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An Israeli Agent on Campus

In late 2017, having completed a Masters in History and another in Political Science, I was considering the possibility of a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies. The academic path and research-heavy workload were a natural fit and I figured it would buy me some time to reflect on what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. So, at the end of last year, I contacted a handful of professors whose academic interests overlapped with mine to ask their advice. The first two of these were productive and fruitful, and focused mostly on research, career advice, and language skills—par for the course for a graduate student in search of a supervisor. However, my third attempt did not go well at all, and the experience has led me to worry about the effects of ideological homogeneity on university scholarship, particularly in the field of Middle Eastern history and politics.

On December 13, I wrote a short email to Jens Hanssen, an Associate Professor of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean History at the University of Toronto. I explained that I was a graduate student at the Munk School of Global Affairs, that I had found his profile on the History Department website, and that I was hoping to ask him some questions about Middle Eastern history and academia. Later that day, Professor Hanssen responded:

Dear Mr. Blaff, You have probably contacted me because you were alerted to an interview I gave last week to the News Section of UofT’s website on President Trump’s declaration to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Now, you may be a graduate student at the Munk School, but you are also a Hasbara fellow. As far as I know, Hasbara fellows are Israeli advocacy activists sent to North American campuses on behalf of the World Union of Jewish Students, now under the auspices of the new Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy, which earlier this year has called for a “new offensive against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” activists.

He then informed me that I had received instruction from something called “The Hasbara Handbook: Promoting Israel on Campus”—a text I had never heard of, let alone read—about “how to approach professors, students and administrators and convince them that legitimate, non-violent criticism of the state of Israel amounts to discrimination against Jews everywhere.” Hanssen continued: “In fact you [are] instructed to conflate Judaism and Zionism and are encouraged to give the impression on our campus that such criticism constitutes antisemitism.”

He went on to accuse me of “slandering” a number of people in an article that he claimed (incorrectly) I had written for the student newspaper the previous September (it actually ran on the Hasbara Fellowship’s blog page). He concluded by announcing that, while the Munk School might be indifferent to the “grave threat Hasbara organizations such as yours pose to academic freedom and the intellectual independence of the university,” he most certainly was not. Consequently, for “ethical and academic” reasons, he would avoid any interaction with people such as myself.

Somewhat taken aback, I responded by explaining that I was unaware of his interview and re-affirming my hope of soliciting career advice. “[In spite] of our philosophical differences,” I wrote, “on a professional level, I thought perhaps seeking your advice on matters pertaining to academic life, pursuing a PhD, and the skills needed to publish on Israel-Palestine could be very helpful.” I closed by saying that if he would agree to meet me for a coffee, I’d be grateful for his input. Answer came there none.

*     *     *

One of the principal reasons I contacted Professor Hanssen was the robustness of his resume. The breadth of his language skills—German, English, Arabic, French, Turkish/Ottoman, and Spanish—made a wealth of primary sources available to him. In addition, Hanssen’s D.Phil from Oxford, his own distinguished PhD supervisor, and his active role in the doctoral process at the University of Toronto all suggested that an academic partnership could be immensely valuable to me.

Perplexed by our email exchange, I decided to try and find out more about the person behind the academic accolades. A Google search quickly turned up a series of articles and videos from which Hanssen emerged as a sort of scholar-activist, whose actions periodically attracted minor headlines. In 2010, Hanssen invited Omar Barghouti to the University of Toronto, an event he described as “a great privilege and an immense pleasure” to host:

Barghouti is a co-founder of the anti-Zionist Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and has a history of inflammatory statements. In a 2014 speech, he informed his audience that “Definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian—no rational Palestinian, not a sellout Palestinian—will ever accept a Jewish State in Palestine.”

In 2016, Hanssen was one of 100 co-signatories to an open letter sternly criticizing an academic trip to Jerusalem to discuss urban planning, and a U of T article about the visit. The letter denounced the supposedly troubling academic relationship shared by the University of Toronto and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Despite the city’s renown for urban renewal and nature protection (the city received an award from the International Union of Conservation of Nature in 2012), the letter stated that, “Urban scholarship, and scholarship more broadly, has a responsibility to investigate and challenge—not passively reproduce—social violence and inequality.” The idea that Hanssen might support engagement with Israel is flatly contradicted, however, by his consistent support for a blanket academic boycott of the country. The previous year, he had led the censuring of Israeli academic exchange and engagement facilitated by the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), and he had served as the media spokesman for a campaign advocating an academic boycott of Israel by librarians and scholars.

It ought to go without saying—though evidently it does not—that it is perfectly possible to make legitimate and worthwhile criticisms of Israeli policy in the territories, Jerusalem, or its approach to the peace process. These are politically and historically fraught and complex topics about which reasonable people of goodwill ought to be able to disagree. Indeed, Israel itself is a highly disputatious liberal democracy with a quarrelsome political class, a vibrant free press and academy, and a fiercely independent judiciary that is not afraid to rule against the government.

Nevertheless, an unwavering and rigid antipathy to Israel has increasingly become an organizing principle on many North American campuses, and the recitation of anti-Israel shibboleths is often the metric by which an activist’s commitment is measured. So, for a growing contingent of progressive students and faculty, it doesn’t matter that Israeli academia is among the most progressive forces within Israeli society—the need for bridge-building and constructive dialogue has been overtaken by the belief that everyone in Israeli society is complicit in that nation’s uniquely deplorable sins.

I was therefore unsurprised to discover that Hanssen’s professed concern for human rights seldom creeps into his own area of expertise: Lebanon. In an op-ed written by Hanssen and a University of Toronto colleague for the Toronto Star during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War, the authors placed the burden of the conflict on Israel and beseeched Western governments to adopt a more nuanced view of its terrorist enemy. While denouncing Israel for “pushing U.S. and U.K. Middle Eastern policy,” they strove to contextualize Hezbollah’s actions, describing the militia and its terrorism as “dangerous manifestations of deeper political injustices and diplomatic failures in the Middle East that date back to the 1967 war.”

*     *     *

My belated discovery of all this made Hanssen’s response to my email no less dispiriting, but considerably less surprising. The article to which he mistakenly referred in his message was an opinion column I had written for the Varsity student paper back in September 2016 about what I considered to be the disproportionate international condemnation directed at Israel. Only recently did I learn that the comment below the article informing me I’d “earned my keep” and linking to the other article I’d written for the Hasbara Fellowships blog had been left by Hanssen. Unsurprisingly, and contrary to Hanssen’s speculations, I have never been instructed nor paid by the Israeli government to write that article nor any other. My writing has always been motivated by personal interest. Since my first trip to the region in 2013, the Middle East had begun to encompass a larger role in my academic life. I had travelled to Israel, Jordan, Turkey, and the Palestinian Territories, and had seen first-hand the percussive explosions of the Syrian Civil War. I returned to college in Canada intent on re-dedicating my studies to the history and politics of the modern Middle East.

I began writing about Israel and the region while I was in grad school. The extracurricular research provided me with an opportunity to sharpen my arguments and ideas beyond the purview of classwork. As an impecunious student, I kept an eye open for subsidized trips, which were an efficient way of affording the travel I so dearly enjoy. One such trip was for Hasbara Fellowships. The organization is openly pro-Israel and aims to bring young students—irrespective of religious background—to Israel to learn about history, politics, and advocacy. Hanssen seemed to believe that such trips were designed to manufacture preprogrammed propagandists. In fact, I was accompanied by a group of people from diverse backgrounds transcending nationality, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation, and the trip was filled with debate and disagreement. Politically, my companions ranged from Left to Right, and their views about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the prospects of peace agreement varied considerably.

While participants are encouraged to engage in student politics upon returning to campus, the attrition rate is high and the activities recommended are often unglamorous—organizing cultural exchanges between student groups and hosting discussions. We were not provided with copies of the Hasbara Handbook, but my interest had been piqued by Hanssen’s reference to this supposedly sinister text, so I procured a copy. Leafing through the introduction, I came across passages like this one:

Israel is not perfect, and only a fool would pretend that she is. When confronted with atrocities such as terror attacks on teenagers, we can campaign hard on campus for the sake of Jews in Israel without believing that Israel is perfect. Israel shouldn’t have to present herself as without problems—just as no other country does. All around the world governments are attempting to tackle racism, poverty, prejudice—and Israel is no different.

