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Thursday, May 05, 2005

David Horowitz and the Hypocritical Attack on the US Academy

by Deena Guzder

What do Jimmy Carter, Rashid Khalidi, Bruce Springsteen, Barack Obama and Dennis Kucinich all have in common? According to David Horowitz, they’re ingeniously connected through a lethal leftwing conspiracy as delineated on his notorious website, which features unflattering mug shots of America’s most progressive pundits accompanied by scathing critiques of their political views. In short, Horowitz’s website seeks to mount preemptive character assassinations against any individual with whom the reactionary political commentator disagrees.

David Horowitz spoke at Columbia University last Friday, April 29th to lecture students on—of all things—the worth of “ideological diversity.” As the leader of the movement to strangle independent thought at US Universities, Horowitz adoption of the language of “Academic Freedom” is Orwellian doublethink at its worst. Doublethink is a kind of manipulation of the mind, which makes people accept contradictions. One such contradiction is Horowitz’s penchant for blacklisting liberal intellectuals while haranguing his entourage about expanding political diversity. We, Columbia students, must question such an artificial brand of “Academic Freedom” that entails a defamation of those whose views differ from our own.

Horowitz is not only hypocritical but also offensive. In a propaganda pamphlet distributed at Friday’s lecture, Horowitz depicted Noam Chomsky as a stereotypical terrorist, with a turban and beard, under the heading, “The Ayatollah of Anti-American Hate.” The gesture of “Arabizing” those with whom Horowitz disagrees is both infantile and prejudiced because it implies that one can essentialize a specific ethnic group by saying all its members are Anti-American. More importantly, Noam Chomsky defies the juvenile caricature that Horowitz sketches; as the New York Times noted, Chomsky is “arguably the most important intellectual alive.”

The extent of Horowitz’s intolerance was best captured in another pamphlet purporting “the Arabs are the Indefensible Aggressors,” which failed to make any distinctions within the monolithic category. What if a Christian student published and circulated propaganda stating, “the Jews are the Indefensible Aggressors”? I most certainly hope we would be completely outraged and unequivocally demand an immediate end to such hate speech. Let us not have double standards.

Horowitz’s wrath knows no boundaries. At Friday’s lecture, Horowitz attempted to defend Larry Summers by suggesting men and women have inherently different intellectual aptitudes and polled the audience to see who agreed with him. As if this were not repulsive in itself, Horowitz, retained the syntax of his original question and then asked, “How many of you think Blacks are inherently better at sports than Whites?” Pretending such an analogy formed a natural segue, Horowitz exposed his belief that both gender and race afford individuals inherent capacities. It is no surprise that Horowitz’s deceptively innocuously named “Center for the Study of Popular Culture” has received around $4 million in grants from the Bradley Foundation, which is known to subsidize pseudoscientific studies such as Charles Murray's racially incendiary book, The Bell Curve, that implied that African-Americans were genetically inferior. Just as repulsive as Summer’s recent comments about gender-specific intellectual disparity is Horowitz’s dichotomizing of African Americans and Whites.

Utilizing the fine political art of "self-victimology," Horowitz consistently plays the “I’m a silenced conservative” trump card; however, he never reveals that streams of tax-exempt money created and keep his center in business. In 1997 alone Popular Culture received over $1.2 million from the Scaife, Olin and Bradley Foundations, the core of the far right's funding apparatus for its propaganda in the US. He also enjoyed a healthy audience on Friday and received a standing ovation. Not exactly, the reception one would expect for someone who believes his free speech is stifled by the villainous “lefties.”

Nothing better reveals the implicit racism embedded in the scaffolding of Horowitz’s arguments than his own infamous Ad against slave reparations, which he sent to 73 college campuses across the nation during the year 2001. It is no surprise that both Columbia and Harvard rejected the Ad, as did dozens of other Universities: The Ad suggested African Americans actually benefited from slavery, “The claim for reparations is premised on the false assumption that only whites have benefited from slavery” and, more disturbingly, suggested they were already compensated through welfare, “ . . . trillions of dollars in transfer payments have been made to African-Americans in the form of welfare benefits . . . If trillion dollar restitutions . . . for African-Americans is not enough to achieve a ‘healing,’ what will?” Basically, Horowitz supports the patently false and deeply repulsive claim that all African Americans are on welfare. Horowitz fondness for inflammatory statements was on display at Friday’s lecture when he used the ridiculous argument that the success of Oprah Winfrey (who he called “a fat, Black woman”) to “prove” his theory that there is no racism in the US.

