Middle East studies in the News
The Unpatriotic U: Columbia
by John Perazzo
As the radical activists of the 1960s have aged and moved on, in significant numbers, to prominent positions in the faculties and administrations of American universities, the political atmosphere in college classrooms from coast to coast has become palpably anti-American. Throughout academia, leftist professors with captive audiences of young adults seamlessly transmit their own political worldviews from one generation to the next.
Consider what is occurring at Columbia University, which recently appointed professor Rashid Khalidi – a longtime, outspoken critic of the United States – to the anonymously endowed Edward Said Chair in Middle Eastern Studies. Depicting a nation that can scarcely do anything right – either at home or abroad, Khalidi calls the US a land "where routine media abuse of Arab-Americans, violations of their rights, and racist stereotyping and caricatures have only grown more prevalent since September 11th of ." "Hating Arabs and Muslims was always marginally acceptable in this country," he adds. "Since 9/11, it has grown almost fashionable in some circles, and has even established a strong foothold in media and in the political class."
Khalidi seems unimpressed that so horrific an event – which, had it occurred in another land, might have sparked bloody riots in the streets – has instead prompted the overwhelming majority of political, academic, and religious leaders to repeatedly remind us to avoid stereotyping Muslims as terrorists, and to remember that Islam is a "religion of peace" that has been "hijacked" by a minority of extremists. Nor does Khalidi seem to have noticed that in this land where anti-Islamic bigotry has supposedly been "routine" for a long time, Muslims have had incomes well above the national average for many years.
Khalidi blames the horrors of 9-11 on none other than the US. "[F]or decades the United States itself helped to foster some of the radical-extremist Islamic tendencies that gave rise to the horrific attacks on US cities," he says. "[I]f there is . . . hatred for the United States in many countries in these [Middle Eastern] regions, it is not necessary to look at Islamic doctrine [or] the supposed centrality of the concept of jihad to Islam for the causes. One need look no further than the corrupt and autocratic regimes propped up by the United States, and its disregard for the opinions of Middle Eastern peoples regarding Palestine, sanctions on Iraq, and other issues." This analysis, of course, does not speak to the fact that the Muslim record of conquest and jihad long predates any perceived American slights of recent decades. As the eminent scholar Bat Ye'or writes, throughout history jihad has meant "war, dispossession, . . . slavery and death . . . a war of conquest whose chief aim was the conversion of infidels . . . and the absolute supremacy of Islam throughout the world."
Columbia's aggressive pursuit, and subsequent hiring, of Khalidi is a vivid reflection of where its political sympathies lie. Indeed, Khalidi joins a department already saturated with leftwing, politically outspoken professors. Joseph Massad, for one, is the product of Columbia's intellectual milieu. He received his doctorate from Columbia, and his dissertation was published by Columbia University Press. "US imperialist aggression," he bluntly states, is responsible for Islamic violence. In January 2003, Massad played a prominent role in Columbia's Palestinian film festival – a three-day extravaganza sponsored by the Middle East Studies Department – which featured movies and academic panels lamenting the suffering of Palestinians and criticizing Israel. While speaking on a festival panel, Massad likened Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels. But this was nothing new for Massad, who regularly analogizes Israel and Nazi Germany.
In March of this year, the Columbia Anti-War Coalition organized a six-hour "teach-in" conference, at which some thirty leading faculty members took turns denouncing America's plans to go to war in Iraq. The common thread woven throughout the professors' talks was the notion that our country's "illegitimate" president – and not Saddam Hussein – posed the greatest threat to world peace. "Try democracy in Washington or somewhere else," quipped George Saliba, a professor in the Department of Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures.
Many speakers drew comparisons between the Bush administration and Nazi Germany. History professor Barbara Fields accused Bush's Cabinet members of being "tyrants who have ignored the consent of the governed." International Affairs professor Roger Normand equated Donald Rumsfeld with the infamous Nazi Hermann Goering. In a similar spirit, political scientist Jack Snyder alternately likened President Bush to Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm, Hitler, and Tojo. Fellow political scientist Ira Katznelson accused Bush of "mistak[ing] coercive power for consent," and "flirt[ing] with a new form of colonialism."
But the biggest splash of the evening was caused by Nicholas De Genova, a professor of anthropology and Latin American studies, who called US flags "the emblem of the invading war machine in Iraq today . . . the emblem of the occupying power." "The only true heroes," he said, "are those who find ways that help defeat the US military." Urging American soldiers to "frag" (i.e., murder) their officers, he openly declared his wish "for a million Mogadishus" – a reference to the 1993 ambush in Somalia that killed 18 US soldiers and wounded 84 others. "Peace is not patriotic," DeGenova opined. "Peace is subversive, because peace anticipates a very different world than the one in which we live – a world where the US would have no place. . . . US patriotism is inseparable from imperial warfare and white supremacy."
