The Question of Palestine at Brooklyn College, Then and Now

3 Feb

In 1942, Brooklyn College hired a young instructor to teach a summer course on Modern European history. Though academically trained, the instructor was primarily known as the author of a series of incendiary articles in the Jewish press on Jewish politics and Zionism.

An active though ambivalent Zionist, the instructor did not shy from scorching criticism of the movement for Jewish settlement in Palestine. She had already come to some unsettling conclusions in private. In an unpublished essay, she compared the Zionists to the Nazis, arguing that both movements assumed that the Jews were “totally foreign” to other peoples based on their “inalterable substance.” She wrote in a letter that she found “this territorial experiment” of the Jews in Palestine “increasingly problematic.” By the spring of 1942, she was more public in her criticisms. In March, she wrote that the Irgun—the Jewish paramilitary group whose most prominent commander was Menachem Begin—was a “fascist organization” that “employed terrorist methods in their fight against Arabs in Palestine.”

In the coming years, despite her continuing involvement in Zionist politics, she would grow even more critical of the movement. The very idea of the State of Israel, she would write in 1943, was “based on the idea that tomorrow’s majority [the Jews] will concede minority rights to today’s majority [the Palestinians], which indeed would be something brand-new in the history of nation-states.” In 1944, she accused a circle of Jewish fighters of believing “not only that ends justify means but also that only an end that can be achieved by terror is worth their effort.” By the end of that year, she had come to the conclusion that the extreme position within Zionism, which she consistently associated with fascism, was now the mainstream position of David Ben Gurion, and that that fascist tendency had been latent within Theodor Herzl’s original vision all along. By 1948, the year the State of Israel was founded, she would write: “The general mood of the country, moreover, has been such that terrorism and the growth of totalitarian methods are silently tolerated and secretly applauded.”

The name of that instructor was Hannah Arendt.

If Brooklyn College could tolerate the instructor who wrote those words in 1942—and would go onto write those words of 1944 and 1948—surely it, and the City of New York, can tolerate the co-sponsorship by the political science department of a panel on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in 2013.

40 Responses to “The Question of Palestine at Brooklyn College, Then and Now”

  1. neffer February 3, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    Arendt was a Zionist all her life, as innumerable studies of her writings – personal and professional – to the extent of being involved in Zionist politics. Her position prior to Israel’s founding was akin to that of Martin Buber that it was possible to build a nation in cooperation with Arabs. That, however, was before Israel’s creation.

    Later, she was known, most particularly at the time of the Six Day War, for standing in solidarity with Israel – something reported by, among others, radical left politician Daniel Cohn-Bendit, aka Dany le Rouge (who knew Ms. Arendt, by the way). He says:

    “Hannah Arendt sensed in 1947 and 48 that the violent-military assertion of the state of Israel would lead to a permanent state of conflict. At the same time, the Six Day War represented a reality: there was only one state of Israel and despite all criticism, she stood in solidarity with the people of Israel. She did not want to do away with Israelis.”

    Likewise, Arendt, in fact, wrote in a 1969 letter to her friend Mary McCarthy that “any real catastrophe in Israel would affect me more deeply than anything else.” See, Between Friends. The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy 1949-1975. Carol Brightman (ed.) (New York 1995), at page 249.

    The argument that Arendt thought the revisionist movement to be fascist is a misnomer. You are reading far more into her remark than she did. Consider: her views about fascism were colored by her affair with the Nazi sympathizer Martin Heidegger. She was not an opponent of fascism at that time in her life. So, that she compares something to fascism does not mean by fascism what you mean by it.

    • Corey Robin February 3, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

      You write, “The argument that Arendt thought the revisionist movement to be fascist is a misnomer. You are reading far more into her remark than she did.” I’m sorry, you’re just wrong. I suggest you read the essays by Arendt that are collected in The Jewish Writings. There are few more consistent claims in those writings than the claim that the revisionist movement is fascist. Just one example. In 1948, she wrote a letter to the Times that was signed by Einstein, Sidney Hook, and others about Begin’s visit to New York. She described the party as “closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and fascist parties.” “Until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the fascist state.” “This is the unmistakable stamp of a fascist party for whom terrorism…and misrepresentation are the means and a ‘Fuhrer State’ is the goal.” “The undersigned…urge all concerned not to support this latest manifestation of fascism.” That was just one letter in 1948. There are many essays where she makes the same claims about other revisionist parties and ideologies. There is really no disputing this.

      Also, she was an opponent of fascism throughout her life. Again, about that, there is no dispute.

