Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s claim that President Obama does not love America, while perhaps unartfully phrased, is defensible. Surely the president’s intention, stated publicly when he was running for president, “to fundamentally transform America” suggests a strong aversion to America as it now exists. Moreover, he has condemned the American people for “clinging to their guns and their religion,” and by citing “their antipathy to people who aren’t like them,” slyly insinuated that they are collectively racist. When asked if he believed in American Exceptionalism, he replied that he believed in it the way Greeks believe in Greek Exceptionalism and the British in British Exceptionalism. His wife Michelle famously opined that American was “a downright mean country” and that until her husband ran for president, she had no reason to be proud of it.
Still, President Obama has his defenders, and in a country that is more or less evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, this is to be expected. Indeed, the whole issue of the president’s true feelings about America is one on which reasonable people may disagree.
But that was not the case among the faculty at Central Connecticut State University after Mayor Giuliani delivered his broadside. On the campus email list-serve, one professor vowed that she would refuse to attend any lecture the mayor might give here. Another, recently retired, pronounced him a racist. Yet another, while conceding that the mayor was not a racist, argued that his derogation of the president nevertheless harmed the generic struggle against racism – which seems to imply that President Obama should not be criticized for anything and that anyone who does so is morally deficient.
As it happens, Mayor Giuliani spoke at CCSU two years ago under the auspices of the Vance Foundation, which over the years has brought to campus speakers on both sides of the political spectrum, such as George McGovern and Jimmy Carter on the left and George H. W. Bush and Jeane Kirkpatrick on the right. Could Giuliani’s statement about Obama cause the Foundation to bring him here again? Judging from the comments above, it seems safe to predict that should it do so, the response from faculty would be volcanic. Some have even suggested that in the future the Vance Foundation should either sponsor speakers the faculty agrees with or should be barred from using the university as the venue for the lectures it pays for. In November 2013 a committee selected by the Faculty Senate sent the foundation a list of seven nominees to speak at CCSU in 2014. One was Melissa Harris-Perry, who, in a recent interview on MSNBC with Attorney General Eric Holder, asked him to quack like a duck. Another, Alice Walker, has compared Israel to Nazi Germany. Maya Angelou, also on the list, has praised the barbaric and oppressive regime of the Castro brothers in Cuba. Three of the remaining four were similarly situated on the far left of the political spectrum. The last, Valerie Strauss, opposes school vouchers benefitting students from poor families while sending her children to expensive private schools.
College faculties across America are overwhelmingly liberal, and their political contributions show this vividly. In 2012 96% of donations from Ivy League faculty went to President Obama, the remaining 4% to Governor Romney. This imbalance is most apparent in humanities departments, where the temptation to indoctrinate students politically is especially pronounced; when President Bush was in office, students of mine regularly complained about professors denouncing him instead of teaching what they were contractually obligated to teach.
The CCSU administration and faculty loudly proclaim their devotion to “diversity.” But their commitment is more rhetorical than real. What they really seek is the opposite: a faculty and student body that are racially and ethnically heterogeneous but that politically think the same things. I hope that the good people of Connecticut, who through their taxes largely subsidize higher education in the state, make clear to their elected representatives that instead of indoctrinating students, our universities should educate them, which means, in part, practicing genuine intellectual diversity. At CCSU a good start towards this objective would be allowing the Vance Foundation to sponsor speakers with whom the faculty will occasionally disagree.
Jay Bergman is Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University and serves on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Scholars, an association of academics and others committed to reasoned discourse and disinterested scholarship in American higher education.
The article above appeared as an op-ed in newspapers in Bristol, Manchester, Middletown, New Haven, Torrington, and Waterbury, Connecticut variously on February 27, March 1, and March 2, 2015.
Readers of the Justice should consider the following facts relevant to the issue of police “racism” and to the controversy involving Khadijah Lynch and Daniel Mael:
*The forensic evidence in the Ferguson matter showed incontrovertibly — and was corroborated by witnesses, several of them black — that Brown’s hands were down, not up, and that he was charging Officer Wilson when he was shot.
*Eric Garner’s daughter ascribed her father’s death to “pride,” not racism, and the officers who restrained Garner when he was resisting arrest were supervised by a black police sergeant who did not consider “racism” a factor in his death.
*It has been estimated that police nationally have approximately forty million contacts with people every year. (1)
*From 1976 to 2011 there were annually, on average, 7, 982 black homicide victims nationally. Over the same time period, police killed annually, on average, 227 blacks, many of them armed and dangerous, The latter figure is less than 3% of the former. (2)
*Almost all black murder victims are killed by other blacks. In 2012, for example, 2,648 blacks were murdered nationally; 2,412 were killed by other blacks. The latter figure is more than 95% of the former. (3)
The claim that police are conducting a war against blacks is preposterous and has no basis in realty.
Moreover, Khadijah Lynch’s statements that she has no sympathy for the two murdered NYC policemen — indeed that she is “laughing her ass off” because of it; that America is a “fucking racist society” and could benefit from an intifada; and that she needs to get her gun license are vulgar, infantile, imbecilic, vicious, and callous to an extreme.
She and her enablers among the students — who clearly have learned nothing at Brandeis about the necessity of tolerating views they disagree with — are a disgrace to my alma mater.
Daniel Mael — who has received death threats for simply exercising his constitutional right to free expression — should be applauded, not condemned, for having the courage to post her despicable statements.
In the words of Justice Louis Brandeis, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”
B.A. Brandeis, Class of 1970
Professor of History
Central Connecticut State University
New Britain CT
Office of the President
Dear President Lawrence:
I have read Sohrab Ahmari’s article in the Wall Street Journal on recent controversies at Brandeis concerning Daniel Mael.
I have also read your “rebuttal.” It is, to put it charitably, unpersuasive. You claim that “[d]uring my tenure, no student has been sanctioned for exercising their free-speech rights, regardless of the topic or perspective.”
But according to Ahmari’s article, “officials” at Brandeis told Mr. Mael “not to use social media, including by publishing articles and circulating petitions.” Since you don’t deny they did this, one can only infer that they did — which means that contrary to what you wrote, Mr. Mael’s right of free expression WAS violated during your tenure as president of Brandeis.
In addition, you imply strongly in your “rebuttal” that because students, not faculty, control the process under which complaints like that of Eli Philip against Mr. Mael are adjudicated, you bear no responsibility for any violations of individual’s rights that may occur — such as Mr. Mael’s right to be provided reasonably quickly with the content of Mr. Philip’s charges against him. In fact, according to Ahmari’s article, Mr. Philp’s charges were lodged in December 2013, but Mr. Mael was not informed of them until October 2014, ten months later.
As a lawyer, you are surely aware of the rights defendants possess in legal proceedings against them. And as a lawyer you cannot possibly believe that the rights defendants possess in legal proceedings should not exist in judicial matters involving Brandeis students.
And yet you did nothing to rectify the clear violation of Mr. Mael’s right to know the charges against him in a timely fashion.
This is just further proof — following your revocation of the honorary degree previously promised to Ayaan Hirsi Ali — that in circumstances requiring courage, or at the very least, a modicum of simple decency, you act in ways that can only be considered evidence of cowardice.
Once again you have disgraced my alma mater. If you possess a shred of decency, you will resign.
B. A. Class of 1970
Professor of History
Central Connecticut State University
New Britain CT 06050
Email to Columbia Law School on its Allowing Students Traumatized by Non-Indictments to Postpone Final Examinations
Columbia Law School
New York, New York
Dear Dean Scott:
Your law school’s policy of allowing students traumatized by the recent decisions of grand juries in Missouri and New York to postpone their final examinations would be laughable if it wasn’t so indicative of the moral bankruptcy of American high education today, with its reverse racial discrimination (euphemistically referred to as affirmative action), mindless anti-Israel movements (e.g. BDS), and pervasive presumption that white males as a collective entity are racist and sexist and homophobic (an example of which is the recent fraud perpetrated by a supposed rape victim at the University of Virginia).
Students at your law school who avail themselves of your idiotic dispensation are clearly not mature enough to enroll in law school, much less to serve as attorneys.
I urge you in the strongest possible terms to revoke this dispensation and thereby show your law school to be something more advanced than a kindergarten for coddled, immature adolescents.
Professor of History
Central Connecticut State University
New Britain CT 06050
Asked recently if Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS) receives federal Title VI funds, director Osama Abi-Mershed answered, “we are not tax supported.”
His dean, James Reardon-Anderson, begs to differ.
Following the revelation that the directors of six federally-funded Middle East studies centers signed a letter pledging ”not to collaborate on projects and events involving Israeli academic institutions” in spite of “assurances” each gave to “maintain linkages with overseas institutions of higher education,” Foreign Policy Research Institute president Alan Luxenberg emailed each director and asked if their pledges were personal or apply to the centers they lead.
In response to an inquiry, Reardon-Anderson, acting dean of the Walsh School of Foreign Service, of which CCAS is a part, replied without commenting on Abi-Mershed’s claim that:
Yes, we are very proud that the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies has been, and we hope will remain, a recipient of Title VI designation and support.
Reardon-Anderson stated that, “Of course, as an institution of higher learning, we respect the right of each member of our faculty, students or staff to exercise his or her freedom of speech.” He also noted Georgetown president John DeGioia’s official statement last December after the American Studies Association vote to boycott Israeli academic institutions, which he said “undermines the academic freedom that is essential to the mission of the Academy.” Still, DeGioia affirmed, “While the position of our University remains opposed to any boycott, we will certainly defend the rights of those who disagree.”
But will he defend the “rights” of those who, like Abi-Mershed, try to hide their federal support when faced with possible violations of federal policies? Does freedom of speech extend to freedom to one’s own facts?
Reardon-Anderson’s confirmation that CCAS receives taxpayer dollars exposes Abi-Mershed’s dodgy answer, but information confirming the center’s Title VI support is easily found on many Georgetown web pages.
Since 1997, CCAS has served as the core of Georgetown University’s National Resource Center on the Middle East, funded by a Title VI grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
The Center’s Newsletter stated in 2010 that:
CCAS is pleased announce that the National Resource Center on the Middle East (NRC) at Georgetown, of which CCAS is an integral part, has received $2 million in funding for the next four years from the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI program.
CCAS’s K-14 Outreach page states:
The program is supported by the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, private sector grants, and the U.S. Department of Education.
And CCAS’s 2013-2014 Student Handbook for the M.A. in Arab studies states “major components” of CCAS include “a Title VI grant from the Department of Education.”
Abi-Mershed’s claim that CCAS is “not tax supported” is clearly false. Why should taxpayers trust him to use their dollars wisely and in accord with federal policies?
The following appeared originally at Campus Watch, which I direct.
Will the taxpayer-supported Middle East studies centers at five American universities join a boycott of Israeli academic institutions? Or were their directors, who signed a recent letter pledging “not to collaborate on projects and events involving Israeli academic institutions,” engaged in personal protests that won’t affect their schools’ official relations with Israeli universities, as Middle East scholar Martin Kramer asks of the director of Columbia’s Middle East Institute?
The letter, “Middle East Scholars and Librarians Call for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions,” was published at Jadaliyya on August 6, 2014 “in the name of the below signatories,” which an update on the site says totals 550. University of Toronto professor of Arab civilization Jens Hanssen is listed as the media contact.
As heads of U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Resource Centers, the directors are administrators of bodies required by the Higher Education Opportunity Act to give “assurances” that they will “maintain linkages with overseas institutions of higher education and other organizations that may contribute to the teaching and research of the Center.”
If their pledges aren’t simply personal but apply to the centers they lead, they stand in conflict with the assurances they gave in exchange for federal funds.
The six directors (Georgetown boasts two) and their respective centers are:
- Lila Abu-Lughod, Middle East Institute, Columbia.
- mirian cooke (no relation to e.e. cummings), Middle East Studies Center, Duke.
- Osama Abi-Mershed, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown.
- John Esposito, Prince Alwaleed bin-Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown.
- Helga Tawil-Souri, Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, New York University.
- Gabriel Piterberg, Center for Near Eastern Studies, University of California, Los Angeles.
American taxpayers deserve to know the intentions of these six directors: Are their public pledges against Israel merely personal, so that the centers they lead may cooperate with Israeli academic institutions and scholars? Or are they declaring the intention of their centers to engage in an official boycott of Israeli academic institutions despite federal policy?
From: Bergman, Jay (History)
Sent: Wednesday, August 06, 2014 9:06 AM
To: xxxxxxxxxxxxx; Listserv-campusforum
Subject: RE: 10 killed at UN school: moral outrage and criminal act – UN Secretary General; disgraceful shelling, no justification – US State Department
I’ve read your posting carefully.
There is evidence — suggestive if not conclusive — that Israel did not target a school and that the victims were carried from where they were hit into the courtyard of the school so that Israel could, yet again, be accused of crimes it did not commit. (1)
But that is not the point I wish to make.
While reading the postings on the campus list-serve these past few weeks, I have been struck by how seemingly detached from reality are those on the faculty who have focused their moral microscopes on Israel, condemning what they see as Israel’s crimes for the purpose of denying its moral legitimacy, forgetting that Israel is reacting to the assaults by an enemy, Hamas, that has since 2006 fired some 10,000 rockets into Israel and continues to seek its destruction and the murder of all Jews. Indeed, Hamas exists for that very purpose; killing Jews is its raison d’etre. I’m sure you’ll agree that should Hamas be able to kill all Jews, it will kill Israel’s Jewish critics just as happily as it will Israel’s Jewish supporters.
You did, to your credit, condemn Hamas’s launching, in one day, 60 missiles against Israel. But your condemnation, to me, seemed perfunctory, a way of minimizing an unpleasant fact before launching into an attack on Israel — a propos of which, the UN can hardly be considered an unbiased observer and adjudicator. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights actually condemned Israel for not sharing its Iron Dome ABM system with Hamas, which, as you know, seeks Israel’s destruction. I’m not aware of such a demand being placed on a combatant in any war in human history.
There is so much that you and other critics of Israel ignore:
*Hamas planned a mega-terror attack, through the tunnels it had dug into Israel, to coincide with the Jewish New Year next month, in which hundreds, maybe thousands of Israelis, all of them civilians, would have been slaughtered. About this you and other critics of Israel have written nothing. (2)
*The unending calls for the destruction of Israel from Iran and Sunni Muslims. About this you and other critics of Israel have written nothing. (3)
*Hamas has repeatedly used civilians as human shields. About this you and other critics of Israel have written nothing. (4)
*Hamas claims that Jews use the blood of Christians in making matzos. About this you and other critics of Israel have written nothing. (5)
*The new “Caliphate” in Iraq is forcing Christians in Mosul either to convert to Islam or to leave the country or to be killed. About this you and other critics of Israel have written nothing.
*Anywhere from 160,000 to 200,000 innocent Muslim civilians have been slaughtered in the Syrian Civil War. About this you and other critics of Israel have written nothing.
*Coptic Christians in Egypt have been murdered and their churches destroyed. About this you and other critics of Israel have written nothing.
* A wave of genocidal anti-semitism is sweeping across Europe — demonstrators are beating up Jews and calling for Jews to once again be slaughtered in ovens. About this you and other critics of Israel have written nothing. (6)
* Turkey has degenerated into a one-party, one-man dictatorship that has imprisoned more journalists than any other country in the world. About this you and other critics of Israel have written nothing (7)
*Homosexuals are regularly stoned to death in the Middle East, especially in Iran. About this you and other critics of Israel have written nothing. (8)
These are all, obviously, horrific evils, many of them far worse than anything Israel has been accused of doing, all but one of them in the Middle East. And yet you and other critics of Israel have written nothing about them.
