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An empirical test for academic hypocrisy


This is cross-posted at FresnoZionism

Dr. Fred Gottheil

I and others have often written that many ‘critics’ of Israel who purport to be concerned with issues of human rights, fairness, racism and so on actually have a different agenda. We’ve claimed that they are more concerned with demonizing the Jewish state than helping its alleged ‘victims’.

Sometimes it’s not hard to show that ‘non-political’ human rights groups, for example, actually have a financial interest in bashing Israel. For example, there is the case of Human Rights Watch fund-raising in Saudi Arabia, or the huge sums donated to extremist non-governmental organizations in Israel by the European Union.

But what about the legions of anti-Israel academics who are always prepared to bash Israel in the vilest terms? They claim to be motivated by concern for human rights — but are they?

Now Fred Gottheil, a professor of Economics at the University of Illinois, has devised an empirical test to find out. Dr. Gottheil took the case of a petition addressed to President Obama after the Gaza war in December-January 2008-9:

[Dr. David C.] Lloyd’s petition was notable not only for its criticism of Israeli policy — that is standard fare among the set of academics who subscribe to a post-colonial view of the world — but rather for its demonizing of the Jewish state.

His technique was anything but novel. It associated Israel with pre-Mandela South Africa. Lloyd’s South African-linking brushstrokes were many and crude, citing “collective punishment,” “apartheid regime,” “racist regime,” “besieged Bantustans,” “crimes against humanity,” and “ethnocidal atrocities.” These were layered on his fact-distorting canvas like icing on a poisoned cake.

The petition was signed by nine hundred academics, mostly in the US. Gottheil decided to test their commitment to human rights:

But accepting as genuine the petitioners’ stated goal of seeking social justice in the Middle East, I thought it fitting to contact the signatories of the Lloyd petition to offer them yet another opportunity to express their commitment to social justice in the region, this time by endorsing a Statement of Concern regarding human rights abuses practiced against gays and lesbians and against women in general in many of the Middle Eastern countries, including the territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority. The idea was really uncomplicated: Since they expressed a concern about social injustice in Israel, they might also be willing to express their concern about human rights abuses practiced against women, gays, and lesbians in other parts of the Middle East.

The detailed material for this Statement of Concern was gathered from sources as widespread as U.N. agencies, survey research units, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, scholarly journals, and social justice-related NGOs such as Asylum-Law and Human Rights Watch.

The Statement provided evidence of both the practice and the condoning of the practice by religious, political, and even academic authorities of honor-killing, wife-beating, and female genital mutilations. Documentation was offered for specific countries, for specific practices, and referred to specific authorities condoning the practices identified.

Gottheil carefully checked the credentials of the signers and excluded those who were outside of the US, or who were non-academics. In the case of graduate students, only those with evidence of teaching or published research were included. He ended up with 675 names, to which he sent the Statement of Concern, along with a request for endorsement. He did not indicate any connection between his statement and the Lloyd petition.

You probably know what’s coming, but it is even more outrageous than you think:

Only thirty of the 675 “self-described social-justice seeking academics” responded, 27 of them agreeing to endorse the Statement. But these 27 signatories represent less than five percent of the 675 contacted. In other words, 95 percent of those who had signed the Lloyd petition censuring Israel for human rights violation did not sign a statement concerning discrimination against women and gays and lesbians in the Middle East.

But wait! There’s more:

As many as 25 percent of the Lloyd petition-signing academics were faculty associated with gender and women studies departments. Yet of these, only 5 endorsed the Statement calling for attention to the discrimination against women in the Muslim countries of the Middle East. Put more bluntly, 164 of the 169 faculty who had chosen to focus their life’s work on matters affecting women, and who felt comfortable enough to affix their names to Lloyd’s petition censuring Israel, chose not to sign a Statement of Concern about documented human rights violations against gays, lesbians, and women in the Middle East. [my emphasis]

This does not come as a surprise to me, who often marvels at the sheer insanity of academics, especially those in ethnic or gender studies programs. An example was the Israeli Ph.D. candidate who argued that the fact that IDF soldiers do not rape Arab women proves that they are racists, and won an academic prize!

A common view on the Left is that all of the problems of Palestinian Arab women are a result of Israeli oppression (although many Palestinians themselves are quite clear about their culture’s poor treatment of women). I recall a radio program on Berkeley’s KPFA on the subject of  “The Palestinian Women’s Movement”: the presenter explained that this ‘movement’ was all about supporting their men in the struggle against Israel.

Perhaps the academics who signed the Lloyd petition but did not sign Gottheil’s statement held this view. Of course “the occupation” doesn’t explain the violent oppression of women and gays everywhere else in the Muslim Middle East.

Another possibility is that the academics take the racist position that backward Muslim Middle Easterners can’t be expected to know better, and therefore their behavior can be excused. Israel, on the other hand, is held to a standard so high that even self-defense is prohibited.

Or maybe they think that everything Israel does is wrong because it is a ‘colonial power’. It’s interesting that they don’t see the truly imperialist Iran — which controls Syria, is taking over Lebanon by way of Hizballah, and is working to assert its hegemony over Iraq — in that light.

Maybe the simplest explanation is best: while they favor Palestinian nationalism, Iranian imperialism and radical Islamism — and are prepared to keep quiet about the victimization of women and gays so as to avoid damaging these causes — they find the idea of Jewish nationalism, as expressed by the one Jewish state, repugnant.