Horowitz’s current activities are just as reprehensible and odious. In a recent book, "Hating Whitey," Horowitz attacks African American civil rights activists as
being anti-white racists. Putting aside the absurdity of such an inversion of reality, Horowitz’s book completely ignores the fact that there are more interracial friendships and relationships now than ever. There’s no better place to start such research than the same progressive US college campuses that Horowitz enjoys lambasting. I, for one, am fortunate to have a group of friends as heterogeneous as the United Nations’ General Assembly.

Part of Horowitz’s activism is a mass effort to pass his so-called "Academic Bill of Rights," which is part of a conservative backlash that aims to control what is written and taught at our academic institutions. It would establish outside oversight of curricula and teaching and stifle discussion of "controversial" topics. And his confederacy of student organizations under the banner of "Students for Academic Freedom” encourages students to report on their professors.

While I am uncompromisingly committed to any individual's right to express himself freely and the right of student groups to bring speakers of any ideological stripe, I am disturbed by the presence of a speaker who attracts audience members wearing shirts advising, “Bomb them All!” and a moderator that grabs the microphone out of students’ hands before their two minutes have expired. Perhaps Horowitz and his ilk believe “Academic Freedom” is an exhaustible commodity that must be rationed selectively.

While pontificating, Horowitz would do well to remember the words of George Orwell in Notes on Nationalism: “The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Letter to the Editor by Deena Guzder

To the Editor:

In his misguided April 26th article “Parroted Convictions,” Dennis Schmelzer reveals his willingness to distort facts in order to slander Dr. Massad. Schmelzer duplicitously uses my acknowledgment of the Jenin killings (mentioned in an article I recently wrote on Charles Jacobs) as a segue to his own accusation that Dr. Massad indoctrinates students, which is ludicrous at best and disingenuous at worse because I myself have not had the privilege of taking a class with Dr. Massad! In reality, my information on Jenin comes strictly from interning at Amnesty International and reading their reports on the killings along with those published by Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem (an Israeli Human Rights organization). If Schmelzer spent less energy reproducing hearsay with the intent to degenerate esteemed professors, I'm sure he would have time to read Human Rights Watch's criticism of the U.N. investigation that he so highly regards. More importantly, I never once use the words “massacre” or “atrocities,” which is Schmelzer’s own strategically inflated language that seeks to reduce my argument to a straw man. I simply noted, as Schmelzer himself concedes, that civilians in Jenin were killed by the Israeli Army and admitting so is not “blood libel, anti-Semitic provocation, deception, and Arabist propaganda” as Charles Jacobs would have us believe. I am deeply disturbed that Schmelzer, who himself admits never taking a class with Dr. Massad, is willing to perversely manipulate another student’s words (namely mine) to pursue his transparent goal of destroying a pro-Palestine professor. I absolutely refuse to allow Schmelzer to perversely twist my words. It is deeply saddening that Schmelzer and his cohorts wish to reduce Columbia to an echoing chamber where Israel is immune to criticism and strive to do so by circulating rumor about classes they've never attended.

Deena Guzder
CC'06 Human Rights/PoliSci


I am in great sympathy with Deena's response to Dennis Schmelzer's pathetic attack, I would simply like to add that I wholeheartedly believe that we should not shy away from the use of words like "massacre" and "atrocity" when describing Israel (or any other) military action that fits the definition. And I suspect neither would Deena.

Two points to note. First, blind supporters of Israeli policy obsessed so much on the language used to describe Jenin that the true horror of the attack was lost on most people.

Second, let us not shy away from calling Jenin what it really was. We will probably never know how many died. The Israeli government admits to 50 or so, including 24 civilians. This number is no doubt too low. And the fact that the UN accepted Israel's figures is meaningless, as they were not allowed an actual inspection of the site. And the vote to issue those numbers was hotly contested and criticized. Nevertheless, let us take those numbers as they are simply for the sake of argument. I have no trouble calling the killing of 50 people, 24 of whom are civilians, a massacre and an atrocity. The IDF and IAF leveled one quarter of the camp, left thousands of people homeless, and killed dozens of people, even by their own estimates. And all in an action that the international community roundly declaimed as involving grossly excessive use of force.

