Saturday, November 25, 2017

On not normalizing Nazis






Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Review of "Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left"

Jeffrey Herf. Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967-1989. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Illustrations. 493 pp. $29.99 (paper), ISBN 978-1-107-46162-8; $99.99 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-107-08986-0.

Reviewed by Philipp Lenhard (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universit瓣t M羹nchen, Historisches Seminar J羹dische Geschichte und Kultur)

Published on H-Judaic (November, 2017)
When the German terrorists Wilfried B繹se and Brigitte Kuhlmann hijacked Air France Flight 139 on June 27, 1976, and separated Jewish and Israeli from non-Jewish hostages, the Nazi past seemed to resurge in a new, left-radical disguise. Since 1969, German leftists had maintained close contacts with Palestinian terrorist groups, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Fatah, the two largest groups forming the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). As a result of this collaboration, a series of anti-Jewish attacks were carried out in West Germany throughout the 1970s in the name of a so-called resistance against US imperialism and Zionist racism. The hijacking of the Air France flight and the “selection” of the Jewish passengers represent the zenith of German left-wing anti-Zionism that declined in the 1980s and has been increasingly challenged by leftist supporters of Israel since the 1990s.[1] However, the fine line between criticism of Israeli politics, hatred against Israel, and antisemitism remains an urgent issue today.[2] 
Historical research takes on an important role in uncovering the history of anti-Zionism and antisemitism in their manifold forms. Scholars of Jewish history have long argued that both Jewish and non-Jewish anti-Zionism prior to the Holocaust cannot easily be equated with antisemitism because the rejection of Zionism often stemmed from a universalist critique of nationalism as it had evolved from the ideas of the European Enlightenment. [3] At the same time, late nineteenth-century antisemites already used anti-Zionist ideas to denounce Jews as being incapable of running a state.[4] After the extermination of European Jewry and the foundation of the state of Israel, anti-Zionism was directed not only against an ideology but also against the existing Jewish state of Holocaust survivors and their children and grandchildren. Thus, any attempt to critique Zionism before the mass murder has to at least face the accusation of historical blindness. Socialist and Communist movements and parties as well as the Communist regimes after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, including the German Democratic Republic (GDR), founded in 1949, only one year after the foundation of the Jewish state, had to face this conflicted heritage. In most cases, pre-Holocaust anti-Zionism was perpetuated or even radicalized under the influence of Joseph Stalin’s anti-cosmopolitan and anti-imperialist doctrines. 
Notes 
[1]. Despite its overall pro-Palestinian agenda, the Far Left party Die Linke emphasizes that “Israel’s existence and the history of its foundation are irrevocable consequences of the Shoah and the extermination of European Jewry, a historical consequence of a centuries-old antisemitism that predates Nazi Fascism and that encompasses more than the European-Christian history of persecution. This world-historical emancipation is worth our unrestricted solidarity, and this possibility will be defended in all future” (translation mine). Die Linke, https://www.die-linke.de/detail/eine-friedliche-zwei-staatenloesung-muss-ziel-bleiben/ (accessed October 12, 2017). Compared to other European leftist parties, this statement shows a profound transformation of the German left wing’s diction over the course of the last decades. 
[2]. In a recent book about Operation Entebbe (Legenden um Entebbe: Ein Akt der Luftpiraterie und seine Dimensionen in der politischen Diskussion [M羹nster: Unrast, 2016]), edited by the Far Left activist Markus Mohr, antisemitism from the left is systematically downplayed, which has aroused a heated debate in the left-wing weekly Jungle World. 
[3]. See for the transition L矇on Poliakov, Vom Antizionismus zum Antisemitismus (Freiburg im Breisgau: a Ira, 1992).
[4]. See, for example, Eugen D羹hring, Die Judenfrage als Racen-, Sitten- und Culturfrage (Karlsruhe, Leipzig: H. Reuther, 1881), 110n. 
For the rest of the review: Herf.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Academic boycotts and the Society of Biblical Literature

I just noticed that the SBL recently posted a statement opposing academic boycotts. It doesn't mention any particular boycott, but I suspect it has something to do with the BDS movement.
Statement on Academic Boycotts 

SBL’s mission statement enumerates the core values of the Society, including respect for diversity, openness to change, and critical inquiry that reflects SBL’s full international context. In order to fulfill this mission, SBL considers academic boycotts an obstacle to the free exchange of ideas, a bedrock principle for scholarly discourse. SBL’s statement on academic freedom elaborates the principles supporting critical inquiry and participation. Both the statement on academic freedom and this statement on academic boycotts are in accordance with the positions of AAUP.

