Pro-Israel Faculty Members Must Speak Out on Campus

With the normalizing of antisemitism comes the normalizing of BDS. Professors and academics who support and advocate for BDS feel empowered and emboldened by the belief that their actions respond to the policies of current White House. Moreover, Israel is seen today as a right-wing issue, especially on campuses dominated completely by the political and cultural left. This allows every anti-Israel voice to be treated as normal and moral.

Faculty opposed to Israel are at the forefront of BDS, hiding behind the increasingly thin façade of academic freedom to launch systemic attacks on Israel, its supporters, and on the structure of the university itself.

While we've seen this happening in general, the anti-Israel animus is especially toxic on university campuses where group think rules and there is a valid fear of professional ostracism and demonization for bucking the anti-Israel trend. The concept of "academic freedom" has been twisted and debased to excuse a professor's irrational anti-Semitism in deciding what or if to teach students. BDS reigns supreme and takes precedence over education.

BDS cuts to the heart of what universities are supposed to be. Is a university an impartial platform at which students can receive an education as well as support to go on with their lives and careers wherever they choose, or is it a political platform shaped exclusively by the views of an angry minority of Israel-hating faculty? Academics who support BDS demand that their politics directly shape the world and the lives of their students while eschewing all responsibility and even criticism. John K. Wilson, the co-editor of the AAUP’s blog, “Academe,” told Insider Higher Ed that “it is morally wrong for professors to impose their political views on student letters of recommendation,” but still argues that the professor should not be punished. There are almost no consequences, except writ large, when institutions like Evergreen State or the University of Missouri, which experienced similar unhinged anger from faculty and students over racial issues, found their enrollments plummeting and state legislators questioning the wisdom of supporting their bitter politics.

Very few professors are willing to stand up against what has become a nearly monolithic campus culture of reviling Israel and its supporters. Those who are willing to speak out need our support, if simply to reestablish a balance that says Israel is not a freakish or evil entity but a state like any other. Most faculty members who choose to speak out are Jews and Israelis, and many are not specialists in Middle East studies. They do so out of a sense of support not only for Israel but for academic ideals of fairness and balance. But they have not been able to change the environment, and many more faculty members are routinely cowed into submission by BDS activists who are among their colleagues. It is not known how many are denied promotions, tenure, grants, or fellowships on the basis of their support for Israel.

But pro-Israel academic must speak up.

The way in which Israel is treated is a measure of the health of a university. Faculty who want to see Israel addressed fairly, and not as inherently sinful, need support now more than ever. Students, parents, and alumni should also be watching carefully and making decisions about where to attend, what courses to take, and where to give their money.

Because BDS proponents and campus hate mongers have made it risky to speak up, we, on the outside of academia, must support campus Israel supporters. At CUNY in New York:

Between June 15 and Nov. 10, four articles on the website of the self-described communist Progressive Labor Party (see here, here, here, and here) have referred to an organized campaign to have Goldstein dismissed from the college. “KCC Students and Workers Fight Racist Goldstein” the first article was headlined; one article, from August, claimed that the as-yet unfired Goldstein was “protected by a network of Zionists among the faculty.” According to multiple sources, copies of the print edition of the Progressive Labor Party newspaper containing the Oct. 11 article were distributed on campus late that month—“The racists fear direct, mass confrontation and at KCC, they are getting it!” the unsigned statement read.

Months earlier, on Feb. 22, the words “fuck Trump Goldstein” and “kill Zionist entity” were scrawled on a photo of Goldstein’s late father that hung near his office. On Oct. 4, the same day as a college council meeting in which rising intrafaculty tensions on campus were discussed, nails were inserted into the tires of cars belonging to Jeffrey Lax, the head of the college’s business department, in which Goldstein teaches. A few days earlier, the Lawfare Project, a legal nonprofit representing the beleaguered professor, sent letters to Kingsborough faculty, several of them leaders of the school’s increasingly powerful Progressive Faculty Caucus, requesting that they preserve email and other records in anticipation of possible legal action related to the alleged harassment efforts.

The anti-Goldstein campaign has also enlisted his peers on the Kingsborough faculty. In March, Katia Perea, a sociologist who teaches in Kingsborough’s gender studies program, approached Jeffrey Lax, the head of Goldstein’s department, to try to convince him to bar the adjunct professor from leading any further classes. Perea also argued for Goldstein’s firing in meetings with other department heads, as well as with Kingsborough’s then-president Peter Cohen. In an April 17 memo to Victoria Adjibade, Kingsborough’s chief diversity officer, one of the administrators who met with Perea recalls that she was “concerned about exposing students to Mr. Goldstein’s ‘hateful’ views,” yet added “she does not believe Mr. Goldstein has violated any CUNY [Equal-Opportunity Employment] or Non-Discrimination policies.” Perea “conceded that she was not aware of any student complaints made about Mr. Goldstein but advised me to ‘delve a little deeper’ and to ‘start asking … more questions’ of any faculty members that had voted for Donald Trump. She explained that if she were a department chair, she would not hire someone who voted for Donald Trump.”

The administrator found Perea’s claims groundless: “In my 14 years at Kingsborough, … I have never before seen such an aggressive campaign by one faculty member to harm another’s career where there were no communications or actions, whatsoever, taken by the latter against the former.”

This stuff is happening on campuses all over the nation, and it's not going away any time soon. Remain aware. Speak up against the hatred.