Scholars attacked for comparing Zionism to Nazism
Attacking scholars; isn't that something the Nazis did?
Poet Amiri Baraka labeled anti-Semitic, ANC professor fired
by Jeff Blankfort
In the summer of 1983, Professor Fred Dubé, a former member of the African National Congress who had been imprisoned under South Africa's apartheid regime, offered his students at the State University of New York several subjects on which they could write their term papers. One of them was to compare Zionism and Nazism as two forms of racism.
The response from the Anti-Defamation League and the major Jewish organizations in New York was predictable. They demanded the head of Dubé and Gov. Mario Cuomo handed it to them. Despite the campus-wide support that Dubé would receive, including from a number of his Jewish students, he was denied tenure and fired.
The ADL has not forgotten Dubé. As recently as July 2003, in an attack on poet Amiri Baraka, its weekly newsletter cited as an example of Baraka's alleged "anti-Semitic" activities his defense of Dubé when the professor came under attack:
"The following is a compilation of anti-Semitic statements and writings of Baraka," the ADL's report began, and it opened with Baraka's statement regarding the attack on the South African professor that appeared in The Statesman on Nov. 7, 1985:
"Apparently these racists are in the same boat as the Boers. So exposed is their own fascism (no rights for Arabs in Israel, continued Israeli expansion (in) Arab lands, criminal invasion of Lebanon (which was going on at the time - JB), holding Lebanese civilians prisoners in Israel in violation of international law, the emergence of Hitlerian Meir Kahane as a potent force in Israeli politics, etc.) that they apparently feel, like the Boers, that they will not negotiate, but rather will go down to their destruction in flames!"
The case of Fred Dubé_ came to mind last week when the ADL and Jewish community leaders set their sites on another professor, this time one closer to the Bay Area, who had the temerity to compare the Israel's savage treatment of the Palestinians with what Jews had experienced at the hands of the Nazis.
In an interview with the school paper, the Sentinel, Foothill College Professor Leighton Armitage reportedly said:
"If you say that what they're (the Israelis) doing is something akin to the holocaust, what will they say? 'You're an anti-Semite' ... it's so convenient. It allows them to do exactly what was done to them.
"And what are they doing with Palestinians every day? They're killing them. They're walling them in, they're essentially doing the same thing that was done to them. Of course they're not tattooing the numbers into the arm, and they're not taking their glasses and their gold fillings, and everything else, as far as I know, but they're still slaughtering these people. Now what's with that? It's exactly what Hitler did to the Jews."
Armitage also reportedly accused the benignly named American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC, Israel's official but unregistered lobby) of funding opponents of the lobby's critics, adding, "and believe me, they have money to spare. The point is, the Jews have such a perfect position at this point."
He also accused AIPAC of "buying our elections, which pisses me off ... Israel has a hammerlock on America."
"This really goes beyond reasonable criticism of Israeli policies and into hateful rhetoric about Jews," said Karen Stiller, the Peninsula director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, told J (for Jewish), the recently renamed Jewish Bulletin of Northern California. But does it?
Presumably, with regard to Israel, one can imply from her statement that, short of using gas chambers and cremating Palestinians in ovens, the Israelis can do anything they like to the Palestinians.
While it would be expected that Professor Armitage's responses would offend some Jewish sensibilities, a more important consideration is whether or not what he said was valid.
With regard to comparisons between the behavior of the Israeli state towards the Palestinians and that of the Nazis towards the Jews, leading Jewish critics of Israel such as Professor Norman Finkelstein and the late Professor Israel Shahak, a survivor of World War II death camp Buchenwald, have frequently made such comparisons.
Moreover, a little over a year ago, a group of Holocaust survivors living in Israel sent a petition to the Israeli government criticizing its treatment of the Palestinians and invoking memories of their experiences under the Third Reich. This was dutifully reported in Israel's daily Ha'aretz, but thanks to the lobby's intimidation of the U.S. media, their statement was never reported here. This is the excerpt of their statement published in Ha'aretz on Dec. 31, 2002:
"(W)e cannot clear our conscience in light of the mass, arbitrary destruction of civilians' homes, uprooted olive trees, and orchards shaved to the ground. We cannot accept the extensive disruptions of daily life and abuse, for its own sake or not, at the checkpoints."
Since the petition first began making the rounds on Dec. 15, dozens of Holocaust survivors and descendants have been adding their names daily. They agree that "Israeli society is descending into a quagmire of violence, brutality, disrespect for human rights, and contempt for human life." They agree that "domination of another people against its will contradicts the lessons of the Holocaust, morally, humanely, and politically."
