Editor's note: The review below is written by David Solway on Dr. Richard Cravatts' new book, Genocidal Liberalism: The University's Jihad Against Israel & Jews, published by the David Horowitz Freedom Center. To order a copy, click here.
I first came across Richard Cravatts in an article he wrote for Pajamas Media on November 19, 2010, describing York University in Toronto as "a cesspool of anti-Semitic, pro-Palestinian activism." York is notorious in Canada as one of its most prominent Jew-bashinginstitutions, taking its cue from larger and more prestigious universities like UC Irvine and Berkeley that promote, in Cravatts' words, "slanted scholarship for jihad." Genocidal Liberalism expands Cravatts' investigative sweep to encompass the entire malign phenomenon of antisemitism cum anti-Zionism that has corrupted the moral integrity and academic rectitude of the American liberal professoriate.
Cravatts doesn't pull his punches, relentlessly anatomizing the pedagogic bias currently in place, which is neo-Marxist in its orientation and undeniably anti-Jewish in its expression. "In the campus war against Israel, a new rhetoric has evolved." The university, he charges, is by and large no longer "a place where civility and reasoned scholarly discourse normally occurs," given the "gradual ratcheting up of the level of acrimony against Israel and Zionism" and the Left's insistence that such criticism, no matter how incendiary or libelous, "is no more than political commentary on the Jewish state." He furnishes a near- interminable list of "strident anti-Israel initiatives" that mar the intellectual life of the "liberal" and "humanistic" university, including academic boycotts of Israeli professors, the fostering of vociferous and occasionally violence-prone anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish Muslim student groups on campus, the furthering of divestment and disinvestment from Israeli companies and companies doing business with them, and the shutting down of pro-Israel speakers.
Cravatts points to an influential 1965 essay by Herbert Marcuse entitled Repressive Tolerance, which planted the seed of political and epistemic subversion in the fertile soil of American academia. "Purporting to endorse freedom of expression for all," Cravatts writes, the essay instead reserved "that right, in actual practice, only to favored groups." The program "could only be accomplished…by favoring 'partisan' speech to promote 'progressive' or revolutionary change," which would be, in Marcuse's phrase, "intolerant toward the protagonists of the repressive status quo." By the latter, Marcuse meant classical liberal thought with its emphasis on tradition, individual autonomy, civic responsibility and limited government. Our contemporary Marcusians have learned their lesson well. In this way, the door was opened for the delivery of mendacious doctrines from post-colonial fanatics and postmodern destabilizers like Edward Said and Michel Foucault who have done so much damage to the principles of intellectual honesty and objective study on which the university is presumably founded.
Marcuse, a leading member of the left-wing Frankfurt School, clearly drew his inspiration from German philosopher Martin Heidegger, whom Cravatts does not mention but whose spirit pervades current "humanistic" thought. The godfather of the current mob of academic gangsters, Heidegger was appointed Rector of the University of Freiburg in 1933, using his considerable reputation to further the Nazi supremacist dogma. For Heidegger, the function of the university was to provide what he called, in his Rector's Address, "service to knowledge" as an obligation to the National Socialist state, that is, to entrench a species of politicized education—in this case, the absurd theories of National Socialism, the restriction of free expression, and, ultimately, a lethal campaign against the country's and the continent's Jewish inhabitants. The current academic campaign against Jews and Israel, expressed in the condemnation of Israel as an apartheid and occupying regime engaged in the "ethnic cleansing" of the Palestinians, is merely an updated and partially laundered variant of the German original. It is a palpable lie masquerading as an apodictic truth supported by fraudulent research and revisionist infatuations. The invention or suppression of facts and the propagation of fictitious memes and venomous tropes have become the liberal academy's stock in trade.
I should indicate that Cravatts' subject has been addressed before by several erudite and committed writers who have lobbied to clean up the latrine of higher education in America. David Horowitz in such books as Indoctrination U and Reforming our Universities, Gary Tobinet al. in The Uncivil University (referenced several times by Cravatts), and Stephen Norwood's chilling The Third Reich in the Ivory Towerexpose the academic Left's growing rapprochement with tyrannical doctrines and especially with the metastasizing Islamic movement, such rapprochement constituting a symptom of its abdication from founding principles and the betrayal of its mandate. There is no doubt that the natural corollaries of the narrow, deformed and prejudicial temper prevailing in academia are anti-Jewish odium and anti-Israel denunciation. The two are indissolubly linked. Loading "cruel and destructive invective on Zionism," says Cravatts, the professors are in reality "promulgating vile, disproportionate opprobrium that frequently shows its true face as raw anti-Semitism."
Norwood, for his part, reveals how Harvard, Yale and Columbia during the 1930s embraced or were sympathetic to the fascist regimes of Hitler and Mussolini. Today, as Cravatts amply demonstrates, the educational establishment cultivates an equally comprehensive sympathy for Islamofascist themes, curricula and organizations. Third-rate thinking, ignorance, ingratitude, chicanery and political indoctrination have become the mainstays of the Humanities, Middle East Studies programs and misnamed Social Sciences departments.
As an instance of such dissembling, Cravatts directs our attention a BDS (Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions) manual, Fighting the New Apartheid: A Guide to Campus Divestment from Israel, authored by Palestinian-born Fayyad Sbaihat of the University of Wisconsin, in which we read that the divestment campaign should avoid "debating facts on the ground." In order for the BDS agenda to be successful, "Israel must be characterized as a pariah state" regardless of "specific events and facts [which] can prove illusive when one attempts to build a case around them." This confession of transparent duplicity is not only astonishing in itself, but also in its being ignored or tacitly supported by many college administrators, left-leaning teachers and impressionable students.
The BDS conference held at the University of Pennsylvania in early February 2012 provided yet another instance of the distortions, dishonesty and malevolence targeting Israel, as legitimized by the academy. One of its principal speakers was Ali Abunimah, founder of the Electronic Intifada website, who is fond of comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany. Another was English professor Amy Kaplan, who went so far as to suggest methods for introducing the Palestinian mythology and the BDS campaign into completely unrelated classes in order to advance an anti-Israel prepossession clearly intended to influence unsuspecting students—and was subsequently defended by her chairpersonette, Nancy Bentley.
One remarks, too, in this regard the March conference at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, under the heading "Israel/Palestine and the One-State Conference." Featuring such rabid anti-Israeli pseudo-scholars and shameless fact-twisters as Stephen Walt and Ilan Pappé, the colloquium plainly envisages the end of the Jewish state. Historian Bruce Thornton writes of Pappé in particular, "That such a travesty of the profession of history is invited to speak at a prestigious university testifies to how intellectually and morally corrupt the American academy has become." Harvard is one of 17 American universities receiving substantial donations from Arab sources—$329 million from 1995 to 2008, the last year on record, and doubtlessly another hefty sum since.
Indeed, as Cravatts notes, "in the past 30 years…the Saudi royal family has funneled $70 billion into universities in the West…to create scholarship and teaching that is almost uniformly designed to demonize Israel, advance the Palestinian cause, and undermine Western values…while…helping to enable the spread of Islam." Money talks, of course, but not always loudly; it also whispers seductively into the curricular ear. The scholars who benefit are "good students of the funding game." Shying away from embarrassing their patrons and focusing on the "alleged shortcomings of Israel and the U.S.," they have found a way of getting "several millions dollars dropped in their laps." This goes some distance toward explaining the prevailing pro-Arab, anti-Jewish climate that vitiates our putative Lyceums.
Heidegger and Marcuse would surely have been pleased. As are the swarms of their disciples among the, let's say, intelleftual anti-Zionist crowd, who have risen from the preceptorial slime and identified with America's, and the West's, enemies. The seminars of loathing they teach and promote, euphemized as "educational events," lay all the blame for the Middle East's dysfunctions at Israel's feet. And in so doing they have not only trained their sights on a pluralistic and democratic Israel while fawning before an autocratic and venal Islamic polity, but have materially facilitated the wave of antisemitic sentiment that is now flooding the world.
Antisemitism is not only an emotional, indeed almost glandular, disorder, it is likely the most contagious intellectual pathology known to humankind. Today, it has infected not only North American and European campuses, but has spread even to Israeli universities, many of whose teaching and administrative staff, under the convenient banner of anti-Zionism, have become willing and enthusiastic carriers of the disease. "Many Israeli professors," Cravatts observes, "veer to the Left politically and many, incredibly, share the same virulent anti-Israel, anti-Zionism sentiments." The same is true of American and European Jewish anti-Zionists "who, in a peculiar act of introjection, attempt to psychically expunge…the liberal guilt that condoning Zionism would bring upon them." The plague has become ubiquitous when even those eventually targeted for exclusion become its most ardent advocates. It is clear that a species of indefeasible madness has taken hold of the academic community.
