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Cornel West & Rosemary Ruether launch petition to stop Marc Ellis’s dismissal from Baylor University

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Marc Ellis (Photo: Baylor University)

Mondoweiss contributor Marc Ellis is under threat of losing his job at Baylor University under pressure from new university president Kenn Starr (yes, that Kenn Starr). Cornel West and Rosemary Ruether have started a petition on to support him:

Kenn Starr former Clinton White House nemesis and President of Baylor University, to dismiss dissident Jewish voice Dr. Marc Ellis.

For more than three decades the prophetic voice of Marc Ellis has influenced generations of academics and activists. His dissident voice in the realm of contemporary Jewish identity and his theology of solidarity with Palestinians has been encouraged by numerous scholar-activists including Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Desmond Tutu and the two of us, Rosemary Ruether and Cornel West.

Unfortunately this voice is now being silenced at Baylor University where Marc has served with distinction for almost fifteen years as University Professor and Director of the Center for Jewish Studies. With the approval of Kenneth Starr, President of Baylor University, Marc Ellis is under internal investigation in what looks more and more like a persecution to silence a Jewish voice of dissent. In short, Baylor is re-writing its rules to dismiss Marc Ellis from the faculty.

We, the undersigned, request President Starr to honor Dr. Ellis’ academic freedom and stop all hostility toward him, including any attempt at dismissal. Join us signing this petition.

The petition site also includes the following update:

Marc Ellis was brought to Baylor in 1998 and all previous presidents supported his dissident voice. After Ken Starr (nemesis of Clinton in the White House) became president in 2010 the attacks started. During the last year Baylor lawyers were instructed to communicate with many of Marc’s colleagues, past students and staff. The objective was to request all of them to report all “abuse of authority.” Most of us explained to the lawyers that was a lost cause because Marc has been an exemplar colleague, professor and mentor.

But starting this Fall he was separated from his classes, his center closed and a hearing scheduled to take place some time in this academic year. As far as we know the accusations are about abuse of authority but we are not aware of the details because they are part of the internal legal process. Obviously it is about something else: Marc’s dissident voice. We wil inform all of you as soon as we know more information.

Some signatories to the petition have included comments with their signature. Israeli academic Ilan Pappe signed the petition saying:

Dr Ellis is a unique voice of moral courage, professional acumen and educational inspiration. To fire such a person with such qualities and qualifications is a suicidal action for any academic institution. I am signing this to save Baylor from itself.

Activist and author Anna Baltzer simply said:

As a Jew, an American, and a human being, I stand with Marc Ellis.

You can sign the petition here and learn about Ellis’s work here

Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Executive Editor of

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18 Responses

  1. ehrens on November 29, 2011, 9:32 am

    When Ken Starr took the helm of the Christian university, he said that it was his vision to be like “Barnabus, the encourager” in the New Testament’s Book of Acts. Except that Barnabus apparently was known for his kindness and encouragement, not his suppression of unpopular views. But in a way this incident demonstrates how Evangelical Christians want to have their tidy views of what Jews should be and that when those views are challenged the Jews just have to go. While this case is about academic freedom and political repression (Starr’s forte), it’s also about a bunch of rightwing Christians telling a Jewish theologian to shut the f*** up.

    • dahoit on November 29, 2011, 12:07 pm

      The right wing Christians(oxymoron)back Israel more than some Jews like Mr.Ellis.Stop the nonsense,as it’s just propaganda to keep the masses confused as to who are the real bad guys,those who refuse to give humanity an equal footing in regards to life, liberty and happiness.
      Your disdain of these alleged Christians,is it because they are using Israel,or is Israel using them?My take is the latter.

  2. Chaos4700 on November 29, 2011, 9:39 am

    How come these crappy right-wing hacks can not only find jobs still (other than taking out the trash at a fast food restaurant which is the only thing they’re really qualified for) but they still find really important jobs?

