US: Criticize Israel and lose your job

US academic freedom in peril

Paul J. Balles | Redress, March 8, 2009

Paul J. Balles considers how Zionists in positions of authority at academic institutions in the United States are persecuting and defaming anyone who dares to criticize Israel or even mention Palestinian rights.

About the worst thing one can do in America or Europe is to criticize Israel. “Freedom” even in academia doesn’t allow critical comments about Israel or Zionism. Those who risk it can lose their jobs and be labelled anti-Semitic bigots.

Joel Kovel was terminated from Bard College after 20 years of service because of “differences between myself and the Bard administration on the issue of Zionism”. The president of Bard, Leon Botstein, didn’t consider Kovel’s critiques of Zionism to be protected academic freedom.

The worst of the critic bashers is Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. He spearheaded a campaign against Norman Finkelstein’s tenure for writing Beyond Chutzpah, documenting in detail the falsifications in Dershowitz’s book The Case for Israel.

After being denied tenure, Finkelstein said: “I met the standards of tenure DePaul required, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the political opposition to my speaking out on the Israel-Palestine conflict.”

In his 2008 book, The Case Against Israel’s Enemies, Dershowitz defamed many who have been critical of Israel, calling them bigots or labelling them anti-Semitic. Dershowitz has led the pack attacking Israel’s critics.

On former President Jimmy Carter, Dershowitz wrote: “Whatever the reason or reasons for Jimmy Carter’s recent descent into the gutter of bigotry, history will not judge him kindly.”

Attacking University of Chicago Professor John J. Mearsheimer and Harvard University Professor Stephen M. Walt, who together authored The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy (2007), Dershowitz wrote: “They are hate-mongers who have given up on scholarly debate and the democratic process in order to become rock-star heroes of anti-Israel extremists.”

Writing about the British University and College Union (UCU) boycott of Israeli educators and academic institutions, Dershowitz explained how he and others “wrote an op-ed piece for the Times of London, in which we demonstrated parallels between this boycott and previous anti-Jewish boycotts that were undoubtedly motivated by anti-Semitism”.

On another front, Roosevelt University of Chicago at Illinois fired a philosophy and religion professor for allowing students in his class to ask questions about Judaism and Islam. The chair of the department, Susan Weininger, fired the professor, Douglas Giles, saying that students should not be allowed to ask whatever questions they want in class.

Weininger said that free discussion in world religions could “open up Judaism to criticism”. Any such material, she said, was not permissible to be mentioned in class discussion, textbooks or examinations. Further, she ordered Giles to forbid any and all discussion of the “Palestinian issue”, any mention of Palestinian rights, the Muslim belief in the holiness of Jerusalem, and Zionism. When Professor Giles refused to censor his students, Weininger fired him.

One of the worst types of Zionist harassment involves cases of Muslims generally and Palestinians in particular for speaking out on behalf of their favourite causes. The US government has often been complicit in these cases.

One such case involves Dr Sami Al-Aryan who taught computer engineering at the University of South Florida before his arrest in 2004. Al-Arian was charged with raising money and otherwise assisting Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a group the US government declared a terrorist organization in 1995. At trial in 2005, he was acquitted on eight of 17 counts, and the jury deadlocked on the other counts.

All counts were trumped up by Zionist prosecutors who wanted to silence Al-Aryan. If anything could vaguely approach justice in this case, the Israelis who have been slaughtering Palestinians for half a century would have been labelled terrorists and brought to trial for committing much worse deeds than Al-Aryan.

The gravest injustice allows Zionists to silence honest critics for violating the Zionist taboo.

Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. For more information, see

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