Israel is a "genocidal machine," stated Bard College Associate Professor of Human Rights and Middle Eastern Studies Ziad Abu-Rish during an Oct. 20 Jadaliyya webinar. Such anti-Israel vitriol following the brutal Oct. 7 slaughter of 1,400 Israeli civilians by Hamas jihadist terrorists permeated Jadaliyya's "Gaza in Context Teach-In: First Session, Gaza 101."
As the participants' comments demonstrated, the virulently anti-Israel, antisemitic protests raging on campuses nationwide are occurring in an intellectual climate shaped by the hate-filled pronouncements of prominent Middle East studies professors.
Bassam Haddad, director of George Mason University's Middle East and Islamic Studies Program, moderated for Jadaliyya. He introduced the webinar as a response to the supposedly pro-Israel "appalling discourse" among governments and media during this latest Hamas-instigated round of bloodshed.
Haddad's ideas were elaborated upon by Rutgers University Assistant Professor of Africana Studies Noura Erakat. "Genocidal warfare zealously supported by European and Western capitals" results from "crude dehumanization of Palestinians," she said, as if Israeli attempts to destroy Hamas in self-defense were somehow evil rather than Hamas's apparently unobjectionable genocidal rage. Reflecting upon past, terrorism-laden Arab hostility to Israel and the resulting incessant conflict, she rued the fact that Israel-haters like her historically "couldn't get past the premise that this was our fault" in the media.
Beshara B. Doumani, Brown University's Mahmoud Darwish Professor of Palestinian Studies, is the former president of Birzeit University in Ramallah. This terrorist-infiltrated institution counts alumni such as convicted terrorists Marwan Barghouti and Kamal Nasser, both of whom the Birzeit campus celebrates annually.
Doumani unsurprisingly continued Erakat's theme of victimized Palestinian innocence. For him, the Gaza Strip exemplified the "two basic components of the Palestinian experience of 1948," namely "massacres and forced displacement." He showed a picture from the 1959 visit to Egyptian-occupied Gaza, already then a terrorist threat to Israel, by the communist racist killer Che Guevera and extolled Gaza's "long history ... as a cradle of anticolonial movements."
Doumani's current associate at Brown and former colleague at the terrorist hotbed of Birzeit, Rana Barakat, even more explicitly identified Israel as criminal. For her, the Hamas ravages were merely the latest chapter in responding to Israel's "settler-colonial invasion in Palestine." Overall, she claimed, Zionism is part of a "fascist ideology."
University of Chicago Mary R. Morton Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science Lisa Wedeen relativized Hamas barbarities. During Hamas's recent attack, "in addition to military personnel, hundreds of civilians were killed," she clinically noted while referencing beheaded Israeli babies and raped women. Although "killing civilians is a war crime," she coldly qualified, "we have to understand the massacre in terms of a history of occupation and apartheid rule. Making a plea for context is not the same as justifying brutality." That she said this after justifying brutality is either hilarious or monstrous, or both.
Simon Fraser University Associate Professor of Global Communication Adel Iskandar also downplayed Hamas crimes against humanity. In media reports, "Hamas, unfortunately, has become a convenient scapegoat to affirm and continue the erasure of Palestinian voices," he stated. "Every conversation begins with a condemnation of Hamas," but this has a "chilling effect that helps frame Palestinians as merely Hamas."
Meanwhile, American University in Cairo Associate Professor of Political Science Rabab El Mahdi tellingly worried about a "demonization of Hames, which I'm not defending." If he is not defending Hamas, why lament its demonization, especially given the fact that its beliefs and actions are clearly demonic?
Similarly, Rutgers University Associate Professor of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies Maya Mikdashi whitewashed Hamas as a form of "native resistance." She claimed, "A hundred-year history" preceded Hamas's massacres and "anyone who begins on Oct. 7 is operating within a settler understanding of time." Thus, "any anti-colonial action becomes framed within those notions of settler time. So, an attack becomes a crime, national liberation becomes terrorism."
Radical chic has clearly transformed Hamas jihadists into brave indigenous rebels for University of California-Los Angeles law professor Aslı Bâli. "Decolonizing is not an aesthetic, it's not some practice that's about curricula. It has to mean something more," she intoned. She mused about "pedagogical practice that enables a younger, much more radicalized generation to actually think clearly about" decolonizing "given that they do not have a lived experience of anticolonial resistance that's global."
Nadya Sbaiti, a visiting history professor at Georgetown University's Qatar campus, felt more confident about her students' outlook, although recent American university statements of support for Israel had unfortunately "erased" students and faculty. "Unlike many of my colleagues and friends who are teaching particularly in the United States, I am teaching in a largely pro-Palestinian, very friendly political context," she observed of her position in Muslim Brotherhood-supporting, Hamas-funding, anti-Israel Qatar. Her "students almost entirely are politically on the right side of history" concerning Gaza—i.e., they celebrate the slaughter of Israelis.
In America, University of California-Santa Barbara Associate Professor of History Sherene Seikaly emphasized her status as a supposed colonialism survivor. "Like all Palestinians, I am a product of the nakba," she said, using the Arabic word for the supposed "catastrophe" of Muslims throughout the Middle East failing to destroy Israel at its independence in 1948 and the subsequent Arab refugee flight. She particularly balked at calling Israel's Arab minority "Israeli Arabs" because "have we not explained for the last 20 years just how brutally colonial that term is. They are not Israeli Arabs, they are Palestinians." Yet most Israeli Arabs reject this identification, have no desire to live in any proposed Palestinian state and in recent surveys over half of them have embraced the Israeli government's goal of destroying Hamas.
Like Iskander in Canada, Seikaly began her presentation with a woke "land acknowledgement" to the Native Americans who historically lived in the Santa Barbara area, thereby evoking modern myths of Indian dispossession. "I speak to you today from unceded and stolen Chumash territory, the grounds upon which genocide has happened and continues to happen," she proclaimed. This tribe numbered an estimated 22,000 souls before contact with Spanish explorers in 1769 and, as throughout the New World, European-brought diseases ravaged the unimmune Chumash, leaving fewer than 3,000 by 1831. According to the latest 2022 census, California today is home to over 39 million souls from myriad backgrounds, including the steady stream of customers at the financially successful Chumash gambling resort.
Such facts place in sober context the webinar participants like Seikaly, who emotionally concluded that "I deserve to live on the land of my ancestors" and "Palestine one day will be free." In the real world, far removed from the ahistorical delusion of "return" to and "decolonizing" of "Palestine" in places like sunny Santa Barbara, Israel confronts the Hamas-made hellhole of Gaza. Americans, both inside and outside of academia, should demand that Middle East studies and affiliated fields be emptied of academic apologists for mass murder.
Andrew E. Harrod, a Middle East Forum Campus Watch Fellow, freelance researcher and writer, is a fellow with the Lawfare Project. Follow him on Twitter: @AEHarrod.