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Academics Use Propaganda, Not Expertise, to Bash Israel

avatar by Phyllis Chesler

Opinion

The College Avenue campus of Rutgers University in New Jersey. Photo: Tomwsulcer.

Men wearing Palestinian keffiyas have been running around beating up Jews in the streets of America and Europe. Israel was envisioned as the safe haven for persecuted Jews living in exile, and now Jews living in the Diaspora are being attacked because Israel not only exists, but dares to defend itself against Islamist terrorist aggression.

In addition, interfaith do-gooders, feminist academics, and scholars in general are issuing statements of support for “Palestine,” but not for Israel, which has been under the most profound siege.

A group calling itself the Palestinian Feminist Collective launched “A Love Letter to our People in Palestine,” which states that “once again, Palestinians from the far north to the far south of our homeland are defying settler colonialism’s attempts to partition the land and the people….” Buzz words such as “settler violence” and “ethnic cleansing,” are employed and understood as “part of the ongoing Nakba [catastrophe] that has spanned Palestinian time and space since 1948.”

The Collective’s feminism is one in which “gendered violence is core to settler colonial practice. We stand with you (as you) resist this masculinized and militarized colonization.”

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Its language is communist revolutionary, and is a throwback to the West’s romance with Che Guevara, Mao, Stalin, and the American Black Panthers.

Subsequently, academic feminists issued a statement, “In Solidarity With Palestinian Feminist Collective,” which links to non-scholarly boilerplate propaganda, none of which is concerned with the Islamic gender apartheid that afflicts Arab Palestinian women in Gaza and the West Bank. They focus on “evictions in East Jerusalem” without understanding the history, legality, or nature of this dispute.

The statement itself is problematic, but worse, it lists entire departments at dozens of universities. This was done without the knowledge or approval of some, if not many, of the faculty members who work in them.

The gender studies people link to facts about the “humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip,” which fail to acknowledge that Israel left Gaza in 2005. Whatever the situation there may be, it is due to Hamas’ greed, corruption, and terrorist goals.

Dear God: How is it possible to claim that “Palestine is a feminist issue,” which they do, without even mentioning forced child marriage, forced veiling, and honor killing — which are indigenous customs, not caused by the alleged Israeli occupation?

Under Hamas’ theocratic reign, women in Gaza cannot travel without consent from a male guardian. Days before Hamas started the latest war, a female reporter in Gaza was beaten for daring to be outside with her head uncovered. Gaza is among the world’s most dangerous places for gays and lesbians.

The gender studies and feminist academics have not had much to say about these issues.

How is it possible for academic feminists to be more concerned with the so-called occupation and colonization of a country that has never existed than with the occupation of real women’s bodies in that very region?

Those who care so much about trigger warnings and micro-aggressions seem not to care about the trauma of having to get to a bomb shelter within 15 seconds or in no more than a minute in Israel; the trauma of having to live and sleep in a bomb shelter; the trauma of rockets overhead. This is Israel’s reality — and only became reality for Gazans after Hamas attacked Israel in 2006, 2009, 2012, 2014, 2019, and in 2021.

These feminist professors have not signed their individual names because their entire departments have signed on to this statement. This includes: Amherst, Barnard, nine California universities, Georgetown, Georgia State, Rutgers, Stanford, University of Hawaii, Washington State, Yale, as well as nine Canadian universities — McMaster University, Mount Royal University, Queens University, Saint Mary’s University, St. Francis Xavier University, University of British Columbia, University of Regina, University of Waterloo, and York University.

I randomly sampled the publications of one professor at each of 10 gender, women’s studies, and sexuality departments. Their specialties include the study of testosterone, and the “reciprocal relations between science and the social hierarchies of gender, sexuality and race”; transnational feminist and Caribbean Studies, the Black Radical Tradition, and Guyana; Queer Kinship in Taiwan; race and technology, white supremacy and racial liberalism; Queer, Race, and Queers of Color; obesity, IVF failures, and endurance sports such as marathon swimming; Feminist Performance, Cultural Criticism, Theories of Race; Sexuality, psychoanalytic, postcolonial, queer and trans theories.

Only one professor at the University of California, Berkeley Law School has addressed the issue of honor killing — but mainly to attack conservatives and Muslim reformers for misguidedly stigmatizing an entire people for crimes that allegedly also occur in the non-Muslim West.

Perhaps this is what is now considered “feminist” work.

But none of these randomly chosen 10 have an advanced degree in the history and nature of the Middle East, the Arab World, Islam, Judaism, or Israel. None are teaching courses in such areas as experts. They are merely using their expert credentials to support propaganda.

The feminist academics are not alone. Another statement, “Palestine and Praxis: Scholars for Palestinian Freedom,” features 70 pages of signatories with about 45 names on each page. This amounts to approximately 3,150 signatures and counting. These professors teach all over the United States, including at Ivy League schools, Canada, France, Holland, Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, the UK, Australia, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Jordan, South Africa, and Turkey.

“As scholars, we affirm the Palestinian struggle as an indigenous liberation movement confronting a settler colonial state,” the statement says. “Israel is once again conducting a large-scale aerial bombing campaign… Palestinian scholars write under the threat of settler colonial erasure and imposition of exile… it is imperative that we not enact their replacement and erasure within our own scholarship… Scholarship without action normalizes the status quo and reinforces Israel’s impunity…”

What is “praxis?” It means “practice,” or “action.” Do these professors believe that the very use of the word “praxis” constitutes an action of some kind? If so, toward what end? They tell us: “Scholarship without action normalizes the status quo and reinforces Israel’s impunity… scholarship must also be ethical by centering decolonization and raising the voices of Palestinian scholars so that they remain sources of authority and not merely objects of study.”

Thus, the professors call on scholars to commit to BDS — boycott campaigns — and to anti-Israel campus activism and to “pressure” their governments “to end funding Israeli military aggression.”

This statement is, quite simply, a declaration of war on the Jewish state.

Guess what? Only 11 of the first 450 signatories teach in Middle East, Palestine, and Arabic Studies.

Both the feminist academics and the “scholars” are recycling Palestinian Islamist propaganda and trying to pass it off as scholarly opinion. Do not fall for it. What both statements say can be heard on Fridays in the most fundamentalist of mosques throughout the Middle East and among the statements of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

To them, “Palestine” symbolizes the most sacred oppression and the most important indigenous resistance.

When presumed scholars pontificate on issues beyond their expertise , especially on issues as complex as these, it constitutes the death of Enlightenment values and the degradation of independent thought. It is certainly the death of real feminism.

Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at the City University of New York (CUNY), and the author of 20 books, including Women and Madness, and A Family Conspiracy: Honor Killings. She is a Senior IPT Fellow, and a Fellow at MEF and ISGAP.

A version of this article was originally published by the Investigative Project on Terrorism. 

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