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September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘criticism’

The Academic Jihad Against Israel

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

In Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel & Jews, published by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, Dr. Richard Cravatts pulls no punches, relentlessly anatomizing the pedagogic bias currently in place, which is neo-Marxist in its orientation and undeniably anti-Jewish in its expression.

The university, he charges, is by and large no longer “a place where civility and reasoned scholarly discourse normally occurs,” given the “gradual ratcheting up of the level of acrimony against Israel and Zionism” and the Left’s insistence that such criticism, no matter how incendiary or libelous, “is no more than political commentary on the Jewish state.”

He furnishes a near- interminable list of “strident anti-Israel initiatives” that mar the intellectual life of the “liberal” and “humanistic” university, including academic boycotts of Israeli professors, the fostering of vociferous and occasionally violence-prone anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish Muslim student groups on campus, the furthering of divestment and disinvestment from Israeli companies and companies doing business with them, and the shutting down of pro-Israel speakers.

Cravatts points to an influential 1965 essay by Herbert Marcuse, titled “Repressive Tolerance,” which planted the seed of political and epistemic subversion in the fertile soil of American academia. “Purporting to endorse freedom of expression for all,” Cravatts writes, the essay instead reserved “that right, in actual practice, only to favored groups.” The program “could only be accomplished…by favoring ‘partisan’ speech to promote ‘progressive’ or revolutionary change,” which would be, in Marcuse’s phrase, “intolerant toward the protagonists of the repressive status quo.” By the latter, Marcuse meant classical liberal thought with its emphasis on tradition, individual autonomy, civic responsibility and limited government.

Our contemporary Marcusians have learned their lesson well. In this way, the door was opened for the delivery of mendacious doctrines from post-colonial fanatics and postmodern destabilizers like Edward Said and Michel Foucault who have done so much damage to the principles of intellectual honesty and objective study on which the university is presumably founded.

Marcuse, a leading member of the left-wing Frankfurt School, clearly drew his inspiration from German philosopher Martin Heidegger, whom Cravatts does not mention but whose spirit pervades current “humanistic” thought. The godfather of the current mob of academic gangsters, Heidegger was appointed rector of the University of Freiburg in 1933, using his considerable reputation to further the Nazi supremacist dogma. For Heidegger, the function of the university was to provide what he called, in his Rector’s Address, “service to knowledge” as an obligation to the National Socialist state, that is, to entrench a species of politicized education – in this case, the absurd theories of National Socialism, the restriction of free expression, and, ultimately, a lethal campaign against the country’s and the continent’s Jewish inhabitants.

The current academic campaign against Jews and Israel, expressed in the condemnation of Israel as an apartheid and occupying regime engaged in the “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians, is merely an updated and partially laundered variant of the German original. It is a palpable lie masquerading as an apodictic truth supported by fraudulent research and revisionist infatuations. The invention or suppression of facts and the propagation of fictitious memes and venomous tropes have become the liberal academy’s stock in trade.

I should indicate that Cravatts’s subject has been addressed before by several erudite and committed writers who have lobbied to clean up the latrine of higher education in America. David Horowitz in such books as Indoctrination U and Reforming our Universities, Gary Tobin et al. in The Uncivil University (referenced several times by Cravatts), and Stephen Norwood’s chilling The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower expose the academic Left’s growing rapprochement with tyrannical doctrines and especially with the metastasizing Islamic movement, such rapprochement constituting a symptom of its abdication from founding principles and the betrayal of its mandate.

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There is no doubt that the natural corollaries of the narrow, deformed and prejudicial temper prevailing in academia are anti-Jewish odium and anti-Israel denunciation. The two are indissolubly linked. Loading “cruel and destructive invective on Zionism,” says Cravatts, the professors are in reality “promulgating vile, disproportionate opprobrium that frequently shows its true face as raw anti-Semitism.”

Norwood, for his part, reveals how Harvard, Yale and Columbia during the 1930s embraced or were sympathetic to the fascist regimes of Hitler and Mussolini. Today, as Cravatts amply demonstrates, the educational establishment cultivates an equally comprehensive sympathy for Islamofascist themes, curricula and organizations. Third-rate thinking, ignorance, ingratitude, chicanery and political indoctrination have become the mainstays of the Humanities, Middle East Studies programs and misnamed Social Sciences departments.

