After spending an amazing weekend with the students of Mehrene Larudee and Norman Finkelstein one can see the chilling effects that their respective tenure denials has not only on academic freedom and academia in general, but on students specifically. Of course there are small things like the canceling of students’ classes and the loss of mentors. Those active on the campaign to support their beloved professors have been threatened with expulsion. But it is also the ways in which students become exposed to the remaining faculty members’ silence about Larudee and Finkelstein as well as speaking out on behalf of academic freedom more generally. In any case, the students are brilliant, insightful and really very organized and committed not only to academic freedom, but to Palestine as well, and justice in general. I was so impressed.
First, I must say that it’s a bit startling to walk onto campus and as you enter the student union building where the conference was held you see a statue (picture above) that says, “What are you doing for justice?” An ironic greeting given the reason for this conference in the first place. The students organized the conference as a part of their continued efforts to overturn the decision on Larudee and to raise awareness about what happened with Finkelstein as well and academic freedom more generally. Of course, the very thought of having such a conference is threatening to some people as members of the Zionist police were on it as soon as they got word. The idea with this conference, I hope, will be that it will energize the students into more concrete action now. The students did such an amazing job with the conference. The line up featured Juan Cole, Sara Roy, Peter Kirstein, Joel Kovel, and Bill Ayers among others. Most of the conference was really interesting and inspiring. But there were also a few key moments that were a bit illuminating, not always in the best ways. There were moments such as when Landrum Bolling, director of Mercy Corps, who is supposed to be a well-traveled, well-versed expert on the Middle East, could not pronounce Hamas and said “humos” instead. Or when he made it clear how unequal his thinking about Palestine and the Jewish colonists by referring to the Jewish terrorists of Irgun as “Jewish activists” and the Palestinian resistance fighters as “terrorists.” Or when he said that “Israel needs Palestinians as laborers in their agricultural fields.” Umm, no, sorry, they need their own land back to do with it whatever they damn well please. They are not some slave labor, migrant farmers here to serve the European masters.
It was at the conclusion of the conference that things really heated up, however. This was when Peter Novick spoke and lambasted Norman Finkelstein for his characterization of Abraham Foxman of the Jewish supremacist organization the Anti-Defamation League (in other words an organization championing the fact that only Jews are oppressed and we must police this and manufacture such cases to support this bulls*&^ cause of the so-called problem with anti-Semitism). Specifically, he likened Finkelstein’s portrayal of Foxman to Don Imus’ portrayal of the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy headed-hos,” a phrase Novick kept repeating as if he just enjoyed stating racist remarks in public without having to own those phrases himself. He was equally harsh on Ward Churchill and made all sorts of false claims about the reality of Churchill’s work and his firing from the University of Colorado. In the end, though, once members of the audience asked questions–particularly the students, Larudee, and those who have defended Churchill’s case extensively, Novick’s true colors came out. He began to shout that Churchill is a “fake scholar” and a “fake Indian,” which was not only deeply racist and offensive, but also outrageously ironic given that he had just made comments about Finkelstein’s ability to critique Foxman. But it seems that racism coming from Jews is okay, it’s just that anti-Semitism must be policed at all costs. Welcome, friends, to the world of Jewish supremacy.
I’m not sure if it’s Joseph Massad who first began using this term, but after speaking with a friend last night it struck me that this must be the context in which we speak about Zionism and apartheid. It’s an ideology that is akin to white supremacy and I think that we need to constantly retool the language we use to try to shake people up and make them aware of what the project of colonialism is under the rubric of Jewish supremacy. I think this absolutely provides a more accurate description of what’s going on in Palestine and out here in the evil empire where Jews seem to be the only people whose suffering matters.