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May 22, 2014 7:36 pm

Message Board Shows Modern Language Association Academics Based Israel Boycott on Anti-Semitic Tropes

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Facebook page of Temple University Professor Alessio Lerro questioning whether 6 million Jews really died in the Holocaust. Photo: Screenshot.

Facebook page of Temple University Professor Alessio Lerro questioning whether 6 million Jews really died in the Holocaust. Photo: Screenshot.

Academics at the Modern Language Association were lambasted on Wednesday in an Op-Ed in The Chronicle of Higher Education after an online message board revealed anti-Semitic tropes used  by proponents to support its anti-Israel boycott resolution.

“There are arguments for and against the resolution. But plenty of Israel haters reveal their antisemitism,” Pro-Israel blogger Elder of Ziyon said on Thursday, when he flagged the article by Ursinus College Politics Professor  Jonathan Marks.

In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Marks said, “Need a break from grading? Head on over here, where someone has posted a partial record of Modern Language Association member comments on Resolution 2014-1, urging the ‘United States Department of State to contest Israel’s denials of entry to the West Bank by United States academics who have been invited to teach, confer, or do research at Palestinian universities.’ It is a spectacle. How often do you get to see scholarly colleagues refer to one another as ‘Zionist attack dogs?'”

In January, the MLA’s Delegate Assembly narrowly passed the controversial resolution at the association’s annual meeting, Marks wrote. In March, the Executive Council moved to send it to the full membership for a vote, which began on April 21 and will close on June 1.

He said the debate over the resolution took place from mid-March to mid-April, at a site open only to MLA members. Marks joked, “Only part of it has been posted at the link above, but the rest I found this morning mysteriously lodged in the jaws of my Labrador retriever, to be known hereafter as my Zionist retrieving dog.”

Alessio Lerro, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at Temple University, who was also found to be questioning on Facebook whether 6 million Jews really died in the Holocaust, wrote on the MLA message board:

“It is time that Zionists are asked to finally account for their support to the illegal occupation of Palestine since 1967. This resolution rightly targets only Israel given the humongous influence that Jewish scholars have in the decision making process of Academia in general.”

Elizabeth Jane Ordóñez, Spanish Professor at Metropolitan University Denver, wrote:

“Does anyone remember Edward Said, our beloved late leader? I think he must be turning in his grave to see how far we have regressed since his tenure! What is stiking [sic] here is not that that Resolution 2014-1 is eliciting debate. Rather, what stands out in bold relief is just how intolerant of debate are its detractors. As on the broader political scene, moves to seek justice and opportunity for Palestinians (or to remove obstacles to achieving those goals) are countered by Zionist attack dogs. When the Zionist lobby railroads its way through Congress, universities, and civil society no request is made for equal time for the other side. Only when a counter voice is raised in this tightly controlled wilderness, do the proponents of Israeli exceptionalismn [sic] cry foul. VOTE YES on this simple proposition seeking to facilitate academic freedom and inquiry in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.”

Others on the message board fought back.

Peter C. Herman, English Professor at San Diego State University, wrote on the board: “Elizabeth Jane Ordóñez’s dismissal of everyone who opposes this resolution as ‘Zionist attack dogs’ is insulting, contemptible, and unacceptable.”

Elder of Ziyon said, “Jonathan Marks makes an excellent point: The anti-Semitic tropes in these statements are not subtle. But even if they were, I wonder why the academic left, which is usually so attuned to the subtlety of racism and sexism, puts up such a high bar for anti-Semitism. Suddenly ‘But I said Zionist, not Jew’; or ‘I’m a Jew, so I can’t possibly be in league with haters of Jews’; or ‘Yes, I’m focusing on the Jewish state and no other state, but so what?’; or ‘Sure, I’m echoing standard anti-Semitic tropes, but they’re really applicable here’ are incontrovertible arguments, and it becomes bad form to suggest that anti-Semitism is at work unless someone is screaming anti-Semitic slogans.”

Marks, author of ‘Perfection and Disharmony in the Thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau,’ has also contributed Op-Eds to The Chronicle of Higher Education about the American Studies Association vote to boycott Israeli universities, asking, tongue-in-cheek, if they knew their association had been hacked, and in Inside Higher Ed,  where he questioned the validity of a unanimous boycott vote by the Asian-American Studies Association, when it was publicly known that many of its members opposed the measure.

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