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Academic Turf War? Blame ‘Zionists’


This is a follow-up to “Anti-Zionist Conspiracy Theories at Fresno State,” posted in June. The following is excerpted from a recent piece in The Forward (“How A Turf War At Fresno State Turned Into An Anti-Zionist Witch Hunt“) by Third Narrative participant, Steven Lubet, a professor at the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law:  

Shortly after Jewish Voice for Peace got word of “a truly terrible case of the suppression of Palestinian scholarship,” the coordinator of its Academic Advisory Council fired off an urgent dispatch to scholars around the world. As a prominent organizational supporter of the BDS movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel, JVP sounded the alarm that “Pro-Israel advocacy groups” had torpedoed the search for the Edward Said Professorship of Middle East Studies at Fresno State University because all four finalists for the position had focused their research on Palestine. Something had to be done.

JVP quickly gathered over 500 signatories to an open letter demanding the reinstatement of the search. Because the Fresno State administration had acceded to “pressures from Israel advocacy groups” with “discriminatory agendas,” the JVP letter also called on the university to “apologize to the Middle Eastern (sic) Studies Program” and state its “commitment to upholding academic freedom.” It was a compelling cause that was joined by academics from across the U.S. and 21 foreign countries — including such well known figures as Judith Butler, Robin Kelley, and Richard Falk — but there was just one problem. None of it was true. There had been no outside pressure, and claims of discrimination were just a new version of an old conspiracy theory, in which “Zionists” get the blame for anything that goes wrong.  . . .

The whole affair was nothing more than a rather mundane episode of internecine faculty politics, which would have been readily discoverable under California’s Open Records Act if anyone had wanted to seek it out. But evidence, much less counter-evidence, was evidently not on the agenda when there were Zionist misdeeds to expose.  . . .

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