Friday, February 28, 2014

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Force of Exceptionalist Narratives in the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict

The Force of Exceptionalist Narratives in the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict. By Eric Cheyfitz. Audio. Society for the Humanities, Cornell University, February 5, 2014. Vimeo.

Why I Support the Academic Boycott of Israel. By Eric Cheyfitz. The Jewish Daily Forward, December 17, 2013.


On Sunday, the American Studies Association, of which I am a member, voted to support the academic boycott of Israel called for by Palestinian civil society. Included in their announcement of the vote are the statements of 13 scholars in support of the vote, among which I am included. Here is my statement:
I am a Jew with a daughter and three grandchildren who are citizens of Israel. I am a scholar of American Indian and Indigenous studies, who has in published word and action opposed settler colonialism wherever it exists, including of course the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. It is worth noting in this respect that just as the myth of American exceptionalism seeks to erase the genocide and ongoing settler colonialism of Indigenous peoples here in the United States, so the myth of Israeli exceptionalism seeks to erase Israeli colonialism in Palestine and claim original rights to Palestinian lands. It is from these personal and professional positions that I applaud the decision of the NC to support the Academic boycott of Israel, which I support, and urge ASA members to affirm that support with their votes.
I offer the personal information in this statement so that people will know that I have an immediate interest in a just outcome for the Palestinian people, which would also be a just outcome for the state of Israel. Simply put, I want my grandchildren to grow up in a democracy, not in a state that proclaims itself a democracy while denying human rights to a population under its control — a population that has the right to a sovereign state of its own on territory currently under the colonial domination of Israel. We should remember that Palestinians on the West Bank live under Israeli martial law. I also believe that in the long run Israel cannot survive caught in the vice of this political contradiction. And I want Israel to survive.
Professionally, I have my investments as well, to which the statement alludes. As a professor of Native American and Indigenous studies, I am acutely aware of how the agendas of settler colonialism — land grab being the primary one as it is in Palestine — actively decimated the Indigenous population of the United States from an initial estimate of four to five million in 1492 in what would become the lower 48 states to 250,000 by the end of the nineteenth century. While the Native population has been growing since then and since 1924 Native peoples are citizens of the U.S., nevertheless the lasting effects and ongoing forms of settler colonialism are instrumental in making Native peoples the poorest of the poor in the U.S.
American exceptionalism, of which Manifest Destiny is perhaps the best known form (the notion that the U.S. has a God-given democratizing mission in the world), has kept the U.S. and its people from facing its own genocidal history, a necessary step in beginning to move history in a progressive direction.
Israeli exceptionalism — the notion that the Jews are God’s chosen people, whether this is explicitly espoused as it is by certain settler groups on the West Bank, or implicitly followed as it appears to be by Israeli policy in relation to the Palestinians and their land — functions the same way as American exceptionalism, as an alibi for a history that tries to erase the facts on the ground.
There are of course both U.S. and Israeli scholars who acknowledge these facts in their scholarship and offer cogent critiques of the exceptionalist myths that try to erase them. Some of these scholars are no doubt supported by the very Israeli universities that are the object of the boycott, while the institutions themselves remain not only silent about Israeli oppression of the Palestinians but participate in it. But the boycott is not aimed at individual scholars, whatever their beliefs, and thus it does not impact academic freedom, which applies to the rights and responsibilities of individual scholars within institutions — not to institutions themselves.
I support the boycott, then, because these institutions need to be held accountable for their part in the ongoing colonization of Palestine. While diplomatic initiatives continue to fail, the boycott is one way of trying to move Israel toward a history of justice.

Why Talk About Israel With People Who Want It to Disappear? By Liel Leibovitz.

Why Talk About Israel With People Who Want It to Disappear? By Liel Leibovitz. Tablet, February 26, 2014.

Palestinian State of Failure. By William A. Jacobson.

Palestinian State of Failure. By William A. Jacobson. Legal Insurrection, February 25, 2014.

Jonathan Schanzer discusses his book State of Failure with John Batchelor. Audio. Foundation for Defense of Democracies, February 24, 2014. YouTube.

Let’s Give Up on Academic Freedom in Favor of Justice. By Sandra Y. L. Korn.

Let’s give up on academic freedom in favor of justice. By Sandra Y. L. Korn. The Harvard Crimson, February 18, 2014.

