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Alleged Anti-Semitic Incident at UC Santa Barbara:

L.A. Times:

Controversy has erupted at UC Santa Barbara over a professor's decision to send his students an e-mail in which he compared graphic images of Jews in the Holocaust to pictures of Palestinians caught up in Israel's recent Gaza offensive.

The e-mail by tenured sociology professor William I. Robinson has triggered a campus investigation and drawn accusations of anti-Semitism from two national Jewish groups, even as many students and faculty members have voiced support for him.

The uproar began in January when Robinson sent his message — titled "parallel images of Nazis and Israelis" — to the 80 students in his sociology of globalization class.

The e-mail contained more than two dozen photographs of Jewish victims of the Nazis, including those of dead children, juxtaposed with nearly identical images from the Gaza Strip. It also included an article critical of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and a note from Robinson.

"Gaza is Israel's Warsaw — a vast concentration camp that confined and blockaded Palestinians," the professor wrote. "We are witness to a slow-motion process of genocide."

Two Jewish students dropped the class, saying they felt intimidated by the professor's message. They contacted the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which advised them to file formal complaints with the university.

In their letters, senior Rebecca Joseph and junior Tova Hausman accused Robinson of violating the campus' faculty code of conduct by disseminating personal, political material unrelated to his course.

Various national Jewish groups have gotten involved to condemn Robinson's alleged anti-Semitism.

Here's my take.

First, in the absence of further context, this is not an anti-Semitic incident. As I've written before, it is inherently ignorant and appalling to claim that Israel is Nazi-like in its treatment of Palestinians, but while anti-Semites can be condemned as appalling ignoramuses, not all appalling ignoramuses are anti-Semites. It's clear from his website and writings that Robinson is prone to similarly puerile views on other issues.

Second, the Jewish organizations that suggested that Joseph and Hausman file a complaint against Robinson are teaching Jewish students to be victims. ["I just want to bring awareness," said Hausman, 20. "I want people to know that educators shouldn't be sending out something that is so disturbing." Bleh!]

What the students should have done is stay in the class and challenge Robinson. It would not be very difficult to send a return email showing how appallingly ignorant it is to compare Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto, or to provide their classmates with some context to explain Israel's position on the war in Gaza. Even if the students were afraid this would affect their grade, surely they could have done this before dropping the class. If, as Robinson claims, "the whole nature of academic freedom is to introduce students to controversial material, to provoke students to think and make students uncomfortable," surely he would have welcomed a scholarly response from his students. If he didn't, then the students would have a much better case that he was engaging in indoctrination. (And it's not at all clear that he would, given that his website states that he is a "scholar-activist" who attempts "to link my academic work to struggles in the United States, in the Americas, and around the world for social justice, popular empowerment, participatory democracy, and people-centered development." Sure sounds like he is more interested in promoting his political views that in promoting critical thinking.)

Third, and contrary to Robinson's protestations, this is not an issue of academic freedom. The email that Robinson sent seems to have nothing to do with the class at issue, the Sociology of Globalization, the syllabus for which can be found here. Thus, the underlying legal/ethical issue is not one of academic freedom, but of whether a professor has the right to regale a captive audience of students with his political views on issues that are at best remotely related to class. There is obviously no such right. Nevertheless, in general, I don't think this should be punished by a university, in part because it would create all sorts of complex line-drawing problems. But if there indeed is a code of conduct at the university prohibiting the professor from disseminating unrelated political material to his students, and Robinson is being investigated, or even gets punished for doing so, I don't see why this would be a violation of academic freedom. Academic freedom does not mean that a professor gets to say whatever he wants, in whatever context he wants!

Fourth, there is a clear double standard at universities regarding material that makes Jewish students uncomfortable and that makes other minority students uncomfortable. Imagine, for example, that Prof. Robinson had sent out (a) a link to the Geert Wilders film criticizing Islam, along with a personal note stating that he thinks that Islam is the greatest threat to world peace and stability; (b) an article about homosexual sexual practices, criticizing them for spreading disease globally, along with a note that he personally finds such practices abhorrent; or (c) and perhaps most analogous, an article about crime in South Africa, juxtaposing images of white crime victims in South Africa with images of lynching victims in the American South, with a personal note that he thinks that the apartheid regime was better than the current South African regime. And let's assumed that Muslim, gay, or black students similarly complained about Robinson's abuse of his authority. How many of Robinson' current defenders of his "academic freedom" would publicly defend him in those circumstances? I'd venture to say, virtually none. And it's more than a little ironic that many of those who are the first to defend any professor accused of anti-Semitism with regard to Israel are among those who, along with their ideological compatriots, created and supported the culture of political correctness and "sensitivity" that pro-Israel activists are taking advantage of.

UPDATE: "California Scholars for Academic Freedom", a leftist group defending Prof. Robinson, claims that Prof. Robinson's email was protected by academic freedom because "the information that Prof. Robinson sent was certainly relevant for a course on global issues." This is quite dishonest. The course was not one on "global issues," which implies that it was about current international controversies. It was a course on the Sociology of Globalization. The email was neither about sociology, nor globalization, nor any topic covered in the syllabus, but a completely extraneous political commentary by the professor on a topic he felt strongly about, but had nothing to do with his class. I'd be happy to post a better defense, if one exists, of the idea that this is an academic freedom issue, if someone from CSAF would like to send one.