Rather than engaging in academic boycotts, the Society provides opportunities for organizing academic sessions, including those that address controversial issues. Such sessions, as with all sessions and panels at SBL conferences, relate to the scholarly mission of the Society, are open to all of its members, and provide analysis of complex and sometimes competing points of view. The Society recognizes that members, individually and in groups, exercise their right to participate according to their conscience and interest. 
The Society furthermore provides procedures for making public statements that are directly related to its mission or to the professional interests of its members.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Why I oppose the academic boycott of Israel; why the AAR should not support BDS

Because there are people starting to organize for support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement at the American Academy of Religion (whose annual meeting is happening right now in Boston, in conjunction with the Society of Biblical Literature; for some details, see this article in Haaretz: https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-1.823743), I thought it made sense to republish my letter against the academic boycott of Israel. I wrote it in 2014, when the American Studies Association voted to support the academic boycott, and a pro-boycott speaker, Professor Eric Cheyfitz came and spoke at Ithaca College in support of the boycott.
When I saw the poster (for Cheyfitz's talk at Ithaca College), I began to reflect how my academic work has been immensely enriched by my studies in Israel. When I was a graduate student at Harvard, I went to Israel for two years, 1987-89, to improve my Hebrew and take courses at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Studying there gave me the opportunity to learn from some of the most prominent scholars in several fields of Jewish Studies. I took a course on early Jewish mysticism with Professor Rachel Elior, and found my dissertation topic. I took many other courses in Jewish Studies that were not, at that time, offered at Harvard, including a course on the Zohar, another one on the range of interpretations of Genesis 38 (the story of Judah and Tamar) with Yair Zakovitch (Bible) and Avigdor Shinan (Midrash), a course on the Septuagint with Emanuel Tov (one of the world experts on the study of the Septuagint), a reading course with Michael Stone on 3 Baruch, a course on Midrash with Avigdor Shinan (a world expert on Midrash), a course in Biblical Aramaic, etc. I had originally intended to spend only a year in Israel but I was so interested that I decided to spend a second year at the Hebrew University. 
I returned to Israel for the 1992-93 academic year to do research for my dissertation. I consulted with Professor Elior frequently and audited another class of hers on the Hekhalot literature. If I had not been able to go to the Hebrew University and the National and University Library for research, I probably could not have finished my dissertation. The National Library houses the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts, and it was there that I learned how to read medieval manuscripts from others in the community of scholars who also used the library.

I went to Israel again for the 1998-1999 academic year, benefiting from a Lady Davis Fellowship given to me by the Hebrew University. While there, I worked on research topics that arose out of my dissertation and explored new areas. I took a course at the university with Joseph Naveh on ancient Jewish amulets - we learned how to read, translate, and interpret them. I also participated in a year long seminar at the Hartman Institute on messianism and mysticism in Judaism. I gave a presentation there on Metatron as a messianic figure in 3 Enoch.

In the spring of 2012, when I was on sabbatical, I spent seven months in Jerusalem working on my second book, Angels' Tongues and Witches' Curses: Jewish Women and Ritual Power in Late Antiquity.

Since my first stay in Israel in 1987-89, I have visited almost every year to do research. Since the summer of 2006, I have gone every summer for up to two months. In terms of my research, Israel is really my academic home. I use the National Library and participate in the community of scholars and scholarship there. In the last couple of years I have met graduate students at the library who are working on their dissertations and I have been able to be helpful to a few of them in their research. Since I teach at a primarily undergraduate institution, I don't teach any graduate students, and I value the opportunity to be able to advise current students.

The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) has issued guidelines for how people should boycott Israeli academia. They include "refrain[ing] from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions." Participation includes "Academic events (such as conferences, symposia, workshops, book and museum exhibits) convened or co-sponsored by Israeli institutions." The events include events held both in Israel and abroad that are sponsored by Israeli institutions. They are also opposed to study abroad programs in Israel, under the reasoning that "These programs are usually housed at Israeli universities and are part of the Israeli propaganda effort, designed to give international students a “positive experience” of Israel." In addition, official representatives of Israeli academia who give talks at international venues should be boycotted, as well as special honors given to these recipients. They also oppose any Palestinian/Arab-Israeli collaborative research projects or events. The boycott campaign opposes any events and projects that bring Palestinians and/or Arabs and Israelis together, "unless based on unambiguous recognition of Palestinian rights and framed within the explicit context of opposition to occupation and other forms of Israeli oppression of the Palestinians." The boycott campaign also calls for not publishing or refereeing articles for academic journals based in Israeli universities.

While USACBI says that the boycott is aimed at Israeli academic institutions (on the pretext that they support the Israeli occupation), and not at individual Israeli scholars, it is difficult for me to see how this caveat really protects individuals. For example, my research at the Hebrew University in 1998-99 was financed by a Lady Davis grant. If I hadn't received the money, I wouldn't have been able to go for the year. In addition, Israeli scholars who go to international conferences are usually supported by travel grants from their institutions, as are academics in other countries. (It should be noted that the endorsement of the boycott by the American Studies Association states explicitly that "Routine university funding for individual collaborations or academic exchanges is permitted").

