This is a widespread phenomenon on American and Canadian campuses. It occurred partly on a public stage — see the attacks on people like Nonie Darwish, Netanyahu, David Horowitz, and Michael Oren – and partly in a private way: scholars who might challenge these accusations were pointedly disinvited from the discussion. Northeastern apparently mistakes a situation in which defenders of Israel were systematically intimidated and denied a voice while rabble-rousers with revolutionary agendas controlled the stage for a “vigorous exchange of diverse opinion.”
Nothing better illustrates this off-kilter political register than Provost Director’s pointing to Northeastern’s invite of Michael Oren — a scholar of impeccable credentials both as an academic and as a public intellectual — as a balance to Alice Rothschild. You’d need a Kahanist who wanted to ethnically cleanse the West Bank of Arabs to match her unhinged radical ideas. And yet, no one at Northeastern is going to defend such a racist “right-wing” speaker on the basis of academic freedom. So we end up with a spectrum that goes from radical left to a mild, even timid, center – moderates who rather than challenge shrill and dishonest accusations, plead “can’t we all just get along?”
Meanwhile, no one at Northeastern is exposed to anything that is not “peace” oriented. Heaven forbid students be exposed to evidence that points out how the peace movement has been hijacked in the service of war.
Indeed, one might conjecture about the reason this “vigorous” voice has become so rhetorically extravagant in its insults against Israel and her defenders. Branding those who object as “racists, fascists, and Islamophobes” serves to intimidate and marginalize an opposition which, if sane people could hear their voice, would lead them to walk away from this deranged anti-Zionist, anti-democratic discourse.
That’s what’s so disturbing about the typical “university” response to objections from Jews regarding the demonizing of Israel: administrators are in total denial about a serious — some of us think urgent — problem on our campuses today. The voice of a loyal opposition has been banished by the voice of a hostile opposition which uses a discourse that violates so many of the rules of the “public sphere.” Empirical evidence, disciplined reasoning, honest use of analogies, open and un-coercive consent: these are key elements of the public sphere. And the public sphere is where a discourse of fairness and empathy takes place, the oxygen supply of our experiment in freedom and prosperity. Our many “cherry-picked” case studies violate this not on occasion, but as a matter of principle.
Northeastern administrators should consider themselves co-defendants in the recent findings on the administrators at the University of California. Far from performing their role as the university’s quality control mechanism, they now routinely function as the enablers, protectors, and even apologists for the politicized university and its degraded scholarly and educational standards.
This is not a slip or a stumble. This is a catastrophic failure of the last generation. Under the guise of “cutting-edge scholarship” in “theories” (post-modern, post-colonial, queer, etc.), they bring us dishonest, accusing voices that demonize and scapegoat and never self-criticize. They demand that we believe the voices of the “subaltern” Palestinian “other”; they insist that to question that testimony would be cruel, would be “blaming the victim.” Accordingly, they pump our information system with poisoned lethal narratives, with icons of hatred which they proudly claim will help make the world a better place. They represent an insane marriage of pre-modern sadism and post-modern masochism: while Palestinians make the most terrible accusations against Israel, “good Jews” like Alice Rothschild say: “Yes, you’re right, we are terrible.”
(Indeed, one has to wonder what happened to Alice as a “child” according to her own “psycho”-analysis of the abuse syndrome: i.e., Jews, having been abused by Nazis, now abuse Palestinians. What abuse has Rothschild experienced that she so abuses her own people? Was it at the hand of her fellow “progressives”?)
This is not just a Jewish question. What the “Left” has done to Israel, it does to every other Western nation and culture: it insists we liberals, in order to prove our good will, adopt Islamism’s demonizing narratives about the infidel, especially the Jew. The consequences are terrible for those like we Jewish and non-Jewish liberals who, in a paroxysm of self-critical good will, accept this dishonest and vicious story about ourselves. But they are in some ways worse for Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim culture, where our acceptance of these hate- and violence-filled lethal narratives strengthens the grip that the producers of this war-mongering propaganda have on their own people. And in the process, peace is the first and last casualty.