Larry Cohler-Esses, who wrote the defense of Nadia Abu El Haj, Norman G. Finkelstein and other alleged victims of the Zionist McCarthyite plot, has responded to my articles about these issues (see Nadia Abu El Haj versus written history and the scientific method - I
) and I have responded to him there. This discussion should not be about Larry Cohler-Esses or Paula Stern, but about the issues. Nonetheless, as Cohler-Esses raised some important issues, and as my response to him included materials I had planned for a later article in this series, I will present an expanded version of my response here. This article will take up issues directly related to "McCarthyism" and Larry Cohler-Esses' response. A subsequent one will deal with more of Nadia Abu El Haj's allegations that were defended by Cohler-Esses.
My articles thus far on the issue of "New McCarthyism are here:Nadia Abu El Haj versus written history and the scientific method - IINadia Abu El Haj versus written history and the scientific method - IOf McCarthyism and academic freedom
The major points I tried to make:
1-Cohler-Esses exploited errors in a petition written by Paula Stern to claim that protest against academic anti-Israel bias is illegitimate and part of a McCarthyite conspiracy. Nadia Abu El-Haj wrote a political document, not just an academic book, and political protest against her claims is legitimate. Favorable reviews of Nadia Abu El-Haj's work lauded it because
of its political content.
2-Cohler-Esses expresses alarm about the supposed "McCarthyism" of Zionists, but neither he, nor the Nation which published his article, are willing to speak out about actual unfair attacks on Israel and Zionism.
3-Not only Nadia Abu El Haj, but an entire school of academic "thought" use post-structuralist anti-empiricist argumentation and verbal obfuscation to cast doubt on Jewish rights in ancient Israel, and to try to elevate Palestinian Arab claims, the Palestinian "narrative" to the same level of legitimacy.
4- Nadia Abu El Haj makes an absurd case that Israeli archaeology was part of a program to obliterate Palestinian Arab history, justify the dispossession of the Arabs of Palestine, and establish Jewish rights to Israel.
It is absurd because there was no such program, and because the entire world accepted the fact of Jewish sovereignty in ancient Israel. There was no need to demonstrate it.
Larry Cohler-Esses spends a good part of his response to my articles quoting once again from the collected works of Paula Stern, as if I am somehow responsible for what Paula Stern wrote, and as if what I wrote is based on Paula Stern's writings. I purposely used the evaluations of Elia Zureik, rather than my own surmises or those of others, to show how El Haj's obscure constructions are interpreted by those favorable to her views. Once again, Larry Cohler Esses is trying to create a distraction by citing the work of Paula Stern. The issue is not what Paula Stern wrote, but what El-Haj and her colleagues wrote, and what Larry Cohler-Esses wrote. He used the Nadia Abu El Haj campaign as a lever to cast doubt on the tenure process of Norman G. Finkelstein and other issues. His attempt to delegitimize views that don't conform to his, is in itself a sort of "McCarthyism" though neither he nor Paula Stern are part of any government and cannot of themselves coerce anyone.
Cohler-Esses then lists some articles he wrote that are critical of extremist Arabs or present news items unfavorable to Arabs or Muslims, as if that could prove that he spoke out against unfair treatment of Israel. It is not to his special credit that the Hezbollah or the Hamas did something, or that the Saudis had racist texts and he reported it or commented on it. It has nothing to do with an op-ed that creates hysteria about "McCarthyism."
Finally, Cohler-Esses repeats the charges he made in his article:
But as I noted in my Nation piece, what is new about the New McCarthyism is not just its targets. Today, private advocacy groups, not Congressional committees, are the primary means of pressuring schools on academic appointments--at least, so far. These groups often retain important ties to government figures. But they are most focused on organizing alumni and students, with an eye toward generating public outrage and eventually government and donor pressure. This demagogy undermines and dishonors valid efforts against today's threat just as the McCarthyism of the 1950ís overwhelmed and dishonored the principled anti-Communism of figures such as Arthur Schlesinger and Reinhold Niebuhr.
Larry looked under his bed, and discovered the sinister Zionist threat posed by Paula Stern. Paula Stern is not a member of the Elders of Zion, a Mossad agent or a high ranking member of AIPAC. She lives in Israel and runs a technical writing company with admirable energy and efficiency. She is an alumna of Barnard and was concerned about this appointment. She is not part of a vast conspiratorial network imagined by Larry Cohler-Esses. Like yours truly, she is an amateur advocate of different causes and part time blogger. If she had been a sophisticated professional propagandist, part of a well funded network, she would have had the time and the background to do an impeccable job in creating a case against Nadia Abu El Haj.
Cohler-Esses' article is of a piece with charges by Mearsheimer and Walt, and by Jimmy Carter and others, that an Israel lobby is choking off debate about Israel in the USA. They all make the same sort of charges. Strangely, nobody shuts them up. The Zionist conspiracy is powerless. Nadia Abu El Haj got tenure despite the sinister machinations of the conspiracy of International Finance Jewry. Carter's book and Mearsheimer and Walt's book are best sellers, though they are full of errors, misrepresentations and tendentious reporting. Cohler-Esses and the Nation never bothered to take them on, and never alleged that they are a part of an evil McCarthyite plot.