(3) http://dailycaller.com/2014/07/23/iran-supreme-leader-the-only-solution-for-crisis-is-israels-destruction/#! & http://pjmedia.com/blog/5-new-muslim-calls-for-genocide-of-the-jews/?print=1 & http://freebeacon.com/national-security/rouhani-this-festering-zionist-tumor-has-opened-once-again/
Sent: Sunday, August 03, 2014 3:38 PM
Subject: 10 killed at UN school: moral outrage and criminal act – UN Secretary General; disgraceful shelling, no justification – US State Department
As the international law doctrine of “excessive force” applies to individual cases, and cannot be excused on the grounds that the other side is also committing criminal acts (e.g.: the launch of 60 missiles over Israel today), here are some preliminary judgments on such an instance, the IDF shelling today (Sunday) of a UN school in Raffa, Gaza Strip in which 15 civilians seeking refuge were killed. According to CNN, Israeli military spokesmen said that 3 militants on a motorcycle were “in the area”. UN Chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the killings as a “criminal act” and a “breach of international law”. The US state department spokesperson called the shelling “disgraceful” and noted that “the suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians.” I reproduce below the report on these statements provided by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:
UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemns shelling of Gaza school as ‘criminal act’
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demands those responsible for the ‘gross violation of international humanitarian law’ be held accountable.
By Michelle Nichols Aug. 3, 2014 | 7:09 PM |
REUTERS – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned a deadly attack on a Gaza school on Sunday as a “moral outrage and a criminal act” and demanded those responsible for the “gross violation of international humanitarian law” be held accountable.
The shelling of the UN school in Rafah in southern Gaza killed at least 10 civilians, the United Nations said. It was the third deadly attack on a UN school sheltering Palestinians during the 27-day conflict between Israel and Hamas militants.
All three incidents are being investigated, but the United Nations has initially blamed Israel for Sunday’s attack and another strike last Wednesday on a UN- run school in Jabalya refugee camp that killed at least 15 civilians.
“The Israel Defence Forces have been repeatedly informed of the location of these sites,” Ban’s spokesman said in a statement.
“This attack, along with other breaches of international law, must be swiftly investigated and those responsible held accountable. It is a moral outrage and a criminal act,” the statement said.
Israel began its offensive against Gaza on July 8 after a surge of cross-border rocket salvoes by Hamas and other guerrillas.
The fighting on Sunday pushed the Gaza death toll given by Palestinian officials to 1,772, most of them civilians. Israel has confirmed that 64 soldiers have died in combat, while Palestinian rockets have also killed three civilians in Israel.
Ban again demanded an end to the fighting and for the parties to begin negotiations in Cairo to address the underlying issues of the conflict.
“The resurgence in fighting has only exacerbated the man-made humanitarian and health crisis wreaking havoc in Gaza,” the statement said. “This madness must stop.”
U.S. slams ‘disgraceful shelling’ of UN school in Gaza Recent attacks on UN school in Gaza Strip must be investigated, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says.
By Doina Chiacu Aug. 3, 2014 | 9:34 PM
REUTERS – The United States criticized the “disgraceful shelling” at a UN school in Gaza on Sunday and urged Israel to do more to prevent civilian casualties in its war against Hamas militants.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also called for an investigation into attacks on UN schools in densely populated Gaza.
“The United States is appalled by today’s disgraceful shelling outside an UNRWA school in Rafah sheltering some 3,000 displaced persons, in which at least ten more Palestinian civilians were tragically killed,” Psaki said in a statement.
Psaki urged Israel again to live up to its own standards of avoiding civilian casualties as the conflict in the Hamas-controlled Gaza stretched into its 27th day.
On Wednesday, at least 15 Palestinians who sought refuge in a UN-run school in Jabalya refugee camp were killed during fighting, and the United Nations said Israeli artillery had apparently hit the building. The Israeli military said gunmen had fired mortar bombs from near the school and it shot back in response.
Psaki said UN facilities should not be used as bases from which to launch attacks.
“The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians,” she added.
The fighting on Sunday pushed the Gaza death toll given by Palestinian officials to 1,775, most of them civilians. Israel has confirmed that 64 soldiers have died in combat, while Palestinian rockets have killed three civilians in Israel.
The CNN article ‘Vicinity’ of U.N. school in Gaza struck by shelling, officials say is at:
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The following appeared in the Providence Journal (RI), the Connecticut Jewish Ledger, and the Journal Inquirer in Manchester CT:
President Obama’s demand for an unconditional and immediate cease-fire in the fighting between Israel and Hamas, which would leave the latter with the wherewithal to murder Israeli civilians in the future, is just the most recent example of what can only be considered a conscious and deliberate policy to weaken and to undermine the security of the only Jewish state in the world.
From denying Israel the “bunker-buster” bombs it needs to destroy the Iranian nuclear facilities, to infantile snubs of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the president of the United States has shown an unswerving, consistent and relentless hostility to Israel that is not only harmful to Israel but to America as well.
Theological fanatics like Hamas will not be kindly disposed to the United States, much less deterred from continuing their genocidal war against Israel, by Obama’s ongoing appeasement, which has been justified and explained away by the president’s ridiculous claim, first made in his speech in Cairo in 2009, to understand Islam because he lived as a youth in a Muslim country, Indonesia.
Every public and semi-public admonishment of Israel, whether by President Obama or by his loquacious secretary of state, John Kerry, only encourages those who seek Israel’s destruction to persist in their evil design: Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Fatah and, by seeking to flood Israel with “refugees” too young to have been alive when Israel was created in 1948, the Palestinian Authority.
One may disagree about the reason for the president’s attitude. The most plausible is not that he is secretly Muslim, but rather that he loathes Israel because he loathes America, that for Obama the former is an integral appendage of the latter, no less racist and discriminatory at home and just as imperialist and expansionist abroad. Ironically, the Iranians show they also believe in this connection by building intercontinental missiles to fire at “The Big Satan” (the United States) once “The Little Satan” (Israel) is destroyed.