      • neffer February 3, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

        No, sir. She was entranced by fascism, most especially due to her relationship with Heidegger. What is the explanation for that affair? He, after all, really was a fascist. That has been clearly established.

        You seem to think that you define fascism the same way she did. You do not. She understood it the way that Heidegger did. She had first hand – going forward, not looking back – knowledge and, like many people at that time who were on the left, did not view everything about fascism to be objectionable.

        More importantly. She was always a friend of Israel. And, Israel of then and now is not ruled by fascists. So, your basic point is a nonsense argument.

      • Corey Robin February 3, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

        Tellingly, you have not a single citation or piece of actual evidence to support either claim: that she wasva fascist or that she was “always” a friend of Israel.

  2. neffer February 3, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    You missed my original statement: ‘Arendt, in fact, wrote in a 1969 letter to her friend Mary McCarthy that “any real catastrophe in Israel would affect me more deeply than anything else.” See, Between Friends. The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy 1949-1975. Carol Brightman (ed.) (New York 1995), at page 249.’

    TO REPEAT: ARENDT’S OWN WORDS: “any real catastrophe in Israel would affect me more deeply than anything else.” You missed what I wrote.

    I did not claim Arendt was a fascist. I claim that her understanding of fascism is quite different from yours and that not all elements of fascism were seen, at the time she was influenced by Heidegger, by liberals to be objectionable. So, if someone uses a word differently than you do, it is necessary to understand what that person means.

    Now, the fact is that she was deeply influenced by Heidegger. That is true of both her thought and her life. Her thinking was influenced by fascism, but that does not mean she was a fascist. And, I do not claim she was.

  3. neffer February 3, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    Some information about their relationship is available from this NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/1995/09/24/books/the-banality-of-love.html and this Slate article: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/the_spectator/2009/10/the_evil_of_banality.single.html .

    Evidently, she was quite comfortable with fascism and fascists.

    As for her view of Zionism, see this article: http://www.nysun.com/arts/arendts-conflicted-zionism/50903/

    She, indeed, was a Zionist from early in her life. And, she was one to the day she died.

    • Corey Robin February 3, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

      Have you read any of the essays that are collected in The Jewish Writings? That anthology contains everything she had to say on the topic of Zionism. You don’t need to cite secondary articles in the newspapers to me; I’ve read the original material. And until you can cite to me any of those pieces she did — more than 500 pages worth — we’re not really having a conversation based on texts.

      • neffer February 3, 2013 at 10:25 pm #

        I cited her letter to her girl friend. Do you know how to read? She told her friend Mary McCarthy that she was a Zionist. And, she worked for a Zionist organization. Do you understand what Youth Aliyah was? Do you know what the term “Aliyah” means?

        That does not mean she was uncritical of Zionism. But, in her age, those who worked to send Jews to Palestine – something she did – were Zionists. They saw it as the only hope for the Jewish people’s survival. I suggest you learn a bit more about the history of the movement.

        Moreover, the article I cite – the Internet being, after all, filled with articles, not original sources – an article which notes her work on moving Jews to the land which became Israel.

        I read the collection of materials called The Jewish Writings. Have you pondered what it means that she was part of Youth Aliyah? Evidently not, or you could not possibly write what you have written.

        She was sending people to Palestine, because she believed that it was the right thing to do. That is what a Zionist would do.

  4. neffer February 3, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    Oh, I am not the only one who thinks she was a supporter of Israel and its founding. So does Daniel Maier-Katkin, author of Stranger From Abroad: Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger, Friendship and Forgiveness (W.W. Norton, 2010). He writes, http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/how-hannah-arendt-was-labeled-an-enemy-of-israel-email-article-to-a-friend :

    Arendt had been a tireless advocate for Jewish victims and for the existence of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine, but she envisioned the homeland as a federated, pluralistic, democratic, secular state — a homeland for Palestinians and Jews coexisting peacefully as neighbors without an official state religion. This may seem a pipe dream now, but in early Zionism this was called the “general” view. The “revisionist” view that Israel must be a Jewish state and a homeland only for Jews did not come to dominate the discourse until the end of World War II, when the Holocaust was revealed in its full terror and destruction.

    In 1944 the Zionist Organization of America adopted a resolution calling for “a Jewish commonwealth to embrace the whole of Palestine, undivided and undiminished.” Arendt wrote that it would be preferable to work toward statehood slowly through local agricultural and irrigation projects to build trust among neighbors and thus bring about a peaceful multicultural solution of tensions in the region. An explicitly Jewish state, she warned, would inevitably treat its Arab population as second-class citizens, be an endless provocation to hundreds of millions of Arab neighbors, and channel its material and human resources into military preparedness, which she doubted could succeed indefinitely. Even Sparta could only dominate its neighbors militarily for a few hundred years. Militarism, she thought, cannot be a successful long-term strategy for the survival of the Jewish people; it points too clearly toward an eventual crisis.

    It really does not make sense to base one’s knowledge of a topic from merely reading a person’s writings. You need to know what that person does. You need to dig a lot deeper than a single book.

    • brahmsky February 3, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

      Well, here’s something by Adam Kirsch on “Arendt’s Conflicted Zionism,” that both neffer (?) and Corey Robin might be interested in, http://www.nysun.com/arts/arendts-conflicted-zionism/50903/ I had always thought it was common knowledge that Arendt was indeed a brave young Zionist at one time anyway, and that she and her readers (at least before the age of Butler’s fashionable misappropriation of every Jewish thinker from Arendt to Primo Levi, whom she likewise grossly distorts in her latest book, all in support of her own goofball position) understood the difference between honest (if very tough) criticism from inside the movement (or close to it) for the national liberation of the Jewish people, pre-1948, on the one hand, and talk of singling out an established Jewish State in 2013 to be dismantled for its “fascistic” tendencies. I’m all for getting rid of all such imperfect nation-states, riddled with fascistoid elements, myself: But can’t we go in alphabetical order or something?

    • donald February 4, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

      “Arendt had been a tireless advocate for Jewish victims and for the existence of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine, but she envisioned the homeland as a federated, pluralistic, democratic, secular state — a homeland for Palestinians and Jews coexisting peacefully as neighbors without an official state religion. This may seem a pipe dream now, but in early Zionism this was called the “general” view.”

      That view is held by people today who favor the one state solution–a democratic state for Jews and Palestinians that gives equal rights to both–and who are considered anti-Zionist and probably support BDS. It’s true that the term “Zionist” used to be used in a broader way in the past–I think Judah Magnes, for instance, favored this same idealistic non-militarist view of what Israel should be. But from what I’ve read this wasn’t the mainstream Zionist view, it wasn’t how Israel came into existence, and it isn’t how Israel behaved at any point in its history from 1948 until now. When you say she supported Israel and its founding, are you talking about the idealistic version of Israel she wanted to see, or that actual government that drove hundreds of thousands of Palestinians out of their homes and wouldn’t let them back?

  5. neffer February 3, 2013 at 11:26 pm #

    Do you still claim with a straight face that a person who was part of Youth Aliyah was not a Zionist? I would really like to read how you explain that fact away. That was before WWII, by the way. And, after WWII, she, along with the entire Jewish world, supported a state for the Jewish people. Now, as a child, she was not a Zionist. But, throughout pretty much her entire adult life, she was.

    Here is a clue for you, aside from the fact that I know a whole lot more about both Arendt and Zionism than you do. Zionism has always been a broad movement which has had many strains of thought. You confuse her concern about the tragedy that occurred with her opposition to that state. She did not oppose the state that came to be. You confuse her preference that the state be akin to Herzl’s vision of a jointly ruled state over the state that came to be. But, at the end of the day, she stood with Israel, as she made clear to her friend Mary McCarthy.

    • Corey Robin February 3, 2013 at 11:33 pm #

      I’m going try to say this politely: learn to read. Go back to the original post or any of the comments I made here. Find me one instance where I said she “was not a Zionist”? In my original post, I said she was “an active though ambivalent Zionist.” I also referred to her “continuing involvement in Zionist politics.” Nowhere I did I suggest she was not a Zionist.

      • neffer February 3, 2013 at 11:40 pm #

        I read what you wrote. However, you got it wrong. She was involved in a group in which ONLY the most avid supporters of Zionism participated. So, you confuse her writing – where there is what, looking back without the memory of what Zionism was understood, before Israel’s creation, SOUNDS but is not ambiguous – with her actions, which were unambiguously Zionist.

        You confuse her views about fascism because you have not factored into it her work for Heidegger. Again, you do not understand fascism the way she understood it.

        You write a poli sci teacher. It shows. I write as an historian.

      • Corey Robin February 3, 2013 at 11:43 pm #

        You write as an ignoramus who relies on second-hand reports without reading the primary documents (something I thought historians were supposed to do). I’m done with you.

  6. esmat (@PFLSPU) February 3, 2013 at 11:46 pm #

    To those who believe Arendt was a Zionist, please read Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin’s essay “Jewish Peoplehood, “Jewish Politics,” and Political Responsibility: Arendt on Zionism and Partitions”: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B07yGbz1WxbLTmdyellSOWxsZ28/edit?usp=sharing

    Also, Gabriel Piterberg’s “Zion’s Rebel Daughter”: http://newleftreview.org/II/48/gabriel-piterberg-zion-s-rebel-daughter

    Not to mention Judith Butler’s and Corey Robin’s own reviews of Arendt’s “Jewish Writings in the London Review of Books.

