Editor’s note: The interview below is with Dr. Richard Cravatts, the author of Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel & Jews, a new book published by the David Horowitz Freedom Center. To order a copy, click here.
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Dr. Richard Cravatts, a Professor of Practice and Director of the Master’s Program in Communications Management at the Simmons College School of Management. He is President of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, a grassroots community of over 50,000 academics on more than 3500 campuses worldwide, and a board member of the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, the Investigative Taskforce on Campus Anti-Semitism, and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. He is also the author of the new book, Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel & Jews (David Horowitz Freedom Center).
FP: Richard Cravatts, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Illuminate for us the jihad against Jews and Israel on the American campus.
What is the extent to which the campus Left is allied with jihadist elements, Muslim student associations, and funded by Saudi money? Why do you think they have the formed this “unholy alliance”?
Cravatts: Many of us have been concerned for some time with the relentless, deceptive, and dangerous attacks against Israel emanating from college campuses, particularly because academia was always thought to be a place where honesty debate and scholarly inquiry could flourish. But at least with regard to Israel, that no longer is the case. In fact, what I characterize as an intellectual jihad against Israel is taking place right now on campuses everywhere, characterized by such vile contortions of history and fact, and driven by such moral imbecility and double standards on the part of its adherents, that is has few parallels as a campus movement. It involves, first, a rapturous adherence to a cult of “Palestinianism,” in which seeking social justice for the ever-suffering Palestinians has become the primary intellectual mission of many liberals who deride Western values and democratic states, and a convenient cause for many in the Arab world for whom the Palestinians have become a club to use against Israel and Jews. On campuses, this has evolved into a dangerous “unholy alliance” between Islamists with a specific agenda to dilute Western institutions, and leftists who, in accommodating radical Islam, not only enable what Robert Spencer has called a “stealth jihad,” but help facilitate it.
On campuses, the stealth jihad is led by the Muslin Student Association, an off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood whose 600 chapters serve as command centers for inviting guest speakers with incendiary rhetoric, annual hate-fests during which Israel and Jews are libeled, slandered, and demonized, shouting down or preventing speeches by pro-Israel, anti-jihad speakers, and other instances extremist behavior and destructive narratives about the Israel/Palestinian debate. This alliance between jihadists and Leftists, who ordinarily share little in common, ideologically, serves both sides well: Muslim students who wish to deflect the pathologies of Palestinian cause savor being able to assign the West’s worst appellation of ‘racist’ to Israel, and campus liberals at the same time fulfill their Marxist dreams of trying to envision and help create what Ruth Wisse of Harvard called the “ideal of the egalitarian state,” something that the Left had hoped that Communism would create, but which ultimately failed to be established anywhere and in the pursuit of which some 100 million souls perished during the twentieth century.
And petro-dollars have helped to lubricate this stealth jihad. Jay P. Greene, a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute , noted that “Gulf Arabs gave a total of $88 million to 14 U.S. universities between 1995” and today. What does all that largesse buy? For one thing, academic recipients are going to shy away from any critical investigation of the donor’s own political system, autocratic rule, or abuse in the social and civil rights of the citizens of those oil-rich but often economically- and socially-backward countries. Though many of the funded centers, such as Georgetown’s, are established with the stated intention of helping to “build bridges” between the Christian West and Islam for the purpose of enhancing mutual understanding, in practice the centers end up serving as beachheads where Arab states can attempt to influence scholarship and indoctrinate a new generation of scholars.
FP: What damage does the campus Left cause because of its ideological attacks on Israel as a racist, apartheid state, and how it reinforces other items in the leftist agenda (i.e. attacks on “colonialism” and political correctness, etc.)?
