Schoolboy’s campaign to besmirch an eminent professor smacks of totalitarian society

Israel/Palestine
on 36 Comments

Earlier this week, I posted a piece about a Jewish senior at Croton-Harmon High School in New York who by accusing John Mearsheimer of anti-Semitism in letters to school authorities was able to postpone for a year a distinguished alumnus award that had been announced for Mearsheimer, an eminent professor of international relations at the University of Chicago. My tone was ironical; but two other responses have appeared that are smarter than mine. First, Jerry Haber reflects on his own Zionist indoctrination, followed by Scott McConnell’s savage reflection, contained in my headline.  

First Haber, writing in the comments section at the Jewish Week site, where young Josh Blumberg’s account appeared:

Around forty years ago, I was in a similar situation. My high school had invited a former alumnus, a retired State Department diplomat, to speak to the students, mostly non-Jewish, on the Middle East. At the time, I had been indoctrinated with the classic Zionist narrative that nowadays very few thinking Israelis would accept. I protested to the school, which as a result decided to invite a pro-Israeli speaker for balance.

It took me around thirty years of reading and thinking to be weaned away from the hasbara (It wasn’t called that at the time) that I had been fed at my afternoon Hebrew school. I also had to make aliyah, serve in the army, and see my children serve in the army before I came to the conclusion that the pro-Israel speaker was much less correct than the retired diplomat. No doubt I, too, may have thought someone like him to be “anti-Semitic,” simply because I had been predisposed to think that way by the indoctrination that I had undergone. I know now, having read Prof. Mearsheimer’s work and after some personal contact, that this is a false and defamatory charge, and that the Israel Lobby book, agree with it or not, has nothing to do with anti-Semitism; to think otherwise is to trivialize and politicize the term, as much of the study of anti-Semitism in recent years has indeed been trivialized and politicized.

McConnell at the American Conservative site:

I’m struck also by the young accuser’s enormous sense of ideological entitlement. I can recall being eighteen, and twenty-two, and getting involved in various campaigns and protests.  But I can’t imagine thinking that I could write some letters leveling false and defamatory accusations against an eminent, highly scrutinized professor, with the more or less complete expectation that I would get what I wanted. Granted, American society has changed a lot since 1970, but still.

I too would commend the school board for courage in resisting a neo-McCarthyite smear attempt. Nevertheless, the entire story gives off a faint whiff of totalitarianism, of those societies in which responsible middle-aged people tiptoe around in fear of accusations from self-righteous and highly indoctrinated young people. Yes, the school board was courageous, but why should courage in this realm even be necessary?

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