Though Columbia's administration insisted that De Genova's views did "not in any way represent" the university's position, his rhetoric was by no means a significant departure from the norm for numerous faculty members. For instance, history professor Eric Foner asserted in a post-9/11 London Review of Books piece, "I'm not sure which is more frightening: the horror that engulfed New York City or the apocalyptic rhetoric emanating daily from the White House." He deems our nation a habitual aggressor that has "used military force against many, many nations, and in very few of those cases were we attacked or threatened with attack." Notably, Foner's political roots were as an anti-American Stalinist who supported the Rosenbergs as well as such infamous Communists as Angela Davis and Herbert Aptheker – the latter being a longtime member of the Communist Party USA's Central Committee. Foner's view of patriotism, he explains, comes from Paul Robeson: "The patriot is the person who is never satisfied with his country." Robeson, of course, was a much-heralded member of the American Communist Party – and proudly received a Stalin Peace Prize from Joseph Stalin himself.
Visiting professor Tom Paulin has candidly declared that American-born Jews living on the West Bank "should be shot dead." Gary Sick, acting director of Columbia's Middle East Institute, opposes allowing American victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism to sue Tehran for damages. Characterizing the Bush administration as "belligerent," he lauds the Iranian government for being "meticulous in complying with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty" – a pitiful, if not laughable, assertion in light of recent revelations about Tehran's growing nuclear capabilities.
Professor Hamid Dabashi of the Middle East Studies department likens Donald Rumsfeld to Attila the Hun as "a destroyer of civilization" for his role in the Iraq war. Similarly, the late Professor Edward Said – a former member of the PLO governing council – called America's Iraq policy the "grotesque" work of a "small cabal" of un-elected, war-mongering imperialists lusting for "oil and hegemony" under the banner of an "avenging Judeo-Christian god of war." America, he said, was guilty of routinely "reducing whole peoples, countries and even continents to ruin by nothing short of holocaust." Law professor Patricia Williams likens the suffering of Abner Louima, a black civilian who was brutalized by a rogue New York City policeman in 1997, to that of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who suffered under the Soviet Union's totalitarian oppression.
The anti-American sentiment dripping from such rhetoric makes its presence felt not only within the classroom walls, but also in places far beyond those walls. For example, it sometimes infects what should be unbiased empirical research conducted on campus. Consider the case of Professor James Liebman, who recently directed a highly publicized Columbia University study on the death penalty. Pointing out that two-thirds of death sentences were overturned on appeal, Liebman concluded that the American justice system was fraught with error and incompetence that regularly resulted in the conviction and execution of innocents. In truth, however, the statistics he presented were largely the result of anti-death penalty appeals-court judges who had overturned sentences for political and ideological reasons – not because there had been miscarriages of justice. Liebman's was one of the most egregious misrepresentations of reality in the recent history of scholarly research.
Not surprisingly, the far-left ideologies of such professors have sown the seeds of similar worldviews in the minds of their students. Indeed Columbia's campus is replete with leftwing student organizations, among which are the Columbia Anti-War Coalition, the Columbia University Greens, Action for Immigrant Rights, Feminists United on Campus, Everyone Allied Against Homophobia, and Campaign to End the Death Penalty. The International Socialist Organization, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Amnesty International also have a presence on campus.
In October 2001, after the US had initiated a military campaign against the Taliban, Columbia's Institute for Research on Women and Gender sponsored a symposium entitled "Women and War in Afghanistan" – an event that urged a peaceful response to the 9/11 attacks. "An eye for an eye only leaves the whole world blind," was the theme of the day. In a similar spirit, Columbia Law School's Alliance for a Just and Alternative Response recommended peaceful approaches to dealing with terrorism, and lamented the American military's alleged assault on innocent Afghanis. In December 2001, an anti-war protest at Columbia featured a guest speaker who claimed that our armed forces were intentionally destroying Afghani hospitals, homes, and schools. "They're bombing innocents and dropping pennies to the starving," he thundered. That same month, as the fires of 9/11 still smoldered in downtown New York, an anti-Patriot Act rally was held on Columbia's campus – condemning the university's decision to release foreign students' private information to federal authorities.
Prior to the late 1960s, Columbia's current anti-US military atmosphere seems to have been almost nonexistent. Indeed, as early as 1916 an ROTC program was instituted on campus, where it matured and grew during the two World Wars, the Cold War, the Korean War, and even part of the Vietnam War era. Producing some of the finest naval officers ever to serve our country, at one point Columbia was actually churning out more Navy ensigns per year than even the US Naval Academy. In 1968, however, the university's administration expelled all ROTC programs from campus in order to appease the sometimes-violent student protesters who opposed the Vietnam War – one of whom actually decimated Columbia's ROTC offices with a Molotov cocktail.
The university's ban on ROTC remained in place until a 1980 decision to not only allow its students to participate in the ROTC program at nearby Fordham University, but also to have a record of ROTC classes displayed on their Columbia transcripts. In 1990 however, this policy came to an end. While Columbia students could still take part in ROTC programs on neighboring college campuses, their transcripts no longer reflected that participation. To this day, ROTC classes are not considered part of the regular curriculum of studies. When the military recently forced Columbia to allow on-campus military recruiting (under the banner of the Solomon Amendment, which allows for the denial of federal funding to colleges that prohibit or prevent ROTC or military recruitment), the university's president openly urged students not to interview – because of what he called the military's discrimination against homosexuals.
Such is the nature of Columbia's assault on American patriotism and self-defense – by no means unique in the world of higher education. Such is the intensity of academia's dogged effort to instill, in the mind of a new generation, contempt for all this country does . . . and is.
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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