    • brahmsky February 5, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

      @esmat Well, it seems Corey Robin is among “those who believe Arendt was a Zionist,” as am I. As is Neffer. As is Adam Kirsch… Guess we’re all ignoramuses!! Except that CR has read the texts, and all of them that matter too (so you better not tell him about your amazing new discovery). Congratulations, though, on refuting the one known fact that even the disputants in this engagingly disputatious virtual civil society forum agree on. You should publish, and quickly, before word gets out and someone steals your discovery!

  7. neffer February 3, 2013 at 11:51 pm #

    Corey Robin writes: “You write as an ignoramus who relies on second-hand reports without reading the primary documents (something I thought historians were supposed to do).”

    I did not rely on second hand reports. I posted second hand reports so that, with a bit of luck, you might read something.

    But again, your opinion cannot be squared with her work for Youth Aliyah, a vehemently Zionist organization.

    Since you think me an ignoramus, I shall inform my students in my college course on Arendt of your view. They, no doubt, will get a good laugh. I shall also mention it to my thesis advisor, when I was a bit younger. He thought my scholarship on Arendt and Zionism not only original but compelling. And, that was at Harvard.

    • erdowan February 4, 2013 at 1:02 am #

      @neffer

      Ah, yes. Your entire diatribe does scream “after all, I studied at Harvard.”

      My recent ex had degrees from Brown; Oxford; Columbia; and the Ph.D from Harvard (having spent diversionary time at UC Berkeley) and was an incurable nincompoop.

      Her defense of herself and the train wreck of muddled and pedantic thinking she put forth was always “And, that was at Harvard.”

      Do retreat to your lair.

    • brahmsky February 4, 2013 at 1:23 am #

      Well I think you sound sweet, Neffer. Don’t let Corey’s little ad hominem bother you. He’s a wonderful polemicist who occasionally gets impatient partly because he has in fact read an enormous amount for someone his age (or any age), and because really he is so quick and clever and committed to his views, and takes argumentation based on reasons and evidence so seriously. In this case, I find myself torn — while I wouldn’t dare to try to defend myself the way you just did against him, I also wouldn’t say that just because he beats crap out of someone rhetorically they’re necessarily wrong. Again, you sound like a dear person who happens to love Israel and Arendt. I have no problem with that and who cares who’s an ignoramus or not. You seem to know enough. Judith Butler’s no ignoramus — she’s brilliant, if indeed a terrible writer although that’s not what I mind about her — and she’s wrong about a lot of stuff. These Ivy League Leftists are fine, you can learn a lot from them. They just forget what it’s like for the rest of us ignoramuses who can’t be so sure that they’re always righter just because they’re smarter. You know the old expression: Just because you’re better than me doesn’t make you more intelligent. ;)

      • neffer February 4, 2013 at 11:37 am #

        brahmsky,

        Thanks for your kind words.

        Prof. Robin seems to think that one can only cite to primary sources to make a point. Historical scholarship, however, does not work that way in most cases. Which is to say, we build on the work of others, adding some new bit of information to what is already known. On his theory – if he is actually being serious rather than merely not wanting to engage with someone more familiar with the topic than he is -, it would be impossible for any scholars to work. We would all be reinventing the wheel every time we speak. In other words, his comment was moronic.

        So far as my view, I once liked Arendt a lot. My love faded because I came to view her understanding of what motivated the monsters in totalitarian states as being incorrect. I think that hatred, through and through, was the most important factor.

        I came to this view from marrying a refusnik, from whom I learned much about life in another totalitarian state. That is another story. I also came to form different views after reading Worse Than War by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, a book that answers and corrects the deficiencies in the book for which he is most famous, Hitler’s Willing Executioners. While Goldhagen has, in my view, some minor detail wrong, I think the gist of his argument is well taken.

        Lastly, I posted here because Prof. Robin sees more in Arendt’s pre-Israel views than can be translated forward. You simply cannot compare what she thought before Israel existed and use it as a guide to judge a period of time long after she passed away (or even, with much success, after Israel came to exist). It is very poor scholarly methodology, in my humble opinion.