Why is it, then, that when a suicide bombing kills five or ten Israelis that it is (rightly) called a massacre, but when 24 civilians are killed (again, by Israel's numbers, not mine) it is not a massacre? The attack on Tel Hai in 1919, where eight Jews from the Yishuv died in a battle with forces of the Amir Faysal, is sometimes referred to as a "massacre." Why is it, then, that when eight Jews die fighting, they are massacred, but when 24 innocent Palestinian civilians are bulldozed inside their own homes or used as human shields or simply shot, it is not a massacre? This is a truly shameful example of the differential value that staunch supporters of Israeli government actions place on Palestinian life.

Moreover, what about the men who died fighting the Israeli invasion? By Israel's definition, they are all terrorists and therefore deserving of a merciless death. When an Israeli dies fighting, he is a war hero, when a Palestinian does the same, he is an evil terrorist. While I do not intend to glamorize warfare or engage in the mythology of the war hero, I suggest we deconstruct some of these myths and stop being so callous and racist with our assignment of desert.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Letter to the Editor of the Columbia Spectator

Dear Editor:

In his venomous April 19th letter to the editor, Ariel Beery grossly misrepresented my April 14th op-ed in the Spectator, as well as his own past statements. I did not attempt a perfect equation of his views with those of Charles Jacobs or other Zionists. Indeed, I made no mention of Zionism, but discussed the unsupported accusations of bias and propagandizing that the likes of Beery, Jacobs and many others (including Bollinger, Kramer, Pipes, and Kastori) have made against MEALAC professors. But Mr. Beery did not address my actual argument.

Despite the disingenuous statement that his campaign “has nothing to do with the politics of the professor,” he has repeatedly accused MEALAC and the entire field of Middle East studies of bias, without ever defining the term. Take his November 7, 2004 blog post entitled “Bias, Then and Now,” about Dr. Massad, or his January 2003 op-ed in the Spectator, where he refers to “a clear and unabashed bias” in MEALAC, or his March 2003 article referring to the department’s “one-sidedness.” And these are but three examples. Even his attempt to play good-Arab-bad-Arab by
“defending” Khalidi flatly contradicts his own statements. In a May 2003 article he calls Khalidi a racist and accuses him of being a poor scholar and professor. Thus, Mr. Beery’s claim that he is only concerned with intimidation is a shameless distortion of the truth.

Yet it is politically useful for him to speak the language of intimidation and paint himself as a critic of Israeli policy, though I will pay good money to anyone who can find more than superficial criticism of Israel in any of Beery’s writings. This tack provides a cloak for his real agenda, which is not to encourage debate but to silence criticism of Israeli policy. It is telling that his blog is barren of any measured analysis of the arguments of scholars such as Massad and Khalidi. Instead of thoughtful discussion, one finds nothing but scurrilous, fire-breathing harangues and ad hominem attacks. The consistency with which he vilifies all who criticize Israeli policy leads me to the conclusion that his concern is not justice or truth, but the complete delegitimization of independent thought on the topic. Nevertheless, he continues to feign innocence when confronted with the truth. I would counsel Mr. Beery that if he wishes to play the victim, he ought read his own blog first.


Issa Mikel

Friday, April 22, 2005

Juan Cole on the New York Times

A great article on the New York Times and its perfidy by Juan Cole (via Dennis Fox, and see also Informed Comment):
One would have thought that the ad hoc report would have closed the door on this whole sorry affair. But almost worse than the McCarthyite accusations was the response of the New York Times. Incredibly, the Times slammed the ad hoc committee for not being inquisitorial enough. Not satisfied with an investigation of conduct or classroom civility, it wanted Massad's views put under the microscope. The Gray Lady apparently wanted him sent for reeducation, for all the world as though he were a Right Deviationist during the Chinese Cultural Revolution and as though America's newspaper of record were a Maoist inquisitor.


The New York Times editorial is among the more dangerous documents threatening higher education in America to have appeared in a major newspaper since the McCarthy period, when professors were fired for their views on economics. (At the University of Michigan in the 1950s, two professors were fired for belonging or having belonged to the Communist Party, and one professor was let go for favoring "Scandinavian economics.") "Quality of teaching" is one thing -- no one defends unqualified teachers or mere propagandists. But no substantive allegations regarding the poor quality of scholarship, or "lack of rigor" in the department, have been made against Columbia's Middle East department -- for the simple reason that such claims have no foundation. The Times' invocation of "scholarly rigor" is really a thinly veiled demand that professors follow what it defines as an acceptable, "fair" pedagogical line.

