A Very Elite Backlash

2 Jan

The speed and scale of the backlash against the ASA boycott have been formidable.

But the backlash has a curious feature: it is a very elite backlash, as this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education makes clear. It is spearheaded almost entirely by university presidents (not exactly my go-to sources of moral instruction on academic freedom), government officials, and institutional actors like the American Council on Education and the Association of American Universities.

If you want to understand the sources of that elite backlash, particularly among university presidents, Bard College President Leon Botstein—by no means a progressive on this issue—breaks it down in that Chronicle piece.

Leon Botstein, president of Bard College and a boycott opponent, said calls from alumni to take a stand against the boycott had also played a role. “As an active member of the Jewish community, I recognize that the American Jewish community is disproportionately generous to American higher education,” he said. “For the president of an institution to express his or her solidarity with Israel is welcomed by a very important part of their support base.”

Or as George W. Bush put it: “Some people call you the elite, I call you my base.”

Critics of the boycott ought to be a little concerned about the elite provenance of this campaign against the ASA. As Peter Beinart—no friend of the boycott—makes clear in this article in Haaretz, the cause of Israel has increasingly become an institutional cause of politicians and big organizations, while the case against Israel has shifted to the grassroots. In the long run, that does not bode well.

{US Secretary of State John] Kerry himself has said that if “we do not succeed now, we may not get another chance.” He’s right. If he fails, the United States won’t take another shot until it inaugurates a new president in 2017, and maybe not then. In the meantime, the Israeli-Palestinian struggle will move outside Washington as Palestinians take their case to international organizations, college campuses, religious and labor groups and European consumers. And for the organized American Jewish community, that’s a disaster because universities, international organizations and liberal religious groups are exactly the places the American Jewish establishment is weak.

It’s sadly ironic. The organized American Jewish community has spent decades building influence in Washington. But it’s succeeded too well. By making it too politically painful for Obama to push Netanyahu toward a two-state deal, the American Jewish establishment (along with its Christian right allies) is making Washington irrelevant. For two decades, the core premise of the American-dominated peace process has been that since only America enjoys leverage over Israel, the rest of the world should leave the Israel-Palestinian conflict in America’s hands.

But across the world, fewer and fewer people believe Washington will effectively use its leverage, and if the Kerry mission fails, Washington will no longer even try. The Palestinians are ready with a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign that shifts the struggle to arenas where the American Jewish establishment lacks influence. In the Russell Senate Office Building, Howard Kohr and Malcolm Hoenlein’s opinions carry weight. In German supermarkets and the Modern Language Association, not so much.

In Congress…that hard-line agenda remains popular. But in the country at large, it risks alienating the Americans who will dominate politics in the decades to come.

It’s no secret that young Americans are less unwaveringly “pro-Israel” than their elders. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center poll, while a majority of Americans over 65 say they sympathize primarily with Israel, among Americans under 30 it drops to just over one-in-three, with a plurality of respondents saying they sympathize with both sides.

These are long-term trends. The American Jewish establishment won’t become irrelevant anytime soon. But 2014 may be the year when the downward trajectory of its power becomes clear. Wiser American Jewish leaders, aware of the BDS movement’s efforts to move the Israeli-Palestinian conflict outside of Washington, might have pushed Netanyahu to embrace the core tenets of a two-state agreement, and thus given skeptics more reason to believe Washington can still deliver….

…For the leaders of Jewish America, 2014 may be the year it becomes too late.

It’s a favored trope, in discussions about the Israel/Palestine peace process, to warn that time is running out. This time it may be true, though not in the way those who like to make these warnings think.

58 Responses to “A Very Elite Backlash”

  1. hophmi January 2, 2014 at 10:29 am #

    “If you want to understand the sources of that elite backlash, particularly among university presidents, Bard College President Leon Botstein—by no means a progressive on this issue—breaks it down in that Chronicle piece.”

    Yes, the rich Jews hypothesis. But there’s nothing antisemitic about that, right?

    In fact, again, you’re ignoring the evidence in the same article that suggests otherwise, namely, the fact that more professors – professors – at Trinity College signed a letter supporting President Jones; statement than those professors who signed a letter criticizing him.

    The backlash is simple to understand. The ASA, an organization with a radical agenda and a radical reputation (see the Angela Davis prize it gives out, based on the vote of about a quarter of its membership, voted to discriminate against one country in a world of much worse human rights violators.

    And I cannot help but point out the irony of your criticizing John Sexton as a hypocrite for staying quiet on the UAE, but crying foul every time someone calls the BDS movement hypocritical for obsessing over Israel but virtually ignoring the human rights violations in the Arab world.

    • hidflect January 3, 2014 at 7:44 am #

      The usual weak argument, “..but other countries like the Arabs are bad too!” headed by the obligatory antisemitic smear attempt. Boring..

      • hophmi January 3, 2014 at 9:42 am #

        “The usual weak argument, “..but other countries like the Arabs are bad too!” headed by the obligatory antisemitic smear attempt. Boring..”

        Listen, I can understand how complex arguments can be boring if you haven’t the capacity to understand them.

        I suspect, however, that your faux dismissiveness is the frustration of realizing that it’s a very serious argument that BDSers have to contend with if they actually want to gain support for their cause beyond the fringe. It’s not just that you’ve chosen the country that is the region’s most democratic and liberal. It’s that you’ve done so IN SERVICE of those Arab states who are human rights violators, who have been attempting to do this for years.

        You’re just a tool of their agenda. Little more.

        And yes, I’m very sorry that you can’t own up to the antisemitism that pervades the BDS movement. That’s a moral failing on your part.

      • BillR January 3, 2014 at 11:26 am #

        It’s funny how the schtick of defenders of Israel can always be reduced to the 4 step guide to Hasbara outlined by an Israeli dissident some years ago.

      • hophmi January 3, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

        It’s funny how support for the Palestinian position in the US can sit around 4% and continue to sit there while BDSers continually claim victories. It’s another indicator that BDS is all about them, and not about the Palestinians.

