Middle East studies in the News
Anti-Israel Marxist Jews at Tel Aviv University
by Steven Plaut
Western universities are not the only centers of tenured academic extremism. In Israel the most notorious den of Marxist faculty members and radical tenured leftists is Tel Aviv University. Curiously, the radicals there spend a lot of their time and energies bashing one another for not being radical enough.
The leading combatant now attacking other tenured radicals is Yoav Peled , a professor of political science at Tel Aviv University, an unreformed Stalinist . His sidekick is Horit Herman Peled, evidently his wife, and in any case someone who teaches art at Oranim College, where her specialty is to design art exhibits and poems that "prove" Israel is a colonialist entity guilty of ethnic cleansing.
Peled is fairly well known  for his political extremism. When his own niece was murdered on an Israeli bus by a Palestinian suicide bomber, Peled and his sister, the victim's mother  Nurit Peled Elhanan  (who is a professor at the Hebrew University ), invited a spokesman from the PLO to speak at the funeral  and to denounce Israel for being responsible for the death of the girl.
The Peleds have an article in the January/February 2011  issue of NLR entitled, "Post-post-Zionism: Confronting the Death of the Two-State Solution." The article is saturated with Marxist rhetoric and impenetrable polysyllables that force the reader to respond to every second sentence with a moan of "Huh?"
It is said that to someone holding a hammer everything looks like a nail. To the Peleds everyone who disagrees with them is a tool of the ruling class. Thus all Israeli "intellectuals" who don't go along with their views are an elitist Ashkenazi middle class gang who adopt the "state discourse." The best example they provide is Benny Morris, the one-time anti-Zionist "New Historian" who has since had second thoughts. It is the job of true progressives to denounce such wishy-washy puppets of the Zionist/imperialist ruling class.
The Peleds begin, however, with vicious denunciations against two leftwingers (also husband and wife) Adi Ophir and Ariella Azoulay . Ophir  is a colleague of Peled's at Tel Aviv University and Azoulay is between jobs  after getting fired by Bar Ilan University . She was canned because virtually her entire academic record consisted of tendentious photo albums designed to make Israel appear to be a criminal entity.
Ophir and spouse recently published an anti-Israel book , but it is evidently not anti-Israel enough for the Peleds. This is because Ophir and Azoulay, while denouncing Israeli "colonialism," acknowledge that within its 1967 Green Line borders Israel is democratic. Here the Peleds sum up their problem with the book: "Azoulay and Ophir do not argue that a false consciousness of exclusion is covering up the reality of inclusion; rather, they are practicing 'inclusive exclusion' in their own analysis by depicting the Israeli system as a 'dual regime' that includes and does not include the occupied territories at the same time." Huh?
What really seems to have raised the Peleds' ire is that Ophir and Azoulay only demonize Israel for its "occupation" of the West Bank, whereas the Peleds want to demonize all of Israel for the sin of existing. The Peleds conclude that Ophir and Azoulay are actually secret agents of the Zionist enemy: "Azoulay and Ophir will go to almost any lengths to insulate Zionism itself from the occupation and to avoid thinking of it as a colonial project."
As proof, the Peleds offer the opinions of a handful of Israeli ultra-haters of Israel even more extreme than Ophir and Azoulay, including UCLA's Gabriel Piterberg, San Diego's Gershon Shafir, Ben Gurion University's Oren Yiftachel, and the late Baruch Kimmerling. Write the Peleds: "We believe that the colonial nature of the Zionist enterprise has been persuasively demonstrated in the scholarly literature and needs to be faced without subterfuge." This is a bit like citing David Irving and Ahmedinejad as the "scholarly literature" that proves the Holocaust is a hoax.
The second target of the Peleds is Boaz Newmann , a sometime-communist lecturer in history at Tel Aviv University. Newmann specializes in the history of Weimar Germany, writes novels and, like Ophir-Azoulay, churns out anti-Israel opinion. But once again this is not enough for the Peleds. For Newmann has had some unforgivably positive things  lately to say about Zionism. Newmann's worst sin is to have positive feelings of nostalgia for the old-time Zionist pioneers who came to the land decades before Israel achieved independence with dreams of socialism blurring their vision. "Trained in the post-Zionist discourse, Neumann aims to transcend it by portraying the 'pioneers' as rugged individualists motivated by an almost primal desire for the land, innocent of all ideology or colonialist design. He tries to achieve this through a patchwork of concealment and disclosure, which could serve as a Borgesian map covering the real landscape and history of the Land of Israel in the modern era." Huh?
The Peleds conclude: "While Neumann does not absolve Zionism and Israel of the injustices they committed against the Palestinians, the political message conveyed by his book, regarding the entire territory under Israel's effective rule, is: 'between justice and my mother, I choose to defend my mother.'"
The final target is Prof. Yehouda Shenhav , a Marxist sociologist  and until recently the editor of Israel's tiny Marxist journal, Theory and Criticism. Among its notable articles was one claiming that the University of Haifa's tower was designed as a giant phallus to symbolize the oppression of Arabs.
Shenhav is the inventor of the "Arab Jew" or the "Arab of the Mosaic faith," his term for Sephardic or Mizarchi Jews  whom Shenhav insists are actually oppressed Arabs, colonialized by the Western Ashkenazi Jews. The number of Sephardic Jews who share Shenhav's outlook might fill a mini-bus. Shenhav would like to replace Israel with a "bi-national" state dominated by an Arab majority, a sort of Rwanda solution to the Jewish problem. Shenhav's latest book  is "The Time of the Green Line," which argues that Israel should not exist as a Jewish state.
So what exactly are Shenhav's failures and shortfalls in the minds of the Peleds? Shenhav still thinks it might be okay for Jews, especially Sephardic Jews, to enjoy some "space" and cultural existence in the new post-Jewish bi-national state with the Arab majority he wants created, something like the Amish enjoy in rural Pennsylvania. Shenhav wants the new entity to be a "consociational democracy." Huh?
The Peleds will have none of this: "It is curious that Shenhav, whose starting point was that the most significant line of demarcation was not the one between Jews and Palestinians, and who argued that the liberal Ashkenazi elite scorned Mizrahi Jews, Palestinians and settlers alike, would recommend an arrangement based on the ethno-religious divide between Jews and Palestinians, which would entrench the Jewish and Palestinian elites in positions of power and privilege…. What concerns Shenhav, then, is not the oppression of the Mizrahim, the Palestinians and the settlers under the yoke of the liberal Ashkenazi elite, but rather the safeguarding of the rights of Jews as an ethno-religious group that is bound to become a minority."
It is sometimes said that the worst enemy of the good is the better. This saying has analogues in the world of extremist politics. The worst enemy of radical Marxist pseudo-academics seems to be even more radical Marxist pseudo-academics.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
Campus Watch contact e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org