In light of the multiple dangers Israel faces, even as it is currently dealing, at great cost in human life, with an enemy that seeks the destruction not only of Israel but, as its founding charter makes clear, of all Jews, it is time for American Jews to recognize that the current occupant of the White House means real and lasting harm to the state of the Jewish people and thus to the Jewish people themselves.
If American Jews who support Obama’s positions on domestic issues such as abortion and immigration consider these issues more important than Israel’s survival, then they should continue to support his presidency. But for American Jews who both as Jews and as Americans consider Israel’s survival the foremost moral imperative of our time, and who believe that without Israel Judaism itself will suffer demographic extinction and that America would be even more tempting a target for Muslim terrorists than it was before 9/11, their obligation is clear and inescapable: to do everything they can to pressure President Obama to cease his relentless hostility to Israel and, if that does not work, to seek his removal from office. Impeachment and conviction do not require the commission of crimes. Dereliction of duty is sufficient.
The foreign policy Obama has pursued, of punishing America’s allies, not just Israel but other pro-Western democracies such as Poland and the Czech Republic, and of appeasing America’s enemies, not just Muslim theocracies but also thuggish dictatorships such as Putin’s Russia, is clear evidence of presidential negligence, of failing to do everything necessary to protect the American people. If this is not an impeachable offense, one is hard pressed to say what is.
Jay Bergman is Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University.
JOSEPH J. SHATTAN, 1950 – 2014
For 7 months, I worked alongside Joseph J. Shattan as one of the Heritage Foundation’s 3 Major Gifts Writers. Perhaps because he was Brooklyn & I was South Yonkers and we were close in age, we hit it off right away – same sense of humor, same love of crafting language ourselves and of reading others’ well wrought prose – same challenge of making a living doing work we loved.
Joe was utterly unpretentious, a quality seemingly outlawed in D.C. While others power-lunched at restaurants, we’d go to the Subway’s next door to Heritage, get the sandwich/chips/drink special, and head up to Heritage’s typically deserted roof, a finished area where functions are held in nice weather. We’d grab some chairs, plunk ourselves down, and as we gazed across the city, we’d trade stories about the strange directions our writing lives had taken.
Our last lunch was on an unusually chilly day. In the cold drizzle, we ate our sandwiches and kibitzed, until the drizzle turned to rain and drove us in. But it was, as always, a wonderful lunch: Joe’s wisdom and humor always put the minor, irksome aspects of a writer’s life in perspective.
After I left Heritage, we stayed in touch. I’m a former English professor married to a nonfiction book author. With over 10,000 lbs. of books, we finally decided it was time to purge (just how many copies of the Nicomachean Ethics does one household need?) I mentioned this to Joe and reassured him we weren’t letting go of his book. I wrote:
One of the books that is permanently on my shelf is ARCHITECTS OF VICTORY. . . It may amuse you that your place on my shelf is between my Roman missal and the Book of Common Prayer. If you find yourself with a sudden desire to stock up on rosary beads and incense, well, now you know why.
Here’s Joe’s response:
Jaine and I enjoy the mixed blessing of living next to a library that has a used book room. Over the years, I have bought a great many books at bargain prices, but I never seem to get around to reading them. Even on weekends, if the sun is shining and the birds are chirping, the last thing I feel like doing is sitting at home reading Robert Caro’s Master of the Senate, or Leon Edel’s Henry James. Somebody once said, “I try to be a philosopher, but laughter keeps breaking through.” In my case, I try to be a serious intellectual, but the sunlight is far too distracting.
That Architects of Victory survived your purge pleases me more than I can say. For all I know, future scholars may discover that everything I wrote is wrong, but it still occupies a warm spot in my heart. I suppose Indian warriors must have felt the same way about their first scalp.
Thank you for writing, for saving my book, and for placing it in such a strategic position.
God bless you, my friend. Here’s to sandwiches and chips some future day in Heaven
Online at the website of the Weekly Standard: http://www.weeklystandard.com/print/blogs/brandeis-and-double-standards_791299.html (May 12, 2014)
Support for the decision of Brandeis University not to award Ayaan Hirsi Ali an honorary degree, after previously announcing it would do so, has coalesced around the notion that while Islamic radicalism can be criticized, even condemned, one cannot criticize Islam itself. By condemning both, and by implying strongly that Radical Islam and Islam are indistinguishable, Ms. Ali—so the argument goes—not only does not deserve an honorary degree; she is, in fact, a bigot.
Ms. Ali’s critics are wrong. At the very least, radical Islam is just as valid a version of Islam as any other, and may even be more valid because it takes the commands of Sharia law literally, which is to say in a way that is consistent with the ordinary meaning of words. Moreover, Sharia is based on the Koran, which is considered the word of God, and thus something with which no Muslim can disagree and to which no Muslim can object.
And what does adherence to Sharia require? One among many barbarous demands is that apostates like Ms. Ali be killed. True, millions of Muslims do not take the requirement literally. But millions of Muslims do. And I am unaware of any Muslim state or organization in the United States, such as the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), denouncing practices such as this, as a result of which people are murdered, or, as in Ms. Ali’s case, threatened with death. Perhaps Ms. Ali should have phrased her condemnation of the barbarism she considers typical of Islam today in slightly less sweeping, less categorical language, and acknowledged that many Muslims either believe apostates should be killed but choose not to act on their belief, or for whatever reason reject this particular injunction. But I doubt that her doing so would have mollified CAIR and the defenders of Brandeis who consider any criticism of Islam somehow beyond the pale of reasoned discourse. Instead they consider it evidence of “Islamophobia,” the pervasiveness of which, since 9/11, groups like CAIR have grossly exaggerated.
