[P]eople like Carey Nelson and other "machers" [Yiddish for a self-important person] in the American Jewish community get up in arms about BDS [boycott, divestment, sanctions]. Well, Cary Nelson and the rest of you: F— you. Call me uncivil, but still, f— you. F— all of you who want to make arguments about civility and how Israel wants peace when this is what Israel does, it's "mowing the lawn" and "defending" freedom. This is, in no uncertain terms, genocide. If you want to argue about it, come to Gaza with me. Come look at Palestinians in the eye and talk about how uncivil Steven Salaita is and how you are in fact a "critic" of Israel. There is only one criticism of Israel that is relevant: It is a state grown, funded, and feeding off the destruction of another people. It is not legitimate. It must be dismantled, the same way that the other racist, psychopathic states across the region must be dismantled. And everyone who enables it is morally complicit in its crimes, including you.
LeVine was commenting on a photograph from French freelance photographer Anne Paq, who, according to her bio, has been "based in Palestine since 2003," and who specializes in the sort of emotionally-charged—and, all too often, staged or manipulated—imagery regularly employed by Hamas and others to demonize Israel in the international media. Paq's photograph certainly elicited that reaction in LeVine, who, one can safely assume, would be quick to "dismantle" the allegedly illegitimate nation of Israel long before he gets to the other unnamed "racist, psychopathic states."
LeVine's primary target is Cary Nelson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences and past president of the American Association of University Professors. Nelson has been an outspoken opponent of BDS, including co-editing the recently published book of essays, The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel. His principled defense of academic freedom has not gone over well with BDS supporters such as LeVine, who signed an August, 2014 letter calling on Middle East studies scholars and librarians to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Accordingly, at the annual Middle East Studies Association (MESA) convention last month, members voted overwhelmingly in favor a resolution that sets the stage for MESA to adopt BDS in 2015.
In his diatribe, LeVine alludes to Nelson's public support of UIUC's decision to withdraw an offer of tenured professorship to former Virginia Tech University English professor Steven Salaita. UIUC made its choice based on Salaita's atrocious academic record and inflammatory, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic Twitter posts, which went far beyond incivility, the charge leveled at the time by some of his critics.
As LeVine demonstrates with his ad nauseam repetition of "uncivil" and "civility," the terms have become rallying cries both for Salaita's defenders and for the now-famous ex-academic himself, who, speaking on the "Scholars Under Attack" panel at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association in November, made this inane proclamation:
Civility is the language of genocide. It's inherently a deeply violent word. It's a word whose connotations can be seen as nothing if not as racist.
Indeed, Salaita has become a cause célèbre in academia, even warranting his own panel at the recent MESA convention, at which he was hailed as a hero and a martyr. LeVine sees him as a victim of nefarious forces, ludicrously blaming his "dehiring" on the "wrath of pro-Israel conservatives in the United States." Lost amidst the pity party is the fact that Salaita's "scholarship" was never up to the task. As Michael Rubin, writing for Commentary, put it:
The scandal isn't so much that the University of Illinois rescinded its preliminary tenure offer after learning about Salaita's incitement on twitter; rather, it's that he was seriously considered in the first place.
It's not difficult to ascertain why LeVine would defend Salaita: both of them embody the activist academic that has overtaken the field of Middle East studies; both are incredibly thin-skinned; both are prone to posting juvenile, profanity-riddled rants on social media; and both, LeVine's disingenuous protestations notwithstanding, are unambiguously anti-Israel.
Nor is it a mystery as to why LeVine would accuse Nelson of being "morally complicit" in Israel's purported "crimes," given that he sees those who "enable" the nation simply by supporting its existence to be responsible for (an imaginary) "genocide."
With his immature, petulant, and hateful outbursts, LeVine has shown his true face. When hotheaded advocates take the place of objective scholars, this is the result. And it isn't pretty.