On the whole, the book struck me as rather moderate and reasonable, but to Hanssen it was extreme and terrifying.

*     *     *

This story nearly died in my inbox. Hanssen’s email was unsettling, but when my reply went unanswered, I was tempted to shrug. My reflexive apathy, in retrospect, is disturbing. Hanssen’s views are ascendant in history departments across the country. I have personally encountered his boilerplate rhetoric in various undergraduate classes and graduate seminars over the years. Somewhere along the way I had been conditioned to dismiss such behavior as tolerable. The alternative didn’t seem worth the aggravation and embarrassment it was bound to provoke, certainly given that nothing would likely be achieved.

But the more I reflected upon my exchange with Hanssen, the more irritated I became. A young student seeking career advice had approached a professor in good faith and received a broadside indicting his political views, nationality, and loyalty. This was not some off-the-cuff remark—it was a 300-word message which Hanssen had typed and stamped with his own name. I sought advice from other Jewish students with whom I had worked in school politics on campus over the past two years. One of them, well-versed in legal matters and campus by-laws, thought it worth pursuing. However, winter vacation was nearly upon us. The school was shortening its hours and staff and students were leaving for some well-deserved R&R. I decided to revisit the matter at the start of the new semester in January.

A winter break in Florida did wonders and I returned to school recharged. I followed up with the department head. Following school protocol, I was referred to the Dean’s Office where I spoke with the Director of Critical Incidents, Safety, and Health Awareness. They presented me with the choice of an official or an unofficial investigation. The former would be public and involve lawyers; the latter would be internal, and basically involve a private conversation between Dean’s Office officials and Hanssen behind closed doors. I sat on the decision for a few days and then, on March 21, I drafted an official letter of complaint.

On April 24, I received a letter from the Vice-Dean, informing me that an internal investigation into my complaint was now underway. On August 23, I received another letter communicating the investigation’s findings, in which the University administration effectively washed its hands of the matter. Hanssen, the letter stated, had told the investigation that my email requesting advice had been an attempt to “entrap” him and he repeated his claim that “the Hasbara Fellowship organization works to ‘discredit and intimidate’ students and faculty, often by strategically conflating criticism of Israel and Zionism with Anti-Semitism.” Despite this defiance, however, he ended up walking back many of his initial accusations. According to the Vice-Dean’s report:

After reflection, Professor Hanssen acknowledged he should have said “pro-Israel activist” rather than Israeli advocacy activist and regretted using the word “slander” and should have said “criticized unduly.” He also stated he wished he had made a clearer distinction between Mr. Blaff as an individual and his involvement with the Hasbara Foundation and recognized the power differential between himself as a professor and a student.

And yet, despite Hanssen’s acknowledgement of his indiscretions to administrators, I never received a formal apology from the administration or from Hanssen himself. The report gently chastised Hanssen for his lack of civility, before concluding that the investigator did not “find that Professor Hanssen’s response to the email was discriminatory on the grounds of religion or nationality.”

Reading the report, I began to wonder if an undergraduate student should feel comfortable challenging Hanssen in class and what the consequences for expressing dissent might be. Would Hanssen have provided me with a reference letter had I been his student? Would he take on graduate students who do not share his suspicious anti-Zionism? Is there not a risk that only students who espouse certain accepted opinions receive funding, TA postings, and references? And won’t all this simply perpetuate a homogeneity of thought in a department already tending heavily in that direction?

Such questions do not appear to concern University of Toronto’s administration. On the contrary, they remain confident in Hanssen’s ability to teach courses touching upon Jewish History and Israel in spite of this incident. As a Zionist Jew, I certainty do not. Countless other community-members—fellow students and circumspect faculty—have contacted me to express bewilderment about Hanssen’s conduct. Following the publicization of this episode in the Toronto Sun, other Jewish students have confided to me that the climate in Hanssen’s Middle Eastern history course was often inhospitable. One of them told me that, during her enrolment, Jewish students disproportionately dropped the class due to its partisan nature.

My story suggests that concerns like mine are subject to a double-standard. Had an Afro-Canadian or LGBTQ student faced similar treatment, I believe the university’s administration would not have tolerated a professor’s excuses, notwithstanding his belated contrition. But nearly a decade on Ontario campuses has taught me that this is par for the course. During a graduate-level seminar on genocide, a fellow student suggested that American Jews exploit the Holocaust for political capital. Were a student to have argued that African-Americans exploit slavery or Jim Crow for political gains, the protests from progressive students and faculty would, rightly, have been vehement and immediate.

Academia ought to be a forum for the battle of minds and the testing of arguments and ideas. Instead, students such as myself seeking a fair-minded supervisor face a paucity of options as departments congeal around a monolithic interpretation of Middle Eastern politics and history. The result is that a toxic political environment has been allowed to flourish, unrestrained, in specific departments across elite universities. In an environment struggling to balance the broad aims of diversity and inclusivity, many Jewish students remain on the outside looking in.

 

Ari Blaff is a Masters of Global Affairs student at the University of Toronto’s Munk School. Previously, he received an MA in History from Western University. He blogs for the Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel. Recently, he began a working relationship with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), an Israeli-based think-tank. You can follow him on Twitter @ariblaff

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88 Comments

    • Giselle P. says

      Well played posting the video. Hanssen comes across as a mega-weenie. That voice! 😆

      I’m gonna guess he had to eat it on the playground as a child regularly. Perhaps that’s where the hyper-vigilance and rather facile siding with the underdog comes from?

      And whatever happened to telling someone, “I’m too busy right now…”? Is a screed accusing someone of conspiratorial motives the new black?

  1. Hannah Lee says

    Wow, Sounds Like an Mossad Agent to me…..

    ‘Me Thinks he doth protest to much….”

    … Normally a sympathetic ear for an anti-PC screed, but despite his initial disavowals, the author successfully convinced me of his nefarious and lightly camouflaged apologia as an anti BDS activist. Good Job!

    • Hannah Lee says

      Correction “Wow, Sounds like a Mossad Agent to me….” – Apology

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Hannah
      I had exactly the same reaction. This guy demonstrates himself to be exactly what he protests that he is not.

    • Alizarin says

      Yeah, by claiming he isn’t a hasbara propagandist, he did a damn fine job of convincing me he is. The article is chock full of hasbara talking points.

      “Hanssen, the letter stated, had told the investigation that my email requesting advice had been an attempt to “entrap” him and he repeated his claim that “the Hasbara Fellowship organization works to ‘discredit and intimidate’ students and faculty, often by strategically conflating criticism of Israel and Zionism with Anti-Semitism.””

      …and lo and behold that’s exactly what happened. Quillette editors should have seen through this.

      • Noren Lake says

        “…and lo and behold that’s exactly what happened.”

        You’re going to need to support that assertion a little better. So far, all you’ve done is assert it.

        Where, exactly, did Ari Blaff “strategically conflate criticism of Israel and Zionism with Anti-Semitism?” If you can’t explain where this occurred, with quotes, all you’re doing is throwing around baseless accusations. (And before you start, “everyone knows” isn’t an argument.)

        Personally, I don’t see any place in that article where Ari Blaff conflates criticism of Israel with antisemitism.

        Yet this accusation is made relentlessly, day in day out: “‘They’ always claim that criticism of Israel is antisemitism, don’t they? To shut down the discussion.”

        Yet strangely, no one ever provides convincing evidence. They just say it. And just like in this thread, instantly a bunch of people jump in and agree with it, despite zero evidence.

        What so weird about it is that if you really wanted to make that accusation in a serious way, I’m sure you could dig up a quote or two. How hard could it be to find some Zionist somewhere who’d committed the Sin of Conflation?

      • Misterp says

        You don’t have to go far. Read the comment from xyz below: “A good portion of anti zionist rhtetoric that shows up is antisemitic.”

