Campus Watch Research
Hamas's Academic Apologists
by Cinnamon Stillwell
Reaction by Middle East studies professors to Israel's recent effort to destroy Hamas's terrorist infrastructure epitomizes their perennial pro-Hamas, anti-Israel, and anti-American biases. In lieu of reasoned, informed, and balanced assessments, they proffer extremist rhetoric that demonizes Israel and America while ignoring Hamas's misdeeds: rockets aimed at Israeli civilians, kidnappings and murder, disregard for ceasefires, and the cynical use of Palestinian civilians--including children--as human shields.
Two groups--Middle East Scholars and Librarians and Historians Against the War--signed letters advocating a boycott of Israeli academic institutions and accusing Israel of war crimes that demand the end to U.S. military aid, respectively.
Many, however, took their pro-Hamas, anti-Israel antipathies far beyond petitioning to spew forth hyperbolic and mendacious rhetoric that reveals far more about the fevered imaginations of the professoriate than about their intended target.
Ignoring that Hamas started the war, Juan Cole, a history professor at the University of Michigan, declared that, "Israel's only real strategy is causing war, not ending war." Despite the fact that no Israeli politician has advocated genocide and that none has been committed, Cole alleged that, "Israeli nationalists have been arguing for war crimes at an alarming rate. . . . Too many Israelis have justifications in their minds for genocide."
Similarly, Rashid Khalidi, who teaches modern Arab Studies at the Columbia University, maintained that, "By parroting deceitful Israeli talking points about 'self-defense' and 'human shields,' they--US and its allies--make themselves complicit in what may well amount to war crimes."
Meanwhile, As'ad AbuKhalil, a political scientist at California State University, Stanislaus, argued that, "With every war, with every massacre, and with every 'assault,' Israel (the government and its people) genuinely thinks that this war crime would do the job and finish off the flame of Palestinian nationalism once and for all." "The US media and government are willing to justify any Israeli war crime no matter the scale," he added.
Stanford University history professor Joel Beinin vilified Israeli society while portraying Palestinians as passive victims: "The public devaluation of Arab life enables a society that sees itself as 'enlightened' and 'democratic' to repeatedly send its army to slaughter the largely defenseless population of the Gaza Strip."
Joseph Massad, professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University, imagined in characteristically lurid detail, "The carnage that Israeli Jewish soldiers and international Zionist Jewish brigades of baby-killers are committing in Gaza (and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, let alone against Palestinian citizens of Israel)."
Employing a grossly ahistorical comparison to the Holocaust, Hamid Dabashi, who teaches Iranian studies and comparative literature at Columbia University, likened Israelis to Nazis and Gaza to Auschwitz:
Nadia Abu El-Haj, an anthropology professor at Barnard College–Columbia University, exploited another overwrought and mendacious analogy: "The IDF's tactics recall the logic of the British and American fire-bombing of German and Japanese cities during the Second World War: target the civilian population. Make them pay an unbearable price. Then they will turn against their own regime."
Peddling a disproven conspiracy theory involving the three Israeli teenagers whose kidnapping and murder preceded the war, Noura Erekat, a human rights law professor at George Mason University , claimed that "Israel knew that these boys had been murdered very early on," but that it nonetheless, "continued to fan racist and war-mongering flames." Erekat also disregarded the vulnerability of Israeli civilians: "Hamas cannot hurt Israel at all militarily. . . . Israeli citizens enjoy relative security. In contrast, Palestinians are enduring an all-out massacre."
Abdullah Al-Arian, a history professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Qatar, claimed preposterously that, "Hamas has not chosen the option of a military or violent confrontation with Israel." Yet Al-Arian hypocritically praised the terrorist group's assault on Israeli civilians as "exceeding all expectations." Rounding out this trifecta, he later compared Israel to the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS).
Ratcheting up the absurdity, Hatem Bazian, a lecturer in Near Eastern studies and director of the Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project at the University of California, Berkeley, equated Israeli policy with slavery and accused Israel of being behind Latin American death squads: "We need to make a link between what is taking place today in Palestine and the whole transnational, anti-colonial, anti-slavery, and anti-oppression struggle. . . . You need to understand the link of Israel to what's taking place in Latin America. . . . Israel was helping the death squads and training them."
Such cheerleading for Palestinian terrorism and willful disregard of historical facts discredits the individuals who advance it and the academic culture of Middle East studies that rewards it. It is politicized rather than objective, propagandistic rather than principled. American interests at home and abroad are ill-served by these apologists for terrorists.
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