Tuesday, August 23, 2011

American Association of University Professors' Anti-Semitism

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) should join the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in retracting a peculiar statement  that disparages three law suits concerning antisemitism.

Today, The Jewish Daily Forward published Kenneth L. Marcus's Op Ed about the joint AAUP-AJC statement, which was written by Kenneth Stern, AJC's president, and Cary Nelson, AAUP's president.  Marcus describes one of the three law suits which the AAUP and AJC disparage.  It is brought by two Berkeley students, Jessica Felber and Brian Maissy, and Berkeley Professor Mel Gordon.  It concerns persistent and violent anti-Semitic harassment to which the three and others allegedly have been subjected on the Berkeley campus.  Similar complaints have been lodged at UC Santa Cruz and Rutgers.

Marcus writes that the AAUP-AJC statement says:

(S)ome, in reaction to these recent incidents, are making the situation worse by distorting the provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and what has been called the 'working definition of anti-Semitism'... 

...Opposing anti-Israel events, statements, and speakers, they believe the only way to “protect” Jewish students is by imposing censorship. 

The "working definition of antisemitism" comes from a statement of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC):  "Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities."  In
other words, in a classic example of victim blaming, Nelson and Stern aver that Jewish students' and professors' complaints about having been violently attacked are actually censorship of their attackers' criticisms of Israel.  The AJC-AAUP  statement also refers to a Department of Education "Dear Colleague" 
letter which states that bullying  falls  under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act when:  "peer harassment based on race, color, national origin, sex, or disability is sufficiently serious that it creates a hostile environment and such harassment is encouraged, tolerated, not adequately addressed, or ignored by school employees."

Former Berkeley student Jessica Felber alleges that she was rammed by a shopping cart because because she is Jewish, and Berkeley's Professor Mel Gordon alleges  that "he had been, 'savagely beaten and spat upon' by the Students for Justice in Palestine."
The antisemitic character of the Stern-Nelson claim can be assessed with a thought experiment--if a  Latin or African American student alleged that they had been battered with a shopping cart, would the AAUP have issued a statement indicating that the complaint had been an attempt to silence academic debate about race relations?

Marcus's Op Ed in the Jewish Daily Forward is spot on.  Marcus notes that several influential figures, such as David Horowitz, had criticized the AJC-AAUP statement, which had caused a "rift in the Jewish community."  He also notes that David Harris, the AJC's executive director, and other AJC leaders,  have renounced the AJC-AAUP position statement. However, Mr. Marcus does not raise the question of the AAUP's commitment to a position which is insensitive and anti-Semitic.

I call on Dr. Nelson to retract the statement.

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