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Brandeis prof blasts school’s deference to Israel and AIPAC (and donors Steinhardt, Schusterman, Crown)

Israel/Palestine
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Mairson

Mairson, from his page

Check out this spectacular article. On March 7, Max Blumenthal opened Israeli apartheid week at Brandeis, with the usual opposition, and now the Brandeis student paper, The Justice, has run a piece by Harry Mairson, a computer science professor at the Waltham, MA, school, denouncing Brandeis’s connections to Israel as violating its own intellectual charter. John Mearsheimer likes to say that tenure is wasted on most professors. Not Mairson!

We have a phalanx of centers devoted to institutionally supporting Israel—including the Crown Center, the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, the Steinhardt Social Research Institute—with significant endowments, access to the University seal, webpage and other public relations machinery, funds to put on high-visibility conferences with ideologically friendly speakers, power to frame the discussion, and so on. The goal of these centers, quoting ex-President Jehuda Reinharz, their creator, is hasbara: to address “Israel in the eyes of Americans—a call to action.” The Crown family, Mrs. Schusterman, and Mr. Steinhardt funded these institutes because they, and their institutes, support Israel as is.

So does Brandeis University, which institutionally contravenes its own Mission Statement, falsely asserting that we “cherish…independence from any doctrine or government.” Why have a Mission Statement saying what we repeatedly, intentionally don’t do?

Some relevant data points: University President Frederick Lawrence just attended the AIPAC annual meeting, has photo ops with Shin Bet directors and goes to Friends of the IDF dinners. Speaking at a 2012 Birthright Israel conference, at Brandeis, he proclaimed himself a proud Birthright parent, asking “How do we grow this? How do we take it to the next level?” His Chief of Staff David Bunis is on the board of The David Project, which fought against the establishment of a mosque in Boston, and now devotes itself “to positively shape campus opinion on Israel.” Our ex-Board of Trustees chair, Stephen Kay, told the Faculty Senate Council during a Board meeting, in unambiguous terms: “We support Israel”—not individually, but institutionally.

Mr. Kay was hardly the first Board chair with such views and matching actions. The most renowned of Board chairs, Abraham Feinberg, arranged funding for President Harry Truman’s 1948 whistle-stop campaign, Israel’s nuclear bomb facilities in Dimona and facilitated its end-run around President John Kennedy’s efforts toward nuclear non-proliferation. Former Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion called Feinberg—and the Dimona benefactors he assembled—the makdishim, the consecrators of a holy thing. Feinberg endowed our Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life. Are his life’s actions an exemplar for the goals, underlined in the center’s title, of promoting ethics and justice?

John Judis’s recent book, Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict, analyzes Feinberg’s leverage; Judis calls AIPAC “a thousand Feinbergs.” When nuclear proliferation prevented Ben-Gurion’s wish for a state visit to Washington, Feinberg organized an honorary degree convocation at Brandeis (Ben-Gurion spoke on “Science and Ethics”), and an ensuing private meeting with President Kennedy.

Note that Jay Michaelson in the Forward yesterday sounded this theme, when he said that Hillel has a pro-Israel policy in deference to big donors. So the intellectuals are freeing themselves from the conservative Zionists?

Also consider that Frederick Lawrence, who cut off the school’s connection to Sari Nusseibeh and Al Quds University last year after an incident at the school in Palestine, is going to AIPAC!

And here’s Mairson’s rattling thrilling conclusion.

When we pledge allegiance to “One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all,” we enunciate universal principles. The Declaration of Independence says that everyone, not just Americans, is created equal with inalienable human rights of life, liberty and happiness. Universal principles, human rights, “truths that we hold self evident,” all mean the same thing, elsewhere and for everybody, that they do here.

Ari Shavit wrote in his recent book, a panegyric paean of praise to liberal Zionism, “either reject Zionism because of Lydda [i.e., the brutal, catastrophic Nakba ethnic cleansing of over 700,000 Palestinians from their homes], or accept Zionism along with Lydda.” His answer, verbatim: “I’ll stand with the damned.”

I won’t stand with the damned. Neither will Max Blumenthal or Brandeis Students for Justice in Palestine. That, in large part, is what their week’s worth of events was about.

Since when does our conception of justice, “social” or otherwise, include standing with the damned, about anything?

It’s amazing to me that this dialogue about donors and Zionist corruption is taking place at a Jewish school. I guess because more folks there care about the issue– there’s far higher consciousness. But once Jews split openly on these issues, it really opens the door for others. P.S. I believe that Mairson is Jewish (check out his Brandeis poem and ode to Spinoza and Deutscher).

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13 Responses

  1. seafoid
    seafoid
    March 19, 2014, 10:38 am

    It’s down to money versus free thinking.
    Hard to see money winning. They just don’t have the people
    while Israel is off its communal head on racism and bigotry.

  2. American
    American
    March 19, 2014, 10:45 am

    Stand with the damned—–then go down with the damned.
    Is how it usually ends.

  3. David Doppler
    David Doppler
    March 19, 2014, 10:54 am

    Excellent work by Professor Mairson: American values vs Zionist values, laid out in simple contrast. Stand with the damned, indeed! That only works if you’ve got strong central organization, plenteous funding, and people wearing blinders and ear-plugs, prepared to rush, lemming-like, off a cliff and into the sea.

    It’s not so easy to sustain such idiocy indefinitely against the institutions of universal rights, free speech, limited government intended to secure individual liberty, and the natural tendency of each new generation to challenge its parents’ sacred cows.

    Interesting to read this and Jodi Ruderon’s piece in the NYTimes this morning about Abbas’s son having given up on a 2SS and looking for equal rights in a Greater Israel, instead, 1SS dead ahead. Zionist dream of ethnic purity evaporating in the strong light of a diverse modern world.

