Robbie Majzner makes a great point in the Spectator today: Hate Speech is Free Speech, but that still doesn’t make it right. I agree with him: this situation is a complicated one. On one hand, you have students whose right to participate in the academic community was taken from them in a spate of professorial abuse of power, simply because they had a view on the subject in class that the professor did not want to entertain. On the other hand you have a few professors teaching hate–which may be protected by the First Amendment and the right to Academic Freedom, but that does not make them acceptable within a community that should foster an anti-racist atmosphere to encourage the participation of all groups in dialogue.
Robbie makes the point well here:
One of the things I learned from studying in the presence of so many post-colonial theorists and anthropologists is the danger inherent in labeling a nationality or any group of people. Edward Said’s Orientalism exposed the West’s tendency to think of people of the Orient as “the Other,” as something that is beneath the culture of the West. Said showed that this tendency was not only academically sloppy, it was morally intolerant. Professor Dabashi seems not to have learned this lesson. Challenge Israel’s policies—fine. Call Israel a racist state—sure, that’s your opinion. But how dare you label all people of the Israeli nation, including my friends and family, as possessing a “vulgarity of character?” Professor Dabashi, while your freedom to teach your political viewpoint must be protected, your bigoted statement should mark you as a racist.
But, my fellow Columbians, I am not writing only to express my dismay with Professor Dabashi. I am writing because I am disheartened by the response of our community. On our campus, students are so in love with their professors and the intellectualism they exude that they choose not to see when those professors do or say something that is blatantly wrong. The plain truth is that if a professor had made the same comments about blacks, Muslims, or Chinese, he would have been rightfully attacked by a plethora of students denouncing his racist and colonial attitude. The lack of response from current students, especially those who are closely associated with Professor Dabashi and the MEALAC department, is a shame and will stain the University in my mind for years to come.
I only hope that the community does not continue to let Robbie down.
I welled up when reading this in today’s NYTimes:
Saad Algharabi, 31, drove nine hours in a van with his family, including two infants, from Jacksonville, Fla., to get to Nashville.
“I would drive 10 hours, 20 hours – I would drive to California – to have my vote counted for once,” Mr. Algharabi, who came to this country from Iraq nine years ago, said as he waited in 20-degree temperatures outside the basketball court where Iraqis were registering. “This vote is worth more to me than any drive.”
We in America are very quick to take our freedoms for granted. It is refreshing to see someone assign such a high value to voting when so many of our own citizens forgo the simple task.
The New York Times just published a huge article, mentioned on the front page of the paper and continuing into the front page of the Metro section.
I will tear into it–and especially comments made once more by our illustrious Rashid Khalidi–later (as the article says, today is the first day of classes) but I want to make a quick comment first: One professor, cited by Sonny Kleinfield (the reporter), said that “This is blood sport for me, and I love it.”
We don’t love it. We hate it. We would all rather be simple students, getting on with our college experiences in classes with professors that treat us with respect and keep the discourse free from hate. But that is not the case at Columbia. And when the head of the Middle East Institute–an Institute for which I worked for two years–says “should we all be getting our knickers in a twist and agitated? I think not,” well, that does not bode well for the “moderates” in all of this.
Racism and anti-Semitism is wrong, and should get all of our knickers in a twist. Intimidation of students is wrong, and should get all of our knickers in a twist. And the mishandling of this controversy by Provost Brinkley and the creation of a committee of insiders and personal friends of the accuse professors in order to create an atmosphere of arbitrary, corrupt, tyrannical justice, that should get everyone’s knickers in a twist. [crossposted]
As we honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his struggle to cast off the vestiges of slavery and gain civil rights for all people regardless of their race or creed, I hope we all also remember that the evil institution of slavery itself has not yet passed from this world. From the sex-slavery in Cambodia to the forced carpet laborers in India—and the sweat-shops and brothels in our very own United States—the enslavement of some human beings for the service of others continues.
Worse, some cases have wed two of the darkest crimes of humanity into one: in Sudan, the institution of Slavery was joined by the genocidal intentions of the State. The signing of the recent peace agreement still leaves millions of victims of the State’s campaign of genocide, and thousands in bonds. One way to commemorate both the memory of Dr. King, and to respect and join in his struggle, is to fight this oppression as it rears its head in our day, for, as Dr. King reminded us, in the end they will not remember the words of their enemies but the silence of their friends.
One opportunity is a vigil held today to honor both the memory of Dr. King and of the victims of the on-going slavery and genocide in Sudan in front of the Sudanese embassy–more information below. I hope to see you there.
Truth is, when I’m not applying to graduate school or trying to write my thesis, I’m over at Columbians for Academic Freedom trying to shed some light on the story behind the story.
Aharon Horwitz, one of my co-bloggers, has been finding some very interesting minutes and other notes from faculty meetings, exposing the motivations that went into the composition of the whitewash committee.
While I’m not as good at analyzing sentences as KC Johnson–who really does an amazing job showing how much bias Prof. Khalidi can pack into his words–I think Brinkley’s assurance to the Arts and Science Faculty speaks for itself.
Haaretz reports something that is very, very nice: Israelis of Iraqi origin can vote in Iraqi elections. The thesis that I should be writing instead of this blog-post (and my posts over at Columbians for Academic Freedom) focuses on the problems having to do with identity in the Middle East, and how accepting Jews as legitimate members of the Middle East–and the subsequent acceptance of Palestinian Arabs as Palestinian by Jews as being legitimate residents of the land as well–is the underlying factor that needs to be dealt with.
Iraq, by legitimizing the voting rights of Jews who lived in Iraq but were driven out during the late 1940s and 1950s can be the first step in seeing Jews as eternal citizens of the Middle East.
It is often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery–but what if the person has no clue he is imitating someone? Can flattery still be claimed? I mean, there is no way that Josef Joffe, the publisher of Die Zeit, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, and distinguished fellow at the Institute for International Studies, read my article from November 12, 2002, No More Israel?, before writing his own article this month in Foreign Policy magazine entitled A World Without Israel. One way or another, I’m flattered that I hit upon something important enough to be published in Foreign Policy.