        Like Finkelstein said, you guys are basically a cult.

    • nbromell January 7, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

      I think it’s important to see that there are at least two issues here, and that they should be handled individually. The first is the ASA boycott, its merits and faults. The second is the response to that boycott by US academic leaders. What I find disappointing about this response is (a) that so few of these leaders explain precisely why they think the boycott will curtail “academic freedom,” and (b) that most invoke “academic freedom” as a way to close down discussion of this issue. This move closely resembles the way university presidents in the 1960s invoked “academic freedom” in response to students’ demands that universities halt “business as usual” in order to discuss the War. Ditto with their response to Black students’ demands for examination of a tacitly racist curriculum.I elaborate this view at thetimeisalwaysnow.org

      • reader21 January 7, 2014 at 7:24 pm #

        Respectfully, the passage by a group of academics of a resolution in favoring of “boycotting” academic institutions in another nation runs far afield of both the tactics and the message of free speech movement .

      • nbromell January 8, 2014 at 11:23 am #

        The point is not to compare what stimulated these responses, but to compare the responses; alas, it would take us a long time to identify similarities and dissimilarities between 60s student activism and the ASA boycott. That said, I’ll just point out that I didn’t have the FSM in mind. I was thinking of those occasions when student radicals entered classrooms and demanded that they cease functioning – that the professor stop talking and that students leave. “No more business as usual” was the cry. One can well understand why many administrators and professors responded “This is a threat to academic freedom.” And they were right. It was. But what they should have done – and what they were eventually forced to do – is weigh the cost of that loss of that kind of academic freedom against the cost of other losses (e.g., continuing war), including loss of other kinds of academic freedom (e.g., university curricula from which African American experience and history was almost totally absent). Take a look at thetimeisalwaysnow.org for a fuller account of what I’m trying to say here. Peace.

      • reader21 January 8, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

        Re your below response. I hazard to guess that Mario Savio’s ghost is pleased to hear that you are not associating the present academic “boycott” activities with the Free Speech movement. As for the proposition that setting out to shut down or otherwise impede international academic interchanges and — as you concede, to threaten academic freedom in the process — is somehow justified here by some greater good, well I guess we will have to agree to disagree about that. Thanks

  2. Phil Brander January 2, 2014 at 10:46 am #

    So I guess we can not boycott anything or anyone until we boycott everything and everyone who violates human rights? The ones who say that know very well that then no boycott would ever happen, because of the logistical impossibility to implement.

    • hophmi January 2, 2014 at 11:08 am #

      “So I guess we can not boycott anything or anyone until we boycott everything and everyone who violates human rights?”

      Oh please. I’ve heard this line a million times before.

      1. No one is saying that you need to boycott everyone to boycott anyone. But, you know, it looks a little suspicious when you start with the democracy that is in the middle of a land conflict, is made up largely of refugees, is in a region full of human rights violators, and has been the target of boycott campaigns from these human rights violators for years.

      2. It seems especially ridiculous to boycott Israeli academic institutions, which, in addition to violating the spirit of US civil rights laws, which bans discrimination on the basis of national origin, hurts many of the people who are actually against the Israeli settlement project.

      3. There is a distinctly anti-Jewish flavor to much of the boycott rhetoric. Corey Robin blames rich American Jews for the backlash. He posts at Mondoweiss, where, judging by the comments, the readers take for granted that American Jews were responsible for the Iraq War and will be responsible for any war with Iran, have too much financial power in general, and care more about Israel than about the United States. In its moderated comment section, people have blamed Israel for perpetrating 9/11, repeatedly posted lists of rich Jewish people in America, and cited to Holocaust denial websites. Its posting have included jeremiads opposing circumcision, calling those who favor Jewish in-marriage racists, and called on Jews to completely assimilate into American culture, including abandoning any notion of Jewish day school. I could go on.

      4. It is especially hypocritical for American college professors to cite societal discrimination faced by Palestinians inside of Israel as a reason to launch a boycott. There are so many worse examples around the world, including and especially here in the United States, and especially in the Arab world, where racial and ethnic minorities face discrimination in higher education and in society.

      • Anthony Greco January 2, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

        I have reservations about the BDS movement (see my blog: http://http:www.tony-greco.com/2013/12/19/the-middle-east-conundrum-and-the-asa-boycott-of-israel/), but the accusation that it unfairly singles out Israel ignores an important distinction between external and internal repression. Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is simply not comparable to the internal repression typical of the Arab world. The occupation constitutes a situation in which one country by force of arms has imposed its rule on another people outside its own borders. There is a long history of respect for sovereignty in international law and custom. A ruler can oppress his own people with relative impunity, but once he crosses his borders to conquer or oppress others, his actions come under the scrutiny of the international community. You can argue that that’s not right; that it’s a double standard, but it’s not one that applies exclusively to Israel. Besides, by any reasonable definition of the term, Israel’s occupation and colonization of the West Bank is a form of colonialism. It’s a neo-colonial anachronism that I’m quite sure has no analogue anywhere else in the world.

        For additional arguments as to why BDS isn’t inherently anti-semitic, see again my 12/19 blog and Peter Beinart’s of 12/17 (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/12/17/the-american-studies-association-is-really-boycotting-israel-s-existence).

        Finally, since so many of Israel’s harshest critics, including many in BDS, are Jewish, the only possible explanation of their position, if it must be motivated by anti-semitism, is that they are all self-haters. Do you really believe that?

      • hophmi January 2, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

        “The occupation constitutes a situation in which one country by force of arms has imposed its rule on another people outside its own borders.”

        As a result of intractable conflict, history, colonial neglect by the Mandatory Power, and basic security. Border attacks on Israeli civilians were common before 1967. Withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza have not gone very well for Israel. So, at the very least, acknowledge that it’s not as easy as just withdrawing.

        “There is a long history of respect for sovereignty in international law and custom.”

        And yet, no stomach for boycotting Morocco over Western Sahara, or China over Tibet.

