New Salvos in BDS Wars

Two colleagues at The Third Narrative, Steven Lubet and Cary Nelson, are front and center in fresh campus skirmishes over the defamation of Israel. Lubet, a professor of law at Northwestern University, opines at the “Academe Blog” on “Why It Is Wrong to Harangue a Captive Audience at Graduation.” As he tells it, this is what prompted his piece:

. . .  Even political figures avoid controversy during their twenty minutes of podium time, recognizing that the assembled guests are of many minds and persuasions, and no one has come other than to celebrate the conclusion of studies and commencement of the next chapter in life. That is why Steven Thrasher, a newly minted PhD, drew both gasps and a smattering of applause when he used his graduation address at New York University to endorse marching against “that Fascist in the White House” and to praise the anti-Israel boycott movement:

“I am so proud, so proud of NYU’s chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voices for Peace and of [Graduate Student Organizing Committee] and of the NYU student government and of my colleagues in the department of social and cultural analysis for supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the apartheid state government in Israel.”

Thrasher’s closing call for affirmation – “Am I right?” – was met with near silence. . . .

Dr. Thrasher will be joining the faculty at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. The arguments to which Prof. Lubet responds in the negative is whether the commencement speaker should be supported for exercising his right to free speech and whether the criticisms of Thrasher’s behavior from NYU’s president and the dean of its Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, in addition to the president and provost of Northwestern University, threaten academic freedom.  

Another TTN colleague, Prof. Cary Nelson of the University of Illinois, has just published Israel Denial: Anti-Zionism, Anti-Semitism, & the Faculty Campaign Against the Jewish State (Indiana University Press). It is an extensive analysis of the boycott movement (generally known as BDS) and related efforts that promote one-sided views of the Israeli-Palestinian/Arab conflict, especially in the world of academia, and tend to demonize Israel and its people. (An online preview of the book can be read by clicking here.) 

The first review was published on June 5th, in Tablet: “THE BIG LIE And the toxic BDS professors who tell it.”