Pessin Archive: Faculty Dissent, Spencer Pack, March 29

I publish this with permission from Spencer Pack. From: Spencer Pack <[email protected]> Date: Sun, Mar 29, 2015 at 10:24 AM Subject: [faculty] On Some Recent Faculty Statements To: faculty <[email protected]> To my More »

Follow up on Proxy Honor Killings: Response to Peter Sage

In response to my post on Jewish anti-Zionism as a proxy honor-killing, Peter Sage wrote the following request for clarification. So please help me see a way out of the current blind More »

Jewish anti-Zionism: The proxy honor-killing

Available in Polish, translated by Malgorzata Koraszewska here. The recent stunning performance of Marcia Freedman at the J-Street conference, calling for a one-state solution (almost surely not called Israel), in which an More »

Does Burston really think it’s legitimate to view BDS as Tikkun Olam?

[I re-post this item from 2010 after having attended a meeting at Temple Israel, a Reform Synagogue in Boston last night where J-Street and NIF talked us blue from their tikkun bubble More »

#GenerationCaliphate: Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad

#GenerationCaliphate:  Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad May 3-4, 2015, Boston University Sponsored by the Center for Millennial Studies, Boston University History Department and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. More »

Pessin Archive: Balomenos Apology to Pessin, April 16, 2015

Letter to Professor Pessin

Note from the editor: This letter is an update from an earlier one written by Mr. Balomenos. You can read it here.

Dear Professor. Pessin,

I wish to formally apologize for the letter that I published in the Connecticut College Voice in early March 2015.  Since then, I have come to the realization that I made a grave error in writing and publishing such an accusatory piece outlining your actions and opinions.  I now understand that I was not operating with sufficient contextual knowledge on the matter, and thus misinterpreted your words.

I should like to make it absolutely clear that justice based on the information made available to me by current Connecticut College students was my only goal. I want to stress that I am not an anti-Semite, nor was I operating with any ulterior anti-Israel agenda.  Based solely on the information provided to me at the time, I was deeply uncomfortable with the opinions expressed; however, I now understand the entire background and context of the situation.  After reading some of the comments on my letter in the College Voice, it is obvious that I was naïve of how my words would inevitably be construed, and that the situation would explode into what it has. Thus, I am sorry for my accusatory and rash language, as well as the harm I have done to your reputation. At the time, I had the best intentions for the college community, about which I care deeply, but I now see that much to my distress, I have done far more harm than good to both you, and the community as a whole.

While I understand that my actions may be unforgivable and not soon forgotten, I would like to extend my sincerest compassion and empathy for the stress you and your family must be experiencing. It is my hope that as a community we can put this behind us and you are able to return to teaching as effectively as you have in the past. If you would like to discuss my actions further, or if there is anything I can do to help, I would be more than willing to do so.

 

Sincerely,

Zachary Bertrand Balomenos

Class of 2014

Amman, Jordan

Pessin Archives: Letter #3, Zachary Balomenos ’14, College Voice, March 2

Dear President Bergeron: A Letter from a Concerned Alum

Dear President Bergeron,

I hope your second year at Connecticut College is treating you well and that you are surviving the harsh winter.  While we only overlapped a semester at the college, I will always remember your involved and hands on style of leadership as something truly unique about Connecticut College.  From the Senior Dinner Series to welcoming my fellow Arabic Studies colleagues and me into your office for an honest discussion, I was moved by your desire to know the students on an individual basis.  Thus, I hope you will accept this letter detailing my deep concern over a matter that has recently come to my attention. 

I was extremely disappointed to learn this week of some rather hateful comments a certain Professor Pessin of the Philosophy Department wrote on his private Facebook page.  The comments purportedly outlined Professor Pessin’s views on Gaza and what precisely ought to be done with the people of Gaza.  I am not going to quote the comments, as apparently they have been removed and I don’t want to falsely accuse Professor Pessin or misquote him based off of hearsay.   

While I understand everyone is entitled to his or her opinions, even if hateful, I still feel this should be brought to your attention.   I am incredibly proud of Connecticut College and I shamelessly brag about it whenever I can.  However, I would be deeply disappointed in my alma mater if I knew that an individual entrusted to provide the education I am so thankful for so openly expressed such hateful and bigoted opinions on a public forum such as Facebook, even if it is a private account.  We are all representatives of the College, and thus, I worry about the message we would be sending if individuals who acted in such a racist and inappropriate manner were so irresponsibly employed by the school.  This certainly isn’t the school I brag about to everyone I meet, nor is it a school I would be proud of. 

Let me say, that I have known about Professor Pessin’s extremist opinions for some time, but his reported comments that I only recently learned about go much too far.  If true, it shouldn’t matter whom he said such remarks about, but rather that a member of our community expressed hatred and racism about any peoples.  While inappropriate to make a direct accusation without hard evidence in front of me, I do feel it my responsibility as an alumnus who cares about my school to bring this matter directly to your attention.  I believe that a thorough and immediate investigation into this matter is imperative. 

This comes at a time of global debate on freedom of expression and the limits of free speech.  Let me be the first to say that I stand with free speech and freedom of expression and I detest those who wish to restrict this.  However, there is a line between expressing one’s opinion and thoughts through thoughtful satire or discourse, and bigoted hate speech.  If true, the comments I have hopefully enlightened you on fall into the latter category. 

I hope you will look into this matter, not just for me, but also for the good of Connecticut College. 

Sincerely,
Zachary Bertrand Balomenos
Class of 2014
Amman, Jordan

Note from the Editor: Mr. Balomenos has written an update to his original letter, which can be read here.

Pessin Archives: Letter #2, Michael Fratt and Katilyn Garbe, College Voice, March 2

“Respect for the Dignity of all Beings”: The Honor Code and Hate Speech

We have often thought about the proliferation of student protests in the 1960s and how pervasive the culture of civil disobedience was during the time of the Vietnam War.  Are students in this day and age less politically active than previous generations?  Why do we not see outpourings of protest on this campus of the scale that used to be the norm?  Rarely in our time at Conn have we seen almost unanimous student uproar about any given injustice barring only the Fishbowl controversy.  On Wednesday February 25th, in the aftermath of an ironically timed event called the Jerusalem Food Tour celebrating shared humanity, we found our outrage.  We discovered information that put my apathy to rest; it made us sick.  It came to our knowledge that Andrew Pessin wrote on his Facebook page a rant on the nature of Palestinians.  Professor Pessin compared Gazan Palestinians to “rabid pit bulls” who need to be caged. He described the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a cycle of letting the “snarling dogs” out of their “cage” and then beating them back into it.  One person named Nicole commented on the post suggesting the “dogs” be put down.  Professor Pessin responded, “I agree.”  Professor Pessin directly condoned the extermination of a people.  A member of our community has called for the systematic abuse, killing, and hate of another people.  This post came to the attention of students as well as faculty members and has thus far only been spoken of privately.  It is clear that the imagery used is not only incredibly offensive, but also particularly damaging within the culture of Islam, which has a potent conceptualization of dogs.  We vehemently believe that this deserves the attention of the Conn community: students, staff, and alumni.