FURTHER UPDATE: As for the rather hasty charge of anti-Semitism, while it's unfortunate, it's hard to feel that much sympathy for the kind of person who in 2006 in effect accused everyone who opposes illegal immigration of racism. Given that Robinson is so quick to level such exaggerated charges about racism, his being accused of anti-Semitism may be both unjust and poetic justice at the same time.

MysteryCommenter:
"struggles in the United States, in the Americas, and around the world for social justice, popular empowerment, participatory democracy, and people-centered development."

I love the way progressives speak. What a mouthful to say so little. If shocking photo juxtapositions can make your non-points for you...
5.1.2009 9:07am
Oren:

First, in the absence of further context, this is not an anti-Semitic incident. As I've written before, it is inherently ignorant and appalling to claim that Israel is Nazi-like in its treatment of Palestinians, but while anti-Semites can be condemned as appalling ignoramuses, not all appalling ignoramuses are anti-Semites.

Thank god.

Injection accusations of anti-semitism are about as productive as most accusations of improper motive. His views are quite stupid enough to fall on their own grounds, irrespective of why he made them.
5.1.2009 9:18am
Anonymouse Troll:

"Gaza is Israel's Warsaw — a vast concentration camp that confined and blockaded Palestinians," the professor wrote. "We are witness to a slow-motion process of genocide."

I've long wondered why all the ghetto Jews didn't cross the national border at one end of the ghetto into the adjacent Jewish state and appeal to the many very wealthy Jewish-controlled governments in the region to help out.
5.1.2009 9:19am
wfjag:
What an appropriate story for the L.A. Times to publish on Führerstodestag. Too bad the LAT missed the opportunity to publish side by side photos of the der Führer's bunker and Hamas bunkers.
5.1.2009 9:26am
PersonFromPorlock:
My reaction was pretty much like yours: arrant Political Correctness, not anti-Semitism.

Incidentally, I first read "similarly puerile views" as "similarly purple views." O happy misperception!
5.1.2009 9:29am
Grigor:
The last line should read "anti-Israel activists," no?
5.1.2009 9:37am
DavidBernstein (mail):
No, anti. There is a movement in pro-Israel circles to make harsh anti-Israel sentiment forbidden on campuses as the equivalent of other "isms." I'm against this, but if activists for other causes can suppress discussions of things they don't like on the grounds that it offends them (remember Larry Summers?), it's not at all clear why pro-Israel activists should be the free speech martyrs who refuse to engage in similar behavior.
5.1.2009 9:40am
DavidBernstein (mail):
I meant "no, not anti".
5.1.2009 9:40am
Guest12345678321:
Comparing a modern country to a former country, albeit an evil one, is not equivalent to the other examples you used. Not even close. You do not have to hate Jews to disagree with the Israeli government's killing of Palestians in Gaza.

"Gaza is Israel's Warsaw — a vast concentration camp that confined and blockaded Palestinians," the professor wrote. "We are witness to a slow-motion process of genocide." <---many highly educated people agree with this somewhat, even though he may overstate this for shock value.
5.1.2009 9:42am
DavidBernstein (mail):
On the other hand, it's also true that campus anti-Israel activists have tried to get away with misbehavior on the p.c. grounds that THEY are defending the oppressed minority, Palestinian Muslims.
5.1.2009 9:43am
DavidBernstein (mail):
"Gaza is Israel's Warsaw — a vast concentration camp that confined and blockaded Palestinians," the professor wrote. "We are witness to a slow-motion process of genocide." many highly educated people agree with this somewhat, even though he may overstate this for shock value.



If many highly educated people agree with this, it just is further evidence that education and wisdom are two different things. Wouldn't anything remotely approaching genocide, just for example, actually require that Palestinian population be DECREASING? According to Wikipedia, the estimated Birth rate was 39.45 births/1,000 population in 2006, and the estimated Mortality rate 3.8 deaths/1,000 population.

And if you'd care to enlighten me as to why the South African analogy isn't even close, I'm all ears. Contrary to what you suggest, it's not, for example, inherently contradictory to not hate blacks and still prefer the apartheid regime to the current regime, just like it's not inherently contradictory to not hate Jews but think that the Israelis act like Nazis.
5.1.2009 9:52am
DG:
{"Gaza is Israel's Warsaw — a vast concentration camp that confined and blockaded Palestinians," the professor wrote. "We are witness to a slow-motion process of genocide." <---many highly educated people agree with this somewhat, even though he may overstate this for shock value.}

This shows a serious lack of intellectual vigor and/or the need to read some history books. It also shows a complete lack of understanding of the term "genocide". In fact, the comparison seems aimed at doing two things - acheiving a sort of progressive political thought nirvana, while at the same time providing maximum offensiveness to those seen as oppressors, without having any true factual value. From that sort of post-modernist point-of-view, its highly effective. Its just not true.
5.1.2009 9:55am
sbron:
Prof. Robinson has now gotten more press coverage than all five or so of UC Santa Barbara's Nobel Laureates combined. He knew that the Gaza/Warsaw comparison is ludicrous and would get the most reaction and that's why he made it. His other comparisons in the immigration debate, such as the Minutemen equalling the KKK are designed to be equally offensive. Robinson is just a follower of current fads on the far left who hates anything white/bourgeois/western/zionist. To him, poorly educated, angry illegal immigrants and Palestinian terrorists are the perfect proletariat.
5.1.2009 9:56am
Ken Arromdee:
As I've written before, it is inherently ignorant and appalling to claim that Israel is Nazi-like in its treatment of Palestinians, but while anti-Semites can be condemned as appalling ignoramuses, not all appalling ignoramuses are anti-Semites. It's clear from his website and writings that Robinson is prone to similarly puerile views on other issues.