    • Yavor says

      Errrm, OK, let’s assume he is not as genuine he claims to be; does that invalidate the gist of the article which is that modern Western academia lacks diversity of opinion and tolerance of dissenting opinions?

      • Ray Andrews says

        But the fact that academia lacks diversity is merely his entree, he hardly discusses that point, preferring to denigrate the professor for resisting Hasbara. It is an eternal issue that a professor might hold a political opinion and still remain fair to his opponents, but Mr. Blaff hardly demonstrates the the professor is unfair, only that he does hold an opinion against Zionism and it’s supporters. The rest in innuendo.

      • Andrew Mcguiness says

        I’m stil trying to sort through that question; but the articles certainly does strategically conflate criticism of Israel and Zionism with Anti-Semitism.

    • @Hannah Lee, I thought you were begin sarcastic but from your later responses and the ones in your thread, it seems like you and the others are perfectly serious? I’m mystified how you can be “convinced” he is an Israeli spy or propagandist. Point to the quote. He says that you can criticise Israel, that it has flaws. What is the ‘smoking gun’ here?

      • Noren Lake says

        @d, I’m still not sure she wasn’t kidding. “Sounds like a Mossad Agent to me” has to be a joke, right?

        • It was no joke. As we see clearly in recent events, accusations have a lot of power. It’s kind of like the question “Are you still beating your wife?” The question itself implies guilt, no matter what the answer. The innuendo is there, no matter what.

  2. Fluffy Puffin says

    “One of the principal reasons I contacted Professor Hanssen was the robustness of his resume. The breadth of his language skills—German, English, Arabic, French, Turkish/Ottoman, and Spanish…”

    You left off that he speaks “Asshole” and that he is also proficient in mind reading.

    • Emmanuel says

      So many people speak asshole that it does not seem relevant to mention it on a resume.

  3. xyz and such says

    there is most definitely a double standard in the progressive community toward Jews. The very same behaviors that would elicit marching in the streets and broad outrage when directed toward people of color, lgbtq, etc aren’t even noticed when directed toward Jews. it’s hard to get on board with the diversity agenda, despite my wish to, when it is so profoundly hypocritical and flawed. The progressive narrative is not based in prinicples that are applied across the board, but rather in dogmatic identity politics. That this isn’t recognized is deeply disturbing to me. As a culturally Jewish woman engaged with progressive communities, I feel unsafe ever discussing this or pointing it out, lest I end up treated as a traitor to the cause… and lectured on how criticism of Israel isn’t antisemitic – sorry folks, but while there is legitimate criticism, a good portion of anti zionist rhtetoric that shows up is antisemitic: if the same criteria that is used to evaluate institutionalized racism was applied to antisemitism, this isn’t hard to see.

    Take for instance that any article about Jews or anti-semitism (that doesn’t have anything to do with Israel or Palestinians) is littered with comments that say ‘waht about the Palestinians’ or how awful Israel is or how the Jews deserve it because of Israel. If you can’t recognize that bringing up Israel when all that is being discussed is Jews, you are antisemitic. These comments tend to be heavily ‘liked’. It is disgusting and frightening as a Jewish person. That the progressive community then points fingers at the Right when identifiable antisemitic actions occur, and suggest it is all coming from that side, they are being willfully ignorant. As a Jew trying to bring this up, I am told that I am ‘privileged’ and need to care about everyone else but not my own culture. They have cultivated the atmosphere that has made it more and more acceptable and prevalent. It is coming from both sides. The Jews receive no protection from the current diversity and anti racist narrative. They are not recognized as one of the most discriminated against population through history, nor are they appreciated for the significant work that they have done to combat racism against other minority groups in the US and around the world. My progressive friends are surprised when I point these things out.. they don’t even see it. This is implicit bias and institutionalized prejudice for every other minority group. Jews are 2% of the population but are the victims of more hate crimes than any other group. Wake up all you supposedly ‘woke’ people.

    One progressive woman I know, a few days after the massacre of Jews in Pittsburgh, posted about a presentation at the world’s religions conference in Toronto where apparently they held a presentation on restoring the swastika to its original positive meaning coming from buddhist traditions. She included a photo at the presentaion showing a jewish man wearing a yarmulke in attendance and pointing out and praising how many jewish people were there. She is not Jewish herself. Can anyone even imagine the response if there were a similar presentation aimed at ‘restoring’ the ‘n-word’ to its non-offensive meaning? how about if the person reporting positively about such an event posted a photo and made sure to point out all the black people there… there would be mass hysteria and condemnation. they would be flatly called a racist.

    • xyz, as a Jew I have the same experience, but I’ve come to a different conclusion: I’ve left the party. Why would I stay with a racist party? Yes I know, I know, the Other party is racist. But I’m talking about the Dems. Its comfort with Farrakhan et al. Imagine if he said the exact same things about Blacks? Ask yourself why you’er staying with the party when by your own words you feel afraid to even speak? If you were Black, would you stay with the party if it palled with KKK members (e.g. Farrakhan who spouts horrific racism against Jews), regularly denied the Black experience, and son on? Just because this party says to go anywhere else (Republican, Independent, Libertarian) is an immediate Scarlet R doesn’t make it true. I have personally experienced about 100 times more anti-semitism – some outright frightening – from the Left than the Right. Not even exaggerating–probably more than 100 times. Ask yourself why you’re ok staying with such a party. Its other values don’t matter. They show their values with their actions, not words. The only thing that surprised me about this author’s experience is that he was surprised.

    • Sydney says

      Yes, @xyz and such,

      @d took the words out of my keyboard. Get out of the left. Escape it. Leave it. Abandon the left; it fully abandoned you as a Jew at various periods. don’t walk away: RUN. The American and Canadian left are putrid with their poorly disguised Jew-hate (yes, of course, lefty, you’re criticizing lofty political entities…and I have a bridge to sell you). Come over to the Dark Side. Wake up. There’s nothing to be afraid of here. Just do it. Oh, and #BDSfail #ProIsrael

  4. Bernard Hill says

    …@X YZ andsuch….the first Quillette podcast posted today is interesting because of its discussion that at its core, the SJW mission is an attack on competence wherever it shows. I have mulled over that conclusion myself in recent years.
    If the mission of politics of identity bears out much further in North America and elsewhere, I’m afraid Jewish people in those places face a renaissance of anti-semitism in all its worst carnations, simply because as an identity group, they are demonstrably smarter.
    However, individually, Jews also seem to occupy the points on the distribution curve of maximum dumbness, judging by the prevalence of Jewish names amongst active Progressives.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Bernard
      “simply because as an identity group, they are demonstrably smarter”
      Which disqualifies them for Victim status! No matter how you oppress them, two generations later they are back at the top of society. This is disturbing for those who believe that their failures can be blamed on injustices suffered by their great great grandmothers.

  5. As I read the article I started by thinking the professor concerned was somewhat paranoid and he allowed this paranoia to unduly influence his response to a student requesting advice. I finished the article believing he should have acted more cautiously and circumspectly, should have given teh student the benefit of teh doubt until he knew more but unsure about the true nature of the approach and with the believe that there is at least a reasonable chance that he was right in his assesment.

    More generally identity politics and the current intolerance for unfashionable and incorrect opinions are preventing the presentation of legitimate opinions. The article says:

    “During a graduate-level seminar on genocide, a fellow student suggested that American Jews exploit the Holocaust for political capital. Were a student to have argued that African-Americans exploit slavery or Jim Crow for political gains, the protests from progressive students and faculty would, rightly, have been vehement and immediate.”

    The problem is that whether you agree with either of these statements or not they are both opinions for which logical arguments can be made and for which there is evidence. In this sense they are reasonable opinions. Such opinions should be capable of being expressed and debated without extreme negative consequences.

    • Jack B. Nimble says

      @AJ

      The professor was probably right to be paranoid, given subsequent events in Michigan:

      “………..In the second such case this academic year, an instructor at the University of Michigan declined to write a recommendation letter for a student to study in Israel due to the instructor’s support for the boycott of Israeli universities. And an associate professor who similarly refused to write a letter has been disciplined.

