Three Decades of University Cancel Culture and the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Sept. 7 2022

In 1989, Donna Robinson Divine found herself being interrogated by a diversity officer at Smith College—then a brand-new position—for asking a final-exam question about the role of Islam in Middle Eastern politics and, as Robinson puts it, “mentioning slavery in the Muslim world without comparing it (favorably) to the system in America.” At the time, Divine, as a tenured professor, was able to avoid punishment, but since then she has witnessed academic freedom narrowed, while the scope of what ideas are deemed offensive grows ever wider. She observes the key place discussions of the Israel-Palestinians conflict have played in this trend:

Social justice came to the campus wrapped around a proclaimed sensitivity to the downtrodden and oppressed, sufferings supposedly wrought by the twin evils of colonialism and racism. Masquerading as a moral imperative, social-justice activism aimed to convert the curriculum into an instrument to erase evil and pain wherever they were located. And when found nearby—for example, if speech in the classroom “triggered” trauma or discomfort—it had to be regulated. No longer were nuanced conversations or the exchange of diverse views and engagement with different ideas the point of education. Rather it was the mobilization of feelings—and that necessarily placed limits on reasoning and thinking.

On many campuses, the fault line dividing the old oppressive order from the new progressive world quickly began to run decisively and deeply through Palestine. Coiled around a narrative of catastrophic defeat (nakba) Palestinians became the enduring image of the victim, and in the social-justice lexicon, an open wound and unfinished history. [The war of] 1948 came to be understood less in terms of its military outcome than as a first cause of suffering, a dislocation stalking politics in Arab lands while stamping Palestinian identity indelibly by its national trauma as a symbol of displacement, alienation, and indignity.

Palestinians became caught in the crossfire of conflicting imperatives, and none more discordant from the need to build state institutions than the need for the passion to remain a cause. For the idea of Palestine as a territory for two states for two peoples threatened to dissolve the very notion of Palestinian identity.

Echoes of pain and loss carried the Palestinian narrative across oceans and continents drawing false analogies between disparate groups or movements or histories that expanded alliances but did nothing to deepen understanding of what caused their suffering and dislocation. An acrobatic logic interweaving fact and fiction and spinning elaborate metaphors falsely fashioned linkages between people, politics, and history with nothing in common except their calls for a reckoning with the powers presumably denying them justice.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Academia, Israel on campus, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Political correctness

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism