Amy Kaplan and U Penn’s Anti-Israel Hate Fest

David Meir-Levi writes and lectures on Middle East topics, until recently in the History Department of San Jose State University.


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From February 3-5, 2012 the University of Pennsylvania hosted a National Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Conference organized by “PennBDS.”  The focus of the conference was the political and academic boycott of Israel, in the context of the BDS movement which promotes political activism against Israel, and seeks to educate students and faculty into methods of effective activism against Israel.

Because the BDS movement is well known internationally for its anti-Israel agenda, the conference generated considerable criticism from a variety of sources, including condemnation and commentary in Israeli press, with some very heated exchanges between pro- and anti-BDS spokespersons. Its organizers defended the conference as an expression of free speech and academic freedom, while others compared it to Nazi hate speech of the 1930s.

Other critics noted the stark anti-Israel bias of the BDS agenda and lack of balance in the conference’s speakers and panelists (not a single pro-Israel voice was heard), which cast in high relief the essentially pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist nature of the conference and of the entire BDS movement.

PennBDS leaders inadvertently justified this perception by revoking the press credentials of a journalist from The Jewish Exponent just one day before the conference.  Even neutral observers noted that on one hand the BDS movement claims to be fair and balanced in its interpretation and representation of the Israel-Arab conflict, promotes itself as working toward a just and peaceful resolution between Arabs and Israelis, insists that it is not anti-Israel or anti-Jewish, and claims to champion free speech and uninhibited discourse. On the other hand, barring entry to a Jewish journalist representing a Jewish newspaper, who wrote a critique of the conference demonstrates a controlling and repressive anti-Jewish aspect of the movement which is quite the opposite of how BDS proponents represent it.

A similarly revealing decision was barring Brett Cohen, national campus program director for StandWithUs, from entry to the Saturday night keynote speech of Ali Abunimah, an internationally recognized Israel basher, even though Abunimah’s talk was advertised as open to the public.

But even more revealing was the list of speakers, many well known as anti-Israel personalities who seek the dissolution of the Jewish state by political or violent means.  These speakers have a long and undeniable history of virulent anti-Israel rhetoric and borderline anti-Semitic vitriol. Their predominance on the dais of the PennBDS conference, and the absence of any voices to the contrary, brand the conference as a diatribe of irrational Israel-hatred and exhortation to the elimination of the Jewish state rather than any sort of constructive political discourse.[1]

Among these speakers, Abunimah is primus inter pares. He demonstrated his anti-Israel credentials in his keynote speech, in which he compared Israel to apartheid-era South Africa, compared historical criticism of the Arab narrative to Holocaust denial, and called for a “one-state solution” which many see as a subterfuge for using Arab demographic expansion to end the Jewish majority in Israel and thus, via democratic plebiscite, to convert the Jewish state into a Muslim state with a dhimmi-fied Jewish minority.  Elsewhere, most prominently on the anti-Israel website “Electronic Intifada” that he founded, he regularly compares Israel to Nazi Germany, and has compared Israeli defensive actions against terrorists as a Zionist holocaust of Palestinians.[2]

It follows therefore, that those who participated in the conference but never uttered a word of balance, or raised any criticism that a putatively academic agenda had been transmogrified into the diatribe of Israel-hatred, knowingly supported the Arab efforts to eliminate the Jewish State.

And that brings us to Amy Kaplan.

Dr. Kaplan is a professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania where she teaches courses on the culture of imperialism, comparative perspectives on the Americas, and mourning and memory. Currently she is the president of the American Studies Association and is writing a book about the persistent and powerful working of Zionism in American culture and politics.[3]  Her most prominent publication, The Anarchy of Empire in the Making of U.S. Culture, has been described by one reviewer as

a typical product of the academic sweatshop. Jargon abounds. The passive voice wraps whole paragraphs in gauze. Long words take the place of short ones; a voice that envisions itself as oppositional and penetrating distinguishes itself chiefly by its unbroken conformity to fashionable views.

