Over the last couple of years two very prominent political scientists, John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt, teaching in two of the most reputable universities in the world (University of Chicago and Harvard University) have been promoting a paper and now a book (The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy) pointing out the discrepancy between U.S. strategic interests and support for Israel.
Mearsheimer and Walt argue that the only reason that the U.S. has given huge amounts of military and foreign aid to Israel has been the political and economic clout of Israel's domestic lobbying interests, namely U.S. citizens who are zealots on this cause. Ironically, proof of their argument is that their own book tour is being interfered with by Zionists who apparently made statements that rattled a variety of potential venues, including the Chicago Council on Global Affairs that had committed to and then canceled their talk. According to the New York Times:
The subject will certainly prompt furious debate, though not at the Center for the Humanities at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a Jewish cultural center in Washington and three organizations in Chicago. They have all turned down or canceled events with the authors, mentioning unease with the controversy or the format.
The authors were particularly disturbed by the Chicago council’s decision, since plans for that event were complete and both authors have frequently spoken there before. The two sent a four-page letter to 94 members of the council’s board detailing what happened. “On July 24, Council President Marshall Bouton phoned one of us (Mearsheimer) and informed him that he was canceling the event,” and that his decision “was based on the need ‘to protect the institution.’ He said that he had a serious ‘political problem,’ because there were individuals who would be angry if he gave us a venue to speak, and that this would have serious negative consequences for the council. ‘This one is so hot,’ Marshall maintained.”
Mr. Mearsheimer later said of Mr. Bouton, “I had the sense that this phone call pained him deeply.”
Mr. Bouton was out of town, but Rachel Bronson, vice president for programs and studies at the council, said, “Whenever we have topics that are particularly controversial or sensitive, we try to make sure someone from another point of view is there.” In this case, she said, there was not sufficient time to set up that sort of panel before the council calendar went out. There are no plans to have the authors speak at a later date, however.
Two months ago Norman Finkelstein--another Israel lobby critic who has debunked work by Alan Dershowitz and written a terrific, incisive, and well-documented book The Holocaust Industry, about the intellectual, political history of "the Holocaust"--was denied tenure at De Paul University even though his department had unanimously supported him. As bad as this is, even more bizarre are the efforts underway by a former Barnard alum whose firm does technical writing for Israeli firms to hold up the tenure of Dr. Nadia Abu El-Haj, an anthropology professor at Barnard College. The online petition has over 1,000 signatures, supposedly from Barnard alumnae, though a brief scan suggests that at least half of them are from men, which is fitting for an enterprise placing such a low value on integrity.
The concerns are supposedly directed to a book published by the University of Chicago Press in 2001, but since the woman who authored the petition is in no position to second-guess the faculty who peer-reviewed the book at the University of Chicago Press, it appears that Paula Stern, the petition's author, is acting on the old-fashioned value of narrow-minded bigotry. Since it now seems that tenure is being determined by petition, feel free to sign one supporting Dr. Nadia Abu El-Haj here.
One thing I never understood: why do conservatives point to the large numbers of progressives in academia and complain about bias, rather than scratch their heads and ponder the consequences of the general population's poor education, contemplating the possibility that they might be dead wrong through ignorance. If experts trained in the best universities in the world hold views that are more open, cosmopolitan, egalitarian, and tolerant than the views held by everyone else, doesn't that suggest these scholars might be onto something? We don't look at the general public's opinion on physics and, since no one there can explain why e=mc2, say that Einstein was biased in favor of relativity, so why is it cause for censure if people in universities, professors, no less, have knowledge on other matters about which the general public also is uneducated?
During the first Gulf War, in 1992, Professor Kirin Chaudhry, in the Political Science Department at UC Berkeley (when I was a grad student) was on a local news show asked if she thought the U.S. invasion was a good idea. She said no. The local anchor's eyebrows shot up, "You realize you are disagreeing with 85% of the rest of the country?" he said. I'll never forget Dr. Chaudhry's reply. She looked him straight in the eyes and very calmly replied, "That's because they're poorly informed by news programs such as yours."