How the Campus Crusade against Israel Suppresses Freedom of Speech and Open Inquiry

In 2015, a group of students at Connecticut College drove the philosophy professor Andrew Pessin off campus, aided by faculty and administrators who were more than willing to throw him to the wolves. Pessin’s crime? First, he commented on the intolerance of fundamentalist Islam at a panel discussion about the Charlie Hebdo killings; then Khandaker dug up a Facebook post from the previous year in which Pessin compared Hamas to a “rabid dog.” Elliot Kaufman, reviewing a recent book on the affair, comments:

Did Pessin write anything wrong in his [Facebook] post? In one sense, perhaps it doesn’t matter. Wilfred Reilly’s research on hate-crime hoaxes has shown that where no racism is forthcoming, many activists will fabricate it. They know that lectures on structural racism aren’t enough; enemies are needed to spur radical action. On U.S. campuses, “the demand for bigots exceeds the supply,” Reilly has said. Still, the truth should guide our judgments. We owe it to Pessin to search for it.

A careful examination of text and context, the sort of thing that liberal arts colleges are supposed to teach, must conclude that Pessin meant to speak harshly only about Hamas. But . . . Katherine Bergeron, the college president, objected in a speech to the “vehemence” of the image in Pessin’s analogy. But, of course, she really only objected to a certain kind of vehemence. . . . It is indicative of the prevailing moral confusion that a university president would tut-tut a defender of a free society for his vehemence in opposing a genocidal terrorist group.

I decided to take a look at the Facebook profile of Lamiya Khandaker, [the student who led the crusade against Pessin], as she and fellow activists did to Pessin. . . . On May 7, 2019, Khandaker shared a graphic of the casualties from “Israel’s war on Gaza” and wrote the following comment: “Blame Hamas all you want, but numbers don’t lie. Our politicians are despicable dogs” (emphasis is mine). This from the woman who attempted to destroy a professor’s life for using almost the same “dehumanizing” language.

Turns out, it’s just standard heated political rhetoric, which she favors herself. The whole thing was a ploy, a cheap appeal to liberal compassion that works if you belong to a favored group and your opponent, a Jew, does not.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Anti-Semitism, Facebook, Israel on campus

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount