Jewish Studies Professors “Stand With” Muslim Violence and Against Free Speech

Source: Hudson New York, 5-3-11

It appears that contagion of politicizing Middle East Studies programs currently raging in our universities has metastasized to Jewish studies as well. Campus Watch editors report that in March 2011, an open letter was signed by 30 University of California Jewish Studies faculty members attempting to rationalize the disruption by Muslim students of a lecture by Michael Oren, Israeli’s Ambassador to the United States, at the University of California Irvine campus a month earlier.

Posted as “Stand With The Eleven” (the 11 being the offending members of the radical Muslim Student Union charged with a misdemeanor conspiracy to disturb a meeting), the letter states:

“As faculty affiliated with Jewish Studies at the University of California, we are deeply distressed by the decision of the District Attorney in Orange County, California, to file criminal charges against Muslim students who disrupted Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech on the UC Irvine campus last year. While we disagree with the students’ decision to disrupt the speech, we do not believe such peaceful protest should give rise to criminal liability. The individual students and the Muslim Student Union were disciplined for this conduct by the University, including suspending the MSU from functioning as a student organization for a quarter. This is sufficient punishment. There is no need for further punitive measures, let alone criminal prosecution and criminal sanctions.”

You might assume that in the interests of a free and open campus, a college administration and faculty would recognize the implicit danger to the academic enterprise when force is employed to prevent a speaker from delivering his lecture. Despite the claim in the letter, the protest was not peaceful, and the penalties imposed are mild by any standard. But what is particularly notable, based on the research of Campus Watch editors, is that the signatories to the letter all share antipathy to the state of Israel. One is an apologist for Hamas; another supports an Israeli divestment bill; a third refers to Israel as “an apartheid regime;” and a forth claims the Israel lobby “has the power to silence its critics.”

Moreover, these same professors have averted their gaze to the rising tide of anti-semitism on campus. Jewish students reportedly have been subjected to swastikas, anti-semitic graffiti and physical and verbal aggression. Yet the response on campus has been restrained (arguably, non-existent).

Kenneth Marcus, head of the Anti-Semitism Initiative at the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, wrote that the examples cited have “become sadly emblematic of a wave of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incidents that have rippled across the county, nowhere more so than in the ‘Golden State,’ which has become an epicenter for the new Anti-Semitism in America.”

It is surprising that the professors in Jewish Studies are more concerned with the status of Muslim students than the attacks against Jews.

On second thought, this may not be surprising. In this instance, the radical sensibility trumps religious affiliation. By invoking attitudes toward Muslim students in their letter, these Jewish Studies professors, by implication, are addressing values detrimental to the academic environment. Yet curiously, anti-Semitic hatred and violence do not get their attention.

One of the signatories, UC Davis professor David Biale, criticized a Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights’ statement protecting Jewish students from ethnic or racial based harassment. He said, this is “a very bizarre tactic,” because, as he noted, “the Jews are a group with power.” Apparently Professor Biale has overlooked the growing influence of Muslims in the U.S. and elsewhere, or the oil card played by Muslim-dominated states, or the 57 Muslim nations in the UN that vote as a bloc, or even equal justice under law.

Of course, none of this makes any difference to those driven by an ideological aversion to Jews and Israel. Jewish self hatred is not new, but it is no less nauseating in its present form.

Cinnamon Stillwell, Judith Greblya: USA: Anti-Israel Jewish Studies

Cinnamon Stillwell, Judith Greblya: USA: Anti-Israel Jewish Studies

Source: Arutz Sheva, 4-26-11

The field of Middle East studies is notorious for producing apologias for radical Islam, particularly where anti-Israel and, at times, anti-Semitic sentiment is concerned.

These same tendencies are also increasingly common in an unexpected sector of university life: Jewish studies. An open letter dated March 3, 2011, and signed by 30 University of California Jewish studies faculty members, is a case in point.

