Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan University, has a piece at Huffpo criticizing the decision by the Jewish Museum of New York to cancel a talk on Kafka because speaker Judith Butler supports boycott of Israel. (Roth refers to himself in the third person, because the piece is bylined by himself and Sigmund Freud. Long story.)
What a sad commentary on the Jewish community’s tolerance for debate these days! It’s not as if the event had to be cancelled because of the philosopher’s views on Kafka made her an inappropriate spokesperson for the writer. The fact that Butler had taken a strong stand against a particular variety of Zionism just disqualified her from talking about one of the most important writers of the last century…. apparently, even in the New York Jewish community, culture we can debate about, but conflict over Israel we cannot abide.
….Roth has known Butler since they were both young assistant professors, and he strongly disagrees with her approach to Israel and the occupation. He just doesn’t understand why this kind of disagreement should get in the way of hearing her bring Kafka back for a conversation.
Two months ago Roth published an angry attack on the American Studies Association’s vote to boycott Israel as “politically retrograde… phony progressivism.” In this piece, Roth argues that the censorship of Butler is akin to censorship that the ASA is undertaking of Israeli views. I’m not keen on the analogy (the Palestinians are seeking to end apartheid, these pro-Israel groups are promoting it) but it’s a good thing that Roth has joined the chorus against the shutting down of debate in NY.