Israel and the Problem at Northeastern

December 21, 2012

Richard Landes

During Chanukah, two students defaced a Menorah at Northeastern University, and Northeastern’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) led an ugly anti-Israel/pro-Hamas rally in Copley Square. One observer noted “the virulence of the chants and messages on the placards… suggest that more sinister hatreds and feelings… were simmering slightly below the surface.” Such sentiments suggest that our campus has imported some of the ugliest and most belligerent aspects of the Middle East conflict, including the murderous desire of those who want to eliminate Israel and rule over “Palestine, Palestine, from the river to the sea!”
University officials, of course, called the defacing of the Menorah unacceptable, but Northeastern president Joseph Aoun did so ingeneric remarks that failed to mention Jews or anti-Semitism, a signal that neither he, nor any other administrator, is likely to deplore the SJP’s hate-fest in Copley Square, even though it is both more disturbing, and constitutes a more direct indictment of the university itself.

The Popular Nazi Meme
Northeastern has had a checkered career in dealing with anti-Semitism, Israel and the Middle East. In 1991, Bernard Stotsky, a World War II veteran, endowed a chair in Jewish historical and cultural studies, with particular emphasis on the Holocaust. But holders of the chair have tended to veer in other directions. By the middle of the last decade, the chair was occupied by a professor who supports the anti-Israel BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions). A series of revelatory documentaries by a watchdog group called Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT), drew attention to Northeastern’s abuse of the Stotsky chair.
Northeastern’s treatment of the Holocaust was also disgraceful. To commemorate Holocaust Awareness Day, the university hosted a screening of Defamation, a film that compares Israeli solidiers to Nazis. Worse, it insinuates that many Holocaust survivors have attempted to profit from their horrifying stories.
A Hostile Academic Takeover
The meme that Israelis are the new Nazis, though popular with anti-Semites everywhere, including some allegedly serious academics, defies reason. Morally, this rhetoric is verbal sadism (when Jews embrace it, masochism), that seeks to degrade and humiliate Jews. In academic terms it deserves attention, not as a serious representation of reality, but rather as a weapon, a “lethal narrative” in a cognitive war developed by racist Palestinians to mark Jews as a legitimate target of violent revenge. Hence the chant of the SJP in Copley square: “When people are occupied, resistance is justified.” Of course, we all know, the primary Palestinian form of “resistance” (especially from Gaza) is targeting Israeli civilians.
APT’s work documents not only the hijacking of Holocaust, but places it within a larger framework that should concern all who cares about the resilience of American civil society and the democracy it makes possible. They reveal the presence within the Spiritual Life Center at NEU of a Muslim Chaplain, Imam Abdullah Faruuq, a Jihadi agitator whose actions at NEU were financed in large part by the Roxbury Mosque. His campus activities made a mockery of the “Center,” dismaying both Jewish and moderate Muslims with his hate speech.
More broadly and more seriously, however, they reveal a hostile takeover of the academic discussion of the Middle East on campus. Instead of presenting the “Palestinian narrative of suffering” (in which the Israelis are the new Nazis), as the story told by the (most radical and irredentist) Palestinians, professors like Shahid Alam and Dennis Sullivan, presented it as the correct way to interpret the Middle East conflict. Under their authority, this lethal narrative, became a new, hegemonic academic orthodoxy at Northeastern University. Without the slightest trace of awareness of how his attitude violates the very principles of good scholarship and pedagogy Alam bragged:
…Over the last few years, that situation [where harsh criticism of Israel was difficult] has been entirely reversed… so that most of my students… understand, know the truth…[P]eople listen with great appreciation and attention. And no one disagrees. If there are one or two people who want to say something, they don’t because they can sense that they will get no support from the class.
And, if any students inclined to defend Israel from this onslaught of lethal rhetoric and class-room intimidation should take a course with Dennis Sullivan, they will run into the same kind of intellectual bullying: one-sided syllabi, penalty in grades for disagreeing with the professor.
Weaponizing the Campuses
Now Alam’s “truth” is not in any way an academic work but rather a polemic, a work of unabashed fantasy (Palestinians are descended from the ancient Canaanites). It deploys a stream of accusations about murderous Zionists that, especially considering its extensive inaccuracies, could reasonably be described as weaponized “hate-literature,” aimed at destroying Israel. That same strategy of destruction explains why the Holocaust Memorial Committee got hijacked: in the words of Nadim Rouhana, an academic activist from Tufts, featured at an NEU Holocaust event: Israel “has made every political [use] of the Jewish Holocaust to gain support for the Jewish State.” So what better way to attack her than to destroy that shield against hatred. Is this anti-Semitic? Shahid Alam embraces the accusation: “If you are an academic or an activist, if they call you [Anti-Semite] wear that as a sign of distinction. This proves that I’m working for the right side, for the just cause.”
If Alam is a poster boy for weaponizing academia with the “Palestinian narrative of suffering” to conduct a ruthless cognitive war, Dennis Sullivan is a poster boy for the stupefaction this process involves. His comments in a lecture on the place in the negotiating process of Hamas, the most explicitly genocidal of all the Palestinian organizations, reveals an almost willful disregard for both relevance and accuracy. “Hamas is a terrorist organization, sure. They also do great health care and kindergartens.” Now aside from the deterioration of health care conditions in Hamas-run Gaza, the idea that somehow kindergartens where children arebrainwashed in genocidal hatred and trained to desire martyrdom above all, serves as a counter-argument to their terrorism, defies both sound reasoning and judgment.
All told, APT’s work reveals a stunning degradation of both the academic integrity and the collegial sociability of campus life at NEU where matters concerning the Middle East, Jews, and Muslims are concerned. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect is the abysmal level of intellectual discourse, a willful ignorance that systematically avoids discussing anything that challenges this belligerent orthodoxy, and excludes any voices that might offer students an opposing view. Is this where Northeastern wants to be?
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Richard Landes is a professor of history at Boston University.