Why should a religion—as opposed to any other system of thought and action—be immune to criticism or condemnation?
Islam is not some pristine, disembodied entity, like a Platonic form that exists independently of those who practice it. The Christianity that existed in Europe during the wars of religion that followed the Protestant Reformation was different from what it is today. And what made it different was not the theology itself but rather how the theology was interpreted. The same could be said about Judaism. Some of the injunctions in the Jewish Bible, taken literally, could be conducive to violence; Baruch Goldstein, who in 1994 murdered twenty-nine innocent Muslims on the West Bank, may well have justified what he did on precisely such grounds. But is there any evidence that Jews beyond a lunatic fringe act on the basis of such injunctions or that such actions, when they occur, are condoned by the vast majority of Jews? There is not. Goldstein’s homicidal rampage was condemned by every faction on the Israeli political spectrum, and by every major American Jewish organization.
That is hardly the case for Islamic states and organizations. CAIR not only refuses to condemn specifics acts of Muslim violence. Like the fifty-six member Organization of Islamic Cooperation, it seeks to criminalize any criticism of Islam as a form of blasphemy. Perhaps in four hundred years Islam will be as pacific as Christianity is today; there is no large body of Christians anywhere in the world bent on imposing it forcibly on others. It may be inconvenient to say so, but millions of Muslims today seek the destruction of Western civilization; should they succeed, not only freedom of religion but the other freedoms enshrined in our Bill of Rights will disappear. Islam, as expressed in Sharia, is not just a religion but a way of life, one that Ms. Ali’s critics, if they examined it honestly and carefully, might find inconsistent with the freedoms they currently enjoy by virtue of living in the West. To the extent that Ms. Ali calls attention to this threat to our civilization, she deserves praise, not opprobrium.
But even if one accepts the view that the Muslims Ms. Ali condemns are not representative of Islam, there is no reason why her courageous battle for women’s rights—of which many of her detractors claim to approve—cannot be divorced from her views on Islam. In the case of Desmond Tutu, on whom Brandeis conferred an honorary degree even after he called Israel a Nazi state, the university made precisely the distinction it has refused to make in Miss Ali’s case—namely honoring Tutu for his struggle against apartheid in South Africa while (one hopes) tacitly rejecting his anti-Semitic bigotry.
In fact, Tutu’s smear of Israel is far worse—far more vicious, far more absurd, far more defamatory, far more indicative of bigotry—than anything Ms. Ali has said about Islam. Her opinions, unlike Tutu’s, are grounded in evidence. Millions of Muslim girls have had their genitals mutilated. Many are the victims of honor killings. Many have been forced to marry persons they did not wish to marry. But there is nothing that Israel has done in the sixty-six years of its existence that is even remotely comparable to Nazism. (It goes without saying that when bigots say that Israel is like Nazi Germany, what they have in mind is not the construction of the autobahns or the achievement of full employment.)
But of course when Tutu was awarded an honorary degree, the Brandeis faculty who now malign Ms. Ali were mute. The double standard and hypocrisy this suggests is repulsive. The fact that when Tutu received his honorary degree he did not—on the day he received the degree—smear Israel is true but trivial. The same applies to the playwright Tony Kushner, another recipient of a Brandeis honorary degree, whose claim that the most repugnant American Jews are those who strongly support Israel is the kind of ad hominem attack one would expect from a hyperactive undergraduate, not the recipient of an honorary degree. Kushner, of course, provided no evidence for his smear because none exists.
As for the argument that awarding Ms. Ali an honorary degree might cause discomfort for Muslim students who disagree with her, the proper response is that that should not trump academic debate and discussion, without which the central obligation of the university—the dispassionate and disinterested pursuit of truth—cannot be fulfilled. Ensuring that all students always feel comfortable when their religion, or any other aspect of their lives, is discussed and evaluated is to ensure that universities have no students at all. Feeling uncomfortable when opinions contrary to one’s own are expressed is an integral part of college, and an inescapable part of life.
Notwithstanding Ms. Ali’s critics, her supposed intolerance is actually laudable because what she is intolerant of is intolerance itself. And in purely human terms, her willingness to risk her life pursuing the laudable objective of saving the lives of Muslim women—they constitute 91 percent of the victims of honor killings in the world today—fully justifies her receiving an honorary degree. (Of course courage alone is hardly cause for awarding honorary degrees. Were that the case, they would be given to persons who climbed Mount Everest.)
Finally, one can only describe as unbelievable the claim of Frederick Lawrence, the president of Brandeis, that no one in his administration knew anything of Ms. Ali’s views on Islam prior to the demands of CAIR and a significant minority of Brandeis faculty that Ms. Ali be denied the honorary degree she had previously been promised. But even if his claim is true, Brandeis should not have yielded.
Given the outcry outside of academia that followed Lawrence’s decision, the absence of comparable condemnation from within it might seem incredible to persons unfamiliar with the shibboleths of political correctness that constitute the conventional wisdom in academia today. But the reason for this silence is not hard to find: college campuses are liberal-left echo chambers almost totally devoid of dissenting (i.e. conservative) opinions. With a fanaticism that borders on the pathological, American colleges and universities seek cosmetic diversity, but not intellectual diversity, which is the only kind of diversity that matters in higher education.
Jay Bergman is a graduate of Brandeis University and a professor of history at Central Connecticut State University.