But as soon as the "fairness" of views is made the criterion for retaining a teacher, the door is opened to witch hunts and chaos. No two students will agree on what is a "fair" view of a controversial issue. The substantial Arab-American community of Dearborn, Mich., not to mention many liberal American Jews, would probably find almost every course taught in political science departments in the United States on the Arab-Israeli conflict to be hopelessly biased against the Arabs and Palestinians. Why are they less worthy arbiters than the editorial board of the New York Times?
The Times editorial is here.

Who is an academic?

The Executive Committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University held their regular thrice-yearly meeting yesterday. At the top of the agenda, I hope, was President Bollinger's remarkable statement at the last meeting, along with his various public pronouncements. Here's Bollinger's statement from the last minutes:
President Bollinger took issue with the suggestion that the President and the Board of Trustees be placed outside the boundary of academic governance. He believes that we want a university where each step of the process of governance thinks of itself as part of the academic community. He could not think of himself in any other way than as part of the faculty and part of academic administration. The President has to be involved and is involved in promotions and decisions with respect to tenure. It is an aspect of his responsibility that he takes very seriously. So do the Trustees.
As for Bollinger's concrete academic views on the study of the Middle East:
"We could have a department that is double in size and still … not be doing service or justice to the importance of those questions to the modern world," he said. "So that’s the first thing: We have to expand the size of programs like MEALAC.

"The second thing is that we need to integrate better than we have other fields that have knowledge relevant to the work being done in MEALAC. What is the relationship, for example, between the environmental facts of life in the Middle East and Asia, or its diseases, and the culture there? We need to better bring together what we have. We need to add more people to do that, people in law, in journalism, and elsewhere."
So, under Bollinger, will become harder to get tenure if one doesn't espouse 19th century ideas about the link between environment and culture that exists in (and only in?) the Middle East and Asia?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Read the Ad Hoc Grievance Committee's Report

Read the report by clicking here.

Also, read Professor Joseph Massad's cogent response to the report by clicking here.

The strike, Jacobs, and blooming grievances

A flurry of articles in today's Spectator. Deena Guzder demolishes the recent nonsense by Jacobs. A staff writer covers yesterday's academic freedom day as part of the students' union strike. Meanwhile Chris Anderson makes the excellent (and worth repeating) argument that if "political bias" is taken to be grounds for a grievance, then every and any student could rightly think themselves to be aggrieved.

Monday, April 18, 2005

More on Dershowitz

Calumny after calumny traced by Regan Boychuk at ZNet (via Leiter Reports) from the guy who sees fit to lecture Columbia:
Alan Dershowitz is a well-known lawyer and professor at Harvard law school, a prolific author, and makes regular appearances in the media. When it comes to Israel, he is particularly outspoken and taken quite seriously within certain segments of the North American mainstream. Whether he deserves to be taken seriously is another issue altogether. In a recent talk at York University in Toronto, Canada, Professor Dershowitz repeated many of the controversial claims of his recent book,[1] but one struck me as – even by his standard – exceptionally far-reaching. In the course of arguing that Israeli authorities no longer torture Palestinians, Dershowitz claimed he had a long conversation with the Israeli human rights organization, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), in which PCATI not only conceded that there was no longer any torture for them to investigate, but that they refused to change their name because it helped them attract media attention.[2]


When I emailed PCATI Dershowitz's "clear as day" recollection, Ms. Maggen replied that it is true that there was a heated exchange with others present, but "All other statements made by Professor Dershowitz are blatantly false and utterly preposterous… Neither I nor any other representative of PCATI acknowledged, claimed or in any way stated that torture is no longer a significant issue. On the contrary, it is our claim that the systematic and large-scale torture and ill treatment of Palestinian detainees and prisoners continues to this day." She further stated that, "Neither I nor any other representative of PCATI ever stated that we kept our name to ‘get attention’ for any reason whatsoever. Considering the fact that torture is still widespread and that PCATI has its hands full struggling against the torture and ill treatment of Palestinian detainees (and others) by Israeli authorities, the claim regarding statements we supposedly made about our organization's name is totally absurd." Finally, she concluded that Dershowitz's claim was “shocking in its audacity."

In fact, however, it is on par with Dershowitz's claim in The Case for Israel, that the Israeli government has a "generally superb record on human rights," and that "Israel’s record on human rights is among the best in the world".[5]

What's "clear as day" from this little episode is that Dershowitz's every word should be taken with a mountain of salt.

*Regan Boychuk is a graduate student in political science at York University in Toronto, Canada and gets irritated when people get away with lies.