What does this statement made by a faculty representative of our school say when our College is in the process of hiring a Dean of Inclusive Excellence? How can we stay true to our ideals as a college that prides itself so much on our inclusive learning community?  We must ask ourselves, what kind of community do we want to be?  According to a noted scholar of the Rwandan genocide, James Waller, “dehumanizing victims removes normal moral constraints against aggression.”  We all know that it is through dehumanizing language that hate crimes begin.  We call upon students, faculty, and alumni to ask themselves: Is there a place for this language at Connecticut College?  We wonder ourselves how this particular situation would play out had this Professor spoken out against Jews or LGBTQ individuals. We believe that if Professor Pessin made these comments about women, African Americans, Jews, LGBTQ individuals or any other underrepresented group this issue would have reached our ears earlier and he would have been dealt with swiftly.  This is not about the beliefs of Professor Pessin regarding Israel or Palestine; this is about hate speech.

Based on an ancient Athenian oath of citizenship, Connecticut College’s Honor Code states:

“We will never, by any selfish or other unworthy act, dishonor this our College; individually and collectively we will foster her ideals and do our utmost to instill a respect in those among us who fail in their responsibility; unceasingly we will strive to quicken a general realization of our common duty and obligation to our College. And thus in manifold service we will render our Alma Mater greater, worthier, and more beautiful.”

We invite students, faculty, and alumni to ask themselves: Are the statements of this professor in tune with the ideals of the honor code? We as students are bound by this honor code and are expected to uphold it within the external community as much as we are expected to uphold it on our campus. If a student said these words what could we expect as a response? Are professors not bound by the same moral standards of the honor code?  Should we expect more from them as leaders of this institution? 

We humbly address President Bergeron.  We humbly address Dean Van Slyck, Dean Denard, Dean Arcelus, Dean Zimmer, Dean Highbaugh, Dean Garcia and the Board of Trustees.  We call for a conversation; cancel classes, events, and athletics on one day.  This must be addressed.  The administration cannot keep silent over such disgusting hate speech.  We Implore a response and for the Administration to take action. Years ago before we were students here the former president cancelled all events one day in the wake of a racist hate crime on campus and established an open mic discussion in Palmer that stopped the College in its tracks.  This event is deserving of the same attention and we must have a discussion as a campus regarding what the shared values of this College ought to be.  Be angry, talk to your professors, start the conversation.  This outrage should not be a private matter, this must be public and we must re-evaluate what we think our values are as students, faculty, and alumni of this college. Students need this, staff needs this, we need to lament, we need context, and we need a thoughtful discussion.  This is a red line, one that has been crossed.  How we proceed now is up for debate. 

Pessin Archives: Letter #1, Lamiya Khandaker, College Voice, March 2

On March 2, The College Voice published three letters from four students informing the college community about Pessin’s Facebook post. The letters make no reference to the fact that the post was from the previous summer, that Pessin had already clarified (and apologized for) its apparent ambiguity, and deleted it two weeks prior to these letters. The College Voice did not warn Pessin that these letters were being published, nor invite him to respond or comment in the same issue. The second letter was later proven to have changed Pessin’s words in the comment thread to the post to make it seem like he was calling for genocide of Palestinians when in fact he was calling for the defeat of Hamas.

The first letter is, from Lamiya Khandaker, student chair of the Committee for Diversity and Equity, and the main student protagonist in the affair, whose prior correspondence with Professor Pessin was substantial. Letter posted here with extensive subsequent commentary.

Why Hate Speech is Not Free Speech in an “Inclusive Excellence” Community

I am infuriated, repulsed and depressed. I feel unsafe.  Free speech is a given.  Free speech means that you have the right to say what you want to say without the penalty of breaking the law.  Does that mean free speech is acceptable in all circumstances? No. Not when your free speech is hate speech and takes place in a community which professes values of “diversity and equity,” and “inclusive excellence.”

I had not understood the exact importance of my role as Chair of Diversity and Equity until actual encounters with subtle institutional racism were taking place at our academic institution.  Not until the college decided to paste my face as the face of diversity, yet sweeps under the rug when an influential member of its own community actively engages in dangerous hate speech.  Not until it took a few of us students to identify a problem that should have been recognized long ago by the administration itself. This is not diversity and equity. This is not inclusive excellence. This is institutional racism.

People have this misconception that racism and bigotry are direct; that they are in your face; that they are physical acts. No.  Racism isn’t explicit. Racism is subtle.  Racism is institutional. Racism is systematic. Racism is embedding seeds of hate and bigotry into the psyche of social culture. Racism is only the foundation of what leads to later acts of violence.  Racism takes root when we have influential academics in our school who publicly express views of bigotry. Racism is accepted when the institution fails to address the responsibility of academics to watch what they say.

I have had several email exchanges with Professor Andrew Pessin regarding my concerns as an underrepresented student on campus.  And each time, his response was more of a, “I’m sorry you misunderstood what I said.” On the contrary, I did not misunderstand.  I did not misunderstand his contribution at the Charlie Hebdo panel when he posed indirect, yet problematic questions such as, “How do we tolerate cultures of intolerance?” only to end his portion of the Q-and-A session with an emphasis of hate crimes perpetrated by Muslims. I did not misunderstand the content of this public Facebook post that insinuated Palestinians (NOT Hamas) as “rabid pit-bulls.“  I did not misunderstand when he told me that, “Muslim terrorists were at the top of the totem pole as perpetrators of violence.” Tell me, what part of all this did I misunderstand? The fact that I may be a “liberal animal rights activist” sympathizing with this “rabid pit bull?” Oh no wait, perhaps, I am the “co-specimen” who sympathizes. Because my people are breeds of dogs, and not human beings? Or, perhaps I misunderstood his floods of articles that specifically talk about the failure of addressing “Arab and Muslim terrorism.” 

Just imagine if he substituted Gaza for “Ferguson.” Imagine if he spoke of “Ferguson thugs” as “rabid pit bulls” needing to be “caged,” by its “owner” who provides it with “government assistance, affirmative action, and welfare.” But when giving these “Ferguson thugs” a little bit of space to “breathe;” they start “snarling” and “aim for the throat,” and as a result need to be “put down.” And if you sympathize with Ferguson thugs, you’re either one yourself, or a liberal animal rights activist. Just imagine if all his postings were about Black crime. Would you raise an eyebrow?