From a strict logical viewpoint, it's possible to compare Israel to Nazis without being anti-Semitic. But that isn't the way to bet.

It's like the guy who saw a white sheep and said "that sheep is white on at least one side". Logically, the sheep could be black on the other side, but in normal discourse we ignore such remote possibilities and act like the sheep is white.
5.1.2009 10:00am
Ken Arromdee:
What the students should have done is stay in the class and challenge Robinson. It would not be very difficult to send a return email...

The end result of this chain of reasoning is to turn the process of complaining into a bureaucratic maze that can only be navigated by lawyers. You didn't send an email first? Sorry, you didn't complain in the right way.
5.1.2009 10:05am
David M. Nieporent (www):
You do not have to hate Jews to disagree with the Israeli government's killing of Palestians in Gaza.
No, but it helps!

Otherwise, it's sort of hard to figure out what sort of "genocide" leads to rapid population growth.
5.1.2009 10:09am
Bored Lawyer:

If, as Robinson claims, "the whole nature of academic freedom is to introduce students to controversial material, to provoke students to think and make students uncomfortable," surely he would have welcomed a scholarly response from his students



This is a joke, right?
5.1.2009 10:10am
John Burgess (mail) (www):
The Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB reprints the e-mail in question, in case anyone's interested. You'll have to scroll down the page and click on the individual images of each page of the e-mail.

This photo array has been zooming around for several months now. I don't know why Ad Busters chose to run it now.
5.1.2009 10:13am
sbron:
Also, the pictures and articles about the Professor's revolutionary activities in Central America remind me more of Woody Allen's "Bananas" than anything else. It's hard to take this guy seriously.
5.1.2009 10:31am
Tony Tutins (mail):
Bravo, Professor Bernstein!

Bring all ideas out into the light; failed ideas will not be able to withstand scrutiny.
5.1.2009 10:33am
Oren:

I've long wondered why all the ghetto Jews didn't cross the national border at one end of the ghetto into the adjacent Jewish state and appeal to the many very wealthy Jewish-controlled governments in the region to help out.

The Egyptians are just about as anti-Palestinian as anyone could ask for. They shoot border-jumpers on sight. You might as well ask why Gazans don't jump into the sea (not that the analogy is apt for other reasons, but the laughable notion that their co-religionists give half a shit about the Palestinians needs to be shot down as essentially counter-factual).
5.1.2009 10:43am
BUSL 2002 (mail):

Professor Bernstein:
If many highly educated people agree with this, it just is further evidence that education and wisdom are two different things. Wouldn't anything remotely approaching genocide, just for example, actually require that Palestinian population be DECREASING?


unfortunately, not in today's world. I recently attended a seminar/presentation by the past president of "Physicians for Human Rights" on preventing genocide before it starts. I wish I had citable quotes, but the gist of it was that any actions that suppress a specific group of people is a indicator for genocide or pre-genocide (that is a gross oversimplification) and the definition of genocide has been expanded to a socio-political umbrella to encompass violations against groups that are not properly classified under the "genus" definition. The definition was based on, I believe, UN consensus. While interesting, the analysis seemed flawed on multiple levels, but specific to your point, it seems to allow a populace (or supporters of a minority populace) to claim genocide despite the lack of anything remotely resembling an attempt to wipe out a people/culture/race.
5.1.2009 10:44am
BUSL 2002 (mail):

Professor Bernstein:
If many highly educated people agree with this, it just is further evidence that education and wisdom are two different things. Wouldn't anything remotely approaching genocide, just for example, actually require that Palestinian population be DECREASING?


unfortunately, not in today's world. I recently attended a seminar/presentation by the past president of "Physicians for Human Rights" on preventing genocide before it starts. I wish I had citable quotes, but the gist of it was that any actions that suppress a specific group of people is a indicator for genocide or pre-genocide (that is a gross oversimplification) and the definition of genocide has been expanded to a socio-political umbrella to encompass violations against groups that are not properly classified under the "genus" definition. The definition was based on, I believe, UN consensus. While interesting, the analysis seemed flawed on multiple levels, but specific to your point, it seems to allow a populace (or supporters of a minority populace) to claim genocide despite the lack of anything remotely resembling an attempt to wipe out a people/culture/race.
5.1.2009 10:44am
DavidBernstein (mail):
I agree that many people who would equate Jews to Nazis are anti-Semitic. But if you take a person who thinks that "Bush = Hitler" is astute political commentary, and then see them say "Israel = Nazis", I'd be hard pressed to use this as evidence of anti-Semitism, as opposed to a grossly distorted and irrational worldview.
5.1.2009 10:45am
ShelbyC:

Fourth, there is a clear double standard at universities regarding material that makes Jewish students uncomfortable and that makes other minority students uncomfortable.


Of course, based on the what I've read, I don't see that the prof was criticizing Judiasm, he was criticizing the state of Israel.
5.1.2009 10:46am
wfjag:

Bored Lawyer:

If, as Robinson claims, "the whole nature of academic freedom is to introduce students to controversial material, to provoke students to think and make students uncomfortable," surely he would have welcomed a scholarly response from his students

This is a joke, right?

No. It's called "teaching the controversy." One opinion is as good as another since facts are artificial social constructs and no value system is better than another.

It usually rates about an 8 on Letterman's lists.
5.1.2009 10:49am
Oren:

the definition of genocide has been expanded to a socio-political umbrella to encompass violations against groups that are not properly classified under the "genus" definition

Genocide was never intended, as a word, to be interpreted that narrowly.