  3. on November 29, 2011, 9:48 am

    Marc Ellis wrote in his book: “Judaism Does Not Equal Israel: A Call for a Return to Prophetic Jewish Values.”
    “Coterminous with the Holocaust and the founding of Israel have been the conquest and destruction of much of Palestine. The creation of Israel forced an ethnic cleansing of more than 700,000 Palestinians to create room for the Jewish state. The removal of the Palestinians from their own land continued through the early years of Israel’s existence. It accelerated in the wake of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. These policies continue today in the Jewish ‘settlements’ —really expansive towns and small cities — that mark the future of Israel’s dominant and permanent presence in Jerusalem and the West Bank. … ‘Ethnic cleansing’ has been protested and mourned in Jewish identity as something that happens to Jews.
    That Jews used ethnic cleansing to form the state of Israel introduces another, profoundly disturbing factor in the formation of modern Jewish identity.
    It appears our empowerment is tainted with the same abuse of power others have used against us, an abuse we have condemned.”

    Those who express such views, Ellis notes, are all too often simply dismissed as “anti-Semitic” or as “self-hating Jews.”
    He writes that, “Jewish life has settled into a self-understanding that revolves around the Holocaust. Jewish assertions of power are seen as a response to this fundamental injustice. Hence, the axiomatic equation of Jewish life: ‘Jewish power equals innocence.’ …
    Their corollary is: ‘Those who doubt Jewish and Israeli innocence are anti-Semitic.’ This corollary asserts that those who challenge the formation of Israel and the linking of Jewish identity with it must be against Jewish identity itself. ..
    . The charge of anti-Semitism is even leveled against those Jews who dissent from the ‘Jewish power equals innocence’ identity formulation. We are labeled ‘self-hating’ Jews … Accusations of anti-Semitism and Jewish self-hatred are the flip side of the counterfeit claim that Jewish power is innocent.”

    Very intersting and obviously “dangerous” views for some.

  4. dahoit on November 29, 2011, 12:01 pm

    Uh,just went to Wikipedia and saw his wife is a Christian convert from Judaism.
    Does it have a bearing?You decide.

  5. seanmcbride on November 29, 2011, 2:28 pm

    We all know the drill by now: the Israel lobby seeks to utterly crush anyone who dissents from it, without exceptions. Likud Zionism bears all the hallmarks of the worst totalitarian movements throughout history.

    What do you want to bet that a big of digging would reveal that Kenn Starr is a Christian Zionist?

  6. seanmcbride on November 29, 2011, 2:47 pm

    Ken Starr and the “Likud faction”

    Check this out:

    AUTHOR Sidney Blumenthal
    TITLE Ken Starr’s media minions
    DATE May 6, 2003
    But far from closing shop, Starr’s office was expanding its work. The prosecutors’ sense of mastery after they broke the Monica Lewinsky story became an almost intoxicated belief in their own omnipotence. Swagger and supremacy were raised to ultimate virtues. Within the office, Jackie Bennett, Starr’s deputy, promulgated a cult of toughness. He and his closest allies called themselves the “Likud faction,” after the hard-line, right-wing Israeli political party, and dubbed others who did not always share their unbending fervor “commie wimps.” They posted a chart in the office with “Likud” written above their names at the top and “Commie Wimps” at the bottom, beneath which were listed those who had not attained their plateau. In staff conferences, the soft-spoken Starr made a point of stressing the word “toughness.” He would not be a “commie wimp.”

    • seanmcbride on November 29, 2011, 2:48 pm

      Speculation: was Monicagate a Likud op designed to torpedo the Mideast peace process by taking down Bill Clinton?

      • dahoit on December 3, 2011, 10:44 am

        Could be.All roads today lead there.

  7. vered on November 29, 2011, 4:49 pm

    The persistence of these processes in schools shows that my initial thoughts about these activities, while writing about Norman Finkelstein a few years back were correct (did you notice it does not matter which administration is in power?). It is an assault on academic freedom and a crushing of dissent within an almost fascistic community. When is this going to stop? The answer is that it will never stop as long as it is allowed to continue and to be successful. Why is it so successful? Because we have allowed our institutions to merely be administrative havens where money talks and truth walks (this has been going on a long long time). Petitions are good and to be encouraged, they are just not enough – the entire paradigm has to shift for substantive change.


  8. annie on November 29, 2011, 7:33 pm

    i recommend everyone read Occupy Jewish by Mark Ellis.

    wiki : “Ellis was featured in the David Horowitz book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.”

  9. DICKERSON3870 on November 29, 2011, 8:14 pm

    RE: “…Marc Ellis is under internal investigation in what looks more and more like a persecution to silence a Jewish voice of dissent.” ~ Cornel West & Rosemary Ruether

    SEE: The Trial of Israel’s Campus Critics, by David Theo Goldberg and 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. . .


