Alice Walker Got What She Deserves

Bravo to the University of Michigan for disinviting Alice Walker – and shame on Walker for reportedly spreading false rumors about Michigan’s reasons for doing so.  The University of Michigan recently withdrew a speaking invitation to the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple, who is now known not only for her literary work but also for her virulent anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism.  Walker says that the university was pressured to do so, but the university denies it.

Walker and her agent are spreading an apparently false rumor, which some news outlets continue to disseminate, to the effect that Michigan had disinvited her because of pressure from rich donors.  Calling this a “censorship by purse strings,” Walker and her agent insinuate that her disinvitation was brought on by supposedly inappropriate influence by wealthy Jews.  This charge seems to have traction with some media and internet sources, because it resonates with long-held beliefs about Jewish wealth, influence, and control of major instituitons.  

Germany Should Act Against Those Who Invoke “Free Speech” to Destroy Its Still-Fragile Democracy

The recent “New York Times’” headline—“Wiesenthal Center Calls for Closing of German Magazine It Says Glorifies Nazism”—reflects what may an ominous divergence in German and American attitudes toward Nazism.

As recently as the 1960’s when “Hogan’s Heroes” was a hit television sitcom, “comic Nazis”—inept and even innocuous—were in vogue. The reason may have been that American (and English) audiences were still not ready for portrayals of unvarnished World War II horrors. It’s probably no coincidence that “comic Nazis” disappeared from popular culture in tandem with the rise of realistic discourse about and dramatization of the Holocaust, really beginning with 1977’s television series of that name that aired the same year the Simon Wiesenthal Center was founded.

The situation is very different is modern, reunified Germany where portrayals of “normal”—indeed, “normative” Nazis—even bathed in a patriotic, heroic glow have grown rather than declined over the past two decades.

At the same time German schools were integrating realistic treatments of Nazi enormities in their curricula, German culture at the elite level was hosting a school of historical Revisionists with a very different agenda. This was so the so-called “Historikerstreit” (historians’ quarrel”) in which historians like Ernst Nolte changed positions to argue that Nazism should be viewed, not so much as an aberration but as an integral part of the history of German nationalism, and the Hitler’s labor and death camps were essentially a wartime adaptation of the harshness of Stalin’s gulags.

Who’s Right About the European Extreme Right?

Historian James Mayfield offers a provocative, contrarian view of Europe’s extreme Right in “Explaining the Rapid Rise of the Xenophobic Right in Contemporary Europe” in the journal, “GeoCurrents” (July 22).

It’s not that he likes the Right. It’s that he questions the popular view that right-wing European extremism is a uniform, continent-wide phenomenon that can be explained by a simple set of electoral, ideological, historical, or “ethnic” generalizations. Where others see right-wing extremism growing out of a European history of fascism, authoritarianism, racism, anti-Semitism, and hyper-nationalism, Mayfied sees the rightist voters as a diverse lot including “traditionalists, pro-Europeanists, Euroskeptics, democrats, nationalists, racialists, neo-Nazis, and even Greens.”

SPME Fellowships Available

Our friends at Scholars for Peace in the Middle East are announcing fellowships to enable junior scholars to deliver papers at academic conferences.  In addition to providing useful information on Israel and the Middle East, SPME has also historically been interested in campus anti-Semitism and academic freedom.  These issues are, of course, central to our concerns at the Louis D. Brandeis Center as well.  Details follow the jump.

IAJLJ Seeks Lawyer Signatures for European Union Petition

The International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists is circulating this lawyers’ letter, written by Ambassador Alan Baker, which calls upon the European Union to revoke its recent directive against Israeli settlements. The lawyers’ letter will be sent to EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton. If you are an attorney and would like to sign, the organizers request that you reply to as soon as possible.


[Letter begins below]

H.E. Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs


Re: EU directive regarding Israeli settlements

We, the undersigned, attorneys from across the world who are involved in international law issues as well as being closely concerned with the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, respectfully call upon you and the EU to revoke the abovementioned directive which we feel is based on legally flawed and incorrect assumptions regarding both the legality of Israel’s settlements and the status of the pre-1967 Armistice lines as Israel’s border.

Job Opportunity at ISGAP

Charles Asher Small, a member of LDB’s Board of Academic Advisors, is hiring a Chief of Staff for his organization, the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP).  This looks like an interesting opportunity for the right candidate. ISGAP | The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy – Announcement   Dear…