(November 17, 2021 / JNS) While most campus organizations focus on students, I have long maintained that the biggest problem is faculty. The latest example can be found in the journal of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). This is an organization representing faculty that says it “has helped to shape American higher education by developing the standards and procedures that maintain quality in education and academic freedom in this country’s colleges and universities” since 1915. It also seeks “to ensure higher education’s contribution to the common good.”
Before looking at the article by Bill Mullen, “The Palestinian Exception in the Age of Zoom: A Bellwether for Academic Freedom,” consider what the AAUP says about academic freedom:
- In teaching it applies to the discussion of “all relevant matters in the classroom.”
- Outside the classroom, “faculty should strive to be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show appropriate respect for the opinions of others and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.”
- Academic freedom “does not mean that individual faculty members are free to teach or publish whatever they want without repercussions.”
- “A faculty member is not entitled to teach something that their academic peers judge is invalid—for example, teaching that 2+2=5 would not be protected.”
- “Academic freedom does not protect some speech that may be protected by the First Amendment—for example, that which manifests disciplinary incompetence.”
If faculty adhered to these guidelines, we would not have many of the problems that have created a noxious atmosphere for Jews. Unfortunately, the AAUP opposes oversight by donors, board members, community members, watchdog organizations, students or governments. The entire concept of academic freedom is a creation of faculty (the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities) not of any of the other stakeholders and it has been set up so that only faculty foxes can guard the campus henhouse.
The Mullen article is an example of why they can’t be trusted.
Mullen, a professor of American Studies at Purdue, writes about the “Palestinian exception to free speech,” which he says is the “ongoing curtailment of Palestinians’ ability to ‘speak for themselves’ owing to long-standing Zionist and U.S. state support for Israel.” By “Zionist,” of course, he means Jews. And apparently, he sees no contradiction in reporting in the previous paragraph that sessions at “Palestine Writes” Literature Festival that included endorsing the boycott of Israel and featured anti-Israel Palestinian speakers (my characterization, not his) were broadcast on Zoom.
According to the anti-Semitic BDS movement, “Statements in support of Palestinian rights, many advocating for BDS, have been endorsed by more than 350 academic departments, programs, centers, unions and societies and garnered nearly 24,000 signatures from scholars, researchers, students and university staff worldwide.” The “exception” would also be news to anyone on the dozens of campuses where Students for Justice in Palestine and their supporters are propagandizing every day.
Mullen contradicts himself again in the next paragraph when he writes that academics have won the “right … to speak for Palestinian liberation in both the classroom and the public sphere.” The real exception is that these professors are allowed to use their positions to promote their personal agendas and teach the political equivalent of 2+2=5.
Mullen is also upset that the Department of Education has applied Title VI protections against discrimination against Jews and suggested that determinations of a violation of their rights be guided by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism. Like others who want to denude anti-Semitism of its meaning, Mullen falsely claims the IHRA considers criticism of Israel anti-Semitic.
He also makes the laughable claim that the “Palestinian exception” is “a gateway for foreclosing academic discussion and research into other histories of inequality, oppression and struggle that might contravene the interests of the U.S. government, government-funded universities, and private contractors beholden to government definitions of political interests and political terms, like terrorism.” (emphasis in original).
Seriously? Has he heard of critical race theory?
What seems to particularly upset Mullen is the equally ridiculous notion that professors will somehow be kept from comparing Israel to Afrikaner South Africa. To cite one example, after Israel was bombarded by Hamas rockets, 70 Harvard faculty signed a letter that did just that.
His main example of the “exception” is the decision by Zoom not to broadcast appearances by Leila Khaled—a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a U.S.-designated terrorist organization—at several universities. Even as he criticized Zoom, he acknowledged that Zoom has allowed other events that have endorsed the anti-Semitic boycott of Israel and featured anti-Israel Palestinian speakers (my characterization not his). What is most interesting, however, is Mullen’s creative description of Khaled’s background to argue that Zoom was unreasonable in denying her a platform.
According to Mullen, Khaled’s family fled to Lebanon during the nakba, which he describes as “the killing, violent removal, and displacement of more than 750,000 Palestinians by forces supporting the new State of Israel.” We are not told if her family was among the wealthy Palestinians who fled before the war, was encouraged to leave by Arab leaders or was caught in the crossfire following the invasion of five Arab armies.
He acknowledges Khaled joined the PFLP, a Marxist group he says is “committed to direct action [a new euphemism for terror] for Palestinian self-determination.” He then mentions her role in two plane hijackings. During the first, in 1969, Mullen says Khaled “demanded that the pilot fly over Haifa, which she was prevented from visiting, just so she could see it,” as if she commandeered a plane full of terrified passengers to go sightseeing. He omitted that Khaled was holding grenades with the pins pulled out while she admired the view. He also left out that the hijackers took six Israelis hostage. Mullen does acknowledge that in this and the 1970 hijacking that the planes were blown up. Since the planes were empty and none of the civilians were killed, however, he treats the hijackings like they were harmless pranks and suggests the PFLP is only on the U.S. “terrorist” [his quotation marks] watchlist because of these 50-year old events. He ignores or is ignorant of the organization’s activities since, including the assassination of Israeli Minister of Tourism Rehavam Ze’evi in 2001 and the killing in August 2019 of 17-year-old Rina Shnerb in an explosion in Judea and Samaria.
For Mullen, Khaled is not a terrorist but a “Palestinian activist” and someone with a “well-known commitment to international feminism.” She’s Gloria Steinem with a rifle and grenades.
After Zoom canceled her planned lecture at San Francisco State, guess who tried to host her? New York University’s AAUP chapter. They, too, were stymied.
Mullen also mentions the cancellation of a lecture by Edward Said, whose scheduled talk for the Freud Society of Vienna was nixed “because of a single rock he joyfully tossed from Lebanon at an Israeli guardhouse.” Said is a particularly odd example to include in an article claiming a “Palestinian exception” considering he is one of the people who most influenced the field of Middle East Studies (though his expertise was in Comparative Literature) and was described in The Guardian’s obituary as “the most articulate and visible advocate of the Palestinian cause in the United States.”
While I could see why AAUP would be interested in a discussion of how Zoom’s terms of service might impact academic freedom, it is indefensible to publish a polemic filled with contradictions. The article trumpets the freedom of academics to use their classrooms to indoctrinate students with their personal political belief in “Palestinian liberation” while speciously claiming that Palestinians are being silenced. Worse, Mullen maliciously blames the Jews, arguing that “Zionist” support for Israel is impeding Palestinians from speaking.
But we can’t say that is anti-Semitic.
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including “The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews” and “After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.”
Jewish News Syndicate
With geographic, political and social divides growing wider, high-quality reporting and informed analysis are more important than ever to keep people connected.
Our ability to cover the most important issues in Israel and throughout the Jewish world—without the standard media bias—depends on the support of committed readers.
If you appreciate the value of our news service and recognize how JNS stands out among the competition, please click on the link and make a one-time or monthly contribution.
We appreciate your support.