Of course, I never thought that genocide was any worse than plain-jane murder, but whatever.
5.1.2009 10:51am
DavidBernstein (mail):
ShelbyC, do you really not recognize that "Jewish" is an ethnicity as well as a religion?
5.1.2009 10:56am
DavidBernstein (mail):
If it doesn't involve killing people, it's not genocide. Period.
5.1.2009 10:57am
BUSL 2002 (mail):
Oren-

I didn't mean to suggest such a narrow definition, I was focusing on the idea that death is not a necessarily a necessity. Thank you for the clarification
5.1.2009 11:08am
Leo Marvin (mail):
Excellent post and shockingly un-deranged comments (so far).
5.1.2009 11:12am
Ex-Fed (mail) (www):
It's funny when people who throw unpleasant label X around carelessly and unfairly get all righteous and upset when they get stuck with unpleasant label Y carelessly and unfairly.
5.1.2009 11:12am
ShelbyC:

ShelbyC, do you really not recognize that "Jewish" is an ethnicity as well as a religion?


Absolutely. And please correct me if I'm wrong, but the prof was criticizing neither the Jewish religion nor the Jewish ethnicity, he was criticizing the actions of the State of Israel.
5.1.2009 11:14am
Leo Marvin (mail):
Ken Arromdee:

The end result of this chain of reasoning is to turn the process of complaining into a bureaucratic maze that can only be navigated by lawyers. You didn't send an email first? Sorry, you didn't complain in the right way.

He's giving tactical advice for an effective response. He's not prescribing procedural conditions on the right to respond.
5.1.2009 11:21am
James Gibson (mail):
I would think this case would mesh well with a thread yesterday by Prof Volokh regarding a bill submitted in Congress by Loretta Sanchez.

Federal Felony To Use Blogs, the Web, Etc. To Cause Substantial Emotional Distress Through "Severe, Repeated, and Hostile" Speech?
5.1.2009 11:28am
Frank Snyder (mail):
If it doesn't involve killing people, it's not genocide. Period.
You're too literal. Very powerful words like "genocide" always expand to the point that they covers lots of additional bad things that aren't part of the original term. What used to be called "assimilation" is now "cultural genocide," which makes it much worse.
5.1.2009 11:29am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Absolutely. And please correct me if I'm wrong, but the prof was criticizing neither the Jewish religion nor the Jewish ethnicity, he was criticizing the actions of the State of Israel.
And in my hypothetical, the professor was not criticizing blacks' religion or ethnicity, either, but the actions of a subset of South Africans who commit crimes. If you ask, why single out black criminals in South Africa and compare them to lynchers, I will respond, why single out the Jewish government in Israel and compare them to Nazis?
5.1.2009 11:34am
DangerMouse:
If the word "genocide" can be expanded to include actions that do not involve murder, why can't the word "anti-Semite" be expanded to cover irrational criticism of the Jewish government in Israel?

Oh, but if you dilute the meaning of anti-Semite, you dilute the horror of real anti-Semites, right? Well, if you dilute the meaning of genocide, you dilute the horror of actual genocide. Seems that this goes hand in hand.
5.1.2009 11:44am
ShelbyC:

And in my hypothetical, the professor was not criticizing blacks' religion or ethnicity, either, but the actions of a subset of South Africans who commit crimes.


Huh. I read your hypo as the prof favoring a regime that systematically oppressed blacks because of their race over one that allowed that subset of South Africans to commit crimes.
5.1.2009 11:48am
ShelbyC:
@DavidB, don't get me wrong, I agree with your main point, I just wanted to point out that criticizing Israel was not the same as criticizing Jews.
5.1.2009 11:51am
Ariel:
The problem with criticizing Israel is that it typically is not done in a fair way, so it often does bleed into Jew-hatred (consciously using the term that antisemitism was supposed to replace). Criticism of Israel is fine; Israel is not perfect (nor is any country). But singling out Israel for criticism, when it's record is better than that of just about every single country out there, is absurd.

For example, when France shot down a crowd in Cote D'Ivoire, right around the time of the invasion of Iraq, it was something that was way more than anything Israel has done. When the Dutch had wine with the Serbs in Sarajevo, they enabled a massacre that was worse than anything Israel has ever done. If we leave Western Europe and the US, what ROW has done is considerably worse than anything Israel could even dream of. Anybody want to bet that Iran would supply power to a dissident group that was firing rockets at Qom?

While there are critics of Israel who are not Jew-haters, because most of them criticize Israel for things that they do not criticize other countries, I think it's fair to say that most Israel critics are Jew-haters.
5.1.2009 12:12pm
ShelbyC:

While there are critics of Israel who are not Jew-haters, because most of them criticize Israel for things that they do not criticize other countries, I think it's fair to say that most Israel critics are Jew-haters.


But what France did was way over in Africa. The stuff Israel does is right there in my living room.
5.1.2009 12:17pm
neurodoc:
DB: Second, the Jewish organizations that suggested that Joseph and Hausman file a complaint against Robinson are teaching Jewish students to be victims...What the students should have done is stay in the class and challenge Robinson. It would not be very difficult to send a return email showing how appallingly ignorant it is to compare Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto, or to provide their classmates with some context to explain Israel's position on the war in Gaza. Even if the students were afraid this would affect their grade, surely they could have done this before dropping the class. If, as Robinson claims, "the whole nature of academic freedom is to introduce students to controversial material, to provoke students to think and make students uncomfortable," surely he would have welcomed a scholarly response from his students. If he didn't, then the students would have a much better case that he was engaging in indoctrination.
First, why shouldn't the students filed complaints, seeing to it that this sort of thing come to much wider attention, as it has? There is something wrong in doing so? I don't think so, not in the least.

