Careful What You Sow — BDS At Vassar Gets Ugly

I would have been skeptical about the little bit of reporting I’ve seen about this episode in more rightwing news media,  except that it was confirmed by Mondoweiss, who was there. Jill Schneiderman, a professor of Earth Sciences at Vassar College was recently called to give public account about a planned trip to Israel and the West Bank to study water issues. After her classroom was picketed and her students intimidated, and she was basically called before “open forum” on the ethics of political activism, where Jewish students who spoke out were heckled by the large crowd of some 200 students (and faculty). Is this what BDS is going to look like? A kind of public shaming reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution? No “cardboard civility” at Vassar. And where’s Open Hillel? Even the intrepid anti-Israel, anti-Zionist Mondoweiss found the incident “unsettling.” He maintains that the  “belligerence might be necessary to a solution.” My bet is that this kind of hostility is going to rip out the guts of a university to no good effect. Kudos to Professor Schneiderman.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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8 Responses to Careful What You Sow — BDS At Vassar Gets Ugly

  1. David Sucher says:

    Another irony about this particular bit of BDS stupidity is that if one truly believes how terrible Israel is (in the West Bank or elsewhere) then pro-BDS people should be urging everyone to visit and see for themselves.

    There are tours of Palestinian areas (for example Green Olive Tours http://hebron.greenolivetours.com/ and no I am not connected) which show how Palestinians live.

  2. Trevor Brown says:

    I assume you are familiar with the 39 Vassar professor diatribe published in the Vassar student newspaper MISC: http://miscellanynews.org/2014/03/01/opinions/open-letter-in-defense-of-academic-freedom-in-palestineisrael-and-in-the-united-states/.

    Just a clarification of the MondoWeiss account of the “open meeting.” It is basically accurate but makes relative heroes (or bad-guys depending on one’s point of view) out of Schneiderman and Friedman. At the meeting both “pro-Israel” professors used the buzzwords “occupation”. “oppression” and “wall” automatically, as if these were indeed accepted fact on campus. On her blog (http://earthdharma.org/) Scheniderman names her trip “Vassar College Study Trip to the Jordan River Watershed and Surroundings,” a politically correct absence of using the word Israel. At the meeting, the two professors stressed that the students would not be subjected to ANY Israeli officials or academics but would meet with Palestinian NGOs, go to “refugee camps,” and when asked, stated that the group would NOT meet with anyone about Israeli desalinization or study this world-renowned effort, because “they had no time” on the 16 day trip.

  3. David Sucher says:

    I know what you mean — that bending-over-backwards to be fair…you don’t hear Arabs trying to see the other side (in general — and the ones that do are silenced, sometimes by death).

    As I mentioned on her blog, I was surprised that SHE was surprised at the response. Of course I sympathize with her but I fear she has been reaping what has been sowed by Jews with more sympathy than common sense. I don’t know anything about Prof S. but looking at the abstracts of a conference in which she is a speaker, I fear the worst. (Google “anthropocene feminism conference” and read the abstracts for yourself; I thought they were mostly wuite sad though I have to say that Prof S. did have some coherent sentences in her abstract.) But my larger point is that there is a lot of fuzzy thinking going on in academia, though elsewhere too of course. 🙂

    • Trevor Brown says:

      The free  and routine use of the term Nakba by students and faculty at the Vassar “open meeting” tells  us that the Vassar community looks at the events of 1947-1948 as unacceptable catastrophes and disasters of indescribable horror and proportion.  The Nakba refers to what was the legal creation of the Jewish State of Israel by the world, based on the Balfour Declaration, The League of Nations and the United Nations.  As long as the nakba term continues to be used and Palestinian children are taught this, Israel has not been recognized.  If the Arabs had not attacked the new State of Israel in 1948, there would be two countries where Israel is today, one Jewish (and by the way, including some Arabs)  and one Arab (the term Palestine was not used as a separate Arab entity until about 1963).  The Arab State would be Judenfrei–it would allow no Jews, just as Jordan has none, Gaza has none  and just as Abbas says the future “Palestinian State” will have no Jews.  Talk about “apartheid”?

      • zjb says:

        There’s a difference between “normative” versus “descriptive” terms. In anti-Zionist circles, the term Nakba is given a lot of normative force, to express a value judgment. Increasingly, though, I find it useful to use the term Nakba to “describe” the events of 1948 from the Palestinian side of things. Yes, I too think that it was a self-inflicted wound, but also understand the genuine reasons the Arabs of Palestine had for opposing Zionism. My own approach is to look at the intertwining of the creation of the State and the Palestinian Nakba more dispassionately, with more historical distance. Benny Morris’s book “1948” is very helpful in this regard. You might find interesting an earlier post here at the blog, “Jewish State Nakba — One Narrative Solution.”

      • Trevor Brown says:

        You should know that using Benny Morris as a source has gone out of style for the left. Benny Morris now (2009) has realized that he was wrong. He says “I’ve written enough about a conflict that has no solution, mainly due to the Palestinians’ consistent rejection of a solution of two states for two peoples.”

        “My aim is to open readers’ eyes to the truth. The objective is to expose the goals of the Palestinian national movement to extinguish the Jewish national project and to inherit all of Palestine for the Arabs and Islam.”

        Morris agrees that the “Palestinians” and the Arabs view 1948 as a Nakba and has come to the realization that peace is impossible with a people who only want the destruction of Israel

      • zjb says:

        Yes, of course, Benny Morris has fallen out of favor with the left because he has drawn deeply skeptical “normative” conclusions about the conflict.. In my opinion, these make his meticulous “description” of the war all the more important for the detail it provides for what the Palestinians call “the Nakba.”

  4. Shalom,

    I have reviewed the incident and veted both Vassar College and Campus Groups as well as and I am totally caught – off guard in the level of utter stipity of what has occured. The single total agreed contracted, public policy, and resource sharing between the Arabs of Jordan, the Palestinians on the West Bank, and The Jewish State of Israel is how to manage the available water resources; thus Dr. Phd Jill Schneiderman, a professor of Earth Sciences efforts would have greatly benefited Vassar College among these three political offical governmental groups. See my blog link —
    http://arabisraelireconciliation.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/shared-vital-water-resources-a-milestone-of-cooperation/ — and now Vassar College is complaining. Stupid and evil at the sametime which should bring back immediate memories of when Jews at Nazi concentration camps were organized { I am talking about Open Hillel ] the shave the hair off incoming Jews who were destined for the gas chambers. I would advise who ever owns this blog to go to my blog link, and copy it for distribution to both faculty and students at Vassar College.
    Roger M. Christian
    ithacasocials@aol.com
    Ithaca, New York
    Foundation ” For ” Arab – Israeli Reconciliation, Ithaca, New York

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