Harvard’s Rebel Without a Clue. By Bruce Bawer. FrontPage Magazine, February 21, 2014.

Harvard writer: Free speech threatens liberalism and must be destroyed. By Robby Soave. The Daily Caller, February 23, 2014.

Sandra Korn’s Academic Totalitarianism. By Vic Rosenthal. The Jewish Press, February 21, 2014. Also at

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Educated Mainstream: The Bastion of Western Anti-Semitism. By Evelyn Gordon.

Educated Mainstream: The Bastion of Western Anti-Semitism. By Evelyn Gordon. Commentary, February 25, 2014.

Many in China Can Now Have a Second Child, but Say No. By Dan Levin.

Many in China Can Now Have a Second Child, but Say No. By Dan Levin. New York Times, February 25, 2014.

Vicious and Deceptive Anti-Israel Propaganda Hate Week Starts. By William A. Jacobson.

Vicious and Deceptive anti-Israel Propaganda Hate Weeks starts. By William A. Jacobson. Legal Insurrection, February 23, 2014.

Incoming ASA President plays “homophobia” card on boycott critic. By William A. Jacobson. Legal Insurrection, February 4, 2014.


It’s all part of a pattern for these Propagandists with Ph.D’s.
Whether they are making false accusations that Israel is an “Apartheid State” or accusing Israel of “Ethnic Cleansing,” they use epithets in place of reason, and as a mask for their own hate.

Professor Lisa Duggan and the Academic Boycott of Israel. By Donald Douglas. American Power, February 23, 2014.

American Studies Association President-elect holding “secret” anti-Israel conference at NYU. Israel Matzav, February 23, 2014.

ASA’s president-elect hosting SECRET anti-Israel conference at NYU (Zionists not welcome). Elder of Ziyon, February 23, 2014.

It’s Israel Apartheid Week once again. Let’s counter the vicious smear. Anne’s Opinions, February 25, 2014.

Propagandists with Ph.D’s: Month One of the anti-Israel academic boycott. By William A. Jacobson. Legal Insurrection, January 16, 2014.


The broad spectrum of mainstream Americans — from liberal to conservative — have nothing in common with this radical fringe.

