Is the open endorsement of terrorism grounds for firing a college professor? A recent article in theClaremont Independent, a student-run newspaper at southern California's Claremont McKenna College, raises this question. Professor of Arabic Bassam Frangieh, head of the Middle East Studies department at Claremont McKenna, has reportedly published, or been quoted making, the following statements:
In a May 26 2006 interview after the controversial election of Hamas in the Palestinian territories, Frangieh celebrated, saying that he "view[s] Hamas with great pleasure.""Hamas might be able to produce the beginning of salvation," he told an interviewer. "I wonder what else would the Arabs have without Hamas and Hezbollah? Nothing. Except humiliation. I congratulate Hamas on its victory."
During the summer 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, Frangieh signed a pro-Hezbollah, anti-Israel petition that condemned Israel as a "Zionist killing machine". Among other things, the petition called for a worldwide boycott of Israeli academics and institutions.
In another essay Frangieh appears to openly advocate violent terrorism against "corrupt" Arab regimes:
Even if the best one hundred Arab poets loaded themselves with dynamite and exploded in the streets of Arab capitals, it would not be enough. For real change to come about, thousands of people will have to die; thousands must martyr themselves. It appears that only massive revolution will succeed in overturning the corrupt regimes of the Arab world. Only then can significant and radical change take place.
According to the Claremont Independent report, Frangieh is currently in charge of creating a new study-abroad program in the Middle East for Claremont students. One goal of the program is to help prepare students for diplomatic careers. But the man leading the program appears at least as interested in violence as he is in diplomacy.
The radical quotes the Claremont Independent attributes to Frangieh were originally published in Arabic. As a result, they have previously been inaccessible to many of Frangieh's academic colleagues, as well as the administrators who hired him. The Claremont Independent claims to have hired a professional translator to render the passages in English, and they provide a list of links to the original Arabic publications at the end of the article. The question is: Now that the full extent of Frangieh's views on Israel and on terrorism are clear, will Claremont McKenna officials dismiss him? Will they even censure him?
Don't hold your breath.
A certain fashionable disdain for Israel is common in liberal academic circles. And while there are clearly some limits to academic freedom in this country (for instance, openly calling for violence against gays or blacks would get any professor fired), those limits disappear whenever hatred is directed outside certain "protected" liberal special interest groups. There is generally much more tolerance for people, such as Frangieh, who sympathize with perpetrators of violence against Jews or Americans.
Frangieh doesn't deserve to be teaching Claremont McKenna students. And I wonder how many of the school's Jewish donors, who have poured tens of millions of dollars into the school in recent years, will be pleased to see that their dollars are helping to fund the open endorsement of Hamas and Hezbollah?
Instead of such riches, it looks to me like we should all donate cardboard boxes to the college so Frangieh can pack up his office and hit the road.