UC’s new chancellor endorses the falsehood: Criticizing Israel is anti-Semitic

A recent interview conducted by UC Berkeley’s Public Relations office and timed with the appointment of the new university Chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, begins, “Floating around the Internet is a claim that at some point in your past… you signed a petition for Columbia to divest in all things Israel.” The interviewer asks the Chancellor-designate to clarify his role. But let us be clear: this is not a question. It is a demand. We live in political climate in which robust and critical
speech about the policies of the Israeli state is becoming ever more difficult. Its
proponents are subjected to myriad forms of harassment in an effort to shut down such speech. If one wants to be a powerful public figure, the interviewer is effectively saying to Dirks, distance yourself from that petition.

Unfortunately, Dirks responds by doing precisely what is demanded of him. He does not clarify that the Columbia University petition did not call for divestment from “all things Israel,” but instead from companies that manufacture or sell arms or other military hardware utilized by Israel, in violation of US law, against the civilian populations of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. He does not say that he did sign the petition, but, as he might have argued, that once he became an administrator he recognized he had to play a different role, one that protects all political speech on campus, regardless of his own personal convictions, and thus that he chose to withdraw his signature. Instead, he declares that somehow his name appeared on the petition and that he asked for it to be removed.

That is not all: Dirks goes much further. He offers a description of Columbia in 2002 as a time in which broader “controversies” over the question of Israel and Palestine developed. He narrates those controversies in the voice of the off-campus Jewish neo-conservative groups (Campus Watch, the David Project, to name the main provocateurs) who spearheaded a sustained attack against his own colleagues, who were faculty members in the Middle East field. The David Project produced a film, Columbia Unbecoming, that instigated Columbia’s supposedly “internal” investigation. Parroting their perspective in his interview, Dirks notes that it was a climate in which “it seemed very difficult for some [Jewish] students to find safe spaces in which to talk about Israel where they didn’t feel that the basic context in which they found themselves wasn’t hugely not just anti-Israel, but by implication, anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic.” His is a brilliant rhetorical move, an account of how some Jewish students supposedly “felt.” In providing no other perspective on the “controversy,” however, Dirks allows the contention that criticism of Israel’s policies is, “by implication, anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic” to stand as a simple matter of fact.

In purveying this false account, Dirks rewrites the history of the conflict at Columbia. The reality, in contrast, was one in which most members of the faculty and many students argued that baseless accusations of anti-Semitism were being wielded in an effort to curtail academic freedom and free speech. Moreover, Dirks rewrites the “conclusion” to that so-called controversy. No action was taken against any professors precisely because 1) the Committee that he himself appointed, and that he speaks of in the interview, found no evidence that any members of the faculty had ever done or said anything that could be reasonably construed as anti-Semitic, and 2) the Columbia faculty stood overwhelmingly behind the principles of academic freedom that were threatened by these malicious accusations.

Dirks’ response is disturbing not just for how it distorts the past. It is perhaps even more alarming for what it portends for the future. The new Chancellor of UC Berkeley is walking into a situation in which the California State Assembly has passed a bill that equates defense of Palestinian rights and criticism of the policies of the state of Israel with anti-Semitism (Bill HR 35, a nonbinding resolution); he is walking into an institutional context in which his boss, the president of the University of California system, was apparently involved in commenting on and drafting that very same bill (see Center for Constitutional Rights letter to UC President Yudof, PDF); he is walking into a political reality in which several Title VI cases are pending against schools in the UC system, accusing them of fostering a “hostile” learning environment for Jewish students; and he is taking charge of a campus in which Arab, Muslim and other students advocating for Palestinian rights are being targeted by specific Zionist activist groups for creating a “campus climate” that is “anti-Semitic and hostile to Jewish students” (see CCR letter to Yudof).

This was a moment for the incoming Chancellor of UC Berkeley to stand on principle. Criticizing the policies of the state of Israel that violate Palestinian human and political rights, or advocating in favor of a boycott and divestment campaign, he might have said, is political speech, not hate speech. Dirks could have risen to the occasion and said that even if he is personally opposed to the divestment campaign it is nevertheless a matter that we must be able to discuss. For that matter, he could have said that even if he, as the incoming Chancellor of Berkeley, disagrees with critics of Israel’s policies, their speech is nevertheless legitimate, even necessary speech. Dirks should have said that what is at stake are fundamental democratic principles–not just academic freedom but free speech itself.

Nadia Abu El-Haj
Lila Abu-Lughod
Gil Anidjar
Rashid Khalidi
Brinkley Messick
James Schamus

The authors are all professors at Columbia University
 

Posted in Activism, BDS, Israel Lobby, Israel/Palestine, US Politics

{ 48 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. gingershot says:

    Interesting post-waterboarding session with the dean

    But the trouble is – is there anything he won’t say he won’t support in order to save his skin?

    This guy is so sold out and so frightened his main concern is he has nothing left to sell.

    • piotr says:

      gingershot: saving his skin? It is not like he was about to loose his job, mortgage and face homelessness and starvation of his adorable little children. Prof. Dirk is saving his promotion to a better paying job.

      Incidentally, his account why he signed a petition 10 years ago is basically that there was an atmosphere of intimidation which was so dire he could not help himself.

      • Citizen says:

        @ piotr
        He’s a little tribal Goldstone, doing a little tribal Goldstone type thing.
        Way over on the same spectrum, we have a non-Jew, Obama, who did it by filing away his Cairo Speech to his dust bin, and by not speaking up for Mitchell, or Freeman–and who, I suspect, will not nominate Hagel.

        • Betsy says:

          @Citizen — are you assuming he comes from Jewish background? he seems to come from social gospel Protestant background. Here’s his summary of his family influence:

          [FROM THE MOGULOF INTERVIEW link to newscenter.berkeley.edu You know, my father was the son of immigrant Germans who came to this country and homesteaded land in central Iowa. He grew up on a farm unable to speak English until he went to school. And he only left the farm because he had a very bad heart, which meant that he couldn’t be a farmer. He went to college to become a minister. It was the only thing that was understood as a possible thing to do outside of farming at that time.

          He went to college. He went to seminary. He went to graduate school. He taught for many years at the Yale Divinity School. And while he was teaching theology, he took me periodically to Battell Chapel at Yale while I listened to the sermons of William Sloane Coffin, who had just returned from Selma, Alabama, who was reflecting the issues of the day, but who himself was deeply committed to questions of social equality, to the end of racial discrimination, to the kinds of questions that, of course, he addressed throughout his long career.

          And I felt deeply influenced by both my father and by Coffin, and of course at the same time, by the fact that my mother, who was teaching in a high school and had a much less public life in that respect, was herself somebody who in their everyday life, teaching in inner-city schools in New Haven, Connecticut, teaching home economics to young girls at a time when home economics was still taught in schools, but with an eye towards thinking about their futures, as she thought about her own, as moving beyond the traditional relationships of gendered stereotype. All of that together I think probably made me the person I am. And I will take this opportunity to thank my parents for anything I do that’s right.

      • RoHa says:

        “It is not like he was about to loose his job”

        Lose!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Another fall guy for the lobby. If he can’t hold the ring and stand up for American values and principles, then he should never be a chancellor. Willing to abase himself, and thus his institution before powerful vested interests, he crumbles in the face of the pressure from groups hostile to free speech and dissemination about the truth of the Israeli occupation. Schmuck.

  3. Don says:

    “wasn’t hugely not just”…it seems to me any English speaking human who uses this phrase…”wasn’t hugely not just”…is not intellectually capable of being a university president.

    Wasn’t Hugely Not Just!!!…astounding the faculty at Columbia would tolerate this nitwit.

    • piotr says:

      That could motivate his move to California. The culprit sentence also involves a rather convoluted multiple negation with obscuring modalities

      “it seemed very difficult for some [Jewish] students to find safe spaces in which to talk about Israel where they didn’t feel that the basic context in which they found themselves wasn’t hugely not just anti-Israel, but by implication, anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic.”

