MESA complains about rightwing Zionist "McCarthyite" pressure





At Barnard College, Nadia Abu El-Haj, an anthropologist who is coming up for tenure, is under attack by some alumnae and pro-Israel groups for a book, published by the University of Chicago Press, that was critical of Israeli archaeology and its use in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At Wayne State University, similar groups are pushing the university not to hire Wadie Said for a faculty position in the law school. In that case, critics of Said are attacking him and his late father, the literary theorist Edward Said, saying that both Saids’ activism on behalf of the Palestinian cause has amounted to support for violent groups.

These debates follow the cancellation last month of a lecture by Tony Judt, a professor at New York University, at the Polish consulate in New York City, amid charges that the Anti-Defamation League had encouraged Polish officials to call off the talk. And in June, Yale University turned down Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who is a leading figure in Middle Eastern studies, for a position — after a lengthy period in which critics of Cole argued that he was not a suitable choice for the position, in part because of his criticism of Israel. And Princeton University has faced criticism over a possible hire as well.

This weekend, the Middle East Studies Association, of which Cole is the president, voted to expand the work of its academic freedom committee — which has focused on helping scholars in the Middle East — to engage in efforts on behalf of colleagues in the United States.

“The subtext of these controversies is whether it is going to be allowed for Palestinians to hold positions in academe in the United States. Is it going to be allowed for people who are not Zionists to hold positions? Is there a Zionist litmus test in the United States?” said Cole in an interview Monday. He characterized the pro-Israel groups’ activities as “the privatization of McCarthyism” and said that they represented the most serious threat today to academic freedom in the United States....


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