        I do agree, for what it is worth, with Arendt’s view that, absent acceptance by the Arab side, Israel would always be in an untenable position. However, I think Arendt’s pre-war position was simply naive because her understanding of the Arab regions failed to take into consideration the trends – which have now more obviously emerged than when she wrote – including, most particularly, the impact of people like Hajj Amin al-Hussayni on political thought among Palestinian Arabs and the impact of reactionary religious movements – e.g., the religious revival movement, aka Islamist movement – on Arab political thought and the impact of the withdraw of Western direct control on the Arab regions and the emergence, gradually, on political ideas in the region.

        Lastly, I think it necessary to stand up to the exaggerated claims made about Israel by people who, if they opened their eyes – and did not merely read books – would realize is part of the fog of war. In the West, the saying goes, truth is the first casualty of war and, in the Arab regions, the saying goes, war is deception. So, we have a naive college professor who confuses allegations of nastiness in a war with what is actually occurring.

    • Robcrawford February 4, 2013 at 10:39 am #

      Neffer appears to me to worry naively about labels, to think that approval and historical assessment must be of some kind of unrealistic purity or logical cogency.

      Why can’t Arendt be both a zionist and yet worried about some of the manifestations of it, particularly of the variety of terrorism that Begin perpetrated? She was, after all, surely aware that Zionism was born at the same time and in the same city – Vienna – that the movements that coalesced in national socialism were.

      Why can’t Arendt approve of the establishment of Israel, yet worry about its future as a modern Spartan state? She saw the trend to militarism early on. Her writings about Israel pulse with worry and care. Why should she approve everything it does?

      But there is a sloppiness to Neffer’s method: I clicked on one of his own links and it doesn’t support his assertion about Heidegger and Arendt’s affair: it was in the 1920s, well before he joined the party in 1933.

      I agree with Corey, who shows nuance in his reasoning and proof by quote in the proper scholarly manner.

  8. BillR February 4, 2013 at 1:04 am #

    Another scholar of towering reputation who was fired from City College in the 1940s for being “morally suspect” causing Einstein to write that “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds”. The very last public statement of that public intellectual was on the Israel-Palestine conflict:

    The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was ‚Äúgiven‚Äù by a foreign Power to another people for the creation of a new State. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless. With every new conflict their number have increased. How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty? It is abundantly clear that the refugees have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and the denial of this right is at the heart of the continuing conflict. No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masse from their own country; how can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment which nobody else would tolerate?…We are frequently told that we must sympathize with Israel because of the suffering of the Jews in Europe at the hands of the Nazis. I see in this suggestion no reason to perpetuate any suffering. What Israel is doing today cannot be condoned, and to invoke the horrors of the past to justify those of the present is gross hypocrisy.

  9. J.K. Schwartz February 4, 2013 at 1:16 am #

    Neffer is not worth your time. Arendt, whatever her ambiguous and puzzling relation to Heidegger and his to her — his variant of Nazism was not racist, inconsistent as that might seem, but people, even philosophers, are rarely consistent, although he did briefly belong to, and have an official position in a party that was later committed to the extermination of the Jewish race, something he never plainly renounced — was a not unusually atypical left wing Zionist of the time.

    As a scholar of totalitarianism she had a clearer understanding than most people, and she was dead right about the revisionists, the Irgun, etc., who made no secret of their admiration for fascism. But a lot of Jews, even left wing Jews, felt a visceral need for a Jewish homeland in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Isaac Deutscher was one: see his essay in The Non-Jewish Jew (I think), where he compares Zionism to a man fleeing danger and whose only way out is to land on another man’s back. I paraphrase.

    But the point about Arendt is that she was crystal clear about the militaristic, oppressive, and quasi-fascist nature of the Zionist project. (Jabotinsky made no bones about it. He also said he didn’t blame the Arabs for fighting back with everything he had; he’d do the same in their place.) Like a lot of people — Buber, for example — she thought things might be worked out for the better. That was wishful thinking, but for what she wrote (if not just the fact of having a Nazi lover) would have crucified by AIPAC, Dershowitz, the NYC Council, and the whole rabid mob. And it should be underlined that this was at a time when the Zionist project was far more fragile and might well have been obliterated.

    Bringing up Arendt as a Jewish Zionist saint is a good rhetorical move, but the fact is that Brooklyn College could survive a panel given by Hamas and Hezbollah to explain their program, and probably would be the better for it. Since their members belong to federally designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, they wouldn’t get visas, but just speaking hypothetically, it would be good for mutual understanding if the students, faculty and administration actually got to hear what the points of view of these organizations are and discuss with them face to face why they do what they do. I also assume, counterfactually, that the audience would not turn into a lynch mob, but would listen and discuss. Such a hypothetical discuss would actually probably promote more understanding and conceivably empathy on both sides. But maybe I am guilty of wishful thinking.