It has been one month since the American Studies Association announced that its membership — or at least the small percentage who bothered to vote — approved an academic boycott of Israel.
We have had great success rallying opposition, but even this first month teaches us some important lessons.
The ASA has peddled the line that it only boycotts Israeli institutions and a select few Israeli academic representatives. As if that were not bad enough.
In truth, the Resolution approving the boycott agrees to the Palestinian demand, born at the anti-Semitic 2001 Durban NGO conference, for a complete academic and cultural boycott of Israel. The non-binding ASA guidelines purporting to scale back the actual ASA Resolution were just window dressing added late in the process to make the boycott seem less pernicious.
Boycotting institutions is boycotting the individuals who work at those institutions — as the emerging boycott of an “Oral History” conference at Hebrew University demonstrates. University presidents — over 200 at this point — were wise to view the boycott as a threat to education and to academic freedom.
The pushback from a wide segment of American civil and political society has been breathtaking for so short a period of time. Beyond expectations.
But don’t become complacent. You really need to understand who is behind this movement.
Researching the numerous articles I have written this past month has been an eye-opener — and that from someone whose eyes were already wide open as to the nature of the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement.  The hatred of Israel among the academic boycotters is beyond anything you can imagine.
The hatred of Israel is visceral, and beyond reason. Everything good about Israel is turned into a negative.
These academics hold “Homonationalism and Pinkwashing” conferences to denounce Israel for making known that it treats its LGBT citizens fairly and humanely, unlike most countries in the world. Yet the Pinkwashing anti-Israel movement is led by LGBT and “Queer” (their word) activists who would be persecuted or worse anywhere in the Middle East other than Israel. You will hear next to nothing from them about how gays in Palestinian controlled areas are abused and flee … to Israel for protection.
There is nothing good that Israel can do in their eyes. The existence of Israel is their problem, not where borders are drawn.
As I have learned more about these academic boycotters, it is obvious that Israel is just the object of a deep-seated anti-Western anger expressed as “anti-Colonial” or “post-Colonial” or solidarity with “indigenous peoples.” Of course, they deny the Jewish people, whose indigenous presence for millennia in the land of Israel is beyond historical doubt, any indigenous status.
Indeed, you can add to “Pinkwashing” other conferences on “Redwashing” — the supposed injustice of Israeli Jews expressing solidarity with other indigenous peoples. [Added – See this article at Indian Country Today taking the ASA boycotters to task, Don’t Mix Indigenous Fight With Palestinian Rights.]
It should not surprise you that two of the Brown University professors (here and here) supporting the shout-down protest against Ray Kelly also were anti-Israel BDS supporters.
The connection between the radical left (I’m not talking about mere “liberals”) and the BDS movement is deep and feeds off each other.   That is why you will often find avowed international socialist groups teaming up with BDS on campuses, along with Islamists.
Just read the excellent Forbes article by Richard Behar about the people on the National Council of ASA, including its incoming President from NYU.  It would be a parody of what some segments of academia have become, except that no parody is needed, just the facts.
Victor Davis Hanson correctly puts it in context:
Nazis and racists used to spearhead Jewish hatred using ancient crackpot defamations that date back to the Jewish diaspora into Europe after the Roman destruction of Judea. But lately, anti-Semitism has become more a left-wing pathology. It is driven by the cheap multicultural trashing of the West. Jewish people here and abroad have become convenient targets for those angry with supposedly undeserved Western success and privilege. 
The academics behind the boycott do not represent all or even a majority of academia.  If anything, the ASA boycott will spur even greater cooperation among American and Israeli academic institutions, both because it makes educational sense and because all well-meaning academics know what is at stake.
Yet how to deal with the ideology of Israeli hatred that has captured the ASA and some university departments in the humanities and social sciences around the country?
The boycotters are crowing about the great ASA victory.  But in fact the ASA victory has revealed that the boycott movement in the U.S. is isolated, unlike in Europe, with few real successes.   It needs to be kept that way; we have avoided the European disease in the past, and we need to as to the BDS movement.
But success is not a given.
These propagandists with Ph.D’s see themselves as just a few retirements away from true departmental power.  And they are not completely wrong.  American civil society was asleep for a generation as parts of the humanities and social sciences were turned into nothing more than outposts for anti-Western political activism, most prominently manifesting itself as anti-Israeli BDS agitation.
Pushing back, as we have this past month, is necessary, although not sufficient.
Among other things, it is important to educate the American public as to who is behind this movement and what they truly represent.  All you have to do is quote them.  Their own words are the most damning evidence.

The broad spectrum of mainstream Americans — from liberal to conservative – have nothing in common with this radical fringe.  Their takeover of the ASA does not change that reality.
In addition to education, it is important too that universities, businesses and municipalities apply their non-discrimination rules and laws to anti-Israel boycott groups, as they would to any other groups.
The University of Texas – Austin would not dream of sponsoring and hosting a conference that excluded academics from Arab universities, yet UT-Austin is sponsoring a conference for an academic boycott group this spring at which Israeli academics would be excluded under the boycott.
Hotels would not dream of hosting a conference that excluded people based on national origin, as that would violate public accommodation and discrimination laws, yet that that will happen at the ASA 2014 conference at the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles next fall if the ASA boycott rules are enforced.
And so on, and so on.
We must insist that ASA and other boycott groups be treated like any other groups engaged in similar conduct — not singled out they way ASA singles out Israel.
All we will ask is that the rules and laws be applied equally to anti-Israel boycott groups.  That is why I filed a challenge to ASA’s tax-exempt status under the law of charities and the facts of the boycott. ASA’s response was to do what it consistently has done, play victim, characterizing it as “legal bullying.”
But there is nothing bullying about equal application of the law.  There is no legal privilege for BDS boycotters.
You will be hearing more about that in the coming months here.
At the same time, reacting to ASA and other boycotters is not the ultimate solution, just the remedy for the current manifestation of the disease.
There is a positive case to be made for Israel, and it needs to be made better and not defensively.  When some members of the Modern Language Association stood tall and defended Israel in person and with facts, it made a difference.
Larger, more organized groups need to engage in vigorous educational efforts to counter the propaganda about “Israel Apartheid” and so on.  You cannot expect university professors to give a balanced presentation on the Middle East.
The propagandists with Ph.D’s have created a false narrative on campuses that needs to be countered based on the facts, which are on our side.
This needs to be a multi-year project.
It is doable and must be done.