One only needs to look at the recent horrific murders of the three Muslim Arab Americans in the UNC shootings to acknowledge that violence against minorities occur through the repetition of stereotypes; through the repetition of “the other” as the violent one; through engrained feelings of fear, hate and bigotry.  I have had Professor Pessin as a student and never felt victimized in class.  As a matter of fact, many students find him smart, engaging, and influential. But that is the problem. If students are finding an academic within our institution as smart and influential, and then read his overtly public hateful posts regarding socio-political issues, they are going to listen and absorb. They are going to be influenced by his words, and that is the biggest danger.

In a time when everyday news headlines are sensationalizing the correlation between “Muslims” and “Terrorism,” it becomes increasingly hard to feel safe as a Muslim. I feel unsafe when I go out to the local community. I felt unsafe when my quick stop to Shop Rite resulted in dirty looks, and couples bringing up the topic of ISIS purposely in front of me. I feel unsafe if this is what our own academics are publicizing. 

Our academic community, and all academic communities need to address actual issues of diversity, acceptable speech and community values for the sake of the safety of all students, and faculty– especially underrepresented ones.  Our academic communities need to have zero tolerance for such speech.  It does not matter if these aren’t vocalized in a classroom. It matters if you are an active community member who publicizes such views, no matter where you are.

If I am going to recite, “We will never, by any selfish or other unworthy act, dishonor this our College; individually andcollectively we will foster her ideals and do our utmost to instill a respect in those among us who fail in their responsibility; unceasingly we will strive to quicken a general realization of our common duty and obligation to our College. And thus in manifold service we will render our Alma Mater greater, worthier, and more beautiful,every Thursday night, then I expect to see such behavior on our campus on behalf of ALL its members. Or else, I don’t want to be your face of Diversity.•

Pessin Archive: Online Petition Posted March 18, 2015

Originally sponsored by Ayla Zuraw-Friedland, editor-in-chief of The College Voice, subsequently taken over on April 2 by Aparna Gopalan, Opinions Editor of The College Voice. The petition went through several revisions. Originally it named Prof. Pessin by name, but after Pessin informed Zuraw-Friedland that the petition was generating anti-Semitic hate mail and threats to him and his family, she made the petition more anonymous and transferred sponsorship to Gopalan. (Still, the information in the petition makes it easy for anyone to find out who the professor is, and Pessin’s name remains explicit through the hundreds of comments.) This is the text of the petition as of May 28, 2015. It presents only the first paragraph of Prof. Pessin’s FB post, leaving out the second paragraph (which made it clearer that the post was about Hamas) and the comment thread (which makes it explicit that the post is about Hamas). [Bold text in original.]

Online Petition Posted March 18, 2015

On March 8, a philosophy professor who made the above remarks about Palestinians issued an apology in The College Voice for a post on his personal Facebook page (published publicly in August 2014) that caused widespread alarm in the campus community. The professor’s apology was in response to three Letters to the Editors published in the March 2, 2015 edition of The Voice written by three current students and an alum.

Since then, two emails have been sent out from the President of Connecticut College asking for our participation in an event that has been planned for March 25th in which the community will “reflect.”

What is missing from all of this is any desire for the senior administration of the College as a whole to develop the competency to identify racism when we see it. This is a vital component of our advancement with regards to inclusive excellence.

For the students who brought the issue forward, President Bergeron has said: “I commend them and many others for their courage.” However, victims of racism who have had to publicly fight racism on their own need more than the College’s admiration. Commendation is not a substitute for actual, public support or an excuse to leave the work of combating institutional racism to a handful of minority students.

The senior administration of the College has refused to publicly acknowledge the racist nature of what has occurred and has not taken steps to remedy this problem. We demand an end to silence.

We the undersigned acknowledge the professor’s apology and hope that it is a sign of enhanced understanding of what precisely constitutes racist speech. We firmly believe and uphold the principle of free speech – free speech, moreover, that entitles one to their racist, homophobic, sexist, bigoted or violently hateful opinions.

We do not believe censoring the professor to be the answer. That we are in disagreement with his opinions does not mean we wish to silence them, because, in the words of the American Civil Liberties Union,

Pessin Archive: Announcement of Establishment of Global Islamic Studies, March 4

At a key moment in the Pessin Affair (two days after the school newspaper attack), the college announced the launching of a new major in “Global Islamic Studies.” Since the chair of this new program was perhaps the most prominent actor in the attack on Pessin, the launching of the program and the remarks of all involved, including Dean Van Slyck, about the “activist” nature of the research involved bears close attention. [Italics mine]

March 4 Press Release Announcing the New Major In Global Islamic Studies

College announces new global Islamic studies major

Bo Martin ’15 is interested in the impact of Islam on the fight for racial equality in the United States. It’s the subject of a senior honors thesis he is currently writing as one of the College’s first global Islamic studies majors.

“It’s is a great mix of government, religion, linguistics, sociology and nearly every other humanities and social science,” says Martin of global Islamic studies. Area studies

The multidisciplinary new major was approved by Connecticut College faculty in November, and already 10 students have declared their intentions to major or minor in the subject. That’s a testament to students’ interest in the role of Islam and the influence of Muslims throughout the world, says Associate Professor of Religious Studies Sufia Uddin.

“Islam is one of the fastest growing religions, and less than 15 percent of Muslims are in the Middle East,” says Uddin. “We are challenging preconceived notions and rethinking how we understand Muslims and the role of Islam in the world.” In other words this is a missionary goal

Pesssin Archives: Faculty Dissent, John Gordon, March 30

Published with permission from author.

From: John Gordon <[email protected]>

Date: Mon, Mar 30, 2015 at 2:46 PM

Subject: [faculty] Campus controversy

To: faculty <[email protected]>

Dear Colleagues,

1.  First, two excerpts:

Connecticut College accepts the principles of academic tenure as defined and accepted by the American Association of University Professors and the American Association of Colleges (AAUP Policy  Documents & Reports, 2001 Edition p. 4), with the exception that at Connecticut College the probationary period in the ranks of full-time instructor and/or assistant professor is seven years except as provided in 1.4.1.2.

- Information for Faculty, p. 10

                This report recommends that each institution work with its faculty to develop policies governing the use of social media. Any such policy must recognize that social media can be used to make extramural utterances and thus their use is subject to Association- supported principles of academic  freedom, which encompass extramural utterances.

                As Committee A previously noted regarding extramural utterances, “Professors should also have the freedom to address the larger community with regard to any matter of social, political, economic, or other interest, without institutional discipline or restraint, save in response to  fundamental violations of professional ethics or statements that suggest disciplinary incompetence.”

                Obviously, the literal distinction between “extramural” and “intramural” speech— speech outside or inside the university’s walls— has little meaning in the world of cyberspace. But the fundamental meaning of extramural speech, as a shorthand for speech in the public sphere and not in one’s area of academic expertise, fully applies in the realm of electronic communications, including social media.