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Email Exchange on the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Honorary Degree Fiasco at Brandeis University with Stephen Whitfield, the Max Richter Professor of American Civilization at Brandeis
Dear Professor Whitfield:
I appreciative your taking the trouble to respond to my email to President Lawrence. I have read your response carefully. But I find your arguments unpersuasive.
You sharply distinguish Islamism and Islam: the first should be criticized, even condemned, the latter should not. And you imply strongly that the former is a perversion of the latter. I disagree. To me “Islamism” is just as valid a version of Islam as any other, and in fact may be more valid in that it takes the commands of Sharia law literally, which is to say in a way that is consistent with the ordinary meaning of words. Moreover, Sharia law is based on the Koran, which is considered the word of God, and thus something with which no Muslim can disagree and to which no Muslim can object.
And what does adherence to Sharia law require? Among many barbarous requirements, that of punishing apostates like Ms. Ali with death. True, millions of Muslims don’t take the requirement literally. But millions of Muslims do. And I’m unaware of any Muslim state or organization in the United States, such as CAIR, denouncing practices such as this, as a result of which people are murdered, or, as in Ms. Ali’s case, threatened with death. Perhaps Ms. Ali should have phrased her condemnation of the barbarism she considers typical of Islam today in slightly less sweeping, less categorical language, and acknowledged that lots of Muslims either believe apostates should be stoned to death but choose not to act on their belief, or for whatever reason reject that particular injunction. But I doubt that her doing so would have mollified CAIR and the colleagues of yours on the Brandeis faculty who consider any criticism of Islam somehow beyond the pale of reasoned discourse. Instead they consider it evidence of “Islamaphobia,” the pervasiveness of which, since 9/11, groups like CAIR grossly exaggerate.
Why should a religion — as opposed to any other system of thought and action — be immune to criticism or condemnation? What you call “respect for religious differences” seems a euphemism for granting Islam immunity.
“Islam” is not some pristine, disembodied entity, like a Platonic Form that exists independently of those who practice it. The Christianity that was endemic in Europe during the Wars of Religion on both sides of the battle lines, Protestant and as well as Catholic, was different from what it is today. And what made it different was not the theology itself but rather how literally the theology was interpreted. And the same could be said about Judaism. Some of the injunctions in the Jewish Bible/Old Testament, if taken literally and in the abstract, could be conducive to violence, and I suspect that Baruch Goldstein, who in 1994 who murdered 29 innocent Muslims on the West Bank, did precisely that. But is there any evidence that Jews beyond a lunatic fringe act on the basis of such injunctions or that such actions are condoned by the vast majority of Jews? There is not. In fact, Goldstein’s murderous rampage was condemned by every faction on the Israeli political spectrum, and by every major American Jewish organization.
That is hardly the case for Islamic states and organizations. CAIR not only refuses to condemn specifics acts of Muslim violence; like the 56 member Organization of the Islamic Conference, it seeks to criminalize any criticism of Islam as a form of blasphemy. Perhaps in 400 years Islam will be as pacific as Christianity is today; there is no large body of Christians anywhere in the world today seeking to impose it forcibly on others. It may be inconvenient to say so, but millions of Muslims today are seeking the destruction of Western Civilization; should they succeed, not only freedom of religion but other freedoms enshrined in our Bill of Rights will disappear. Islam, as expressed in Sharia law, is not just a religion but a way of life, one that I doubt you and the other faculty at Brandeis who have attacked Ms. Ali would find consistent with the freedoms you currently enjoy by virtue of living in the West. To the extent that Ms. Ali calls attention to this threat to our civilization, she deserves praise, not opprobrium.
But even if one accepts your view that the Islamists Ms. Ali condemns are not representative of Islam, I cannot understand why her courage, which you acknowledge, cannot be divorced from her views on Islam. Why can’t she be honored for her struggle for the humane treatment of women — one she pursues even though it puts her very life in danger, which is something I daresay you have never done. (Nor have I.) You say that Tutu’s struggle against apartheid can be distinguished from his calling Israel Nazi, indeed, that the former is so laudable as to warrant his receiving an honorary degree. Why can’t you make the same distinction for Ms. Ali? To me, Tutu’s smear of Israel is far worse — far more vicious, far more absurd, far more defamatory, far more indicative of bigotry — than anything Ms. Ali has said about Islam. Her opinions, unlike Tutu’s, are grounded in evidence. Millions of Muslim girls have had their genitals mutilated. Many are the victims of honor killings. Many have been forced to marry persons they did not wish to marry. But there is nothing –I repeat nothing — that Israel has done in the 66 years of its existence that is even remotely comparable to Nazism. (It goes without saying that when bigots say that Israel is like Nazi Germany, what they have in mind is not the construction of the autobahns or the achievement of full employment.)
But of course when Tutu was awarded an honorary degree, the Brandeis faculty was mute. The double standard and hypocrisy this suggests when juxtaposed against the current opposition to Ms. Ali’s receiving the same degree is really — and here I must be blunt — repulsive. The fact that when Tutu received his honorary degree he did not — on the day he received the degree — smear Israel is true but trivial. The same for Kushner, whose claim that the most repugnant American Jews are those who strongly support Israel is the kind of ad hominem attack I would expect from a hyperactive undergraduate, not the recipient of an honorary degree. To the best of my knowledge, Kushner has provided no evidence for his smear, no doubt because none exists.
