Alan M. Dershowitz: Civil Libertarians and Academics Who Support Censors

Source: Hudson New York, 5-13-11

Should students who conspire to “shut down” an invited speaker with whom they disagree be prosecuted for the misdemeanor of conspiracy to disturb a meeting? That is the question roiling the University of California. The facts are not really in dispute. Israel’s Ambassador to the United States—a moderate academic named Michael Oren—was invited to present a talk at the University of California at Irvine, a hotbed of radical Islamic hate speech against Israel. The Muslim Student Union organized an effort, in the words of one of its leaders, to “shut down” Oren’s speech—that is to prevent Oren from expressing his views and to stop the audience who came to hear him from listening to them. Here is the way the Dean of the law school, who opposes any criminal prosecution, described what happened.

“The Muslim Student Union orchestrated a concerted effort to disrupt the speech. One student after another stood and shouted so that the ambassador could not be heard. Each student was taken away only to be replaced by another doing the same thing.”

The dean’s description is something of an understatement —as anyone can see by watching a video of the event, available online. This was more than a “concerted effort to disrupt the speech. It was a concerted effort to stop it completely—to “shut [it] down.”

Ultimately, that effort failed and Oren managed to deliver his speech, after many long and sustained disruptions, but if the Muslim Student Union had gotten its way, Oren would have been shut down completely. The University, which is a state institution, had a constitutional obligation to protect the First Amendment rights of Oren’s audience to hear what he had to say, and the state prosecutor has a legal obligation to deter future conspiracies to censor controversial speakers, by criminally prosecuting those students who conspired to deny other students their First Amendment rights.

While dissenting students have the right to express disapproval of a speaker’s views by episodic booing, heckling or holding signs, they have no right to conspire to shut down a speaker, which is what the Muslim Student Union students did in this case. One would think that this distinction should be clear to all civil libertarians, academics and others who claim to care about freedom of speech on campus.

It is shocking therefore to see who has lined up behind the students who set out to censor Ambassador Oren. Two prominent leaders of the American Civil Liberties have joined with radical Muslims and other extremists in an effort to pressure the local District Attorney to drop misdemeanor charges against 11 student censors….READ MORE

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.

Michael Oren: Appointed to US envoy role from Israel

Source: Jerusalem Post, 5-2-09

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are appointing Michael Oren as Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Israel Radio reported Saturday evening. Oren, author of Six Days of War, is admired by Netanyahu’s staff for his expertise on the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He has also published numerous articles on Israeli foreign policy. Currently a professor in the Jewish civilization program at Georgetown University, and a Senior Fellow in the Shalem Center – a Jerusalem think tank, Oren has frequently served as an IDF spokesman dealing with the foreign media during recent military campaigns…. –