidizes Israel's existence - they also make 
for necessary prey.

In full accordance with "new anti-Semitism" modus operandi, the attacks 
paint the professors themselves as the attackers. With Orwellian 
brushstrokes, they are rendered as demons bent on "intimidating" Jewish 
students at the university. This much is to be expected. Less expected, 
however, is the almost embarrassing shoddiness of the trumped-up 
production. The wild charges made against the professors are so poorly 
substantiated and the political motives of the accusers so painfully 
transparent, one almost forgets that America's well-financed pro-Israel 
network has extensive experience in smearing its opponents. (4)

Curiously, the charges of "silencing" and "intimidation" first made waves 
when it was learned that the accusing students made their case on camera. 
They appeared in a short film, titled "Columbia Unbecoming", produced by a 
Boston-based group called the David Project. At this point it is both 
necessary and prudent to ask: what is the "David Project"?

At its website, the organization describes itself as "a grassroots 
initiative that promotes a fair and honest understanding of the Middle East 
conflict." A noble enough endeavor, no doubt. But a few lines later, we 
come to this: "We train people to be pro-active in their Israel advocacy" 
Another page offers ­ for a fee, of course ­ an intense three-hour 
ideological session titled "Making the Case for Israel." Searching for a 
"Making the Case for Palestine" program yields no results. Similarly, a 
look at the speaker's roster reveals many pro-Israeli speakers, but not a 
single pro-Palestinian. Perhaps most revealing is the text prefacing their 
speaker section: "For more information on how to bring our speakers to your 
synagogue, school, church, or community center, please call" (5) Apparently 
churches and synagogues are welcome, but mosques need not apply. One 
wonders why.

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