The leadership of Columbia's MEALAC Department is nothing if not consistent. Today's New York Sun reveals that last Monday, MEALAC hosted a panel entitled "One State or Two? Alternative Proposals for Middle East Peace." Since the call for a "democratic, secular" Palestine has become a recent cause celebre among the anti-Israel far left, it wasn't hard to anticipate the message.
Naturally, no pro-Israel speakers were invited to participate. Instead, MEALAC professors Rashid Khalidi (fresh off telling New York magazine that Arab-American students and only Arab-American students know the "truth" about the Middle East) and Joseph Massad (accused of intimidating pro-Israel students in the classroom) gave their defenses of a single-state solution, with Massad regularly denouncing the "racist Israeli state." Among the sponsors of the event: the School of International and Public Affairs, whose dean, Lisa Anderson, is on the special committee looking into MEALAC abuses and who was dissertation advisor to Professor Massad. The Sun further revealed that among Anderson's assistant deans is Khalidi's wife.
Next week, through his capacity as associate director of the Heyman Center, MEALAC'S George Dabashi is scheduled to bring to campus the Irish poet Tom Paulin, who argued that "Brooklyn-born" Jewish settlers "should be shot dead. I think they are Nazis, racists, I feel nothing but hatred for them." He added: "I can understand how suicide bombers feel. . . . I think attacks on civilians in fact boost morale."
All of this makes somewhat amusing that the night before Paulin's scheduled talk, the Center for the Humanities at CUNY's Graduate Center is hosting a panel discussion with Eric Foner, Joan Wallach Scott, and Columbia Governmnent professor Mahmoud Mamdani called "Defending Academic Freedom in an Atmosphere of Terror." This panel follows up on an event today examining McCarthyism at City College, which is billed as the leadoff in "a series of events exploring the contemporary crisis." Oddly, the Center never defines precisely what it means by the phrase the "contemporary crisis"--apparently it's so self-evident that critics of US or Israeli foreign policy just can't get jobs in the academy or make their voices heard on college campuses that the Center for the Humanities didn't even have to identify them as those whose academic freedom needs defending.
Foner, Scott, and Mamdani certainly are distinguished scholars. Yet to convene a panel on "defending academic freedom" that solely reflects voices that represent the majority in the academy--the people who are doing the hiring, tenuring, and conceptions of new job lines--offers what could charitably be termed a highly limited conception of the threats that currently exist to academic freedom.