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Saturday, April 30, 2005

Haifa Unbecoming*

In today's Ha'aretz, there is an interesting article on a case that is quite similar to the Columbia affair. Except that since the winds of change haven't touched the media, our beloved left-leaning Ha'aretz points out that instead of one real version that is clearly anti-Arab (similar to the manner in which the Columbia affair was deciphered as being "anti-Semitic"), "[t]here are two versions of what happened in the classroom, and they are mutually contradictory and divided along the lines of national origin: the version of two Arab students and, pitted against it, the opposite version propounded by the lecturer and the Jewish students." Do not be fooled. This is not simply a case of Ha'aretz being the unbiased newspaper that it has claimed to be for the longest time. In fact, it was Ha'aretz that printed Sharansky's "Jews of silence" argument over the Columbia affair, and also that of Guy Spigelman. Here's one sentence from the first article:
For their part, the professors insist the allegations stifle their freedom to express pro-Palestinian views, with one calling it a campaign against critics of Israel.
Notice the wording: "Insist"? Does this mean that the author believes that the allegations are true and that the professors only "insist" that they are not? "Pro-Palestinian"? Since when is speaking out against occupation and for human rights the equivalent of being "pro-Palestinian"? The very term in this context suggests that there is some sort of bias against "Israelis" based on their ethnicity, and that therefore we must take the side of the poor, oppressed, "pro-Israeli" students who are a tiny minority against an army of "pro-Palestinians" (who apparently support suicide bombings by the very vice of their "pro-Palestinian" views). "Calling it"? So the author does not believe that it is indeed a campaign against critics of "Israel", and that it is only the professors who insist on calling it that? How very unbiased of Ha'aretz to be publishing this. But even better is the following passage, excerpted from the second article:
By relentlessly attacking Israeli policies and our right to defend ourselves, unions, academics and politicians around the world are doing a disservice to the cause of peace, as it weakens the left camp in Israel. "Where is the solidarity for our suffering?" I challenged the union's secretary general.
Defend? Peace? Left camp in "Israel"? Suffering? Did I miss something here? At any rate, let's give the author of this article the benefit of the doubt; in fact, let us extend that benefit to Ha'aretz too, and say that Ha'aretz prints articles from both sides of the spectrum. When was the last time you saw an article by Amira Hass appearing on Ha'aretz? Previously there were at least 2 per week. I just ran a search, and the last article by Hass is on March 29, 2005. That's a month, folks. And during that time, Ha'aretz has printed more than a hundred extreme-right articles. Even if I am mistaken and for some reason missed an article or two by Hass, the more than a dozen right-wing articles per week clearly make Ha'aretz a right-wing newspaper regardless of the few "other" articles it prints.

Let's get back to the Haifa affair, then. The professor, a Mr. David Bukay, "is convinced" that one of the students who complained of anti-Arab incitement in the classroom,
Fadi Abu Yunes, who was enroled in the course (unlike many of the Jewish students in Prof. Massad's classroom), "came to the course with the deliberate intention of interfering and of vilifying him." Mr. Bukay, however, fails to realise that the student, a Palestinian, barely had the money to enrol in the course (which resulted in his late enrolment, as we are told). His argument that Abu Yunes took the course simply to interfere in the lecture or to vilify him is therefore ridiculous. Mr. Bukay argues, "He was sent and I know who sent him. He was a provocateur." So who sent him? Pray elaborate, "Professor" Bukay.

In fact, let us look at the coverage that Ha'aretz gives to the events in the classroom: "
From the moment Abu Yunes crossed the threshold of Dr. Bukay's lecture hall, the atmosphere turned volatile. He started to ask questions and make comments, shouting out while Bukay was speaking, usually without asking permission."

Compare this to what Ha'aretz did not say in the article on the Columbia affair: "
[t]here is ample evidence of [Massad’s] willingness -- as part of a deliberate pedagogical strategy -- to permit anyone who wished to do so to comment or raise a question during his lectures. For many students this approach itself became problematic because it allowed a small but vociferous group of fellow students to disrupt lectures by their incessant questions and comments." (Section IV, Ad Hoc Grievance Committee Report, Columbia University)

In fact, as Prof. Massad argues, many of those students were not registered in his classes. In his response to the Ad Hoc Grievance Committee Report, he says, "The class did however include a number of auditors (I found out they were unregistered during the last week of class) who would consistently harass me with hostile ideological questions that ignored all the readings. Students complained about the disruption this caused the class. I tried to emphasize to the auditors that their questions must be relevant to the subject at hand and that they must do the readings. They never did and I continued to answer their questions until the end of the semester to avoid creating a tense atmosphere in the classroom."

