Middle East studies in the News
Student Intimidation Here and Now
by Victor Luria
The New York Times recently reported that there is little evidence of student intimidation at Columbia. Really?
On Sept. 27, 2004, I wrote a letter to faculty member Hamid Dabashi protesting his article in Al-Ahram (an extremist Egyptian governmental publication) that he signed as a member of the Columbia faculty.
Dabashi de-legitimizes Israel, never calling it by name and instead, only referring to Palestine. It is constantly described as an occupied country (the Ben-Gurion airport is a "checkpoint" or a "garrison" where travelers are "inmates"). Dabashi describes Israelis in truly frightening terms, saying that "a subsumed militarism, a systemic mendacity with an ingrained violence constitutional to the very fusion of its fabric, has penetrated the deepest corners of what these people have to call their ‘soul.'"
The presence of soldiers is emphasized, although he makes no mention of the fact that soldiers are on the streets to prevent Palestinian terror attacks. Israeli soldiers, when not described as "teenage ninjas with German shepherds," loot a bank (Dabashi fiction). In one egregious paragraph, he describes a "white" Israeli officer and two "black" Israeli soldiers. The "white" is described as a "mighty cobra", while the two "black" soldiers and himself are "pigeons." These analogies are shocking and dehumanizing, and so are Dabashi's racial categories. His accusation that the Israeli soldiers are racist is false. I served in the Israeli army under the command of a black officer. These categories are a product of Dabashi's mind—in Israel, we never refer to people as whites and blacks.
The general accusations in Dabashi's article are pure, unadulterated anti-Semitism, which is what I wrote to Hamid Dabashi and, in a separate letter, to the Columbia administration. As an Israeli citizen, I support the right of Palestinians to have an independent state. Dabashi clearly denies--—and he is not even Palestinian—my right to have a country.
The day after I wrote the letter, Hamid Dabashi asked Columbia Provost Brinkley, Vice President Nicholas Dirks, and other university offices to view my case as a violent act. Because I had served in the Israeli army, he alleged physical threat, indicating the need for academic retribution due to "conduct unbecoming of a student of Columbia University." Moreover, he mentioned he would complain to the Columbia security-- and possibly even to the New York police!
If this is not student intimidation by a faculty member, I don't know what is.
I am aware that Columbia does not support such attitudes and opposes intolerance. I am also painfully aware that Jews and Israelis are the target of a persistent hate-speech campaign perpetrated over the years by several faculty members. Edward Said organized a Middle East politics "debate" at Columbia together with MIT's Noam Chomsky—both have consistently opposed Israel's right to exist. Joseph Massad's course on Israeli-Palestinian politics equates Zionism with Nazism and covers the writings of Azmi Bishara, a known supporter of Palestinian suicide bombing. Nicholas De Genova, of "million-Mogadishus" fame, supports Hamas, an organization which carries suicide bombings against Jews.
I am pleased to have the chance of performing doctoral research at Columbia, one of the best scientific places in the world. But I wouldn't mind missing the anti-Jewish hostility. Professors such as Hamid Dabashi or Joseph Massad routinely complain about freedom of speech issues. How about my freedom of speech? How come once I confront publicly-voiced extremism, I, a student, am threatened with academic retaliation and fantastic security complaints by a faculty member? Since when did the meaning of free speech become being told to shut up or even threatened?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.
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