In recent months Bari Weiss, an op-ed editor at the New York Times, has cast herself as an advocate of free speech, disparaging the left for its failure to offer a platform to dissenting voices. “We’re all fascists now,” she wrote in a new column, and said that “social justice warriors” are taking over campuses. She’s taken these positions even as she and other Israel advocates stage one slanted panel after another in Jewish spaces, excluding non-Zionist views.
Today comes a sharp rejoinder. On twitter, a poster named “Sam” who identifies himself as the son of Lisa Anderson, the former dean of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), issued a series of tweets calling out Weiss’s role in helping to bring about Anderson’s resignation from her job in 2008.
Lisa Anderson is a Middle East scholar of considerable standing. For twelve years she was dean of SIPA. She left the deanship not long after she had invited former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia in September 2007— an invitation that brought great political pressure on the school.
At the time, Columbia said Anderson had made her decision to resign before the controversial invitation. Anderson went on to serve as president of the American University in Cairo.
Writes Sam (@youcanreachsam):
When my mother soon after stepped down as Dean, I don’t know if it was ever acknowledged that the neocon/Zionist rabble rousing spearheaded by Weiss was a factor, and frankly, it’s not my place to speculate! It’s enough to know that it was the result Bari Weiss craved and one she worked hard to achieve
Here is Bari Weiss writing in the Columbia Spectator at the time, urging students to hold Lisa Anderson “accountable” for the Ahmadinejad invitation:
Shame on her, and shame on an administration that would have him speak were it not for “security reasons.” Columbians-students, faculty, administration, and staff-if you are serious about standing up against hate, you will hold Dean Anderson accountable for offering Ahmadinejad a podium.
Weiss had graduated from Columbia in 2007 but identified herself as a Columbia “stakeholder” in attacking Anderson.
I’ve reached out to Sam (@youcanreachSam) and to Dean Anderson seeking to confirm their relationship. Certainly the story Sam relates about Weiss is utterly consistent with other reports of Weiss’s career as a Zionist activist and by Weiss’s enthusiastic performance today as an Israel promoter.
Here are the tweets of Sam, combined into one narrative:
“Gather round, folks, for a personal story about the breathtaking hypocrisy of
@bariweiss. First, you need to know a bit about my mother.
“Dr. Lisa Anderson is one of the world’s most eminent scholars specializing in the political science of the Middle East/North Africa. She has written foundational texts on the subject and informally advised multiple Presidential administrations, in addition to serving on the board of organizations that advance human rights around the world. She is also a genuine trailblazer—the first woman to serve as Dean of a grad school at Columbia (and maybe even the entire Ivy League? Idk), the first female Pres of the Middle East Studies Assoc. of North America, first female President of a university in the Middle East (and not just any—AUC [American University of Cairo], the region’s best, one which she shepherded through a literal revolution at her literal doorstep). You get the idea.
“In 2006, Dr. Anderson invited Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia. Not some discredited crank from the right wing “intellectual” septic tank, not some insignificant race-baiting internet troll, Ahmadinejad was one of the most geopolitically consequential world leaders at the time, post-Iraq invasion, Axis of Evil, etc. It should go without saying that he was awful, a petty tyrant with toxic views that aren’t worth defending, but that was NOT the point. Most people understood the invitation wasn’t an endorsement of him. It was a golden opportunity for students to hear from—-and confront—someone incredibly important/powerful, someone with the potential to alter the course of world history. Now, believe it or not, Bari Weiss didn’t agree.
“Weiss had already long accused her of fostering anti-Semitism, kicking off a witch hunt, demanding an inquest into whether CU faculty were insufficiently pro-Israel and then criticizing the committee formed to investigate the matter as being… insufficiently pro-Israel. So of course she jumped all over the Ahmadinejad invite, writing of Dr. Anderson “shame on her” and that she should be “held accountable.” Setting aside the moral bankruptcy of advocating for a State which slaughters hundreds of innocent subjects of its own cruel military occupation so routinely that their army calls it “mowing the lawn,” it’s so rich that Bari Weiss was on the forefront of the practice of shutting down campus speech she disagreed with and collecting scalps because of some intellectual heresy.
“When my mother soon after stepped down as Dean, I don’t know if it was ever acknowledged that the neocon/Zionist rabble rousing spearheaded by Weiss was a factor, and frankly, it’s not my place to speculate! It’s enough to know that it was the result Bari Weiss craved and one she worked hard to achieve. Now, of course, she accuses people who criticize her hamfisted tweets of forming a lynch mob. She cites actual fake news in her op eds that say college students “believe that free speech is acceptable only when it doesn’t offend them. Which is to say, they don’t believe in it at all.”
“Is this a tacit admission
@bariweiss also doesn’t actually believe in free speech that offends her? Or just an example of someone who manages not only to be on both sides of the same issue, but wrong in both cases? The truth is, that Weiss is an intellectual fraud who is choking in public on the taste of her own medicine. Karma’s a birch, Bari, and so are you.”
Since that thread, Sam has followed up with such excellent responses as:
It’s morally bankrupt to try to purge an academic institution of critics of Israel, which is eminently deserving of criticism. Contra Weiss et al, Israel not is above reproach. The U.S. and other Arab states are never afforded that protected status nor should they be.
P.S. Update. Weiss has denied that she sought anyone’s firing. Here is Adalah posting the record of Weiss’s opposition to tenure for Nadia Abu el-Haj and Joseph Massad, based on their views.
According to her own words, @NYTopinion's campus "free speech" advocate @bariweiss wanted @ColumbiaUniver Professors Joseph Massad & Nadia Abu El Haj to be denied tenure [i.e., fired], and Dean Lisa Anderson "held accountable" [fired?]. @JBennet pic.twitter.com/Z66BvJllZT
— Adalah-NY (@AdalahNY) March 8, 2018
She also protested Norman Finkelstein’s appearance at Columbia. He also lost academic appointments because of pro-Israel pressure.