[The title and text differs from the Algemeiner's.]
Setting the tone in her introduction, Helga Tawil-Souri, director of the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, bemoaned the "Nakbatization," that has supposedly afflicted the Palestinians for the last seventy years. The term is a play on Nakba, the Arabic word for disaster, or Israel's founding in 1948.
This contrived passivity underlay Robinson's depiction of the Palestinians as a people with little historical agency. In this view, the Israelis and "the Arab states that went to war" deprived them of a state rather than their own intransigence. Omitting any mention of terrorism, she portrayed Palestinians as Israel's victims of a war that has "never ended."
Robinson argued that Israel is experiencing not only "creeping fascistization," but that it has never been a democracy: "For Jews, the increasingly racist, far-right turn of the state is fueling . . . an existential debate of sorts over whether the current moment represents a tragic perversion of the Zionist dream or its ultimate realization." She left no doubt she believes the latter.
She maintained that Israel's "anti-democratic tendencies" were always present, even during what she referred to skeptically as the "golden age of Zionism." But her evidence was unconvincing. "The country's tiny anti-Zionist Jewish left," she noted, "have [sic] long rejected the idea that Israel functions as a meaningful democracy." Claiming that "systematic racism and inequality have long been in place," she asserted the difference now is that the government is less careful about hiding its "racism." But for anti-Israel activists like Robinson, labeling a nation as racist isn't a conclusion reached after rigorous research, but a smear based on ingrained biases.
Richard B. Spencer
Her fact-free assertions continued: "Why are academics leaving Israel?" she asked. "Some are seeking to get out because of the ultra-right turn which makes them feel sick to their stomachs." When challenged by an audience member to produce supporting data, Robinson backed down, claiming that "the Israeli academic market is really, really tight." Pressed further, she admitted "maybe you know better."
According to Robinson, "Palestinian citizens of Israel . . . are facing what is arguably the greatest threat to their civil and religious status at any time since the 1948 war." Yet she later contradicted this assessment by acknowledging the growing Arab-Israeli middle class: "Due to their social and economic boost . . . more Palestinian citizens are going to university, becoming attorneys, academics, political activists."
In contrast, she noted with a wolfish grin, Zionism was "collapsing under the weight of its many contradictions." With equal delight, Robinson elsewhere cited a Ha'aretz headline portraying Israel's educational standards as Third World. The audience laughed derisively.
Robinson's gleeful hope for Israel's impending collapse and her false accusations of fascism typify the politicization of contemporary Middle East studies. Seventy years after Israel's founding, these professors neither accept Israel's legitimacy nor seek a real solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Instead, they proffer distorted history and undisguised hatred, which, in turn, fuels Palestinian intransigence and violence. One might conclude that's their goal.
Mara Schiffren, a Campus Watch Fellow, holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University in the Study of Religion.