The Nation itself initiated something far worse than a McCarthyite plot. In 2002, The Nation published an article by Jason Vest (thenation.com/doc/20020902/vest), and Brian Whitaker in the Guardian more or less copied Vest's thesis and expanded it. The proposition they advanced was that the "Zionists" or "Israel Lobby" were stirring up war in Iraq based on the neocon - Likudist think tank document, "A Clean Break" and air headed comments from members of the absurdly named "JINSA" (Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs). They left the impression that the government of Israel and/or some Jewish conspiracy was behind this. It was mostly invention. The Israeli government was urging the Bush administration to stay out of Iraq as we now know. Anyone could read the Clean Break document and see that far from advocating US intervention in the Middle East, it was a program for cutting Israel loose from US apron strings and making regional alliances that would act against Saddam and others independently of the United States. The allegations about "Clean Break" could not have been due to an error in understanding complex formulations. They were deliberate and malicious falsehoods, used to allege a "Jewish conspiracy" and therefore a lot more dangerous than any campaign against an academic. They engendered the belief that "the Jews" were responsible for the Iraq war, which grew into imaginative allegations that the State Department and Pentagon were riddled with Mossad agents. These allegations, as well as allegations that Israeli agents aided by American Jewish traitors were behind the 9-11 attacks, were repeated in numerous Web logs and Web sites, many larger and more influential than that of Paula Stern or the others that took on Nadia Abu El Haj. Here is a small compilation:
Witness Mark Rich, the thieving billionaire, pardoned by the best supporter of Israel, Bill Clinton? He was a Mossad agent.
The FBI investigation into Israeli espionage agents in the Pentagon is part of a major struggle between prominent Zionists in the Pentagon and the US security apparatus.
Mossad, Wolfowitz & The Strangely Defenseless Pentagon On 911
The Case Against The Mossad And Israeli Partisans
A very likely Israeli government agent (spy), Perle was expelled from Senator Henry Jackson's office in the 1970's after the National Security Agency (NSA) caught him spying
A U.S. Congressman, James Moran, asserted that were it not for the Jews, the US would not have gone to war in Iraq. Where did we hear that one before? And now the same sort of demagoguery is being used to stymie US efforts to act against Iran. Strangely, The Nation and Larry Cohler-Esses are absolutely silent about this "McCarthyism."
Several organizations such as the ISM have launched campaigns to infiltrate campus, church and union groups and sponsor anti-Israel resolutions and demonstrations. Their meetings take place on university campuses, owing to generous funding of university Middle East studies by Arab countries. Meetings where people scream "One state, One state!" are hosted on university campuses, and demonstrations take place at which people yell, "Palestine is our land and the Jews are our dogs." Accusations that Israel is a Nazi state are common. Again, we didn't hear from Cohler-Esses or The Nation about this.
Other views are not accepted so easily. Any attempt to protest against blatant anti-Israel bias and anti-Semitism is labeled "McCarthyism" or "Zionist hysteria" and any person who comes to the defense of Israel against the most absurd charges is blackened as a neocon Likudist Mossad agent.
Cohler-Esses' knightly defense of Norman G. Finkelstein is a case in point. I do not know why Finkelstein was denied tenure and neither does Larry Cohler-Esses. Maybe his lack of refereed publications was considered. That is often a factor at universities. Or perhaps DePaul didn't want to be associated with Holocaust denial. Or perhaps they didn't want to be on the wrong end of a libel suit by Alan Dershowitz regarding imaginative allegations of the type that Finkelstein likes to make.
I do know that Finkelstein and his friends "did a job" on Alan Dershowitz, accusing him of plagiarism and painting him in the blackest colors. It was worse than any campaign mounted by Campus Watch and company. From reading reviews and comments on Dershowitz and his book, I was thoroughly convinced that Dershowitz is a fascist settler-supporting fanatic neocon colonialist imperialist warmonger, whose politics must be somewhere between those of Yigal Amir and Godzilla. I then read both The Case for Israel and The Case for Peace. I could not find even a hint of anything that these people alleged in both books. Dershowitz supports a two state solution, opposes settlements, and did not make any obviously false statements in anything that I saw. Certainly, nothing that he wrote even approached the fibs perpetrated by Jason Vest in The Nation. I didn't see that Cohler-Esses, or The Nation, came out in defense of Dershowitz and against "McCarthyism" of the type practiced by Finkelstein and company.
While it is possible to get a hearing for virtually any anti-Israel view in US media and universities, it is not so easy to air views that are anti-Palestinian or uncomfortable for Muslims. The film Obsession was banned from many US campuses and only shown at Pace University after a protest. At DePaul University, the same University that denied tenure to Finkelstein, Thomas Klocek attended an anti-Israel activist event. He dared to say, "You know, there's more than one perspective on the Middle East conflict. You're only presenting one side here." He also voiced his opinion, for which there is considerable evidence, that there was no Palestinian Arab people before 1948. That is his "narrative discourse." Surely it is as valid as the notion that Jerusalem belongs to the Muslims because Muhamad flew there on a flying horse and tethered it at the West Wall. Klocek didn't write a book on the issue, he just made some off-the-cuff comments. Nonetheless, Klocek was suspended for voicing his views. He was not allowed to return to teaching unless he disavowed his views, like Galileo repenting his views about the heliocentric universe. Could we say that Klocek lost his job because of a McCarthyite conspiracy?
Indeed, there is a vast campaign to shut people up and to spread disinformation, but it is not being perpetrated by any Israel Lobby. It is being carried by anti-Israel groups and publications like The Nation, by academics who are expected to toe the line regarding the "Palestinian narrative," by books like that of Nadia Abu El Haj and Mearsheimer and Walt, and by a vicious network of anti-Semitic Web sites. Anyone, including Larry Cohler-Esses, who remains silent about this vile campaign is an accessory after the fact.
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