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General Articles
Hitler's Professors, Arafat's Professors -

By Edward Alexander

"In Hitler and his comrades we discern the spirit of clarity
without residue, of honesty toward the outer world, and
simultaneously of inner unity.... This, however, is exactly the
spirit which we early recognized and advanced in the great
scholars of the past, in Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Faraday. We
admire and adore it likewise in Hitler...." --Johannes Stark
and Philipp Lenard, German Nobel Prize winners in physics.

"[Consider] the microscopic grasp that Arafat has
of politics, not as grand strategy, in the pompous Kissingerian
sense, but as daily, even hourly movement of people and
attitudes, in the Gramscian or Foucauldian sense." --Edward Said

"I know I will be misunderstood if I add that I
have some sneaking admiration for Heidegger's attempt at
political commitment, and find the attempt itself morally and
aesthetically preferable to apolitical liberalism (provided its
ideals remain unrealized).--Frederic Jameson, Postmodernism, p. 257.

The campaign by Hitler's professors against Jews was fought
nationally and internationally. The national campaign
commenced in 1933 with the boycott and dismissal of Jewish
faculty members by their non-Jewish colleagues. In Freiburg, for
example, on April 1 the local Nazi paper, Der Allemanne,
published lists of Jewish doctors and dentists who were to be
boycotted, and a few days later a list of Jewish members of the
university's medical faculty. On April 10 the rector of the
university instructed his deans to dismiss all faculty members of
Jewish religion or origin. The rector was one Martin Heidegger,
who had just taken up his post. Since he had already, in 1929,
said that Germany would have to choose between building up its
own intellectual life or abandoning it "to growing Judaization in
the wider and narrower sense," his action came as no surprise.
When his girlfriend Hannah Arendt (as she is now known) asked her
teacher in the summer of 1933 about "rumors" she had heard of his
hostile attitude toward Jewish colleagues and students, he
replied that he had given generously of his time to Jewish
students, much as the effort disrupted his own work: "Who comes
to me in an emergency? A Jew. Who insists on urgently discussing
his doctoral degree? A Jew....Who asks me for help in obtaining
grants? Jews!!"1 But even professors whose precious time was not
so egregiously usurped by imperious Jewish students joined
readily in the campaign to extend the anti-Jewish campaign from
the economic realm (the April 1 boycott) to academic, scientific,
cultural activity in its entirety. Not a single German professor
publicly protested the boycotts and dismissals--or, for that
matter, the drastic reduction in the number of Jewish students
and the burning of books by Jewish authors.
The international campaign came later and consisted of the
effort by German scholars to persuade their fellow-European of
the centrality of race, of their great insight into the way in
which physiology determines culture. The Germans encouraged
scholarly research to show the terrible damage that Jews had done
to other European countries. Klaus Schickert, for example, argued
in his doctoral dissertation that "Racial thinking is no German
requirement, it has become a European requirement..."2
Numerous members of the European family of nations responded to
this wonderful idea with alacrity, and sent representatives to
the Frankfort Conference of March 1941, organized by Alfred
Rosenberg to deal with the "Universal European Solution of the
Jewish Question." To stress the international character of the
conference (and perhaps also the fact that Nazism itself was not
merely a radical form of old-fashioned nationalism but an
internationalist movement based upon race rather than
citizenship), the flags of nine nations were displayed in a
wreath surrounding two swastika banners. Vidkun Quisling was
there to represent Norway, Robert van Genechten and Anton Mussert
to represent the Netherlands, the two Professors Cuza to raise
the Rumanian flag, Professor Veszo to display the flag of Italy,
and so on ad nauseam3.
It is against this background of Hitler's war against the Jews
that we need to view the current campaign to extend the economic
war against Israel (in the divestment campaign of Noam Chomsky
and his acolytes) to the professorial boycott of Israeli science
and scholarship, Israeli scientists and scholars.

