Americans for Peace and Tolerance has released a documentary on Northeastern’s Holocaust Awareness Week, and Charles Jacobs has published a column in the Jewish Advocate summarizing his criticisms of it. In response, Northeastern Provost Stephen Director has complained that Jacobs “cherry-picked his examples”:
The present-day facts are clear: Northeastern is a vibrant academic community where people of all backgrounds and faiths come together in pursuit of knowledge.
In dismissing a dozen examples of intellectual and moral abuse of the Holocaust program at Northeastern as “cherry-picked,” Director expresses either a lack of awareness or a dishonesty about the nature of the intellectual and moral stakes. That Jacobs could “cherry-pick” any examples of people using this venue at Northeastern to make the morally sadistic comparison of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians with the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews represents a failure of judgment on a colossal scale.
How can an occupation which systematically exterminated millions of innocent civilians in a matter of three years be compared with one in which the “target” population both grew in number and in prosperity over the course of 40 years?
How can one make such a comparison without including a comparison of how Israel treats its “occupied” Palestinians with how the Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war have been treated by their Arab hosts? They have been and continue to be far more ruthless and cruel with their own people than the “Nazi-like” Israelis are with the Palestinians.
Comparisons of Israelis with Nazis are not sober assessments of empirical reality — the hallmark of good history and journalism. They are wild and intentionally debasing accusations — Israel-baiting — made in a moral and intellectual fugue. This represents a disorientation of empirical reality so radical that its prominence on campus needs to be addressed, explained, and corrected, and not covered up with claims of “academic freedom.”
Academics are not “free” to make things up, and universities are not required to give those who do a pulpit. That, as Stephen Director should in principle know, is a crucial component of the “pursuit of knowledge.”
Instead, in his apologetics, he sounds like the FBI after Waco: “We didn’t do anything wrong, and we won’t do it again.” We can’t learn from mistakes we don’t admit.
Far from an example of “academic freedom,” this situation is actually the opposite. The radical voice that compares Israel to the Nazis and tars as “right-wing” those Jews who object has essentially driven the entire political spectrum off-kilter. What Northeastern calls diversity and vigorous debate “in pursuit of knowledge” actually represents the shutting down of precisely the kind of debate that must take place, replacing it with unchallenged intellectual and moral abuse.
Moderate vs. extremist. Left vs. right. Dove vs. hawk. None of these ranges mean anything anymore as a result of the skew those running the Holocaust program at Northeastern bring to the university community. This skew is reflected in many places, including the news media. A “moderate” in the Palestinian system (e.g., Mahmoud Abbas) does not translate into a moderate in ours; and a “hardliner” in ours is a (way too) soft-liner in theirs. Someone who promises his people the land from river to the sea, who demands the ethnic transfer and cleansing of a religious minority from territory he rules, who wants to keep his own people stateless, whose “authorities” bully and intimidate the press, who uses torture against his own opposition? This is not a “moderate.” Any Israeli leader with such a record would be immediately branded — by Jews and other Westerners alike — as a vicious fascist. Of course, in comparison with the genocidal Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Abbas is at least willing to say he’s willing to (maybe) negotiate, and therefore appears on our current skewed political register as a “moderate.”
Benjamin Netanyahu, who allows a much wider range of dissent and lives by far more demanding democratic principles, is branded a “hawkish” right-wing extremist when he resists pressure to compromise with foes. But since holding Palestinians responsible for their choices — suicide bombing, hate propaganda, river-to-the-sea ambitions — would be blaming the victim, it’s so much easier for the politically correct to blame the “hardliner” Netanyahu for the failure of negotiations rather than the “moderate” Abbas.
As a result of this skew of the political spectrum, for nearly a decade Northeastern’s hijacked Holocaust program repeatedly invited highly politicized, intellectually dishonest, morally hysterical people who demonized Israel and who tried to exclude, silence, and intimidate anyone who defended her.