        “Finally, since so many of Israel’s harshest critics, including many in BDS, are Jewish, the only possible explanation of their position, if it must be motivated by anti-semitism, is that they are all self-haters. Do you really believe that?”

        I hear this argument a lot. First, as an empirical matter, I see no inherent reason why someone Jewish cannot hate Jews. I find that most BDS Jews (and I’ve talked and met with many of them) are secular Jews who are generally anti-religion. All you have to do is read Mondoweiss. Phil Weiss is against circumcision. He’s against Jews who favor marrying other Jews. He’s against giving Jewish kids a Jewish education. He’s against kosher slaughter. He says Jews have too much financial power. He blames Jews for the Iraq War. He says Jews are not loyal to the United States. This is not just about a human rights issue. There’s some kind of pathology going on here. Because I don’t see these guys concentrating on religion. I don’t see them talking about the Catholic Church and abortion or Islam and women very much, even though those are religions 100 times the size of Judaism.

        Max Blumenthal is another fairly good example of this pathological string that I see with BDS Jews. Let’s be completely honest. Max’s book was not the first book criticizing Israel. He broke no new ground. He didn’t say anything BDS people haven’t heard before. But he went out of his way to do what is now common practice among BDSers – he made lots and lots of comparisons of Jews and Nazis. That’s beyond human rights. That’s about trying to be as nasty as you can be. Max isn’t just about exposing the ills of Israeli society. He’s out to prove that Israelis (and the American Jews who support them) are bad people who should themselves be dispossessed.

        I think that adds up to antisemitism. Jews faced persecution for a long time, from the right and from the left. BDS Jews have, in many ways, internalized many left-wing antisemitic tropes.

      • Malcolm Schosha January 2, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

        Anthony Greco wrote: “…since so many of Israel’s harshest critics, including many in BDS, are Jewish, the only possible explanation of their position, if it must be motivated by anti-semitism, is that they are all self-haters. Do you really believe that?”

        I tend to avoid the term “self-hating Jew,” but the term just means a Jew who is antisemitic. There are many such who become vocal critics of Zionism and Israel, and who oppose the very existence of the Jewish nation. When that sort of attack comes from individuals who use their Jewish family origins to shield themselves from criticism of bias, it is particularly annoying, particularly when it is obvious that their Jewishness is used by them only when it is useful as a shield from criticism, and that they are really alienated from Judaism.

        Michael Lerner, who is certainly not on the political right, and who is also often very critical of Israel, discusses the problem of such Jews in his book ‘The Socialism of Fools’, which is about the growing problem of antisemitism in the Left.

        You will note that he uses the term, ‘self-hating Jew’. Lerner’s argument is that:

        “One of the classic ways they act out this internalized self-hatred is to engage in ferocious criticism of Israel, use double standards, and then justify the double standard because, after all, they too are Jewish.”

        and

        “If your Jewishness over the past several years has consisted solely in saying what is wrong with Israel or Jews, then that Jewishness is not a warrant to use a double standard….But if you do use a double standard, even though you can’t honestly say that you’ve been involved in positively affirming your Jewishness, chances are that you are legitimately considered a self-hating Jew.” p.104-5

        I think Lerner’s description may fit a number of the very anti-Israel participants these discussions. The arguments must always stand on their own by being consistent and rational. Claiming that arguments against Israel coming from Jews carry extra weight is not justified.

    • Malcolm Schosha January 2, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

      @Phil. As far as I know the academic and cultural boycott against Israel is the only academic and cultural boycott against any country in the world. If I am wrong about that, I would appreciate you, or anyone, showing me a reliable source that demonstrates the contrary.

      • Jonny Butter January 3, 2014 at 9:39 am #

        I tend to avoid the term “self-hating Jew,” but the term just means a Jew who is antisemitic. There are many such [so why do you tend to avoid the term? just wondering.] who become vocal critics of Zionism and Israel, and who oppose the very existence of the Jewish nation.

        The operator ‘and’ doesn’t quite make sense in this sentence. It is Zionism that is objected to. Your key position is that opposition to Zionism is anti-semitic. This is really very offensive because, among other reasons, you are thereby appropriating Jewishness itself to your political point of view. Judaism doesn’t belong to you, nor to Israeli politicians nor to anyone else in particular. Insult to injury.

        Michael Lerner, who is certainly not on the political right..

        yawn. Strawman n+1.

      • hophmi January 3, 2014 at 9:44 am #

        “It is Zionism that is objected to. Your key position is that opposition to Zionism is anti-semitic. This is really very offensive because, among other reasons, you are thereby appropriating Jewishness itself to your political point of view. Judaism doesn’t belong to you, nor to Israeli politicians nor to anyone else in particular. Insult to injury.”

        The BDS project goes far, far beyond anti-Zionism. Mondoweiss is proof of that.

      • Malcolm Schosha January 4, 2014 at 10:45 am #

        Jonny Butter wrote: “Your key position is that opposition to Zionism is anti-semitic. This is really very offensive because, among other reasons, you are thereby appropriating Jewishness itself to your political point of view. Judaism doesn’t belong to you, nor to Israeli politicians nor to anyone else in particular. Insult to injury.”

        Your assumptions miss the mark.

        Every Zionist I know is critical of Israel. So by your logic every Zionist I know is antisemitic! The claim that Zionists are uncritical supporters of everything done in Israel, and by Israelis, is absurd.

        Anti-Zionists too frequently argue that Israel is inherently an evil that must be removed from the world, that Zionists are worse than Nazis, that Israel exists because of theft of Arab land, etc. Such claims are irrational, vicious, and factually untrue. This is a link to an article on the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty site (communist) by Sean Matgamma (who is not Jewish) which says pretty much the same as I argue. For instance: “…left-wing anti-semitism knows itself by another and more self-righteous name, “anti-Zionism”. Often, your left-wing anti-semite sincerely believes that he or she is only an anti-Zionist, only a just if severe critic of Israel.” http://www.workersliberty.org/node/5041

        You are, additionally, making assumptions about my Jewishness that are false. But I consider that a diversionary issue. If someone makes vicious statements, and/or false statements about Israel, being Jewish is no defence. Arguments need to be factually correct and rationally defensible on their own merits. Likewise, Sean Matgamma’s argument is good not because of he is not-Jewish, but because the arguments are rational and ethical.

