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).