Middle East studies in the News
Network of Expatriate Treachery [incl. Gabriel Piterburg, Ella Shahat]
by Steven Plaut
It seems that Israel-bashers and anti-Semites of the Left and of the Right never tire of the delight in discovering and recruiting yet another Jew willing to serve as spokesperson for their political agendas. They are invariably convinced that if they can point to any Jew who mouths their mantras about Israeli "apartheid" and Zionist "racism", never mind that Israel is the only Middle East country that is NOT an apartheid regime, then surely what they are saying MUST be true. And if those Jews also happen to be ex-Israelis, people who grew up in Israel and claim to know all about it, what chance can there be for anyone to debunk the lies and hate being marketed?
In recent years the world has seen the growth of networks of ex-Israeli Jewish leftists, disgruntled people living outside of Israel and devoting their energies to delegitimizing and undermining the very existence of the Jewish state. The other Israel-phobes delight in them. Each new one to come along is greeted with serendipitous ecstasy, proclaimed a courageous hero of moral outrage, defying Zionist "oppression." These ex-Israelis serve as a SWAT team for anti-Semites of all stripes, and as apologists for Arab terror and Islamofascism. A favorite tactic is to place these people on the podium to create "balanced" speaker panels, consisting of both Arabs and Israelis, all of whom inevitably reach the conclusion that the Arab "version" of history is completely correct and that the only reasonable "compromise" is for Israel to capitulate to all Arab demands. After all, both Arabs and Israelis are telling the audience the same things!
Small activist groups of expatriate Israeli leftists now operate in the United States, Britain, Canada, and elsewhere, devoting themselves to the war against Israel's survival. These are by and large people who despise their previous homeland and who serve as toadies for anti-Zionism and Arab aggression. Many of these disgruntled expatriates unapologetically call for Israel to be destroyed. Some of them justify and cheer anti-Jewish terrorism in all its forms. They generally promote boycotts against their former homeland, and sometimes initiate attempts to prosecute Israeli leaders and army officers in courts outside Israel.
One particularly noisy segment of this phenomenon is its academic wing, consisting of expatriate Israelis with PhDs, holding teaching jobs at academic institutions outside Israel. These "academics" are generally less crude than some of the non-academic Israeli expatriate haters of Israel, people such as Gilad Atzmon (a saxophone player in Britain who stars at all the Trotskyite events there), who has called for the burning down of synagogues, or Shraga Elam, a Swiss ex-Israeli best known for writing sycophantic letters of admiration to Holocaust Denier David Irving, or Dror Feiler, a Swedish ex-Israel best known for creating "art" celebrating a Palestinian terrorist mass murderer, or the Russian-born ex-Israel who calls himself "Israel Shamir", a deranged Holocaust denier and darling of European Neo-Nazi groups. "Shamir", a regular on Counterpunch, is so openly pro-Nazi that even European anti-Israel activist groups repudiate him as an embarrassment to their cause.
In contrast, there are dozens of ex-Israeli academics whose careers consist largely of churning out literate print and web agitprop, inciting hatred against Israel and sometimes also against Jews, while collaborating with Israel's enemies. In some cases these people are failed academics who were unable to obtain and hold academic jobs in Israel itself, and so they are "getting even" by devoting themselves to the "progressive" quest for Israel's annihilation. Most of these "academics" are so extreme that they make Ward Churchill look like a moderate.
It is worth emphasizing that expatriate ex-Israeli academic leftists are NEVER people whose inability to find academic work in Israel has anything to do with their political opinions. Israeli universities are themselves large petri dishes of "Post-Zionist" (meaning anti-Zionist) radicalism and leftwing extremism. Not only does the holding of leftwing opinions not prevent people from being hired and promoted at Israeli academic institutions, but in some departments it is all but impossible to teach if one is NOT a leftist extremist. At the department of political science at Ben Gurion University, for example, the lone pro-Israel faculty member was fired for holding politically incorrect opinions. At Tel Aviv University, it is almost impossible to find non-leftists in linguistics and philosophy. Sociology departments in Israeli universities are all near-monolithic little Kremlins of Marxism and leftwing "Post-Zionist" extremism. Political science departments are almost as uniformly far-leftist. Political extremism does not disqualify someone from pursuing an academic career in Israel. Indeed there are many examples of people with inadequate (or even laughable) academic publication records who are nevertheless hired and promoted by Israeli universities, as acts of political solidarity by others already inside the system.
So if seditious opinions or ideological extremism are no obstacle to building an academic career inside Israeli universities, what drove these expatriates to seek "refuge" outside Israel? The answer is often that these are pseudo-academics completely lacking any semblance of academic excellence or scholarly achievement, whose resumes are too scanty even to serve as figleaf for their employment at Israeli universities.