    Fact of the matter is, however, that the Butler panel is offering an unpopular but fairly mild proposal aimed, in my view misguidedly, but that is of no moment, at showing solidarity with Palestinians suffering under Israeli rule and attempting to change Israeli policy. It is a testament to the insanity and hysteria around this debate that the self-styled “friends of Israel” does not want this mild and anodyne position to be sponsored and heard (not endorsed) by the BC Polisci Department. Why not? Because these people go batshit at _any_ defense of Palestinian rights, no matter how innocuous.

    Years ago when I was a grad student in Ann Arbor, Said came out to give a talk. I was disappointed by how mild it was. It was variations on the theme that Palestinians are human beings and should be treated in accord with basic human rights. The point is, he was met my what I can only describe as a howling mob of ultra-Zionist students, who wou;d like let him speak uninterrupted, called this mild-mannered Columbia comp lit prof a terrorist (he was still on the PNC at the time), and accused him of wanting to sweep the Jews of Israel into the sea and bathe in their blood. I am not making this up. Nor did they give him much of a chance, if any, to answer these outrageous accusations. I have rarely felt so ashamed of being Jewish in my life. Afterwards I was able to speak to him for a bit, got him to sign my copy of The Question of Palestine, and assured him that not all Jews felt the way those unmannerly idiots did. He signed, and said, he knew, but he was used to this treatment.

    Point: it doesn’t matter what you say in defense of Palestinian rights. Its not BDS that is especially annoying, it’s that you are speaking in favor of Palestinian rights, however mildly. The rabid AIPAC-right-wing Zionist contingent is _always_ in attack mode. They sat they want their perspective heard at BC, which they can certainly easily arrange, but they don’t. They want no other perspective heard., In the present case they are willing to walk all over the First Amendment to make sure that no voice in any way and to any degree critical of Israeli government policy or in solidarity in any way with the Palestinians is heard.

    I really hoped someone has contacted the ACLU or the CCR or some lawyer who will get an injunction against any pre-emptive attempts at prior restraint, the most fundamental kind of free speech violation,. and to the sue the ass off any officials on City Council or the BC administration who shuts this thing down because of its content. And I don’t even support BDS (just D, maybe). I’d do it myself, but I’m not admitted in New York State. I suppose I could get admitted by reciprocity or pro haec vice. But there are top civil rights lawyers there who can do as good or (dare I say) anm even better job than I.

    Justin

    • Site Manager February 4, 2013 at 7:11 am #

      @Justin. I’ve actually already contacted lawyers at F.I.R.E. I would encourage others to do the same. They have a very strong track record of winning first amendment cases.

    • brahmsky February 5, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

      Good, Neffer! You don’t need CR.COM’s approval. You’ve been at this a while, sounds like. There’s room for intelligent disagreement. Heck, if we can’t disagree about Arabs and Jews, what can we disagree about? Men and women? Cheers to the cheerful and champagne/real pain for the rest.

  10. adjunct February 4, 2013 at 4:24 am #

    I don’t see how any of this is relevant to the issue at hand. Nobody thinks that individual faculty with controversial views should be silenced or not ‘tolerated’. The issue here is about the legitimacy of sponsoring the event. So what is the relevance of Arendt to all this?
    You link in a prior post to the policy of your department for such co-sponsorship. From what I can tell, that link doesn’t state a policy, only a willingness to judge each case equally, whatever that means. Either way, though, regardless of whether the critics are right about the policy, I don’t see how it’s productive to conflate THAT debate with the one you want to be having. This isn’t about tolerating Arendt, or Judith Butler, or Cory Robin, it’s about the co-sponsorship issue. Maybe the motives of some of the players extends farther then this, but I don’t see how that would detract from whatever merits their claims have. So, do you think that there are limits as to what sort of events a political science department should sponsor? What are they?

    • jonnybutter February 4, 2013 at 7:51 am #

      So, do you think that there are limits as to what sort of events a political science department should sponsor? What are they?

      This is a question for you to answer, adjunct, since your implicit assumption here that there is a limit and that the event in question is beyond it. So, defend your view.