 -American Association of University Professors, Academic Freedom and Electronic Communication, pp. 50-1

Put these two together, and what they say is that Andrew Pessin’s Facebook reflections, on the Middle East or anything else, were, by our rules, none of our corporate business.  People were entitled to respond, preferably as individuals, preferably in the original medium.   Departmental pronouncements, clearly intended to intimidate, were and are out of line.

Pessin Archive: Farewell Remarks from Zuraw-Friedland, Editor of Connecticut College’s Newspaper

In her final piece in The College Voice, Ayla Zuraw-Friedland vaguely allusions to the ethical problems surrounding her tenure, with no mention of her controversial issue of March 2, in which she published three letters attacking Pessin and neither warned him, nor offered him the opportunity to respond. She also mentions her faculty mentor, Jim Downs.

I Guess This is It: Signing Off

Posted on May 5, 2015 by Ayla Zuraw-Friedland in Editorials

After 11 issues in print and one online of The College Voice as Editor in Chief and nearly 60 as a staff writer, section editor and senior editor over the past three years, it has all boiled down to an editorial that I am supposed to use to sum up everything that this one extra-curricular has done for me. It is an editorial that I have both dreamed and dreaded writing. I’m supposed to say something important, but I cannot quite grasp what that is.

I only had two goals when I started this year: 1) Do NOT go into debt. 2) Just keep things floating. No waves, just twelve passable issues. Finish your thesis. Pass it along. I never identified as much of a journalist, anyways.

Even looking back from this moment, I thank goodness that I only met one of those goals. I realize now how ridiculous that goal was and that it was reflective of my unwillingness to recognize what I now consider to be an undeniable fact about the newspaper; despite my best efforts, it has become a mirror of my own spirit.

It has become my way of asking: How can we leave this space better than when we found it?

Maybe that carries baggage that begs the question as to whether I have violated standards of journalistic integrity. But maybe it’s a question that I’m happy to ask and be asked anyways. Who am I to answer that on my own? The simplest answer is, that I never intended to. I believe that The College Voice is and should be a conversation space for everyone. If this year has taught our community anything, it is that words and language are powerful tools to wield.

I will never deny that this has been a year of mistakes and learning. I will never claim what I did was “correct,” but I will always stand by the fact that I was doing what I thought was right. But, despite all the media attention, positive and negative, this community was bombarded with from the outside, the world at large is not our audience. It is here. The College Voice is not called a “campus newspaper” for nothing.

I am lucky to have a team with me that have been equally consistent in asking similar questions. This staff rests on a long tradition of Strong Female Role Models (and also Dave Shanfield) that have shown me what it means to take risks, to take deep breaths through caffeine induced panic attacks and to take a second look at the “Final” edition of the paper, because it can always be better.

I thank Dana and Luca for being the most wonderful team. You’ve already picked up the baton and I can’t wait to see you run with it. Dana, you have been with me every step of the way, in every office meeting with the Deans that I thought would end in a fight, and involved in every late night food run I can remember. Thank you to our adviser, Jim Downs, for convincing me that gut feelings are the truest form of intelligence, and also that it is okay for some emails to go unanswered.

I thank my intrepid staff of editors, writers and designers for putting up with my disorganization and lack of direct eye contact or precise instructions. You’ve been through a hell of a ride. Thank you to the senior staff, Matthew Whiman, Ellie Storck, Dakota Peschel, Eleanor Hardy and Annie Rusk. You can all go into the world knowing that you have a beautiful, shiny title on your resume, and hopefully a few fond memories of broken computers and an abundance of chairs to go along with it.

I could write more. But what I want to close this with, in classic fashion, is a question. Where do we go from here?

At this point, support for the newspaper has come from within a network of dedicated students and faculty members. In a letter to campus last month, The College Voice was referred to as “our campus newspaper.” That was the first example I could remember of the campus at large or any administrator taking responsibility or ownership over this organization. As more and more media stories came out attacking specific members of the newspaper staff and the newspaper as a whole, it became clear that it would also be the last.

That means that, somewhere along the lines of “shared governance” and “accountability,” something got lost. How can the campus claim us as their own without offering support, whether that be by writing articles or in efforts to educate the staff as to what it means to have journalistic integrity? We want desperately to belong to you, to be a space you can trust, but that cannot be done without help. We need conferences and guidance and acknowledgment of the basic reality that we have been doing this on our own. We have a long way to go.

I am glad though, to have been along for at least the beginning of what I hope is a long run. I look forward to looking back. The shifting staffs and families are the most consistent home I have known at this school. Perhaps this editorial is so long because I know that the second that it ends, it is my last goodbye.

Signing off,

Ayla

Pessin Archive: Faculty Dissent, Alex Hybel on the Coercive Atmosphere at ConnColl, March 31

I publish this email with the permission of the author. It was written the day after twelve departments had published “community statements” denouncing (without naming him) Andrew Pessin’s “hate speech.” Among those published was that of his own Department of Government and International Relations, which Hybel signed, and the English Department, which Jeff Strabone refused to sign.

Alex Hybel, Tuesday March 31.

Dear Colleagues,

The thoughts I am about to express below are mine and mine alone.  I am NOT writing on behalf of my colleagues in the Department of Government and International Relations.

I am troubled by decision on the part of the student who expressed outrage for Jeff Strabone’s unwillingness to sign his [English] department’s letter, and her/his offer to “help facilitate” Jeff’s class.

I do not question the student’s right to express her/his indignation, nor even her/his belief to suggest that he or she has the background and knowledge to enlighten him and members of his class.

I do not question the emotional and psychological pain many of our faculty and students have experienced as a result of the hurtful and spiteful comments voiced by certain members of our community, nor the need on our part to create an environment in which ideas are exchanged in a respectful manner.

What troubles me is that in my view the student’s action is the direct result of a climate of intolerance and intimidation that has been brewing for some time and emerged fully during the email exchange by a small group of faculty this weekend.  They implicitly threatened that if departments did not issue official statements, their absence would be noted on a list circulated under the guise of “transparency.” Such individuals are being guided by the unfounded belief that they have a clear vision of what our community should stand for, and seem determined to impose that idea on the rest of us.

I spent part of my teenage years being told by a fascist regime what to think and how to behave, and a substantial portion of my academic life studying fascist political regimes and the conditions that led to their development.  Though I cannot argue that all such conditions are present at our institution, the one characteristic that those regimes have in common is the commitment to “re-educate” those who have yet to ascend to their level of enlightenment, and to outcast those who refuse to accept their “guidance.”  That feature is very much alive at our institution. 

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, a few members of our community are robbing faculty and students of the opportunity to voice contrarian ideas for fear that if they did they would be disparaged and shunned.   More importantly they are robbing our students of the opportunity to experiment with different ideas, to be contrarian, and to leave our institution with the realization that what we have taught them is how to think, not what to believe.  If we fail to accomplish that end, then we should no longer view ourselves as a liberal institution.

