In October 2006, the Brandeis Middle East Review and the Middle East Forum at Brandeis invited me to speak at the University, and I quickly accepted. The hosts and I selected the date April 23 and the topic ("The Islamization of Europe?"), and everything appeared settled.
But on Jan. 23, former President Jimmy Carter visited Brandeis, Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz quasi-debated him, and the ensuing contention prompted the University to establish a closed student-faculty committee to monitor speakers on the Middle East. (This committee comes on top of an already existing committee the provost created earlier in response to the "Voices of Palestine" exhibit in Spring 2006.) Oddly, although my talk was to deal with Europe, it was deemed to fall into the Middle East category and is now on hold, pending this new committee's approval.
Jehuda Reinharz, president of Brandeis University.
That's bad enough. Worse was to read in the Justice on Feb. 6 these remarks by University President Jehuda Reinharz
: "I have a fear that these people [Norman Finkelstein and myself] who are being invited are weapons of mass destruction."
Then John Hose, Reinharz's executive assistant, further elaborated: "These are people who tend to inflame passions, whose mission is not so much discussion and education as it is theater, a show. … If [students] want theater then it's best to go to Spingold [theater]. … But if you want serious discussion, there's lots of resources available for that already at Brandeis."
I strenuously object to being lumped in with Finkelstein in any fashion whatsoever. Finkelstein denies the Holocaust as a uniquely evil deed, equates Israel with the Nazis, compares persons he disagrees with to Nazis, justifies Hamas and excuses Muslim antisemitism. For good measure, he adds, "I do not think there is very much genuine grief among Jewish leaders about the Nazi holocaust," for they gained from what he calls "the Holocaust reparations racket." They "blackmailed Europe, got billions of dollars and then stuffed their pockets, bank accounts and organizations with the money." Yoking me to Finkelstein betrays Reinharz's profound moral confusion - something especially regrettable in the case of the president of a major university whose moral judgment is in steady demand.
The statements by Reinharz and Hose also prompt several questions:
1. How am I, exactly, a weapon of mass destruction, Mr. Reinharz? And what do you mean by this phrase?
2. And Mr. Hose, have you taken a look at just who gets inflamed by my speeches? On Jan. 31, for example, it was a bunch of Islamist goons, and you can see them yourself on the three videos listed on my Web site, at "My Disrupted Talk at the University of California-Irvine." After preventing me from speaking, the leader of this group called for the state of Israel to be "wiped off the face of the earth." Your statement makes me wonder whose side you are on – theirs or mine?
3. What, precisely, are those scholarly resources available at Brandeis? Might Hose be referring to the University's leading specialist on "contemporary Islamic thought and practice" (the title of her course), Prof. Natana DeLong-Bas (NEJS), an apologist for Al-Qaeda whose depraved thinking was exposed in several recent articles (including "Natana DeLong-Bas: American Professor, Wahhabi Apologist" and "Sympathy for the Devil at Brandeis," from frontpagemag.com)? Or is he referring to Khalil Shikaki, a Crown Center fellow who has been credibly accused of terrorist links and has a second-to-none record in getting it wrong in his chosen field of Palestinian public opinion?
Looking at the larger picture, Brandeis has incurred a sorry record when it comes to Israel in recent years - staging that "Voices of Palestine" exhibit, hiring DeLong-Bas and Shikaki, [granting an honorary degree to the anti-Zionist playwright Tony Kushner,] appointing the muddled Prof. Shai Feldman (POL) to head the Crown Center, permitting an Islamist (Qumar-ul Huda) to serve as its Muslim chaplain and setting up the Brandeis-Al-Quds University study-abroad connection.
Over the decades, Brandeis has benefited substantially from the support of those concerned with Israel's security and welfare. Sadly, its record in this arena under Reinharz has strayed so badly that already a year ago the Zionist Organization of America called for "donors to reconsider their support for Brandeis." So long as he remains the University's president, that strikes me as sound advice.
The writer is a distinguished visiting professor at Pepperdine University and director of the Middle East Forum.
Feb. 14, 2007 update: I have posted a form letter at "Jedhuda Reinharz of Brandeis University Replies."
Feb. 16, 2007 update: Coverage of this issue can be found at:
Feb. 17, 2007 update: See "Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz and I Exchange Letters" for the latest development.
Feb. 23, 2007 update: Larry Cohler-Esses provides an update at "Post-Carter Showdown At Brandeis Over Speakers" in today's New York Jewish Week.
Mar. 6, 2007 update: For an assessment of what Jehuda Reinharz said and meant at that faculty meeting on Feb, 1, see "Reinharz deflects criticism from Pipes."
Apr. 23, 2007 update: I spoke this evening on "The Islamization of Europe?" at Brandeis and the event was, from my vantage point, a complete success. Not only was the audience entirely respectful, but the discussion that followed my intial presentation (for an idea of its contents, see "Europe's Stark Options,") was a particularly serious and constructive one. It helped me clarify my views on such issues as the European vs. Muslim responsibilities for the current predicament and possible sources of hope.
President Reinharz had indicated back in February that he would be traveling today and could not attend my talk; nonetheless, because it is so late in the academic year, the organizers and I decided to go ahead with the event today.
For first-hand coverage of the event, see (list to be updated as required):
Sep. 28, 2008 update: Reading "Brandeis: School For Terrorists?" by H. Peter Metzger confirms and extends my worries about the university.
Nov. 18, 2013 update: It's years too late, but I am glad to see a press release from President Frederick Lawrence that "Brandeis University suspends its partnership with Al-Quds University effective immediately." The cause of this rupture? At a recent rally, Al-Quds students dressed in black uniforms and masks, raised their arms in the Nazi salute as banners with images of dead suicide bombers were displayed. Quds president Sari Nusseibeh responded not by condemning the display but by declaring that his university "is often subjected to vilification campaigns by Jewish extremists with the purpose of discrediting its reputation."
Dec. 14, 2013 update: A three-member faculty group that visited Al-Quds University after the demonstration is pushing back, calling for renewed ties. "Our clear impression from the five days we spent at Al-Quds University was of a leadership that was angry and appalled. … Al-Quds University is playing a courageous front-line role in working for peace by engaging those minority factions in its midst that hold extreme attitudes. We call on Brandeis University to resume and indeed redouble its commitment to this scholarly partnership."