      One should note that Columbia campus is rather cramped, so finding places may be hard, and the little tykes wanted to find safe spaces. So they find some room that is currently not used for a lecture or recitation and they attempt to talk about Israel and — KABOOM! — a sinister feeling of a context creeps in. And a shattering realization that this is not a context of this classroom, but the basic context, sub-textualized hostility to the only state Jews have.

      • marc b. says:

        that quote grabbed my attention too, piotr, and not just for its mangled syntax. if i could offer a clearer translation of his intent, i think what he means is that post-adolescent, upper middle class, ivy league israel supporters need a comfortable space in which to spout their know-nothing racist clap trap without fear of contradiction.

  4. Another interesting aspect of the performance is his tale of the “ferociously independent” young wife learning the error of her ways.

  5. CitizenC says:

    He does not clarify that the Columbia University petition did not call for divestment from “all things Israel,” but instead from companies that manufacture or sell arms or other military hardware utilized by Israel, in violation of US law, against the civilian populations of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

    Why should we be limited to such restrained criticism? Why can we not object to Zionism itself? As racialism, and thus inherently unjust? And object to a Jewish state as an unnatural, inherently violent intrusion in the region? I doubt the authors of the petition dispute that.

    Those who dispute it, and/or will not allow it to become the foundation of opposition, are the Jewish left, from Chomsky on down. They have imposed this minimal critique of “the occupation” and its corollaries. By suppressing systematic critique of Zionism, and imposing related orthodoxy like the “strategic asset” view of US-Israel relations, they also suppress critique of American Jewish chauvinism, which drives actors like Dirks, and many others.

    Endless repetition of the trope that “it’s not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel” makes anti-Semitism the supreme issue, and suppresses awareness of the real issue, Zionism’s destruction of western Asia, and its equally destructive role in the US. It is chiefly responsible for the Islamophobia of our culture (which has enough problems), and has turned our Middle East policy into our eastern front, site of our most pathological deeds and ideologies, like the eastern front of the Third Reich.

    The basis of opposition to Zionism lies in classical left and liberal sources which the Jewish left has buried, including classical Reform, Marxist internationalism, and modern secularism. Lack of their application results in tentative, limited opposition to commissars like Dirks.

    • Citizen says:

      Yeah, well, I guess it does not mean much for the chancellor, even if it’s only violation of US law regarding exported arms restrictions.

  6. seafoid says:

    If criticism of Israel’s policies is, “by implication, anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic”

    then
    torture and home demolitions are mitzvot

    And anything up to and including genocide is justified by the fetish for the land

    • Mooser says:

      “And anything up to and including genocide is justified by the fetish for the land”

      And the fetish for the land, becomes the religion! And people say Judaism doesn’t evolve! Or produce practical results.

      • Citizen says:

        @ Mooser
        Ah , well that’s the way it goes when you don’t drill into the child’s head the horrors of hell and benefits of heaven, as if it’s right around the corner if you jack off or steal a candy bar. And too, let’s not forget the Nazi’s distinguished Judaism as “the earth-bound religion.”

        • Mooser says:

          @Citizen: I had Gresham’s Law applied to religion more in mind.

        • seafoid says:

          link to thejewishweek.com

          “In response to the question of why such tragedies happen, Rabbi Praver told NPR: “I don’t know the answer to that. I never try to present a theological answer to that. I think what’s more important is to have compassion, humanity and hold someone’s hand and hug them and cry with them.”

          except obviously if they are Muslim and Israel has murdered their kids, in which case everything is fine .

  7. marc b. says:

    g_d damn fraud. so what do we make of our institutions of higher learning if we place this exhibit next to unz’s analysis of the corruption of the admissions process?

    i really don’t think that anyone in a position to deal directly with these people should waste a moment negotiating or trying to empathize with their perspectives.

  8. Talkback says:

    “Criticizing Israel is anti-Semitic”

    He didn’t say that. He said that “some students … didn’t feel that the basic context in which they found themselves wasn’t hugely not just anti-Israel, but by implication, anti-Jewish, and anti-Semitic”.

    He makes a distinction between anti-israel on the one hand and anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic on the other hand. And he was only talking about the feelings of some students.

