Daniel Swindell

Crude joke at U of Missouri

In the Fall of 2015, the University of Missouri will offer an “Honors Tutorials” called “Perspectives on Zionism.” George Smith, a Biology professor holding no degrees in Middle East Studies or any related field, will teach the class. Smith’s personal perspective is that the entire history of Zionism has been “shameful” and that the Jewish State needs to be destroyed. His perspective has been well documented because Smith has protested, written, and hosted events against Israel for years. It is impossible for the administration to claim ignorance of his beliefs, because Smith has even protested at MU. It seems fair to ask: is it ethically responsible to allow a professor of biology who calls for the destruction of Zionism to teach a course on Zionism? How about a man who protested a talk given by an Israeli eyewitness of terrorist attacks with a crude joke?

In 2013 “Mizzou Christians United for Israel” hosted Noam Bedein, an Israeli eyewitness to terrorists attacks in Israel. The poster for the event read, “Hamas has fired over 12,700 rockets, killing and injuring the people of Sderot (Israel) … Noam Bedein… presents stories of these victims.” Smith showed up and hand distributed a flier, which joked that these rocket attacks were justified because the average Palestinian has to “go through a checkpoint every time he has to take a sh*t.”

Smith has written numerous op-eds condemning Zionism. Although Smith has no degrees in history, Smith wrote an op-ed explaining the history of the 1948 War. Smith explained that even though “Zionist mythology paints the war of independence as a heroic epic in which a tiny Jewish nation fought desperately for survival against an onslaught of invading Arab armies. Well-documented facts tell a less flattering story.” According to Smith, the 1948 War and the creation of a Jewish State “are a shameful chapter in Jewish history.” Smith argued: “For Jews of good conscience everywhere, repudiating and resisting the injustice perpetrated in their name is an urgent mitzvah… even if it means an end to the ethnically exclusivist Jewish state.”

Although Smith has no degrees in International Law, Smith wrote an op-ed explaining the International Laws governing the West Bank (aka Judea). Smith described any Israeli military or civilian presence in the West Bank as the “colonization” of the “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” (OPTs), which should be considered illegal or illegitimate. But Smith did not stop there; he went on to say that even the existence of a Jewish State is illegitimate. Smith wrote: “The figurative battleground has effectively moved backward in time from 1967″ (i.e., the legitimacy of Israel’s Colonization of the OPTs) to 1948 (i.e., the legitimacy of the ethnocratic Jewish state itself).” And what is the future of Israel according to Smith? “It’s doubtful the Zionist ethnocracy, whose 1948 apotheosis Israelis just celebrated in their Independence Day, will survive in the long run.”

In 2014, Smith hosted Saree Makdisi at the University, a leader in the boycott movement against Israeli goods. During the lecture, Makdisi called for Israel to be replaced with a completely different bi-national state. Makdisi concluded the lecture by stating that, “all that has to happen is to remove the borders,” of Israel, which means removing the Jewish State. Afterwards, someone wrote a letter to the local paper stating: “words fail to express the moral disappointment of knowing six departments sponsored a man who came to inspire students to work for a world without Israel.”

Smith wrote a response letter, which ironically, did nothing but repeat Makdisi’s call for the destruction of Israel. However, this time he glorified it as “liberation.” Smith’s letter stated: “Makdisi’s lecture highlighted the ways in which borders — both physical borders such as the separation wall in the West Bank and the militarized fence surrounding Gaza and metaphorical ones such as ethnic identity cards — impair basic human rights. It’s those barriers to freedom that he called to be ‘removed from the map’… The liberation Makdisi envisions would mean an end to Jewish ethnic sovereignty over Israel-Palestine.”

Sadly, Smith was dishonest. The claim that Makdisi called for all physical and metaphorical borders to be removed is completely false. Because the title of the lecture was, “The Everyday Occupation of Palestine,” and because Makdisi explained that no matter what happened his family would always remain “Palestinian.” Likewise, Smith also has never called for all countries and ethnic groups to be removed, rather, only one country. When Smith writes about Palestinian people he argues that they have exclusive ethnic ownership over “Palestinian territory.” Palestinian ownership is so exclusive that even when Jewish people build houses (“settlements”) on “Palestinian territory” it should be considered illegal. But when Smith writes about Jewish people, he switches his position to the exact opposite argument. Smith claims that he is universally opposed to the concept of any ethnic group being granted sovereignty over any territory, and that is why the Jewish State must destroyed. Smith is completely contradictory.

It seems fair to ask: can the administration claim that Smith will not simply use his class as yet another opportunity to teach that the Jewish State should be destroyed? If the administration is not opposed, then what does this say about the University of Missouri?

About the Author
Daniel Swindell is a Zionist. He has a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Missouri, and has studied in Yeshiva.