Campus Watch in the Media
On the Hypocrisy of the "Self"-Critical Left
by Richard Landes
There's an interesting brouhaha over rumors that Joseph Massad is getting tenure at Columbia which brings out some interesting details about the double standard of the ferociously critical left when it comes to criticism of their own work. Massad, for example, went running to Columbia for help suing someone who had criticized his work, even as he complained about being sued.
Now we also have Prof. David Newman of the Political Science Department at Ben Gurion complaining of the neo-McCarthyism of Campus Watch and Israel Academia Monitor because they keep track of and expose the ferociously "self"-critical things that some professors teach their students about their own and other Western cultures. Now all Newman has to offer as evidence for the McCarthyism of these organizations is:
Two points here.
1) Keeping track of what Professors teach in class is not spying. In principle anything we say in class is the product of our research, and we should not be embarrassed by having it made public. The notion that a classroom is a private place and revealing what goes on in it is a violation of privacy, a form of spying, is itself revelatory of the mindset of a certain kind of academic regression in which the classroom becomes a site of personal propaganda… something well illustrated by Massad's bullying.
2) The notion that Campus Watch goes after "anyone who so faintly utters a word of criticism" is the classic refuge of the hyper-self-critical left. Campus Watch and Israel Academia Monitor only target the most outrageous groups, groups who, even as they accuse Israel of racism, apartheid, and even genocide, and call her moral right to exist into question, breathe not a word about Palestinian transgressions or the legitimacy of their claims. The notion that this represents "faint criticism" is nothing short of ludicrous. Only people who are abusing their professorial privileges would consider monitoring and publication of what one lectures to students as "spying."
On the subject of self-criticism, I'm right now reading an excellent critique of Edward Saïd's Orientalsm by Ibn Warraq, who rightly points out that Saïd exploited the West's exceptional tendency to self-criticism in order to render it vulnerable to an Arab world incapable of self-criticism.
Now we have J-Street, the allegedly liberal lobbying group working for peace in our times, endorsing the play Seven Jewish Children, which systematically pursues the analogy between Israelis and Nazis, something even Joseph Massad denounced
(even as he did/does it). J-Street offers yet one more of the myriad cases of a one-sided notion of what self-criticism is about, endorsing the most vicious critiques of Israel as contributing to "a difficult but necessary conversation" but silencing any voices from the right that offend its sensibilities. Notes Jamie Kirchik in the Jerusalem Post:
Imagine, if you will, J-Street bringing Itamar Marcus of PMW or Yigal Carmon of MEMRI to discuss the genocidal, Nazi-like ravings that pass for a mainstream media in the Palestinian and Arab/Muslim world. They probably don't endorse calling the Palestinian leadership Nazis, but it surely is a painful and important conversation to hold, no? Or would such a line of discussion undermine their effort to force Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians in the cause of peace?Note: Postings in "Campus Watch in the Media" do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch.
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