Cravatts: Canadian MP Irwin Cotler has said that the most serious crime one could be accused of in the twentieth century was racism and Nazism, and it’s interesting that both of those terms are now used promiscuously against Israel on campuses around the world. The academic enemies of Israel have created a false narrative in which the “colored”, indigenous Palestinians have been dispossessed by occupying “white” European Jews with no real connection to Israel, that the presence of Jews in the Palestine is yet another indication of colonialism, imperialism, militarism, and Nazi-like brutality. The frequent condemnations, on and off campus, that Zionism is equivalent to racism and that Israel is an “apartheid” country (a charge given credence by such luminaries as former President Jimmy Carter, among others), is very purposeful, because if it can be asserted, over and over, that Israel is a racist state, that it was built on stolen land, and that it continues to exist in violation of international human rights and at the expense of the Palestinian victims, it can legitimately be attacked, vilified, and even dismantled for its sin of racism.
What you yourself, Jamie, have identified as the “Left’s sacred cow of multiculturalism.” has also meant that faculty as well as students have been seeped in an ideology which refuses to demarcate any differences between a democratic state struggling to protect itself and aggressive, genocidal foes who wish to destroy it with their unending assaults. For the multiculturalist Left, the moral strengths of the two parties are equivalent, even though the jihadist foes of Israel, for example, have waged an unending struggle with the stated aim of obliterating the Jewish state through the murder of Jews.
Thus, this inclination to worship multiculturalism forces liberals to make excuses for those cultures which have obvious, often irredeemable, moral defects, such as the Islamist foes who currently threaten Israel and the West. As commonly happens when liberals appraise the relative merits of their own countries and others, one set of expectations are used to measure Third-world countries and their leaders, and a totally different, far more stringent (if not unreasonable) set is used when evaluating the behavior and values of the United States, the EU, or Israel. This cynical, nearly hypocritical, view has meant that the Left frequently denounces Western democracies as imperialistic, racist, militaristic oppressors, precisely because they wish them to evolve to a purer, newly-structured society and feel that they have the collective insight and moral strength to effect this change as they strive for social justice.
The danger in all of this, of course, is the campus enemies of Israel and the West, by excusing terror and Islamism at the same time they criticize the West’s attempts to protect itself, emboldens are enemies, and cast Israel—and its supporters—as the villain and the actual obstacle to world peace.
FP: Which are the guiltiest universities in terms of the jihad against Jews and Israel on the American campus? Can you tell us a story or two that will help reflect this dark phenomenon?
Cravatts: The situation on California campuses with regard to anti-Israelism, and even raw anti-Semitism, continues to grow in intensity and frequency, and, while it may well represent some of the more egregious examples of Israel demonization occurring anywhere today, in many ways it reflects some of the persistent and alarming issues seen elsewhere. In fact, observers of out of control anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic activity on campuses consider California’s universities to be the veritable ground zero of such vitriol, with particularly troubling and persistent problems of radical student groups, venom-spewing guest speakers, annual hate-fests targeting Israel and Jewish students, and a pervasive mood on campus in which Jewish students and other pro-Israel faculty and students experienced visceral and real “harassment, intimidation and discrimination,” as a 2004 Zionist Organization of America’s complaint to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights described the situation on one campus, the University of California at Irvine.
At UC-Irvine, anti-Israel events inevitably devolve solely into hate-fests against Israel, with condemnations, blood libels, conspiracy theories, Nazi imagery, anti-Semitic ravings, physical attacks on Jewish students, and a visceral loathing of Zionism, Judaism, and the Jewish state. There is no talk of Palestinian terrorism, the Arab’s intractability in refusing many offers of Palestinian statehood, or the genocidal impulses from a sea of jihadist foes that have threatened the Jewish state from its birth, which themselves have necessitated the much-maligned security wall, checkpoints, and even occupation. Only Israel’s sins are discussed, and all of the blame for the region’s various social dysfunctions is laid at its feet. That is clearly the Muslim Student Union’s intention and purpose in sponsoring their myriad events—vilifying Israel and Jews—not to support the Palestinians and the rhetoric of their invited guest speakers confirms that. Amir-Abdel Malik-Ali, for instance, former Nation of Islam member, convert to Islam, and cheerleader for Hamas and Hezbollah, has been a ubiquitous, poisonous presence on the Irvine campus who never hesitates to castigate Israel, Zionists, Jewish power, and Jews themselves as he weaves incoherent, hallucinatory conspiracies about the Middle East and the West. Speaking from a podium with a banner reading “Israel, the 4th Reich” in May 2006, Malik-Ali referred to Jews as “new Nazis” and “a bunch of straight-up punks.” “The truth of the matter is your days are numbered,” he admonished Jews everywhere. “We will fight you. We will fight you until we are either martyred or until we are victorious.” Another odious guest speaker who regularly makes appearances on the MSA hate-fest circuit is Muhammad al-Asi, an anti-Semitic, anti-America Muslim activist from Washington, DC who has written, among other notorious ideas, that “The Israeli Zionist [is] the true and legitimate object of liquidation,” the type of statement that, if it was made on campus against any group of people other than Jews, would be denounced as hate speech.