As an instance of such dissembling, Cravatts directs our attention to a BDS (Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions) manual, Fighting the New Apartheid: A Guide to Campus Divestment from Israel, authored by Palestinian-born Fayyad Sbaihat of the University of Wisconsin, in which we read that the divestment campaign should avoid “debating facts on the ground.” In order for the BDS agenda to be successful, “Israel must be characterized as a pariah state” regardless of “specific events and facts [which] can prove illusive when one attempts to build a case around them.”

5th Annual New York Peace Film Festival Offers No Attacks on Israel

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Is this a man bites dog bit of news, or what? When the press release from the organizers of the NY Peace Film Festival popped in my email, I naturally braced myself for the usual torrent of anti-Semitic graffiti masked as criticism of Zionism we have learned to expect from any event with the words Peace and Festival in the title.

To my very pleasant surprise, someone at the 5th annual festival has decided—imagine!—to dedicate the entire program to films discussing peace efforts around the world. Sure, I was a little perturbed they didn’t have anything good to say about Israel in that department, but I’ll take a silence over what normally would have been there.

So I invite the reader to check out this absolutely Zionism-safe presentation (except it’s in a church and takes place on Shabbat – what, you want everything?). Remember how we always say, why don’t they ever discuss other areas of the world? Well, this time they totally do:

NYPFF features two documentary shorts that address the recent civil wars in Sudan and in Sierra Leone. Saturday, March 10 at 2:30, Another Journey: Tales from Southern Sudan’s Homeless Generation lets four victims of the Sudanese civil war tell their story as they trekked 3,000 miles to find safety from warring parties. In each of the refugee camps they learned to build community with those around them, realizing that the human family is wider than the confines of their village. Two of the victims along with the filmmaker will be on hand to answer questions following the screening.

Then, at 3:30, Fambul Tok (Family Talk) highlights a grassroots initiative to reconcile neighbors. The brutal, decade long civil war in Sierra Leone left communities shattered, and only a few of those responsible for horrendous crimes liable for punishment. Capitalizing on Sierra Leone ’s tradition of gathering together as a village and talking out problems, Fambul Tok allows neighbors to confront one another and talk through their wrongs with remarkable results. One of the filmmakers will be on hand following the screening for a Q&A.

You can visit the festival website for clips from all the participating films, and I guess you can take it off your Nanny Guard list – no Jew bashing talk here…

Welcome, Mr. Speaker: Rivlin Enters Irish Parliament Through Back Entrance

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators blocked the main entrance to Irish parliament Thursday, forcing Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin to enter though a back entrance.

Rivlin, the highest-ranking Israeli official to visit Ireland since 1985, told Army Radio that he wanted to speak with the demonstrators blocking the entrance but security officers prevented him.

Rivlin’s visit comes at a period of tense relations between Ireland and Israel, with Ireland directing heavy criticism at Israel for its blockade of Hamas-governed Gaza, and leading boycotts of Israel.

 

US Cuts Funds to PA’s Sesame Street

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

In a briefing to reporters on Tuesday, the US State Department explained why $2 million in funding for the Palestinian Authority’s version of Sesame Street has been cut. The cut follows the US Congress decision to freeze almost $200 million in funds to the U.S. Agency for International Development, in response to the PA’s bid for UN membership last September.

State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland expressed regret for the cut, noting that the purpose of funding the show was to help Israeli-Arab and Palestinian children understand that Arabs and Jews need to coexist peacefully.

Appearing to try to avoid politicizing the issue, Nuland said that the US government is presently more focused on funding programs that provide basic services to Palestinians. But the show has had its share of controversy, with some of its content falling under criticism for promoting anti-Israel tropes and canards.

Parshat Toldot

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

In the aftermath of the Union army’s terrible defeat at the battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, in December 1862, Abraham Lincoln felt compelled to relieve General Ambrose Burnside of command of the Army of the Potomac. In his place he somewhat reluctantly appointed General Joe Hooker to assume command. The following excerpts from a letter which President Lincoln sent to Hooker on the eve of his appointment are a masterful example of a superior cautioning his subordinate about some of his flaws, while simultaneously subsuming the critical message within a broader context of support and encouragement. Lincoln understood that if he were only to criticize Hooker, his words would fall on deaf ears.