Do you know that the email that went to the students showed all the addressees, so that it would have been easy enough to turn it around and broadcast the response to all who received the original email? Do you think most undergrads are capable of going toe-to-toe with a professor like this one in the classroom in front of classmates who signed up for this "progressive" instruction and probably share the professor's outlook? Great if they can and do, but I think it too much to expect of most of them, and unfair/unrealistic to expect it.
5.1.2009 12:24pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Shelby, by your logic, anyone who expresses support for Hamas is inherently anti-Semitic.

Ariel, on the one hand, you're partially right, and studies have actually shown that people who are anti-Israel are also much more likely to be anti-Semitic, and vice versa. On the other hand, extreme leftists take equally illogical views with regard to, say, the U.S. On the third hand, opposition to Israel and Zionism has a long tradition on the left going way back to Marx's anti-Semitic views, so some leftists who aren't anti-Semitic may be unaware that they've absorbed views originating in part from anti-Semitism.
5.1.2009 12:25pm
neurodoc:
And slightly OT, but only slightly I think, did anyone comment here on the outcome of Ward Churchill's case? A jury found that the University of Colorado had wrongfully dismissed that academic fraudster, but awarded him only $1 in damages. The thing is that while not obliged to take him back, the University will have to "buy" him out, as I understand it.
5.1.2009 12:27pm
levisbaby:

Otherwise, it's sort of hard to figure out what sort of "genocide" leads to rapid population growth.

Ya, those people breed like rabbits!
5.1.2009 12:30pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

Shelby, by your logic, anyone who expresses support for Hamas is inherently anti-Semitic.


Yes, just like anyone who expresses support for Nazis is inherently anti-Semitic or anyone who expresses support for the KKK is inherently racist.

Hamas = anti-Semitic. No doubt about it.
5.1.2009 12:34pm
ShelbyC:

Shelby, by your logic, anyone who expresses support for Hamas is inherently anti-Semitic.


Jeez, I'm not sure what logic I stated that leads to that conculsion.
5.1.2009 1:27pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
I didn't mean to suggest such a narrow definition, I was focusing on the idea that death is not a necessarily a necessity. Thank you for the clarification
I think that a lot of us who took Latin at some time in our sordid pasts will have a hard time with that. The "cide" suffix is related to the Latin caedo (caedere) which means "to cut down", and is one of a number of words in that language that means "to kill".

If you look at the other words that have this suffix, they all involve killing of someone or something: suicide (self); homicide (human); matricide (mother); patricide (father); parricide (parent); sororicide (sister); fratricide (brother); regicide (king); rodenticide (rodents); scabicide (organisms that cause scabies); schistosomacide (blood flukes); schizonticide (malarial parasites); senicide (old people); serpenticide (snakes); socrucide (parent of a spouse); spirillicide (spiral or curved bacteria); spirocheticide (spirochetes); sporicide (spores); staphylocide (staph infection organisms); streptococcicide (streptococci).

I do though have a problem when it comes to calling this antisemitism, since the Palestinians are also Semitic (probably more Semitic than many of the Israelis).
5.1.2009 1:39pm
Ariel:
Bruce Hayden

I do though have a problem when it comes to calling this antisemitism, since the Palestinians are also Semitic (probably more Semitic than many of the Israelis).

This is one of the reasons I prefer the word Jew-hatred. That said, the word antisemitism does not mean being against Semitic peoples in general. It was specifically coined to replace the word Jew-hatred (one word in German) with something that sounded scientific. The word antisemitism has nothing to do with being against Semites. The OED defines it as "Theory, action, or practice directed against the Jews." There is no other definition in there.
5.1.2009 1:46pm
Mac (mail):
OK. The Professor wanted to stimulate debate (and I don't believe that for a minute), so he compared what the Israeli's do to the Palestinians to what Hitler did to the Jews.

In the interest of supporting his contention, why didn't he show pictures of the Nazis, German soldiers and German citizens killed by Jewish rockets and suicide bombers?
5.1.2009 1:48pm
whit:

You're too literal. Very powerful words like "genocide" always expand to the point that they covers lots of additional bad things that aren't part of the original term. What used to be called "assimilation" is now "cultural genocide," which makes it much worse.



imo, more correctly, words that are used to denote evil, bad, etc. (especially when they have a political component) invariably expand to try to include more and more examples until they lose all potency. it's defining deviancy up.

examples:

domestic violence USED to mean beating the crap out of a domestic partner. now, i see dv informational pamphlets, advocacy etc. that claims that belittling a partner, calling them "fat", making them feel worthless, etc. are all "domestic violence". no, they aren't. those examples are being a jerk. there is a difference

hate speech: expanded by any # of advocates (mostly on left) to include criticism of a group, etc.

hate crime: see above.

fascist: used to mean, well.. fascist. do i really need to cite examples where, for example, prop 8 etc. were called FASCISM!?!?!?

racism, etc. etc. etc.

this is how it's done. take a word that describes conduct that nearly everybody can agree is really bad. then, incrementally increase its scope until all sorts of stuff is included under the umbrella. people are stuck with not wanting to (for example) FOR domestic violence, so they won't protest when people expand the definition to include verbal tirades or criticism.

increasing the victim base also helps with funding and with proclaiming that the problem is bigger than it is (we are ALL victims people).

lather, rinse, repeat
5.1.2009 1:57pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Just because the -cide suffix indicates killing something, the something of genocide does not require the death of any particular individual, or even large number of individuals.

