The following article is part of the IPT's Jihad University Series.
From their support for the BDS movement, to hosting terrorists to accepting terrorist tainted funding, some of the nation's top universities have become far too comfortable with connections that they would have shunned not long ago.
We see a critical need to investigate these connections and hold the universities accountable in their legitimation of the views of Middle East and Islamist terrorist groups. The IPT will be publishing new investigative pieces on a regular basis that will lift the curtain on this very repugnant side of academia today.
Are 'Palestine Scholars' Really Denied Academic Freedom?
by A.J Caschetta
Special to IPT News
October 5, 2023
Yousef Munayyer introducing the Arab Center Washington DC webinar 'Academic Freedom and Palestine: Threats and Trends' | Image via YouTube
The contours of their black-and-white morality tale were simple: "Palestine scholars" are both the heroes and victims (the two are generally indistinguishable in progressive narratives). Zionists who defend and promote "the far-right fascistic Israeli government" are the villains. The victims are "harassed," "intimidated," and "dragged through the mud" by the villains who "surveille social media," review books, attend lectures, and write articles. Some quit, but the real heroes press on to fight the good fight.
First up was Dima Khalidi, executive director of Palestine Legal. Though not an academic herself, Khalidi's organization specializes in promoting what she euphemistically calls "the Palestinian Issue" in academia. She's also the daughter of Rashid Khalidi, Columbia University professor and former PLO spokesman.
Next came Fida Adely, an anthropology professor and director of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University. Adely is a staunch supporter of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. At one point in the video she could barely contain her exuberance over the American Anthropological Association's recent vote for an academic boycott of Israel.
The third speaker was Kenneth Roth, former executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Khalidi described the grave situation for today's "Palestine scholars," citing George Washington University psychology professor Lara Sheehi as a victim of "racist, misogynist attacks ... by her own students" and Princeton professor Satyel Larson, "who assigned a book in his [sic] class" and is being urged to "drop the book from his [sic] class."
Khalidi complained throughout the event that the Zionist villains are poor scholars who lack facts to back up their claims, but she must be the only person to comment on the Larson case who doesn't know that Larson is a woman. Virtually every article about Satyel Larson features a photograph of her model-looks (some satirically). The book in question is Jasbir Puar's The Right to Maim (2017) that claims Israel harvests the organs of Palestinians.
Adely included herself among the victims as someone who "started a Ph.D. program the week after 9/11" at Columbia University. She argued that many have been "denied jobs because they study Palestine" and insinuated that she herself had faced discrimination at Columbia. She added that she now feels "safe" at Georgetown even though it also "offers anti-Palestinians a space." ("Safe" and "space" have become the most over-used words in academia.)
Roth also presented himself as a victim, claiming that he almost lost a fellowship at Harvard's Kennedy School because "I'm not very popular with the Israeli government."
In identifying the villains of their tale, Khalidi named supporters of "the ultra right-wing fascistic" Israeli government, with particular disdain for "white supremacists" and "anti-Palestine racists" who work anonymously at the Canary Mission, Hillel, and other "McCarthyist" groups.
Adely rounded out the list by including StandWithUs, ASMEA, AEN, and the AMCHA Initiative. These groups "violate our rights to free speech," she claimed, through coordinated "harassment."
Roth added that "Israel has many defenders whose entire existence is dedicated to defending Israel." They are "very organized ... well-funded and professional, though not necessarily fact-based," he said. He then went on to display his own factual bankruptcy by throwing down his "Apartheid Card."
Under Kenneth Roth's direction, HRW became monomaniacally devoted to anti-Israel activism, culminating with his effort to tar Israel as an Apartheid state. This lie is both a slur against Israel and a gross distortion of the horrors that the Apartheid government of South Africa inflicted on the black population. Roth does it with a straight face, disingenuously insisting that "this is not about South Africa." Of course it is about South Africa. The term "Apartheid" derives its significance entirely from South Africa.
The event wrapped up with Munayyer inviting the speakers to advise "Palestine scholars" how to push back against the Zionists' "vast effort to stifle criticism of Israel."
Khalidi stressed the need for "solidarity" and "solidarity groups," by which she meant BDS-supporting organizations. She named specifically the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), apparently unaware that MESA is bleeding members, losing support, and looking for a new home, having lost the patronage of George Washington University due to its vote to boycott Israel. She also hinted at her organization's new tactic of bringing lawsuits against Zionists when they use copyrighted images in their articles.
Adely said the best way forward is to, "normalize the critique of Israel in all kinds of spaces ... teaching, faculty meetings ... whenever people are talking about justice. ... We should make it the norm. We should make it part of any discussion on global justice." She said that, more than anything, "Palestine scholars" need a "safe space" to work.
The fact-deprived Roth said that as long as "Palestine scholars" have the facts on their side and "are comfortable with a public campaign," they should fight back because Israel's defenders, "are just pursuing some kind of spin, you know, er, they're not factual ... that's not the kind of conversation they want to have. ... They want to keep it at the name calling level."
Khalidi concurred: "Zionists groups have made it clear that they want to distract what's happening in Palestine."
Of course, the exact opposite is true. "Palestine scholars" want to distract what's happening in the Palestinian territories. Somewhere between 150,000 and 300,000 Palestinians who live in Area C of the "West Bank" are governed by Israel. The other roughly 5 million Palestinians are governed by other Palestinians, either by Hamas in Gaza or the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Areas A and B of the "West Bank." And on every inch of territory controlled by Hamas or the PA, dissent is punished by death, and child warriors are manufactured by a culture of "resistance" that glorifies martyrdom.
The truth is that facts don't matter to "Palestine scholars" because facts don't have to matter. The entire premise of Palestinian studies is to prove that Israel is an Apartheid state, guilty of ethnic cleansing and committed to "the erasure of Palestinianism," as Khalidi put it. Any real historian, political scientist, or thinking person who knows the record knows different.
If facts mattered to "Palestine scholars," they would know that Israel does not exclude non-Jews from full citizenship. Non-Jewish, Arab Israeli citizens can be anything they want in Israel – doctors, lawyers, soldiers, police officers, members of the Supreme Court, and politicians. That's not how Apartheid works.
If facts mattered to "Palestine scholars," they would realize that their "ethnic cleansing" slur doesn't stand up the slightest scrutiny since the Palestinian population has grown since 1947 and continues to grow throughout the Palestinian territories as well as inside Israel proper. That's not how ethnic cleansing works.
And if facts mattered to "Palestine scholars," they could not accuse Israel of trying to "erase Palestine" since they themselves refuse to recognize any state of Israel in any borders and deny the historical connection of Judaism and the Jewish people to the land they claim as "Palestine." Proof of this fact was on full display in a graphic manner every time Yousef Munayyer was on screen. He apparently forgot to take down (or maybe it was a conscious decision to leave up) the map of "Palestine" over his right shoulder. Israel, of course, was not present in this "river to the sea" cartographic fantasy.
Munayyer's map tells us everything we need to know about "Palestine scholars."
IPT Senior Fellow A.J. Caschetta is a principal lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a fellow at Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum where he is also a Ginsberg-Milstein fellow.
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