The Middle East Studies Association Imagines Its Future

The large room at the Marriott Wardman Park was filled to overflowing on Sunday afternoon for a special session billed as “Thinking Palestine Intersectionally.” The seats were occupied and scores of others stood along the walls, sat on the floor in front of the stage, and spilled out into the hallway. For many it was clearly the highlight of The Middle East Studies Association’s November 2017 annual meeting of faculty and graduate students, held in Washington, DC. Perhaps 500 people were present to hear Noura Erakat, Judith Butler, Samera Esmeir, and Angela Davis be hailed as symbolic conquerors of the Jewish state. “The peace process is over,” Erakat began, and then affirmed “the entwinement of our liberation,” offering her own take on intersectionality. The real reason the United States blocked the “Zionism is racism” framework, she declared was “to prevent itself from having to pay reparations for slavery,” a claim that would have surprised the very people who fought against the 1975 UN resolution. The days of progressive advocacy “except for Palestine are over,” she concluded. It is time “to bar supporters of Israel from feminist movements.” Even this last agenda item, a call to cast out the female devils in our midst, met with loud applause.

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Conspiracy “Anti-Zionism”: The Current Face of Judeophobia: Ideological Aspects of the Greek Case

The recent tripartite summit held in Thessaloniki in mid-June 2017 between the Greek and Israeli Prime Ministers and the Cypriot President to discuss energy- and security-related issues of the Eastern Mediterranean region, gave rise, again, to protests and strong reactions from the so-called political extremes against the visit of the Israeli Prime Minister to Greece. Within the context of the summit, the Greek and Israeli Prime Ministers also attended the official ceremony of unveiling a commemorative plaque for the planned Holocaust Museum in the city of Thessaloniki.

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Academic Freedom in Palestinian Universities

Debates about the status of academic freedom in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank have for years focused almost exclusively on claims about the negative impact particular Israeli government and Israeli Defense Force (IDF) policies and practices have had on Palestinian students and faculty. Largely ignored, especially as the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) levels accusations against Israel and promotes boycott and divestment resolutions directed against the Jewish state, has been the broader character of academic freedom on Palestinian campuses. Indeed there is little evidence that most students and faculty in the West know what the major threats to academic freedom in Gaza and the West Bank are, let alone who is responsible for carrying them out.

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Matthias Küntzel on Germany, Iran, and Antisemitism

Writing at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs website, Joseph S. Spoerl reviews Matthias Küntzel’s Germany and Iran: From the Aryan Axis to the Nuclear Threshold, published by Telos Press Publishing. “Küntzel’s book,” writes Spoerl, “demonstrates a deeply disturbing truth, namely, that if Iran should acquire nuclear weapons and use them to commit a second Holocaust against the six million Jews of Israel, then Germany—the nation that committed the first Holocaust—will have played a central role in paving the way for the Iranian perpetrators.”

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Academic Boycotts and Professional Responsibility

I was invited to speak on this panel, having been reassured that it would be devoted to academic boycotts in general, but I cannot say that I was surprised to discover that half of the titles here advocate one and only one boycott target. I will therefore make some remarks concerning academic boycotts in general, to which I object on principle, but also comment on the campaign against Israeli universities in particular. I expect that we will hear boycott proponents denounce the apartheid character of Israeli society or policies of genocide and other such mythologies that the boycott movement has disseminated and which the APA may eventually be asked to endorse. But let’s leave the propaganda for the discussion section.

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Some Remarks on Judith Butler and Emmanuel Levinas

The reader may recall observations made in 2013 by Professor Bruno Chaouat of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities regarding the strange quotation, or misquotation, of Emmanuel Levinas by Judith Butler. In one of her recent books, Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism, Butler quotes Levinas as having said that Palestinians are “faceless.” Such a statement was obviously pure invention on her part and in no way figures in the text she claims it comes from: “Israël, éthique et politique.” Many of her epigones jumped to her defense, hardly allowing a serious debate on methods and ethics of scholarship.

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