  3. Paul Rosenberg January 2, 2014 at 10:47 am #

    I found this bit noteworthy: “It’s sadly ironic. The organized American Jewish community has spent decades building influence in Washington. But it’s succeeded too well. By making it too politically painful for Obama to push Netanyahu toward a two-state deal, the American Jewish establishment (along with its Christian right allies) is making Washington irrelevant.”

    It was always ludicrous to portray the US as *both* Israel’s greatest friend and an honest broker. You have to be schizophrenic to believe both–and without question! But now, finally, the insanity is starting to have consequences for those who promulgate it. Yes, “sadly ironic” indeed. There was a giveaway, though. The moment the Christian Zionists made the scene as friends of Israel was the moment that the jig was up. No one wants to see the destruction of Israel more than they do. No one.

  4. Roquentin January 2, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

    Can I ask a really basic question? Is a two state solution really a good option? If you look at a similar example, such as the partitioning of India during the twilight days of the British Raj, it certainly didn’t lead to peace. Kashmir has been a problem ever since. Pakistan also has grown to be dominated by more extreme forms of Islam, which to be fair is also due to the large Pashtun population that straddles the Afghanistan border. If both groups elect representatives that have the same views as those already existing in the population not much will change. Not only that, partitioning a country inevitably leads to territorial disputes because it is extremely rare that any given era is that ethnically homogeneous.

    • hophmi January 2, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

      “Is a two state solution really a good option?”

      I think it’s the best chance for peace and for justice for everyone involved. One-state solutions don’t have a great track record. Lebanon didn’t work out so well. The former Yugoslavia didn’t work out so well. The Czechs and the Slovaks split up. We have Indonesia and East Timor. Mixing ethnic groups has not gone very well in parts of Africa. See South Sudan for a current example, the old Sudan for a recent one, Nigeria, Rwanda for historical examples.

      These are two peoples who need their own space at this point in time. There may come a day where both peoples decide that their relationship has evolved to the point that they wish to share the space in some kind of confederation. But to force something like one-state solution is a recipe for bloodshed, and frankly, an injustice to the Jewish people, who deserve their own state as much as the Palestinians do.

    • s. wallerstein January 2, 2014 at 3:13 pm #

      Two state solution!

      Can I ask another really basic question? Why doesn’t Israel, out of long-term rational self-interest, return the occupied territories including the settlements, offer that Jerusalem become an international city administered by the UN, and grant full civil rights to the Arab Israeli citizens?

      The situation in the Middle East is going from bad to worse. Syria is a disaster, Lebanon does not look so great nor does Egypt. Not a good neighborhood to live in.

      Israel needs all the friends it can get in terms of international public-opinion, especially in Europe and the U.S. and in order to get that support, it needs to show that it is playing by the rules and in good faith, that it is willing to take the first steps towards peace and social justice.

      The longer and longer Israel holds on to the occupied territories illegally and against international public opinion, the more isolated it will become, just when Israel needs solid support, given the potential anarchy in the Middle East.

      I am not naive and I don’t think that holding hands and singing John Lennon song “Imagine” will turn the Middle East into an oasis of peace nor do I think that the whole mess is Israel’s fault, but, as I said above, rational self-interest dictates that Israel take radical steps towards peace and towards turning public opinion in its favor.

      • Will Grannan-Rubenstein January 2, 2014 at 4:45 pm #

        This point has been argued over and over again by liberal Zionists in Israel, many of whom are so determined to remain optimistic that they all but ignore how irrelevant their position has become in mainstream Israeli politics. To people like Netanyahu and his base, the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea is a Jewish state, Jerusalem is a Jewish city, and any abrogation of the above is an unacceptable transgression against the Jewish the right to self-determination. (The notion of a universal *human* right to self-determination, encompassing Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews in equal measure, plays no role.) By the logic of this position, Zionism has already made more than enough territorial concessions by agreeing to allow the eastern portion of the historical British Mandate of Palestine to become what is now the Kingdom of Jordan.

        The TL;DR of all of this is that a drastic shock from outside is the only thing that will force Israel to give up the West Bank and Gaza, because with the demographic and political trends as is, there’s no way this will happen voluntarily. Only a subset of the Israeli left (e.g. people like Philip Weiss or Larry Derfner) seems to understand this.

      • ed scott January 3, 2014 at 10:51 am #

        “Can I ask another really basic question? Why doesn’t Israel, out of long-term rational self-interest, return the occupied territories including the settlements, offer that Jerusalem become an international city administered by the UN, and grant full civil rights to the Arab Israeli citizens?”

        Because of human nature!
        I’d say Israel should profess the policies above in public debate, yet do nothing till the Palestinians and the world embrace the same notion of self interest.
        This would make Israel unlike other Nations, advocating a policy based on the notion that all groups of people are essentially sensible and well meaning, rather than demonizing each other as enemies, which secures the ruling powers and profits the cronies. That would be ironic, the first Jewish State behaving as the first Christian State. I’m facetious.
        I’d think, if Israel suddenly granted all the concessions suggested above, the likely outcome is the benefactors would pursue more advantage, as people are want to do, assuming their gains a result of existing strategy rather than a gesture of good will towards a new beginning.
        The benefactors and the beneficiaries need to participate and share understanding. It behoves Israel, as the stronger and more prosperous, as the father, to instigate the dialogue.

    • BillR January 2, 2014 at 6:39 pm #

      The Palestinian thinker Edward Said put it this way:

      The standard imperial strategies of “divide and rule” and “partition and quit” have had disastrous consequences in Ireland, Palestine and India.

