I have written before about Jasbir Puar, professor of women and gender studies at Rutgers University. Puar has lent her scholarly credibility, such as it is, to the claim that Israelis mine the organs of Palestinians for scientific research. In addition, she argues that the Jewish state refrains from slaughtering the Palestinian population because maiming them is crueler, because one can’t exploit dead Palestinians, and because Israelis wish to hog the victim status conferred by genocide for themselves.
Since 2002, student activists have tried to pass anti-Israel divestment resolutions at the University of Michigan. This month, they succeeded on a 23-17 vote of the university’s Central Student Government. But opponents of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement should not be demoralized by this result.
There is nothing natural about tolerating the views of others. If someone stands, as today’s righteous say, on “the wrong side of history,” why refrain from shutting him up? Yes, Justice Holmes warned against “attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death.” But it is a wonder that this dissenting view became conventional American wisdom. It is a wonder, too, that as a young man and proud Jew I was taught to think that neo-Nazis should be permitted to march on a public street in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in the United States. One can reject this teaching. One cannot deny that it is remarkable and fragile.
The excellent Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is out with a new survey of student attitudes toward free speech.
FIRE’s release comes soon after John Villasenor of the Brookings Institute published the results of a survey he commissioned, which suggested that “freedom of expression is deeply imperiled on U.S. campuses.” Anyone paying attention to the steady stream of reports of students shouting speakers down and even disrupting classrooms will not be surprised by that conclusion. But surveys help tell us whether we are dealing with the attitudes of an obnoxious few or a wider disregard for freedom of speech among students.
Mark Bray, a visiting scholar at Dartmouth University, has written sympathetically about the Antifa movement, so much so that his book is entitled Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.
It is tricky to assess the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. On the one hand, one does not want to underestimate the damage to Israel’s reputation done by even unsuccessful campaigns. The campus boycott movement, about which I have written extensively, succeeds not only when students actually vote to divest but also when onlookers, who have no dog in the fight between pro-Israel and anti-Israel activists, come away with the impression that Zionism is, if not a dirty word, at least suspect. We have been fortunate that BDS has done so much of late to discredit itself, but it would be a mistake to underestimate the campaign’s potential.
Late this May, Vida Samiian, Director of Middle East Studies at California State University, Fresno, resigned. Her complaint: “the unethical and discriminatory cancellation of the Edward Said Professorship [in Middle Eastern Studies] search.”
I am no fan of Lisa Durden, recently fired from her position as an adjunct professor of communication at Essex County College, a community college in New Jersey. I do not care for commentators who make broad generalizations about “you white people,” and her politics are far to the left of mine. Yet it is precisely as an academic conservative that I must say, to coin a phrase, I’m with her.
In January, I wrote about a surprising and heartening turn of events at the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association, an academic organization devoted to the study and teaching of language and literature.