Editor’s note: The review below is written by David Solway on Dr. Richard Cravatts’ new book, Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel & Jews, published by the David Horowitz Freedom Center. To order a copy, click here.
I first came across Richard Cravatts in an article he wrote for Pajamas Media on November 19, 2010, describing York University in Toronto as “a cesspool of anti-Semitic, pro-Palestinian activism.” York is notorious in Canada as one of its most prominent Jew-bashing institutions, taking its cue from larger and more prestigious universities like UC Irvine and Berkeley that promote, in Cravatts’ words, “slanted scholarship for jihad.” Genocidal Liberalism expands Cravatts’ investigative sweep to encompass the entire malign phenomenon of antisemitism cum anti-Zionism that has corrupted the moral integrity and academic rectitude of the American liberal professoriate.
Cravatts doesn’t pull his punches, relentlessly anatomizing the pedagogic bias currently in place, which is neo-Marxist in its orientation and undeniably anti-Jewish in its expression. “In the campus war against Israel, a new rhetoric has evolved.” The university, he charges, is by and large no longer “a place where civility and reasoned scholarly discourse normally occurs,” given the “gradual ratcheting up of the level of acrimony against Israel and Zionism” and the Left’s insistence that such criticism, no matter how incendiary or libelous, “is no more than political commentary on the Jewish state.” He furnishes a near- interminable list of “strident anti-Israel initiatives” that mar the intellectual life of the “liberal” and “humanistic” university, including academic boycotts of Israeli professors, the fostering of vociferous and occasionally violence-prone anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish Muslim student groups on campus, the furthering of divestment and disinvestment from Israeli companies and companies doing business with them, and the shutting down of pro-Israel speakers.
Cravatts points to an influential 1965 essay by Herbert Marcuse entitled Repressive Tolerance, which planted the seed of political and epistemic subversion in the fertile soil of American academia. “Purporting to endorse freedom of expression for all,” Cravatts writes, the essay instead reserved “that right, in actual practice, only to favored groups.” The program “could only be accomplished…by favoring ‘partisan’ speech to promote ‘progressive’ or revolutionary change,” which would be, in Marcuse’s phrase, “intolerant toward the protagonists of the repressive status quo.” By the latter, Marcuse meant classical liberal thought with its emphasis on tradition, individual autonomy, civic responsibility and limited government. Our contemporary Marcusians have learned their lesson well. In this way, the door was opened for the delivery of mendacious doctrines from post-colonial fanatics and postmodern destabilizers like Edward Said and Michel Foucault who have done so much damage to the principles of intellectual honesty and objective study on which the university is presumably founded.
Marcuse, a leading member of the left-wing Frankfurt School, clearly drew his inspiration from German philosopher Martin Heidegger, whom Cravatts does not mention but whose spirit pervades current “humanistic” thought. The godfather of the current mob of academic gangsters, Heidegger was appointed Rector of the University of Freiburg in 1933, using his considerable reputation to further the Nazi supremacist dogma. For Heidegger, the function of the university was to provide what he called, in his Rector’s Address, “service to knowledge” as an obligation to the National Socialist state, that is, to entrench a species of politicized education—in this case, the absurd theories of National Socialism, the restriction of free expression, and, ultimately, a lethal campaign against the country’s and the continent’s Jewish inhabitants. The current academic campaign against Jews and Israel, expressed in the condemnation of Israel as an apartheid and occupying regime engaged in the “ethnic cleansing” of the Palestinians, is merely an updated and partially laundered variant of the German original. It is a palpable lie masquerading as an apodictic truth supported by fraudulent research and revisionist infatuations. The invention or suppression of facts and the propagation of fictitious memes and venomous tropes have become the liberal academy’s stock in trade.
I should indicate that Cravatts’ subject has been addressed before by several erudite and committed writers who have lobbied to clean up the latrine of higher education in America. David Horowitz in such books as Indoctrination U and Reforming our Universities, Gary Tobin et al. in The Uncivil University (referenced several times by Cravatts), and Stephen Norwood’s chilling The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower expose the academic Left’s growing rapprochement with tyrannical doctrines and especially with the metastasizing Islamic movement, such rapprochement constituting a symptom of its abdication from founding principles and the betrayal of its mandate. There is no doubt that the natural corollaries of the narrow, deformed and prejudicial temper prevailing in academia are anti-Jewish odium and anti-Israel denunciation. The two are indissolubly linked. Loading “cruel and destructive invective on Zionism,” says Cravatts, the professors are in reality “promulgating vile, disproportionate opprobrium that frequently shows its true face as raw anti-Semitism.”
Norwood, for his part, reveals how Harvard, Yale and Columbia during the 1930s embraced or were sympathetic to the fascist regimes of Hitler and Mussolini. Today, as Cravatts amply demonstrates, the educational establishment cultivates an equally comprehensive sympathy for Islamofascist themes, curricula and organizations. Third-rate thinking, ignorance, ingratitude, chicanery and political indoctrination have become the mainstays of the Humanities, Middle East Studies programs and misnamed Social Sciences departments.