The letter to the Orange County District Attorney concerns the orchestrated disruption of a lecture by Michael Oren, Israeli ambassador to the United States, at the University of California, Irvine on February 8, 2010.  The D.A.recently charged the 11 offending students—all members of the radical Muslim Student Union, a branch of the Muslim Student Association—with one count each of misdemeanor conspiracy to disturb a meeting and misdemeanor disturbance of a meeting.

Posted at the “Stand with the Eleven” website, along with a similar statement by 100 UC Irvine faculty members, the letter states:

As faculty affiliated with Jewish Studies at the University of California, we are deeply distressed by the decision of the District Attorney in Orange County, California, to file criminal charges against Muslim students who disrupted Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech on the UC Irvine campus last year. While we disagree with the students’ decision to disrupt the speech, we do not believe such peaceful protest should give rise to criminal liability. The individual students and the Muslim Student Union were disciplined for this conduct by the University, including suspending the MSU from functioning as a student organization for a quarter. This is sufficient punishment. There is no need for further punitive measures, let alone criminal prosecution and criminal sanctions.

While it might seem counter-intuitive for Jewish studies academics to support such an endeavor, a closer look demonstrates that many of the signatories are harsh critics of Israel. For example:

·       –Mark LeVine, a Middle East studies professor who is affiliated with Jewish studies at UC Irvine, is an apologist for Hamas and blames Israel solely for the ongoing violence. In a June 2005Al-Jazeera op-ed, LeVine described the Turkish terrorist supporters who were killed on the Gaza Flotilla ships as “martyrs,” “heroes,” and “warriors every bit as deserving of our tears and support as the soldiers of American wars past and present.” In a 2010 History News Network op-ed, LeVine described the MSU’s disruption of Oren’s speech as a “teachable moment.”

·       –Daniel Boyarin, Hermann P. and Sophia Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture in the departments of Near Eastern studies and rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley, signed a statement from University of California faculty members urging the UC Berkeley student senate to vote “yes” on an Israel divestment bill. In a June 2006 article at the Arabic News website titled, “U.S. Professor on How Zionism and Apartheid Are Alike,” Boyarin labeled Israel an apartheid state wherein the “destruction of human rights and democracy is at least as severe as that of the South Africans.”

·        –David Theo Goldberg, a professor of comparative literature who is affiliated with Jewish studies at UC Irvine, signed a 2009 open letter to President Obama describing Israel as “an apartheid regime” that is committing “one of the most massive, ethnocidal atrocities of modern times.” In a 2009 article, Goldberg compared Gaza to a “concentration camp” and “the Warsaw Ghetto at the time of its encirclement” and argued that the Jewish state should be replaced with a bi-national state. In 2002, he signed a petition calling on the University of California to divest from Israel.

·        –Emily Gottreich, vice chair for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES)atUC Berkeley and a specialist in Moroccan Jewish history and Muslim-Jewish relations, labeled a Berkeley Jewish Journal article questioning Saudi funding for CMES, “the most extreme form of right-wing Zionism.”

·        –David N. Myers, professor and chair of history and former director of the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, employed all the usual clichés—“cycle of violence,” “disproportionately harsh”—to single Israel out as “the most responsible party” for the “escalating violence” in a July 2006 Los Angeles Times op-ed. In a piece titled, “Rethinking the Jewish Nation” in the Winter 2011 edition of the Havruta Journal, Myers argued that “Statist Zionism,” or a Jewish state, should give way to a “global Jewish collective.”

·        –David Biale, Emanuel Ringelblum Professor of Jewish History at the University of California, Davis—and co-author of the “Irvine 11” letter, according to an email sent to Jewish studies faculty by Diane Wolf, chair of Jewish studies at UC Davis—writing in the October 2008 edition of the online journal Perush, referred to “the very real power that Jews and their allies . . .  exercise, especially in the Congress, around Israel” and claimed that the so-called Israel lobby “has the power to silence its critics.” In the same piece, Biale criticized Ruth Wisse’s 2007 book, Jews and Power, for being “an unabashed neo-conservative brief for Zionism and the State of Israel.”

Although Jewish studies academics should not be expected to provide unquestioning support for Israel, the extremism exhibited by these signatories—culminating in the demonization and delegitimizing of the Jewish state—is startling.

