The American Studies Association or ASA approved a boycott of Israel and NOW we are concerned that these bigots will influence others by their eliminationist agenda. I read an excellent piece by Peter Beinart, the bête noir of American Jewish literary circles and it is really well written as one would expect from him. In it he deconstructs the hypocrisy of the politically dubious ASA and what he refers to as its ‘morally myopic’ agenda in denying the legitimacy of a democratic Jewish state, even alongside a Palestinian one.
What is the controversy all about? Simply put, the ASA is a small association of American professors who teach a discipline that is called “American History.” On Monday 16th December they voted to endorse a boycott of Israeli universities. They did not vote to boycott any other country nor would they. Curtis Marez, chief gauleiter and association president did respond to criticism of their particularistic approach to Israel by limply telling the New York Times “one has to start somewhere.” But while I am not a betting man I would lay very long odds on the chance that the ASA will boycott any time in the foreseeable future any Muslim country, or for that matter, China, Russia or Venezuela.
The issue that the left has with Israel has been crystallizing over many years. The Left is not a hegemonic faith group – so to ascribe to them a universal belief system would be as bigoted as is the ASA. But the characteristic prejudice of the purist is a stain that many would publicly deny but privately wear with pride. Here are the articles of faith:
- All Jews are Western.
- Following on from the crime of being Western, all Jews are colonizers and imperialists.
- Similarly racist is the contention that all Jews are white skinned.
- All Jews are middle-class. Therefore they are the timeless enemy of the workers. This is justified by education and ‘cultural inclination.’
We have brought the problem onto ourselves and not because we have been insufficiently critical of Israel or ourselves as Jews. God knows that we are the most intellectually bellicose, argumentative and too often obnoxious know alls on the planet. Our group identity is based on us being a caring and therefore hyper-expressive, thinking people. But because we are not a hegemonic, a missionary faith, we do not silence our internal critics and by allowing a thousand flowers to blossom we are far too often not just at odds with ourselves but in open warfare against each other. A person who is born of parents who profess a Jewish ‘identity’ who in turn professes a similar ‘identity’ but only in order to use this spurious distinctiveness to attack Jews is a too common intellectual instrument of our enemies. Jews who use this weapon do so as racists, far too eager to gain acceptance from people they fear will never truly accept them as equals.
The final characteristic of this ‘leftist’ group is that they are fascists. No matter what proof you provide in contradistinction to the four articles of faith to which I refer above, they will never accept the validity of your arguments because they adhere to formal fallacies or if you wish, fallacy by association.
Because Jews (those that do not agree with them in absolute terms) cannot be anything but as they see them (or us) we have no right to disagree with them and therefore any argument we put forward that contradicts them must be ipso facto, wrong.
Under these circumstances the only remedy is to use identical stratagems.
What do people like Mister Marez fear? It is oblivion. Money is what drives them – lots of it. The louder they are, the more well known they become – the greater their status, the bigger the wad of cash they can claw from the bodies that employ them. There is a balance – academic freedom is not about truth but about what we can ‘get away with saying.’ The professional political racist knows his audience. Mr. Marez will not be attacking Afro Americans or Latinos nor will he be open to discussion on Chinese or Muslim crimes against humanity. He will certainly hold his tongue and look the other way when the right kind of bigots visits UC San Diego. Student numbers are directly proportionate to the influence and wealth of the institutions themselves. So discouraging student numbers by attacking the group to which they belong would be an unwise strategy.
Selective morality is unusual neither in nations nor in their universities. Deceit in academia is certainly nothing new. Self –justification for taking an amoral or actively immoral stand is always easier if we enjoy the support of our fellow academics. When Iraq was torturing and slaughtering Shiites by the tens of thousand “the Left” kept silent because the anti-war movement deemed resolution of the conflict to be an expression of Western imperialism and therefore, “the Left” would not tolerate any discussion. Humanitarian concern was met with violent opposition.
“The Left” is morally indigent, viewing any concept of morality as governed by purpose and result. By this reasoning the “oppressed” can do no wrong and the “oppressor” can do no right. If morality is an instrument of politics then terms are defined not by ethics but by ideology – concepts of morality become not just time specific but also location and community dependent. Under these conditions the Law is at best a guide and at worst, a conceit.
Peter Beinart summed up the issue with perfect precision when he stated that the issue is “Not that the ASA is practicing double standards and not even that it’s boycotting academics, but that it’s denying the legitimacy of a democratic Jewish state, even alongside a Palestinian one.”
And we should be concerned because outliers create unease but little else, until that is, they build a momentum dictated by fashion. Hitler did not succeed because all Germans were genocidal racists but because a small and ideologically committed group was able to convince the rest that their way was acceptable; that violence and murder was alright. And academia actively and enthusiastically collaborated in this program because in it, they saw the benefit to themselves.