  10. Kathleen on November 30, 2011, 11:22 am

    One more example of the way this critical debate and the facts have been shut down for decades

  11. Kathleen on November 30, 2011, 11:22 am

    Mearsheimer and Walt are going to have to do an update to their book

  12. seanmcbride on November 30, 2011, 11:55 am


    I think what Mearsheimer, Walt, Weiss and others need to do is establish a dedicated Wikipedia on the Israel lobby that would cover the subject in much greater depth than any book could, and in real time. Provide the means to connect *all* the dots for people, organizations, policies, documents, quotes, etc. concerning the Israel lobby, which has become the most important and fateful subject in American politics by far.

    For instance: what precisely are all of Newt Gingrich’s ties to the Israel lobby? Ann Lewis’s? Mort Zuckerman’s? It should be easy to pull up that information in well-organized reports with a few keystrokes and within a few seconds. Let’s see what is going on.

    Sean McBride

  13. Mikesailor on November 30, 2011, 4:08 pm

    I graduated from Baylor, both undergraduate and law school. In the 70’s and 80’s, Baylor first distanced itself from, and then severed, ties with the Southern Baptists. Why? Because the Southern Baptist Conference had decided that Baylor’s academics did not ‘toe the line’ as far as the right-wing dogma espoused by the conference. In other words, Baylor had decided to promote academic freedom and allowed ideas which were anathema to the Southern Baptist Conference. For instance, they actually allowed the teaching of evolution in biology classes, along with free lectures by the likes of Gloria Steinem and John Dean. Now, after selecting Ken Starr as president of the university, it seems that Baylor would much rather end its role as a bastion of such intellectual freedom, and retreat into a dogma laden institution more fit to graduate right-wing hacks, such as Starr, over thinking individuals. Pity, really.

  14. on December 1, 2011, 10:27 am

    It appears that Archbishop Desmond Tutu has joined the petition campaign as co-chair. Had not seen this new fact noted elsewhere.

    Also, I am a Baylor alumnus and friend of Professor Ellis. I am embarrased by what the university is doing here.

  15. on December 1, 2011, 10:44 am

    Interesting article by Marc Ellis .
    I first met Norman Finkelstein in Boston at a conference on Palestinian refugees this spring. I had read several of his books, including the provocative and moving The Rise and Fall of Palestine. As a person writing about Jewish history and the plight of the Palestinians, I found Finkelstein’s chronicles of the intifada and the Palestinians’ aborted struggle for a full and equal state alongside Israel insightful and well written. Interweaving his own journey as a child of Holocaust survivors, his narrative was gripping. He brought to the surface what I increasingly had become aware of in my own life: that many Jews had crossed over into solidarity with the Palestinian people and that more than a few of those who had done this were children of Holocaust survivors.

    I had heard Finkelstein speak several times before the Boston conference and was determined at least to greet him this time. After all, he and I were often linked together in the minds of the Jewish establishment, as we were both ardent critics of the policies of the state of Israel regarding Palestinians, and also seen as comrades by the small but energetic community that regularly convened, against the powers that be, to speak publicly on the rights of Palestinians. In hearing and reading Finkelstein, though, I knew the differences in tone and content between us. And yet we shared a history of sorts, not only being linked together and often mistaken for one another, but being pursued by parts of the Jewish establishment that seek to silence criticism of Israel. We also shared the distinctive quality, fairly new in Jewish life, of being dismissed and condemned by leaders of the Jewish community without being heard or read.

    So I approached him after his talk and told him who I was and how much I appreciated his work. He returned the compliment, adding quickly that I might not want to be associated with him after his new book appeared. When I asked him the subject of the book, he responded somewhat demurely that it was a book about the Holocaust industry. Though I had never used that term, I had heard it before in other contexts, and that very day in Finkelstein’s lecture. Whether an industry or not, Finkelstein had certainly confronted the Holocaust as an interpretative framework and in a controversial way. Just two years earlier, he and co-author Ruth Bettina Birn published a book that directly confronted the controversial theories of Daniel Goldhagen on the “eliminationist” anti-Semitism of the German people during the Nazi era. Goldhagen threatened to sue the authors for libel in the United Kingdom, and yet their book carried the endorsement of noted scholars of the Holocaust, among them Ian Kershaw, Christopher Browning and Raul Hilberg…”

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