  5. reader21 January 2, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    Interesting . . .,

    When Brooklyn College President Karen Gould defended your department’s sponsorship of a forum devoted to advocating for an academic boycott of Israel and its scholars, you praised her effusively, stating: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a leader of an educational institution take a more principled and courageous stand than this” and asserted that she had made a “powerful statement in defense of academic freedom”. http://coreyrobin.com/2013/02/04/where-does-mayor-bloomberg-stand-on-academic-freedom/

    President Gould has since joined in the universal condemnation of the ASA boycott resolution by university presidents from across the nation, observing that the resolution “runs contrary to the underlying spirit and principle of academic freedom” and opining that — just as she said regarding the case of your boycott forum — “Efforts to curtail dialogue and academic exchange are wrongheaded and troubling.” http://www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/web/news/bcnews/statement_academic_boycott.php

    In response to the views of President Gould and the leaders of other institutions of higher learniing, you state that university presidents “are not exactly my go-to sources of moral instruction on academic freedom”.

    Professor, I am regretfully led to conclude that your “go to sources” as a political pundit are those persons who happen to agree with you at a given moment, I seriously hope that you don’t follow the same analytic approach in your scholarship.

    Thanks

    • Corey Robin January 2, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

      This isn’t complicated, reader21. President Gould took a courageous stand during the BDS controversy, bucking the tide and pressure that was coming down on her. What was so remarkable, as I noted at the time, was just how rare it was for a university president to do what she did. Hence my “I don’t think I’ve ever seen…” What most university presidents are now doing re the ASA boycott is fully in line with what I expect of them: i.e., caving into pressure from donors, following the party line, etc. Hence I don’t see them as my usual go-to sources. So tell me what I’m missing here.

      • reader21 January 2, 2014 at 2:47 pm #

        Professor, I think you just proved my point.

        When President Gould agreed with you re the permissibility of your department’s sponsorship of a forum advocating the academic boycott Israel/Israelis, she was being principled in your eyes.

        Now (impliedly, but quite clearly) you accuse her of “caving” when the topic is whether to support entering into such a boycott.

        In fact, the positions that she took in both cases were entirely consistent: One need only put the content of her statements re the two topics side by side (as I did above) to confirm as much.

        President Gould has joined what are now about 100 other leaders of institutions of higher learning in reiterating that she favors academic dialog, even when she (or others) may not share the political point of view of a given academic speaker (or the policies of their country of origin).

        President Gould’s statements in both contexts reflect the very same principle — even though that consistent principle has led her to positions that have met with objection by people with quite different ideological views.

        That certainly does not reflect a Stalinesque adherence to any “party line” and accusing her of caving is, well, a bit insulting.

        I generally respect your thinking; here, however, I think your position is missing analytic coherence.

      • Corey Robin January 2, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

        Nothing in the academic boycott precludes dialogue at all. That’s just grandstanding, as anyone who’s read the ASA resolution knows. We’ve been through this issue a bunch of times on this blog; people who claim that dialogue is being shut down are simply wrong on the facts.

        I have no idea what Gould’s motivations were in this particular case, and I certainly didn’t accuse her of caving. I do know that the pressure from alumni on this issue is tremendous. And I do know that university presidents are generally a craven lot. As Bard College president Botstein pointed out in his remarks.

        You’re batting at a straw man here. Like most critics of the ASA.

      • Malcolm Schosha January 2, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

        Corey, you wrote: “Nothing in the academic boycott precludes dialogue at all.”

        Corey, your statement is internally inconstant.

        A boycott is an effort to impose the views of one side on the life of the opposing side. Boycotts are not about dialog. There is absolutely nothing in the various efforts of BDS that is conducive to open dialog. Your own point of view is that you are absolutely right, and the only thing good that those who disagree with you about Israel could do that is good is to reverse their thinking and accept your views in toto.

        boy·cott (boikt)
        tr.v. boy·cott·ed, boy·cott·ing, boy·cotts
        To abstain from or act together in abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with as an expression of protest or disfavor or as a means of coercion. See Synonyms at blackball.

        http://www.thefreedictionary.com/boycott

  6. hophmi January 2, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

    “Nothing in the academic boycott precludes dialogue at all.”

    You’re playing semantic games. I’m currently punching your mom in the face, but there’s no reason we can’t talk.

    “I do know that the pressure from alumni on this issue is tremendous.”

    As usual, BDSers can’t admit that most people think that their position is wrong, morally and pragmatically. No, it’s always the donor pressure. It’s the rich Jews. They’re responsible for all of it. This way, we can save ourselves from actually backing up our claims with, you know, hard evidence that this is actually the reason college Presidents are opposing the radical act the ASA.

    • reader21 January 2, 2014 at 4:25 pm #

      I am batting at what you are pitching, and you don’t have the stuff this time. Thanks

    • Will Grannan-Rubenstein January 2, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

      You mean sort of like: “I am currently funding illegal settlements, economic sanctions, and indiscriminate armed harassment across your territory, but there’s no reason we can’t talk”?

      (No, actually it’s more like: “I am currently funding illegal settlements, economic sanctions, and indiscriminate armed harassment across your territory, but there’s no reason we can’t talk, unless you refuse to affirm the ethnic exclusivity of my civil society.”)

      Is that the sort of semantic game you’re talking about?

      • Malcolm Schosha January 2, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

        @Will Grannan-Rubenstein. The argument against Israeli settlements is, in my view, and argument that Arab land needs to be, and deserves to be, Judenfrei.

      • Will Grannan-Rubenstein January 2, 2014 at 7:32 pm #

        @ Malcolm Schlosha Well bless your heart, how nice of you to share your view. Here on planet Earth, though, the principal arguments against Israeli settlements are that they constitute a deliberate effort to sabotage the geographic viability of a Palestinian state to whose future existence the Israeli government remains at least nominally committed, that they are constructed and in such a way as to maximally disrupt Palestinian residents’ use and access to the lands both in and around the settlements, and that their very existence is a flagrant violation of international laws and norms protecting the residents of territories under military occupation by a foreign power.

        Nice Nazi analogy, though! Such clever! So persuasion! Very logic! Wow!