      • adjunct February 4, 2013 at 11:19 am #

        Actually, I was not making any assumption about it whatsoever. The question was WHETHER and ,if so, WHAT. ‘No’ is a perfectly good answer to that question, at least semantically.
        But yes, I am assuming that ‘no’ is NOT the answer to that question. I gather that a pregame super bowl rally for the Ravens, for example, would not be an appropriate forum for the Political Science department. Similarly, I gather than an election rally wouldn’t. Or a panel sponsored by the Flat Earth society, or a panel on why Obama is a communist or something like that. So some criteria go into the propriety of sponsoring such an event, as they should, since academic departments ought to meet some standards as to how they allocate their (and taxpayers’) resources as well as what they endorse.
        But, no, I don’t see how it is up to me to answer this question. The response is to a post about how the department has a policy on this matter that supposedly (1) Allows the endorsement; and at the same time (2) Is politically balanced/open enough that the raised by the critics (at least those that are somewhat legitimate – and by linking to such policy the author is admitting that the criticisms have some legitimacy, otherwise, why not just invoke freedom of assembly?) are not an issue.

  11. brahmsky February 4, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    Another secondary (or tertiary?) article that those who only refer to original sources (for some reason) won’t want to read but should: Norman Geras in FATHOM discusses what he calls there the new “Alibi Antisemitism” which picks and chooses its fascists very carefully, http://www.fathomjournal.org/policy-politics/alibi-antisemitism/
    Moreover, I think the point about the (ir)relevancy — or political naivety or disingenuousness — of Corey’s “shocking” (gasp!) comparison of what Arendt had to say with what Butler now says is the difference between then and now. Questioning the founding of a certain kind of state is not the same as raising the question of singling out a UN-member state for dismantling. Thus, very typically sensibly on her part, Arendt’s Jewish Writings that interest Corey et al are from before the founding of the modern State of Israel, and hence her silence about this stuff later. By all means, her far-left anti-Zionist fans today should follow her model as a guide, only they should be more consistent! And stick to the “original” position!.

    • jonnybutter February 4, 2013 at 9:31 am #

      Brahmsky, you are telling us to ignore things that Arendt said, and give weight to things she didn’t say. Very weak. There’s no law against rhetoric, but you still have to have an argument.

      As far as ‘picking and choosing fascists carefully’, may I suggest that our apologists might want to be a little *more* careful about choosing whom to smear as antisemitic? The article Brahmsky links so smears almost the entire Western ‘left’, just as neffer smears Arendt upthread. REALLY? Desperate and hysterical much?

      • neffer February 4, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

        I did not smear Arendt. I noted the obvious. She had an affair with an intellectual, a man who influenced her thinking. He happened to hold views sympathetic to the Nazis and fascism more generally. I am not a Heidegger scholar but am sufficiently familiar that I do not discount the matter. And, moreover, in our time, Carl Schmitt seems to be cited by people on the left with some sympathy, so the notion that a man of the far right would influence someone on the left is not at all far fetched. It is certainly not a smear.

      • brahmsky February 5, 2013 at 12:44 am #

        I almost hate to sink to Corey Robin’s level, Butter. But you’re an ignoramus. Remember, it was the Website Master himself who established the policy of laying it on the line and telling it like it is in this fashion.

        Or, put more politely: I said no such thing(s) and Norman Geras (of New Left Review fame, etc., etc.) “smears” no one, let alone the “entire Left,” since for one thing he is (on) the Left — represents at least (the) part of it (worth saving), as a prominent spokesman of many, many years, and through many hard-fought battles for the soul of (what’s left of) the (barely discernible) Left today. But then, you knew that…probably from reading all the “primary sources” that entitle one to an opinion on coreyrobin.com, I’m assuming. Why would anyone dare to affront the readers of this blog, I mean, by trying their patience by referring in conversation to the likes of Adam Kirsch on Hannah Arendt? To do so is not to indicate familiarity with what someone well-known for knowing a lot about the subject at hand has said (for some reason or other, which might be just trn out to be reasonable). It is rather to put oneself beyond the pale of courteous disagreement. Oh,the shame of it!

        Moreover, what I actually said was — and I wish someone with half a brain reading this would tell me why I’m wrong, if I am — there’s a serious difference between expressing reservations about ways of going about things and the possible consequences of founding a state by going at it wrong, and agitating for the removal of an established state from the map of the world. Indeed, a state with a lot more going for it than a lot of others I can think of that might be worth getting rid of on purely moral (as opposed to political) grounds. Want to approach that task head-on? Then let’s get rid of North Korea, China, Saudi Arabia… Moreover, if injustices associated with a nation’s founding are the criteria, then let’s begin, in alphabetical order, with America — or the USA if you prefer, which has the advantage of putting the abominable Australia in line ahead of us for purification, or whatever you want to choose to call this fascist regime of ours built on truly horrific ethnic-cleansing and worse.