Sincerely,

Alex Roberto Hybel

The “New” 21st Century Anti-Semitism: A Brief Bibliography

I list here all the earliest works that identified a new wave of Western Anti-Semitic sentiments that literally exploded on the scene in the wake of the reporting on the Second Intifada (aka Al Aqsa Intifada, the Oslo Jihad) in October 2000. If anyone has others to suggest, please recommend them.

Shmuel Trigano, ed., Observatoire du Monde Juif (November 2000-2004)

Pierre-André Taguieff, La nouvelle judéophobie (Mille et une nuits, Paris, January 2002); English tr. Rising From the Muck: The New Anti-Semitism in Europe (Ivan R. Dee, NY, 2004).

Emmanuel Brenner et al., Les territoires perdus de la République: antisémitisme, racisme et sexisme en milieu scolaire (Mille et une nuits, Paris, 2002; English: The Lost Territories of the Republic (American Jewish Committee, New York, 2006).

Phyllis Chesler, The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It (Jossey Bass, NY, July 2003, revised edition, Gefen, Jerusalem, 2015)

Manfred Gerstenfeld, Europe’s Crumbling Myths: The Post-Holocaust Origins of Today’s Anti-Semitism (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Jerusalem, 2003)

A New Anti-Semitism? Debating Judeophobia in 21st Century Britain, ed. Iganski and Kosmin (Profile Books, London, 2003);

Gabriel Schonfeld, The Return of Antisemitism (Encounter Books, NY 2004);

Paul Giniewski, Antisionisme: le nouvel antisémitisme (Cheminements, Angers, 2005)

Fiamma Nierenstein, Terror: The New Anti-Semitism and the War against the West (Smith and Kraus, Hanover NH, 2005

Old Demons, New Debates: Anti-Semitism in the West, ed. David Kerzer (Holmes and Meier, Teaneck NJ, 2005).

Pessin Archive: “Community Statements” in Chronological Order

All statements are taken from the page at the Office of Equity and Inclusion. There they are in reverse chronological order. So one can understand the scope of this phenomenon, I list the organizations making statements first:

March 24
Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE), 
Department of History
Holleran Center and OVCS
Student Government Association
Class of 2017 President
March 25
Global Islamic Studies Program
Department of Human Development
March 26
Department of Theater
Department of Sociology
Connecticut College Hillel
Department of Religious Studies
March 27
Department of Gender and Women’s Studies
Department of Environmental Studies, Department of Botany and Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment
Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology
Department of Art
Department of Education
Department of Biology
March 28
Department of Art History and Architectural Studies
Department of Slavic Studies
Department of Italian Studies
Department of Hispanic Studies
Department of Psychology
Department of English
March 29
Department of Dance
American Studies Program
Department of Philosophy
Film Studies Program
Department of Music
March 30
Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
Department of German Studies
Department of Classics
Department of Anthropology
Department of Government and International Relations
Department of Physics, Astronomy and Geophysics
Department of Chemistry
Department of Athletics and Physical Education
Department of Computer Science
Class of 2105 President
Department of French
Department of Mathematics
March 31
Toor Cummings Center for International Studies & the Liberal Arts
Department of Economics
April 2
Alumni Association Board of Directors
April 12
East Asian Studies Student Advisory Board
April 26
Office of Sustainability


Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE)

March 24, 2015

In response to the many events that transpired on campus prior to and during spring break regarding a Facebook post by a member of our faculty, the CCSRE would like to clearly state that we do not condone speech filled with bigotry and hate particularly when that speech uses dehumanizing language and incites or celebrates violence and brutality.

We make this public statement with particular attention to those students, staff, and faculty whose identities and affiliations position them as the targets of such speech. We feel a public statement that directly names the harm of bias incidents is essential to supporting the well-being of various members of the Connecticut College community, their right to educational opportunity, and their right to work in a non-hostile environment. We will continue to play our part in creating spaces for productive engagements around inclusive excellence. We look forward to collaborating with others to help move the College forward in achieving our goal of full participation.

Pessin Archive: Faculty Dissent, Spencer Pack, March 29

I publish this with permission from Spencer Pack.

From: Spencer Pack <[email protected]>
Date: Sun, Mar 29, 2015 at 10:24 AM
Subject: [faculty] On Some Recent Faculty Statements
To: faculty <[email protected]>

To my colleagues in the economics department, and throughout the college at large:  my Statement on the Recent Faculty Statements; or, why I will not sign a variant of one of these statements.

Here is my most important objection to the recent faculty statements.

I think in the main, the current flood of faculty responses and statements have been kneejerk politically correct platitudes  demonstrating insufficient thought about the complexity of the current situation. They are below the standards that I expect from my colleagues at Connecticut College;  most of my colleagues are exercising extremely poor judgment.

Some of the complexities of the current situation which need much further thought include the following:

  1. The Facebook postings of summer 2014 were written during war. Thus, the current situation is largely about war; and globalization; and the blowback from globalization of various wars; and what people think and do and say in war (here contributions from the history department could be valuable).
  1. The current situation is about class/and labor relations; it is partly an attack on tenure; and is part of a larger attack on labor unions, workers’ organizations, and the middle class in America; and it is partly about collegiality and worker solidarity; or the lack thereof.
  1. It is about changes in the means of communications; what is appropriate on social media; also who controls the settings on electronic communication; and how; for some historical comparison: what was the role of the printing press in the ensuing century or two of religious wars? How does that compare to the internet and current hostilities? Here people should consider the  work of the great Canadian economic historian Harold Innis, his follower Marshall McLuhan, and the work the Toronto school of communications.

Follow up on Proxy Honor Killings: Response to Peter Sage

In response to my post on Jewish anti-Zionism as a proxy honor-killing, Peter Sage wrote the following request for clarification.

So please help me see a way out of the current blind alley. If we have a one state solution then we will have, immediately or soon, an Arab majority and you are certain this means that Jews will be oppressed by the popular will of that majority. (I agree this is a valid concern.)

The mere fact that you need to reassure me that you grant the concern indicates how far removed from reality much of the public discourse has become. It’s kind of like a “no duh.”

The current alternative are Jews in power in Israel holding military/police power of occupied territory of stateless non-citizens.

Well, since Oslo, if they’re stateless non-citizens, it’s because their ruling elite, who have full control of most elements of a working state – education, police, communication, licensing, health, elections, administration – have seen fit to run their fiefdom as mafia-land. It’s not Israel’s fault they’re, like their political cousins in Gaza, “one man, one vote, one time” democracies.

This has gone on for a half century. The result has been discord within the society.

Which society, Israel? Of course. Given that it’s a democracy, committed to the basic rules of egalitarian power holding – do not do onto others what you would not want done to you – or, more colloquially, live and let live, Israelis all find this situation painful. Most of us, even at great sacrifice, would be happy to give it up. It’s just that the alternatives are much worse, right now.