    Your ‘interpretation’ is pretty slanderous and not serving truth.

    • Well clearly the writers of the post were at Columbia and intimately involved in the political circus that an off campus group in alliance with a few students created for that institution. What they’re seeing is how Nick Dirks is rewriting history now that he’s a Chancellor to distort what happened at Columbia as he enters the current fray at UC.

      Also, you’re parsing his statement in ways that he may or may not intended, but in the context in which he spoke, it’s clear that he’s presenting himself in an entirely different light than his role at Columbia or his relationship to what went on there. That is, when he was at Columbia he clearly came down on the side of academic freedom, whereas now he’s not.

    • marc b. says:

      He makes a distinction between anti-israel on the one hand and anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic on the other hand. And he was only talking about the feelings of some students.

      you need a logic mentor. he doesn’t make a distinction, he implies (ya see the word ‘implication’?) that criticism of israel on campus was/is (and ‘was’ always ‘is’ in these matters) inextricably linked to anti-jewish and anti-semitic sentiments. (maybe he could explain to me the practical difference between ‘anti-jewish’ and ‘anti-semitic’ in this context. or is he just babbling at that point in the interview? not really much of ‘interview’ either. baldy just seems to poke him a bit and off he croaks for 5 minutes straight.)

    • Citizen says:

      @ Talkback
      He said logically that “the basic context in which they found themselves” was directly both hugely anti-Israel AND indirectly hugely anti-Jewish AND anti-Semitic. If anybody slandered anyone, it was the man you think you are defending.

      • Talkback says:

        marc b. says: “you need a logic mentor. he doesn’t make a distinction, he implies (ya see the word ‘implication’?) that criticism of israel on campus was/is (and ‘was’ always ‘is’ in these matters) inextricably linked to anti-jewish and anti-semitic sentiments.”

        Here’s some logic mentoring for you.

        He didn’t say (or endorse) that A (critism of Israel) is B (Antisemitism) He didn’t say anything about A or B. He was talking about C (the feelings of some Jewish students). They felt that the context was not only explicit A, but ALSO “BY implication” [not explicit or expressis verbis, but implicit] B. Now if something is not only A, but also B than A and B are obviously distinct.

        Of course you may not only feel distinct about this but you may ALSO feel that he, by implication, endorsed that A is B.

  9. American says:

    ”accusing them of fostering a “hostile” learning environment for Jewish students; ”

    Simple solution…….why don’t student zionist go to school in Israel. They will fit in there and not have this problem. Instead of teenage Birth Right trips the Zio orgs can do College Rights programs.

  10. seafoid says:

    The problem with depending on the trope that “criticism of Israel is antisemitic” is that one day in the not too distant future the goys are going to see through Israel’s fake plastic Jewish state and frenzied deployment of the slur of antisemitism is going to be less effective than a Hail Mary versus an STD.

    • kalki says:

      Watching the video of Dirk’s interview gave me the impression that the questions and answers were ‘prepared’, meaning that Dirk’s had received the questions in advance and given time to prepare his answers. Any good actor can see from the body language and the substance plus delivery of the answers that nothing was spontaneous. The defensive opening sentence regarding his wife’s ‘independence’ would be truly farcical if the context was not of as serious as it was. I wonder if Dirk’s knew how Kurt Waldheim was taken down when he stood for the Presidency of Austria…..a telling blow delivered at the most vulnerable moment!

      • seafoid says:

        It’s all fake. The ideology is too fragile to be exposed to the light. The same tired canards for the last 64 years.

        Jewish democracy would be a wonderful thing.

    • SimoHurtta says:

      A long time Finnish member of Parliament Pertti Salolainen (former journalist, diplomat and leader of the conservative party) got just a “special” anti-Semite treatment. He was asked in the television why USA voted against the lifted Palestinian status in UN. He said that USA has difficulties to take a neutral stand because the Jews are very influential in USA and control much of the money in US politics and the US media. He also said that USA doesn’t dare to make decisions in the matter because of internal reasons and that is the sad truth of US politics in the Israel/Palestine question. This short analysis is basically something to what every Finnish (and European) analyst or politician agree, but not all dare to say in public.