On April 6 2002 123 university academics and researchers
(their number would later rise to 250) from across Europe signed
an open letter, published in Britain's Guardian, calling for a
moratorium on all cultural and research links with Israel until
the Israeli government abided by (unspecified) UN resolutions and
returned yet again to negotiations with Arafat and Company to be
conducted in accord with the principles laid down in the latest
Saudi/Friedman peace plan. The petition was organized and published at
the very time when Israelis were being butchered on a daily
basis, mainly by brainwashed teenage suicide bombers,
Arab versions of the Hitler Youth. It declared, in high
Pecksniffian style, that since the Israeli government was
"impervious to moral appeals from world leaders" Israel's
cultural and research institutions should be denied further
funding from the European Union and the European Science
Foundation. It neglected to recommend that the European Union
suspend its very generous financing of Arafat or that
Chinese scholars be boycotted until China withdraws from Tibet,
or that Moroccan scientists be blackballed because Morocco was
occupying Western Sahara (and refusing to negotiate with the
Polisario front). The petition was the brainchild of Steven Rose,
Director of the Brain and Behavior Research Group at Gresham
College, London, and the great majority of its signatories were
British; but it included academics from a host of European
countries, a number sufficient to give it the appearance of a
pan-European campaign against the Jews. It even had the
obligatory display Israeli, one Eva Jablonka of Tel-Aviv
University. (Nine other Israeli leftists added their names as
soon as they found out about this opportunity for international
In June Mona Baker, director of the Centre for Translation and
Intercultural Studies at University of Manchester Institute of
Science and Technology (UMIST) decided to practice what
the all-European petitioners had preached: she dismissed from the
boards of the two journals she owns and edits two Israelis,
Miriam Shlesinger of Bar-Ilan University and Gideon Toury of Tel-
Aviv University. She also added that she would no longer accept
articles from Israeli researchers in the field; and it was later
revealed that she would not "allow" books originating with her
private publishing house (St. Jerome) to be purchased by Israeli
institutions. One paradox of the firing, which would be repeated
often in later stages of the boycott, was that Shlesinger was a
member in good standing of the Israeli left, former chairman of
Amnesty International's Israeli chapter, and ever at the ready
with "criticism of Israeli policies in the West Bank..." Toury,
for his part, opposed taking any retaliatory action against
Baker because "a boycott is a boycott is a boycott." 4 [letter
to Professor Shalom Lappin, July 2002). A small contingent of
Toury's friends in linguistics issued a statement about "Academic
Boycotts in Linguistics" in which they objected to his dismissal
because "We agree with Noam Chomsky's view that one does not
boycott people or their cultural institutions as an expression of
political protest."5 It was hard to say whether this document was
more notable for its lack of Jewish self-respect or for sheer
ignorance (of the fact that Chomsky was leading the American
campaign for disinvestment in Israel, the economic phalanx of the
professorial campaign to demonize and isolate Israel).
A few (non-English) members of Baker's boards resigned because
they objected to dismissal of people solely "on the basis of
[their] passport," especially by a journal entitled The 
Translator: Studies in Intercultural Communication.
But for the most part the dismissals raised no public opposition
from within the British University system, just as almost none
had been raised back in April when the racist hoodlum Tom
Paulin, stalwart of the IRA school of poetics and a professor at
Oxford, had urged that American Jews living in the disputed
territories of Judea and Samaria "should be shot dead." The
situation changed only when an American scholar, Professor
Stephen Greenblatt of Harvard, intervened. After arriving in
England in early July 2002 to receive an honorary degree from London
University, Greenblatt called Baker's actions "repellent,"
"dangerous" and "intellectually and morally bankrupt." "Excluding
scholars because of the passports that they carry or because of
their skin colour, religion or political party, corrupts the
integrity of intellectual work." Greenblatt's statement forced
the British public to pay attention to Baker's boycott. Even a
writer for the venomously anti-Israel Guardian was emboldened to
criticize the way in which the European boycotters' petition was
being carried to extreme and radical form in Britain: a British
lecturer working at Tel-Aviv University applied for a post back
home in the United Kingdom and was told by the head of the first
department to which he applied: "No, we don't accept any
applicants from a Nazi state."6
Greenblatt was still treating the boycott mainly as a
violation of academic freedom--plausibly enough, since
Rose had declared that "Academic freedom I find a completely
spurious argument..." But the real issue was an antisemitic
campaign to transform the pariah people into the pariah state, as
became evident in the rhetorically violent reactions to
Greenblatt's criticism. Baker herself quickly announced that she
repented of nothing. She was "not against Israeli nationals per
se; only Israeli institutions as part of the israeli state which
I absolutely deplore." She was acting on behalf of good Europeans
everywhere, and refused to reveal where she herself was born--
Egypt, as it happens.7
Greenblatt was also assaulted by another inhabitant of the
academic fever swamps of Manchester, Baker's colleague Michael
Sinnott, a professor of "paper science." Springing chivalrously
to Baker's defense, he called Greenblatt's open letter to her
"sanctimonious claptrap," decried Israel as "the mirror-image of
Nazism," and asserted that what made Israel a unique menace to
the world was "the breathtaking power of the American Jewish
lobby." In a seven year sojourn at the University of Illinois in
Chicago, he had felt the power of the insatiable Jews on his own
pulses: first, "the Israeli atrocities for which my tax
dollars were paying were never reported in the American news
media, which were either controlled by Jews, or browbeaten by
them in the way you have just exemplified"; second, his "pay
raises at UIC never really recovered" from his defiantly
scheduling a graduate class on the Jewish Sabbath.8 The UMIST
administration, already busy distancing between from Baker, now
had a still greater embarrassment on its hands when the Telegraph
(29 September) reported Sinnott's letter. It "launched an
investigation" into the abstruse question of whether Sinnott
might be an antisemite. Sinnott, ever mindful of his "pay
raises," issued a weaselly statement of regret, not over his sin
but over its detection.9
As the boycott campaign intensified, its guiding lights were
plagued by problems of definition bearing a ghoulish
resemblance to those that once beset the Nazis in deciding just which
people were to be considered fitting victims of discrimination,
oppression, and (eventually) murder. Perhaps this is why Baker
struck up an acquaintance with David Irving, who in December
reported on his website that she had kindly taken the trouble to
alert him to an ad placed by Amazon.com in the Israeli press
which might be considered supportive of that terrible country.10
The Hitler-loving historian could have supplied Baker with
information about problems the Nazis faced in implementing
their boycott: Should the targeted group be people with four
Jewish grandparents or three or perhaps just two? Some Baker
defenders had chastised Greenblatt for suggesting that it was
their Israeli nationality that led to the sacking of the two
Israelis. By no means! It was just the fact that they worked for
Israeli universities. But what of Arabs who worked for Israeli
universities? (If the Hebrew University employee whose mass
murder of the people in the Scopus cafeteria was the
perfect existential realization of the boycotters' ideas had
survived his exploit, would he have been banned from joining
Baker's janitorial staff in Manchester?)
There was also the problem of ideology. Could the professors
who organized the boycott have been so ignorant of the Israeli
political scene as not to know that the Israeli professoriate is
the center of anti-Zionist polemic and political activity in the
country? Many of the targets of the boycott would inevitably
be people with political views similar to those of the boycotters
themselves, especially the assumption that it is "occupation"
that leads to Arab hatred of Israel, and not Arab hatred of
Israel that leads to occupation.
The most paradoxical example of the boycott's effect was
Oren Yiftachel, a political geographer from Ben-Gurion
University, described by Ha'aretz (the Women's Wear Daily of
the Israeli left) as "hold[ing] extreme leftist political views."
Yiftachel had co-authored a paper with an Arab Israeli political
scientist from Haifa University named As'ad Ghanem dealing with
the attitude of Israeli authorities to Arabs within Israel proper
and the disputed territories. They submitted it to the English
periodical Political Geography, whose editor, David Slater,
returned it with a note saying it had been rejected because its
authors were Israelis.
Here was a case to test the mettle of a boycotter--a mischling
article, half-Jewish, half-Arab, wholly the product of people
carrying Israeli passports and working for Israeli institutions,
yet expressing opinions on Israel as the devil's own experiment
station indistinguishable from Slater's. Poor Slater,
apparently unable to amputate the Jewish part of the article from
the Arab part and (to quote him) "not sure to what extent [the
authors] had been critical of Israel," rejected the thing in its
entirety. Or so it seemed--for after half a year of wrangling, it
emerged that Slater might accept the paper if only its authors
would insert some more paragraphs likening Israel to apartheid
South Africa. In other words, the Englishman might relax his
boycotting principles if his ideological prejudices could be
Exactly what happened at this point is not easy to discover.
Since Yiftachel is one of those academics who adheres to the motto
"the other country, right or wrong" it is hard to believe he
would balk at describing Israel as an apartheid state. He had in
the past denounced Israeli governments as racist or dictatorial
and had co-authored with Ghanem a piece in Ha'aretz urging Jews
to participate in "Land Day." But now he had become the classic
instance of somebody "hoist on his own petard," caught in his own
trap. At one point he complained to Slater "that rejecting a
person because of his [national] origin, from an academic point
of view, is very problematic." Not only did it interfere with the