NYU Students for Justice in Palestine at New York Protests Against Israel, November 5, 2012. Facebook.

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Political Witch-Hunt in the Name of “Academic Freedom”: In Defense of the American Studies Association. By Alan Wald.

A Political Witch-Hunt in the Name of “Academic Freedom”: In Defense of the American Studies Association. By Alan Wald. Against the Current, March/April 2014. Excerpt at History News Network.

[download pdf when available from Academic Search Complete, FSC]

Boycott supporters plead for Universities to ease pressure on American Studies Association. By William A. Jacobson. Legal Insurrection, February 7, 2014.


This is just more of ASA and the boycotters refusing to accept that American civil society rejects its anti-Israel boycott. Playing victim is just a way of trying to turn the debate around.

American Studies Assoc. tells regional chapters not to communicate with me. By William A. Jacobson. Legal Insurrection, February 24, 2014.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Springtime in Kiev, or Just Another Winter Storm. By Walter Russell Mead.

Springtime in Kiev, or Just Another Winter Storm. By Walter Russell Mead. The American Interest, February 22, 2014.

Five Lessons for Kiev from the Arab Spring. By Juan Cole.

5 Lessons for Kiev from the Arab Spring. By Juan Cole. History News Network, February 23, 2014. Also at Informed Comment.

Yulia Tymoshenko Is Freed as Ukraine Leader Flees. By Andrew Higgins and Andrew E. Kramer. New York Times, February 22, 2014.

A new day in Ukraine: Political uncertainty sweeps divided nation. By Phil Black, Steve Almasy, and Victoria Butenko. CNN, February 23, 2014.

Tymoshenko returns to Kiev after president’s impeachment. Video. Reuters, February 22, 2014. YouTube.

Tymoshenko: “Their blood will not beforgotten.” Video. Reuters, February 22, 2014. YouTube.


The dramatic overthrow of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Saturday, as he fled the presidential palace and it was occupied by extreme nationalists, recalls events in the Middle East in 2011.
The crisis in the Ukraine was provoked last fall when Yanukovych reconsidered earlier moves toward integration with Europe. He is from the east of the country, which has many ethnic Russians and which is economically, culturally and historically deeply entwined with Russia. The offer by Russian President Vladimir Putin of $15 billion in aid helped to make Yanukovych’s mind up.
In my view U.S. aggressiveness in the past twenty-three years is part of the problem here. The U.S. insisted on expanding NATO by absorbing former Warsaw Pact members and humiliating Russia. The rise of Putin is in part a reaction against that humiliation. Russia is reasserting itself as a great power, carving out spheres of influence in the old nineteenth-century way. Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Syria are in those spheres of influence. In the nineteenth century, wars often were caused by one country not respecting another’s proclaimed spheres of influence.
Both liberal and right-wing youth in the west of Ukraine as well as in the southern capital of Kyiv (Kiev) were upset by the turn away from Europe. They hope for Ukraine to become a member of the European Union and entertain hopes that this step would improve their economic prospects. (Given the sad economic state of Spain, Greece and other EU members, including persistent unemployment of a quarter or more of the youth, this conviction is a little difficult to understand). The more extreme nationalists are reacting against what they see as Russian dominance (a mirror image of right-wing Greek politics, which is anti-liberal and anti-EU).
Yanukovych was forced to give up the enhanced powers he had grabbed for himself and to restore the 2004 constitution. Parliament immediately acted with its renewed powers, and impeached Yanukovych. Street politics did the rest.
The country is now in turmoil. Formerly jailed opposition leader Tymoshenko has been freed from a seven-year jail sentence (she ran against Yanukovych in 2010 and when she lost he imprisoned her). She had played a role in the Orange Revolution a decade ago, but has high negatives and some charge she is corrupt. She has announced she will run for president in elections now scheduled for May.
Here are some parallels to the Arab upheavals of 2011 and suggestions for how Ukraine can avoid another failure in transitioning to democracy:
#1. It is good that the Ukraine military has declared neutrality. In Libya and Syria military intervention turned peaceful protests into a civil war. In contrast, in Tunisia, the military declared neutrality, which contributed to that country’s peaceful transition.
#2. Geographical divisions such as those in the Ukraine can be deadly to political progress. The grievances of the easterners in Libya have affected oil production. Likewise, in Yemen some of the post-revolution violence and protests have come from southerners unhappy at northern dominance. Despite their victory on Saturday, the western forces would be wise to seek a compromise with the east rather than simply attempting to dictate to the latter.
#3. The economy is key. People want employment and they want predictable currency rates for imports. Despite the severe economic problems in the European Union and in the U.S., the latter two must step up to help in a serious way or a limping Ukrainian economy could provoke further turmoil. Whereas in Tunisia modest growth was restored in 2012 and 2013, in Egypt a declining pound harmed citizens dependent on imported goods (including food, since Egypt can no longer feed itself). In Tunisia there was a successful transition to new elections. In Egypt, a vast popular movement challenged the elected president and then the military moved against him. Differing economic performance is part of the reason.
#4. Political compromise is necessary. Allies of Yanukovych may wish to run in the May elections. They should be allowed to (I’m assuming that since parliament impeached Yanukovych he won’t be eligible to complete his term or run for a new one.) Tunisia’s elite hammered out and abided by difficult compromises.
#5. Extremists can play spoiler. The Ansar al-Sharia in Libya and other extremist groups have made it difficult for that country to move smoothly toward a new Brazil. The equivalent group in Tunisia, by assassinating two left wing politicians, roiled politics in 2013.
It turns out that it is easier to get rid of a government you don’t like than to actively acquire a government you do like.

