Thursday, June 03, 2021

Anti-Zionism in women's and gender studies departments and programs

"The national effort to organize an entire academic discipline around anti-Zionism represents a new and dangerous phase in the politicization of academe, argues Cary Nelson."

Excellent op-ed in Inside Higher Ed by Cary Nelson on an extreme anti-Israel statement signed by more than a hundred women's and gender studies departments and programs.

On May 21, the day after a ceasefire was announced in the latest war between Gaza and Israel, a coalition of women’s and gender studies departments and programs made it clear that, for their part, the war of words, at least, will not stop. More than 100 such academic programs signed a statement condemning Israel’s “indiscriminate bombing” of Gaza, thereby endorsing the accusation that Israel’s conduct constitutes a war crime. Academic freedom protects the right individual faculty have to take aggressive political stands. But departments and programs speak for the institution. A department’s adoption of a controversial political stance has implications for all who work with that department.

The statement in question, “Gender Studies Departments in Solidarity With Palestinian Feminist Collective,” is far from the generic, anodyne calls for decency, sensitivity or basic fairness that university bodies often issue. On the contrary, it uses incendiary rhetoric not just to support the rights of Palestinians but also to condemn Israel by taking sides in the political struggle: “We do not subscribe to a ‘both sides’ rhetoric that erases the military, economic, media, and global power that Israel has over Palestine.” The statement characterizes the current war as part of an ethnic cleansing program that began in 1947, thereby condemning Israel’s whole history. By declaring “we call for the end of Israel’s military occupation of Palestine and for the Palestinian right to return to their homes,” they make clear that their attack on “settler colonialism” applies not just to the West Bank but to Israel within its pre-1967 boundaries as well. “This is not a ‘conflict’ that is too ‘controversial and complex’ to assess,” it concludes.

Read the whole op-ed in Inside Higher Ed.