“General: I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appears to me to be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and skilled soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable, quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm; but I think that during General Burnside’s command of the army you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have heard, in such a way to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a dictator. Of course, it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes can set up dictators. What I ask of you now is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship….And now beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance go forward and give us victories.”

Delivering constructive criticism and rebuke—tochacha—constitutes a very important mitzvah. However, precisely because effective rebuke requires a delicate balance between encouragement and criticism, it is a mitzvah that can only truly be practiced by a select few. Rav Shlomo Wolbe, in his monograph on education, Zeriah U’Binyan B’chinuch quotes (p.26) Rav Chaim Volozhiner who stated “nowadays harsh words are not heard.” As such, Rav Chaim maintained that: “A person whose disposition prevents him from speaking gently and who gets angry quickly at people who sin, especially when they don’t heed his words, is exempt from the mitzvah of rebuke.”

The importance of carefully crafting criticism in a manner that contains the rebuke within a framework of positive encouragement can be seen at the end of this week’s parsha when Yitzchak enjoins Esav to refrain from marrying a Canaanite. The Torah describes (28:1) how Yitzchak first blessed Esav and only then did he discuss the issue of marriage with him. Rav Chaim Zuckerman, in his anthology Otzar Chaim, quotes a beautiful insight in the name of the Chofetz Chaim. The Chofetz Chaim explains that the point of Yitzchak’s discussion with Esav at the conclusion of the parsha was quite obvious. He wanted to rebuke him regarding his current marital practices and to direct him to repent and pursue a better and holier approach. However, Yitzchak realized that if he got straight to the point, Esav would ignore him. Therefore, Yitzchak first blessed Esav, thus encouraging him and enabling the rebuke to be framed in an overall context of positive growth. Only in this carefully crafted way would Yitzchak stand a chance of influencing Esav’s behavior.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 4/29/11

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

A Gentleman Speaks Up…

In defense of “Community (lack of) values” (Chronicles March 18) — his wife, who complained bitterly about the “narcissistic behaviors among the younger generation” and whose letter generated scathing criticism in a follow-up column (Chronicles April 8).

 

Dear Rachel,

I am the husband of so-called “lack of community values” and I write this letter utterly appalled by the responses to my wife’s letter. Allow me to shed some light on the situation.

I don’t know how it works “in-town” as you would call it, but I’m from a smaller community in the Southern U.S. Where I come from, people welcome newcomers, invite them out almost every single week for the first few months they live in the community, and are generally welcoming. My parent’s shul – and the entire frum community as a whole – has a worldwide reputation for being one of the most welcoming in the USA. So excuse me for expecting the same of people my age.

The spiteful remarks were uncalled for. For the record, we live in Israel and do not own a car. We are also olim chadashim. We rented a furnished apartment, which means we didn’t own anything particularly bulky other than a table, chairs and mattresses — a one or two car trip, since I had already pulled everything apart and packed to go.

Since when did it become selfish to ask for help? I have helped numerous people move, without asking for pay. I wouldn’t dream of such a thing! I am a Baal Koreh who is always happy to fill in when needed — again, never dreaming of being paid. In fact, I get upset when people insist on paying me. Why? Because my parents taught me to help out when needed, regardless of whether you will be paid or not.

My wife is part of a group of women who prepare meals for people who are sitting shiva or have just had a child. She used to cook for her entire family because her parents needed the help. How dare any of the writers attack us! Talk about a lack of social graces. What happened to “Al tadin et chavercha ad sh’tagia limkomo?”

You cannot assume anything based on a letter. Why did we ask for help? Because I had thrown out my back two days before and my wife had a sprained ankle. These writers would have expected us to move everything ourselves, without a car?! First of all, there wasn’t enough furniture for it to be worth paying movers. Second, it is the height of chutzpah to expect two injured individuals to move things themselves without help.

My wife intentionally left out details to protect our privacy. The people who have belittled my wife and myself as being spoiled brats should be ashamed of themselves. I can hardly be considered spoiled; I’ve worked since the age of 16, never experienced sleep-away camp or any day camp, for that matter, and have never enjoyed the luxury of fancy family vacations, which my parents could never afford.

This is not to say that I am ungrateful. In fact, I dare say I learned more from my parents about how to behave than I did from my 13 years of schooling and one year of post-high school study in yeshiva in Israel. I dream of having the integrity my parents do. My wife’s family is better off, but not by much, and she, too, struggled financially. We still struggle now, even while we both work, and we do not mooch off of our parents like many of these responders’ children do when they learn in kollel in Israel indefinitely.