      The news of the refusal and the sanction comes as Israel is facing scrutiny for detaining an American student and ordering her deportation for her alleged support of the boycott movement. An amendment to an Israeli law passed in 2017 bars foreign supporters of boycotts of Israel from entering the country. While Israel has previously applied the law to bar the entry of at least one American academic, this is the first publicized case of it blocking a student…..”
      Link: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/10/10/second-professor-university-michigan-declines-write-recommendation-letter-student

      Professors and students at US public universities are entitled to the constitutionally guaranteed right of freedom of speech, which has to include the right not to give a recommendation. And the right NOT to accept a prospective graduate student for political [not religious] reasons is protected by academic freedom.

      At least in the US, Zionists are not a protected class by law, although it sometimes seems that way.

      • @Jack B Nimble, They have a right not to give a recommendation, yes– but not to pull the recommendation they promised because the student is a Jew going to Israel. That is not freedom of speech, that is discrimination (and silly; if she were an Asian wanting to go to china, how would it sound if the professor said, “I would have written you one for any other country, but I refuse to write the letter cause china is a commie repressive regime?).

        Furthermore, no, academics do not have total freedom of speech, particularly in a state institution. Freedom of speech is not the freedom to say what you want. For instance, if the professor wanted to spout racist garbage, he could get fired.

        This may be too sophisticated a distinction for you as you evidently have trouble with definitions but I’m trying.

        • Jack B. Nimble says

          @d

          You have it backwards–public universities are extensions of state governments, so rights of free speech and due process ARE covered in the US by the Constitution. Conversely “…..private school students’ rights are not guaranteed by the Constitution….”

          Source: https://www.thefire.org/student-network/learn-more-about-your-rights/

          “…Classroom speech of faculty members at public-sector institutions can also be protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. As the Supreme Court held in Keyishian v. Board of Regents (1967), “Our Nation is deeply committed to safeguarding academic freedom, which is of transcendent value to all of us and not merely to the teachers concerned. That freedom is therefore a special concern of the First Amendment, which does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom.”…”

          Source: https://www.aaup.org/article/faculty-rights-classroom#.W-hNgTFMHIU

          Freedom of speech obviously applies to professors and students when they are writing manuscripts, giving presentations, and writing or not writing recommendations, because those activities are part of their academic careers at public schools. They can still be cited for libel or slander or inciting violence, of course, and some public universities still ignore the Constitution and try to sanction or fire faculty for controversial speech.

          The fact that the professor at Michigan was willing to write letters for the student in question to destinations OTHER THAN Israel shows that the discrimination was based on the professor’s political views [that is, BDS] and not for religious reasons [that is, the student’s religious views].

          • @Jack, Thank you for allowing me to clarify. You’re right, I wrote it too quickly and didn’t mean freedom of speech in the way I was implying. Naturally freedom of speech doesn’t mean you are free to say what you want in a job; it means that the government cannot limit your freedom to speak, with some exceptions. But this isn’t what we ere talking about.

            What I mean is perhaps difficult for you to see, since you don’t see BDS, and refusal to write a letter of recommendation to a Jew wanting to learn in the only Jewish country in the world, as racism, and simply see it as a ‘political view.”

            I disagree strongly with your fundamental assumption. Because I do, I see the professor’s actions as blatant racism. To be clear, he wasn’t fired as he may well have been had he refused to write a letter of recommendation for a Black student to visit the only country founded by freed Blacks in the world (and made no refusals for any other country).

            But the other issue is that I see it as a dereliction of his duty as an educator. That is certainly something the university can sanction. If, say, he refused to grade papers, or teach, that is a dereliction of his job. Writing letters of recommendation comes with his job. He can decline a letter but that’s only if he can’t endorse the *student*. His job is to testify whether a student is fit for a program. His job is NOT to discriminate against a jewish student visiting a Jewish state, and apply his rules of letters of recommendation unevenly (one rule for a Jew visiting a Jewish state, another rule for everyone else). He declines to write letters because he wants to stifle global learning in Israel (which I think is bizarrely counterproductive btw) and in a small way prevent students from going, or at least take no part in making it happen. This is not his job. He can do this as a private person, certainly, but not as a professor. So in that sense alone he should have been sanctioned.

            But I find his views on BDS racist -I don’t care how he sees it himself, and I”m sure he thinks he is noble. Just because he frames it as political doesn’t make it less racist. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. Something can be both political and racist, as I”m sure you know.

            He is certainly allowed to have his views. For sure. And he is allowed to express them. For sure. What he is not allowed to do is to tie that in with his job as an educator and have that impact a student.

          • Jack B. Nimble says

            @d

            Some Palestinians and their allies think that Zionism is racism.

            Some Zionists and their allies think that anti-Zionism is racism/anti-semitism.

            [Sigh]

            To get past the name-calling and to clarify some points, the professor at Michigan was NOT fired but was denied a sabbatical leave that was already approved and denied a merit raise that most other faculty received. This article at FIRE.org [hardly a bastion of Leftist PC] is helpful:

            “………Faculty recommendation letters are, of course, a type of speech. (They are, after all, letters.) Whether or not to write them on behalf of a particular student is also traditionally, and necessarily, left to the discretion of the individual faculty member, as it would be entirely nonsensical to require faculty members to write recommendation letters for students they simply can’t or don’t recommend. Yes, writing such letters is an expected part of the job, but generally speaking, no student has a “right” to a recommendation letter.

            That said, there are certainly impermissible reasons that faculty could refuse to write a recommendation. Most obviously, a faculty member who refused to write letters for black students, or members of a given sex, based solely on his or her antipathy to members of that group, would be engaging in clearly prohibited discrimination against those for whom he or she refused to write letters. Getting closer to this example, if faculty members were refusing to write recommendation letters on the basis that the students requesting them were Israeli, that would be prohibited discrimination based on national origin.

            But that’s not exactly what is happening here. The refusal to write the letters appears to be based not on the national origin of the students, but their national destination. That is not a distinction without a difference. National destination (or whatever one might call it) is not a protected class, and the adverse effect on the students is caused not by hostility towards the students themselves but on hostility to a third party (in this case, academic institutions in Israel) that renders the affected students’ wishes to study abroad a kind of “collateral damage” of the wider boycott movement…..”

            Link: https://www.thefire.org/movement-for-academic-boycott-of-israel-continues-to-raise-thorny-problems-produce-bad-consequences/

      • Your comment Jack B. Nimble is thought provoking and interesting, except for your last sentence which kind of gives away the real back story, the basis of your thinking. “It sometimes seems that way.”

        • Jack B. Nimble says

          @Jack Bird

          My comment about Zionists seeming to be a protected class in the US is based on events like this one:

          ‘New Arkansas law takes aim at boycotts of Israel, by John Lovett, Times Record, jlovett@swtimes.com

          Among the many new laws that Arkansas Legislators approved last year was a requirement that contractors bidding on state jobs sign a pledge they are not boycotting Israel.

          The potential First Amendment violation is Act 710 of 2017, also known as Arkansas Code Annotated 25-1-501 and “prohibits public entities from contracting with and investing in companies that boycott Israel.”

          State Rep. Jim Dotson, R-Bentonville, one of the bill’s drafters, said by phone last week there was not a particular incident in Arkansas that precipitated the bill being written, but it was a reaction to the “BDS (The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement” and more than 20 states had adopted the law prior to Arkansas. Illinois was the first state to enact rules banning boycotts of Israel in March 2016.

          “That shows we’re not going to support any entity that is trying to cause detriment to the state of Israel,” Dotson said by phone…..’ emphasis added

          • Jack Bird says

            Is putting in legislation regarding not boycotting Israel the same as Zionists being a protected class? I don’t agree with the legislation, but it’s not protecting Zionists, whatever they are. Unless, perhaps, being a Zionist is equated with being a citizen of Israel.

    • Farris says

      The tolerant Left has become radically canti Semitic. Witness Scotland Yard’s criminal investigation into alleged anti-Semitic hate crime in the Labour party.