The Two Ukraines: Strategic Consequences. By Walid Phares.

The Two Ukraines: Strategic Consequences. By Walid Phares. History News Network, February 22, 2014. Also at

Will Ukraine Break Apart? By Masha Lipman. The New Yorker, February 20, 2014.

Is It Time for Ukraine to Split Up? By Brian Whitmore. NJBR, February 21, 2014.


The world is now experiencing the reality of two Ukraines rising out of this former Soviet Republic. The main overarching question to be considered from the Kremlin to the White House is about the strategic consequences. How will these two entities coexist, who will become their allies, how will this divide affect regional alliances and international politics? Another series of perhaps even more dramatic questions may also arise regarding the distribution of power between these two entities—as it pertains to Moscow’s position, possible intervention and reaction to what it may consider a Western advance into its southern flank. It may be too early for daily observers and political analysts focusing on the tactical considerations to weigh in. There is an endless number of situations that may go awry and clashes to calm down—not to mention the rising tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine, but on the global scale, in a historic perspective, the dice have been irreversibly rolled: the two peoples forming the Ukrainian nation have now separated on the ground after the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych from his presidential palace in Kiev. Two authorities have been declared within the country, one declared by the parliament and the other by eastern local governments in the provinces. After months and weeks of confrontation in Kiev’s downtown, a violent outburst between the demonstrators and the police forces led to a long-brewing explosion. The clashes showed the depth of disagreement, but they did not create it. European mediations and road maps were not expected to succeed since the issue was not about a new election or even about corruption. Such political crises are omnipresent within all countries experiencing transition, but the problem in Ukraine was one on a greater scale.
Historically, from before, during and even after the end of the Cold War, there were two cultural views in the country that became Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Western Ukraine, a land of farmers and Catholics, has been looking toward Europe—where other former Eastern bloc members Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic ended up after the Cold War. Eastern Ukraine, closer to Russia, industrial and mostly Orthodox, has been looking toward Moscow as their historical ally. These were, in fact, two nations contained in one set of borders, a phenomenon experienced by dozens of official nation-states around the world, such as in Czechoslovakia, Georgia, former Yugoslavia and Cyprus. Some of these bi-national states can manage the internal differences as relative successes of institutionalized liberal democracies, such as in Canada and Belgium. Others descend into violence and chaos—as in Syria, Lebanon and Sudan. Czechoslovakia underwent the swiftest separation in the history of the world between its two “peoples.” But Ukraine’s politicians, dismissing the fact that their constituencies were culturally divided, vied for two decades for “all of Ukraine.” Both sides claimed the entire country as part of their universal views. Governments and oppositions succeeded in power, but the deeper issue of identity was never addressed. Each camp accused the other of corruption, un-patriotism and violence, and both sides felt they represented the “true values of the country.” But it was a country of two peoples, a matter Ukrainian politicians and many of their intellectuals refused to admit.
The 2014 urban explosion in Kiev and across the country unleashed the profound realities, rocketing them to the surface. The president represented the “Eastern side” of Ukraine, and the opposition and its bloc in parliament represented the “Western side” of the same country. The deepening clashes in the capital ignited the underlying cultural differences into political action. Within days, the towns and villages along the Polish borders declared their rejection of Kiev’s government. And after the capital fell into the hands of the protesters, backed by their lawmakers, the provinces in the East gathered under one leadership to reject the new government. Ukraine is now two—regardless of how events develop from here.
The geopolitical consequences, hard to discern in the fog of confrontations to come, are nevertheless projectable. The Europe Union will move to link up with and absorb Western Ukraine. It may be slow and gradual, but it will eventually happen. Millions of skilled workers in those provinces are needed by Europe’s economies. Russia will cast its strategic umbrella over Eastern Ukraine and notify the West that any further advance into their core ally will be a crossing of a red line, prompting Moscow’s direct intervention. Western Ukraine will become a partner of European countries, and some will welcome them warmly, such as Poland and the UK.  Others, such as France, will be more cautious partners, fearing Ukraine’s Russian sympathies. Eastern Ukraine will find itself a direct ally of Russia and will insure to the latter greater facilities on the Black Sea. In fact, the core strategic interest Moscow has in Ukraine—with or without President Putin—are the seaports of the Black Sea, the only operational bases for Russia’s southern fleet throughout the year. If these ports fall under Western Ukraine, Russia will consider it as a casus belli, and Russia may move militarily on the ground. If these ports remain under Eastern Ukraine’s Kharkov’s control, the balance of power may be seen as maintained.
The battle for Ukraine could have an impact on many strategic levels in the Middle East and other regions. In Syria, Assad’s regime will lose meaningful Russian logistical support if Crimea goes west. Iran’s Ayatollahs would also feel the impact if Russia emerges weaker from the confrontation. The impact could be felt as far as Venezuela and the Pacific depending on how Ukraine’s domestic strife evolves or resolves. The hope now is that Washington will play smart cards and transform the dividends of the outcome into gains for freedoms around the world. The last few steps in U.S. foreign policy, however, have not been encouraging.