      • Malcolm Schosha January 3, 2014 at 8:16 am #

        Will Grannan-Rubenstein wrote: “…the principal arguments against Israeli settlements are that they constitute a deliberate effort to sabotage the geographic viability of a Palestinian state…”

        Do you think that Arab villages and towns in Israel compromise the viability of Israel? Because it seems to me that you are arguing that the West Bank needs to be ethnically cleansed of Jews before it can be viable. Jordan is now Judenfre, and every Jew that lived there was either expelled (for example the entire Jewish population of Jerusalem when they captured it) or killed (as happened at Kfar Etzion). Current Jordanian citizenship law excludes Jews from having Jordanian citizenship: “The following shall be deemed to be Jordanian nationals:…..(2)Any person who, not being Jewish, possessed Palestinian nationality before 15 May 1948 and was a regular resident in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan between 20 December 1949 and 16 February 1954″

        This what you, Will, support in the West Bank also; ie a land that is Judenfrei.

      • Will Grannan-Rubenstein January 3, 2014 at 10:41 am #

        Malcolm, if you want to be explicit that Arabs’ and/or BDS supporters’ support for a Palestinian state and rejection of the legitimacy of Israeli settlements within the internationally recognized borders of the proposed State of Palestine (i.e. across the Green Line) is analogous to the genocidal ideology of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, then own this analogy, don’t weasel around it by merely parroting the word “Judenfrei” over and over. I’m not a big believer in the corollary to Godwin’s Law stating that whoever raises a Hitler analogy loses the argument by default, since I despise the black-and-white Manichean assumption that “normal” human beings are not capable of the “special” type of evil invoked by Nazism, but yours is exactly the sort of rhetorical device for which this corollary was invented: an superstructural analogy drawn without the foundation of a serious rational justification, with no apparent purpose but to inflame an otherwise potentially productive rhetorical exchange. Coming from someone like you whose deification of formal logic is so ingrained that an earlier commenter’s desire to help you see beyond the banal fallacy-detection-machine rhetorical style into a cog-sci-based understanding of heuristics struck you as a “trip down the rabbit whole [sic],” such blatant, casual, and substance-free invocation of argumentum ad hominem borders on absurdity.

        So let’s be 100% clear: the BDS movement is predicated not on ethnic or religious exclusivity but on its opposite. The ethnic and religious exclusivity of many political regimes in the Middle East is a serious problem for anybody who hopes to see the spread of equal human rights and democratic pluralism, and one of the points the BDS movement hopes to drive home is that setting aside any Special Relationship™ with The Only Democracy In The Middle East™, the foundation of Israel’s current political order in ethnic and religious exclusivity is part of the problem and not the solution. If by urging Arab autocracies to transition toward democracy (however transparently phony the urging may be in the case of US client states like Egypt, Bahrain, and Yemen) neoconservative-aligned Westerners like you are urging them to become more like Israel, such people are every bit as complicit in the calcification of racism as any outwardly racist Jewish or Arab political leader in the Middle East, simply less honest about it.

      • Malcolm Schosha January 4, 2014 at 8:06 am #

        Will Grannan-Rubenstein wrote: “Coming from someone like you whose deification of formal logic is so ingrained that an earlier commenter’s desire to help you see beyond the banal fallacy-detection-machine rhetorical style into a cog-sci-based understanding of heuristics struck you as a “trip down the rabbit whole [sic],” such blatant, casual, and substance-free invocation of argumentum ad hominem borders on absurdity.”

        There are many things wrong with this stellar example of a postmodernist sentence.

        1. The commentator you refer to was not trying to “help” me but to knock down an argument I made without actually have any counter argument of his own. That is, of course, exactly what you are attempting also.

        2. The ability to detect fallacies in arguments is not a “rhetorical style.” It is one of the greatest gifts to bequeathed to us by the great thinkers of classical Greek philosophy. One of the reasons I participate here on Corey’s blog is because the participants here are (mostly) intelligent and well educated. I always value intelligent challenges and tests to my own thinking. How else am I to find where my arguments are weak or incorrect? I am always ready to adjust or change my thinking where it is shown I am in error, and hope others here are also willing to make such changes. (Hint: an assertion of your beliefs about BDS, or anything else, is not in itself a defence of those beliefs.)

        3. For the most part, my arguments here have focused on informal logic, not formal logic as you assert. Errors in informal logic are, in my view, the most important because they lead frequently to catastrophic human mistakes, and also serve as shields behind which people hid their prejudgments and biases.

        4. My observation is that the majority of postmodernist writing fails as communication, and sometimes is used by the writer to hide they have only vague ideas and no arguments to support what they think.

        http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo/

      • Will Grannan-Rubenstein January 4, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

        Au contraire, an assertion of my beliefs is a perfectly adequate defense against your hollow shell of an argument: that a transparent mischaracterization of these beliefs (apparently the BDS objection to Israeli annexation of territory beyond the Green Line is rooted not in political and economic realities like http://www.icahd.org/maps but in a desire for Islamic/Arab religious/ethnic purity) is equivalent to Nazism. I’d imagine this has something to do with why you have repeatedly refused to step up and own your Nazi analogy, because it would fall apart the second you tried.

        As far as fallacy detection goes, the understanding to which Paul Rosenberg attempted to lead you is that most of what people are trained to consider “logical fallacies” are merely the most extreme misapplications of cognitive heuristics that all of us employ to various degrees or another, and that the border between valid and invalid applications of such heuristics is a situationally/empirically determined point on a spectrum rather than an absolute boundary dictated by the laws of nature. The ultimate insight here, which any philosophical approach that never advances beyond classical liberalism will be utterly unable to comprehend, is that communication, reasoning, and cognition emerged from the social praxis of human evolutionary history and not as the spontaneous immutable expression of divine perfection. No need to get the postmodernists in on this when philosophers like Wittgenstein or Searle and cognitive scientists like Lakoff or Tomasello can do a fine job of demolishing metaphysical innatism on their own terms.

