The American Association of University Professors Celebrates Anti-Semitism

May 28, 2020 | Jonathan Marks
About the author: Jonathan Marks is professor and chair of politics at Ursinus College. A contributor to the Commentary blog, he has also written on higher education for InsideHigherEd, the Wall Street Journal, and the Weekly Standard.

Last week, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), an influential academic organization, announced that Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi of San Francisco State University would receive one of its annual awards, citing her “courage, persistence, political foresight, and concern for human rights . . . in her scholarship, teaching, [and] public advocacy” as well as her efforts to “advance the agenda for social change in Palestine, the United States, and internationally.” Those efforts, notes Jonathan Marks, include supporting the exclusion of the Jewish campus group Hillel from a university-wide event, and lambasting the school’s president for apologizing for that exclusion:

Abdulhadi . . . believes that Jews who favor the existence of a Jewish state—that is most Jews—should be unwelcome not only at particular events but at the university altogether. . . . Perversely, she who would exclude Zionists from campus and who, so far as I can tell, has never encountered a specific charge of anti-Semitism on the left that she has not dismissed as an invention of the “Israel lobby,” is now honored by the AAUP as a builder of coalitions and a champion of human rights. She for whom the boycott of Israel is the very center of her “pro-Palestinian” activism is honored for that very activism by an organization that explicitly opposes academic boycotts.

The AAUP has been at many times in its history a vital voice in the defense of academic freedom and a thoughtful contributor to discussions of the professional standards academics can be expected to honor. . . . The AAUP has also struggled with, from early on, a tendency to let its commitment to academic freedom, the free exchange of ideas, and the distinctive vocation of the scholar be overshadowed by the attachment of members to the progressive cause of the day. This tendency reaches its zenith in the AAUP’s praise of Abdulhadi, who “transcends the division between scholarship and activism that encumbers traditional university life.”

In offering an award to professor Abdulhadi, the AAUP has damaged its credibility at a moment when it can use every shred. Somehow, in the course of spitting in the face of those who, with good reason, consider Abdulhabi deserving of censure, not awards, the AAUP has spit in its own face.

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