Columbia University academics targeted for opposing official myths of Zionism

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With the US Congress and the White House almost completely controlled by them, the zionist brigade has launched a strong assault on what is left of academic freedom in the US: the purpose is to force intellectuals to teach zionist myths at American universities. The immediate target is Columbia University in New York, but other institutions are also coming under pressure. A number of professors at Columbia have been targeted for presenting an alternative perspective to the zionist-approved version of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The pattern is very familiar: anyone who dares criticize Israel’s policies is immediately accused of “anti-Semitism”.

Leading the witch-hunt is Daniel Pipes, who gained notoriety three years ago when he set up a group called Campus Watch. Campus Watch lists academics on a roster for their alleged bias against Israel. Professors at American universities were so outraged by this brazen attempted intimidation that more than 400 sent their names to be put on the list. The zionists, however, do not give up easily. Pipes’ fellows in this enterprise include such supporters of Israel as Martin Kramer, Charles Jacobs, David Horowitz and Alan Dershowitz; the last is a law professor at Harvard who has advocated the torture of detainees at Guantanamo Bay for information. These men have recruited undergraduate zealots to monitor university professors who express opinions at variance with zionist propaganda, so that they can exert pressure on university administrators to fire them.

Pipes is a Muslim-bating zionist. He says that every Muslim in North America is a potential terrorist; that Muslims eat strange-smelling foods and do not maintain “Germanic standards of hygiene”. Coming from a people who do not even wash their hands after going to the washroom, this takes gall. Were a Muslim to utter such cant against Jews or Judaism (or indeed against anyone: Catholics, for instance), he would be prosecuted for hate crimes; anti-Muslim prejudice and intolerance, however, have become acceptable in North America, and are becoming acceptable in Europe as well.

There are also other reasons for Columbia University’s being singled out: in 2002 students and professors at Columbia launched a campaign urging the university to withdraw funds invested in companies that manufacture and sell weapons to Israel. This came about after Israel’s army rampaged through Jenin refugee-camp (in the West Bank) in April 2002. There was an immediate counter-attack from Rabbi Charles Sheer, director of the Columbia/Barnard chapter of Hillel, the Jewish campus organization. He collected 33,000 signatures to stop this “divestment” campaign, not only at Columbia but also at other American universities. Encouraged by this success, Sheer then launched an attack against Columbia’s Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) department, accusing professors of “intimidating” Jewish students and suggesting that their acceptance of Arab money-“mainly from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States-“tainted their academic integrity. That the allegation was politically motivated was proved by the fact that another professor, Fouad Ajami of John Hopkins, who has also received Saudi money and has close connections with the Saudi ambassador in Washington, has not been targeted: he is staunchly pro-Israel. The message is clear: dare to criticize Israel, and the zionists will attack.

A shadowy Boston-based outfit, the David Project, has joined Rabbi Sheer in this campaign of vilification. The David Project is linked to another group calling itself the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), an organization whose members include the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Jewish Committee. Other Jewish groups that support the campaign against Columbia’s professors include the American Jewish Congress, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, the Zionist Organization of America, and so on. Funding for the ICC has come from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, which recently provided a US$1,050,000 grant to wage the campus battle. Professional advice has come from the consulting firm of McKinsey & Company, another pro-Israeli outfit. The ICC’s mandate is to “take back the campus”, because American zionists claim to have noticed an “alarming” rise in pro-Palestinian sentiment in the academic community.

The David Project has purportedly produced a film-“it is actually a series of films, though never shown in public, that keep changing scripts depending on the audience-“called Columbia Unbecoming, which shows “testimony” of Jewish students, some with faces masked and voices muffled, alleging intimidation by pro-Palestinian professors. Not all Jewish students or professors support these allegations; in fact, some have questioned both the motives and the tactics used in this campaign of lies and distortions.

Robert Pollack, a professor of biological sciences and a former dean of the University’s Columbia College, is one of them. “It is a crazy, crazy exaggeration to claim that Jews are under attack at Columbia or that the faculty is anti-Semitic.” When asked about Columbia Unbecoming, Pollack said: “No one has seen the video; there is no video to see. There’s a cloud of videos constantly changing. It’s innuendo and gossip.” Pollack is neither an admirer of MEALAC nor a sympathizer of the Palestinian cause; in fact he is a well-known supporter of Israel who often clashed with the late Edward Said over the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but he regards the current campaign as damaging to the zionist cause. The Kraft Center, where much of the so-called video was filmed, was built largely by means of funds raised by Pollack, who refers to it as a “gift of the Jewish community” to Columbia.

