Op-Ed: Academics Boycott the Truth
Prof. Phyllis CheslerThe writer is the author of fifteen books, including Women and Madness, Woman's Inhumanity to Woman, and The New Anti-Semitism. She has published three studies about honor killing and is work on a fourth. Her new book, An American Bride in Kabul, (Palgrave Macmillan) has just been published to great acclaim. Professor Chesler may be reached at her website www.phyllis-chesler.com
Academics, intellectuals—even journalists—are, presumably, concerned with objective truth and trained to recognize and avoid bias or extreme distortion. In addition, a physicist is expected to know something about physics and a Women’s Studies professor is, presumably, expected to know something about women’s rights—and wrongs; in addition, he or she is supposed to “care” about the subject in a way that a physicist may not be able to “care” about sub-atomic particles.
However, this does not seem to be the case where Israel and/or Islamic gender apartheid are concerned. And, I could also be wrong about the physicist.
Take the recent survey undertaken by Dr. Fred Gottheil, a professor or Economics at the University of Illinois. (Thank you, Carol Mizrahi, for calling this to my attention). He published his finding yesterday. Last year, a professor of English at the University of Southern California, Dr. David Lloyd, managed to garner 900 academic signatories from 150 universities for his letter-petition in favor of culturally and academically boycotting Israel; last year, Lloyd sent this letter-petition to President Barak Obama soon after he took office. According to Gottheil, Lloyd’s letter petition (which cannot be found online) “was notable not only for its criticism of Israeli policy -- that is standard fare among the set of academics who subscribe to a post-colonial view of the world -- but rather for its demonizing of the Jewish state. His technique was anything but novel. It associated Israel with pre-Mandela South Africa. Lloyd's South African-linking brushstrokes were many and crude, citing ‘collective punishment,’ ‘apartheid regime,’ ‘racist regime,’ ‘besieged Bantustans,’ ‘crimes against humanity,’ and ‘ethnocidal atrocities.’ These were layered on his fact-distorting canvas like icing on a poisoned cake.”
What Dr. Gottheil then did was smart. He painstakingly tracked down 675 of the original signatories and, without referring to the Lloyd anti-Israel petition-letter at all, asked these same academics who are, ostensibly, concerned with social justice issues, to sign a statement-petition which opposed the widespread abuse of women in the Middle East, including in the disputed Palestinian territories. Gottheil specifically mentioned and documented “honor-killing, wife-beating, female genital mutilation” and the systematic “discrimination against women, gays and lesbians in the Middle East.”
Guess what? According to Gottheil, less than 5% of these same academics (27 people!) signed his statement-petition. And, most shocking, (but not surprising to me), literally only five of the169 Women’s Studies academics signed his statement. As Gottheil puts it:
“In other words, 95 percent of those who had signed the Lloyd petition censuring Israel for human rights violation did not sign a statement concerning discrimination against women and gays and lesbians in the Middle East.”
For a long while now, I have been writing about the Stalinization and “Palestinianization” of both the academic world and the universe of Women’s Studies programs. I have written an entire book about it, The Death of Feminism, and subsequently, hundreds of articles.
When Angela Davis was in jail, I marched on her behalf. Now that she is involved in the Women’s Studies program at the University of Santa Cruz, in California, neither she nor her communist colleagues, Bettina Apteker among them, bothered to come and hear me speak about the demonization and scapegoating of Israel for the very real gender apartheid crimes of Arab and Muslim countries.
I have just been told that when Berkeley Professor Judith Butler recently lectured in Berlin the crowds numbered 5,000. People came not only because she represents the ruling, fashionable post-modern, post-structural, anti-colonialist academy, but because she is known as a prominent boycotter of Israel. Butler is both prominent as a philosopher and as a lesbian feminist, but since she is also a Jew, her real credential is her passionate advocacy against the Jewish state.
The spectacle of 5,000 Berliners cheering her on for this precise reason is a chilling one. Indeed, I have recently interviewed Clemens Heni, who confirmed that many so-called scholars of German anti-Semitism are now more interested in “Islamophobia” than in anti-Semitism. According to Dr. Heni, this is another form of either Holocaust denial or a way to continue the Holocaust.
Of course, it is also a way to appease the hostile Semites who are threatening terrorist actions against civilians, not only in the West, or in Europe but worldwide.
As academics of conscience begin to understand the worldwide propaganda campaign against Israel and to speak out against it—or to document the propaganda and to separate fact from fiction—they are quickly demonized themselves as “neo-conservative, right wing, fascists, racists, and Islamophobes.”
Remember that child who alone dared to say that the Emperor was naked? We must now all become that wise child. Truth-telling will eventually succeed but only if more and more people do it.