And as for making “people of differing religious views feel at home,” I don’t think that that should trump the search for truth “even unto its innermost parts.” By your reasoning, any speech that caused a Brandeis student of a particular religion not to feel at home should be banned. What you are therefore giving such people is the proverbial “heckler’s veto.” And as for the Ali case in particular, your statement that Ms. Ali would not be speaking at the commencement makes the heckler’s veto Muslim students at Brandeis have exercised successfully even less defensible. Ensuring that all students always feel at home when it comes to their religion is to ensure that Brandeis has no students whatsoever. I repeat, feeling uncomfortable when opinions other than your own are expressed is an integral part of college, and an inescapable part of life.
In short, unlike you I find Ms. Ali’s “intolerance” laudable because what she is intolerant of is intolerant itself. And in purely human terms, her willingness to risk her life pursuing the laudable objective of saving the lives of Muslim women — they constitute 91% of the victims of honor killings in the world today — fully justifies her receiving an honorary degree. (Of course I am not suggesting that courage alone is reason for awarding honorary degrees. Were that the case, they’d be given to persons who climbed Mt. Everest.)
Finally, I find unbelievable Lawrence’s claim that no one in the Brandeis administration knew anything of Ms. Ali’s views on Islam prior to the demands of CAIR and a significant minority of Brandeis faculty that Ms. Ali be denied the honorary degree she had previously been promised. But even if his claim is true, Brandeis should not have yielded, for the reasons I’ve tried to explain here.
Whatever the case, Lawrence’s cowardice in this instance is consistent with his action — or lack of action — in the Hindley Affair. Shortly after his inauguration I wrote to him recommending that on behalf of the university he make proper restitution to Donald Hindley for the reprehensible way he was punished by the Reinharz administration, which acted in the name of the university, for merely explaining to his students the origin of the term “wetback.” He refused to do so.
P.S. Given the outcry outside of academia that followed the announcement that Ms. Ali would not receive the honorary degree she had been offered, and which she had accepted, I have been struck by the almost complete absence of comparable condemnation inside the academy. More specifically I’m unaware of any Brandeis faculty publicly criticizing the decision. Is the liberal/left echo chamber that is the Brandeis faculty totally without dissenting (i.e. conservative) opinions? I ask the question only rhetorically, because it is clear that the university seeks only cosmetic diversity, rather than intellectual diversity, which is the only kind of diversity that matters in higher education.
From: Stephen Whitfield [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2014 8:44 PM
To: Bergman, Jay (History)
Subject: Fwd: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Dear Professor Bergman, Your open letter to President Fred Lawrence deserves a rebuttal. I speak only for myself, nor do I have any knowledge of what led him to decide to rescind the honorary degree to Ms. Ali. But I believe that his decision is not only defensible; it was the correct one.
At first I was thrilled to learn that she was to be given an honorary degree. Her courage and her independence of mind are admirable; the price she has paid for her beliefs is high. But the more I actually learned of her views, the more problematic they appeared to me, and that is why Brandeis made the right decision.
Unlike many scholars and polemicists who have denounced radical Islam or Islamism, and here I am thinking of Bernard Lewis, Paul Berman, Bassam Tibi, and even Daniel Pipes, she does not draw a distinction between the religion itself and the fanatical, violent, dangerous versions of it that any decent person must abhor and oppose. Even when given an opportunity to make that distinction, as in her interview in “Reason” magazine, she made a point of refusing to do so. In her two public statements since the rescinding, she did not draw such a distinction (though I believe it is an elemental one). For her Islam is simply “the new fascism,” an evil that must be “defeated.” To condemn an entire “Abrahamic faith” like that collides with the historic commitment of Brandeis University (or so I would like to believe) to respect religious differences. She makes a point of being religiously intolerant.
Her views, given how awful much of Islam is, deserve a hearing, which is why the university expressed the hope, in withdrawing the honorary degree, that she would in the future speak on campus, and have her views subjected to attentiveness and scrutiny. In any case her views would not have been heard at Commencement exercises, since she was never to be the Commencement speaker, so the issue your letter raises–of an intellectual challenge that may make students uncomfortable–is irrelevant. Also dubious is your claim that that Ms. Ali has been “condemning aspects of Islam.” It is Islam itself that she, presumably in part due to her atheism, condemns.
The analogy that you drew to the honorary degrees given to Tony Kushner and Bishop Tutu is false. Their views of Israel were irrelevant to their selection–Kushner for his acclaimed gifts as a playwright, Tutu for his brave fight against apartheid. By contrast Ms. Ali’s courage cannot be separated from her opinions of Islam, opinions that (I repeat) even dedicated foes of “Islamism” distance themselves from. That Ms. Ali’s opinions deserve a hearing (which I fully favor) is quite different from whether she herself should be honored by an institution that, from the beginning, has sought to make people of differing religious views feel at home.
I attended the commencements in which Kushner and Tutu were honored for their achievements, and I can assure you that neither of them “smeared” Israel. I am glad that they did not do so. But even if they had, isn’t it your own claim that education is about challenging students with views that might make listeners uncomfortable?
I don’t think this episode is a matter of intimidation by “narrow-minded” faculty. If I had to guess, most faculty members would have wanted Brandeis to continue its academic partnership with Al-Quds University, despite the ugly anti-Israel demonstrations occurring there. I want to teach at a university in which views of the faculty carry weight. But in this case Fred Lawrence has ignored such wishes, and has continued the suspension of the partnership with a Palestinian university that harbors a malicious and menacing anti-Israel contingent. He has made the right decision despite what I suspect is the majority of the faculty’s opinion. That is also why I simply don’t recognize your characterization of the presidential decision to withdraw the honorary degree from Ms. Ali.
Sincerely, Steve Whitfield (American Studies Program)