  6. E. Olson says

    Any group that is a “disproportional” success is always going to be a target of the Left, because the Left believes any such success can only come from unearned privilege and/or cheating/suppressing other groups that are “disproportional” failures (aka victims), due to their espoused belief that there are no superior cultures or group differences in cognitive abilities, personalities, or talents. Thus success cannot be due to superior intellect, or greater work ethic, or more innovative culture, etc., and this viewpoint means that Israeli Jews are successful only because they have cheated the Palestinians, males are successful because they exploit women, whites are successful because they enslaved blacks, rich people are wealthy because they cheated the poor, etc., etc. This espoused belief in exploitation based success thus justifies social justice activities designed to correct historical success imbalances by inverting power structures and granting privileges to the “victim” classes, which will allow them to win Nobel and Oscar awards, ascend to CEO/president/general/professor positions, and create unicorn startups and become billionaires in proportion to their population (or better). Unfortunately, these social justice initiatives never work because there are actual differences between individuals and groups in intelligence, physical abilities, work ethic, personalities, and preferences, which far better explain outcome differences. This is why Leftist dominated societies always becomes relatively poorer over time, because their attempts to create equality or correct history always ends up placing artificial obstacles in front of those individuals and groups with the greatest abilities, talents, and initiative. The truth of the matter, however, is that antisemitism and most other social justice themes are entirely based on jealousy, which is perhaps best illustrated by the history of the Jewish race. No other group has been more discriminated against throughout recorded history, almost entirely due to jealousies regarding the exceptional Jewish achievements in creating wealth and generating knowledge, and despite countless persecutions they have continually recovered to resume their creation of wealth and knowledge, which has generally benefited mankind (Karl Marx excepted).

    • There is a problem arguing that sucess of a paticular group is always due to bias or priviliage but arguing that sucess or dominance is always the result of merit is equally problematical. Cases need to be judged on their merit and it is not impossible for both factors to be in play simultaneously. In practice in the modern world certain priviliged groups can claim victim status most obivously women and others can’t for exampel men.

      The politics and power of victimhood in modern western culture is a major problem but this is something that Jewish organisations are some of the most professional and expert at exploiting and they were in the forefront of creating the current problem of victim culture. My problem with the articl is that the authour does not give the impression of genuinely seeking out academic advice but rather looking for material to attack the professor. There is plenty of room to interpret things differently but it is the impression I get.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @E. Olson
      Put oil, water and some sand into a container and shake vigorously to achieve homogeneity. Wait a few minutes and take a look. The oil will be on the top, the water in the middle and the sand the bottom. Shake again to achieve Equity. Wait a few minutes and take a look … repeat.

      • E. Olson says

        Ray, a Lefty would just say you didn’t shake it long enough or with enough vigor. Any problem can be fixed if given enough regulation, tax revenues, and “expert” administration by dedicated (aka leftist) public servants, and if that sand keeps staying on the bottom, just add more regulation, taxes, and administration…

        • TarsTarkas says

          And if that still didn’t work then the Lefty would demand that a proper scientist should identify two-thirds of the oil, water, and sand as equal proportions of the other materials in the container in order to come up with an equitable distribution. Never mind that the oil and water and sand aren’t the other materials, it’s what they OUGHT to be, so therefore state that they are. Or charge the materials involved with racism or bigotry or something.

    • Just Me says

      Or the truth is in between.

      Some individuals are lucky enough to be members of a group which transmits to them some precious cultural capital, while others are born into a group without such cultural capital to transmit.

      What the solution to this is I have no idea, but it is a lot more complex than just transferring income or blaming “disctrimination” and institution affirmative action.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @Just Me
        Yeah, it is between. The thing is tho that there is no ‘cure’ that is not worse than the problem. But what we can do is make sure that every ‘disadvantaged’ person is given support if/when they decide to break out of their victimhood. I think of Dr. Ben Carson.

    • Bernard Hill says

      …well Mr Olson, I take exception to your exception of the first part. As a life long Faceto-Marxist, I would have you know that I for one would never belong to an identity group that would have me by the member.

  7. Northern Observer says

    Hassen is a racist bigot who should never have been granted a PHD and should not be allowed to teach in any University. If he wants to preach Islamist praganda let him do so in an Islamic Nation.

    It’s disgusting that we have capitulated to racist bullies like Hassen in a vain quest to be open, inclusive and “fair”. As Charlie Munger once quipped when asked about why he didn’t buy derivatives for the Berkshire portfolio “ when you have a bag of raisins and you add rabbit turds to them you end up with one big bag of shit”. The point being that in accommodating mr Hussens intellectual output in their faculty of Arts, UofT has conditioned its academics and students to accept levels of racism and bad faith arguments that they normally World not tolerate from any other source. They have incorporated anti collegiality into their department and are ruining the educational experience for many. For what? Representation? It is to laugh.

  8. Dennis says

    “to have argued that African-Americans exploit slavery or Jim Crow for political gains, the protests from progressive students and faculty would, rightly, have been vehement and immediate.”

    It certainly can be argued that SOME African-Americans act in such a manner. And while you’re correct that arguing for this would probably have caused protests, I don’t think these protests would under all circumstances be justified. In fact, they might be directed against legitimate argument.

    And neither is it self-evident to me, that each and every time the Holocaust is brought up by Jews, this is without calculation and hope for political gains. These things do happen.

    Certainly not always and by all Jews, (such a claim would be obviously false), but when it happens, it should be possible to say so, and it obviously IS possible to say so, as you give an example of when that has happened.

    So yeah, in a way you are correct, and there exists a double standard. But this standard is unfairly positive towards African Americans relative to all other minorities and Whites, not unfairly negative towards Jews.

    The professor’s mistake was to assume that someone who had two articles on the Hasbara website and been on their exchanges would never approach him purely for career advice, but would likely have an ultierior motive.

  9. Jason S. says

    The author, an experienced researcher and occasional journalist, would have us believe that, in search of a potential supervisor, he researched Prof. Hanssen’s academic credentials but, in doing so, did not turn up any of the other information until after his email exchange.

    • deafening tone says

      I’m sorry, why is that difficult to believe? He wasn’t about to apply to the department and wasn’t asking Hanssen to be his dissertation supervisor. He was simply trying to get some preliminary guidance on how to go about the process of getting into a PhD program or identifying good areas of study. I know, I’ve been there. When you are “there,” you aren’t concerned about someone’s facebook posts; you are looking at their CV and role in the department. Just as the author said, he found Hanssen’s department faculty page, downloaded what was posted there, and made an initial inquiry. I believe this is the basic route of MOST people considering a PhD.

      • Jason S. says

        Maybe I misunderstood, maybe I didn’t. By his opening paragraph, I took the author to mean that he reached out to Prof. Hanseen for more than just advice, as a lot of prospective students do: “I contacted a handful of professors whose academic interests overlapped with mine to ask their advice […] par for the course for a graduate student in search of a supervisor.” If you are contemplating working with someone on a topic as fraught as Middle Eastern Studies, I imagine, at the very least, you would want to know what that person’s political leanings are. Even more so if you are genuinely seeking their advice. It would be pretty naive to judge someone just by their CV and role in the department. No one is reducible to their CV and department bio, even out “there” with “MOST people.” (Nobody said anything about Facebook posts. If you Google “Jens Hanseen,” the fifth hit reveals his BDS activism.)

        • ga gamba says

          @Jason, Fair analysis. Blaff’s account of selecting Jensen beggars belief. That said, Jensen mishandled the response. I don’t understand why people fail to choose the acceptable action of no reply if they are unable to opt for civility.

          @dt, I know, I’ve been there. When you are “there,” you aren’t concerned about someone’s facebook posts; you are looking at their CV and role in the department. Just as the author said, he found Hanssen’s department faculty page, downloaded what was posted there, and made an initial inquiry. I believe this is the basic route of MOST people considering a PhD.

          Okie dokie, let’s have look, shall we? Scanty. Only one link which takes us to a brief (four bullet point) synopsis of his book.

