Federalism for the Holy Land?

The NYT is ending 2014 with an editorial—“The Embattled Dream for Palestine” (December 19)—rehearsing the nightmarish political impasse and putting all the blame, as per usual, on Israel. This time the fall guys are Israeli “one state” rightwingers who want to extinguish the dream of Palestinian peoplehood. No mention that Palestinian “one staters” like Hamas…

UC’s Moment of Truth

181798582The University of California—once home of the legendary Free Speech Movement—has an academic freedom problem.

Earlier this year, we witnessed Nicholas Dirks, Chancellor of UC-Berkeley, co-opt the anniversary of Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement to emphasize the limits that “civility” might, in his view, properly impose on freedom of speech.

Now comes a new threat to intellectual freedom, as students across the UC system face a potential onslaught of classroom indoctrination.

In December, the UAW 2865, the University System’s union for graduate instructors, voted to support the movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Nearly two-thirds of the union’s members voted in support of divestment, and over half pledged to personally abide by an academic boycott of Israeli educational institutions.

A union vote alone does not constitute a breach of academic freedom. And UC’s graduate students unquestionably have the right to express whatever political opinions they choose outside the classroom. Nevertheless, the UAW 2865’s vote is profoundly worrisome.

First and foremost, academic boycotts are anathema to academic freedom. In order to perform its mission in society—the educating of young minds—the university must maintain a neutral posture on hot-button political questions. As the seminal Kalven Committee Report on the University’s Role in Political and Social Action states:

To perform its mission in the society, a university must sustain an extraordinary environment of freedom of inquiry and maintain an independence from political fashions, passions, and pressures. … The neutrality of the university … arises then not from a lack of courage nor out of indifference and insensitivity. It arises out of respect for free inquiry and the obligation to cherish a diversity of viewpoints.

Global Double Standards

It’s unacceptable for Sony Studios to allow audiences to see a comedy making fun of North Korea’s Kim Jung Un, but de rigeur for the Taliban to force Pakistani students to see their teacher burned alive. It’s bad taste for ISIS to behead innocents in Iraq and Syria, but not “terrorist” for Hamas to murder…

The Return of the Malevolent Jew: The Academic Nazification of Israel

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“What if the Jews themselves were Nazis?,” mused French philosopher, Vladimir Jankélévitch in 1986. “That would be great. We would no longer have to feel sorry for them; they would have deserved what they got.”

The recasting of Israelis, and, by extension, Jews as Nazis has, in fact, taken place, just as Jankélévitch envisioned. This summer’s Israeli incursion, Operation Protective Edge, provided anti-Semites and loathers of the Jewish state with resurgent justifications for assigning the epithet of Nazi on the Jews yet another time, together with oft-heard accusations of “crimes against humanity, “massacres,” genocide,” and, according to recent comments by Turkey’s prime minister Tayyip Erdoğan, in their treatment of the Palestinians, Israel has demonstrated that “. . . their barbarism has surpassed even Hitler’s.”