      At once the Simon Wiesenthal center reacted to the matter and demanded through the Finnish ambassador in USA the Finnish government apologize and to kick out Pertti Salolainen from all official positions he has. The local honor chairman of the Jewish congregation Gideon Bolotowsky added fuel to the flames by “joking” in the local yellow press that Salolainen has his data from the Mein Kampf.

      The local reaction was less successful to the “semite” side. The story did not became so big as the pro-Israeli side had hoped and the Finnish political elite was wondering what was wrong in the short analysis Salolainen had made and the media went mostly in the “defensive mode”. The 72 year old experienced and rather respected politician was furious of the treatment he had received from the Jewish lobby (US and local). Though I suppose younger Finnish politicians and experts are in future careful with analyzing the Jewish “system” and “influence” after seeing the treatment Salolainen got. Some years ago the present Finnish FM Erkki Tuomioja got his share of this harsh “anti-Semitism” treatment when he wondered why some use against Palestinians same kind of politics they themselves suffered in the 30s.

      Free speech seems to be a bit problematic for “semites”. No politician (anayst etc) seems to be not allowed to say what they think about the Israel/Palestine question and Jewish role if that what say is not approved by “non-existent lobby”. It is like in the former Soviet Union. Tell the official “truth” or vanish.

      • seafoid says:

        People are figuring out the bot style. Calling all critics of Israel antisemites is equivalent to reminding them that they are not the equal of Jews. And that’s a very hard sell in 2012 in a mostly secular Europe.

        It is very hard to see how Zionist nihilism is part of some God driven plan for universal progress.

  11. seafoid says:

    Criticising Israel is antisemitic yada yada. It’s like they think they have all possible attacks covered by this verbal shield. And it makes them very sloppy .Like thei r1967 air superiority that lulled them into a trap in 1973 . They never did understand responsibility or forward thinking,.

  12. RE: “A recent interview conducted by UC Berkeley’s Public
    Relations office and timed with the appointment of the new university Chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, begins, ‘Floating around the Internet is a claim that at some point in your past… you signed a petition for Columbia to divest in all things Israel.’ The interviewer asks the Chancellor-designate to clarify his role. But let us be clear: this is not a question. It is a demand. We live in political climate in which robust and critical speech about the policies of the Israeli state is becoming ever more difficult. . .
    ~ Nadia Abu El-Haj, et al.

    SEE: “The Trial of Israel’s Campus Critics”, by David Theo Goldberg & Saree Makdisi, Tikkun Magazine, September/October 2009

    [EXCERPT] . . . It is an extraordinary fact that no fewer than thirty-three distinct organizations – including AIPAC, the Zionist Organization of America, the American Jewish Congress, and the Jewish National Fund – are gathered together today as members or affiliates of the Israel on Campus Coalition. The coalition is an overwhelmingly powerful presence on American college campuses for which there is simply no equivalent on the Palestinian or Arab side. Its self-proclaimed mission is not merely to monitor our colleges and universities. That, after all, is the commitment of Campus Watch, which was started by pro-Israel activists in 2002. It is, rather (and in its own words), to generate “a pro-active, pro-Israel agenda on campus.”
    There is, accordingly, disproportionate and unbalanced intervention on campuses across the country by a coalition of well-funded organizations, who have no time for — and even less interest in — the niceties of intellectual exchange and academic process. Insinuation, accusation, and defamation have become the weapons of first resort to respond to argument and criticism directed at Israeli policies. As far as these outside pressure groups (and their campus representatives) are concerned, the intellectual and academic price that the scholarly community pays as a result of this kind of intervention amounts to little more than collateral damage. . .

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to tikkun.org

    • P.S. RE: “. . .We live in political climate in which robust and critical speech about the policies of the Israeli state is becoming ever more difficult. . .” ~ Nadia Abu El-Haj, et al.

      MY COMMENT: This is a nice example of why I fear that Revisionist Zionism and Likudnik Israel (specifically by virtue of their inordinate sway over the U.S.) might very well be an “existential threat” to the values of The Enlightenment [like "the right of free speech"] ! ! !