Every four years the World Congress of Jewish Studies is held at the Hebrew University. Scholars in Jewish Studies from Israel, Europe, the US, and other parts of the world give papers. Since USACBI maintains that events convened by Israeli institutions should be boycotted, this means that one of the primary conferences in the field of Jewish Studies would be able to function only for Israeli scholars. Again, boycotting this conference would have a direct effect upon individual scholars, both Israeli and from other countries. Despite the claim of the ASA that the boycott "does not seek to curtail dialogue between U.S. and Israeli scholars," it would actually have this effect, in that it would prohibit US scholars from going to conferences in Israel sponsored by any academic institution.

If scholarly organizations and academic institutions in the US decided to support the academic boycott, it would have a seriously deleterious effect upon the field of Jewish Studies, since it would prohibit American scholars from going to any conferences in Israel (which are usually sponsored by Israeli universities). Israeli scholars who headed institutes at Israeli universities would not be permitted to speak at American universities. I suspect that the boycott would also prohibit foreign scholars from receiving grants or fellowships at Israeli universities. Since the boycott campaign opposes study abroad in Israel, foreign students, on the undergraduate or graduate levels, would not be able to study at Israeli universities, or do dissertation or other research in Israel, and would therefore be cut off from the knowledge and connections they could gain from collaboration with Israeli scholars. When I went to the Hebrew University as a visiting graduate student in 1987-89, I enrolled in the university through the Rothberg International School. The academic boycott would have prevented that, directly impacting my academic career.

In addition, USACBI states,
While an individual’s academic freedom should be fully and consistently respected in this context, an individual academic, Israeli or not, cannot be exempt from being subject to boycotts that conscientious citizens around the world (beyond the scope of the PACBI boycott criteria) may call for in response to what is widely perceived as a particularly offensive act or statement by the academic in question (such as direct or indirect incitement to violence; justification — an indirect form of advocacy — of war crimes and other grave violations of international law; racial slurs; actual participation in human rights violations; etc.).
This means that USACBI (in agreement with PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) supports boycotting individuals who, in its judgement, engage in incitement to violence, justification of war crimes, etc. How does USACBI define war crimes? What if a scholar wrote an article supporting retaliatory Israeli strikes against Hamas or Islamic Jihad terrorists who had just fired missiles into Israel (while at the same time cautioning against any strikes that could harm civilians)? Would that count as a "justification of war crimes"? 
If I wrote an essay for this blog maintaining that the separation wall had stopped many suicide bombers from entering Israel from the West Bank, would that count as justifying a "grave violation of international law," given that the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion in 2004 stating that the wall is illegal under international law? This part of the call to boycott could justify the boycotting of scholars in political science, international affairs, Middle Eastern politics, history, and other fields who write articles and books that justify any actions that USACBI consider to be war crimes, incitement to violence, etc., therefore also directly impacting individual scholars, Israeli or not.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

"Alt-right" woman unclear on the concept

Unclear on the concept. "Wife with a Purpose," a Mormon ex-feminist, now supporter of the alt-right, "Trad Life," white supremacy, and antisemitism.


Steve Bannon Is Bad for the Jews - Bret Stephens

Bret Stephens: Steve Bannon Is Bad for the Jews
The Zionist Organization of America feted Stephen K. Bannon at a gala dinner in New York on Sunday night. What a disgrace.

What a mistake, too.

It’s a disgrace because no organization that purports to represent the interests of the Jewish people should ever embrace anyone who embraces anti-Semites. Jews have enemies enough. To provide those enemies with moral cover for the sake of political convenience or ideology corroborates the worst anti-Semitic stereotypes and strengthens the hand of those who mean us harm.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Tariq Ramadan's violent attacks upon women

What is the relationship between open disrespect of women and rape? Let's examine the case of Tariq Ramadan.

In 2009, the American Academy of Religion invited Tariq Ramadan, a professor at Oxford, and the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, to give a plenary address at the Annual Meeting. He spoke at the meeting in November, which was held in Montreal (and Canada permitted him to enter). The AAR fought to bring Ramadan to the US, against the opposition of the US government. They sued, along with the ACLU and another organization. In 2010, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "issued orders that appear to end the exclusion from the United States."

A couple of years later (April 12, 2011), the Egyptian feminist Mona Eltahawy engaged in a debate on BBC Newsnight on the question of whether the burqa should be banned. Ramadan continually talked over Eltahawy to try to prevent her from speaking.