        But I don’t really mean to offend you, Johnny,and I hope you believe me because it’s true — actually I’m just parodying the “ignoramus” comment above, as you seem intelligent enough, and genuinely concerned about complex matters that are hard to understand and upsetting to a lot of people. Although you’re not in CR’s league when it comes to “text-based” banter (kind of like poor old Neffer in that way). Truth be told, I like your comments (well-enough to respond to them: you do me a like honor in replying to me) because for one thing they move me to try to clarify what I was thinking/trying to say, and because you seem to care about some of the same things that I do (if we reach different conclusions). I see no reason — kidding aside — for me to lose all patience with you or be “done with you.”

        That’s not how I was raised, I guess. You seem in my family, we were taught to tolerate disagreement, misunderstanding even. And hold on to what is far more important than ideology or words spoken/written in anger.

        We just disagree, that’s all. Kind of like the Neffsky and the Robinator….

    • neffer February 5, 2013 at 12:50 am #

      Thank you brahmsky for the link. While I think Geras overcomplicates things, he its basically right in saying that Israel is a mere alibi for Antisemites. On the other hand, I do not agree with the approach that focuses too heavily on the anti-racism theory, which seems to inform his viewpoint.

      I see today’s anti-racism theory as Alain Finkielkraut calls it, the new Stalinism rather than opposition to racism. And it is just blind when it comes to Antisemitism. I believe Geras is part of the Engage website, which wants to apply anti-racism analysis to Antisemitism, and seems unintentionally to be creating a polite way for racists and Antisemites to advance their causes – just do not say hateful things the wrong way!!!!

  12. David February 5, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    This article and the responses to it bring to mind the prophetic comments of three other eminent Jews:

    Lessing J. Rosenwald, president of the American Council for Judaism, 1944: “The concept of a racial state – the Hitlerian concept- is repugnant to the civilized world, as witness the fearful global war in which we are involved. . . , I urge that we do nothing to set us back on the road to the past. To project at this time the creation of a Jewish state or commonwealth is to launch a singular innovation in world affairs which might well have incalculable consequences.”

    Albert Einstein, 1939: “There could be no greater calamity than a permanent discord between us and the Arab people. Despite the great wrong that has been done us [in the western world], we must strive for a just and lasting compromise with the Arab people…. Let us recall that in former times no people lived in greater friendship with us than the ancestors of these Arabs.”

    Lord Edwin Montagu, the only Jewish member of the UK cabinet at the time, objected vehemently to the 1917 Balfour Declaration: “All my life I have been trying to get out of the ghetto and you want to force me back there again”. He was overruled by his colleagues, some of them avowed anti-Semites.

    • neffer February 6, 2013 at 12:31 am #

      David writes: ‘Lord Edwin Montagu, the only Jewish member of the UK cabinet at the time, objected vehemently to the 1917 Balfour Declaration: “All my life I have been trying to get out of the ghetto and you want to force me back there again”. He was overruled by his colleagues, some of them avowed anti-Semites.’

      Yet, this “ghetto” is not a ghetto. It is a prosperous country, with an educated electorate, where people have a sense of mission in life, that they are building something important. If that is a ghetto, count me in. And, consistent with a prosperous country where people feel that have a reason to live, its people, if the data are to be believed, are among the happiest of any country on earth.

      I think the point here is that you have notions about Israel from whatever it is that informs your views but not from the reality perceived by most Israelis.

      In considering your remark, I am reminded of what my wife often says in response to political discussions with friends, who are often critical of the US. In response, she is fond of saying that, were they to have spent a minute living in a country like she was born in – the USSR -, they would not know how to stop laughing at their own criticism. This is not to say that there is no proper criticism in her view; only, that the view formed without remote experience – or, to use her words, without ever smelled what it is like elsewhere in the world – you do not have much basis for an opinion. So, to look at Israel as a ghetto when Israelis are a cheerful bunch seems pretty out of touch with reality.

      • Gepap February 6, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

        Are you seriously trying to argue based on anecdotal evidence? Is your wife the sole authority on the experiences and opinions of the hundreds of millions of human beings who lived in the USSR?

        Lor Montagu was writing in 1917, thirty years before Israel came into existence – his opinion on a ethnically-based state is as valid as anyone’s. So what if most Israelis would disagree with it today? That is not a relevant counterargument to that statement. I would of course add that you might get a different set of answers if you asked the 20% of Israelis who are Arab, or the Palestinians.

  13. Frank February 5, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

    I just wanted to thank both Neffer and Brahmsky for an example of how conversation/debate should take place. Not only did this happen on the internet, where such things hardly ever occur, but lo, they occurred on the subject of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I’m truly amazed that I found one small part of the Internet with thoughtful leftist opinions on the Middle East. And if this can happen, what’s next? Peace in the Middle East? If it happened on CR.com …

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