Northeastern University — Profs Gone Wild

This article was first published in PJ Media on April 17, 2012

Radical professors give anti-Israel lectures while their Jewish colleagues remain silent.

Many people suspect that American college students get a left-wing and sometimes radical slant from their professors, especially when it comes to matters concerning the Middle East. But few ever get a chance to peek into the lecture halls to see for themselves what today’s higher education provides. It can be shocking.

On April 2, Americans for Peace and Tolerance/On Campus (APT/OC) released a 16 minute video showing radical professors and guest lecturers at Northeastern University in Boston teaching students that Israel is a Western colonialist project and that the Jews “use” the Holocaust to distract from their needless oppression of the Palestinians, which is in fact comparable to the Holocaust itself. They are also taught that Jews do not qualify as “a people” and so therefore do not qualify to have their own state. These things were taught at Northeastern in programs designed to teach students about the genocide of Europe’s Jews.

Readers can view the film for themselves here.

Tasked with responding to the film, Northeastern’s provost, Steven Director, chose not to apologize to Holocaust survivors or the Jewish community, but instead to charge us — the filmmakers — with “cherry picking” and to counter with a list of speakers who had positive messages about Jews. But of course we chose the egregious cases — that was the entire point. Should the Jews be offended only if all of the speakers and professors were this horrible? And do lists of good presentations erase the bigotry?

A university administrator can only speak to Jews this way. He would not dare try that if it were found that a Black History Month observance featured speakers (even one) who postulated that blacks use their past suffering to take advantage of white people today. He would never dare suggest to blacks that a sympathetic speaker balances out the bigots. Imagine offering to blacks an Eric Holder to balance David Duke and then acting as though it were a wash.

We all know what would happen if radical professors offended any other minority group on campus: You could count on one hand the seconds it would take the provost to assume the proper level of self-abasement. As night follows day, the university would direct all, top administrators included, into campus sensitivity programs.

But Mr. Director doesn’t have to worry this way about offending the Jews, because many Jewish professors and administrators at his university will give him cover and because Boston Jewish community leaders would rather sue for peace than make a fuss.

Anti-Israelism abounds on campuses across the nation. Yet we do not hear much about this from Jewish professors who are the best witnesses — either because they are too intimidated or too beholden to their employer, or out of some sense of loyalty to an idealized scholarship that is above politics. They simply will not speak honestly in public about what they know happens on their campuses. And this is the problem behind the problem.

Jewish professors we’ve talked to at Northeastern knew about the abuses (and some complained internally), but they would not — and to date will not — go public. And now some are trying to keep Jewish students from speaking out.

One must understand the special case of Jewish professors to understand why Jews are losing the campus battle.

Jewish professors in the humanities love learning and are proud to abide by the highest principles of pedagogy. They typically don’t teach one side, even — or especially — if it’s their own side. (Most would deny they have a side.) Most bend over backward to be fair, even when on their own campuses they see radical and left-wing professors being unfair.

Jewish students tell us that when they approach Jewish professors and explain how anti-Israel professors intimidate or even humiliate them, they are usually told to ignore it, do their best in class, and get good grades. One noble and honest Hillel rabbi (Charles Sheer) at Columbia University admitted on film (Columbia Unbecoming) that he was mistaken for having done just that for years.

If they won’t be “partisan” in their own classes, why don’t they at least call to account the anti-Israel professors who abuse the special power consigned to them as teachers of the young?

The reason is because there would be nasty consequences. Criticizing other professors would bring an almost certain constant politicized combat they would hate to import into the peaceful scholarly realm they love. They would be charged with abandoning the “global view” and with being a “narrow” Jewish partisan. And, of course, if they didn’t yet have tenure, they’d never get it in the fields of Middle East studies, foreign policy, or international studies — all controlled by people hostile to Israel. In short, if they told the public what they know is happening on their campus, daily life would be made unpleasant and career opportunities would wither.

So at Northeastern, what we are getting from some Jewish professors is Mr. Director’s line: “nothing to see here, move along.”

Of course, we, the researchers and filmmakers, also have a dilemma. We do not want to hurt Northeastern, which is generally a good school and, apart from these horrible instances, extraordinarily welcoming to Jewish students. Nor do we want to have public fights with Jewish administrators and professors who are employed by the university and naturally feel loyal to it.

But someone has to break the silence on American campuses about the campaign to defame the Jewish state and its supporters. It looks like it may have to be outsiders.

Honesty and integrity tend to be the first casualties when institutions are criticized. It is particularly sad to see academics — who claim to spend their career seeking the truth — abandon them so quickly to mount silly defenses and launch ad hominem attacks on those who merely point out what all the insiders know to be true but keep under wraps.

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