          Having been “there” too myself, I did far more than merely visit professors’ profiles. I checked Google Scholar. I searched for their papers and read them, often as many as I could find freely available. I also obtained their most renown books. But this was for a master’s, so perhaps this requires more effort than a PhD. Why did I do so? Because I wanted more than simply to write an email asking for advice on how to get into a programme or which subject is a good one to research – by the time one has finished his/her master’s s/he ought to have a solid idea on that. I wanted to tell the professor why I decided to contact them because of something of theirs I read that I found significant. Flattery works and a lot of professors like to have their egos stroked.

          Mr Blaff raises a fair question about Dr Jensen’s activism and its affect on students. Perhaps it behooves professors to reflect a bit more on their jobs as academics to aid inquest rather than pursue their passionate hobby as activists and ideologues. Heck, if you want to be an activist, go work for the NGOs. I suspect it doesn’t pay as well nor has the same prestige though. Choices, eh?

  10. Anti-semitism is like bell bottoms. It will always come back sooner or later. These days it’s all the rage, largely because the muslims we’ve been importing wear it day and night. As do their leftist “allies”.

  11. Emmanuel says

    In France, we have had similar problems with leftwing academics drifting from criticism to Israeli policies to rabid and dishonest anti-sionism (blaming Israel for actions you ignore or tolerate when other countries, especially Muslim ones, commit them is a widespread double standard among the French intelligentsia) and then to regular antisemitism, with an academic world embracing openly antisemitic organizations such as les indigènes de la République. The situation described in that article is unfortunately not specific to the US.

  12. Karl Lietzan says

    Mr. Blaff contradicts himself in his conclusion:

    “During a graduate-level seminar on genocide, a fellow student suggested that American Jews exploit the Holocaust for political capital. Were a student to have argued that African-Americans exploit slavery or Jim Crow for political gains, the protests from progressive students and faculty would, rightly, have been vehement and immediate.

    Academia ought to be a forum for the battle of minds and the testing of arguments and ideas.”

    Which is it? Ought our minds battle over these ideas, or is the political exploitation of historical grievances an idea that cannot be tested? It’s a bit of a trick question; this kind of political maneuver is so common as to be banal. Mr. Blaff makes a timid case for more robust discussion, but he has already been suborned by the notion that there is a class of ideas that is rightly protested rather than argued against.

  13. Skallagrimsen says

    As it happens, some Jews, American or otherwise (and others), DO exploit the Holocaust for political capital, just as some African Americans exploit slavery and Jim Crow for the same reason. Why wouldn’t they? I doubt there has ever been a mass atrocity in human history that no one ever attempted to exploit for individual or collective gain. Human beings being what they are, it’s only to be expected.

  14. OK, so a Zionist bumped into an anti-Zionist on campus. What else is new?

    The most interesting part of the article wasn’t the professor’s de rigueur anti-Israel bias or the aggrieved author’s mild-ish outrage, but rather this: “I was referred to the Dean’s Office where I spoke with the Director of Critical Incidents, Safety, and Health Awareness.”

    A perfect metaphor for academia these days: A university department that keeps its eye out for all those “critical incidents” that keep happening around campus, and to remind students to be aware of their “health”? Oh, I forgot… and to apparently keep anti-Zionists from saying and doing mean things to Zionists.

    From the university’s website: “The Director, Critical Incidents, Safety & Health Awareness…works closely with the University’s Director of High Risk.” High risk! That department sounds like an exciting place to work! But probably more stressful than the Low Risk Department. You know, I have been giving some thought lately to a career change. I’m thinking that maybe a six-figure salary as a Director of Low Risk at a major university might just be what I’m looking for.

    I can’t help but wonder: How many other near-useless departments are there like this at this particular university, with names that sound like they’re straight outta some hack piece of dystopian fiction from the 70s?

    My condolences to all the parents who have to keep reaching deeper and deeper into their wallets to pay for all this administrative bloat

    • TarsTarkas says

      Should there be a Director of Medium Risk, a Director of Low Risk, and a Director of No Risk as well? Can’t be prejudiced towards Medium, low, and No, can we? Besides, think how many high-paying jobs these new At-Risk Departments would provide! Bastiat would be so proud!

      • Andrew Mcguiness says

        I definitely think there should be a Director of Risk Assessment, to determine whether cases are being directed to the right office.

    • ga gamba says

      Great comment. Such concoctions are so normalised today. Good eye catching that.

    • Very true. It’s all so normalized, my eye scanned over the ludicrous titles, more fool me.

  15. W2class says

    Mr Blaff, are you now or have you ever been a member of the communist party?…

  16. John Dawson says

    Why is it that the more highly qualified academics get, and the more prestigious their universities are, the worse (more biased, unjust, irrational, nihilistic, bizarre, blind, hypocritical, vicious) they get. I know there are some very distinguished and courageous exceptions, but that’s the way the rule looks from the outside.

    • Bernard Hill says

      …Why John? listen to the JBP podcast on Quillette. ‘…reason falls in love with its own production…’

  17. Paolo Scussolini says

    It was pretty vile of you, Mr. Blaff, to avail yourself of these petty means put in place by university bureaucrats. You are an adult, you can definitely take a less-than-perfectly-polite email from a faculty. There is some thing like academic freedom, to take and refuse students, and to have opinions and express them. There is frankly not much ‘power differential’ between Prof and student. I would maintain that it often actually the student has more power over the staff, with all the countless disciplinary actions you can drag staff through (like you did). What could HE have visited upon you? Nothing.
    For full disclosure, I am faculty, and I don’t sympathise at all with Hanssen’s view.

    • I disagree. I don’t think it was “vile” of him. I think it was foolish, because now he will have a lot of trouble landing any position if he chooses the PhD route (he’ll get the PhD but will have real trouble afterwards). The fact that you actually think a prestigious university professor has no power differential with an aspiring student throws into the doubt the rest of your argument. And your argument that the email was merely impolite is either sophistry or naiveté. The powerful professor was making a grave accusation against an aspiring PhD student. The student had the choice to try to go under the radar or to challenge the accusation. I myself would have either gone under the radar or more likely, thrown my hands up and not gone into Middle Eastern Studies at all–but he chose to challenge the accusation. And maybe that is the more courageous thing to do, I don’t know. Academia is a terrible conformist place right now, and it can be career suicide to express nonconformist opinions. But I guess he wants to risk it. You can call this many things, but not ‘pretty vile.’

      • Paolo Scussolini says

        We can agree to disagree. But some of what you wrote is odd. When I questioned the ‘power differential’, I questioned the notion that an academic has intrinsic and unjust power over the destiny/career of anyone academically beneath him/her. Obviously, if a professor is an acclaimed scholar in the field, his/her opinion of a student will matter to some extent for the career of such student in such field. And this is obviously desirable, for who else would you want, to assess the scholarly reputation of academics, if not other academics? It’s a feature of any hierarchical system. Imperfect but I am not sure there are better alternatives.
        Hanssen’s email contained mind-reading, some accusations and a lot of conjectures. But no slander, no libeling, no threats, no insults, and certainly nothing against the law. Keep also in mind that this was private correspondence.
        Now, when I receive a distasteful letter as this one, I don’t even start thinking of going to some bureaucrat to weep about it. What I do (and it has happened, because this is normal interaction between people) is not ‘go under the radar’, or ‘throw my hands up’: I handle it myself, as the grown up man that I try to be.
        Again, any student, at any given time, has much more power to put me in trouble for the flimsiest of reasons. I basically have none. You may believe me or not, but if you’ve checked with university any time recently, it’s easy to see things for what they are.
        Then, there’s something to be said about university professors needing to behave according to professional and academic standards, of integrity and such. Here we may discuss whether prof. Hanssen complied to such standards. I don’t know. But I fear the existence of bureaucracies where students are encouraged to go to, to extort forced apologies for the expression of what can reasonably be seen as legitimate opinions.

        • @Paulo, I’m a professor myself. I do agree that the admin has bloated, blatant control – the student in many cases is mere proxy. But it depends on your university. One of the universities i worked in was far far more supportive of freedoms than the other (that one was bureaucratic -toxic).

