After finding that a recent special issue of the scholarly journal Israel Studies questioned certain academic orthodoxies, a few professors wrote an open letter and garnered over 100 signatures from colleagues condemning the journal’s editors and demanding that the issue of the journal be retracted completely. To Andrew Pessin, this reaction demonstrates that the letter’s authors and not the journal’s authors are the ones seeking to undermine scholarly norms:
[I]n the name of “academic standards” and “anti-partisanship,” the critics casually refer to “Israel/Palestine,” as if Palestine were an existing state, which it is not, at least not yet, and which can only be assumed to be one by deeply partisan intellectual acrobatics. They [furthermore] attack the credentials of the contributors, thus providing a textbook case of the ad-hominem fallacy. [Finally], they accuse the journal’s authors and editors of “policing and shutting down debate” when they are a mob of 170-plus making demands for a public disavowal, phased removal of those responsible for the issue, and an overhaul of an editorial process that, prior to this issue, no one had any concerns about. . . .
A scholar is welcome to disagree with [any] arguments and conclusions, of course. One could, for example, do the scholarly thing: engage with the essays and write critiques and rebuttals. [The journal’s editors] offered the critics precisely that opportunity in the pages of the journal itself, but that was apparently not sufficient for them. Instead the mob went full-throttle ad hominem, slinging the ludicrous charges that the essays in question violate “scholarly standards and norms,” and clamoring for disavowal, resignations, and overhaul.
That the charges are ludicrous is apparent from simply reading the essays themselves, many of which are very good. . . . With the mob’s hysterical response, trammeling of the normal deliberative process, and attack on basic academic freedom, with its demands that the issue be condemned and people removed, it’s clear that the members of this mob don’t want anyone to read these essays — and hard not to conclude that what they are really upset about is not the “academic standards” but that the issue committed the sin of — providing material supportive of Israel.