Wikimedia Commons.

The Outdated Business Model of Diversity, Inc. By Victor Davis Hanson.

The Outdated Business Model of Diversity, Inc. By Victor Davis Hanson. National Review Online, February 20, 2014.


In today’s divided society, universities would be wise to stress unity and academic rigor.
Diversity has become corporatized on American campuses, with scores of bureaucrats and administrators accentuating different pedigrees and ancestries. That’s odd, because diversity  no longer means “variety” or “points of difference,” in the way it used to be defined.
Instead, diversity has become an industry synonymous with orthodoxy and intolerance, especially in its homogeneity of political thought.
When campuses sloganeer “celebrate diversity,” that does not mean they encourage all sorts of political views. If it did, faculties and student groups would better reflect the U.S.’s political realities and might fall roughly into two equal groups: liberal and conservative.
Do colleges routinely invite graduation speakers who are skeptical of man-made global warming, and have reservations about present abortion laws, gay marriage, or illegal immigration — if only for the sake of ensuring diverse views?
Nor does diversity mean consistently ensuring that institutions should reflect “what America looks like.”
If it did, all sorts of problems could follow. As we see in the NBA and NFL, for example, many of our institutions do not always reflect the proportional racial and ethnic makeup of America. Do we really want all institutions to weigh diversity rather than merit so that coveted spots reflect the race and gender percentages of American society?
Does anyone care that for decades the diverse state of California’s three most powerful elected officials have been most undiverse? Representative Nancy Pelosi, Senator Barbara Boxer, and Senator Dianne Feinstein are all mature women, quite liberal, very wealthy, married to rich professionals or entrepreneurs, and all once lived within commuting distance of each other in the Bay Area.
Is the University of California, Berkeley, ethnically diverse? If it were, Asian students might have to be turned away, given that the percentage of Asian students at UC Berkeley is about three times as great as the percentage of Asian residents in California’s general population.
Gender disparity is absolutely stunning on American campuses. Women now earn about 61 percent of all associate degrees and 57 percent of all bachelor’s degrees. With such disproportionate gender representation, do we need outreach offices on campus to weigh maleness in admissions? Should college presidents investigate whether the campus has become an insidiously hostile place for men?
Diversity, Inc. is also based on a number of other shaky fundamental assumptions. Race, gender, and politics are supposed to count far more in a diverse society than other key differences. Yet in a multiracial nation in which the president of the United States and almost half the Supreme Court are not white males, class considerations that transcend race and gender often provide greater privilege.
Is the daughter of Hillary Clinton in greater need of affirmative action or diversity initiatives than the children of the Oklahoma diaspora who settled in Bakersfield? So-called “white privilege” might certainly describe the elite networks of insider contacts who promote the scions of Al Gore, Chris Matthews, or Warren Buffett. But how about the son of an unemployed Appalachian coal miner? Not so much.