  4. CitizenC
    CitizenC
    March 19, 2014, 11:35 am

    When the Goldstone report (the UN investigation of Israel’s attack on Gaza, New Year 2009) was in the news Brandeis invited Justice Goldstone to speak opposite Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the UN. I went from idle curiosity, but was so appalled I wrote 4500 words about it. Brandeis basically set Goldstone up, put him on trial, for the benefit of the university and Boston and world opinion. The hall was full and an overflow hall received an internet stream, and more listened remotely. Media people and their gear filled a balcony at the rear of the hall.

    I actually pulled my punches somewhat in the title, which should have been “Brandeis Tries Justice Goldstone”, and the intro should have emphasized it.

    Justice Goldstone at Brandeis
    http://questionofpalestine.net/2011/06/19/justice-goldstone-at-brandeis/

  5. JusticeForPalestine
    JusticeForPalestine
    March 19, 2014, 1:25 pm

    On a sidebar:

    The buying off of American minds via financial control of educational institutions is not limited to colleges and universities. I see it everyday in the world of so-called “independent schools” in California, where not only are many schools’ primary prospective donors strongly “pro-Israel” — and explicitly so — but so are other organs of influence, including the state legislature, major accreditation organizations and even consulting companies.

    One example: a nationally known independent K-12 school in Pasadena with which I am associated underwent an every-10-year accreditation review about 3 years ago by its two main accrediting bodies. The reviewers issued a report containing 5 “major” recommendations and 5 “minor” recommendations. The minor recommendations were things like “trim the trees in the playground so that the Kindergarteners can get a little more sun”. Four out of five 4 of the major recs had to do with promoting Judaism and Israel.

    The headmaster told me that the school is free to ignore the minor recs but that it is required to comply with the major recs if it wants the school’s provisional reaccreditation to be finalized in several years’ additional time.

    One of the major recs was that the school issue a new Statement of School Philosophy that specifically mentions Judaism and Israel. The school did this in Spring 2013.

    That step was followed by the hiring of a (Jewish) consultant, recommended by the main accrediting group, to issue a set of curricular recommendations for implementing the new school philosophy. The consultant wasn’t cheap.

    I have a very close relationship with the headmaster of this school but find myself befuddled by his support for this process. Has some VERY major donor (even bigger than any of the already major donors we already have contributing to our already-rich school) promised him and/or the school a pot of gold at the end of this process?

    Of course, I am not opposed to making sure that school fairly represent people of all religions and cultures in every aspect of school administrations, from admissions to curricula.

    My concern in this case is that something different is being sought and achieved, namely, biased representation of Israeli interests.

    In all of the private discussions that I have had both with parents and with the headmaster in this situation, and in all of the public meetings that I have attended to discuss the reaccreditation, Statement of Philosophy and curriculum processes, I haven’t heard word one about Palestinian rights.

    Why does ANYONE go along with this kind of crap? (Why do I?)

    • MHughes976
      MHughes976
      March 19, 2014, 4:51 pm

      Very disturbing. If you mentioned Palestinian rights or even the Palestinian situation in one of these meetings what would happen? Would it be like swearing in church?

    • James Canning
      James Canning
      March 19, 2014, 7:35 pm

      Quite amazing programme of “pro-Israel” propaganda, growing larger year by year.

    • kma
      kma
      March 19, 2014, 7:58 pm

      is it a California state accreditation standard to promote Judiasm and Israel? a US national standard? or some private school-specific accreditation?
      curious, thanks

  6. James Canning
    James Canning
    March 19, 2014, 1:29 pm

    Great piece. More tenured professors need to speak out.

  7. Ellen
    Ellen
    March 19, 2014, 1:51 pm

    It’s amazing to me that this dialogue about donors and Zionist corruption is taking place at a Jewish school.

    Why should it be amazing? It is most natural and appropriate. It is the current condition we all face (ideological Zionist corruption of institutions), and more and more thinking minds everywhere are seeking this dialogue. Especially at a place like Brandeis where the destruction of a good institution may find itself complete as a result of donors using Brandeis to promote their Zionist ideologies and a foreign state. Donors who seek to make Brandeis their own instrument instead of the independent university it sought to be.

    With donors like that controlling Brandeis, it might as well be just another Bob Jones University.

  8. Citizen
    Citizen
    March 19, 2014, 6:43 pm

    I wanna puke.

  9. pabelmont
    pabelmont
    March 20, 2014, 8:53 am

    Mairson: “We [at Brandeis] have a phalanx of centers devoted to institutionally supporting Israel—including the Crown Center, the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, the Steinhardt Social Research Institute—with significant endowments, access to the University seal, webpage and other public relations machinery, funds to put on high-visibility conferences with ideologically friendly speakers, power to frame the discussion, and so on. The goal of these centers, quoting ex-President Jehuda Reinharz, their creator, is hasbara: to address “Israel in the eyes of Americans—a call to action.” The Crown family, Mrs. Schusterman, and Mr. Steinhardt funded these institutes because they, and their institutes, support Israel as is.”

    JusticeforPalestine tells us that similar crap (sort of Hillel-like, as I read it) threatens accreditation of a (it appears) Jewish secondary school.

    Looks as if a number of schools, and not only Brandeis, have (at least unofficial) “charter” responsibilities to support Israel “as is”. This is not so far different from the Israeli schools which are addressed in the ASA boycott.

    How might a person, a group, etc., “boycott” a school — such as Brandeis — which allows its official seal to be used by an AIPAC/Hillel/IsraelFirst organization — in conflict with the school’s charter/mission/constitution (or with the USA’s sense of the between-the-lines-meaning of the First amendment)?

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