Eric Alterman contradicts himself about anti-Semitism on campus

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Eric Alterman is a liberal columnist I respect, even though I disagree with his views on Israel and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Today, in a New York Times op-ed piece about the BDS movement on campus titled, “Free Speech, Even if It’s Obnoxious,” he offers an encouraging insight:

Aside from Facebook and Twitter posts, where anonymity often invites abuse, I’ve never heard a single anti-Semitic syllable uttered on any CUNY campus in the dozen years I’ve been on the faculty. My classes on Jewish history and culture often discuss extremely delicate questions of Jewish identity without anyone, Jew or gentile, evincing the slightest discernible discomfort.

Great. But earlier in the same article, Alterman tosses out the observation that there’s lots of anti-Semitism on American campuses, including among anti-Zionists:

Anti-Semitism is no doubt a problem on many college campuses. And the boycott Israel movement — which has inspired these arguments — is tainted with it . . .

. . . the boycott movement on campus is thriving not because of, but in spite of, the anti-Semitism of some of its adherents . . .

This is a serious charge. Alderman is claiming that anti-Jewish bigotry is widespread on U.S. campuses and that it taints the BDS campaign. You would think that he would at least make an effort to provide some proof for such an allegation. But the only actual evidence in the piece is of his own first-hand experience at CUNY, where he “never heard a single anti-Semitic syllable uttered.” Which is it, Alterman?

(Yes, Alterman does cite a case in which four pro-Israel Jewish students were ejected from a Brooklyn College event, but CUNY ruled that the basis of that decision was not anti-Semitic. “In our view, there is no support for an inference of discrimination based on religion.”)

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21 Responses

  1. Citizen
    March 29, 2016, 4:41 pm

    Zionism rots the brain. Remember the star reputation of the Germans for culture before Nazism took over? “When I hear the word ‘culture’ I unlock the bolt of my Mauser (rifle).”

    Over 60,000 American dual citizens are now proud, racist and violent squatters in the West Bank.

  2. pabelmont
    March 29, 2016, 5:21 pm

    He says BDS is thriving “in spite of” (any) antisemitism (of some adherents). Great. He doesn’t say how much A/S. He doesn’t say it is much. He says it is “tainted”. I think he is just saying what he is (he supposes) supposed to say. How could there NOT be A/S?

    Altman’s message: BDS is thriving legitimately. I’m satisfied with that!

    As to A/S, how can one prove a negative? I could not say that there is NO A/S among BDS folks. And so what? I don’t like that “ignore the message if you’d prefer to shoot the messenger” business. Even an A/S can argue BDS forcefully and “legitimately” focusing only in what Israel does.

    • Emory Riddle
      March 29, 2016, 5:45 pm

      What the heck does anti-Semitism have to do with any of this?

      A pure red herring.

      • niass2
        March 29, 2016, 8:12 pm

        cause people like Eric need to be liked by every single human, or else they are rabid anti whatever they are talking about. You are required to like them, not just a little, but a lot. Kind of like in elementary school, where steve grover graduated and then ceased learning. A grown adult calling people names. How interesting.

      • Mooser
        March 30, 2016, 6:14 pm

        “A pure red herring.”

        Yup, like the ‘Alderman’ that swims by in the next-to-last text block..

      • gamal
        March 30, 2016, 8:52 pm

        “A pure red herring”

        don’t tell Ateret Cohanim

  3. Steve Grover
    March 29, 2016, 6:52 pm

    Alterman’s statement below is an understatement to everyone but the leftofascists aka the Mondoweiss folks.

    “Anti-Semitism is no doubt a problem on many college campuses. And the boycott Israel movement — which has inspired these arguments — is tainted with it . . .”

    • jd65
      March 29, 2016, 9:17 pm

      Your exaggerated certainty (idiotic internet-age name calling and all…) about Alterman’s exaggerated statement, belies your intellectual dishonesty. Alterman’s intellectual dishonesty, in my mind, is unquestioned. Since witnessing his hysterical and boorish bile thrown at Ralph Nader I’ve unfortunately been able to take him seriously. To me, he’s an arrogant asshole.

    • Stephen Shenfield
      March 30, 2016, 7:15 am

      Congratulations, Grover! You have invented a new word — leftofascist. But you haven’t explained its meaning. If it means “left fascist” that term usually refers to SA leader Ernst Rohm and the national-bolsheviks. Is that really the political profile of Mondoweiss? And what kind of fascist are you, by the way? Rightofascist?

      • Talkback
        March 30, 2016, 9:15 am

        Before the Nazis could commit their crimes against humanity they had to neutralize the left. Grover has the same ambition.