But at the same time, the reviewer tells us, she provides real insight into American history and identity. So she seems to be a serious scholar, but at the same time a lackey to the whims of academic fashion and political trends.

She is also a signatory to the pro-Palestinian U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which calls for boycotting Israeli universities and academics, including those who support the Palestinian cause.  It is not surprising therefore that she was featured at the BDS conference as the leader of a break-out session on February 4th, titled “Academic Boycott of Israel,” where she told participants how to surreptitiously insert into unrelated classroom material the “reality” of Israeli occupation and oppression of Palestinians.  Her comments were captured on video and promptly disseminated via You Tube, giving rise to criticism directed at her and at her host university.[4]

Her instructions came in response to a question from a participant in her break-out session.[5]

Question to Kaplan:

My question falls … on Prof. Kaplan’s call to think about a positive program on BDS .… about teaching in the classroom about BDS …. how can that be formed into pedagogy; especially ….when the course is not dealing directly with material that has to do with Palestine?

Kaplan’s answer:

Well I don’t know how you can, how you can address the issue if you are not dealing with a course that has no content or relationship to it.  But I know that, I mean, you can make courses that have content. I mean, for example, I happen to know you and I know that you’re interested in prisons and the literature and culture about prisons.  So you can teach a course on which you included prisons as a really, really big thing, not only in the political life of Palestinians but also in their literature and in their poetry. So that will be kind of an ideal way, you take a thematic course and you bring in themes from this issue. And literature is really a great way to teach students about what’s going on – students who think they know they have an ideological line, a political line, and then they read Darwish,[6] they read, you know, “The Pessoptimist”[7] and it opens up a whole new world  — so that’s my answer (emphasis added).

The questioner wants to teach the Palestinian narrative in classes that are not related to the Middle East or the Arab-Israel conflict.  Why would a college instructor want to do that?  Why would anyone suggest that any aspects of BDS are legitimate themes for classes about other topics… unless, of course, the instructor wants to advance the Palestinian narrative, an essentially political agenda, into the putatively apolitical quest for knowledge that is supposed to take place in the university setting?

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  • Sami

    Learn the truth about the BDS Hitlerjugend by going to PACBI.com

    • Nakba1948

      LOL, you mental midgets thumbs-downed some PARODYING the BDS movement. How sadly representative of your knee-jerk mentality.

      • Nakba1948

        "Ooh, that website has the word 'Palestine' on its home page. Quick, somebody caller Spencer and Horowitz!"

      • APP

        You are a nazi, Mr NakBS. Why don't you lend your insights on an Arab site. This site is fighting for "NEVER AGAIN" Your people wish to inflict another Holocaust on us. NEVER AGAIN!

  • Jim

    The sad reality is that any one that discusses the problems Israel causes is immediately branded an antisemitic or a hater of Israel by Jewish people or the state of Israel. This is playing the race card as we so often see in the US by any of a number of racial groups. By doing so they in fact show how racist they are.
    The state of Israel has some big problems and in many ways does things we in the US deem incompatible with our way of life. The only way some of us know about it is the media. Sadly that same media sees the Jewish state as a perfect thing. It is far from it.

    • FriendofGaryCooper

      WHERE is your HEAD? The media is about as anti-Israel as one could imagine; just look at all the slew of Israel critics and bashers in the media. And criticism of Israel is a way of life, among American Jews and in Israel itself.

      • reader

        His head is in his sitting utility unfitted with light fixtures. His diatribe is complete nonsense and demagoguery. The entire leftist political strategy is based on identity politics, but they always blame their opponents of being prejudiced.

    • aspacia

      Israel has problems, mostly stemming from its violent neighbors. She was and is continually attacked and responds. Actually, Israel should expel every Gazan from Gaza and every West Bank Arab into Jordan because the leaders of these two groups want to destroy Israel and want Judenfrei lands. What is good for the goose is good for the gander and what Hamas and Fatah incite is a call for another Holocaust. Read what they teach their children. Peruse Palestinian Watch for insight.