[1] Alan Dershowitz, The Case for Israel (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2003).
[2] Alan Dershowitz, public lecture at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 14 March 2005.
[3] Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, “Back to a routine of torture: Torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees during arrest, detention, and interrogation”, July 2003, p. 11,.
[4] Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, “Preventing torture: Legal advocacy, legislative activism & public outreach: A narrative report”, [Draft] 2004, p. 1.
[5] Dershowitz, The Case for Israel, pp. 204, 199. Despite Dershowitz’s fervent attempts to prevent its publication, readers can soon find what promises to be a thorough debunking of The Case for Israel in Norman G. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history (Berkeley, CA: University of California, June 2005).

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Harsh because fair

An excellent ZNet Commentary article by Edward Herman. The New York Times Supports Thought Control: The Massad Case:
The New York Times has never been a very courageous newspaper in times of political hysteria and threats to civil liberties. When Bertrand Russell was denied the right to fill his appointment at CCNY in 1940, following an ugly campaign by a rightwing Catholic faction opposed to his positions on divorce and marriage, the paper not only failed to defend him, its belated editorial called the appointment 'impolitic and unwise' and criticized him for not withdrawing when the going got hot ('The Russell Case,' April 20, 1940).

Russell pointed out in a published reply something the editors had missed: that there was a serious matter of principle at stake; that a withdrawal would have been 'cowardly and selfish' and would have 'tacitly assented to the proposition?that substantial groups should be allowed to drive out of public office individuals whose opinions, race or nationality they find repugnant' (April 26, 1940).

During the McCarthy era also the Times failed to stand by its ex-Communist employees who were willing to tell all to the Times officials, but not turn informers. They were fired, and in its news and editorials the paper failed to oppose the witchhunt with vigor and on the basis of principle. Publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger himself wrote an editorial assailing the use of the Fifth Amendment in appearances before the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities (August 6, 1948).


Joseph Massad is in good company. The editors of the New York Times found Bertrand Russell unworthy of an appointment to CCNY based on his politics and a bandwagon of hostile attacks. Sixty four years later they implicitly call for the removal of Joseph Massad based on his poli and an organized campaign of derogation. As Russell pointed out to the editors back in 1940, it is contrary to the fundamental principles of a free society to drive out of their position "individuals whose opinions, race or nationality they find repugnant."

This point remains valid even where done under the cover of alleged "intimidation" by the victim being driven out.
I couldn't find the exchange mentioned in the article between Noam Chomsky and Alan Dershowitz in 1973, but here's Chomsky describing it:
Turning to Dershowitz, there's partly the same story. Again, he knows that he can't respond to what I say. He doesn't have the knowledge or the competence to deal with the issues. Therefore, the idea is to try to shut it up by throwing as much slime as you can. There's a famous story attributed to Sam Ervin, a conservative Senator, who once said that as a young lawyer he had learned that if the law is against you, concentrate on the facts. If the facts are against you, concentrate on the law. And if both the facts and the law are against you, denounce your opposing counsel. Dershowitz is not very bright, but he understands that much. If you can't answer on the facts and if you can't answer on the principles, you better throw dirt. In his case there happens to also be a personal reason.

He's been on a personal jihad for the last twenty years, ever since I exposed him for lying outright in a vicious personal attack on a leading Israeli civil libertarian. Despite pretenses, he's strongly opposed to civil liberties. Using his position as a Harvard law professor, he referred to what the Israeli courts had determined. But he was just lying flat outright. This was in the Boston Globe (April 29, 1973). I wrote a short letter refuting it (May 17). He then came back (on May 25,) accusing everybody of lying and challenging me to quote from the court records. He never believed I had them, but of course I did. I quoted the court records in response (June 5). He then tried to brazen it out again. It finally ended up with my sending the transcript of the court records to the Globe ombudsman, who didn't know what to do any more with people just taking opposite positions. I translated them for him, and suggested that he pick his own expert to check the translations. The ombudsman finally told Dershowitz they wouldn't publish any more letters of his because he had been caught flat out lying about it.

Ever since then he's been trying to get even, so there's just one hysterical outburst after another. That's not surprising, either. He's basically a clown. In that case here's a personal issue overlaying the political issue, which is much more interesting. This personal stuff is not interesting. But if you look at the Anti-Defamation League or the Berkeley professors, and there are plenty of others, it's the Sam Ervin story. You know you can't deal with the material. Either you ignore it, or if you can't ignore it, then defame the speaker. That's the only way you can deal with it if you don't have the brains or the knowledge or you just know your position can't be defended. I think that's understandable, and in a sense you can appreciate it. That's just the hallmark of the commissar.