Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Review of Gary Tobin, Aryeh K. Weinberg and Jenna Ferer's, "The Uncivil University"

Gary A. Tobin, Aryeh K. Weinberg and Jenna Ferer
The Uncivil University
Institute for Jewish and Community Research, 2005
296 pages

Gary A. Tobin, Aryeh K. Weinberg and Jenna Ferer have written a useful and insightful book on anti-Semitism in universities. The book is actually more than that. It starts by discussing standards of academic competence and ethics. These standards have been increasingly neglected in recent years. Universities have become overly obsessed with money, with narrow fields of specialization and with protecting their prerogatives from external review, even as they require ever greater amounts of financial support from external sources.

Following their discussion of the decline of universities, the authors discuss fiduciary and ethical duties of academics and academic administrators. They follow this with a discussion of a history of anti-Semitism in academia, in America more broadly, and in the Arab world. The authors do a good job of discussing the blurring of the distinctions among anti-Semitism, anti-Israelism and criticism of Israel, three areas which overlap. They include an interesting quote by Tamir Sorek of the Cornell Daily Sun in this regard. As the authors point out,

"There are only fourteen million Jews in the world out of a population of more than five billion. If one listens to the rhetoric of the anti-Semites and the anti-Israelists (and now the anti-American voices as well), one can only assume that there are hundreds of millions of Jews in the world controlling government, controlling the banks, controlling the media, and who are poised to profit from everybody else's distress."

Sadly, as the authors point out, p. 72, "the university and the left now seem interchangeable" with Jim Piereson labeling "higher education 'the left university'". Universities have become fonts of anti-Semitic propaganda and (p. 105) "the university has failed, permitting a converging rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism on college campuses that marginalizes Jewish students." Politicized research marginalizes honest research.

For instance, Yale Assistant Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh circulated a list of Jewish students whom he labeled a "pro-war cabal". As well, Jewish students at the University of California, Berkeley have been spit on and called "Zionist conservative bastards" and "f**king Jews" when campaigning for student office." These are not isolated occurrences, but rather are widespread. Jews are routinely harassed and called vicious names at college campuses around the country. For instance, in 1993 Khalid Abdul Muhammad, speaking at Kean College, called Jews "bloodsuckers". The authors assert that:

"Professor Norton Mezvinsky, of Central Connecticut State University, has been quoted stating that Jews believe 'the blood of non-Jews has no intrinsic value' and that this allows Jews to consider that the killing of non-Jews does 'not constitute murder according to the Jewish religion'."

Professor Emeritus Helen Cullen of the University of Massachusetts, known as "the Harvard of Marxism", wrote a letter that was published in U. Mass.'s student daily, Collegian, saying that:

"Judaism and the Jewish identity are offensive to most human beings and will always cause trouble between the Jews and the rest of the human race."

The University of Illinois student newspaper published a letter from Ariel Sinovsky stating that "the President should act immediately...First, separate Jews from all government advisory positions and give them one year full paid sabbatical...Then the Jews might face another Holocaust."

In 2002 Santa Rosa Junior College's student newspaper The Oak Leaf published an article by Kevin McGuire stating that "Israel is the largest and most dangerous terrorist organization in the world..."

A key example is the low-quality field of Middle Eastern Studies. Bernard Lewis is quoted as saying that the field is of low quality. Students complain of marginalization, ideological harassment and intimidation. The Middle Eastern Studies field is junk and does not deserve to be part of the university. Columbia Professors such as Samir Awad, Gil Anidjar, Janaki Bakhle, Marc Nichanian, Hamid Dbashi, Joseph Massad, Frances Protchett, George Saliba, Nader Sohrabi and Marc van de Mieroop, all of Colubmia's Middle Eastern Studies program, dominated the list of signatories on a petition for divestment from Israel. The scholarship of Middle Eastern Studies departments has been of such low quality that it is a standing joke in academia.

To remedy these problems, the authors suggest enhanced external control. In 2005, Congress passed House Resolution 3077, subsequently folded into House Resoultion 609, that establishes an independent higher education advisory board to provide advice, counsel and recommendations on international education issues.

Uncivil University is a very well written and readable book. It is well researched and balanced. The authors have treated an important subject with care. The book deserves a wide readership.

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