The treatment of Amerindian populations by the US government for instance at various times had the basic aim of eradicating the self identification of people with the group, yet didn't need the members to be killed in order to kill off that group identification.
5.1.2009 2:00pm
Yankev (mail):

many highly educated people agree with this somewhat, even though he may overstate this for shock value.
Not probative of whether the statement is ignorant (which it most certainly is), nor whether the statement is anti-Semitic (which depends on who is making the statement and why).

As to the first, many highly educated people believe all sorts of ignorant nonsense, and the fact that one is educated does not prevent one from accepting superficially appealing misinformation on subjects that one is ignorant about. We hope that education makes this less liekly, but history has shown otherwise.

As to the second, some very educated people have been anti-Semites.
5.1.2009 2:10pm
Marc W:
@whit: I've seen similar things a lot. In a way it turns substantive discussions into semantic arguments. One example I remember from my college days was when Tipper Gore's group, the Parents Music Resource Center wanted to have warning labels placed on records.

I remember lots of arguments about whether that constituted censorship. The arguments turned on the assumption that censorship was , by definition, bad. That established the issue was whether the labelling plan amounted to censhorship. If it did, then it was bad (QED). If it didn't, then, well, that's open for discussion. I prefered the construct that censorship was or wasn't bad depending on what the word included. To take an extreme (though admittedly absurd) example, if washing your hands before eating is censorship, then censorship isn't always bad. Similarly, it's not enough to say that music labelling is censorship therefore it's bad.

Now I'm not, here, making claims as to whether labelling is bad, or whether it's censorship. I just recall finding it distateful that the issue (whether labelling is bad) got obfuscated by a semantic issue (whether labelling is censorship.
5.1.2009 2:17pm
Marc W:
Oh, and issues relating to anti-Semitism often get obfuscated by the semantic argument over whether anti-Semite means anti-Jewish or anti-[all Semitic peoples].

If one calls Hamas anti-Semitic, what is meant is anti-Jewish. Arguing that it is not anti-Semitic because Arabs are Semitic is simply obfuscating the issue.
5.1.2009 2:21pm
whit:
marc, that's a good point.

i refer to what you were recalling as a "semantical wank". i've used that term before :)

iow, it's an argument about what a word means vs. about the underlying issues.

sound, fury, signifying, nothing, etc.
5.1.2009 2:23pm
Oren:


In the interest of supporting his contention, why didn't he show pictures of the Nazis, German soldiers and German citizens killed by Jewish rockets and suicide bombers?


Because the Nazis preemptively struck against them and thus protected their citizens?
5.1.2009 2:27pm
geokstr (mail):

BUSL 2002:
...but the gist of it was that any actions that suppress a specific group of people is a indicator for genocide or pre-genocide (that is a gross oversimplification) and the definition of genocide has been expanded...

There must be a word for it, but I am not sure what it would be (definiflation?), but language itself has been perverted and bastardized by the increasing politicization of every aspect of life. It is difficult to have a calm debate or even mere discussion anymore because the meanings of so many words have been expanded so much, often transforming them into new epithets, that there is no longer any room between black and white, no place to make distinctions or find nuance or agreement. Even worse, so many words have been made into superlatives that they now leave us no way to define the really really bad things.

If "genocide" now means what is happening in Gaza, is there no distinction between there and what happens in Darfur, or Cambodia, or the Holocaust? What word can we use to define the really awful things that people do to each other on a large scale? Super-genocide? Megacide?

Everyone agrees that Nazism is pretty much the worst thing. But disagree with anything that Bush has done, and feel free to call him a Nazi. There is apparently nothing in between when discussing Bush or his policies.

Used to be that everybody knew what "torture" was, with lots of blood, and bruises and missing body parts, and was totally against it, but now it can mean putting a caterpillar in a cell with a hardened mass murderer. Apparently those who do either are equally horrible people. And what can we call the stuff in between - torture-lite, miniture?

What used to mean the worst that can ever be - "evil" - has even been thrown around quite liberally (pun intended) on this site as the description of Bush, and Christians, and conservatives.

I understand and note that some on the right have done this as well. I don't think the trend speaks well for either side. However, IMO moral equivalence run amok is what started this trend, and the left got a big head start in using this rhetorical tactic during the cold war.

There would be a lot more agreement on a lot more issues if we stopped demonizing each other. But if you don't agree with me on this, you're EVIL.

Orwell was right.
5.1.2009 2:27pm
ShelbyC:
And in the OP it appears that criticizing Israel is getting rolled up with antisemtism.
5.1.2009 2:28pm
Yankev (mail):

I think that a lot of us who took Latin at some time in our sordid pasts will have a hard time with that.
(Somewhat off-thread: )
Leaving aside that expanding the term genocide to this degree strips it of all meaning, aren't there other Latin-based words that have lost their original meanings? Decimate certainly comes to mind, but I'm sure there are others.
5.1.2009 2:35pm
Oren:

Decimate certainly comes to mind, but I'm sure there are others.

