Israel’s Higher-Education Woes Are Very Different from America’s

Nov. 23 2021

Earlier this month, the University of Austin announced itself to the world as a new experiment in higher education, meant to provide an alternative to the ideological conformity, political correctness, inflated tuition, and low graduation rates that plague American colleges and universities. Among those involved in the project are the former Treasury secretary and Harvard president Larry Summers, the playwright David Mamet, and the Mosaic contributors Bari Weiss, Leon Kass, and Wilfred McClay.

Daniel Gordis, learning of this university-in-the-making, was put in mind of Shalem College—where he has taught and which he has administrated since its founding in 2013. Shalem, of course, is Israel’s sole liberal-arts college, and was likewise established in part as an alternative to an academic landscape where certain left-wing orthodoxies predominated. But he sees Israel’s higher-education woes as very different from America’s:

It was the fall of 2014, shortly after a horrific summer of war with Hamas. . . . I sat in on a class that all first-year students take, in which they read Homer’s epic war story, the Iliad. . . . Seated in a large square around the seminar table, the texts open in front of them, one of the students suddenly spoke, saying to no one in particular: “You know, the average Greek reader had to know that this was a totally stylized account of war,” and then he paused. “Because war is nothing like this.”

That summer, some of the students had had classes. Hardly any men showed up—many had been called up. And the women who did come to class arrived bleary-eyed, spent. They’d waited up all night to hear from a husband, a fiancé, a boyfriend, a brother.

Students in Israel do not report professors for saying things that make them uncomfortable or that “trigger” them (a word no one uses in Israel). That is not to say that no professor at any Israeli university and college ever crosses the line of what I might personally find in good taste, but it is to say that students who go to war don’t go looking for micro-aggressions. They have real aggressions to deal with. Nor do students in Israel protest the appearance of lecturers who have views of which they do not approve.

Why has the campus anti-intellectual anger and intolerance that [the University of Austin’s founding president] describes not come to Israel? I’m not entirely certain. When our students read about what’s happening in the U.S., they’re more dismissive than anything else. I can no longer count how many students have said, in almost identical words, once they read about the culture of American campuses, “They don’t have anything that they’ve committed their lives to that they think is worth fighting for, so they have to create something.”

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Read more at Israel from the Inside

More about: Academia, David Mamet, Shalem College

 

The Significance of Mahmoud Abbas’s Holocaust Denial

Aug. 19 2022

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, during an official visit to Berlin, gave a joint press conference with the German chancellor Olaf Scholz, where he was asked by a journalist if he would apologize for the murder of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics. (The relationship between the group that carried out the massacre and Abbas’s Fatah party remains murky.) Abbas instead responded by ranting about the “50 Holocausts” perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians. Stephen Pollard comments:

Scholz’s response to that? He shook Abbas’s hand and ended the press conference.

Reading yet another column pointing out that Scholz is a dunderhead isn’t, I grant you, the most useful of ways to spend an August afternoon, so let’s leave the German chancellor there, save to say that he eventually issued a statement hours later, after an eruption of fury from his fellow countrymen, saying that “I am disgusted by the outrageous remarks made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. For us Germans in particular, any trivialization of the singularity of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable. I condemn any attempt to deny the crimes of the Holocaust.” Which only goes to show that late is actually no better than never.

The real issue, in Pollard’s view, is the West’s willful blindness about Abbas, who wrote a doctoral thesis at a Soviet university blaming “Zionists” for the Holocaust and claiming that a mere million Jews were killed by the Nazis—notions he has reiterated publicly as recently as 2013.

On Wednesday, [Abbas] “clarified” his remarks in Berlin, saying that “the Holocaust is the most heinous crime in modern human history.” Credulous fools have again ignored what Abbas actually means by that.

It’s time we stopped projecting what we want Abbas to be and focused on what he actually is, using his own words. In a speech in 2018 he informed us that Israel is a “colonialist project that had nothing to do with Judaism”—to such an extent that European Jews chose to stay in their homes and be murdered rather than live in Palestine. Do I have to point out the moral degeneracy of such a proposition? It would seem so, given the persistent refusal of so many to take Abbas for what he actually is.

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Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Anti-Semitism, Germany, Holocaust denial, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority