You write that some professors are anti-Israel because they fill academic chairs endowed by Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia. Are there many such endowed chairs in the U.S.?
They’re actually very common, but people don’t talk about it. Rachel Fish, who wrote one of the articles in this book, was a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School when she heard that a chair was being endowed by the dictator of the United Arab Emirates. She stood up and protested. She got very little support from faculty and her fellow students, but she went public and it was public pressure that finally made Harvard return the money. But you see this all over the place – Columbia, Georgetown, etc.
Is it normal for foreign countries to endow chairs in American universities, or is this phenomenon restricted to Muslim countries?
That’s a great question. I think it is. I can’t [imagine] the Peruvian government giving money to a Latin American Studies department.
You argue that many anti-Zionist professors dispense with academic rigor when writing about Israel. Couldn’t one level that same charge at you and anti-Semitism? For instance, you write that Malcolm X was anti-Semitic even though this claim is, at the very least, debatable. Certainly Malcolm X himself always denied the charge.
I don’t see this [claim being debatable]. Malcolm X goes on and on about how 80 percent of businesses in the black ghetto are owned by Jews. That figure is absurd. He talks about money being ripped from the ghettos and sent over to support Israel and says Israel is built on the backs of exploitation of blacks. It’s terrible.
You deplore anti-Semitism on college campuses, but some right-wing Jews contend that Israel’s weakness vis-à-vis the Arabs makes this anti-Semitism almost inevitable. They argue that the average uninformed citizen looks at the Middle East and thinks to himself: “No country would ever relinquish territory that rightfully belongs to it. If Israel, therefore, is willing to abandon the West Bank, the Arabs must be right: the land was stolen from them.” What do you make of this claim?
It’s very interesting. I think Israel just wants to live a normal, peaceful life. But it is amazing how much it’s willing to give up.
If a college student asked you, “What can I do to fight anti-Semitism on campus?” what would you tell him?
You have to try getting the truth out there. I think that very often Jews on campuses respond to these anti-Semitic assaults by having “feel-good” fairs – “here’s some chumus and wonderful Israeli food.” But I think you have to respond directly and forcefully, and expose the libel.
Is it a winnable battle?
I think it is, but enough people have to risk standing up. People are going to condemn you, but you have to have the strength, you have to have a strong hide.