      Just think for a minute about resources and all the societies of the ME and ask which more closely be identified with the West. It is Israel.

    • stern

      Okay Jim, let's consider the "problems" Israel causes.

      For a start, there's the rather obvious one, and the one that I'll bet creates the biggest problem of all for you. The State of Israel makes it possible for Jews to defend themselves, for the first time in two thousand years. No doubt that one gives you sleepless night after sleepless night.

      But fair enough, I'm sure you would rather address the "problems" Israel creates for the Arabs of the Middle East. Let's first consider the Arabs who live in Israel. Well, these guys get to vote in national elections, they have political parties representing them, they sit on the Israeli Supreme Court, they serve in the cabinet – and if they do not have political aspirations, they can live and work anywhere, marry anyone they want, take advantage of the Israeli health care system and more. Of course, that's a huge problem for you, because nowhere else in the Middle East do Arabs enjoy anything close to those privileges of living in a democracy.

      Ah, you say, what about the Palestinians? Well, my friend, I have it on good authority that the Palestinians in the West Bank (I exclude Gaza because Gaza is completely under the control of Hamas; yes, Israel maintains an arms blockade, but food, medicine and even construction material goes through the border daily, and Gaza is also bordered by Egypt, so you can't blame Israel for the lives of the Gazans, although I know you will try) … sorry, back to my point. The Palestinians in the West Bank enjoy a higher quality of life and a longer life expectancy than Arabs anywhere else in the Middle East.

      What? I hear you say. Can't be. Well, my friend, it is. In May 2011the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics released a report on the qualify of life in the West Bank and – surprise, surprise, – it showed that in terms of infrastructure, access to resources like water and electricity and more, the West Bank Palestinians have it better than the average Arab anywhere else in the Middle East. Once again, a huge problem for you, because it goes against everything you've come to believe. Oh, and in case you missed it, that report was issued by the Palestinians themselves, not Israel. (See http://www.myesha.org.il/?CategoryID=335&Arti… and run it through google translate)

      So, on behalf of Israel and Israelis everywhere, I apologize for causing you all those problems, and I promise that we will to everything in our power to continue to do so.

    • Jobe

      Who is sworn to DESTROY whom? Who regularly attacks civilian population centers to indiscriminently kill citizens? Who has launched 3 wars against whom? Who in the Middle East is our staunchest ally?

    • ziontruth

      "The sad reality is that any one that discusses the problems Israel causes is immediately branded an antisemitic or a hater of Israel by Jewish people or the state of Israel."

      You speak as if this were the reaction to any kind of criticism of Israel. It isn't. The criticism that Israel receives far too often, and does indeed merit decrial as Jew-hatred, is of the existential type that blames the Jewish State not for this or that policies but for its very existence as the sovereign polity of the Jewish nation in their one and only homeland of Palestine.

      Try "I don't think the Greeks are entitled to a nation-state in Hellas, but that doesn't mean I'm a Greek-hater." Maybe there were actual sentiments to that effect in the 1820s. However, they didn't wash then, just as anti-Zionism doesn't wash now: You cannot both be against self-determination for a real nation and not hate the members of that nation. Even if you don't intend to hate, you as good as do so by giving aid and comfort to their enemies.

      There is an option of neutrality. It's called apathy. The moment you take the claims of Israel's Arab imperialist enemies over those of the Jews, you're no longer neutral. And therefore, you have no right to protest being called on your anti-Israel activity.

    • Nakba1948

      Good point, Jim. No other country gets away with *less* scrutiny than Israel in the American media. If I were you, I'd simply ignore the "anti-Semitism" charge. This is how the Zionists like to shut down debate, when they feel they can't address the substance of your points (cf. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUGVPBO9_cA). Ironically, the FPM clowns, through their demagoguery and persistent Islamophobia, foster more anti-Semitism than they eradicate. I genuinely feel for the average Jews who are affected by this nonsense.