      • ALSO SEE: “How We Became Israel”, By Andrew J. Bacevich, The American Conservative, 9/10/12
      LINK – link to theamericanconservative.com
      • AND SEE: ‘Israelis are helping write US laws, fund US campaigns, craft US war policy’, by Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss, 6/30/12
      LINK – link to mondoweiss.net
      • AND SEE: “America Adopts the Israel Paradigm”, by Philip Ghiraldi, Antiwar.com, 7/05/12
      LINK – link to original.antiwar.com
      • AND SEE: “Report: Israeli model underlies militarization of U.S. police”, By Muriel Kane, Raw Story, 12/04/11
      LINK – link to rawstory.com
      • AND SEE: “David Yerushalmi, Islam-Hating White Supremacist Inspires Anti-Sharia Bills Sweeping Tea Party Nation”, by Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam, 3/02/11
      LINK – link to richardsilverstein.com
      • LASTLY SEE: “Boston airport security program rife with racial profiling has Israeli links”, by Alex Kane, Mondoweiss, 8/14/12
      LINK – link to mondoweiss.net

    • P.P.S. ALSO RE: “. . .We live in political climate in which robust and critical speech about the policies of the Israeli state is becoming ever more difficult. . .” ~ Nadia Abu El-Haj, et al.

      SEE THIS VIDEO (48:27) – Dispatches: Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby [from the UK's 'Channel 4'] (Full Version) Rating: 3.9/5
      November 16 2009 – Dispatches investigates one of the most powerful and influential political lobbies in Britain, which is working in support of the interests of the State of Israel.
      Despite wielding great influence among the highest realms of British politics and media, little is known about the individuals and groups which collectively are known as the pro-Israel lobby.
      Political commentator Peter Oborne sets out to establish who they are, how they are funded, how they work and what influence they have, from the key groups to the wealthy individuals who help bankroll the lobbying.
      He investigates how accountable, transparent and open to scrutiny the lobby is, particularly in regard to its funding and financial support of MPs.
      The pro-Israel lobby aims to shape the debate about Britain’s relationship with Israel and future foreign policies relating to it.
      Oborne examines how the lobby operates from within parliament and the tactics it employs behind the scenes when engaging with print and broadcast media.
      ● LINK – link to undergrounddocumentaries.com

      ● ALSO ON YouTube – link to youtube.com

      ● AND HERE – link to niqnaq.wordpress.com

  13. Kathleen says:

    Who was the interviewer? His expressions were cold as if he were the executioner. Dirk rolled over and kept rolling then sold his wife down the pike too.

    • Betsy says:

      @Kathleen — this is actually hilarious, in a sick way. He’s the Executive Director of Berkeley’s “Strategic Communications Team” — name of Dan Mogulof . Their mission?

      Did protesters just arrive at your building? Have negative headlines about your department suddenly appeared in the news? Has tragedy struck your part of the campus today?

      Immediately call the Office of Public Affairs’ Strategic Communications team – Dan Mogulof, executive director (510-642-3715), or Janet Gilmore, associate director (510-642-5685). They will gather facts, provide advice and come up with a quick and helpful plan for handling media inquiries.

      Similarly, if you are anticipating controversy in your department that might wind up in the news, contact Strategic Communications for help mapping out a strategy. Advanced planning pays off.

      Emergency communications

      In the event of a major earthquake or fire, or any other campus or regional emergency, the Office of Public Affairs plays a lead role in communications with the campus community and the public. In an emergency, up-to-date information will be available from these primary sources:

      link to berkeley.edu

      Must have been a dust-up & they had to call in the communications swat team…I wonder if that Masterpiece Theatre book-lined backdrop is really a roll up, canvas, portable screening booth, that they can rush to the site of an “emergency”?

      Obscene & ridiculous! This is what our premier universities have become? Dominated by lawyers & PR officials & run by toadyists?