As an instance of such dissembling, Cravatts directs our attention a BDS (Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions) manual, Fighting the New Apartheid: A Guide to Campus Divestment from Israel, authored by Palestinian-born Fayyad Sbaihat of the University of Wisconsin, in which we read that the divestment campaign should avoid “debating facts on the ground.” In order for the BDS agenda to be successful, “Israel must be characterized as a pariah state” regardless of “specific events and facts [which] can prove illusive when one attempts to build a case around them.” This confession of transparent duplicity is not only astonishing in itself, but also in its being ignored or tacitly supported by many college administrators, left-leaning teachers and impressionable students.
The BDS conference held at the University of Pennsylvania in early February 2012 provided yet another instance of the distortions, dishonesty and malevolence targeting Israel, as legitimized by the academy. One of its principal speakers was Ali Abunimah, founder of the Electronic Intifada website, who is fond of comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany. Another was English professor Amy Kaplan, who went so far as to suggest methods for introducing the Palestinian mythology and the BDS campaign into completely unrelated classes in order to advance an anti-Israel prepossession clearly intended to influence unsuspecting students—and was subsequently defended by her chairpersonette, Nancy Bentley.
One remarks, too, in this regard the March conference at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, under the heading “Israel/Palestine and the One-State Conference.” Featuring such rabid anti-Israeli pseudo-scholars and shameless fact-twisters as Stephen Walt and Ilan Pappé, the colloquium plainly envisages the end of the Jewish state. Historian Bruce Thornton writes of Pappé in particular, “That such a travesty of the profession of history is invited to speak at a prestigious university testifies to how intellectually and morally corrupt the American academy has become.” Harvard is one of 17 American universities receiving substantial donations from Arab sources—$329 million from 1995 to 2008, the last year on record, and doubtlessly another hefty sum since.
Indeed, as Cravatts notes, “in the past 30 years…the Saudi royal family has funneled $70 billion into universities in the West…to create scholarship and teaching that is almost uniformly designed to demonize Israel, advance the Palestinian cause, and undermine Western values…while…helping to enable the spread of Islam.” Money talks, of course, but not always loudly; it also whispers seductively into the curricular ear. The scholars who benefit are “good students of the funding game.” Shying away from embarrassing their patrons and focusing on the “alleged shortcomings of Israel and the U.S.,” they have found a way of getting “several millions dollars dropped in their laps.” This goes some distance toward explaining the prevailing pro-Arab, anti-Jewish climate that vitiates our putative Lyceums.
Heidegger and Marcuse would surely have been pleased. As are the swarms of their disciples among the, let’s say, intelleftual anti-Zionist crowd, who have risen from the preceptorial slime and identified with America’s, and the West’s, enemies. The seminars of loathing they teach and promote, euphemized as “educational events,” lay all the blame for the Middle East’s dysfunctions at Israel’s feet. And in so doing they have not only trained their sights on a pluralistic and democratic Israel while fawning before an autocratic and venal Islamic polity, but have materially facilitated the wave of antisemitic sentiment that is now flooding the world.
Antisemitism is not only an emotional, indeed almost glandular, disorder, it is likely the most contagious intellectual pathology known to humankind. Today, it has infected not only North American and European campuses, but has spread even to Israeli universities, many of whose teaching and administrative staff, under the convenient banner of anti-Zionism, have become willing and enthusiastic carriers of the disease. “Many Israeli professors,” Cravatts observes, “veer to the Left politically and many, incredibly, share the same virulent anti-Israel, anti-Zionism sentiments.” The same is true of American and European Jewish anti-Zionists “who, in a peculiar act of introjection, attempt to psychically expunge…the liberal guilt that condoning Zionism would bring upon them.” The plague has become ubiquitous when even those eventually targeted for exclusion become its most ardent advocates. It is clear that a species of indefeasible madness has taken hold of the academic community.
When a civilization begins to decay and enters the twilight of its existence, it is invariably vanquished by an army of barbarians. This seems to be what is happening now, judging from the mental debility and cultural exhaustion that have stricken our cognitive elites. These barbarians now proliferate as an advance guard in the contemporary academy. They have almost nothing to say about any of the bloodbaths and savageries daily being enacted in country after country throughout the world—Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Iran, Yemen, Zimbabwe, Libya, Sudan, China—but when it comes to the Jewish state, with its scattered settlements in its ancient homeland of Judea and Samaria and not a single Israeli remaining in Gaza or in south Lebanon’s buffer zone, the chorus of revilement erupts into a veritable cacophony. The “visceral hatred by the Left,” Cravatts writes, and the “singular obsession many academics have with Israel, and only Israel, from among the world’s countries,” is a symptom of the double standard “that has permeated the university” and “an indication of just how far [it has] diverged from [its] purpose.” It is, in fact, a sign of its descent into the realms of scholarly perversion.
As I have stressed before, there is nothing sacrosanct per se or inherently prestigious about the university. Like any human institution, it can profane its founding principles and grow decadent and oppressive. The German universities of the 1930s, as we’ve seen, despite their long tradition of rigorous scholarship, were by no means beacons of informed thought and genuine research but propaganda factories working overtime. One must always remember that the university may as easily become a turbine of indoctrination as a generator of intellectual vitality or a transmitter of genuine knowledge.
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