Indeed, looking at other examples of places where an ethnic group is held in a subservient position (British Colonies prior to 1776; enslaved blacks in America; Jim Crow/Black Codes post Civil War America; European treatment of Native Americans 1492 through independence; Japanese occupation of China 1938-45; German treatment of Jews 1933-45; apartheid in South Africa) has worked out badly.

Wow! That’s quite a list there. Aside from the case of the British colonies in America, most of them are particularly nasty. The sin, as it were, of oppression lays heavily on the shoulders of the identifiable oppressors. Although no comparison to the Israeli-Palestinian case works really well, given the unique aspects of this case of conflict, all of these (except the British/American one) illustrate the most heinous behavior on the part of the oppressor of the “subservient” (in pomo-poco terms: subaltern).

Jewish anti-Zionism: The proxy honor-killing

Available in Polish, translated by Malgorzata Koraszewska here.

The recent stunning performance of Marcia Freedman at the J-Street conference, calling for a one-state solution (almost surely not called Israel), in which an Arab majority would fiercely defend the rights of a protected Jewish minority, heartily applauded by an audience of alleged “pro-Israel, pro-Peace” attendees, has once again raised the question sent to me by someone who saw The J-Street Challenge:

WHY do J Street activists take these positions that they know are destructive to Israel’s chances for survival? 

Obviously, the easy way to answer is to claim they don’t realize the destructive nature of their “plan for peace.” Certainly this would hold for Ms. Freedman, who apparently believes that once Israel becomes a “true democracy [applause]” (whatever that means), that Jews won’t need to maintain control of the levers of power, since that now truly democratic “state” would secure the rights of the Jews no matter who was in power (e.g., an Arab majority).

Only someone struck with terminal cecity could not notice that beyond Israel’s borders, Arab majorities rarely protect the rights of minorities, especially those they feel threaten them. The notion that 2000 years of determined victimization of Jews without sovereignty means nothing, and that somehow an Arab majority would “fiercely defend the rights of the Jewish minority,” such ideas defy the reality-based social and political imagination. Freedman’s speech, so totally divorced from the all-too-human reality of this part of the world, gives us a sterling example of the vapid moral angélisme that animates so many anti-Zionist Jews.

[For those not convinced that J-Street pursues suicidal policies for the polity it professes to “love” – withdraw to ’67 borders as an unreciprocated concession – I’ve written about this elsewhere.]

Here I’d like to address my correspondent’s well-posed question by slightly rephrasing it:

Why do Jews identify with and promote Palestinian lethal narratives about Israel, and ally with, encourage, and promote groups who openly desire the destruction of Israel, even as they assure us (M.F. style) that we have nothing to fear from them?

In a word, I think they’re engaged in a long-term, proxy, honor-killing.

Does Burston really think it’s legitimate to view BDS as Tikkun Olam?

[I re-post this item from 2010 after having attended a meeting at Temple Israel, a Reform Synagogue in Boston last night where J-Street and NIF talked us blue from their tikkun bubble chamber.]

A good friend sent me the following piece by Bradley Burston with the comment: “It expresses how I feel.” I find it so pervasively flawed that I have difficulty taking it seriously. But if my friend can (and he’s one of the smartest people I know), then I have to, and it does raise, however poorly, a whole range of key issues. So, with great reluctance (because there are more interesting texts to sink one’s teeth into), I fisk below.

First, a brief introductory note: One of the key contentions of Burston and the people he likes (J-Street, Jewish Voices for Peace, Young Jews for Peace, etc.) is that a) they love Israel and b) they know the best way to peace which, since Israel won’t take that path, they must force upon her. Now all these groups locate along the “left” political spectrum differently. NIF disapproves of BDS but funds groups who do; J-Street disapproves of  BDS even if they associate with people who do; Jewish Voices for Peace and Emily Schaeffer (below) support BDS in many forms.

Whatever the details, each of these groups believes that they must pressure Israel to leave the occupied territories out of a combination of moral passion – the Israel they love should set a moral example to the world – and peaceful intentions – they know their formula for peace will work.

Now some people, myself included, see the situation very differently. On moral matters, howevermuch we may share concerns about the occupation and dominion over another people harms both Palestinians and Israelis, we have difficulty with a moral equivalence, that ends up as a moral inversion, with the profound condescension and bigotry it involves in its abysmally low standards for the Palestinians, and the inversely exacting standards to which it holds Israel. The result – people, Jews! – for whom Israel is the new Nazi. And even as such people are morally reckless in their accusations of Israel, they echo and reinforce genocidal hatreds among the most base of the enemies of the Jews.

On the practical level, many of us feel that while making concessions and apologizing is a splendid way to begin a process of reconciliation, that only works in cases where the other side also seeks resolution, and responds in kind. In some cases, conflicts are not only unresponsive to such an approach, but literally allergic: rather than a peace process it produces a war process. Indeed, given how often and consistently Palestinian (and more broadly Arab) leaders have seized upon Israeli concessions to press for more and on Israeli confessions to reaffirm a demonizing narrative, it’s dubious that under the best of circumstances, Palestinian political players would respond to an Israeli withdrawal to the ’67 borders with a shift to peace.

On the contrary, any such move most likely will strengthen those in the Palestinian camp who argue that any withdrawal should be part of a “Phased plan” to destroy Israel and use any and every pretext to keep the war alive. Any observer who dismisses even this possibility – the favorite line is either, “you’re paranoid,” or “oh, you think they only understand violence.” – is either in ignorance or denial of the discourse that prevails in Palestinian political culture today.

And so, if under the best of conditions withdrawing to the ’67 lines could backfire, how much the more likely that the voices of attack will grow louder if Israel finds itself compelled as a result of becoming the object of universal execration (BDS) and pressure from its only powerful ally, the United States, to withdraw. The naïveté of such a formula is only matched by the aggressiveness with which it gets implemented. A formula for war: si vis bellum para pacem.

The fact that groups can argue that the US should force Israel to make these concessions without any serious discussion of the necessary massive reciprocity from Palestinians (especially when it comes to incitement to hatred and violence), raises serious doubts among many about their realism, and given their recklessness in insisting that virtually any means to get there are legitimate, it raises for us serious doubts about their responsibility.

As far as I can make out, Burston has no idea what I’m talking about. He’s like the New Yorker cartoon of a Manhattanite’s view of the USA. When he looks at the landscape of this debate, all he sees are him and his like-minded friends “doing the right thing,” while the opposition is at the other end of the spectrum – messianic rabbis and their neo-con partners who will not part with an inch of the land, even if God himself told them to do so. And nothing in between.

He encases his simplistic dualism in the antimony “Jews of the Gate” vs. “Jews of the Wall.” This fisking comes from someone who thinks that both of his categories are poorly conceived; and that the real issues are entirely different from the ones upon which he focuses.

