Archeologists have uncovered the gates of the Philistine city of Gath. They have only begun the excavation process and “[b]ecause the remaining walls are so massive, it may take several seasons to fully uncover them.”
Read the story here: Goliath Gates: Entrance to Famous Biblical Metropolis Uncovered – Yahoo News.
Nationalism has been on the rise lately. I’ve written previously about the new nationalism in Russia and Japan, but the rise of nationalism in India and Israel may even be more concerning. Pankaj Mishra describes the current situation in these two countries: “There are eerie similarities between the Hindu thugs who assault Muslim males marrying Hindu women and followers of the far-right Israeli group Lehava (Flame), who try to break up weddings between Muslims and Jews…The new ruling classes seem obsessed with moral and patriotic education, reverence for national symbols and icons (mostly right-wing), and the uniqueness of national culture and history.” These leaders were brought to power by tapping into the resentment and discontent of their respective populations. This “politics of resentment,” as Mishra calls it, is powerful, and astute politicians know how to exploit it. As human beings we seem to have an affinity for nationalism. It gives us an identity, a purpose, a community, a compelling narrative, and a scapegoat for our woes. Unfortunately, it more often than not devolves into violence and oppression. How many times do we have to go down this road? Will we ever learn?
“It would be nice to hope that India and Israel’s emboldened hotheads are different, and will lead their countries to stability, prosperity and peace through their special mix of right-wing economics and the politics of ressentiment. It is already clear, however, that they find more thrilling the prospect of perpetual warfare with their perceived enemies, especially the ones within.” I’m afraid that Mishra is right.
Read Mishra’s important reporting on the situation in India and Israel: India and Israel Start to See Enemies Within – Bloomberg View.
“Playing with fire? Photographer: NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images”
Jonathan Judaken is just the latest victim in a concerted effort by a well-organized group united in defense of Israel. I have written on this topic several times (Pro-Israeli Groups Continue their Assault on Academic Freedom and Conservatives go after UCLA’s historian James Gelvin). It is a troubling trend that threatens academic freedom and the progress that flows from it.
Judaken opens with an explanation of his situation: “Let me tell you how I ended up on Jihad Watch. This is a tale of the new red scare wending its way across college campuses. More than an account of my own travails, this is an anatomy of how critical thought about Islam and Judaism, the Arab-Israeli conflict, anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism is today monitored in the academy with the goal of chilling reflection.”
I noticed a common theme in the comments section. (Of course, going to the comments section of any online forum is a bit like going to the Twilight Zone. You enter at your own risk.) Many of the commenters accused Judaken of being the McCarthyites, not the minions of Campus Watch. The strategy of flipping an argument on its head as a way of taking down your opponent is not new. It has proven to be an effective strategy on the right. Someone calls you a racist, you respond by claiming that they are the real racist. Someone calls you intolerant, you respond by calling them intolerant, and so on.
The problem with their argument is that they fail to make the appropriate distinction between McCarthyism and criticism. What McCarthy did was attempt to silence people that he disagreed with through intimidation and bullying tactics, not debate. Judaken was not trying to silence those associated with the Middle East Forum and Campus Watch, but expose what they were doing. And the analogy is appropriate because they use the tactics of intimidation to bully those in academia whose account of Middle East history does not agree with theirs (the Israeli government is always innocent and anyone who says otherwise is an anti-Semite).
What Caschetta did was not criticism for the purpose of advancing the debate, but an intentional distortion of Judaken’s lecture and intentions. The Middle East Forum was founded to promote a particular ideology. And the way they have chosen to further that ideology is through intimidation, not academic debate. The academic world is built on the principle of debate and criticism. This is what fuels progress in all academic fields of knowledge. If the real goal of Campus Watch was the advancement of knowledge, there are multiple avenues available to critique Judaken’s position in a constructive and professional manner. Every academic has to face criticism as they engage in their own field. This is not the kind of criticism that Caschetta engaged in. He intentionally distorted Judaken’s lecture as a way to intimidate him. This was the way of McCarthy, and therefore the label is apt in the case of Campus Watch, but not the other way around.
Essay on being accused of being an anti-Israel professor | InsideHigherEd.
While the present attack on academics who speak out against Israel is not as egregious as those that happened during the McCarthy Era, they are just as damaging to free speech. The critics are usually denounced as anti-Semitic and under that guise they are discredited as racist. On those grounds those defending Israel feel justified in their efforts to destroy the careers of those academics (the Salaita
case is just the most prominent). The problem is that this is to confuse antisemitism with actions of the state of Israel (some may have done so intentionally as a way to shut down opinions that they do not like). One doesn’t have to be an anti-Semite to object to the actions of the state of Israel. I find antisemitism abhorrent (and I have said so often), but I also find some of the actions of the Israeli government abhorrent as well. And there have been many Jews who have spoken out against the Israeli government on this topic as well. One of the most powerful statements comes from Theodore Bikel
, who wrote in the Jewish Journal
against “the death of Arab children.” “People see suffering and unless it is Jewish suffering they are silent. How dare they?” We should follow Theodore’s example and take a stand against injustice no matter who is committing it.
The Israeli government does not and should not get a free pass just because of the long history of antisemitism.
The historian Lawrence Davidson points out that attempts to shut down speech is a historical pattern that is unlikely to end. But he believes that we can “minimize the consequences of these repeated assaults” if we “continuously defy them. In other words, only by maintaining a counter-pattern of vigorously defending and using the right of free speech and academic freedom can space be sustained for critical voices. If at any time we fail to sustain this space we risk the possibility of being overwhelmed by a combination of closed-minded ideologues and the mass indifference of the majority.” Please read his article at the HNN:
History News Network | Every 30 or 40 Years We See Flagrant Attacks on Free Speech. Here We Go Again..
See also: “Did Salaita Cross the Line of Civility?” The New York Times