Ramadan: And we are alway trying to come with new rules and reducing the freedom of expressions of Muslims against the minarets, against the hijab, against the burka. We don't - what does it mean? Does it mean that the only right way of being a Muslim in Europe today, a good European Muslim is an invisible Muslim, who don't want to see them, don't want to see them in the street, don't.... 
Moderator, asking Eltahawy: Why are you shaking your head? 
Eltahawy: I'm shaking my head because I disagree with just about everything that Tariq just said. It's interesting that he used the word invisible, because that's what the niqab does. 
Ramadan, interrupting: That's because you are working with the neocons in the States. 
Eltahawy: I'm working with the who?! Can you prove that? This is libelous what you are saying. I am not working with the neocons! 
Ramadan, interrupting: We know who you are working with! 
Eltahawy: Did you hear what he just said? This exactly the problem that a Muslim and a feminist actually faces. 
Ramadan, interrupting: You are, you are! Of course, you are working in exactly the same direction. 
Eltahawy: You have to stop talking now, because it's my turn. (Ramadan, interrupting: Yes, a feminist). This is exactly what happens when a Muslim and a feminist speaks out - she is silenced. They are trying to silence me by saying that I'm a neocon. That is absolute nonsense! 
Ramadan, interrupting: I'm not trying to silence you. Don't play the victim, don't play the victim! 
Eltahway: This is what you're supporting. I'm not a victim, I'm no one's victim! You are supporting the very thing you claim to be attacking. You support the invisibility of women. The niqab renders women invisible. And let's be real here. Feminist organizations on the ground will tell you that women have no say in this. 
Ramadan, interrupting: I'm all for freedom. I'm supporting women wearing whatever they want. 
Eltahawy: Stop talking! I'm talking! (Ramadan guffaws). Women on the ground have no say in this, because when they start to talk, you silence them. People like you silence them. The Muslim right wing has been encroaching on women's rights gradually, and no one has said anything! 
Ramadan, interrupting: No, no, you don't want to hear them, you don't want to hear the women. 
Eltahawy: Other groups have said nothing. The left wing has been silenced while Muslim women have been disappeared, all for the sake of fighting Islamophobia. I fight Islamophobia. I was standing outside of that mosque in New York. I wrote opinion pieces against the minaret ban. 
Ramadan: Stop talking about yourself.... 
Eltahawy: You cannot sit there and try to libel me.
In the last few days a series of extremely nasty stories about Ramadan's sexual abuse of women has come out. A report in the New York Times states that a French activist and author, Henda Ayari, filed a police complaint accusing him of sexually assaulting her in 2012. A second woman (unnamed) has accused him of rape and assault in 2009. (The same year that he was honored by the AAR). The assault accusations have been highlighted by Mona Eltahawy on Twitter.
The second woman, whose name has not been published by the news media, gave an account of an extremely violent assault to two French newspapers, Le Monde and Le Parisien. 
A 45-year-old Muslim convert, she said she had also corresponded with Mr. Ramadan on Facebook and met him in his hotel on the sidelines of a conference to discuss religion. When she went to his room, she said, she was raped and beaten. 
She said she suffered months of threats afterward to keep her silent.
Another article, in the National (published in the United Arab Emirates), shows that French officials knew about Ramadan's violent attacks upon women, and did nothing.
A French official has admitted knowing Oxford professor Tariq Ramadan was “violent and aggressive” sexually, but denied hearing anything about rape. 
Bernard Godard, who was considered the “Monsieur Islam” of the French Ministry of the Interior between 1997 and 2014, was well acquainted with Mr Ramadan, a prominent Islamic scholar and grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. 
When asked whether he had any knowledge of the rape and sexual assault that Mr Ramadan is now being accused of, Mr Godard insisted he had “never heard of rapes” and that he was “stunned.”
"That he had many mistresses, that he consulted sites, that girls were brought to the hotel at the end of his lectures, that he invited them to undress, that some resisted and that he could become violent and aggressive, yes, but I have never heard of rapes, I am stunned," he told French magazine L’Obs.
In Tweets today, Eltahawy wrote:
"I have twice argued w/Tariq Ramadan on BBC TV.This is 1 of the times. Many of us have long known him 2b a misogynist." 
Leta Hong Fincher wrote in reply: "Jesus, Mona, I would have just been struck dumb in that situation. So chilling given what we now know about him. Bravo!" 
Eltahawy replied: "Thank you @LetaHong - it was astounding then in 2011 when it happened & astounding now. He is a misogynist shit."
So why hasn't Oxford already suspended Ramadan? Three professors at Dartmouth (in psychology and brain sciences) have been put on paid leave while there is a criminal investigation into allegations of "sexual misconduct." In Ramadan's case, criminal complaints of rape have been filed against him. Shouldn't he also be suspended while the accusations are investigated by the French legal system?