Thursday, December 14, 2023

Pro-Israel Politicians and Donors Assault Academic Freedom in America

Widespread student protests on the US campuses against Israel's genocidal war in Gaza are being labeled antisemitic by pro-Israel politicians and donors. They have now joined forces to intimidate the leadership of top American universities. President Liz MaGill of the University of Pennsylvania has already been forced out. Leaders at Harvard and MIT are also under threat.  The Pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Brandeis Center have called on 200 college presidents to investigate pro-Palestinian student groups. Faculty members and instructors at several public and private colleges have either been placed on leave or fired for comments about the conflict, according to Bloomberg columnist Noah Feldman. These actions are a direct assault on the academic freedom in America, with long term negative consequences for the world's most admired institutions of higher education. 

Pro-Palestine Protest at UCLA. Source: Daily Bruin

Academic Freedom: 

Academic freedom is about free exchange of ideas on campus by students and faculty. It is considered essential for learning. Limiting this freedom hurts pursuit of excellence which has helped American colleges and universities become the envy of the world. This freedom must be defended by all Americans to maintain the excellence of institutions of higher learning in America. 

US Congress: 

GOP politicians see these pro-Palestine protests on US campuses as a fundraising opportunity. Harvard alumna Rep. Elise M. Stefanik ’06 (R-N.Y.) aggressively questioned presidents of Harvard, Penn and MIT to score points with the Israel lobby. “At Harvard, does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment?”  asked — to which Gay twice responded that “it depends on the context.” 

GOP politicians like Stefanik are deliberately conflating slogans such as "From the River to the Sea, Free Palestine Free"  with call for genocide of Jews. In fact, this chant is only about ending the long brutal Israeli Occupation of Gaza (along the Mediterranean Sea) and the West Bank (of the Jordan River). 

Jewish Donors:

 Several Jewish donors of major private sector universities have either cancelled their donations or threatened to do so over the Pro-Palestine protests. Investors Bill Ackman and Ross Stevens have been among the most vocal pro-Israel donors at Harvard and Penn. They both called for the ouster of the presidents of these universities over what they call "antisemitism" on campuses. 

The aggressive behavior of Jewish donors is serving to reinforce the antisemitic stereotype of wealthy Jews. As former Labor Secretary Robert Reich put in a Guardian Op Ed: "As a Jew, I cannot help but worry, too, that the actions of these donors will fuel the very antisemitism they claim to oppose – based on the perilous stereotype of wealthy Jewish bankers controlling the world". 

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion:

Some right-wing politicians and donors have attacked DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) programs as the cause of what they call "antisemitism" on campuses. These programs help bring in faculty and students from under-represented groups to colleges and universities that have traditionally been almost entirely white. They blame DEI because many new students from minority background tend to sympathize with Palestinians who they see as oppressed. Many of them see Israel as a "Western settler-colonialist oppressor par excellence", according to the Wall Street Journal

Israel has long been seen as a settler colonial state . It was established by the displacement of the indigenous population of Palestinians and their replacement by Europeans, similar to  places like America and Australia. This process of Israel's creation was endorsed by top British politicians like Winston Churchill.  

“I do not admit that the dog in the manger has the final right to the manger,” former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill told the Peel Commission in 1937, “even though he may have lain there for a very long time.” He denied that “a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the Black people of Australia,” by their replacement with “a higher grade race.”

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Modi and Netanyahu: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Israel's Gaza Attack is Criminal, Not Defensive

Pictorial Review of Israel's Young Gaza Victims

American College Campuses Rise Up Against Israel's Genocidal War on Gaza

Israeli Settler Colonialism

Islamophobia Driving US Policy in Middle East and South Asia?

Israeli Scholars Offer Insights into Zionist Psyche

Total, Extended Lockdown in Indian Occupied Kashmir

What is India Hiding From UN Human Rights Team?

Indian JNU Professor on Illegal Indian Occupation of Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland

Riaz Haq Youtube Channel

PakAlumni: Pakistani Alumni Social Network


Ahmad F. said...

Very well written.

I am worried that one of these days, Congress will pass a law equating anti-Israel commentary with hate speech and antisemitism.

Shams N. said...