      • Ghostwriter

        Please,Nakba1948,stop being silly. The Israelis are not screaming "Death to America" every five minutes. Yours ARE!!!! The Israelis don't burn the American flag every chance they get. Yours DO!!!! The Israelis care about America and Americans. Yours do not and never have. Your people want to kill every Jew and American on the face of this earth. Stop ask me and other Americans for sympathy for you people because you won't get it! You've never EARNED it!!!!

      • reader

        "Ironically, the FPM clowns, through their demagoguery and persistent Islamophobia, foster more anti-Semitism than they eradicate. I genuinely feel for the average Jews who are affected by this nonsense."

        Ironically, David Horowitz has a simple test for a liar like this. The simple question is, whether the liar supports Nazi organizations, such as HAMAS and Hezbollah, both of which overtly call for the murder of ALL Jews and ALL Americans EVERYWHERE. The answer is inevitably 'yes,' or there's no answer at all. Case closed.

      • si91

        No other religion gets away with "less" scrutiny than Islam in the American media. If I were you, I'd simply ignore the "Islamophobia" charge. That's how Jihadophiles like to shut down debate, when they feel they can't address the substance of your points. Ironically enough, the Nakba1948 clowns, through their demagoguery and persistent antisemitism, foster more Islamophobia than they eradicate. I genuinely feel for the average Muslims who are affected by this nonsense.

        • ziontruth

          Nice one, si91!

    • APP

      After more than TWO milenia of antisemitism we can sense it a mile away. None of your disguises will fly NEVER AGAIN. The Arabs are famous for making up invented everything. The truth is immutable. Israel was and is ours and will be ours forever! The hater shall perish…

      • irateiconoclast

        Zei Gezunt!and…MASADA WILL NEVER FALL AGAIN!!!

    • irateiconoclast

      Your bilge is an exemplar of the intellectually dishonest gambit that Jew-haters employ on a regular basis, to wit: No matter how clear and egregious the hatred of Jews, as expressed by disproportionate and unjustified criticism of Israel and those who support it…those who point it out are somehow being unfair.

      As you may or not be aware, Judaism is a RELIGION, not a RACE–so your credibility is shot from the get-go.

      If Israel has "big problems"–they stem from a-holes like YOU!

      The media?…seems like you want them to be even MORE anti-Israel than they already are….

  • Judy

    Jim go commit an act of sexual penetration upon yourself!

    • mrbean

      Hmmm…. Judy I am so shocked. tsk tsk tsk …heh heh heh

    • Nakba1948

      Another incisive, tasteful comment.

      • Judy

        Nakba1948's mother sure is a tasteful commment

  • mrbean

    The relentless 60-year campaign of terror against the Jewish people is savage. The torture of hostage Gilad Shalit was savage. The bloody hacking to death of the Fogel family was savage. The Munich Olympic massacre was savage. The unspeakable torture of Ehud Goldwasser was savage. The tens of thousands of rockets fired from Gaza into southern Israel (into schools, homes, etc.) are savage. The vicious Jew-hatred behind this genocide is savage. The endless demonization of the Jewish people in the Palestinian and Arab media is savage. The refusal to recognize the state of Israel is savage. So, to quote Ayn Rand — "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man."

  • PAthena

    The Arabs envy Jews so much that some have taken on the name of Jews – calling themselves "Palestinians." The Roman Emperor Hadrian, after having defeated the last Jewish rebellion under Bar Kochba in 135 A.D., changed the name of Judea to "Palestina" in order to eradicate all memory of Judea and the Jews. (He outlawed Judaism and renamed Jerusalem "Aelia Capitolina," "Aelius" being his gens name.) From that time the name "Palestine" was synonymous with "land of the Jews" or "the Holy Land" (since Jesus was a Jew). That is why Great Britain was given the "Palestine Mandate" after World War I, to be "the homeland of the Jews."
    Calling Arabs "Palestinians" is an effect of the phony history and propaganda of Gamal Nasser, ruler of Egypt, and the Soviet Union, haters of Jews, who founded the "Palestine Liberation Organization" (P.L.O.) in Cairo in 1964.