Again, I don’t know how it works in-town since I am apparently an uneducated, incapable Southerner (even though I speak three languages fluently and am nearly done with a Master’s program taught exclusively in Hebrew and Arabic), but it seems that my parent’s generation is just as rude. Must be a New York thing, because this behavior doesn’t fly in my neck of the woods.

I hope this letter is published — readers must know the other side of the story before writing letters half-cocked.

Hateful responses are unwarranted

 

Dear Rachel,

I happen to know the young couple referred to by readers who wrote to criticize Community Values. They made aliyah a year ago and have no close family there except Klal Yisrael. They have been struggling just to survive. The husband is studying at Bar Ilan and working part time; his wife has been unable to find a full time job as her degree is not recognized in Israel, and she has been told that they do not like her American accent. She has, however, been tutoring and is part of a group of women who prepare meals for families sitting shiva and for new mothers. The neighbors have not been very welcoming. The couple does not have a car and were only asking for a little help in moving a few large pieces.

When my husband and I lived in Israel, we Americans all helped each other out, but we were the generation before cell phones, computers, etc., and the current narcissism. If they were here in Atlanta, they would have been welcomed by the community and would have received the assistance they needed. Why did the husband ask for help? Because he grew up with neighbors always asking his parents for help. And it was always given, not only by them but by their children as well.

The responses they received in your newspaper are so typical of arrogant New Yorkers who don’t seem to help their own enough, so they have to come down here with their solicitations. We can always recognize NY transplants. They are the ones who can’t smile or respond to “Shabbat Shalom.”

 

A neighborly neighbor in Atlanta

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We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to  rachel@jewishpress.com  or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

Who’s ‘Idiotic’ On Israel – Palin Or Obama?

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Sarah Palin is a magnet for criticism and sometimes she deserves it. But not always.

Her statements while in Israel last week and about her visit afterward generated the usual scorn that anything she says produces.

An online discussion at Politico about her comments was headlined on its homepage as concerning “Palin’s idiotic comments about Israel.”

So how “idiotic” were they? The correct answer is not very.

During an interview on Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren show, Palin criticized President Obama for not being sufficiently supportive of Israel:

I think there are many in Israel who would feel even more comfortable knowing that there is an even greater commitment from those who presently occupy the White House that they are there on Israel’s side, and that our most valuable ally in that region can count on us . Why aren’t we putting our foot down with the other side and telling the Palestinians, if you’re serious about peace, quit the shellacking and the shelling. Quit the bombing of innocent Israelis.

Far from stupid, these remarks are actually very much to the point about the willingness of this administration, and some of its predecessors, to pressure Israel to make concessions when the real obstacle to peace is what it always has been: the Palestinians’ unwillingness to make peace or to give up terrorism.

But to supposedly smart Americans, the really “stupid” thing she said was her criticism of Obama’s stands about Israeli settlement building:

“President Obama was inappropriate to intervene in a zoning issue in Israel. Let Israel decide their zoning issues themselves.”

Her reference to settlement building as a “zoning issue” is considered by some to be more evidence that Palin doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

It is true that the question of whether Jews have a right to live and build in parts of their ancient capital or the West Bank is a bit more complicated than the conventional disputes about building a parking lot, a business, or even a house of worship in a residential area that roil American cities and suburbs.

The question of the legitimacy or the wisdom (two separate issues) of settlements is not just a matter of “zoning;” it is an existential question that goes to the very heart of whether there ought to be a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn.

But the scoffing at Palin is a bit overblown because, in the end, the question of where and where not to build is one that must be decided by Israel’s people. In that sense it is very much a local issue that the president was wrong to stick his nose into.

If Palin thinks of it in terms of zoning, it may be because, unlike Obama, she takes it for granted that Jews have the right to be in their own country and build wherever it is legally permissible to do so.

Twice in his first two years in office Obama picked very nasty fights with Israel’s government over the building of homes in existing Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. They were both unnecessary and had the effect of making peace negotiations with the Palestinians less likely.

So when you look at it from that perspective, maybe it’s Obama and not Palin who has been the “idiotic” one when it comes to Israeli building policies.

Jonathan Tobin is executive editor of Commentary magazine and a featured blogger at Commentary’s “Contentions” blog, where this first appeared.

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