Wesleyan president slams NY Jewish community for suppressing differences over Israel

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Wesleyan President Michael Roth
Wesleyan President Michael Roth

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.

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(the Palestinians are seeking to end apartheid, these pro-Israel groups are promoting it) Not only that, the difference is deeper: The ASA doesn’t want to cooperate with the institutions of a discriminatory system, while the intolerant pro-state groups ban any individual who speaks out against the system. In other words,… Read more »

How desperate can you get Phil, no offence. The guy is only approving of the talk because the topic isn’t Zionism/Israel. It’s his way of damage control. If the talk had not been about Kafka but instead Zionism, he’d be hysterical once more just like he was on the ASA… Read more »

President Bollinger at Columbia also does not approve of BDS but slams the NYS (draft) law seeking to punish ASA because he prizes academic freedom for all, including the ASAers.

“What a sad commentary on the Jewish community’s tolerance for debate these days!” Should read “these last six decades” Hope folks will consider calling into C-Span’s Washington Journal this week during open phones and ask viewers to call their Reps and ask them to vote against any new efforts to… Read more » WASHINGTON REPORT ON MIDDLE EAST AFFAIRS November 2003, pages 64-65 Israel and Judaism Consensus Grows That Israel as Surrogate Religion for American Jews a Failed Strategy By Allan C. Brownfeld In recent years, American Jews have been told repeatedly that the state of Israel is “central” to their… Read more »