  • Moishe Pupick

    Th., 02/23/12 common era

    Professor Kaplan is yet one more useful (Jewish) idiot being used by The Moslem Brotherhood in its global jihad. She is an example of a contemporary Jewish kapo. I wonder how she imagines that she would fare under a Moslem Caliphate. The good prof. ought to get her tochus muy pronto to a Mikveh and start to do t'shuva.

  • Brujo Blanco

    There are those that believe they can reach out into the bowels of history, identify past wrongs, and correct them today. The Muslims want to retaliate against Jews (not just Israelis) for past wrongs. This type of thinking whether based on fact or fiction identifies a debt that cannot be paid. There are those Muslims that want to be “paid” for the actions. Of Christians during the Crusades. In our own country there are blacks that want to be paid for slavery. History happened qnd it cannot be changed or corrected.

  • maria

    Israel is only democratic state in the ME. There are 20% of population are Arabs. How many Jews live in Gaza? Zero. Where is apparteid state? It is concocted label as well as concocted Palestinians who are Arabs from neighboring Arab countries. It is historical facts. Occupation? One more concocted label. Several Arab countries attacked one tiny Israel. They were defeated and Jews liberated their historial promissed Land.
    More over League of Nation by Belfur treaty appointed that Land for recreation of Jews state. UN is voioleted that treaty. Great Britain who it was entrust violeted it. The most what about Israel's "crime" is lie. Just don't be deaf and blind and listen what Arabs saying openly. Palestinians concocted to destroy Israel. Period. If Arabs in those wars would won, all Jews will be killed. It is truth.

  • driheart

    Dear professor Amy Kaplan, I am aware of your activity in BDS. As a teacher of ME Arab Israel conflict I am frequently asked:" Do you think that Netanyahu is worse than Basher al Assad? Are women treated worse in Israel than in Saudi? Are Gays and Lesbians treated in Israel worse than they are treated in Iran? Did Israel ever suggest genocide of Palestinians? Lastly, can you comment on professor Norman Finkelstein suggestion that all that BDS wants is the destruction of Israel, that BDS is a cult. http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2012/02/norman-f
    This interview for me is an eye opener and suggests that BDS movement is Palestinization of anti Semitism. I am only amazed that Sarah Shulman "Pinkwashing" suggested that Israel has a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life.

  • BS77

    Everything the left touches turns to dirt……Indoctrinated ivory tower leftist robots like Amy Kaplan have no idea what is real and what isn't. I ll tell you one thing: Israel is NOT the problem in the middle east. Pseudo intellectual college drones like Kaplan live in hermetically sealed leftist star chambers….and dutifully grind out books, tracts and lecture material that is nothing more than leftist pap regurgitated repeatedly to the out stretched beaks of moronic college birds who have no ability to discern truth from lies.

  • Fin

    1922-2012 90 Years to first Arab racist anti-Jewish boycott The current bigoted anti-Israel boycotts, are NOT related to any "policies." It began many years before Israel was re-established, in 1922. It was pushed mainly by the infamous Mufti Haj amin al-Husseini, who allied himself with Hitler later on. http://freeisraelnow.blogspot.com/2012/02/1922-20

  • SECREV

    why is an English professor even allowed to teach anything other than English?

  • irateiconoclast

    Kaplan is a Kapo Kunt!

  • Eben Cohen

    Dr. Amy Kaplan’s anti Israel activities are nothing but a mere white wash academic madness and frivolity.
    It should be seen as such and totally ignored.
    She’s entitled to her opinions but Israel as a nation also has the right to be and knows how best to go about it.
    Those who put off other peoples’ candle for their own to remain; should not think that will make theirs burn brighter.
    A word is enough for the wise.