Rewarding moral cowardice.
Recently the Montreal university McGill decided to award an honorary doctorate to UC Berkeley Professor and anti-Israel activist Judith Butler, a darling of the academic left. This set off written protests from McGill’s only pro-Israel student organization and from an outraged McGill professor whom the students inspired.
Butler specializes in the fields of feminism, queer theory, political philosophy, and ethics, and has devoted much of her academic career to the struggle to eliminate the state of Israel. From FrontPage’s sister site, Discover the Networks:
Butler denounces Israel’s “arbitrary state violence” and “state racism.” She has been a leader in the campaign to impose a worldwide boycott against Israeli universities…
In February 2010, she went to the West Bank to demonstrate against the alleged mistreatment of women by Zionist “occupiers.” She denounced Israel at length for its “mistreatment” of Arab women.
While in the West Bank, Butler explained to her terrorist hosts that she opposed the existence of a Jewish state even alongside some future Palestinian Arab state…
Butler's writings are steeped in the philosophy of “deconstruction,” which contends that words have no meaning, that there is no objective truth, and that there are no false narratives, just different subjectivities.
Butler contends that the War on Terror has provided a climate where the sexual freedoms she and others fought for “are now misused to symbolize (sic) the shining, gleaming modernity of the West.” “The backwardness and inferiority of ‘others’ is counterposed (sic) and underscored against this,” she says.
As with deconstructionists in general, Butler has earned a reputation for her dense writing style. In 1998 she won first-prize in the Bad Writing Contest, sponsored by the academic journal Philosophy and Literature, which “celebrates the most stylistically lamentable passages found in scholarly books and articles.” Here is her “winning” selection:
The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.
When McGill Students for Israel issued a statement denouncing her recent honorary McGill doctorate, they spurred Gil Troy to speak out as well. Troy is a professor of History at McGill and a prominent pro-Israel activist, which makes him an endangered species in the academic world. He writes a weekly column for The Jerusalem Post, and is Editor-at-Large of The Daily Beast‘s Open Zion blog.
In a recent article entitled “McGill's Judith Butler Bungle,” Troy challenged the McGill doctorate committee’s “foolish decision”: “Butler is a caustic critic of Israel, with a blind spot for terrorist totalitarians.” Rewarding her for moral cowardice, he wrote, “goes against everything McGill stands for.”
Troy zeroed in on her remarks at a “teach-in” on war, when she said, “Understanding Hamas/Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left, is extremely important. That does not stop us from being critical of certain dimensions of both movements.” She explained that those movements are “‘left’ in the sense that they oppose colonialism and imperialism, but their tactics are not ones that I would ever condone.”
Of course, Hamas and Hezbollah are only progressive in the sense that their hateful agenda is progressing apace, thanks in no small part to support from the Muslim Brotherhood’s friends in the White House, who have repeatedly made it clear they are no friends of Israel. As for their anti-imperialism, both Hamas and Hezbollah stem from the most imperialist ideology on the planet, Islam, although the left turns a blind eye to that because the unholy alliance of leftists and jihadists share a deep-seated desire to destroy Israel. As Troy points out, “Her welcome telegraphs a show of solidarity with these two organizations because of that defining ideological stance.” He noted that
Both times she failed to denounce the Hamas-Hezbollah religious zealotry, homophobia, sexism, anti-Semitism and genocidal aims. Her need to prettify these terrorist organizations as “social movements”… reflects a moral obtuseness and intellectual sloppiness that has made many intellectuals enablers of Islamist terrorists and Palestinian rejectionism.
Too many academics like Butler, Troy went on, “have been ideologically colonized by a form of totalitarianism which is intellectually imperialist... Today, politicized professors like Butler push students to cloud the truth through their particular political prism.” He went on to castigate Butler for her “amoral, sloppy, politically correct identity politics,” “the weak intellectual fig leafs [she] provides today’s totalitarians,” “the damage [she] does in rationalizing Islamists’ human wrongs by uniting in anti-Israel zeal, “the bridge-burning efforts of Butler and her BDS comrades who polarize an already divided Middle East,” and “the simplistic sloganeering of Butler’s boycotters.”
Last year a similar firestorm of controversy arose around Butler when she received another intellectual award, Frankfurt’s prestigious and lucrative Theodor Adorno Prize, which recognizes excellence in the disciplines of philosophy, music, theater and film. One political scientist complained that “Butler is one of a tiny number of token Jews who are used to legitimize the ongoing war against Israel, following a dark practice used for centuries in the Diaspora.”
Dr. Charles Small, the director of The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, wrote about her Adorno Prize: “It boggles the mind that a so-called scholar has come to perceive Hezbollah and Hamas as part of a progressive Left. [These are] organizations dedicated openly to the killing of Jews, Israelis and Zionists; the subjugation of women; the doing away with basic notions of democracy and equality for all citizens.”
FrontPage’s own Bruce Bawer also weighed in on her Adorno Prize, noting that “With… her kind words for Hamas and Hezbollah, and her enthusiasm for the BDS movement, Butler has made it quite clear which side she stands on when the rights of free individuals are up against the politically correct cause du jour, however violent, intolerant, and tyrannical it may be.”
The progressive academic left's support for Islamic Nazis like Hezbollah and Hamas is not merely ivory tower intellectualizing. It has the real-world impact of advancing the unholy alliance’s aim of the destruction of the Jewish state. Rewarding that with yet another university award is complicity with evil.
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