          I hear what you’re saying. It’s true I loathe the student rush to bureaucratic mommy and daddy to punish the Bad Professor Who Hurt My Feelings (and mommy and daddy have a whip to punish me if I stray too much). But when you say you think he should have handled it himself, that is where I disagree. There is nothing at that point he could have done himself. The power differential (their relative positions on the hierarchy) was too great–he was an aspiring PhD; the professor was a high ranking professor in his field of studies. When I say ‘go under the radar” I mean to drop the whole thing and hope it’s forgotten. That is probably what I would have done; confronting the professor directly would not have helped at all–this is the power differential. The professor had already made up his mind, and confronting him with facts would have caused him, at the very least, to dig in his heels. The risk here is that the professor has enough pull in the field to let everyone know the student should not be hired, or published. Obviously this isn’t going to be ‘everyone’ but it may well be enough to have his career ruined.

          However, given that the student did not choose to go under the radar, or to drop in his field, he had to artificially inflate himself on the hierarchy so he could confront the professor. Again, I think he’s foolish to do this, personally, as I don’t think it will accomplish anything positive for himself in his field. However, maybe it’s courageous,; I mean he is standing up for something he believes in, and it seems that the whole field is rank with anti-semitism. And maybe his larger goal will be to become an independent critic or a writer or whatever. In that case, this might help his career and bring a spotlight on what is going on.

          I do hear you that overall you loathe the whole set up of students running to the bureaucracy to bully professors. I agree completely. It’s just that in this situation, I think the student has a point, whether or not I agree with his choices.

  18. Thus it will begin.

    First, to be progressives in good standing, Jews will have to be free of affiliations with any Zionist organizations.

    Next, to be progressives in good standing, Jews will have to publicly disavow Israel and support the Palestinian cause.

    Last, Jews by virtue of being Jews will not be permitted to be progressives, due to the danger posed by their potential to become Zionists.

  19. Timbuk says

    Well we live in an era where Noble Laureate Professors like Tim Hunt were sacked because he cracked a joke at a conference, and certain privileged people thought it was sexist despite majority of people clapped and laughed at the joke. He also apologized later on for his bad sense of humor and also if anyone’s feelings were hurt.

    Now on the other hand, we have this professor whose conduct was not only unprofessional but a clear cut case of racism. Yet, he gets a pass. This also, reminds me of another case in Germany where a female professor at Leipzig university refused an Indian student admission because according to her all Indian males are rapist, which again is factually and statistically wrong. Yet, the professor kept her job.

    So, the net conclusion is only if you come from certain section you get a free pass to almost anything, and that section is disabled-democrat-feminist-Muslim-person of color who identifies LGBTQIA. I feel sorry for what you have to go through, but that is how the world is going about right now, and I don’t see that such craziness is going to stop any soon. Hope you find a much better position elsewhere. Best wishes!

  20. This is really funny, my comment on the article has been removed, first time since I started here, beginning this year. My point was, what is the intrinsic value of an academic study “Global Affairs”, or a degree or PhD in it, just imagine if a similar proposal for such a subject choice would have been made in a university in Russia, China, Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Jordan or Saudi Arabia. What would have been the reactions, and, would a student even have dared to propose a similar study there (in the non-western world)?? So, I wonder very much whether, again, this reaction will be removed

  21. Wolfgang Wilson says

    “and a fiercely independent judiciary that is not afraid to rule against the government.” This will keep me laughing for the rest of the year.

  22. Kevin says

    If Mr. Blaff was being accurate and honest in his accounts of his interactions with the Professor…and Hanssen’s writings…then the “teacher” is clearly an anti-Semitic man. Mr. Blaff poses the question of how one may be treated if he were to pose oppositional questions while actually a student of Hanssen’s. The answer to that is clear: Blaff would be intimidated, ridiculed and harassed; he would receive undeserved, unfair or even failing grades.
    As in every major University in the U.S, all of which have seen their faculties…over the past several decades…co-opted by Liberal/Democrat/Socialists, dissent or objection to a Professor’s personal idealogical views is not only not tolerated but as I said above, addressing Blaff’s positing…punished.
    If a student at UCLA or. UNH or Berkely or hundreds of other colleges around the country, profeses a fondness for the USA, argues that current claims of “rampant racism” or “white nationalism” or “sexual harassment”…or any number of other “issues” are wildly exaggerated or even fabricated…that student will be punished.
    God forbid that a student at a major US university express support for POTUS Trump, Jusice Kavanaugh or Lindsay Graham. That kid will fail his class. There is no tolerance for disagreement, discussion of dissent anymore. Conservatives and Constitutionalists are not allowed to speak at these schools of indoctrination. Just as surely as civility and tolerance have died in the US, due to the successful takeover of our public school systems and major media by Socialists, Blaff would fail Mr. Hanssen’s class as soon as he opened his mouth.

  23. Pizza Pete says

    Anti-Semitism does seem to occupy a permanent recess of the European hindbrain. Things European are retained, latent in Canadians more than in Americans.

    With Hitler’s initial success in the form of the Holocaust and his second (clean-up) act in the form of North African, Middle Eastern, and “Asian” immigration essentially finishing off observant Judaism in Europe, the Jews are now thousands of miles away, but not out of sight, out of mind by any means.

    That the fixation on “The Jews! The Jews!” has found a home in intersectional ideology should surprise no one and is only denied by idiots. Nor should that critiques of “the Holocaust industry” became a staple of the Alt-Right.

    The presence of Anti-Semitism is of course the canary in the coal mine, a reasonably good sign that fundamental social underpinnings are becoming eroded.

    If the Academy was wiser, more virtuous, and clearer-eyed, Middle Eastern studies would help us sort out this violent, tragic, and confusing part of the world and, you know, be part of the solution.

    But the Academy has long stopped doing its job. Instead, suffering in the Middle East has become fetishized religiously so that the “Jens Hanssens” of the world can find more meaning in their lives than would otherwise be available to obscure third-tier Canadian academics.

    The permanent recession of Leftist intellectualism following the collapse of socialism has led to all manner of deformities. And I’ll admit to enjoying the strange: feminism’s recline onto a neo-Victorian #MeToo fainting couch. The bottomless narcissism and endless sophistry required for contemporary gender identity performance. But viewed from the long arc of European intellectual history, this particular development couldn’t be more predictable, disappointing, or banal. With its resentment, its cracked dreams, and its turn to “The Jews!” it’s hard to believe that the Left was once utopian.

  24. Pittsburgh Richard says

    It was once so easy to silence and ostracize critics of anything Israel by simply eructing the screed of “anti-Semite.” It was difficult enough to voice such criticism on most media platforms given the fact that the outlets are for the most part owned or controlled by interests of those who would put Israel first, be they dual citizenship or outright Zionist operatives.
    I received a dunning every time I tried to bring up either the unfairness of the treatment of Palestinians or even when pointing out the influence of Zionist Conservatives in partnering with the war profiteers of the Bush Family variety when pursuing the illegal war against 9/11Less Iraq. Even when prefacing my concerns with the fact that I too believe a vast majority of American Jews are progressive, democratic and peace loving but cowed by the minority of inflexible right wing Zionists such as Daniel Pipes in the same fashion as those in general society were attacked by the wicked minority known as the neocons with such inanities as “What, you don’t support the troops?!” there was no shortage of such as the author of this article who seemed willing to start as much trouble to cause as much trouble for anyone who dare voice his/her opinion criticizing Israel. Eventually the onslaught of attacking all such criticism or concern has the effect of pushing the critics further from civil discourse and to a place that the author of this article really would be troubled by. I have to agree with those who write he doth protest too much.

    • @PIttsburgh Richard, You give yourself away immediately when you say the media is ‘owned’ and “controlled” by pro Israel people and “Zionist operatives” (aka Jews). Hmmm I *wonder* why you were called an anti-Semite. This has nothing to do with criticizing Israel–NO ONE says you cannot legitimately criticize the Israeli Gov’t, including Israelis.