Perhaps the best known Israeli academic expatriate who has made a career out of impugning and defaming Israel is Dr. Ilan Pappe, until recently a lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa, now at the University of Exeter in the UK. Pappe openly calls for Israel to be exterminated. He was the main inciter of the British academic unions to declare a boycott against Israeli universities. Pappe may be best known for having fabricated a "massacre" of Arabs by Jews in 1948, an imaginary massacre that never took place and for which no evidence whatsoever has ever existed. Together with a graduate student under his supervision, Pappe decided one fine morning that members of the Hagana Jewish militia had massacred Arabs in the coastal town of Tantora south of Haifa in 1948 during Israel's War of Independence. Journalists present at that battle witnessed no massacre. Even Arab propagandists had never alleged one had taken place. Arab survivors of the battle spoke of being helped and fed by the Hagana militiamen.
Pappe's graduate student later admitted in court that the whole story of the Tantora "massacre" was an invention. Pappe, however, continues to tout the "massacre" libel anywhere he can find himself an audience, and - since its invention - the story has become part of the official canon on every Islamofascist and anti-Semitic web site on earth, including Palestinian and Neo-Nazi ones. Pappe was not fired for that fraud, although he should have been, and today roams the world proclaiming that he is the "victim" of "persecution" by his old University of Haifa comrades. That claim was cited by the British boycotters as a justification for their own campaign against Israeli universities.
Pappe is not the only expatriate academic hater of Israel who has made Britain his home. The vogue hatred of Israel and Jews among the British chattering classes seems to have made Britain a welcoming refuge for such people. Of the expatriate defamers of Israel there, the one with the most serious academic reputation is Avi Shlaim, on the faculty at Oxford. Shlaim is a far-leftist who has made a career out of one-sided bashing and misrepresentation of Israel and the Middle East conflicts. Unlike many of the other expatriate anti-Israel propagandists, Shlaim actually has some bona fide academic publications, although he is much better known for his pitbull attacks against Israel, such as those he publishes in Palestinian propaganda journals. Such propagandizing seems to "count" as "scholarship" at Oxford these days, and not only there. In Shlaim's "research", the Arabs have always wanted peace and true democracy, while the obstacle to peace has always been Israeli wickedness and racist Zionist colonialism. He participates in the anti-Semitic (some would say Neo-Nazi) organization "Deir Yassin Remembered" and can be seen here in collaboration with Paul Eisen, a man widely regarded to be a Holocaust Denier who claims that there were no Jews murdered in Auschwitz gas chambers.
Shlaim was in the headlines recently for his struggle to get DePaul hatemonger Norman Finkelstein tenured on the basis of the latter's vulgar anti-Semitic screeds, a struggle that failed. While Finkelstein has never published a research paper in a refereed academic journal, Shlaim was willing to serve as Finkelstein's academic cheerleader because he identifies with Finkelstein's political agenda. Shlaim is one of two names that Finkelstein lists as recommenders for him on his own resume. The second name is Noam Chomsky. Neither is from the same purported academic discipline as Finkelstein. Shlaim is one of the people featured in Professor Efraim Karsh�s Fabricating Israeli History: The New Historians (Frank Cass & Co, Ltd. London, 2000), about pseudo-scholars inventing "New History." Shlaim's articles are standard fodder in classroom bashings of Israel at many campuses.
Perhaps the most malicious of the anti-Israel academic expatriates in Britain is one Oren Ben-Dor, who teaches law at Southamptom University. Ben-Dor is a regular on Counterpunch, where he rants against Israeli "apartheid" and denounces those who think Israel has a right to exist as hypocrites and people not truly pursuing peace:
'When "Israel's right to exist" is used as a litmus test for moderation and pragmatism, the subtext is that it is reasonable for apartheid practices which are at the core of the state as currently constituted to be allowed to continue. Thus, those who mouth this mantra, and those who try to limit the apartheid label to "the occupation", are complicit with the apartheid inside pre-1967 Israel.'
Ben-Dor has been one of the ex-Israelis inside the UK initiating boycott resolutions against Israel. He is one of a small group of ultras use the term "Naqba Denial" as the moral equivalent of Holocaust Denial to describe those who insist that Israel never conducted "ethnic cleansing" of Arabs in 1948-49. ('Naqba" means catastrophe in Arabic and is now the term of fashionable choice used by anti-Semites for Israel's creation.) For Ben-Dor, Israel's very existence is an act or terror and an atrocity.
Within the United States, Los Angeles seems to have become the largest center for anti-Israel academic expatriates from Israel. UCLA's Yael Korin (at the Department of Pathology) runs the local chapter of the venomously anti-Israel "Women in Black," which often collaborates with the pro-terror Council on American-Islamic Relations and similar groups. She is joined by Israeli expatriate Gabriel Piterburg, who teaches Middle East Studies at UCLA in courses with large doses of anti-Israel indoctrination. Piterberg, a fan of Edward Said, claims the nefarious Zionists are persecuting him and academics like him. He has promoted efforts to "divest" from Israel and is a vintage "New Historian", meaning someone whose version of history differs little from that of the ayatollahs in Iran.
