Category Archives: Al-Quds University

The Radical Chic of Ms. Naomi Chazan; or Pride Precedeth the Fall

Ms. Naomi Chazan
President, New Israel Fund

Mada al Carmel, another group funded by the NIF, authored the “Haifa Declaration.” Here are a few gems from that document: “Towards the end of the 19th century, the Zionist movement initiated its colonial-settler project in Palestine. Subsequently, in concert with world imperialism … it succeeded in carrying out its project, which aimed at occupying our homeland … The Zionist movement committed massacres against our people … the State of Israel enacted racist land, immigration, and citizenship laws [a reference to the Law of Return] … Israel carried out policies of subjugation and oppression in excess of those of the apartheid regime in South Africa.Israel Harel, Haaretz correspondent

Old Leonard Bernstein had a funny thing going — a spot of radical chic — with muscled Black anti-Semitism. More recently, a Jewish American university and a Jewish American college president did it with an anti-Israel Palestinian group in Jerusalem.

But now a new radical chic scandal has exploded in the Israeli press. It seems that the New Israel Fund , an ostensible pro-Israel charitable group, has diverted substantial funds to a number of radical anti-Israel groups. The details are given in a long, detailed, sober Report issued by the Zionist organization Im Tirtzu. (The IT report includes only groupings that contributed to the notorious Goldstone Report but does not mention other anti-Israel groups supported by NIF, for instance Mada al Carmel.) In turn, Im Tirtzu is being denounced, almost comically, by the NIF and its political supporters: McCarthyism !Fascism !

[OK — I cannot resist a small aside on the idiocy of these two epithets. 1) Those who use “McCarthyism” today, generally ignorant of the historical context of 1950’s Soviet espionage and the crude backlash against it, imagine that the “victims of McCarthyism” had been totally innocent, totally loyal Americans. 2) Those who use the term “Fascism” here: what in fact do they think ? That right-wing Israelis today, like the Italian confederates of Hitler in WWII, are out to destroy democratic government ? It is true that some criticism of NIF has crossed the borders of good taste, but this hardly amounts to the capital crimes alleged by the extreme Left ]

Pride goes before ruin, arrogance before failure… (Prov. 16:18, new JPS translation)

But back to the NIF and Ms. Naomi Chazan, its current president. Some ten years ago I sat in an audience of American Jews whom she addressed in Jerusalem. Her message, as I recall it, was that Israel alone is to be blamed for the failure to achieve peace with the Arabs. She was impatient with us. At one time she explained that she is a political science professor and that therefore she can tell us a thing or two about how things really are. Nobody was much impressed with that argument, but the academics in the audience could hardly keep from laughing out loud.

Now, after much criticism of her handling of NIF funding, the consequent cancellation of her visit to Australia, and her dismissal from the Jerusalem Post, she again insists on her professorial authority: “As a politics professor, I know how to read reports,” she says to Haaretz, denouncing the IT study. But in the same interview she also makes an assertion that completely destroys her credibility, as it destroys the credibility of those of her supporters who make the same argument: “We really don’t support every single thing these organizations say, but we support their right to say it.”

The reference here is to Voltaire, who is often thought to have said, but apparently never did, that
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire or not, this is a noble sentiment which is more often quoted than followed. And it is sometimes used disingenuously, as it was by Chomsky in his connection with the Holocaust-deniers. It is used disingenuously here by Ms. Chazan:

1) There is nothing in the tradition of Voltaire, nor in that of the First Amendment, that suggests an inherent right to be financed by those who disagree with you. Does the right to free speech involve a right to receive money from your opponents ? Surely a professor of political science knows the answer to that one ? The Voltaire principle, in other words, cannot explain NIF financing of kooks.

2) If the Voltaire principle demands, as Ms. Chazan tells us she believes it does, the financing of unpopular viewpoints, she would be obligated to finance right-wing viewpoints as well. But where in the list of NIF recipients are there groups of right-wing settlers on the West Bank ? Where are the followers of the late Rabbi Kahane on NIF lists ? Again, it is obvious that the Voltaire principle, pace Ms. Chazan, cannot in fact be what motivates her or her followers.

Then there is the business of NIF financing by the Ford Foundation. Millions go from the FF to NIF each year, five million in 2008 alone. Part of this money is (indirectly) US taxpayer money, which the FF receives in great quantities through a variety of tax benefits. It is obvious to me that without such US-based funding, many of these far-left groups in Israel could not exist at all.