Why might Israel deport two young American women who landed at Ben Gurion Airport?

June 3, 2012

Involvement with ISM and SJP should be a reason to deport someone from any Western nation… let alone Israel. Funny the way Reuters is shouting about this as if they just rejected peace protesters. ISM was who organized the Peace flotilla who were such pacifist that they cut a Jews ear off when he landed on the ship to insure no weapons went to Hamas. Israel will bar anyone affiliated or assisting a ‘Palestinian’ terror groups. Lebanon, Syria and a whole bunch of other Arab countries will bar anyone with an Israeli stamp on their passport.

(Carl) The virulently anti-Israel Mondoweiss blog publishes an account from two young Arab women who were denied entry into Israel. There’s a lot missing.
The account was written by Najwa Doughman and Sasha Al-Sarabi, two University of Virginia graduates from the New York City area, who are American citizens of Arab (I assume ‘Palestinian,’ although they don’t say that) extraction. The account is about as unbiased as they get.

“Do you feel more Arab or more American?” she asked. I had answered the ten previous questions very calmly, but with this question I looked back at the security official confused and irritated. She couldn’t have been much older than me—her business attire and stern facial expressions did not mask her youth.
“I don’t know, I feel both. Why? Does this affect my ability to get in?”
She ignored my question. “Surely you must feel a little more Arab, you’ve lived in many Middle Eastern countries.”
I did not see the correlation. I have never felt the need to choose. “Yes I have but I also lived in the US for the past seven years, and was born there, so I feel both.” My response did nothing to convince her.
“Hm. Will you go to Al-Aqsa?”
“Yeah, maybe.”
“Will you go to Jewish sites as well?”
“Yes, why not? We want to see everything.”
“But you have been here two times already. Why are you coming now for the third time? You can go to Venezuela, to Mexico, to Canada. It is much closer to New York, and much less expensive!”
I realized the conversation was going nowhere. “Right, but I wanted to come back here again. Don’t you have tourists who come back more than once?”
“I’m asking the questions here,” she replied disgruntled.
“Okay, we are going to do something very interesting now!” Her face transformed from a harsh stare to a slight smirk. She proceeded to type “www.gmail.com” on her computer and then turned the keyboard toward me. “Log in,” she demanded.
“What? Really?” I was shocked.
“Log in.”
I typed in my username and password in complete disbelief. She began her invasive search: “Israel,” “Palestine,” “West Bank,” “International Solidarity Movement.”

She sifted through my inbox, reading every single email with those keywords. She read sentences out loud to her colleague, sarcastically reenacting and mocking old Google Chat conversations between Sasha and me about our future trip to Jerusalem. I squirmed in my seat.
The Israeli authorities have a notorious reputation for denying entry to Palestinians of all citizenships, and I had received all sorts of advice, solicited and unsolicited, on how to cope with the problem. The security officer opened an email from a friend living in Jerusalem who had advised me to remove myself from internet searches. “They are heavy on googling names at the airport recently,” he had written. “See if you can remove yourselves, not crucial but helpful.”
The security guard found this especially hilarious. With a laugh, she called her blonde colleague over and reread the sentence mockingly. “You can tell your friend, not only do we google you, we read your emails, too!”