Perhaps the most bizarre anti-Israel expatriate Angelino is Yigal Arens, who works at the University of Southern California in computer technology. Arens is the son of Moshe Arens, the militant nationalist political leader of the Likud in Israel, who served as Israel's Minister of Defense. Arens junior however has devoted himself to demonizing Israel and promoting boycotts of Israel. Perhaps he enjoys making his daddy angry.
Los Angeles is not their only refuge. Ella Shahat is an anti-Israel far-leftist professor of Art and Middle East Studies at NYU. She promotes the view that Zionism is a racist movement of "white" Ashkenazi Jews, and "Oriental" Jews from Middle Eastern countries are its main victims. The fact that not one in a thousand "Oriental Jews" agrees with her has never stopped her promoting her "theory." A radical feminist who thinks America is an evil imperialist bully, conducting 'crimes' of 'oil driven hegemony' and 'murderous sanctions against Iraq,' she likes to call herself an "Arab Jew." Other Israeli expatriates who hate Israel can be found at other schools.
The sign of "having made it" for many of these people seems to be appearing in "Counterpunch" magazine. The Counterpunch web magazine is run by Neo-Stalinist Alexander Cockburn, who passionately despises the United States, although not enough so to give up his California perqs and head back to his rainy native British Isles. Cockburn's second greatest passion is insisting that it is intolerable when people are accused of being anti-Semites simply because they hate Jews. It is only a question of time before Counterpunch will run columns demanding that people stop referring unfairly to Hitler and Goebbals as anti-Semites. It already runs "Israel Shamir" and Gilad Atzmon.
Unlike most of his leftwing competition, Cockburn shows no reluctance about abandoning the pretense of "We are Anti-Zionists but not Anti-Semites," and has long exhibited naked anti-Semitism. Some of the writers appearing on Counterpunch are shared by Cockburn with Holocaust Denial and Neo-Nazi web sites. Cockburn has run the anti-Semitic conspiracy "theory", first fabricated by Neo-Nazi web sites, about how Israel was actually behind the 9-11 attacks upon the US, this based on the fact that some Israeli moving men were picked up by the FBI on the day of those attacks and later released with an apology. Counterpunch has run numerous other articles promoting "theories" about Israeli conspiracies, and Cockburn himself endorsed the "theory" that Jews were behind the anthrax attacks in America.
Cockburn has a special love for Israel-bashing Jews, and especially for Israelis and ex-Israelis who hate Israel. Oren Ben-Dor and Ilan Pappe are regulars on Counterpunch. Cockburn has also run Zalman Amit, an anti-Israel professor emeritus at Concordia University (one who evidently spends most of his time making ugly little objects of "art" through wood turning) and a Pappe apologist. Amit has devoted his energies to trying to prevent Canadians from making donations to social causes in Israel, while ranting about the "Jewish Lobby." As far as we know, he has never offered to end his occupation of the lands of Canadian Indians and to turn all his worldly property over to them as compensation for his colonial oppression of them.
In some cases, the actual career paths of anti-Israel expatriates from Israel is itself a source of amusement. Ran Greenstein is an ex-Israeli and a fourth-rate sociologist who devotes his energies to denouncing Israeli "apartheid". But he does so from South Africa, where he teaches at the University of Witwatersrand. "Wits" University was an all-white school and the bastion of Afrikaaner racism, developed as the jewel in the apartheid academic crown. The South African University Education Act Extension of Act 45 of 1959 prohibited black students from attending "Wits." Spending so much time denouncing Israeli "racism," Greenstein has never gotten around to feeling disturbed by his own status as a colonial occupier of Africa, benefiting from the fruits of apartheid. Efraim Nimni is an ex-Israeli Marxist sociologist and a groupie of Edward Said, who found an academic position in Australia at the University of New South Wales. There he has made a career out of denouncing Zionism as a form of "colonialism". Irony is not his strong point: living as an occupier of aboriginal lands and a colonial interloper in Australia is not something that has given him pause about his own battle against Israel and Zionism.
These expatriate "academic" haters of Israel become the instant celebrities of all anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activist groups wherever they end up. Being literate, they specialize in turning out large volumes of anti-Israel propaganda. And they are generally not squeamish about who publishes and uses their poison.
Should the Far Left ever get its way and impose its "solutions," Israel will cease to exist and its population will be annihilated in a second Holocaust. For far-leftist academic haters of Israel inside of Israel, they and their families will perish along with the "Zionist entity" they despise, should they succeed in their malice. But the Israeli expatriates who are working to destroy Israel from the outside are not putting their lives on the line and face no such personal threat.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