Campus Critics on Trial

Two venomously anti-Israel professors at the University of California have joined forces to attack those who would criticize them, or their like-minded colleagues, for injecting their hatred of the Jewish State into their teaching and research.  

David Theo Goldberg is director of the system-wide University of California Humanities Research Institute and Professor of Comparative Literature and Criminology, Law and Society at UC Irvine. Saree Makdisi is Professor of English Literature specializing in British Romanticism at UCLA. Together, Goldberg and Makdisi have published an article in Tikkun magazine entitled "The Trial of Israel's Campus Critics," in which they assert that there is an insidious Israel Campus Lobby comprising raving right-wing Zionists who will not countenance any scholarly criticism of Israel and think nothing of egregiously violating the academic freedom of faculty. According to the authors, these Zionists engage in tactics that "plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth."

In order to understand just how spurious these charges are, one need only consider the two professors making them. Here are some important and relevant facts about the authors, which they have conveniently forgotten to share with their readers:

David Theo Goldberg

  • signed a January 2009 letter to President Obama which describes Israel as "an Apartheid regime" that is committing "one of the most massive, ethnocidal atrocities of modern times"; demands that President Obama divest America from Israel financially, militarily and diplomatically; and advocates the elimination of the Jewish State.
  • wrote an article in January 2009 claiming that Gaza is a "concentration camp" comparable to "the Warsaw Ghetto at the time of its encirclement" and argues that the Jewish State should be replaced by a bi-national state.
  • suggested in a talk he delivered at a March 2007 conference at the University of California Santa Cruz that Zionism is a racist ideology and Israel a racist, apartheid state; Israel perpetrates ethnic cleansing and genocide against the Palestinians and is comparable to Nazi Germany; suicide bombings against Israel are justified; and the Jewish State does not deserve to survive.
  • signed a 2002 petition calling on the University of California to divest all financial holdings from the Jewish State.

Saree Makdisi:

  • signed a letter in September 2009 calling on the TIAA-CREF (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association, College Retirement Equities Fund) to divest its holdings from Israel.
  • argued in a letter posted July 2009 against recognition of Israel as a Jewish State and for the adoption of boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel.
  • claimed in a talk he delivered at a conference at UCLA in January 2009 that it was Israel's "'premeditated state policy' to kill Gazans and stunt the growth of their children."
  • wrote several articles challenging Israel's right to exist as a Jewish State, including one which appeared in the LA Times in May 2008.
  • signed a letter in April 2005 in support of the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
  • authored an article in 2004 arguing for strengthening anti-Israel divestment campaigns and accusing Israel of heinous crimes, such as luring Palestinian children "like mice in a trap" and murdering them "for sport."

It is important to note that much of the anti-Israel rhetoric in Goldberg's and Makdisi's publications and talks is anti-Semitic according to the working definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the U.S. Department of State, including rhetoric that 1) denies the Jewish people their right to self-determination, 2) applies a double standard to Israel's behavior not applied to any other democratic nation, and 3) compares Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

Goldberg's and Makdisi's "scholarly" criticism of Israel is motivated by a deep animus of the Jewish State and a desire to see its elimination. These criticisms are arguably neither scholarly nor legitimate. By wrapping themselves in the mantle of academic freedom, Goldberg and Makdisi have egregiously abused the freedom that comes from such an action. And by falsely accusing anyone who would criticize them of committing the very offenses they themselves have committed, they take intellectual thuggery to vile new depths.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin is a lecturer at UC Santa Cruz.