Jewish World Review March 25, 2005 / 14 Adar II, 5765
Extremism in defense of violence is no vice?
While Harvard's President Larry Summers turns slowly on a spit over a faculty campfire for engaging in thoughtcrime, another Ivy League leader is dipping his toe into controversial waters.
Columbia President Lee Bollinger, speaking at a New York Bar Association meeting, declared that university professors have responsibilities in addition to rights. The New York Times reported that Bollinger cautioned: "We should not elevate our autonomy as individual faculty members above every other value. ... (Professors have an obligation) to resist the allure of certitude, the temptation to use the podium as an ideological platform, to indoctrinate a captive audience, to play favorites with the like-minded and silence the others."
Bollinger's comments are especially interesting because they reflect a new reality: Universities are coming under fire for their anti-Americanism, leftism and ideological rigidity. Thanks to aggressive reporting by Campus-watch.org, FrontPage.com, bloggers like Powerline and the cutting-edge New York Sun, light is now shining on the Stalinist atmosphere at many American campuses -- discomfiting the armchair apologists for violence and extremism who have toiled there unobserved for decades.
Columbia has more than its share. Long the perch of the late PLO member Edward Said, Columbia now boasts a number of faculty members whose vitriol toward the United States and Israel is sulphuric. Professor Nicholas DeGenova pronounced at an antiwar rally in 2003 that "U.S. patriotism is inseparable from ... white supremacy." DeGenova would be happy, he told the crowd, if the Iraq war led to "a million Mogadishus." (In Somalia in 1993, 18 American soldiers were killed and their bodies dragged through the streets by a mob.)
Professor Joseph Massad has been the focus of numerous student complaints. According to several students, Massad openly propagandizes for Palestinian extremism in the classroom, frequently labeling Israel a racist, apartheid state, encouraging Palestinian violence and supporting university divestment from all companies doing business with Israel (but no others -- not China, not Syria, not North Korea, not Cuba).
Massad, unsurprisingly, has no love for George W. Bush, whom he describes as a "colonial feminist," that is, "one who pushes for women's rights overseas but not at home."
According to the New York Sun, Massad cited Leila Khaled as an example of women achieving equal rights in the Arab world. (Khaled was the member of the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who participated in two airplane hijackings.) One female student who disputed the professor's account of Israeli guilt for the massacre in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982 was told to leave the class.
Offering intellectual companionship to Massad is Rashid Khalidi, who holds the Edward Said chair in Middle Eastern studies. Khalidi was appalled in 1990 not by Saddam Hussein's conquest of Kuwait, but by what he called the "idiots' consensus" against it. Khalidi advised the United States, even after Sept. 11, 2001, to get over its "hysteria about suicide bombers" and dedicated his own 1986 book to "those who give their lives ... in defense of the cause of Palestine and independence of Lebanon." (No, he did not mean independence from Syria.)
Should private universities silence obnoxious opinions by faculty members? Obviously not -- though the idea of relative silence from Berkeley, Cambridge and Manhattan is tempting. Defenders of the Middle Eastern studies department are naturally framing the question as a rights matter, in this case, free speech. But that is not the proper perspective. The more pertinent question is: Do our great universities live up to their commitment to free inquiry, serious scholarship and intellectual honesty by staffing their faculties with the Ward Churchills, Rashid Khalidis and Joseph Massads of the world?
Campus-watch.org reminds us of the 1915 Declaration of Principles by the American Association of University Professors. "The university teacher ... should, if he is fit for his position, be a person of a fair and judicial mind; he should, in dealing with such subjects, set forth justly, without suppression or innuendo, the divergent opinions of other investigators ... and he should, above all, remember that his business is not to provide his students with ready-made conclusions, but to train them to think for themselves."
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