Tony Greenstein | 20 February 2012 | Post Views:

Zionism’s McCarthyite Supporters Rebuffed – Academic Freedom at California State University Defended

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin is an academic at the Santa Cruz campus of the California State University, albeit not one with an international reputation, unlike Professor Ilan Pappe who she has been trying to get banned. When she and fellow McCarthyists heard that Professor Ilan Pappe of Exeter University had been invited to speak on campus, and even worse it was an official invitation, she saw red (or rather blue and white).

Academic freedom is not something that is especially dear to the heart of American Zionists. They first sought to deny tenure to Joseph Massad at Colombia University before successfully intimidating dePaul Catholic University in New York into denying Norman Finkelstein a tenured position as Professor.

Through various ‘grassroots’ organisations such as Amchai (dedicating to protecting Jewish students – i.e. preventing them learn anything too uncomfortable), Camera, NGO Monitor, the Jonathan Foundation and other groups of the same ilk, the Zionists seek to control debate and discourse. Any supporter of the Palestinians is automatically a ‘Hamas’ supporter. By the same token, Rossman-Benjamin is presumably a supporter of Yisrael-Beteinu, party of the fascist Foreign Minister of Israel, Avigdor Lieberman.

But in this case her purported concern about the misuse of taxpayers’ money was too transparent. No objections ever materialise when Netanyahu or pro-Israeli speakers are on the guest list. Only certain views should be excluded from being hosted or publicised and there are no prizes for guessing which ones. And since the University as an institution is funded publicly, presumably Pappe shouldn’t have spoken anywhere on campus as that would have involved tax payer’s dollars being expended, when they could have been better spent on bombs to Iran.

But Israel is no longer as popular as it once was in the USA. And Ross-Benjamin, more of a political functionary than an academic, overplayed her hand. With the result that the principals of the University of California have come out with a letter restating their support for academic freedom.

It’s nice when the censors get egg all over their faces.

And to rub it in, I penned a little letter of my own to Ross-Benjamin explaining what academic freedom is all about. Maybe you would like to likewise and send it to her academic address too! After all that’s what she claims she is.

And it’s also nice to know that Jewish Voices for Peace Deputy Director, Cecile Surasky, has pioneered the opposition to this police-state academic. JVP is a growing force in the USA, having garnered over 100,000 signatures of support. Cecile Surasky herself was among the top 10 in a poll of heroes of the Jewish community before her name was pulled by the organisers!

See also an article on the JVP website on The Zionist Organization of America’s Effort to Criminalize Campus Activism through Federal Civil Rights Legislation
Tony Greenstein

February 18 2012 by Cecilie Surasky

Breaking news/a good day for free speech: despite extensive efforts by the new Amcha Initiative to get Israeli historian Ilan Pappe booted from Cal State University campuses, where he is scheduled to speak next week, the presidents of Cal State Fresno, Cal State Northridge, and Cal Poly have taken a strong, unanimous stand in support of free speech on college campuses.

If you’re near any of these campuses, please go hear Ilan Pappe speak the week of February 20th. He’s a brave, important scholar whose analysis and insights are invaluable to understanding Israel and Palestine. He’s speaking at Cal State Northridge, Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and Cal State Fresno.

In the attempt to censor Pappe, who is a Jewish Israeli, UC Santa Cruz Hebrew lecturer Tammy Rossman-Benjamin, under the aegis of her new group, “The Amcha Initiative: Protecting Jewish Students,” recently sent a letter to the president of the CSU system against Pappe and his CSU hosts. The letter is a prime example of doublespeak, emphasizing – using bold font and capital letters – that we “are NOT asking that these three events be cancelled or that Ilan Pappe be censored.” (emphasis in original)

What, then, were they asking for? For the Cal State campuses and Cal Poly to “rescind all … sponsorship and support” from the Pappe events. What does that mean, exactly? Removing the events from campus and preventing the faculty from hosting Pappe in their official capacity. So no, that wouldn’t exactly be censoring Pappe – he could still speak off-campus, we presume – but it would surely be censoring the faculty who invited him, making a mockery of the freedom of intellectual inquiry and free speech that are so essential to college campuses.

There’s more to this story, too. The Amcha letter claims that Pappe’s event is propaganda, not education, and cites the political activism of the faculty who invited him (including the Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at CSU-Fresno) as evidence. This claim that political people can’t be interested in education, or that people can’t simultaneously be committed to a political cause and to rigorous scholarship is both insulting and revealing. Revealing because it suggests on which side of the scale Rossman-Benjamin, an educator paid by the state of California, would fall.

And today, Rossman-Benjamin’s efforts failed. The presidents’ statement is strong and clear. In it, they state that “Universities are places where debate, discussion and free ideas are welcome and encouraged. … Academic freedom and freedom of speech are … cornerstones … of a functioning democracy.”