The obvious one: holocaust comes to mind. I used to make an effort to refer to "The Nazi holocaust" but I gave up.
5.1.2009 2:40pm
Yankev (mail):

The obvious one: holocaust comes to mind.
Gotcha. That one's Greek, not Latin.
5.1.2009 2:42pm
Yankev (mail):
ShelbyC, what does the abbrev. "OP" stand for?
5.1.2009 2:50pm
whit:
OP: Original Post(er)

very common internet convention
5.1.2009 2:51pm
Mac (mail):

Because the Nazis preemptively struck against them and thus protected their citizens?


Could be, Oren. Perhaps, if Israel's behavior is going to be correlated with the Nazis, she should emulate them in many more ways?

That may eventually be the other side of geokstr's very sound and excellent analysis of words losing their meaning. If one is going to suffer the accusations anyway, i.e. Nazi, genocide, what then is the motivation for not fully employing the truly evil acts these words invoke, especially when your very survival is at stake?

Further, why is it Israel's job to provide electricity, food, water and medical care to the Palestinians and Gaza? Why doesn't Egypt do that? Oh wait, Oren already answered that. The Egyptians, like the rest of the Muslim countries, can't stand the Palestinians.

Did I miss the Nazi's doing this for the Jews?


geokstr,

Yes, Orwell was right.
5.1.2009 2:52pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
It's clear from his website and writings that Robinson is prone to similarly puerile views on other issues.


Naw, paw isn't racist. He hates yeller folks just as much as brown ones!
5.1.2009 2:56pm
Marc W:
@ShelbyC: Acknowledged. Not all criticism (or even hatred) of Israel is anti-Semitic. I think that's been noted many times in the comments above, and by DB in the post. But just as criticism of Israel is sometimes incorrectly conflated with antiSemitism, I have sometimes seen any support for Israel (or criticism of the Palestinian leadership) conflated with anti-Arab or anti-Palestinian racism. [forgive me if I am using the word conflated incorrectly. You know what I mean]

Specifically, I remember when I was a grad student at the University of Michigan (Math, not law. Hope I can still post comments here), the Michigan Daily refused to even consider any op-ed piece supportive of Israel or critical of the Palestinians. The stated reason was that such op-eds were, by definition, anti-Palestinian racism.
5.1.2009 2:59pm
Marc W:
Just to clarify, when I said "critical of the Palestinians," I meant "critical of the Palestinian leadership"
5.1.2009 3:02pm
Mac (mail):

Specifically, I remember when I was a grad student at the University of Michigan (Math, not law. Hope I can still post comments here), the Michigan Daily refused to even consider any op-ed piece supportive of Israel or critical of the Palestinians. The stated reason was that such op-eds were, by definition, anti-Palestinian racism.



Orwell was right.
5.1.2009 3:02pm
Strict:

I will respond, why single out the Jewish government in Israel and compare them to Nazis?


David,

I think comparing Israel to the Nazis is unfair and inaccurate.

But just last week, Israel's Vice Prime Minister directly compared Iran to Nazi Germany. Here

How is that any more fair or historically accurate? Is Iran led by German National Socialists allied with Japanese imperialists, bent on world domination? I know that Jews in Iran are spied upon, and coerced into making anti-Israel declarations, but the treatment of Jews there is nothing like it was in Nazi Germany.

This is a story related to me by a rabbi: Ayatollah Khomeini held a conference with representatives from many religions. At one point during a Muslim prayer, all the attendees bowed down, except one Jewish rabbi. He was later taken to meet the Ayatollah personally, and he was terrified. Khomeini asked him why he didn't bow, and the rabbi simply said "I only bow to my God, in my way" and the Khomeini replied "Now that's a religion I can respect. Is there anything I can do for you?" The rabbi said: "Yes. The Jewish community here is very nervous about this Islamic Revolution and does not feel safe. Can you offer protection?" And the Ayatollah issued an edict that the Jewish community shall not be harmed.

Anyway, the Israel/Nazi comparison is boring. I've seen rabbis, Chasids, Holocaust survivors, and veterans of the 1948 War and the 6-Day War make the Israel/Nazi comparison - so there's nothing necessarily "anti-semitic" or "Jew-hating" about it.

People make THAT particular comparison [instead of making some other more accurate but historically obscure comparison] because it gets attention. It's striking. And it raises a charge of hypocrisy.
5.1.2009 3:05pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'not all appalling ignoramuses are anti-Semites.'

True, Professor, but when they make a point of directing their ignorance at Jewish issues, the chances that they are both are very high.

Unless Robinson can show that somewhere else he leveled the same sort of broadbrush allegations at Palestinian murderers of Jews, then, yes, he an anti-Semite and his e-mail was anti-Semitic.
5.1.2009 3:12pm
Mac (mail):

How is that any more fair or historically accurate?



Perhaps because Ahmadinejad has sworn Iran to the destruction of Israel and the killing of all Jews? You know, bring about the Rapture and all that. Sounds like the Nazis to me.

Just a thought.

Strict, re your story above, any independent confirmation of said story or, failing that, of the said Rabbi's sanity?
5.1.2009 3:13pm
Strict:
"Orwell was right."

Did Orwell write or say things that were anti-Israel or anti-Zionist?
5.1.2009 3:14pm
Mac (mail):

Sounds like the Nazis to me.


I should have said, sounds like the Nazis to me with the exception of the Rapture part.
5.1.2009 3:14pm
Marc W:
@Strict: Regarding the Rabbi and the Ayatolla. To be blunt, I don't believe that that ever happened. Can't prove it didn't. But it sounds apocryphal to me.
5.1.2009 3:15pm
Strict:

Perhaps because Ahmadinejad has sworn Iran to the destruction of Israel and the killing of all Jews?