progress of Yiftachel's career, it hurt the anti-Israel cause.
"From a political and practical point of view, the boycott
actually weakens the sources of opposition to the Israeli
occupation in universities."11 Poor Yiftachel found that when he
and his colleague carried their message about Israeli wickedness
to America, audiences would constantly pester them about--the
In the ensuing months the British left turned its attention
away from the hoped-for boycott of Israel to trying to persuade
Tony Blair that it was Tel-Aviv rather than Baghdad which needed
to be attacked. But on May 9, 2003 the boycotters, led
by one Sue Blackwell of Birmingham, tried--and failed--to
persuade the Association of University Teachers to "immediately"
implement a boycott of Israeli institutions. The boycotters'
motion was rejected by two-thirds of the delegates at their
Scarborough conference. But three other motions, one calling for
the AUT to affiliate to the Trade Union Friends of Palestine, one
establishing links between British and Palestinian universities,
and one deploring the "witch-hunting" of participants in the
boycott, were carried. Moreover, Blackwell herself was elected to
the "agenda" committee, where she will no doubt continue her
Six weeks later another explosive charge in the British
academic onslaught against Israel was set off, this time at
Oxford. On June 29 the Sunday Telegraph revealed that Andrew
Wilkie, the Nuffield professor of pathology and a fellow at
Pembroke College, was under investigation by his university
because, in an e-mail message of 23 June, he had replied as
follows to a young Israeli molecular biologist who had applied to
work towards a PhD thesis in Wilkie's lab: "I am sure you are
perfectly nice at a personal level, but I don't think this would
work. I have a huge problem with the way that the Israelis take
the moral high ground from their appalling treatment in the
Holocaust, and then inflict gross human rights abuses on the
Palestinians because they wish to live in their own country....No
way would I take on somebody who had served in the Israeli army.
As you may be aware, I am not the only scientist with these
views...." This tawdry, jejune letter, with its stale slogans,
its typically British equation of Palestinians with Jewish
victims of the Nazis (and implied equation of Israelis with
Nazis), its cowardly search for strength in numbers ("I am not
the only scientist with these views") and its slangy prose ("No
way...") was quickly brought to the attention of Oxford
officials. The spokesman of that world-famous home of "lost
causes, and forsaken beliefs" said that although Oxford endorsed
"freedom of expression" it was not prepared "to accept or condone
conduct that appears to, or does, discriminate against anyone on
grounds of ethnicity or nationality...." At last report the
university was still investigating the case to see whether
Wilkie's antics merited disciplinary action or even dismissal.
(Since this is the same Oxford that saw no reason to take action
against Hertford College's Tom Paulin for inciting murder of Jews
living in Judea and Samaria, the prospect of punishment for
Wilkie--who unlike Paulin has at least expressed contrition--
seemed slight.)
The shift of attention in the British boycott campaign from the
linguists and political scientists to the medical scientists
recalled a warning that had been issued back in December of 2002
by Susan Greenfield, neurobiologist and director of the Royal
Institution, England's oldest independent research body: "if it
continues... [the boycott] will harm people in every sphere, but
in medical research lives are potentially at risk."12
To those not suffering from historical amnesia, it might also
have recalled an incident of 1941 in Nazi Germany involving Otto
Warburg, one of Germany's preeminent cancer researchers. He was
about to be dismissed from his post at the Kaiser Wilhelm Society
because of his "half-Jewish" origins. But Hitler, aware of the
value of Warburg's research to the health of German citizens,
alerted Goring, who promptly turned Warburg into a "quarter
Jew."13 Will the boycotters emulate the (occasional) pragmatism
of their predecessors, or will they stick firmly to their
principles in order to reduce Israel to pariah status?
More importantly, will the European Union, many of whose
prominent members either participated or acquiesced in the
destruction of European Jewry sixty years ago, put a stop to the
conspiracy of these spiritual descendants of the people Max Weinreich
famously called "Hitler's Professors" to expel the Jews (once
again) from the family of nations?

1. Saul Friedlander,Nazi Germany and the Jews (New York:
HarperCollins, 1997), 53.
2. Max Weinreich, Hitler's Professors (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1999), 116. (Originally published 1946 by YIVO.)
3. Ibid., 100.
4. Letter from Toury to Shalom Lappin, July 2002.
5. Letter from Lappin to Michael Weingrad (Leeds), July 8, 2002.
6. Rod Liddle, The Guardian, July 17, 2002.
7. Charlotte Edwardes, Sunday Telegraph, July 7, 2002.
8. Letter from Sinnott to Greenblatt, September 5, 2002.
9. David Harrison, Sunday Telegraph, September 29, 2002.
10. Giles Coren, The Times, December 14, 2002.
11. Ha'aretz, December 13, 2002.
12. Telegraph, December 15, 2002.
13. Friedlander, 52.

EDWARD ALEXANDER's most recent books are Irving Howe--Socialist, 
Critic, Jew (Indiana University Press, 1998), and Classical 
Liberalism and the Jewish Tradition (Transaction Publishers,

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