Thanksgiving, Tikkun Olam, and U.S. Jews breaking the Israel barrier By Bradley Burston

[Part 2 of a series on U.S. Jews emotionally divesting from Israel. In part, a journal of a recent West Coast speaking tour hosted by J Street]

Norah: It reminds me of this part of Judaism that I really like. It’s called Tikkun Olam. It says that the world is broken into pieces, and that it’s everybody’s job to find them and put them back together again.

Nick: Well, maybe we’re the pieces. And maybe we’re not supposed to find the pieces. Maybe we are the pieces. “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” (Columbia Pictures, 2008)

It’s hard not to read this as a spoof of the trivial use to which a mystical concept like tikkun olam has been put in new “new-age” spirituality. Not having seen the movie, I don’t know if this is an homage to “Deep Thoughts,” but Burston seems to offer them up as his credo. Indeed, Nick’s version – people! – stands behind the full line-up of comments he makes throughout this piece. So it’s probably worth a short comment on this deep and now deeply problematic notion that has set our moral compasses awry in the 21st century.

#GenerationCaliphate: Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad

#GenerationCaliphate: 

Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad

May 3-4, 2015, Boston University

Sponsored by the Center for Millennial Studies, Boston University History Department and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

Most Westerners associate the terms apocalyptic and millennial (millenarian) with Christian beliefs about the endtime. Few even know that Muhammad began his career as an apocalyptic prophet predicting the imminent Last Judgment. And yet, for the last thirty years, a wide-ranging group of militants, both Sunni and Shi’i, both in coordination and independently, have, under the apocalyptic belief that now is the time, pursued the millennial goal of spreading Dar al Islam to the entire world. In a manner entirely in keeping with apocalyptic beliefs, but utterly counter-intuitive to outsiders, these Jihadis see the Western-driven transformation of the world as a vehicle for their millennial beliefs, or, to paraphrase Eusebius on the relationship between the Roman Empire and Christianity: Praeparatio Califatae.

The apocalyptic scenario whereby this global conquest takes place differs from active transformative (the West shall be conquered by Da’wa [summons]) to active cataclysmic (bloody conquest). Western experts have until quite recently, for a wide range of reasons, ignored this dimension of the problem. And yet, understanding the nature of global Jihad in terms of the dynamics of apocalyptic millennial groups may provide an important understanding, both to their motivations, methods, as well as their responses to the inevitable disappointments that await all such believers. The now defunct Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University (1996-2003) brings to the public one final conference on apocalyptic beliefs, co-sponsored by the BU History Department and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME).

This event is free and open to the public.

Schedule

Sunday, May 3

10:00-12:00 Introduction:

  • Richard Landes, “Globalization as a Millennial Praeparatio Califatae: A Problematic Discussion”
  • William McCants, Brookings Institute: “ISIS and the Absent Mahdi: Studies in Cognitive Dissonance and Apocalyptic Jazz”
  • Graeme Wood, Yale University, Atlantic Monthly: “On the Resistance to seeing Global Jihad as Apocalyptic Movement”

 12:00-1:30 Break for Lunch

 1:30-3:30 Panel II: The Millennial Goal: Global Caliphate

  • Timothy Furnish, “”Rejecting Millennial Time: The Ottoman Empire’s 700-year War against Mahdism in its Realm.”
  • Cole Bunzel, Princeton: “From Apocalypse Now to Caliphate Now: Revisiting Juhayman al-‘Utaybi’s Siege of Mecca in 1979″
  • Jeffrey M. Bale, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, “Refusing to Take Islamist Ideology Seriously: The Persistence of Western ‘Mirror Imaging’ and Ideological Double Standards”
  • Comments: Charles Cameron

4:00-5:30 Panel III: Case Studies in Apocalyptic Jihad

  • David Cook, Rice University: “ISIS and Boko Haram: Profiles in Apocalyptic Jihad”
  • JM Berger, Brookings Institute, “The role of communications Technology in mediating apocalyptic communities”
  • Mehdi Khalaji, Washington Institute of Near East Policy: “Apocalyptic Revolutionary Politics in Iran”

Monday, May 4

10:0-12:00 Panel IV: Conspiracy Theory and Apocalyptic Genocide

  • Itamar Marcus, Palestinian Media Watch, “Anti-Semitism, Conspiracy Theory and Apocalyptic Global Jihad
  • Charles Small, “Ideology and Antisemitism:  Random Acts or a Core Element of the Reactionary Islamist Global Jihad?”
  • Richard Landes, BU, “Active Cataclysmic Apocalyptic Scenarios, Demonizing and Megadeath: Taiping, Communists, Nazis, and Jihadis.”
  • Comments: David Redles

  12:00-1:30 Break for Lunch 

 1:30-4:00 Final Panel Discussion

Paul Berman, Independent Scholar

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Independent Scholar

Husain Haqqani, Hudson Institute

Charles Strozier, John Jay College

Brenda Brasher, Tulane University

*All events will take place in the Stone Science Building (645 Commonwealth Ave), room B50

Been up so long it looks like down to me: Garry Trudeau and punching down at Jihadis

On April 10 at the Long Island University’s George Polk Awards ceremony, where he received the George Polk Career Award, Garry Trudeau, the beloved author of the Doonsbury cartoons, delivered the following remarks which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly. In it he criticizes the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo for “punching down.” The core of his argument, fisked below.

Ironically, Charlie Hebdo,which always maintained it was attacking Islamic fanatics, not the general population, has succeeded in provoking many Muslims throughout France to make common cause with its most violent outliers. This is a bitter harvest.

The implication here is that the attack on the Jihadis was responsible for this “common cause,” an attribution of causation that will play a critical role in the subsequent analysis. Nothing here questions what is wrong with French Muslims that criticism of their most extreme and violent co-religionists, the one’s who insist that Muhammad cannot be drawn, can drive the “vast majority of moderate Muslims” who have nothing in common with these (not real) Muslims, to nonetheless make common cause with hate-mongering genocidal maniacs. It’s classic Masochistic Omnipotence Syndrome (MOS): it’s all our fault, if only we didn’t provoke them, they wouldn’t hate us so.

There’s a bitter harvest, alright, and much of it comes from this kind of Western supremacist thinking that puts all moral responsibility on the West, and makes no moral demands of Muslims, including the rather basic one – for a civil society at least – of dealing with criticism like mentsches instead of hysterical, testosteronic teenagers.

Traditionally, satire has comforted the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful. Great French satirists like Molière and Daumier always punched up, holding up the self-satisfied and hypocritical to ridicule. Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny—it’s just mean.

By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech, which in France is only illegal if it directly incites violence.

Fatal Attraction: The shared antichrist of the Global Progressive Left and Jihad

The following is the text of a talk I gave at ISGAP last week.