    • marc b. says:

      it was a creepy dynamic, not really an interview at all, more like a confession wrung out by the inquisition. they could have replaced the interviewer with a card board cut out, as the only purpose he served was to create the impression that some sort of exchange of ideas was taking place. i heard an ‘interview’ of christoph walz by terry gross recently, ostensibly about his role in the newest decadent turd squeezed out by tarantino, but she couldn’t help herself returning again and again to his years-old ‘the jew hunter’ role, with both she and tarantino repeatedly confusing walz’s nationality (he’s austrian not german, dumkopf). unfortunately walz willingly played along with gross’s giddy, stammering narcissisim. (“oh, sondheim, oh god, yes the best. i can so see you in ‘sweeney todd!’) ick.

  14. Betsy says:

    There is a furious letter to Columbia newspaper from faculty there (see below). It is signed by very heavy hitters — big name, highly respected folks. It will be interesting to see whether Dirks has just sacrificed his honor & respect among his scholarly peers (especially in Anthropology, South Asia studies)– circles within which his wife is also a player. And, whether, anti-Zionist heavy hitter scholars in the U of C system will get involved — like Judith Butler (see her Mondoweiss article to the Jerusalem Post smear campaign against her) link to mondoweiss.net

    HERE’S THE LETTER FROM COLUMBIA FACULTY

    To the Editor:

    The undersigned faculty members of the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University feel outraged after reading the assertions made by Nicholas Dirks, our former colleague and the newly appointed chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, in an interview recorded by the Public Affairs office at Berkeley on the eve of a meeting of the Regents to approve his appointment (“In Conversation: Chancellor-designate Nicholas Dirks,” UCBerkeleyCampuslife).

    While discussing the divestment petition at Columbia in 2002 (which, to set the record straight, called on Columbia to divest, not from “all things Israel,” as mischaracterized by the interviewer, but from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and other companies that supply military hardware used by Israel against the civilian population of the West Bank and Gaza), Chancellor Dirks referred to “all sorts of other controversies that developed about the climate for Jewish students on Columbia’s campus.” He described this climate as hugely not just anti-Israel, but by implication anti-Jewish, and anti-Semitic, and connected this issue with “the nature of instruction in the department of Middle East studies.”

    Our sense of outrage stems from Dirks’ denial of the fact that the very committee set up by then-Vice President Dirks found no evidence whatever for concerns about the climate for Jewish students let alone about the nature of instruction in our department. We feel affronted by the fact that the Chancellor’s defaming the department means that he now rejects the committee¹s finding and seems instead to accept as true the false accusations leveled against us by an external hate group that has since been exposed and discredited.

    Signed (in alphabetical order):

    Muhsin Al-Musawi
    Gil Anidjar
    Partha Chatterjee
    Hamid Dabashi
    Mamadou Diouf
    Wael Hallaq
    Sudipta Kaviraj
    Mahmood Mamdani
    Joseph Massad
    Brinkley Messick
    Timothy Mitchell
    Sheldon Pollock
    Frances Pritchett
    George Saliba

    link to columbiaspectator.com

  15. I just really like his glasses

  16. Betsy says:

    In 2006, Nicholas Dirks’ wife, Janaki Bakhle, was viciously attacked by “Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum” because she was a “close colleague” of Joseph Massad. See their article on her — “Crisis at Columbia: Janaki Bakhle” link to campus-watch.org

    This was part of the campaign against Joseph Massad, led by pro-Israel off-campus groups, which he describes in detail here link to solidarity-us.org

    Janaki Bakhle seems to have grown up in India, but moved to US, where she was a graduate student under Edward Said. She’s a feminist theorist — and I can hardly wait to hear what she has to say about all this, if she can ever get out from the special veil woven by gauzy machinations of the U of C PR team!

  17. MHughes976 says:

    I think this is a wonderful example of academic circumlocutimon not really answering the question why his signature was originally there – is he a henpecked husband? – and managing to convey strong sympathy with the offended students but also just a hint of disagreement with them. Has he succeeded in offending everyone?

  18. HarryLaw says:

    This excellent tale should be pinned to every notice board in every meeting and locker room at UC Berkeley, maybe a thesis could be done on it, or the chancellor could allow a special course on it next year.