What’s worse, they turn a blind eye to campus anti-Semitism. None of the UC Irvine signatories who expressed support for the Muslim students disrupting Oren’s talk thought to do the same for Jewish students suffering from harassment and violence on their own campus. Their names are conspicuously absent from a May 10, 2010, open letter expressing concern—on behalf of UC Irvine faculty—over “activities on campus that foment hatred against Jews and Israelis.”

Moreover, none of the signatories signed a similar letter in June, 2010, to Mark Yudof, president of the University of California, highlighting the rise of anti-Semitism throughout the UC system. Penned by pro-Israel organizations and supported by an online petition signed by over 700 students, the letter states:

Bigotry against Jewish students has occurred over many years and on many University of California campuses. Over the last several years, Jewish students have been subjected to: swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti; acts of physical and verbal aggression; speakers, films and exhibits that use anti-Semitic imagery and discourse; speakers that praise and encourage support for terrorist organizations that openly advocate murder against Israel and the Jewish people; the organized disruption of events sponsored by Jewish student groups; and most recently, the promotion of student senate resolutions for divestment that seek to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish State.

Two ongoing investigations into anti-Semitism on UC campuses provide further evidence of this disturbing trend. Jewish student Jessica Felber is suingUC Berkeley for failing to provide a safe atmosphereafter being assaulted by Husam Zakaria, a Berkeley student leader of Students for Justice in Palestine. The assault took place during a campus rally in which Felber, paradoxically, was carrying a sign that read, “Israel Wants Peace.”

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is investigatinga June 2009 complaint filed by Hebrew lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin detailing the poisonous atmosphere at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The complaint alleges “a long-standing and pervasive pattern of discrimination against Jewish students . . . emanating from faculty and administrators at UCSC.”

Summing up the problem, Kenneth Marcus—former OCR chief and now head of the Anti-Semitism Initiative at the Institute for Jewish and Community Research—in his March 28, 2011, article, “Fighting Back Against Campus Anti-Semitism,” writes that such examples have become sadly emblematic of a wave of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incidents that have rippled across the country, nowhere more so than in the ‘Golden State,’ which has become an epicenter for the New Anti-Semitism in America.

Yet the Jewish studies signatories to the “Irvine 11” letter are more concerned about Muslim students facing the consequences of their actions—something they decry as“detrimental to the values exemplified by the academic and intellectual environment on our university campuses”—than about the rising tide of anti-Semitic hatred and violence in their own backyard.

Unbelievably, one of the signatoriesactually opposes efforts to combat the crisis. When the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights reinstated protection for Jewish students from ethnic- or race-based harassment in October 2010, UC Davis professor David Biale criticized the decision, calling it “a very bizarre tactic” because, as he put it, “the Jews are a group with power.”

This obstructionism may stem from the fact that the majority of the anti-Semitic incidents and sentiment on California campuses and beyond originate with Muslim student groups. Indeed, UC Irvine’s MSU is widely recognized as one of the worst offenders in this regard, to the point where even the Anti-Defamation League, which has been reticent to recognize Islamic anti-Semitism, has seen fit to single them out.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned Jewish studies academics remain oblivious or unconcerned and, as a consequence, complicit. Oren—himself an accomplished scholar of the Middle East—is deemed less important than what is, in effect, a gang of thugs.

Perhaps such behaviorshould be expected from those who sign petitions to divest from Israel, call Israel an apartheid state, compare Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto, devote conferences and research to undermining Zionism, and falsely accuse Israel of ethnic cleansing.

David Biale: Teaching prize awarded to historian of Jewish culture

Source: UC Davis News, 3-8-11

Photo: David Biale portrait next to Roman sculpture posterTeaching prize winner David Biale says: “In history, we take our students on time travel to faraway times and lands, and that is an exciting opportunity for young minds and their intellectual development and imaginations.” (Karin Higgins/UC Davis photo)

UC Davis historian David Biale, a leading expert on Jewish intellectual and cultural history, is the winner of the 2011 UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement.