Imagine all the people…

Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one… (John Lennon, 1971)

And now,

Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Something to kill and die for

And one religion too

Imagine all the people

Living under our peace…

You may say we’re dreamers

But we’re not the only ones… (Jihadi Joe, 2000)

Welcome to the 21st century.

The Jihadi Apocalyptic Narrative: World Conquest and the Great and Little Satan

Despite the spectacular attacks on the West, most Westerners have little familiarity[1] with the Jihadi narrative, a narrative first revealed in Khoumeini’s Iran.[2] It varies significantly in some ways from traditional Muslim apocalyptic thought, which focused on a Last Judgment at the end of the world. Instead, this apocalyptic scenario focuses on a this-wordly messianic era, envisioned as the global victory of Islam: when all of Dar al Harb becomes Dar al Islam.[3] Those who join this movement fight in an apocalyptic battle in which the Jews will be slaughtered, and the rest of the harbi, would convert, accept the dhimma contract of submission (religions of the book), or become slaves (pagans), or being put to death[4]: a “Second Global Islamic Kingdom,”[5] only this time, really encompassing the whole world. In the battle, no mercy should be shown to those who resist Islam’s dominion. Everything to kill and die for: suicide martyrs goes straight to heaven; their victims, straight to hell.

Professor Pessin’s Facebook Entry on Operation Protective Edge, August 11, 2014

A complicated but telling development in the cognitive wars, from Connecticut College. For the details, see at Slate and NPR. The controversy has focused on the following facebook entry from August 11, 2014, at the height of last summer’s war in Gaza.

I’m sure someone could make a cartoon of this, but one image which essentializes the current situation in Gaza might be this. You’ve got a rabid pit bull chained in a cage, regularly making mass efforts to escape. The owner, naturally keeps the thing in the cage, but being kind-hearted or something, regularly feeds it, waters it, takes care of its health needs, etc. But liberal hearted world is outraged at the cruelty of keeping in in the cage, keeps pressuring the owner to let it out. Every so often the man relents under pressure, opens the cage a crack, and the pit bull comes roaring bounding out, snarling, going for the throat. A short battle ensues, the pit bull gets put back in… and almost immediately liberal world pressure starts complaining about the cruelty to animals and insisting he open the cage.

Gaza is the cage because of its repeated efforts to destroy Israel and the Jews. (1990s suicide buses anyone? how quickly we forget.) The blockade is not the cause of the current conflict. It is the RESULT of the conflict and cannot retroactively become its cause. The same is true of Judea and Samaria, the result of the Arab enmity toward Israel and not its cause. Anyone who fails to recognize that clear and obvious fact is demanding the release of a rabid pit bull. You may call for this release because you are yourself a rabid pit bull protesting your co-specimen’s detention, or because you are a well-meaning liberal hearted animal rights person. But you are demanding the same thing. (And I wonder how heartily you’d demand this if the rabid pit bull was to be released in YOUR neighborhood.)

Andrew Pessin, Professor of Philosophy at Connecticut College, August 11, 2014, Facebook entry later taken down in the face of misinterpretation, transcribed by me.

The reading of this promoted by Pessin’s vocal critics, in which he meant that the Palestinians are the pit bull which by the logic of his image, Pessin agreed in a later exchange, needed to be “put down,” making this an odious example of “racist hate speech,” is contentious to put it mildly.

As Pessin noted in his defense, read the discussion in which he was participating and it’s clear he’s talking about Hamas. Certainly, the pit bull who “comes roaring bounding out, snarling, going for the throat,” every time the man let’s it out of its cage, is a reference to Hamas, as is his explicatory reference to the suicide bombings of the aughts (’00s).

This particular entry is clearly within a long and distinguished tradition of both political cartooning and animal parables, including George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Read in that manner, it is an incisive depiction of Hamas, whose numerous war crimes this summer, according to an Amnesty International Report (!), included killing both Israeli and Palestinian civilians in an indiscriminate manner. The deep irony embodied in Pessin’s image of Gaza as the cage, is that it’s not really the Israelis who built the cage, so much as the rabid dog who has taken Gazans hostage, hides behind them, uses them as human shields to fend off the Israeli effort to “put down” the rabid dog of “genocidal hatred.”

The “liberal” reader who, squeamish at a depiction of genocidal hatred denounced in no uncertain terms (pit bull), ends up behaving like the faculty at Connecticut College: they placate groups who scream injury when criticized, in order to shelter their own discourse of violence and hatred from the scrutiny it so richly deserves.

 

Lethal Journalism, Middle East Style

The practice of lethal journalism participates in the larger category of passing off war propaganda as news, has a long history, and a long future. Lethal journalists take the stories that belligerents create to demonize the enemy – especially the accusation of deliberately killing innocent civilians even children – and present them as news.

In the annals of the long history of running war propaganda as news, rarely if ever, have journalists consistently over an extended period of time, passed off enemy war propaganda as news. And yet that behavior, a kind of “own-goal journalism” marks the dominant school of journalism during the period of the opening years of the 21st century. And although it eventually spread far beyond the Middle East, that lethal reporting began and took shape in covering the conflict between Israel and her neighbors.

This peculiar combination of base war propaganda persistently repeated as news by a target of that propaganda – I’d like to call DuraJournalismBut throughout this essay, when I use the more generic “lethal journalism” I make reference to this eccentric Levantine phenomenon.

Identifying and redressing this problem seems like a high value goal, especially in the cause of strengthening a free (hence accurate) news media at a critical moment in the history of those modern nations, “so conceived and so dedicated.”

The key to this journalism is the delivery as news of an implicit (preferably explicit) accusation of deliberate killing – murdering children,targeting  civilians, or, in the words of the Goldstone Report, deliberately “punishing” civilians with “disproportionate” response, possibly constituting “crimes against humanity.” Lethal narratives constitute the basest form of war propaganda, especially when the stories are largely invented. It seeks to arouse hatred and a desire for revenge by convincing the target audience (recruits, observers), that the designated enemy deserves the violence you wish to visit on him.

The term “lethal journalism” designates the practice of those journalists who take a systematically credulous stance towards Arab lethal narratives about Israel, which they then pass on to us, their readers and listeners, as “news,” or at least, as perfectly believable claims about what has happened. Maintaining such a discourse necessitates playing fast and loose with evidence, ignoring and dismissing anomalous details, playing up dubious ones. It leaves a distinct Augean trail where it passes.

Since all wars have their lethal narratives, and all war-makers want to enlist journalists in spreading theirs, examples of lethal journalism can be found throughout the history of the press in war. Indeed, it’s an obvious need for democracies founded on peaceful relations, to have a press that can accurately identify false evidence, especially in the service of lethal narratives, and report on that war propaganda, rather than become an instrument of that propaganda. The fact that Western media have done so badly for over fifteen years, suggests the extent of the media’s “credibility crisis.” The most trusted news source – Fox! – 29%. Democracies cannot survive such dysfunctional relations between the news media and their public.