That’s right – free speech, higher education, functioning democracy are all deeply intertwined.

And moreover, they say, “Universities are charged with teaching students how to think for themselves….We seek to instill in students the tools to fairly and intelligently assess all data and views, as well as the personal integrity and values to come to a rational and reasonable conclusion.”

Exactly. They trust the learning process. They trust that students are intelligent and capable and have integrity, and can learn how to assess data and opposing, conflicting viewpoints.

That is, their educational philosophy is the opposite of Tammy Rossman-Benjamin, who has been the most visible leader behind a growing campaign to eliminate from college campuses virtually any criticism, however mild, of Israeli human rights practices.

In 2010, Rossman-Benjamin succeeded in getting Israeli peace activists kicked off of UC Santa Cruz campus. In March 2011, she – together with the SF Jewish Community Relations Council and the ADL – failed to do the same for a conference on Palestinians legal rights at UC Hastings (though they did get Hastings to pull its “name and brand” from the proceedings.

Also in March 2011, Rossman-Benjamin filed a complaint against UC-Santa Cruz, her employer, with the federal Office on Civil Rights, under the newly revamped anti-bullying guidelines (Eyal Mazor wrote a report on these guidelines for Muzzlewatch here. Rossman-Benjamin’s complaint alleges a “hostile environment” for Jewish students at UC-Santa Cruz and fills 29 pages with reports mainly about human rights activists speaking on campus. According to this complaint, any criticism of Israel is “anti-semitic” and “inciting hatred” against Israel – which, according to Benjamin, automatically means against Jewish students, too. We expect the Office of Civil Rights to dismiss this complaint: despite Rossman-Benjamin’s statement in the Forward suggesting that investigation itself proves the validity of her claim, if a complaint is filed, the OCR must investigate, like firefighters responding to a fire.

Which brings us back to the Amcha letter on Israeli historian Ilan Pappe- it says that hosting the Jewish Israeli historian on campus “cannot help but create a hostile environment for Jewish students” at these three campuses. That language sounds a lot like a threat, or maybe a promise. Are these campuses next on Rossman-Benjamin’s list for an Office of Civil Rights Title VI complaint?

Anti-Israel speaker on 3 CSU campuses with University’s approval

There is a serious misuse of taxpayer money to promote virulently anti-Israel activity on three California State University campuses.

We need your help.

Dear AMCHA Initiative supporters,

Yesterday we sent a letter to the Presidents of CSU Fresno, CSU Northridge, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, as well as CSU Chancellor Reed, urging them to revoke administrative sponsorship of a speaking tour by Ilan Pappe.

Ilan Pappe is an Israeli Jewish academic who harbors deep animosity towards the Jewish state, has publicly called for its elimination, and engages in activities to harm its citizens, such as a campaign to boycott Israeli academics, which he helped to found. In addition, he openly supports the terrorist organization Hamas and falsely accuses Israel of “crimes against humanity,” including “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing.”

On these three CSU campuses, Pappe’s talk is officially sponsored and funded by University departments and administrative offices. In addition on each campus the event is being organized and promoted by a faculty member or top university administrator who has publicly expressed his or her hatred of Israel and has participated in many anti-Israel events, including the campaign to boycott Israeli academics.

It is important to note that our concern is not with Ilan Pappe’s talk per se, but rather with the fact that his talk is being organized and promoted by faculty and administrators of the California State University system, using the name, resources, and imprimatur of CSU, in order to vilify and harm the Jewish state and its supporters. In this way, taxpayers like us are subsidizing the promotion of hateful indoctrination in our nation’s largest public university.

Please click here to view the letter.

You can also watch the following AMCHA video to learn about CSU’s support for Ilan Pappe’s speaking tour:

Please consider sending your own respectful letter to one or more of the following individuals, asking them to ensure that official university sponsorship and funding is withdrawn from Ilan Pappe’s talks at the three CSU campuses:

CSU Fresno President John Welty: [email protected]
Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong: [email protected]
CSU Northridge Interim President Harold Hellenbrand:[email protected]
CSU Chancellor Charles Reed: [email protected]
CSU Trustees: [email protected]
California State Senator Tom Berryhill (Fresno): [email protected]
California State Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (Fresno):[email protected]
California State Assemblywoman Linda Halderman (Fresno): [email protected]
California State Senator Sam Blakeslee (San Luis Obispo):[email protected]
California State Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian (San Luis Obispo): [email protected]
California State Senator Alex Padilla (Northridge): [email protected]
California State Assemblyman Bob Blumenfeld (Northridge): [email protected]

If you do send a letter, please copy or blind-copy us at: [email protected]

Thank you!