Similarly, on the San Francisco State University campus the General Union of Palestinian Students have continually been at the center of a succession of riots, protests, and anti-Israel, anti-American hate-fests and counter-protests at which radical speakers regularly, and with unbridled invective, denounce and demonize Jews, Zionists, Israel, Republicans, and America. Most notorious was the Muslim student-sponsored, pro-Palestinian April 2002 demonstration that included grotesque flyers and posters depicting a dead Palestinian baby on a soup-can label imprinted with the words “Palestinian Children Meat, slaughtered according to Jewish rites under American license,” echoing the centuries-old blood libel of European anti-Semitism that accused Jews of murdering Gentile children and using their blood to bake matzos—a slander that has, not surprisingly, currently gained credence in the Arab world. Not content only to mount their own vile protests against Zionism, Jews, and Israel, the pro-Palestinian student groups took it upon themselves the following month to disrupt a vigil for Holocaust Remembrance Day where some 30 Jewish students who were reciting the Mourners’ Kaddish—the Jewish prayer for the dead—were shouted down by protesters who countered with grisly prayers in memory of Palestinian suicide bombers. The pro-Palestinian counter-demonstrators, armed with whistles and bull horns, physically assaulted the Jewish students, spat on them, and screamed such charming epithets as “Too bad Hitler didn’t finish the job,” “Get out or we will kill you,” “F**k the Jews,” “Die racist pigs,” and “Go back to Russia, Jews.” The violence escalated to the extent that San Francisco police officers finally had to usher the Jewish students to safety off campus. This is not merely “criticism of Israel,” as the perpetrators of this invective regularly claim; it is raw, venomous hatred, anti-Semitism masquerading as a discussion about politics.
FP: What is the manner in which scholarship—particularly in departments of Middle East studies—has been distorted and degraded by anti-Israel, anti-Western bias on the part of radical faculty?
Cravatts: The most serious aspect of the state of Middle East studies is that faculty members in these highly-politicized departments regularly are consistent in their rabid ideological approaches to assessing the contemporary Middle East, and particularly when it comes to their topic of choice, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Critics like Martin Kramer have long observed how whole departments, with Columbia’s being a prime example, have balkanized into single-minded academic enterprises defined by blatant antipathies for Israel, the United States, and the West, and are regularly oblivious to the many pathologies and endemic civil and social ills of the Arab world. The lingering influence of Edward Said’s concept of Orientalism has meant that academic departments of Middle East studies have become closed societies, where myopic mandarins, heavily imbued with postcolonial suspicions, create a world-view of Islam, the Arab world, and particularly of Israel and the Palestinians, that is at odds with how other scholars—with less ideological baggage—view the same facts on the ground.
Middle East studies have also been crippled with a devotion to Edward Said’s “Orientalism,” the notion that scholars of European descent cannot fully accept or appreciate the cultures of Third-world colored people; Orientalism and post-colonial theory are convenient not only to blame Western hegemony for suppressing and dominating the Islamic world, but also, for exculpating Middle Eastern countries from responsibility for their cultural pathologies and radical Islamic impulses. Imperialism, colonialism, and racism are the root causes, according to the mandarins of Middle East studies, not the failure of many Arab states to confront modernity and construct civil societies.