Ms. Chazan won’t like me for this, but I do think that old Henry Ford, wherever he may be up (or down) there, might not be altogether unhappy to see where his money is going today. Long before Adolf Hitler was heard from, old Henry published “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in his Dearborn Independent.

UPDATE (Feb. 17, 2010) The Organization “NGO Monitor” calls on the New Israel Fund to draw “red lines” to prevent the financing of anti-Israel propaganda. See the NGOM request HERE

UPDATE (February 24): Read the comprehensive report by David Bedein in the Jewish Week on the NIF scandal. Click HERE

READ: Professor Gerald M. Steinberg’s analysis: NIF And the Addiction to Power

Al-Quds University and Radical Chic

The Arab name for Jerusalem is Al-Quds. Al-Quds Day, for example, is observed in Iran and some other countries as a day for denouncing Israel. And then there is an Al-Quds University (AQU) in Jerusalem which is dedicated to … well, all kinds of things, but, in my interpretation of its website, primarily to pushing an anti-Israel political agenda.

But wait, is that a fair description ? AQU has influential and powerful connections to Western institutions which would seem to foreclose any crude or hateful stance on Israel or on peaceful solutions to the Israel-Arab conflict. For example, AQU has agreements of collaboration with the Jewish Brandeis University in Massachusetts, and also with Bard College in New York, under its Jewish president Leon Botstein. ( Bard’s interest, I have been told, is in building bridges with the Palestinians, in helping to improve the education of Palestinians, etc. , all aims with which I find myself in full agreement. And I suppose Brandeis would have the same kind of objectives in mind when it shares its resources and lends its good name to the promotion of AQU.)

So what gives here ?

The AQU website, unfortunately, leaves no doubt about the strident political commitments of the institution. The site’s central “General Information” is a lengthy, rambling history of Jerusalem from an anti-Israel point of view. The establishment of Israel in 1948 is described as “the 1948 Nakba,” using the Palestinian nationalist term meaning “Catastrophe.” Beyond that, there are references to various writers and scholars all of whom seem to say that the Jews have not had a historical connection to the land of Israel, that there was no such thing as King David, that the Western Wall could not have been related to a Jewish Temple, etc. etc. Obviously, one could make some sort of reasonable case for some of these assertions. But this General Information is a piece of special pleading; it is all tied together with propagandistic glue. Whatever writings fit the parti pris is carefully adduced; whatever scholarship tends in a different direction is carefully ignored.

About two years ago there was a controversy at Barnard College about an anthropologist, Nadia Abu El Haj, whose politically-inspired writings, similarly, held that Jews have no historic claim to the land of Israel. Professor Alan Segal, also of Barnard, is an expert on the relevant archaeology and wrote a trenchant criticism of Abu El Haj. This article can also serve as a criticism of AQU’s scholarship.

Over and above AQU’s unfortunate and unscholarly politicization of the history of Israel, I am also worried about how it might deal with certain other matters of Jewish history. In particular, what kind of teaching is done at AQU about the Holocaust ? It might be a problem for them, judging by how they treat the issue of Jerusalem. There is a revealing article by Mikael Tossavainen on the place of the Holocaust in Arab political thinking. It sheds a great deal of light on the matter at hand.

Has either Bard or Brandeis looked into any of this ? Has either of these institutions tried to restrain their protégé in any way ? Not as far as I was able to find out. On the contrary, both Bard and Brandeis, is their public pronouncements, have nothing but praise.

That seems curious considering what we must assume to be the ordinary, customary criteria for scholarship at these institutions. It would be insulting to think, and wrong, that anything less than a critical weighing of evidence and dispassionate scholarship can win acclaim at either Bard or Brandeis. Obviously no institution is perfect, and it would be naive to think that the ideals of scholarship are always attained even in our most elite institutions. But on the other hand, no, the propaganda-as-scholarship that emanates from AQU surely could not be tolerated in our best colleges and universities, and not at B & B, on any matter other than Al-Quds. So why, why, do both Bard and Brandeis “collaborate,” as they say, with this sorry institution ?

The answer, I suggest, lies in the title of this posting: Radical Chic. Of course the reference is to Tom Wolfe’s classic description of the relationship between Leonard Bernstein and the Black Panthers. Bernstein catered to people that he knew, or should have known, to be brutes. Why ? He did not, fundamentally, regard them as his equals, but he wished, in his vanity, to be associated with the frisson of Black Power. He obviously did not employ standards that he would employ for educated white people when he patronized the Black Panthers with his money, his connections, and his fawning condescension. Something like that, mutatis mutandis, I see as the heart of B & B’s relationship to AQU.