So a guy without military power in Iran [i.e. the President has no power to instigate wars - he is not, unlike the POTUS, the Commander in Chief] said something against Israel.

That makes Iran like Nazi Germany? That's a fair historical comparison?

How many Jews has the Iranian government under Ahmadinejad killed?
5.1.2009 3:17pm
Strict:

Perhaps because Ahmadinejad has sworn Iran to the destruction of Israel and the killing of all Jews?



If it doesn't involve killing people, it's not genocide. Period.


Please reconcile these two statements. Thanks.
5.1.2009 3:20pm
Mac (mail):

So a guy without military power in Iran [i.e. the President has no power to instigate wars - he is not, unlike the POTUS, the Commander in Chief] said something against Israel.


Uh, I hate to break this to you, but even as your above mentioned rabbi seemed to understand, the power in Iran is with the Ayatollah, not the President. Do you seriously believe that Ahmahdinejad says anything without the approval of the mullahs? Your rabbi seemed to think in your story (which, I agree with Marc W sounds very apocryphal) the Ayatollhah had the power else why didn't the Ayatollah say to the Rabbi, "Wait I'll get back to you as soon as I check with the President"?

And, in case you have missed it, Iran is very busy trying to get nuclear weapons, or do you also believe they just want nuclear power for energy?

I guess if you believe the Rabbi's story, you might believe that as well.
5.1.2009 3:27pm
Mac (mail):


Perhaps because Ahmadinejad has sworn Iran to the destruction of Israel and the killing of all Jews?



If it doesn't involve killing people, it's not genocide. Period.

Strict,

I only made one of the statements, the first one. However, I can't see how any reconciliation is needed.


Please reconcile these two statements. Thanks.
5.1.2009 3:30pm
Mac (mail):
Oops, my last post should read,




Perhaps because Ahmadinejad has sworn Iran to the destruction of Israel and the killing of all Jews?



If it doesn't involve killing people, it's not genocide. Period.



Strict wrote,


Please reconcile these two statements. Thanks.



Strict,

I only made one of the statements, the first one. However, I can't see how any reconciliation is needed.
5.1.2009 3:33pm
Pops:
The syllabus you link to is the same course title but it is from over two years ago.

Profs change their classes all the time.

I think it's best to remain agnostic about if the email was relevant to the course or not.
5.1.2009 3:48pm
Yankev (mail):


@Strict: Regarding the Rabbi and the Ayatolla. To be blunt, I don't believe that that ever happened. Can't prove it didn't. But it sounds apocryphal to me.


I've met enough Jews who in the early 1980s fled Iran, some at the risk of their lives, and some having to leave family behind, to suspect the story.
5.1.2009 3:55pm
Yankev (mail):

How many Jews has the Iranian government under Ahmadinejad killed?
Do the ones that he paid Hizbullah and Hamas to murder count? He is on record as wanting to kill several million Jews who live in Israel.
5.1.2009 3:59pm
Mac (mail):
Yankev,

I know a Catholic and a Bahá'í who did the same thing around the same time as well as a secularist of no faith who left in the early 90's. Religious freedom or the freedom to choose no religion would be news to them.
5.1.2009 4:03pm
Mac (mail):

Do the ones that he paid Hizbullah and Hamas to murder count? He is on record as wanting to kill several million Jews who live in Israel.



I think, but could be mistaken, that he is on record as wanting to kill all Jews in Israel. Then, he will get busy rounding up the rest of them who are scattered around the world. At least he will if killing all the Jews in Israel doesn't bring about the Rapture.
5.1.2009 4:05pm
Yankev (mail):
Mac, I agree with you about his plans, but Strict asked how many Jews Iran under Ymemach Shmo has killed so far.

While we're at it, can we count the Jews that Iran mass-murdered at the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Ares? True, it was before Ahminyemach shmo took office, but it was after the Islamic Revolution.
5.1.2009 4:32pm
Ariel:
Strict,


But just last week, Israel's Vice Prime Minister directly compared Iran to Nazi Germany. Here

How is that any more fair or historically accurate?


To take what you wrote, strictly, that it's more fair or more historically accurate is actually a pretty easy bar to clear. Take the Nazi reaction to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and compare it to the relatively tepid reaction to the thousands of rockets. Can you imagine the Nazis waiting years to liquidate the Warsaw Ghetto, while rockets are flying over it, and while providing food, water, and power to the Jews? Meanwhile, you've got a regime that is openly dedicated to wiping out Jews. In case you've forgotten, they have been adjudged as being behind the Argentina community center bombing - which had nothing to do with advancing Iranian interests other than murdering Jews. You could also read Roya Hakakian's book, where she talks about how the regime treated Jews in Iran. Iran is a major funder/backer of Hezb'Allah, which marches in Nazi goosestep, has a heil hitler like salute, and openly advocates destroying Israel. Iran also supports Hamas, which fits those criteria as well. Maybe they're not bent on world domination --yet. But they've been behind the attacks in Iraq, because they know that if they have control of Iran and Iraq, Kuwait and the Saudi entity will be the next dominoes to fall. After that, they can control the West's oil, and it's only a matter of time. It's not as far-fetched as you may think. You may recall reading that the Saudi entity is considering developing nukes, partly in reaction to the Iranians developing their own. That's because they understand the threat, and they know that fickle Americans may not always be happy to back them. This isn't just random paranoia, IOW.
5.1.2009 4:39pm