Established in 1986, the $40,000 prize is believed to be the largest of its kind in the country; it is funded through philanthropic gifts managed by the UC Davis Foundation.

On March 8, UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi interrupted Biale’s History of Modern Israel undergraduate class to announce that he had been selected as the 24th recipient of the honor.

“It is a privilege to award the 2011 UC Davis Teaching Prize to a scholar and educator of David’s caliber,” said Katehi. “His students describe him as engaging and inspiring, and his colleagues describe him as a brilliant scholar and source of pride for his department. The UC Davis prize recognizes, in particular, David’s ability to help his students create the intellectual tools to be successful thinkers in a global community.”

Biale, the holder of the Emanuel Ringelbaum Chair in Jewish History, has been a prolific and dynamic thinker and leader since arriving on campus in 1999.

He founded the Jewish studies program and is now the chair of the history department. The author and editor of 10 books and 74 articles over his 33-year career, he is a three-time winner of the National Jewish Book Award and has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biale will receive the 2011 UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement on Thursday, May 12, at a gala dinner in his honor at the Conference Center Ballroom.

“I am deeply grateful to the donors at the UC Davis Foundation who established this prize and to all of my students and colleagues for making this possible,” said Biale. “Teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels provides its own rewards when working with young minds. I’m humbled and incredibly honored by this award.”

Biale said he looks forward to using the award money to strengthen student opportunities in the history department, particularly in the areas of graduate education and the Jewish studies program.

‘Pivotal’ professor

According to Ron Mangun, dean of the Division of Social Sciences, Biale embodies the attributes of the ideal scholar-teacher envisioned by the donors who created this award. Biale has also twice won the Associated Students of UC Davis Award for Excellence in Teaching.

“Professor Biale’s leadership has been pivotal in creating the highly esteemed program in Jewish studies, a favorite of students and faculty alike,” Mangun wrote in a letter nominating Biale for the prize.

Jamie Forrest, a third-year student double majoring in history and political science, said that Biale teaches history as a “discipline concerned with the human experience rather than as a list of dates and events. He has allowed me to form an emotional and intellectual connection to the historical material he covers in class.”

Alan Taylor, history professor and recipient of the 2002 UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement, described Biale as both a demanding and thought-provoking instructor.

“Even in the largest classes,” Taylor said, “David invites students to explore the most profound questions about human nature and the interplay of despair and hope, of violence and peace, and of oppression and resistance. He expects much from his students, but they rise to his challenge because they recognize the great insight, care and energy that David invests in helping them.”

Biale describes his teaching approach as “old-fashioned” and participatory. His love for Jewish history, traditions and culture comes from the heart, he says.

“I mostly lecture without notes,” he said, “and even in large classes of more than 200 students I try to get them involved. For me, my personal experience with the subject is the greatest help.”

In the past two years, Biale has taught courses on the history of the Holocaust, the memory of the Holocaust, comparative genocide, secular Jewish thinkers and the history of the end of the world.

“Students are very excited by ideas and books. In history, we take our students on time travel to faraway times and lands, and that is an exciting opportunity for young minds and their intellectual development and imaginations,” he said.

Biale earned both his undergraduate and master’s degrees in history at UC Berkeley, and his doctorate at UCLA.

As a young student, Biale was greatly influenced by Jewish thinkers like Baruch Spinoza, a 17th century rationalist who laid the groundwork for the Enlightenment; Gershom Scholem, the preeminent modern scholar of Jewish mysticism; and Jacob Katz; a leading historian of the Jewish people.

The most formative influence was Amos Funkenstein, a Jewish historian under whom Biale wrote his doctoral dissertation.

“He was truly a Renaissance man in terms of intellectual range,” Biale said of Funkenstein. “He was probably the only genius I’ve ever met.”

Biale, who describes himself as a secular Jew, wrote his dissertation on Scholem. He is the author of “Not in the Heavens: The Tradition of Jewish Secular Thought” (Princeton University Press, 2010); “Blood and Belief: The Circulation of a Symbol between Jews and Christians” (University of California Press, 2008); and “Cultures of the Jews” (Schocken, 2006)….READ MORE