      • Malcolm Schosha January 4, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

        Will Grannan-Rubenstein wrote: “Au contraire, an assertion of my beliefs is a perfectly adequate defense against your hollow shell of an argument…”

        This is pathetic. Your unsupported assertion proves nothing. Sorry if you can’t see that.

        I will save your entire post though, and your other recent posts too, as examples of numerous informal fallacies. Thanks for that. Much appreciated.

      • Will Grannan-Rubenstein January 4, 2014 at 6:30 pm #

        Well if it’s informal fallacies we’re going for, how about association fallacy (leftist BDS activists and anti-Semitic Arab autocrats both oppose Israeli settlements, therefore BDS supporters are anti-Semitic) or strawman fallacy (BDS supporters advocate ethnic cleansing of Jews and ethnic cleansing is wrong)? Both of these are perversions of useful heuristics that could lead to potentially important points in the BDS debate — after all, sites like Mondoweiss do attract a number of commenters whose anti-Semitic chauvinism is an affront to the avowed pluralistic humanism of many Western BDS supporters, which is something the BDS movement would indeed do well to address more forcefully — but taken to an extreme, it produces the kind of tunnel vision that leads you to paint the vile smear of neo-Nazism with a brush broad enough to cover human rights groups like B’Tselem or ICAHD. Reasoning predicated on banal mechanistic fallacy detection isn’t going to stop you from using and occasionally misusing these sorts of heuristics.

      • Malcolm Schosha January 5, 2014 at 8:00 am #

        Will Grannan-Rubenstein wrote: “Well if it’s informal fallacies we’re going for, how about association fallacy (leftist BDS activists and anti-Semitic Arab autocrats both oppose Israeli settlements, therefore BDS supporters are anti-Semitic) or strawman fallacy (BDS supporters advocate ethnic cleansing of Jews and ethnic cleansing is wrong)?”

        Both of your examples seem to be from my same statement that the Palestinians, like the Jordanians, want their territory to be Judenfrei; ie that all the Jewish settlements there must be dismantled and all Jews must leave. That applies even to settlements where there is long historic Jewish presence, such as Hebron where, according to the Wikipedia article: “The Sephardic Jewish community had been in Hebron continuously for approximately 800 years and the Ashkenazi community had roots there that went back at for about one century. Jews living there claim that they are resettling areas where Jews have lived since time immemorial.”

        If you disagree with the Palestinian Authority demand for such ethnic cleansing of Jews, just say so and that will settle the issue for me. But if you agree with the Palestinian Authority that all Jews must leave their territory, then the issue remains unresolved by your own choice.

      • Will Grannan-Rubenstein January 5, 2014 at 11:05 am #

        If you think the BDS objection to West Bank settlements is that “all Jews must leave,” you have a serious reading comprehension problem. The issue is not the presence of Jews but the network of settlements and infrastructure across the West Bank maintained for exclusive use by ethnically/religiously homogenous blocs of Jewish Israeli settlers, whose political allegiance is not to the Palestinian Authority but to the state on the other side of the Green Line, and whose economic connection with this state is enforced by a brutally punitive military occupation of the surrounding regions at the expense of Palestinians’ human rights and a future Palestinian state’s territorial viability. Your lack of comprehension on this point seems to stem from a problem common to many others on the right-wing side of this debate, namely an obliviousness to the constant equivocation between Judaism the ethnic/religious identity and Israel the sovereign political state, which makes it hilariously ironic to see you decrying as inherently bigoted (or even Nazi-like) anybody else’s alleged support for a polity grounded in ethnic/religious supremacism.

        Check out the ICAHD link I posted earlier and you might learn something about why people with no objection to Jewish ethnic/religious identity are objecting so forcefully to the behavior of the State of Israel. Also, I take it you’ve decided it’s perfectly OK to continue describing BDS aspirations using the Nazi-associated term “Judenfrei” without feeling a need to back this association up. Fine by me; it only makes your position look even less defensible than it already is.

      • hophmi January 5, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

        Is THAT it? Just curious, but do you think that the Palestinians in the West Bank just allow Jews to live amongst them? http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/PA-affirms-death-penalty-for-land-sales-to-Israelis

      • Malcolm Schosha January 5, 2014 at 11:21 am #

        Will Grannan-Rubenstein, I asked if you would state clearly that you oppose the ethnic cleansing of Jews from the proposed Palestinian state. You avoided doing that. Do you support the demand of the Palestinian Authority that all Jews must leave their territory, or do you oppose that as an unacceptable demand for ethnic cleansing?

      • s. wallerstein January 5, 2014 at 11:44 am #

        Could someone clarify what Malcolm just claims? Is it true that the Palestine Authority demands that all Jews leave their territory?

        Any just, peaceful agreement between Jews and Palestinians should guarantee that both West Bank Jews (those who have lived there traditionally, not the new settlers) and Arab Israelis have the right to remain in their homes, with full civil rights in both cases,

        By the way, I agree with you, Malcolm, that Brian’s comments were anti-semitic.

      • Will Grannan-Rubenstein January 5, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

        This is the point I’m trying to get across: demanding the expulsion of state-sponsored Israeli settlements from within the territory designated for the future sovereignty of the Palestinian Authority *is not the same thing* as a demanding the expulsion of any and all Jews, just as the fact that the Israeli settlers self-identify as Jewish *is not the same thing* as the fact that they participate in the annexation of an occupied territory by a hostile occupying power. Settlers≠Jews, Israel≠Judaism, and political sovereignty ≠ ethnic homogeneity. Accordingly, until you prove that you can address these distinctions and not ignore them, your conflation between BDS and ethnic cleansing too closely resembles an equivalent conflation between abolitionism and anti-white racism to warrant a considered response.

  7. Malcolm Schosha January 4, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

    Corey, the more I think about it the more puzzling I find your contention that the support for Israel is among an “elite” and the support for BDS is increasingly found in the “grassroots”. According to a 15 March 2013 Gallup poll, among Americans with no college education, ie what most people consider the grassroots, 65% sympathize with Israelis, and 8% sympathise with the Palestinians.