If ethnic, rather than class, pedigrees provide an edge, how do we ascertain them in today’s melting-pot culture? Does the one-quarter Latino student, the recent arrival from Jamaica, or the fourth-generation Japanese American deserve special consideration as “diverse”? And if so, over whom? The Punjabi American? The Arab American? The gay rich kid? The coal miner’s daughter? Or the generic American who chooses not to broadcast his profile?
Does Diversity, Inc. rely on genetic testing, family documents, general appearance, accented names, trilled pronunciation, or just personal assurance to pass judgment on who should be advantaged in any measurement of diversity?
In such an illiberal, tribally obsessed, and ideologically based value system, it is not hard to see why and how careerists such as Senator Elizabeth Warren and activist Ward Churchill were able to fabricate helpful Native American ancestries.
Diversity came into vogue after affirmative action became unworkable in the 1980s. Given the multiplicity of ethnicities, huge influxes of new immigrants, and a growing rate of intermarriage, it became almost impossible to adjudicate historical grievances and dole out legal remedies. So just creating “diversity” — without much worry over how to define it — avoided the contradictions.
But diversity is not only incoherent; it is ironic. On a zero-sum campus short of resources, the industry of diversity and related “studies” classes that focus on gender or racial differences and grievances crowd out exactly the sort of disciplines that provide the skills — mastery of languages, literature, science, engineering, business, and math — that best prep graduates for a shot at well-compensated careers.
Red/blue state divides have never been more acrimonious. The number of foreign-born citizens is at a record high. The global status of the United States has never been shakier. To meet all these existential challenges, American institutions — the university especially — would be wise to stress unity and academic rigor.
People in the Balkans, Rwanda, and Iraq certainly championed their ethnic differences in lieu of embracing concord and ethnically and religiously blind meritocracy.
Tragically, these are also examples of where the logic of privileging differences, and dividing and judging people by the way they look and what they believe, ultimately ends up.

Yesterday’s Man: An Imagined Dialogue Between Warren Christopher and Hafez al-Assad. By Thomas L. Friedman.

Yesterday’s Man. By Thomas L. Friedman. New York Times, March 19, 1995.

Yesterday’s Man: The Sequel. By Thomas L. Friedman. New York Times, March 22, 1995.

Revised and expanded version in The Lexus and the Olive Tree. By Thomas L. Friedman. New York: Anchor Books, 2000. Pp. 271-275.

Andrew Klavan’s One-State Solution: Give the Middle East to the Jews.

Andrew Klavan’s One-State Solution: Give the Middle East to the Jews. Video. PJ Media, June 2, 2011. YouTube.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Muslims Demand “Right of Return” to Spain.

Muslims Demand “Right of Return” to Spain. By Soeren Kern. Gatestone Institute, February 21, 2014. Also at Real Clear World.

Spain: Sephardic Jews are Welcome Back . . . Maybe. By Soeren Kern. Gatestone Institute, February 12, 2014.

Ukrainian Medic Olesya Zhukovskaya, Who Tweeted After Being Shot, Returns to Twitter to Say “I’m Alive!”

Ukrainian medic Olesya Zhukovskaya, who tweeted after being shot, returns to Twitter to say “I’m alive!” By Adam Taylor. Washington Post, February 21, 2014. Also here.

“I am alive!” - medic injured in Kiev tweets after surviving bullet wound. By Elena Cresci. The Guardian, February 21, 2014.

Olesya Zhukovskaya

Capitalism for the Masses. By David Brooks.

Capitalism for the Masses. By David Brooks. New York Times, February 20, 2014.

“Be Open-Handed Toward Your Brothers”: A Conservative Social-Justice Agenda. By Arthur Brooks. Commentary, February 2014.