When a civilization begins to decay and enters the twilight of its existence, it is invariably vanquished by an army of barbarians. This seems to be what is happening now, judging from the mental debility and cultural exhaustion that have stricken our cognitive elites. These barbarians now proliferate as an advance guard in the contemporary academy. They have almost nothing to say about any of the bloodbaths and savageries daily being enacted in country after country throughout the world—Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Iran, Yemen, Zimbabwe, Libya, Sudan, China—but when it comes to the Jewish state, with its scattered settlements in its ancient homeland of Judea and Samaria and not a single Israeli remaining in Gaza or in south Lebanon's buffer zone, the chorus of revilement erupts into a veritable cacophony. The "visceral hatred by the Left," Cravatts writes, and the "singular obsession many academics have with Israel, and only Israel, from among the world's countries," is a symptom of the double standard "that has permeated the university" and "an indication of just how far [it has] diverged from [its] purpose." It is, in fact, a sign of its descent into the realms of scholarly perversion.
As I have stressed before, there is nothing sacrosanct per se or inherently prestigious about the university. Like any human institution, it can profane its founding principles and grow decadent and oppressive. The German universities of the 1930s, as we've seen, despite their long tradition of rigorous scholarship, were by no means beacons of informed thought and genuine research but propaganda factories working overtime. One must always remember that the university may as easily become a turbine of indoctrination as a generator of intellectual vitality or a transmitter of genuine knowledge.
David Horowitz, whose Freedom Center is the publisher of Cravatts' book, was perfectly correct when he described the
"dirty little secret of American higher education: on campuses across the country pro-terror groups stage political demonstrations that have the tone and content of Hitler's Nuremberg rallies every single day. Anti-Semitism and anti-Israel hatred are not only tolerated in our universities, they are in vogue. The campus environment today recalls that of Germany in the 1930s when Hitler was laying the groundwork for the Holocaust…Muslim students are allowed to intimidate Jewish students. They are allowed to bring Islamist preachers of hate onto campuses with the most unapologetically vile messages." (email correspondence).
And they will, of course, heckle, disrupt and threaten pro-Israel or conservative speakers, such as Horowitz himself, or more recently the director of Former Muslims United and founder of Arabs for Israel, Nonie Darwish, whose lecture at the University of Mexico on February 23 of this year was shouted down by a pack of Arab students. Darwish, who has praised "the good will and decency of Israel," commented, aptly: "Welcome to the West Bank and Gaza culture on our university campuses."
Reluctant to intervene and prevent the creation of an atmosphere of intimidation against their Jewish students, university officials have contributed to the establishment of a hostile milieu—one that may well infringe on civil rights law. This must change or the sequel does not bear considering. But it will be an uphill battle that requires vigilance, courage and staying power. One must see that a gluttonous and possibly insatiable appetite for Jew-hatred has come over the modern academy. The spectacle it exhibits of unabashed relish, if not voracity, in gorging on lies and calumnies at Israel's expense is enough to turn one's stomach and put one off higher education entirely, at least as it is practiced in the socioliberal departments of our compromised universities. Professing to be disinterested and impartial, they feed on demonizing Israel and its supporters, rewriting history, benumbing their wards, legitimizing the consumption of misinformation, and making Israel-and-Jew hatred respectable. "The danger of [these] seemingly respectable works of scholarship," Cravatts warns, "is that their views and ideology are thereby more likely to help shape future views of students and other opinion leaders."
Thus, camouflaged as nonpartisan political criticism and protected by the slogan of "academic freedom," the same old "themes of Jew-hatred are now conveniently channeled through the Jew of nations, Israel." The rallying cry of academic freedom has gradually become a serviceable sobriquet for an academic inquisition. At the same time, the Israel-haters, employing "academic freedom" to "proclaim whatever slander and accusation they wish against the Jewish state," do not, as we have seen, grant the same privilege or right of "academic freedom" to their opponents, whom they accuse of stifling free speech when it is used in rebuttal or dissent. "The habit is convenient because it means that…history and facts can be overlooked" without having "to engage in dialogue." The intent of the anti-Zionist Left—administrators, faculty and students—is to turn an open discussion into a closed monologue.
"What were once well-intentioned and vital components of the university system," Cravatts continues, "such as an emphasis on academic freedom… and an embracing multiculturalism, have become twisted and sometimes barely recognizable versions of their former selves." This has led to the sedimenting of a baneful ideology which, he reiterates, has embraced the false narrative of the Palestinians as a contemporary version of black South Africans under apartheid rule and Israel as a "Nazi-like, genocidal and racist" state, a fraud that has "resonated in the halls of academe" and is nothing other than "a complete inversion of fact." It is also a "moral inversion" that has "stifled and retarded" unfettered inquiry, "sacrificing one of the core values for which the university exists." He notes the total absence of "moral self-examination of these Islamic voices calling for the suppression of free speech and a contempt for religious and civil rights in the rest of the world" while they themselves call for "jihad, beheadings and deaths" for citizens in the West, particularly Israelis, who offend their sensitivities.
Cravatts is not calling for a repudiation of the academy, but merely for fair debate, for candor and scrupulousness, and for the belated recognition that faculties central to our humanity—faculties both mental and administrative—will be seriously jeopardized by the coarse and arrogant hospitality for anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli compulsions. The desolation that has demonstrably befallen the academic world—the "moral dead zones where faculty do little more than indulge their basest political biases" (to quote author Michael Ross), the rupture in the fabric of memory, the intellectual disarray and pedagogic fecklessness that typify its current state of being—can be countered and repaired only by candid discussion and the recovery, hope against hope, of the spirit of integrity in individual teachers sprinkled here and there across the contemporary academic moonscape. For the university Left, Cravatts writes, has violated two "fundamental principles of higher education: academic responsibility and a fervent commitment to actual scholarship… With great regularity, academic imbecility and fraudulent scholarship has been substituted for reasoned inquiry."
A maxim suggests itself: The liberal university's attitude to Israel constitutes nothing less than the litmus test of its viability as a potentially noble and transmissive institution. Its relation to Israel functions either as a stepping stone or a stumbling block regarding academic reputability—regrettably, the latter is largely the case. "The embrace of the cause of Israel's destruction by so many celebrity professors today," writes political columnist and Harvard graduate Caroline Glick, one of Cravatts' sources, "is part and parcel of the destruction of the US higher education system." Cravatts patently agrees, concluding that the university narrative about Israel must be "reframed." Failing such rehabilitation, our universities will become no less epistemologically suspect than their counterparts in the Islamic world, as Harvard, Georgetown and Yale aspire to the condition of Al-Azhar in Cairo, Al-Quds in Abu Dis and Benadir University in Mogadishu.
It always comes as a relief to read a writer who is morally honorable, whose claims are backed by discernible evidence, whose prose is both accessible and limpid, and whose methodology is rational, coherent and conscientious. Richard Cravatts is one of this rare breed of scholars who must be taken seriously and who are thankfully not yet extinct. Genocidal Liberalism: The University's Jihad Against Israel & Jews makes for indispensable reading. It shows how the so-called "liberal" university has become the Ground Zero of intellectual ruination, its professoriate invidiously programming its students with a left-wing, statist agenda, a misplaced tolerance for radical Islamic thought and practice and an unseemly eagerness for its natural correlate, anti-Jewish and anti-Israel execration. Far from being the bulwark and harbinger of liberal civilization, the university seems more than willing to compromise its central purpose which, in the words of Matthew Arnold from Culture and Anarchy, is "getting to know, on all the matters which most concern us, the best which has been thought and said in the world; and through this knowledge, turning a stream of fresh and free thought upon our stock notions and habits." But in our sluices of learning, the "stream of fresh and free thought" has turned into a river of sludge and sewage.
Cravatts' concluding recommendations all make perfect sense, but it will be a Herculean task to get them implemented—whether exposing the cult of "Palestinianism" for the conceptual sham that it is, differentiating between legitimate criticism of Israel and thinly-disguised antisemitism, holding craven college administrators to a firm moral stand, preventing the abuse of academic freedom, cleaning up the Augean stables of Middle East Studies programs, and other such sensible requisites. He acknowledges that reclamation will be difficult, "fraught with challenges and requiring constant efforts to change long-held beliefs and deep-set emotional attitudes, but it is imperative that the task be undertaken." For it would be "morally dangerous" to permit the present situation to fester. The university must be made "accountable for its teaching and programs which deal with the Middle East, and Israel particularly." It should not be allowed to continue vilifying a nation "for no other reason than it happens to be lived in by Jews."
And it cannot be allowed to pursue its trajectory back into the 1930s.