Can a "Patriotic" Mob Take Over the Universities?

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Article/book #: 16290
Title: Can a "Patriotic" Mob Take Over the Universities?
By: Baruch Kimmerling  
Published in: Dissident Voice
Date of issue: Tuesday, 29 March 2005
Topic(s) addressed: People/entities mentioned in this item:
Commentary (by a person who is not a member of the UCC Palestine Solidarity Campaign ):

This article was submitted to “Chronicle for Higher Education” and rejected.


»In the American academy, there is currently an organized campaign by some public figures to vilify prominent researchers and departments that are regarded as “anti-American” or even as “anti-Semitic” because their research and teaching are not in accordance with the views of the recent American administration. Universities are especially at risk if their faculty members are of Arab or -- even “worse” -- of Palestinian origin. The recent scandalous decision of the New York City Department of Education to bar Rashid Khalidi, one of Columbia University’s finest scholars, from instructing public school teachers is an example of this effort. Indeed Khalidi, a first-rate academic and a genuine intellectual, has often spoken of both the discriminatory laws within Israel that favor Jews and of the oppression of Palestinians in the occupied territories, facts that no honest and informed person would contest. One the other hand, he has consistently condemned suicide bombings as "war crimes," while asserting the right of Palestinians to resist the occupation without harming Israeli civilians. Many Jewish intellectuals in Israel and around the world share these completely legitimate opinions.
The campaign against Khalidi was preceded by an attack against professors Joseph Massad, George Saliba, and Hamid Dabashi that came in the form of a short “documentary” film entitled Columbia Unbecoming, produced by a Bostonian Jewish rightwing group called the “David Project.” According to the group’s website, their film “raises significant questions about the misuse of academic freedom, insufficient academic integrity in teaching about the Middle East, student intimidation, and how professors use the classroom as a political platform.” Interestingly enough, their assault was directed against teachers of specific ethnic origin and as such resembled a form of inverse anti-Semitism.«

»Unfortunately, Horowitz’s crusade is only the tip of the iceberg. More severely damaging to academic freedom are some “principles” established by legislation of the House of Representatives that calls for the establishment of an “advisory board” to oversee area studies programs. Such provisions make it possible for elements outside the academy to intervene in the educational process. This bill is very similar to that which authorized official interference in the curriculum and management of university teaching and research. Based on the Indiana case, Horowitz won a considerable victory when the Indiana state legislature declared that the principles have become ‘the educational policy of the state of Indiana and have been adopted as model legislation by the Association of Legislative Exchange Commissions. In October 2003, the House of Representatives introduced a federal version of the resolution that was not (yet?) adopted by the US Senate.«

»Genuine academic freedom can continue only if universities refuse to let the mobs overrun them. No single institution or professional organization (even not The American Association of University Professors) can fight this intellectual totalitarianism alone and the university leadership carries a special responsibility to stand up to those who would let ideology trump scholarship. As such, I wonder for instance why that Khalidi’s colleagues at Columbia and at New York City’s other fine universities, failed, regardless of their own political orientations, to declare non-cooperation with the Department of Education in solidarity with their discriminated colleague.«

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