In its imitation of one of the more inhumane aspects of the Nazi regime - the systematic use of "collective punishment," a clear violation of the Geneva Convention - Israel has far exceeded the record of any other country in modern times, including Nazi Germany, and has made no effort to hide its dubious accomplishment.
In complaining about AIPAC's influence on the elections, Professor Armitage was only stating what everyone in Congress knows and what Congressmembers Cynthia McKinney and Earl Hilliard experienced in 2002. Challenging Israel is likely to be a career-ending decision.
While serving as Israel's main pressure group in getting Congress to do Israel's bidding, AIPAC, technically, does not contribute to campaigns against Israel's critics. What it does do is coordinate Jewish individuals and PACs (political action committees) looking to contribute their money where it can do the most good for Israel. In every tabulation of political contributions to national races - and several can be found on the internet - Jews are predominant.
In the 2000 elections, according to the Mother Jones web site, eight of the top donors to both political parties were Jewish, as were 13 of the top 20 and approximately 120 of the top 250. While the majority of the contributions went to the Democrats, a significant amount went to Republicans heading key Senate and House committees, such as Appropriations, Armed Services, and the Middle East. How committed each and every one of the Jewish donors is to Israel is irrelevant, since members of Congress make no distinctions, viewing all of their contributions as supporting whatever Israeli party is in power.
The White House is also Israeli Occupied Territory. The situation has become so obvious at this point in time that even such a pro-Israel advocate as nationally syndicated New York Times columnist Tom Friedman is bothered by its implications. In his Feb. 5 column, he wrote:
"(Ariel) Sharon has the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat under house arrest in his office in Ramallah, and he's had George Bush under house arrest in the Oval Office. Mr. Sharon has Mr. Arafat surrounded by tanks, and Mr. Bush surrounded by Jewish and Christian pro-Israel lobbyists, by a vice president, Dick Cheney, who's ready to do whatever Mr. Sharon dictates ... "
To be sure, former New York Mayor Ed Koch has already denounced Friedman's comment as being anti-Semitic in a Feb. 12 article in the Jewish World Review. Writes Koch, "Tom Friedman, who is full of himself, believes he can resort to the anti-Semitic slur of secret Jewish control, and avoid criticism because he is a Jew."
Koch and the ADL are fighting against a swiftly moving wave that carries with it the truth. Moving the focus to Iraq, Robert Fisk of the London Independent, the dean of Middle East correspondents, wrote on Feb. 13:
"If we even remind the world that the cabal of neo-conservative, pro-Israeli proselytizers - Messers Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Kristol, et al - helped to propel President Bush and US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld into this war with grotesquely inaccurate prophecies of a new Middle East of democratic, pro-Israeli Arab states, we are told that we are racist even to mention their names."
One of the ironies of which most Americans are unaware is that there is far greater freedom to criticize the Israel government and its policies in Israel's Hebrew press than in the United States.
The problem was stated very clearly in 1982, when Sen. Adlai Stevenson was successfully targeted by the Jewish lobby, as it is referred to in Israel, when he proposed an amendment to the foreign aid budget that would withhold $150 million from Israel until it agreed to halt the building and expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, which was the official U.S. policy at the time. A year after his defeat, Stevenson told Congressman Paul Findley, himself a victim of AIPAC:
"There is an intimidating, activist minority of American Jews that supports the decisions of the Israeli government, right or wrong. They do so very vocally and very aggressively in ways that intimidate others so that it's their voice — even though it's a minority - that is heard and felt in American politics. But it is still much louder in the United States than in Israel. In other words, you have a much stronger, more vocal dissent in Israel than within the Jewish community in the United States. The prime minister of Israel has far more influence over American foreign policy in the Middle East than over the policies of his own government generally" (Paul Findley, "They Dare to Speak Out," Lawrence Hill, 1989, page 92).
That interview was made in 1983, and the situation has only gotten worse.
Meanwhile, back at Foothill College, President Bernadine Fong called the interview with Professor Armitage "regrettable" and has agreed to meet with the Anti-Defamation League's Central Pacific regional director Jonathan Bernstein, something, the paper says, she would not do in October 2002 when the ADL wrote her a letter with another complaint. A student had dropped out of a class after the teacher allegedly opened the semester with remarks that Israel was engaging in ethnic cleansing, adding, something it had probably learned from the Nazis.
After the first incident, Fong sent an email to the ADL saying Foothill had "policies in place that protect everyone, not just students, of their First Amendment rights."
Bernstein told the San Jose Mercury News that "generally administrators don't want to acknowledge the problems. ... As a result, the problem festers and you have this." The problem for the ADL is clearly how to silence our professors as they have silenced our Congress. We can't let them.
You may write Foothill College President Bernadine Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org. Email Jeff Blankfort at email@example.com.
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