Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mark Arkovitz: "Complex Thought and the Middle East"

Joseph Massad is up for tenure at Columbia. This piece explains why he shouldn't get it:
About 2 months ago I attended a "round table discussion" about the Middle East and the State of the academy where our president, Lee Bollinger was a participant. During the discussion President Bollinger essentially stated that he thought universities should be a place for "complex" thought and discussion. I couldn't agree with him more. Unfortunately, the sad reality is the "discussion" about the Middle East at our University, and many others like it, is anything but complex.

I am a member of the faculty of medicine and make no claims to expertise on academic freedom of speech or the Middle East . However, as a natural scientist it has become obvious to me that the two critical components missing from this discussion are data and debate. For example, over a year ago I attended a conference sponsored by Qanun, the Middle East law students association. Two prominent members of our faculty, Rashid Khalidi and Joseph Massad, spoke in addition to Haifa University faculty member Ilan Pape. Khalidi started by stating that Israel "systemically prevents the growth of the Palestinian population." It took less than 3 minutes on the Internet to sort that one out. According to the United Nations, the Palestinians have one of the highest fertility rates of any country in the world.1 So, evidently Israel isn't actually "preventing" the growth of the Palestinians or they aren't doing a very good job of it.

Perhaps the most repugnant speaker was Ilan Pappe who equated Israel's treatment of the Palestinians with genocide. He of course offered no facts as to why this is or how exactly Israel's behavior met the definition of genocide set forth by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948.

Next up was Joseph Massad, who has already made a name for himself by his behavior, or lack thereof, towards students who disagree with his views on Israel. In less than 20 minutes Massad managed to call Israel a "racist apartheid" state more than 30 times (averaging once every 45 seconds or so). In fact, he didn't actually say anything else. He gave no data for this premise and offered no rhyme or reason why he thought this way or why anyone in the audience should believe him or agree with him. He was, of course, met with huge cheers and ovations by the mostly student audience. As someone, perhaps the only one in the audience, who actually worked in a black hospital in Soweto, South Africa during apartheid, I wondered if anyone in attendance actually knew the definition of "apartheid." [...]
Read the rest. (Hat Tip: Martin Kramer)

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