I sent an email to all US and CA senators and congress-representatives upon their issuance of individual statements re. Gaza genocide, including Elise Stefanik. Total silence. No matter how much we shout, or how much anyone may donate to them, no one can match the Jewish donors. I donate to Trump and the Jewish congresswoman in the CA assembly; Saudi & Qatar have donated $16m to Harvard, MIT, and UPenn alone. According to Vivek Ramaswami, Washington D.C. is the most corrupt legislative body in the world.

Porus Dadabhoy said...

Brother Riaz, I love you for your passion on behalf of your identity.
The University Principles did not get a subpoena and they were invited to testify. They could have rejected
to attend. Furthermore the JNU video is 7 years old. Lets live in the present and not the past bringing up old scabs.
that have healed.
The schools in the USa are doing a far better job in the USA on free speech as opposed to hate speech,coming from Muslims and Jews.
Your comments whether cut and paste or original have a pro palestinian bias or stigma as there is not mention of October 7th.
I understand and respect your right to express your views based on your community identity with the cause and feel your pain
of the extensive loss of civilian life. and destruction of infrastructure.
We are holding interfaith meetings to lessen the impact so "Hate has No Home in the USA."
That is what is needed here and globally. to advance healing.
On human rights in India , there should not be one human rights violation but there were 400 in a population of 1.2 Billion. in 2023 .
Please review the top ten countries for human rights violations and work on those.Several of them have large muslim populations.
Love You brother Riaz
We at United for Peace continue to be non partisan as it is part of our Goals and Mission.

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmad: "I am worried that one of these days, Congress will pass a law equating anti-Israel commentary with hate speech and antisemitism"

Unlike the European countries where there is no constitutional guarantee of free speech, such a definition of antisemitism in US law would not pass constitutional muster.

But the EU nations have already adopted the following definition, according to Masha Gessen who wrote recently for the New Yorker:

In 2016, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (I.H.R.A.), an intergovernmental organization, adopted the following definition: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” This definition was accompanied by eleven examples, which began with the obvious—calling for or justifying the killing of Jews—but also included “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” and “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

This definition had no legal force, but it has had extraordinary influence. Twenty-five E.U. member states and the U.S. State Department have endorsed or adopted the I.H.R.A. definition. In 2019, President Donald Trump signed an executive order providing for the withholding of federal funds from colleges where students are not protected from antisemitism as defined by the I.H.R.A. On December 5th of this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a nonbinding resolution condemning antisemitism as defined by the I.H.R.A.; it was proposed by two Jewish Republican representatives and opposed by several prominent Jewish Democrats, including New York’s Jerry Nadler.

Riaz Haq said...

Porus: "Brother Riaz, I love you for your passion on behalf of your identity.
The University Principles did not get a subpoena and they were invited to testify. They could have rejected
to attend. Furthermore the JNU video is 7 years old. Lets live in the present and not the past bringing up old scabs.
that have healed"

My post’s focus is on academic freedom on American college campuses.

The JNU video is an illustration of the relative academic freedom that existed in India before Modi’s fascist Hindutva rule.

Ahmad F. said...

I don’t trust the Supreme Court anymore. Anything goes.

Riaz Haq said...

Harvard President Resigns After Plagiarism Allegations, Campus Antisemitism Backlash
Claudine Gay faced calls to step down as governing board stood by her

Harvard University President Claudine Gay has resigned after facing mounting criticism over how she responded to antisemitism on campus and, most recently, allegations that she plagiarized the work of other researchers on several occasions.

Gay, a professor of government and of African and African-American studies, became president in July after serving as dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences for around five years. She had been under pressure for weeks regarding her response to Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks on Israel. Her remarks at a House committee hearing on the matter in early December drew widespread criticism after she gave an equivocal response to a question about whether calls for the genocide of Jewish people violated the campus code of conduct.

She was also accused of plagiarizing other academics in several published papers and her Ph.D. dissertation. The Harvard Corporation, the university’s top governing board, said in December that reviews of her work uncovered some instances of “inadequate citation,” but that the omissions didn’t meet the bar of outright research misconduct.

Gay has requested four corrections on two academic papers and is updating her dissertation in three spots, according to the school, whose board has released statements standing by Gay.