In Calling for a Boycott of Israel, Professors Express an Illiberal and Herd-Like Mentality

Nov. 30 2018

Earlier this month, the faculty of Pitzer College, a small, highly selective school outside of Los Angeles, passed a resolution in favor of the boycott, divest, and sanctions movement (BDS) and another one calling for an end to the college’s study-abroad program in Haifa. No resolutions were passed about similar programs in China, Rwanda, or other counties. In an open letter to Pitzer’s president, John Moscowitz recalls his days as a student there and the two teachers from whom he learned the most: the German Jewish political scientist Lucian Marquis and the Students for a Democratic Society activist Tom Hayden:

I was close to both, not just while [at Pitzer] but until the end of each of their lives. I would speak with each about my love of Israel, including with Tom as he was dying two years ago. . . . Hayden, much like Lucian Marquis, would become allergic to the kind of herd-like mentality that consumed Lucian’s mid-century Germany. It was one of the reasons the hard left eventually bore Hayden much ill will.

In any case, I strongly suspect both men, were they alive today, would share my deep disappointment. Both saw Pitzer as different from other colleges and universities: freer from dogma, more wedded to fairness, more inclined toward principle. Not perfect, but worthy of significant esteem. I learned the virtue of independent thinking from these two men. I’ve been grateful ever since.

This was the Pitzer that Lucian and Tom knew—indeed, the college I experienced and have since been proud to include on my résumé. No longer. The Pitzer faculty’s Haifa vote is illiberal—and betrays a knee-jerk animosity toward Israel as ignorant as it is disguised as principled. This is the kind of animus that often proves infectious, even dangerous, as it can turn individuals into crowds. It’s hardly what the Pitzer College I once knew was about. . . .

[T]he vote badly tarnishes the college—and leaves a foul wind in its wake that won’t easily dissipate.

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More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israel on campus, New Left

Hizballah Is in Venezuela to Stay

Feb. 21 2019

In a recent interview, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned the presence of Hizballah cells in Venezuela as further evidence of the growing unrest in that country. The Iran-backed group has operated in Venezuela for years, engaging in narcotics trafficking and money laundering to fund its activities in the Middle East, and likely using the country as a base for planning terrorist attacks. If Juan Guaido, now Venezuela’s internationally recognized leader, is able to gain control of the government, he will probably seek to alter this situation. But, writes Colin Clarke, his options may be limited.

A government led by Guaido would almost certainly be more active in opposing Hizballah’s presence on Venezuelan soil, not just nominally but in more aggressively seeking to curtail the group’s criminal network and, by extension, the influence of Iran. As part of a quid pro quo for its support, Washington would likely seek to lean on Guaido to crack down on Iran-linked activities throughout the region.

But there is a major difference between will and capability. . . . Hizballah is backed by a regime in Tehran that provides it with upward of $700 million annually, according to some estimates. Venezuela serves as Iran’s entry point into Latin America, a foothold the Iranians are unlikely to cede without putting up a fight. Moreover, Russia retains a vested interest in propping up [the incumbent] Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and keeping him in power, given the longstanding relationship between the two countries. . . . Further, after cooperating closely in Syria, Hizballah is now a known quantity to the Kremlin and an organization that President Vladimir Putin could view as an asset that, at the very least, will not interfere with Russia’s designs to extend its influence in the Western hemisphere.

If the Maduro regime is ultimately ousted from power, that will likely have a negative impact on Hizballah in Venezuela. . . . Yet, on balance, Hizballah has deep roots in Venezuela, and completely expelling the group—no matter how high a priority for the Trump administration—remains unlikely. The best-case scenario for Washington could be an ascendant Guaido administration that agrees to combat Hizballah’s influence—if the new government is willing to accept a U.S. presence in the country to begin training Venezuelan forces in the skills necessary to counter terrorism and transnational criminal networks with strong ties to Venezuelan society. But that scenario, of course, is dependent on the United States offering such assistance in the first place.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Mike Pompeo, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, Venezuela