18 replies »

  1. “… while they favor Palestinian nationalism, Iranian imperialism and radical Islamism — and are prepared to keep quiet about the victimization of women and gays so as to avoid damaging these causes — they find the idea of Jewish nationalism, as expressed by the one Jewish state, repugnant”

    All of which means that they are hypocrites as well as anti-Jewish racists. Just like the Guardian and CiF.

    Nice…. 😐

  2. Maybe the simplest explanation is best: It all centres around intellectual laziness.
    They do whatever is easy and fashionable.
    No need to think. No need to decide for oneself.
    Everyone does it, so they do it, too.

  3. Margie, I think you’re right about the “intellectual laziness” factor. While I don’t doubt that there’s a degree of malice also, I think that intellectual peer pressure (i.e., “spinelessness”) explains much of this dynamic.

  4. How amazing and yet I am not amazed. Can the list of acedemic names be made public? Why are these Israel bashers anonoymous? Who are they?

    This study in itself is worthy of it’s own website with a profile (based on profession only) on every acedemic listed there. They can then have the “right to reply” and dig their own grave even further explaining why they did not sign the second one.

    By the way. I see this excellent guest blog has the term “Honour” killing.
    I refer you to this article so we can erradicate this misleading term from our western terminology.
    http://ruth33.wordpress.com/2010/09/05/dishonoring-honor/

  5. new details of Rape by deceit
    we all remember the story and the rage and the articles on the guardian and around the world.
    According to the woman’s testimony in court, declassified at the request of the Israeli weekly HaIr, Kashur brutally raped her and left her half naked, bleeding and beaten in a stairwell.

    She told the court “he said that if I don’t stay silent and I don’t resist, then it would like end faster and it wouldn’t be like, he wouldn’t use force. I still resisted him and it was forced,” HaIr reported.

    Immediately after the incident she was taken by ambulance to Shaarei Tzedek Hospital, her testimony said, and from there she was taken to Kfar Shaul psychiatric hospital, the report said.

    In her testimony, the woman clarified that she was taken to Kfar Shaul because the hospital had a ward for women who had been sexually abused, HaIr said.

    According to the report, the initial rape charge was reduced to “rape by deceit” to avoid further traumatizing the woman, who had come under aggressive questioning about her history of being sexual abused, and her former occupation as a sex worker.
    http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=313647

  6. wont hold my breath waiting for the msm to pick up the real details of the rape, and the fact that israel will be letting lose a filthy animal in a little over a year

    oh, and iran is poised to murder a woman for “adultery”….just last week, she got 99 lashes because of a mistake in identity of a picture published in a newspaper

    still waiting for the outrage for the academic community

  7. Thank you very much, Alex. This new information deserves wider circulation and explains much, especially the puzzling fact that there had been a plea bargain. Perhaps this site will follow through once the appeal begins as assuredly the Guardian will not.

    The newspaper published the woman’s name, and commented that Kushur’s “brief encounter” with her had “turned his life upside down.”

    Of course the Guardian would be horrified if a British woman’s name had been revealed in similar circumstances – but when it comes to Israeli women, anything goes.

    Can someone also provide a translation of the Haaretz article as we cannot rely on Haaretz to do so and Harriet and her friends at the Guardian do not speak/understand/read Hebrew.

  8. Dr Gottheil’s ingenious study is a classic.

    His meticulous research provides prima facie evidence that the vast majority of academics who publicly criticize Israel are not concerned about human rights in the Middle East at all.

    Their pretended concern is just a smoke-screen. Their real motivation is to delegitimize Israel – and the simplest explanation for that is anti-semitism.

  9. Margie.
    There are the leaders and then there are the followers.
    I would suggest that most of the academics questioned are the trend setters, and they are afflicted not so much by intellectual laziness, but rather by a deep-seated hatred of the Jewish state, which they camouflage by a faux concern for the “plight” of the Palestinians.
    The appalling lib dem peer, JennyTonge, is a prime example.

  10. The woman in this sordid saga has been brutalized and victimized her entire life. I didn’t know this fact when when I made that comment.

    ani mevakesh slicha.

  11. What a brilliant piece of research and how sad that it will not reach the MSM.

    If it were done in the UK, would he find even 27 academics prepared to endorse the statement? One would like to hope so, but I wouldn’t put any money on it.

    The stories coming out of our universities, colleges and academic unions are extremely worrying. It seems as if the Arab pound has had the effect of buying an awful lot of influence in what used to be centres of academic freedom and rational thought.

  12. Is Dr. Gottheil’s original petition (with or without signatures) available for public viewing? I mean, it’s a pretty important part of the story, but it doesn’t seem to be published anywhere… All we have are thumbnail descriptions of what it says and the kind of people who did/did not sign it.

    Before I condemn or praise anyone for their actions as concerns a given petition, I’d want to actually read the petition, so I can see for myself what they are or are not supporting… YMMV…

    Though I’m not an academic, I oppose poor treatment of people regardless of who is perpetrating it. Assuming the petitions actually were as described, I likely would’ve signed both of ’em… I’d be curious to hear from the non-signing academics themselves why they chose not to sign the latter petition… …but that requires actually finding and reading Dr. Gottheil’s petition… Let’s hope it becomes available…