Read the whole thing. Read the comments too – they’re downright hostile to Israel. Look at the pictures of Najwa and Sasha. They look like they’d be stoned in Tehran or Gaza City. Perhaps they could take some fashion lessons from Catherine Ashton.
So why did Israel deny these two young New York professionals entry into the country? Here’s what they’re not telling you:
First, they don’t discuss what those gmail searches produced but I’d bet there were a whole bunch of hits from the “International Solidarity Movement” search. I don’t have to tell you all who the ISM is.
Second, a look at Najwa and Sasha‘s linked-in pages produces some interesting information (Thanks to Stephen L for the inspiration). Najwa worked for UNRWA in Tripoli, Libya from January 2010 through January 2011. I assume that was with a different passport than the one used in her two previous trips to Israel. You can’t enter Lebanon with an Israeli stamp in your passport. At the University of Virginia, Najwa was also the President of ‘Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine‘ (sometimes known as ‘Students for Justice in Palestine’).
‘Students for Justice in Palestine’ has an ‘impressive’ record.

The SJP fomented new radicalism about the Palestinian-Israel conflict and gave a new energy and visibility to Palestinian propaganda. Even the progressive Forward quoted activists who claimed that the SJP moved “far beyond legitimate criticism of the Israeli government and its policies into complete delegitimization of the Jewish state.”[3]
The SJP equates Israel’s treatment of Palestinians with apartheid South Africa and calls for divestment from Israel and an end to the ‘occupation.’ It organizes demonstrations and political theater to dramatize the plight of the Palestinians whom it sees only as innocent victims. SJP chapters have set up mock checkpoints, mock “concentration camps” with barbed wire to demonstrate how Palestinians suffer, mock “apartheid walls” and even fake re-enactments of IDF soldiers beating up pregnant Palestinian women.[4] Some chapters even organize Deir Yassin remembrance day to mark what Palestinians have claimed was a massacre of Palestinians in 1948. In 2002, the Berkeley SJP staged this event on Holocaust Remembrance Day and directly competed with the commemoration Jewish students had organized.[5]
SJP also agitates to prevent pro-Israel speakers from visiting their campuses. The De Paul University SJP captured media attention in April 2005 because it protested against a pro-Israel professor who had argued with SJP members at their campus table. The University deferred to SJP and fired the professor, Thomas Klocek. He has brought a legal suit against the school.[6]
SJP chapters are only loosely affiliated with one another, and some are more radical than others, but as a whole, the group will not even condemn terrorism.

Obviously, there’s enough there to make Najwa an undesirable from Israel’s perspective.
There’s not quite as much out there on Sasha, but she does list ‘Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine’ among her UVa activities, and the fact that she was traveling with Najwa undoubtedly opened some eyes.
I want to go back to the very biased account for a minute. Here’s how they describe their call from the American embassy.

At 6:15, a guard came and told us that the US embassy was phoning for us. My parents had called them from Virginia after our two-minute conversation to inform them of what was happening. Sasha answered the phone. “Oh, thank God, we’ve been trying to get in touch with you! This is Sasha. We’ve been through a lot the past few hours.”
“As I told your friend’s parents yesterday, there is really nothing we can do. I’m just glad that you’re going to be able to get on the next flight.” the woman said dispassionately.
“This is ridiculous. They went through my friend’s email. Is that legal?”
“Well, they can do whatever they want. There is nothing we can do. They are their own country, and they make their own rules.”
“If only you could see the conditions we are in. I just wish you could come and smell the room.”
“Oh, I’m really sorry, but at least you’ll be getting on the next flight,” her voice was annoyingly monotonous.

That’s the bottom line. Every country – including Israel – has the right to control who enters. If you want to come here, you have to play by our rules. And if the authorities suspect you’re here to help a radical terror group, you won’t be allowed in. Just like the US has its ‘no fly’ lists and insists on having name, rank and serial number on every arrival in advance, Israel will bar anyone it believes is affiliated or assisting a ‘Palestinian’ or Islamist terror group. And Lebanon, Syria and a whole bunch of other Arab countries will bar anyone with an Israeli stamp on their passport. Deal with it and stop whining.