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November 5, 2019 7:59 am

Sut Jhally Is Not the Victim

avatar by Dexter Van Zile

Opinion

The campus of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Photo: UMass Amherst.

It’s kind of pathetic when a privileged college professor — who has been allowed to organize two anti-Israel rallies at a state’s “flagship” university — complains of being censored and silenced by people who disagree with him and have done an effective job of pointing out factual misstatements in his attacks on Israel.

But that’s exactly what Sut Jhally, chairman of the communications department at UMass Amherst, has done. In a recent email to Mondoweiss, an anti-Zionist website, Jhally complained about the efforts of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) to hold him accountable for his incessant and counter-factual propagandizing against Israel.

In the statement published on November 1, 2019, Jhally complains that he has been “a long-standing target of CAMERA mostly as a result of the films I have been involved in.” He then states: “They have filed formal complaints to the university and have written long exposes about my ‘shameless propaganda.’” Jhally explains, “When I say ‘they,’ it is actually one sorry individual, Dexter van Zile, who has written every piece and filed every complaint.”

Jhally, who has admitted publicly that he views college classrooms as a good place to promote his anti-Israel propaganda because they provide a “captive audience” of students who can be forcibly exposed to his films and then tested on them afterwards, wrote this statement after UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy condemned the BDS movement on October 21.

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Subbaswamy said he would not interfere with an anti-Israel event organized by Jhally scheduled to take place on November 12, but lamented that such a one-sided event was scheduled. Jhally organized a similar event at UMass Amherst in May 2019.

“It is troubling that such a one-dimensional, polarizing event should take place on our campus,” Subbaswamy said.

This statement represented a capitulation in the effort to protect the “intellectual independence” of UMass Amherst, Jhally declared, adding that “CAMERA’s aim is to chill the environment for any discussion of Palestinian human rights.” In a quote to a local newspaper, Jhally declared, “You have one pro-Palestinian event … and all hell breaks loose.”

This is exactly the type of complaining we should expect from a college professor who has been propagandizing against Israel with no meaningful challenge for years.

In reality, no one is trying to silence or chill Jhally’s speech.

It’s just that people from outside the school are doing what his fellow professors at UMass Amherst have failed to do — hold Jhally accountable for distorting the historical record in the anti-Israel films he has produced, and for using the classroom to indoctrinate students.

The fact that Jhally sees this as censorship reveals just how much of a bubble he has been teaching and working in over the course of his career at UMass Amherst. The whole episode demonstrates the terrible impact that a lack of viewpoint diversity has in higher education.

Jhally is just another poster child for everything that is wrong with the humanities at colleges and universities in the United States. He uses his privilege, authority, and the echo chamber UMass has provided him to promote the ideology of Occidentalism, or hatred of the West, with Israel and the United States being his main targets.

And when Jhally is finally subjected to meaningful pushback after years of anti-Israel agitation … all hell breaks loose.

Sut Jhally is not the victim here. UMass students, their families, and taxpayers who are forced to cover the costs of Jhally’s echo chamber at the state’s “flagship” university are the real victims.

Dexter Van Zile is the Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA).

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