    On the other hand, there may be some shifting away from Israel among the elite, those with postgraduate degrees (such as you), with 61% in that group sympathising with Israelis, and 20% sympathising with Palestinians.

    I remember once watching a debated between Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault, in which Chomsky presented some of his views about the cohesiveness of power structures. Foucault in his reply, very politely but firmly, made it clear that he thought that, as an elite professor in an elite institution, Chomsky was himself part of the power structure that he thought oppressive.

  8. Brian January 5, 2014 at 9:24 am #

    The problem with Israel is that it drags the entire world into its affairs, often in the least likely of places, namely Australia. In 2010, ”pro-Israel” forces were pivotal in the bloodless coup which ousted then PM Kevin Rudd (for the most part a Christian Zionist lackey) and replaced him with the corrupt and comically incompetent Julia Gillard, an event which triggered three years of instability (by Australian standards) that we Aussies were glad to see the back of. The real tragedy is that the Likud Lobby had already paid off the entire Australian political class, so there was never any danger of anyone stepping out of line, while Australia now has an abysmal Right-wing government that is 10 times worse than the previous lot. For this, I am anti-Israel in any shape of form, and I hope it is tormented into eternity.

    • Malcolm Schosha January 5, 2014 at 11:13 am #

      Brian wrote: “In 2010, ”pro-Israel” forces were pivotal in the bloodless coup which ousted then PM Kevin Rudd (for the most part a Christian Zionist lackey) and replaced him with the corrupt and comically incompetent Julia Gillard….”

      Ah yes, the international Jewish conspiracy in action. Every conspiracy theorist who reads Stormfront, or davidduke.com knows that Jews control the world.

      This type of nonsensical claim has become a Jewish joke. For example:

      ………………………………………..

      Rabbi Altmann and his secretary were sitting in a coffeehouse in Berlin in 1935. “Herr Altmann,” said his secretary, “I notice you’re reading Der Stürmer! I can’t understand why. A Nazi libel sheet! Are you some kind of masochist, or, God forbid, a self-hating Jew?”

      “On the contrary, Frau Epstein. When I used to read the Jewish papers, all I learned about were pogroms, riots in Palestine, and assimilation in America. But now that I read Der Stürmer, I see so much more: that the Jews control all the banks, that we dominate in the arts, and that we’re on the verge of taking over the entire world. You know – it makes me feel a whole lot better!”
      ……………………………………….

      If this were my blog, I would delete Brian’s post as unacceptable, but Corey never seems to object to even the worst offences.

      • Brian January 8, 2014 at 9:05 am #

        I may have been a bit histrionic with the “tormented to eternity” part, but can Mr.Schosha or anyone else contradict anything else I wrote in that comment? The interference of the American and Israeli embassies in Australian domestic affairs is a complete debacle—maybe they are ‘The Great Satan’ after all… (PS: Good morning, NSA)

    • BillR January 5, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

      It’s worse than that. Countries like Australia and US have to a large extent moved beyond open racism, but pro-Israel apologists would like nothing better than to see them dragged back to an earlier dark age of open racial supremacism. This is what underlies the ridiculuous “Clash of Civilizations” theory dreamt up by Bernard Lewis in the Fifties and this is why even “progressive” Israeli intellectuals speak approvingly of the “annihiliation of [American] Indians”.

      Israel remains firmly stuck in a 19’th century white supremacist mode of thinking that was discarded in the latter half of the 20’th century by all Liberal Democracies and even places like Rhodesia and South Africa. As Israel’s former ambassador to Australia explained:

      We are in Asia without the characteristics of Asians. We don’t have yellow skin and slanted eyes. Asia is basically the yellow race. Australia and Israel are not—we are basically the white race.

      A statement such as one made recently by the Israeli Interior Minister, ‘this country belongs to the White Man’ are a commonplace in that country whose founding father hoped that it would be a “wall of (European) civilization against Asiatic barbarism”. The choice is whether the rest of the world would also like to descend to that level of permanent race war.

      • Malcolm Schosha January 6, 2014 at 8:16 am #

        @BillR. I looked at the link, which claims to be from an Haaretz interview with Benny Morris. It does not link to the Haaretz article. The only Haaretz interview I can find with Benny Morris he makes no such statements.

        It is frequently the case that pro-Palistenian sources fabricate lies about Israel and Zionists. If you can link to the Haaretz interview where Morris says what you claim he said, I will believe it. Otherwise I will consider it just one more fabricated blood libel of the type that commonly appears in sites such as Counter Punch, Electronic Intifada, or davidduke.com.

        ………………………………..

        NB: It is clearly the case that Corey Robin’s blog has become a favourite with some who very problematic, like BillR. Corey apparently makes no effort to block even the most problematic users who post on his blog. I think that is unacceptable in the blog of a professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center. I suppose a complaint about that to those schools would be justified because what Corey allows here is unbecoming to a university professor. I will think about it.

  9. louisproyect January 6, 2014 at 8:33 am #

    I suppose a complaint about that to those schools would be justified because what Corey allows here is unbecoming to a university professor. I will think about it.

    Schosha hoists himself on his own petard with this absolutely disgusting threat.

  10. Corey Robin January 6, 2014 at 9:41 am #

    Malcolm Schosha writes: “Corey apparently makes no effort to block even the most problematic users who post on his blog.”

    That’s true: I haven’t blocked you, despite giving you fair warning about your behavior on this blog.

    You then write this: “I suppose a complaint about that to those schools would be justified because what Corey allows here is unbecoming to a university professor. I will think about it.”

    You should give it a try; see how far you get. And when you do, you can add this to your litany of complaints: that I blocked you. I don’t take kindly to threats. So you’re no longer welcome here. Bye.

    • BillR January 6, 2014 at 9:53 am #

      What is most unfortunate about pilpul–and this is something that will be familiar to anyone who has followed the controversies involving Israel and Palestine–is that, since the rational has been removed from the process, all that is left is yelling, irrational emotionalism, and, ultimately, the threat of violence.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-shasha/what-is-pilpul-and-why-on_b_507522.html

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