    • Emory Riddle
      April 1, 2016, 2:13 pm

      Altermnan:

      “I’ve never heard a single anti-Semitic syllable uttered on any CUNY campus in the dozen years I’ve been on the faculty………”

      “…..there’s lots of anti-Semitism on American campuses, …: Anti-Semitism is no doubt a problem on many college campuses ”

      What is this Bizzaro world? He reaches a conclusion that is 180% away from what he has learned from his own personal experience.

      Zionism (not the Gods) has made these folks mad and will surely destroy them.

      • Jon66
        April 1, 2016, 6:51 pm

        Emory,

        I have never personally seen an unarmed black man shot by police.
        I understand that we have a problem in America of unarmed black men being shot by police.

    • K Renner
      April 18, 2016, 4:02 pm

      @Hasbara:

      Shameless, idiotic babble. I’m no leftist– as supporting Palestine is a common sense issue that ought to transcend the left-right spectrum– but whinging “leftofascist” at people as your newest ad hominem attack is nothing but incredibly pathetic.

      Incredibly pathetic. I’m sure that’s your go-to look but it doesn’t legitimize being that way.

      Typically, accusations of “anti-Semitism” on college and uni campuses are extremely over-blown to say the least. But we are talking about a people who think saying “Palestinians are as good as Jews and have righta” is the moral equivalent to being a Nazi.

  4. Dan Walsh
    March 29, 2016, 8:04 pm

    Q: What is Alterman’s definition of antisemitism?

    In all these alleged incidents of antisemitism we must assert as a first principle that the accusers define their terms. If their definition of antisemitism includes any reference to or conflation of Judaism to Zionism or Israel we can, and must, dismiss it out of hand. That is how a term is rendered moot. Same goes for CUNY, California Board of Regents and all the other institutions that claim to be capable of spotting antisemitism. In the absence of a rational, universal, common-sense definition no real progress will be made towards eradicating antisemitism. Only robust debate can bring that about.

    We should point out to Mr. Alterman that the American revolutionaries were “obnoxious” to the English crown; the Abolitionists were “obnoxious” to the Confederate slavocracy as was the anti-Vietnam war protests to the Nixon administration and in all cases the “obnoxious” party represented the masses and the future. Same today for BDS.

  5. niass2
    March 29, 2016, 8:07 pm

    Um no were not lefto fascists, were Jews.

    • jd65
      March 30, 2016, 1:09 am

      Steve Grover: Alterman’s statement below is an understatement to everyone but the leftofascists aka the Mondoweiss folks.

      niass2: Um no were not lefto fascists, were Jews.

      I didn’t know that all the “Mondoweiss folks” were Jews. Color me schooled…

  6. Atlantaiconoclast
    March 30, 2016, 12:52 am

    Isn’t it past time that we return the libel to guys like Alterman? Why don’t we call him and his Zionist ilk what they really are, Jewish supremacists? In their world, it is perfectly fine to identity the “Christian role” in some negative phenomenon, but completely verboten to do the same for Jews. Till we throw their insults back at them, we will remain on the defensive. Why isn’t Alterman asked why Israel can have a racist immigration policy, but the US can’t even make sure that immigrants come here in a legal way without people making accusations of “Trump is racist,” etc. ?

  7. Krauss
    March 30, 2016, 3:49 am

    Eric Alterman is a liberal columnist I respect

    Stopped reading.

    • jd65
      March 30, 2016, 12:09 pm

      “Eric Alterman is a liberal columnist I respect”

      Stopped reading.

      LOL :)

  8. Boo
    March 30, 2016, 10:13 am

    Yeah, this same article was circulated yesterday on the UCC Palestine-Israel Network (which is very supportive of Palestine) with a comment that it was “balanced”. In my reply, I picked out the exact same two sentences cited above as an example of phony “balance” in the NYT. This typical article is “balanced” in that it acknowledges that not every BDS supporter is “anti-Semitic” and not all Jewish members of JVP are self-hating Jews.

    I don’t think it’s possible for a self-described “[longtime] vocal opponent of BDS” — who “helped to found a national organization of academics to fight it” — to write a balanced article in which BDS is so central. For instance, he states that the intent of BDS is to “boycott, divest from and sanction Israel” — rather than businesses operating in the illegally-occupied territories. Coming from someone who claims a long familiarity with BDS, this betokens at best a woeful ignorance, at worst a willful misstatement. I was far from impressed by his purported “evenhandedness”.

    • echinococcus
      March 30, 2016, 11:25 am

      For instance, he states that the intent of BDS is to “boycott, divest from and sanction Israel” — rather than businesses operating in the illegally-occupied territories

      Are you describing the “liberal” Zionist boycott limited to post-67 occupation? In that case, Alterman’s description seems more appropriate.

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