»Following the Israeli attack on Gaza in December, our shared skepticism as to the willingness and capacity of the Bard community to view Zionism critically would be strongly vindicated. Insofar as anti-Zionism is interpreted, minimally, as criticism of military aggression by the Israeli government, there was nothing of the sort to be found at precisely the time when its presence ought to be most apparent. One searched in vain for joint letters, demonstrations, flyers, teach-ins, or other expressions of concern at the unfolding atrocity.
There was, it should be noted, one faculty member, the college chaplain, who conspicuously weighed in on the subject of the Gaza attacks-on the side of the Israeli Defense Force. While I had, as mentioned, long since parted with any illusions as to what to expect from academics in these sorts of circumstances, it was still a bit shocking to find a supposed voice of moral conscience in an appearance on the far right radio station WABC, championing the bombing of civilian targets and denouncing as anti-semitic those who raised questions as to its moral legitimacy.
This constituted the extent of the visible faculty response to Gaza. There may have been private expressions of concern or even grief-and perhaps public expressions, though if so, none of them found their way back to Bard in any visible form. Given that more than a few Bard faculty members are frequently granted high profile platforms for the expression of their views, any expression of protest would have registered, so it is a reasonable assumption that they didn't exist.«
»Rather, this context is required to respond to repeated claims emanating from the Bard administration in response to the Kovel affair that Bard is a campus which not only tolerates and but celebrates dissident political views. This general proposition is not supported by any facts that have been apparent in my two years here. And on the specific claim in question, that anti-Zionism is uncontroversial, the silence with which the faculty greeted the Gaza attacks is a prima facie refutation of this proposition, one which is even more glaring when seen in the light of the numerous cris-de-coeur emanating from some of Israel's staunchest advocates in the months since the attacks.«
»By now, the Lobby's crackdown on criticism of Israeli human rights abuses on college campuses should be more than familiar, as every week seems to brings a new and disturbing attempt at academic suppression. The most recent is a charge of misconduct being brought against UC Santa Barbara Prof. William Robinson on direct orders from ADL chairman Abe Foxman. Not long before came news of Clark University having rescinded an invitation to Norman Finkelstein under pressure from Jewish student organizations. Prior to that was an effort at intimidation waged by Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz against Hampshire College students supporting sanctions directed at firms profiting from the West Bank occupation. These join targeted attacks on Columbia Professor Joseph Massad, University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole, and, of course, Finkelstein himself, to mention only a few cases.
That none of these have been mentioned by the administration in responding to Kovel's charges of political interference is disappointing and has fueled suspicion outside of Bard in capitulating to pressure in its decision to remove Kovel academic freedom has been, yet again, violated. There is also at least a whiff of arrogance in Bard's assumption that the illustrious legacy of Hannah Arendt and its description in the Princeton Review as "the most liberal of the liberal arts colleges" exempts it from answering questions about the troubling context of Kovel's termination.«
»An action which Bard could take along these lines would be to install Norman Finkelstein as the next occupant of the Alger Hiss chair. Finkelstein's presence at Bard would, of course, indisputably remove any question as to influence of the Lobby on Bard's hiring decisions. But, more importantly, Finkelstein's combination of an impressive scholarly resumé with a long standing record of challenging the most sacrosanct conventional wisdoms make him a scholarly model for the traditions which have defined Bard, and which continue to have resonance for more than a few Bard students.«