      • Pittsburgh Richard says

        One need only do a bit of research to determine that an overwhelming majority of print and electronic media is owned or controlled by a small number of right wing individuals who suffer no criticism of anything Israel. And you conveniently neglect to include my acknowledgement that a vast majority of Jews aren’t who I am directing my comments to. You attempt to bait me in even clumsier fashion than the author of this article who, upon a second, closer examination was looking for a confrontation from the start and won’t settle for less than having someone fired. Doesn’t work any more pal.

        • “Doesn’t work anymore pal”? Pal? Like I’m some sort of smooth talker? Listen pal, half my family was butchered in the Holocaust. My kids regularly experience Jew hatred even now. I think i have the right to be a tad sensitive when someone says the media is filled with Zionist operatives.

          Oh that’s right- Jews need to be ‘Jew splained.” Racism by the Left-wing cannot exist because their motives are so pure–ask them. So when they say the media is controlled by Zionist operatives, we just have to take it.

          I urge all Jews reading this sort of garbage to ask themselves why they align themselves with the far Left. I am certainly not saying to go with the Right. I’m saying to stop voting automatically with the Left. They are not our allies.

          • Pittsburgh Richard says

            What makes you automatically assume I am “left”? Telling that. The media is controlled largely by a few powerful Israel apologists who use it to control the message and debate, or rather to suppress debate. I’ll go further and state that it is used to continue to bleed the American treasury and troop blood for inflexible Israel’s endless wars. Interesting that all other foreign financial support is currently being assailed while no one who dare set himself against this powerful minority in criticizing the billions given Israel with no strings attached. It isn’t OK that this particular country is seemingly exempt from any consideration or that it gives nothing but disrespect and resentment in return. Yes the Holocaust was a terrible thing. It was also 75 years ago and there have been terrible things since, like the slaughter of millions of Cambodians. While no one would suggest it be forgotten it doesn’t mean a free pass in grinding down Palestinians or creating a billion enemies for the United States who is expected to stand in front of all things Israel without criticism.

  25. Charles McDougal says

    The author leads one to believe that which he denounces and disavows is in fact the reality. The assertion that not all Israelis should be subject to criticism due to their political views begs the question. Not all South Africans were racists and bigots however their government which represented all South Africans was in fact employing an apartheid state to discriminate against the black population. This is the situation in Israel where the system of apartheid is used to discriminate against the Palestinians. This therefore requires the sanctions of the state as a whole to affect change. I find the filing of a lawsuit against the prof as ludicrous and the action of exactly what the author claims to be against ,the targeting of free speech and opinion if found to be at odds with the Israeli state. The numerous absolutions of Israel’s policies by the catchphrase “Israel is not perfect,” and then immediately condemning the Palestinians or any dissenters of the state of occupation and forced destruction of homes , infrastructure, hospitals, schools, etc , as backing terrorism is an overused and tired argument. The author’s own article condemns him and shows him for what he is which is one who has a zionist agenda and seeks to gag any and all anti Israeli opinion. One could hardly believe that the ” rigorous research ” student was unaware of the professor”s stance or views on Israel or the BDS movement and to be completely unaware of the connections of his associations with the campaigns to discredit those in favor of BDS is incredulous at best and more likely outright deception.

    • Pizza Pete says

      The frequency of Israel casually being equated with apartheid South Africa is pretty good evidence that Middle Eastern studies has failed as a field, precludes thoughtfulness, and may rightly belong in the “grievance academia” dustbin. That said, the “apartheid Israel” claim is a reliable heuristic for a conversation that is not worthy of engagement.

  26. TheSnark says

    For years the only acceptable public stance was blind support of Israel and everything it did. Anything else was labelled anti-Semitic (and still is among staunch Israel-supporters). Now, it has become fashionable, at least in leftist intellectual circles, to be blindly anti-Israel, and pro-Palestinian.

    It sure beats thinking.

  27. Don_in_Odessa says

    “and has a history of inflammatory statements”

    …and therein lies the crux the problem Mr Blaff, One’s free speech, is another’s inflammatory statement.

    I quit reading at that point.

  28. The Hasbara slur is typical of neo-Nazis and various other anti-semites. Lot of them here evidently as well in many University faculties.

  29. One thing that generally frustrates me in all of these comments, and frankly the discourse around this topic in general, is the conflation of “Israel” “Zionism” and “Jewish” – the middle term being the source of the most confusion. Granted, the terms share interrelated definitions but using one as a surrogate for the other is what leads to ill informed statements like “strategically conflating anti-zionism with anti-semitism”, when really that jump is far closer than say, those who would conflate criticism of Israel’s government with anti-semitism.

    So, while this comment may go nowhere and will do little to convince people already set in there views, I will attempt to define these to show why the frustrations of the author are well founded.

    Jewish – Let’s start easy(ish) here. Despite the world traditionally identifying “Judaism” as a religion it isn’t *quite* right. Certainly the way it is put into practice today is primarily as a religion, but limiting it to this definition is the foundation for misunderstanding every other definition. The best way to put it is that Judaism is a “people” not quite an ethnicity or nationality, but certainly sharing qualities of both. Happy to expand on this and why it is the case later if anyone is interested.

    Israel – A country in the middle east founded in 1948 founded as the homeland for the Jewish people. The second half of that phrase makes it trickier, but it certainly deserves mention. But the first half is often ignored. Israel is a country with its own governing structure, laws, budget, culture, etc. Much of the culture is informed by Jewish tradition (like Hebrew being the official language) and much of it is not (like techno music dominating the night life). It’s important to note, it was not founded as a *religious* state. Religious doctrine does not inform the electoral system, judiciary, or other elements of the state the way say Sharia law may have an influence on common law in Saudi Arabia (though I might be wrong about that).

    Zionism – Here is the tricky one, but hopefully we can lean on the two other definitions to try and understand it better. Zionism, at its core, is acknowledging the right of Jewish people to self-determination. This is a basic right that everyone deserves, and countless times was through history was revoked from Jewish people through “small” things (not being allowed to own land) to slightly larger (not being able to practice their religion openly) to the numerous times there was state sponsored slaughter of Jews. Zionism is certainly dominated by the belief that this self-determination can only be guaranteed through a national homeland, but at its core the idea spawned from the simple notion that Jewish people deserve agency.

    This is why the original definition of “Jewish” is important. It’s important to realize that the Jews amount to a nation without a home (Mark Twain wrote as such). It is why the word “Diaspora” was coined, though that definition has now extended to other groups. Zionism was the effort to correct this, and was made manifest through the State of Israel, a geographic location that is the historical homeland of the Jewish people.

    Now granted, how the State of Israel came to be might have plenty of debates and controversy around it (for a time it was proposed the land set aside should be in what is now Uganda), but I’m going to leave that aside for a moment. While one may disagree with the policies of the State of Israel, or with individual leaders in the state of israel, that doesn’t make one “anti-zionist”. The same way disagreeing with Trump or Macron doesn’t make one anti-American or anti-French.

    Being anti-zionist essentially means you do not believe Jews, as a people, deserve agency. And this is why it is so closely related to anti-semitism, often serving as a stand in for the very same today. Yet it is far more insidious if you look at the logic closely. If Zionism is the belief in Jewish people’s right to self determination, anti-zionism is to deny that right. To deny that right is to say that the Jewish people ought to be subjects to the whims of another. To say the Jewish people ought to be subjects, what they can and cannot do be dictated by someone else, is certainly a form of anti-semitism.

  30. TheSnark says

    My point, Mr McDougal, is that too many people don’t think about this (or many other) subject(s). They go with whatever the dominate paradigm is in their circle.

    In the case of Mr Blaff, his request for advice got shot down in a rather supercilious manner. I find Mr Blaff more pro-Israel than I like, but being slapped down for that (and for have had something to do with some obscure organization) betrays a lack of independent thought on the part of the slapper.

    In an ideal world, they both might have learned something from each other. Heck, in an ideal world, Mr Hannsen (the slapper) would have relished the opportunity to do what academics are suppose to do: to argue the issue with someone with different views. But he wasn’t interested. Mr Blaff at least was willing to talk.

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