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin [email protected]
Co-founder the AMCHA Initiative

Leila Beckwith [email protected]
Co-founder the AMCHA Initiative

Open Letter to Tammi Rossman-Benjamin and her McCarthyite Supporters

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin
California State University
Division of Humanities
UC Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95064

Dear Ms Ross-Benjamin,

You have been the principal organiser of a campaign to prevent Professor Ilan Pappe of Exeter University in the United Kingdom, formerly of Haifa University, Israel from speaking on California State University campuses. I think we can take your professed concern with the ‘abuse of tax payers’ money with a pinch of salt. Academic freedom is never an abuse.

In your article ‘Anti-Israel speaker on 3 CSU campuses with University’s approval
you invite people to send a letter to various academic administrators and politicians, with a copy or blind-copy to you at [email protected]. I thought it would be more helpful if I wrote to you directly, with a copy to those you mentioned.

You call the invitation to speak to Professor Ilan Pappe ‘a serious misuse of taxpayer money to promote virulently anti-Israel activity on three California State University campuses.’ Perhaps you would explain how speaking on campus equates to virulently anti-Israel activity? Or is it the message you object to?

As an academic and social scientist, I assume that part of your training involved assessing and weighing evidence before reaching conclusions. Yet in your campaign against a fellow academic, it would appear that your forte is the making of wild assertions, backed no by no evidence but coupled with the use of McCarthyist ‘guilt-by-association’ techniques. It is clear that you have no commitment whatsoever to the concept of academic freedom, a strange quality in a Professor. Your commitment is to Zionism.

Professor Pappe is, as you well know, both Israeli and Jewish. The suggestion that he is ‘anti-Israel’ is a piece of inflammatory abuse. What does ‘anti-Israel’ mean? Were campaigners against Apartheid in South Africa ‘anti-South African’? Were those who opposed Nazism in Germany anti-German?

What you presumably mean is that Prof. Pappe is an Israeli Jew and an anti-Zionist. Anti-Zionism is a valid political current, not least within the Jewish community and until 1945 it was a majority current. Are you seriously suggesting that those who dissent from the Israeli State’s preferred image of itself should be barred from speaking on campuses?

Your purported concern is with a ‘serious misuse of taxpayer money to promote virulently anti-Israel activity’ but what activity are you referring to, apart from hosting a speaker that you obviously dislike? Is Professor Pappe going to be opening a Boycott Israel bazar? Would you object to Zionist academics from Israel speaking on campus?

Professor Pappe was a Professor at Haifa University who was one of the new Israeli historians who challenged the founding myths of Zionism. He conducted research into the massacres and expulsion of the Palestinians during 1947-9. Is that a topic which is out of bounds to the AMCHA censorship group? Are you funded by money deriving from Israeli state sources? Do you not find such funding embarrassing? A foreign state funding those who wish to clamp down on academic freedom within the United States?

The rest of your appeal is equally tendentious. It speaks of Pappe harbouring a deep animosity towards the Jewish state and calling for its elimination. Pappe opposes the very concept of a Jewish state which gives rights and privileges to those who are Jewish whilst at the same time denying those rights to non-Jews. If American Jews received the same treatment as Israeli Arabs I suspect you would be the first to protest. Pappe no more calls for Israel’s ‘elimination’ than anti-Apartheid supporters called for the elimination of the South African state. The very use of the term ‘eliminate’ is emotive, as you well know, suggesting the destruction of people rather than changing state structures.

Nor am I aware of any ‘campaign to boycott Israeli academics’ by Pappe or others. There is a campaign to boycott Israeli universities which are complicit in the occupation and discrimination against Israeli Arabs. That is an entirely different thing.

You allege that Pappe supports Hamas but you cite no evidence for this. Perhaps you would supply some references to back this statement up? In any event it is the Palestinians who have voted for Hamas. You call Hamas a ‘terrorist organization’ yet fail to mention that the Israeli state sponsored and virtually created Hamas as a counterweight to secular Palestinian nationalism in the 1980’s. In any event I’m not aware that Prof. Pappe supports Hamas. I suspect that if the United States were occupied by the military of another country that Hamas would be like a children’s tea part in comparison with groups which would spring up to eject the invaders.

It is true that Prof. Pappe, like other Israeli academic such as Prof. Benny Morris, has shown that Israel was created through “ethnic cleansing.” That is a fact. Or is the truth also verboten to McCarthyist organisations like Amchai?

You say that your concern ‘is not with Ilan Pappe’s talk per se’ but because it is ‘being organized and promoted by faculty and administrators of the California State University system’. This is disingenuous. If Ilan Pappe were singing the Israeli State’s praises then you would be fully supportive of such a talk.

It is unfortunate that you don’t even have the honesty to at least say you don’t want Pappe to speak on Californian campuses because you disagree with him. Instead you use ‘the tax payer’ as a convenient peg on which to hang your anti-democratic credentials. But then hypocrisy has always been the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Greenstein

[email protected], [email protected], [email protected],
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