Despite Pollack’s open criticism of the video or videos and of the ICC’s tactics, Columbia University president Lee Bollinger bowed to external pressure and set up a committee to investigate the zionists’ allegations. He has failed to speak out against the zionists’ intimidating tactics, including phone threats against faculty staff, thus forcing 20 of Columbia’s professors to organise a teach-in on April 4 to challenge and refute the allegations. More than 400 students heard the professors criticize in strong terms the committee’s report, which had been released a week earlier, partly because it presented testimony only from students, without taking the trouble to speak to any of the professors. Even so, the report decided that the professors had no bias. The professors under attack are Joseph Massad, Hamid Dabashi, George Saliba and Rashid Khalidi. A number of newspapers, among them the Daily Sun, the Daily News, the New York Post, the Village Voice and the Wall Street Journal, have also joined the fray, presenting only the zionist version of what is going on at Columbia University.

The media war has received a boost from that other citadel of zionist support, the US congress, called “zionist-occupied territory” by Pat Buchanan, a television-commentator. In 2003 the House of Representatives passed HR3077, a bill that mandated that area-studies programmes that receive federal government funding must “foster debate on American foreign policy from diverse perspectives.” This is a direct assault on academic freedom, telling professors how and what they must teach. The expression “diverse perspectives” is revealing; in fact it is misleading, pretending as it does that the bill advocates some kind of balance (and thus fairness), when in fact what the bill proposes is that there must always be two points of view presented when any subject is taught. Thus criticism of Israeli policies or questioning its right to usurp Palestinian lands must be “balanced” by presenting the zionist version of the Jews as a “persecuted people”, of Palestine as “a land without people for a people without a land” and so on. Yet these same zionists would never agree (for instance) to the Nazis’ version of the second world war being presented when discussing the persecution of Jews in Germany.

This House bill was initiated by Martin Kramer, Pipes’ fellow promoter of zionist mythology as history. Kramer is a senior associate of the Moshe Dyan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. When Bollinger gave in to the zionists’ pressure and set up the committee, Kramer was ecstatic. In late January Kramer stated that Bollinger “should have to jump through a hundred more hoops” before the MEALAC matter can be settled. Kramer clearly sees Columbia’s president as a pet dog that must do its master’s bidding. Pipes also expressed deep satisfaction over developments at Columbia in a recent interview with Harvard Magazine.

But why has Bollinger been so accommodating of the zionists’ demands? He is believed to be under pressure from Columbia’s pro-Israel alumni, whom he cannot upset because it might complicate his fundraising drive for the university’s planned expansion into West Harlem. Bollinger has staked his reputation on this 30-year, $5-billion project and does not want it to be undermined by something as minor as “academic freedom”, especially when the people most affected are merely a few professors who are sympathetic to Palestine and the Palestinians. Not surprisingly, he is reluctant to discuss the political imperatives surrounding the controversy.

The ICC has a single “affiliate member”: the David Project, led by Charles Jacobs, a co-founder of CAMERA, the pro-Israel media-watchdog group. Jacobs is also the founder of the American Anti-Slavery Group, which calls itself “America’s leading human rights group dedicated to abolishing modern day slavery worldwide”. This organization, in league with evangelical Christians, targets only Muslim countries-“Sudan and Mauritania, for instance-“that are accused of trading in slavery; these partners have in the past perpetrated highly publicized stunts to provide ‘proof’ of their allegations that slavery is prevalent in these countries. Such evidence has since been exposed as completely fraudulent. Jacobs also has other fellow zionists-“Richard Perle, Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol, among others-“who are not only members of the board of advisers of such exotic entities as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, but have also launched the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). The PNAC openly advocates endless wars and pre-emptive strikes against other countries. All these men are unabashed apologists for Israel and its racist policies, putting their loyalty to Israel before their loyalty to the US, if any.

At the University of Columbia the battle-lines are clearly drawn, but the targeted professors have not been cowed into silence. Their defiance has won support from a number of professors at other American institutions who find the ICC’s tactics distasteful. The end-result of this battle will determine whether the zionist mythology project will be rolled back or whether (like the US’s two main political institutions, the US Congress and the White House) American universities will become zionist-occupied territories too. Because of the manner in which the American press and broadcast media have caved in to pressure to toe the zionist line, those who stand in the zionists’ way are likely to find their struggle tough going. Standing up for truth, however, is never easy; academic institutions in the US are not going to become an exception to this general rule of human affairs. These are interesting times to be in America, to be an American, and to be an American advocate of truth or justice.

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