It was the summer of 2014. Hamas rockets had pounded Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The rockets were stored in schools. They were launched from mosques and churches.
The dead included Daniel Tregerman, a 4-year-old Israeli boy killed by shrapnel. Another Hamas massacre of Jewish children was narrowly averted when a father managed to get kindergarteners inside before a rocket hit.
At the beginning of August, even the White House spokesman had called Hamas’ actions “barbaric”. Later that month, Professor Andrew Pessin, a Yale and Columbia educated teacher of religion and philosophy at Connecticut College, wrote, “One image which essentializes the current situation in Gaza might be this. You’ve got a rabid pit bull chained in a cage, regularly making mass efforts to escape.”
Pessin referenced Hamas suicide bombings in the 90s making it clear that he was talking about terrorism. As author of The God Question, he had respectfully condensed the views on religion from Christians, Jews, Atheists and Muslims, and was about as far from a bigot as any human being could get.
Described by students as “funny, insightful, engaging and passionate” and “one of the smartest people you’ll ever meet”, Professor Andrew Pessin was an unlikely target for a hate campaign.
But on the modern campus no one is safe.
Dr. Pessin’s house blew up and his life blew up after a campus hate campaign orchestrated by students opposed to Israel. They took the opportunity while he was out on medical leave to smear him as a bigot.
Despite making Dr. Pessin’s old Facebook posts into an issue, Lamiya Khandaker deleted her own Facebook profile once the controversy began. Nevertheless cached Facebook material appears to show her accusing Israel of “genocide” and scoffing at anti-Semitism “Everything is anti semitic to people wtf. It’s pissing me off”. She even claimed that “Starbucks supports occupation and Apartheid”.
Staffers at The College Voice, a student paper which had run a piece praising Iran’s Holocaust denying leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, advanced the hate campaign against Professor Pessin accusing him of “dehumanizing” Palestinians when they knew quite well that he was writing about Hamas.
The White House calling Hamas “barbaric” wasn’t dehumanizing, but Andrew Pessin comparing the terrorist group to a pit bull was.
Leading the hate campaign against the professor was a College Voice editor, Ayla Zuraw-Friedland, who posted a distorted and snipped version of Dr. Pessin’s comment and launched a petition claiming that his Facebook post from last year had “caused widespread alarm in the campus community”.
Zuraw ranted that the college needed to “identify racism when we see it” and described students engaged in a hate campaign against Dr. Pessin as “victims of racism”. She falsely claimed that Dr. Pessin’s apology for offending a student was an admission that he was a racist.
“In my opinion, it certainly feels like to me as an absolute, deliberate set up. It feels like an orchestrated campaign,” Dr. Pessin has said. And that’s exactly what it is.
Ayla Zuraw-Friedland implicitly defended Hamas, writing that, “regardless of whom Prof. Pessin is addressing here, he is indisputably dehumanizing them.” Dr. Pessin would then be forced to state, “I am not dehumanizing anyone, not even members of Hamas.”
This is what the climate of anti-intellectual terrorism at Connecticut College had come down to.
A Jewish professor was being forced to deny that he had dehumanized a violently racist terrorist group that calls Jews “Brothers of apes and pigs”.
Rejecting understanding, Ayla Zuraw-Friedland ranted that calling for “’greater understanding on both sides’ colludes with racism.” Instead she demanded that all senor members of the administration denounce Dr. Pessin and that all criticism of the students engaged in a hate campaign against him cease.
If Senator McCarthy had risen from the grave to shamble across the campus of Connecticut College, he couldn’t have done any better than Ayla Zuraw-Friedland’s campaign of demonization and censorship.
In the College Voice, Michael Fratt and Katilyn Garbe wrote that Pessin’s comments about Hamas were “not only incredibly offensive, but also particularly damaging within the culture of Islam, which has a potent conceptualization of dogs. “ That last part was a roundabout reference to the fact that Mohammed had declared that women and dogs annul prayer and ordered the extermination of dogs.
While it’s one thing for Islam to equate women and dogs, it’s unacceptable to equate Hamas and dogs.
They wondered what would have happened “had this Professor spoken out against Jews or LGBTQ individuals.”
If he had, he would have been Hamas, the Islamic terror group on whose behalf he was being lynched.
Hamas’ charter states “Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious.”
“The Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realization of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”
That’s a rather explicit call for genocide by the terrorist group that some Connecticut College student activists are shielding. And Hamas is even less fond of gays than it is of Jews.
In response to the College Voice hate campaign, Connecticut College held a forum at which President Katherine Bergeron criticized the respected professor’s comments on Hamas, saying, “I was taken aback as much by its central image as by its vehemence… It was not in keeping with the level of discourse I have come to expect from the Connecticut College community and, in particular, from its faculty.”
All this hate and outrage is notable for the contrast with what happened when another academic called for the murder of Israelis.
Steven Salaita was denied a job at the University of Illinois after he responded to Hamas’ kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, two of them 16-year-olds, by Tweeting, “I wish all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing.”
“Zionists: transforming “antisemitism” from something horrible into something honorable since 1948,” Steven Salaita also tweeted. “If it’s “antisemitic” to deplore colonization, land theft, and child murder, then what choice does any person of conscience have?”
But activists didn’t denounce Salaita, instead they stood behind his calls for murder and hate. They turned him into a victim who was being silenced for his speech.
The radical left’s current standard for academic freedom is that denying a job to a terrorist supporter who defends anti-Semitism and calls for the mass murder of Jews is a violation of academic freedom. But comparing that same terrorist group to a pit bull is a serious campus hate crime.
“At this point it feels to me not a matter of assuaging wounded feelings, but a matter of deliberately trying to silence and even threaten pretty much the only Jewish professor on campus who openly advocates for Israel,” Dr. Andrew Pessin said.
And that’s exactly what it is.
Censoring criticism of terrorists while promoting their mass murder of Jews is not academic freedom. It’s anti-intellectual terrorism.
Don’t miss Shillman Fellow Daniel Greenfield on The Glazov Gang discuss The Real Meaning of ‘Allahu Akbar’:
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