Breakfast Before the MOOC. By Thomas L. Friedman.

Breakfast Before the MOOC. By Thomas L. Friedman. New York Times, February 18, 2014.


Beginning March 2, Prof. Hossam Haick, will teach the first ever massive open online course, or MOOC, on nanotechnology in Arabic. What’s more interesting, though, he explained to me the other day over breakfast is some of the curious email he’s received from students registering for his MOOC from all over the Arab world. Their questions include: Are you a real person? Are you really an Arab, or are you an Israeli Jew speaking Arabic, pretending to be an Arab? That’s because Haick is an Israeli Arab from Nazareth and will be teaching this course from his home university, the Technion, Israel’s premier science and technology institute, and the place we were having breakfast was Tel Aviv.
His course is entitled Nanotechnology and Nanosensors and is designed for anyone interested in learning about Haick’s specialty: “novel sensing tools that make use of nanotechnology to screen, detect, and monitor various events in either our personal or professional life.” The course includes 10 classes of 3 to 4 short lecture videos — in Arabic and English — and anyone with an Internet connection can tune in and participate for free in the weekly quizzes, forum activities and do a final project.
If you had any doubts about the hunger for education in the Middle East today, Haick’s MOOC will dispel them. So far, there are about 4,800 registrations for the Arabic version, including students from Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and the West Bank. Iranians are signing up for the English version. Because the registration is through the Coursera MOOC website, some registrants initially don’t realize the course is being taught by an Israeli Arab scientist at the Technion, said Haick, and when they do, some professors and students “unregister.” But most others are sticking with it. (MOOC’s have just started to emerge in the Arab world via Coursera, edX, Edraak, Rwaq, SkillAcademy and MenaVersity — some with original content, much still translated.)
Asked why he thought the course was attracting so much interest in the neighborhood, Haick said: “Because nanotechnology and nanosensors are perceived as futuristic, and people are curious to understand what the future looks like.” And because nanotechnology “is so cross- and multi-disciplinary. ... It offers a large diversity of research opportunities.”
Haick, 38, whose Ph.D. is from the Technion, where his father also graduated, is a science prodigy. He and the Technion already have a start-up together, developing what he calls “an electronic nose” — a sensory array that mimics the way a dog’s nose works to detect what Haick and his team have proved to be unique markers in exhaled breath that reveal different cancers in the body. In between that and teaching chemical engineering, the Technion’s president, Peretz Lavie, suggested that Haick lead the school into the land of MOOCs.
Lavie, Haick explained, “thinks there is a high need to bring science beyond the boundaries between countries. He told me there is something called a ‘MOOC.’ I did not know what is a MOOC. He said it is a course that can be given to thousands of people over the Web. And he asked if I can give the first MOOC from the Technion — in Arabic.”
The Technion is funding the project, which took nine months to prepare, and Haick is donating the lectures. Some 19 percent of the Technion’s students today are Israeli Arabs, up from 9 percent 12 years ago. Haick says he always tells people, “If the Middle East was like the Technion, we would already have peace. In the pure academy, you feel totally equal with every person. And you are appreciated based on your excellence.” He adds without meaning to boast, “I have young people who tell me from the Arab world: ‘You have become our role model. Please let us know the ingredients of how we become like you.’”
I know what some readers are thinking: nice bit of Israeli propaganda, now could you please go back to writing about Israel’s ugly West Bank occupation. No. This story is a useful reminder that Israel is a country, not just a conflict, and, as a country, it’s still a work in progress. It has its lows, like the occupation and economic discrimination against Israeli Arabs, and its highs, like the collaboration between Haick and the Technion, which is providing a tool for those in the Arabic-speaking world eager to grasp the new technologies reshaping the global economy. Those, like members of the B.D.S. — boycott, divestiture, sanctions — movement who treat Israel as if it is only the sum of how it deals with the West Bank and therefore deserves to be delegitimized as a state, would do well to reflect on some of these complexities.
For me, though, Haick’s MOOC is also a reminder of what an utter waste of money and human talent has been the Arab-Israeli conflict. Look how eager all these young Arabs and Persians are for the tools and resources to realize their full potential, wherever they can find that learning. Arab dictators so underestimated their people for so long. That’s what fueled the Arab awakening. It makes you weep for the wasted generations and pray this will be the last of them.