None of this Ha'aretz mentions, not even in passing.

In fact, Ha'aretz talks about the fact that "[Jewish students] confirm that Bukay cited the very small number of Arab Nobel laureates as proof of the Arabs' backwardness and that he said that the Arabs in the Middle Ages mainly preserved the achievements of the Greeks and the Romans and hardly developed anything of their own, apart from algebra [1]", without even taking a position on the racist remarks (and I don't know what is racist if not talk of "Arab backwardness"). Keep in mind that Ha'aretz has always expressed its views on anti-Jewish incidents, including the alleged anti-Semitic affair at Columbia University. All that Ha'aretz does in this case is question if Bukay is indeed racist: "As part of his efforts to prove his argument, did Bukay cast aspersions of a racist character?" The author continues, "It is difficult to know for certain [2], but it is clear that what he said was not easy for an Arab student to listen to." No kidding? I would like to see you write the same sentence when the culprit is an Arab and the victims are Jews. Would you even question if it is racist?

Ha'aretz, in an attempt to defend Mr. Bukay, does the typical thing; cite the support of an Arab student. In fact, we don't know if such a student even exists. But let's give Ha'aretz the benefit of doubt once more, and look at the statement: "
Dr. Bukay constitutes a dominant factor in shaping my personality. He is the only one who taught me that I must recognize the fact that my culture, the Arab culture, is corrupt, repressive, violent and anti-democratic." Now how did Mr. Bukay arrive to this conclusion? Would he be so kind as to educate us on the steps he followed to arrive to this supposedly non-racist (or as Ha'aretz probably would like us to believe, anti-racist) conclusion?

The whole story turns even more ridiculous. The democracy and freedom-loving Bukay "
decided to expel Abu Yunes from the course." (I hope he gave him full refund and did not steal his money as his kind have stolen land from Palestinians for more than 57 years).

But wait, it gets even better. Even the author of the article, at this point, is confused about whether to accuse Bukay of racism or to place him in the "controversial but not racist" list. I will not post the "interview", but I will mention the sentence that made me chuckle: "
Sania Hamady, David Pryce-Jones and Raphael Patai - look in the index under `lie' - go to Bernard Lewis." Bernard Lewis, the notorious liar and denier of the Armenian Genocide. Mr. Bukay's hero, apparently. Go read the whole exchange. Go.

This is what I call academia gone... nuts. At University of Haifa, which is currently being boycotted by the AUT. Now you know why.

Notes:

Italics in all of the above are mine, and are used for emphasis.

* Or, "Haifa and Ha'aretz Unbecoming"

1 Perhaps "Professor" Bukay, who insists on his "scientific" attitudes later on in the article, would like to attend a lecture or two on the importance of algebra and algorithms in our times? That is, before he starts citing the achievements of "Israelis" in the field of modern technology... Perhaps his fellow "Israeli" "professors" would like to inform him that without algorithms (named after Al Khawarizmi, a Persian mathematician who wrote his works in Arabic - "Professor" Bukay fails to make a distinction between Persian and Arab, but by his standards of who is an Arab, he is wrong in dismissing the contribution of Al Khwarizmi for being insignificant compared to the contributions of Jews), none of that would exist, and the "Israelis" would be *gasp* nothings in the field of technology that they boast of being the leaders of in the Middle East and even the world?

2 But apparently not so in the Columbia affair; after all, Jews never lie, only Arabs do.

Comments:
It's true, Haaretz has become even more right than it was (just check out the adverts on the homepage. Each time I wince physically, and I'm not talking about the dating services). But this is par for the course. As a few of my friends who write for the only decent Israeli media (in my opinion) Kibush Occupation Magazine, tell me, there absolutely IS no Israeli left.

But, take into account the ALEF list (from Haifa University). It used to be impossible to see interventions that were putting the cards back in the deck, discussing whether zionism was racist or not. I can see why many disapprove of the academic boycott, but putting the basic issues into doubt is going to be a growing problem if one is working with Israelis. And, they insist, we control the game, no one does anything unless we Israelis want it or approve of it. I don't know how accurate this thesis is, but they are convinced it is true.

Umkahlil has dealt very articulately with these smear campaigns against Palestinian professors, but against Palestinian STUDENTS, this is a new one!
 
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