He was accused of promoting racism. Of advocating war crimes and ethnic cleansing. So outrageous was his behavior that his academic colleagues formally censured him. What was his crime? Writing an article last month called “The Moral Case for Israel Annexing the West Bank – And Beyond.”
He is not a far right-wing follower of Rabbi Meir Kahane, In fact, he is a professor of philosophy at DePaul University by the name of Jason Hill. His article, however, incensed DePaul students and the university’s Faculty Council responded by condemning him last week by a vote of 21-10.
To learn more about this affair, which made national headlines, The Jewish Press spoke with Professor Hill.
The Jewish Press: According to the original Faculty Council resolution condemning you, your article promotes racism and favors war crimes and ethnic cleansing. What are they referring to?
I don’t know. As far as I can tell, this is a complete defamation of my character and misrepresentation of everything I wrote.
The resolution also states that your article caused “real harm” to students. How does an article “harm” students?
I have no idea. I know they have caused me harm as I now need a police escort on campus and guards standing outside my door while I teach.
It seems a bit bizarre for professors to condemn their colleagues for voicing an opinion. Is this a usual occurrence on university campuses nowadays?
I can only say that in my 19 years at DePaul I have never seen the Faculty Council take it upon itself to peer review a non-scholarly op-ed piece written by a faculty member and to then condemn that faculty member.
How do you explain this resolution? Aren’t universities supposed to promote the free exchange of ideas?
I think there’s a growing BDS movement on university campuses, which is not just anti-Israel, but anti-Semitic. It’s pushed by the very far left – and probably the not so far left – in the humanities and social sciences. It’s a cultural movement where anti-Semitism is tolerated in the name of cultural relativism and tolerance.
In the article, you write, “What’s good for Jewish civilization is good for humanity at large. Jewish civilization is an international treasure trove that must be protected.” Can you elaborate?
The Jewish people have been the most persecuted people on the face of the earth. Yet, they have not only survived, but made enormous contributions to Western civilization. Jewish civilization is a model of ethical and cultural excellence, and the Jewish people’s ability to survive through millennia of persecution is awesome – in the sense that one should be awestruck by it.
So when I say what’s good for Jewish civilization is good for humanity, I mean that Jewish civilization and Western civilization are inextricably linked, so what’s good for the former is good for the latter.
I was also speaking about Israel, which is an ethical state in the midst of politically illiberal and primitive regimes that do not respect the inalienability of individual rights.
It’s remarkable that you, a non-Jew, are extolling Jews and Jewish civilization to such a great degree.
Well, my grandmother’s father was Jewish – he was Sepahrdic – but that’s not the reason. The reason is that I’m a student of word civilizations, and in studying them, I have come to admire what seems to me to be a superior civilization.
Not all cultures are equal. In the same way that we can say that some cultures are more technologically advanced than others, we can say that some cultures are morally and metaphysically more advanced than others. And when you look at Jewish civilization, it seems to me that it is the most superior civilization that has ever existed. And I have studied world civilizations quite seriously as a scholar.
My admiration and extolment of Jewish civilization is also coming from a religious perspective. I was an atheist for many years, but I have become quite religious and I studied Judaism very carefully for a year under a rabbi. So that deepened my admiration not just for the civilization, but the religion too.
In your article you argue that Israel’s policy toward the Arabs currently living in the West Bank should be “radical containment or expulsion.” Can you elaborate?
I’m working on another article, so I don’t want to comment on that. I will say, though, that there are many options. I hinted at some in my article by saying that since the re-founding of Israel in 1948, and especially since the 1967 war, the people who call themselves Palestinians are not the responsibility of Israel. They are the responsibility of the Jordanian government, so we can talk about resettling Palestinians in Jordan or other parts of the world.
It’s interesting that you argue for Israel annexing the West Bank. That may be the position of many Orthodox Jews or settlers, but it isn’t the position of the Israeli government or the vast majority of pro-Israel groups in America.
Well, I’m trained primarily as an ethicist. I don’t think fundamentally in political terms. I’m a moralist, so I don’t give one hoot about populous views. I think in terms of what’s right and what’s wrong.
So when I think about annexation, I’m not thinking about what’s popular among Israelis or American Jews – or whether I’m to the right of the Israeli government. I’m thinking that Judea and Samaria properly belong to Israel, and Israel has a moral right to annex it. Whether that’s politically expedient is another issue.
You are the author of several books, including, most recently, We Have Overcome. What is that book about?
After the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, legal oppression against blacks ended. There is still private discrimination, but the whole purpose of the 1964 act was to re-socialize whites into not being racists. It was a form of social engineering.
So as an immigrant, I’m arguing that we have to recognize this, take up the opportunities of this country, and run with them.
Have you experienced racism?
Yes, but I do not take myself as a victim, and it’s never held me down. I do not take America to be intrinsically bigoted or racist. That is, there are ways in which to fight racism, so you fight it and move on.
You write on your website that you’ve experienced more racism from academic leftists than right-wing extremists.
That’s true. I experienced more racism among progressive leftists in the academy than I ever experienced living in Klan country in the deep south of Georgia in the 1980s.
I was expected as a black man to adhere to a particular kind of victim ideology and a particular kind of political narrative. As a conservative independent, though – who incidentally had very pro-Israel views – I didn’t adhere to that narrative, so I became a target of discrimination in the academy.
It’s like: How dare he have brown skin and have those ideas?