Berkeley's War Against Israel
By Steven Plaut
FrontPageMagazine.com | 3/7/2005
The University of California at Berkeley has developed a new academic specialty, providing a home for anti-Israel Israelis. The anthropology department at the University of California, headed by leftist Lawrence Cohen, a leading scholar in “queer studies,” recently hired an Israeli anthropologist who had been forced to resign from the Hebrew University, reportedly over fabricating research results. UC-Berkeley has misused the “Diller Grant” it receives from a fund established by Helen Diller, a Berkeley alumnus, contributed to promote Jewish and Israeli studies on campus, to host one of Israel’s worst anti-Zionist extremists: Oren Yiftachel, a geographer from Ben Gurion University. According to Martin Kramer, an expert on Middle East Studies and on pseudo-scholarship, “Yiftachel is...a shining light in the post-Zionist pantheon, a ‘critical scholar’ whose criticism runs overwhelmingly in one direction: against Israel. Yiftachel was the kind of Israeli that an Edward Said-boosting, Saudi-connected Middle East center could not only tolerate, but embrace.”
But one of the worst anti-Israel extremists from Israeli academia is Neve Gordon, a Marxist political scientist at Ben Gurion University in Israel’s south, who is currently a “visiting scholar” at UC-Berkeley’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies and its “Human Rights Center,” which is associated with with the leftist Human Rights Watch. Among Berkeley’s Human Rights Center projects is a study purporting to prove that slavery still exists in the United States and several that denounce “globalization.” The Center for Middle East Studies is a bastion of Israel bashing that is financed in part by Saudi money, including donations from those connected with terrorism.
Neve Gordon has been under increasingly under attack in recent days in the Israeli media for his anti-Israel activities. As a columnist for Alexander Cockburn’s anti-Semitic Counterpunch magazine, Gordon routinely declares Israel to be a fascist, racist, apartheid terrorist country. Gordon was paid by Notre Dame's far-left Kroc Institute, which has attempted to hire Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss Arab anti-Semite with ties to al-Qaeda, in order to produce a “research report” claiming to prove that Israel is a terrorist state. Gordon is so anti-Israel that his columns have been published on the neo-Nazi Zundelsite website operated by Ernst Zundel, the Nazi whom Canada recently deported to Germany, and on Islamic fundamentalist pro-terror web sites. Gordon ran an international campaign of defamation and vilification against his own army commander, a private citizen and not a public figure, accusing him on communist and other anti-Semitic web sites of being a “war criminal.” He might have been trying to get this officer indicted before the World Court in the Hague or some other den of kangaroos. Gordon was arrested for illegally trying to interfere with the Israeli army’s anti-terror activities by serving as a human shield for Arafat and the wanted terrorists being hidden in PLO offices.
This past week, two of Israel’s main daily newspapers attacked Gordon for his anti-Israel extremism. First, the Jerusalem Post ran a piece by P. David Hornik, which was reprinted in Frontpage Magazine, on the anti-Israel extremists at Ben Gurion University in Israel, Israel’s worst oasis of academic radicalism. Hornik writes: “There are, of course, radicals at other Israeli universities as well, but they are particularly well represented at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Dr. Neve Gordon of BGU's political science department, for example, has written: ‘Israel's gravest danger today is not the PA or even Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, but the one it faces from within: fascism.’ And in a column on the far-Left Counterpunch Web site, he accused General Aviv Kohavi, currently IDF commander in the Gaza Strip, of ‘blatant violations of human rights’ and of being a ‘war criminal’. Not surprisingly, Gordon's articles have been posted on anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi sites.”
A second attack came from Israel’s second largest daily, Maariv. Ben Dror Yemini is a columnist and senior editor at Maariv, and is himself left-of-center and a supporter of the failed Oslo peace process. But Yemini also is militantly opposed to the far-left anti-Zionists in Israel, especially the academic extremists. On the above-discussed Oren Yiftachel’s appointment at Berkeley he commented,
This past Friday Yemini's column was devoted to showing how worldwide anti-Semitism is being fanned by the activities of Israel’s anti-Israel extremists. Yemini observes how anti-Semites in France and elsewhere claim Israel is exploiting the Holocaust as an excuse to conduct atrocities against Palestinians, relying on Israeli far leftists when they do so. He refers Israel Shamir as an open anti-Semite. Russian-born Shamir lives in Israel, but almost no Israelis have heard of him. He is an open neo-Nazi who spreads his anti-Semitic propaganda all over the web. Yemini observes that others are like Ilan Pappe from the University of Haifa and Neve Gordon from Ben Gurion University almost as bad. Both of them - Yemini writes - “spread their articles with anti-Israel poison all over the world, some of which appear on anti-Semitic web sites. Those web sites love these people.” Finally, Yemini holds such Israeli leftists responsible for the spread of anti-Semitism around the world and mocks their claims that they are simply promoting “anti-Zionism.” He refers to the “anti-Semitic front” comprised of leftist Jews and Israelis who toss around words like genocide and ethnic cleansing when they attack Israel as a way of demonizing the Jews.
Other Israeli web sites have also been attacking the “visiting scholar” at UC-Berkeley. Here is what NGO Monitor, a website run by the non-partisan Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, says about Neve Gordon: “The Montreal-based organization Alternatives demonstrates the ease with which NGOs can contradict their own stated objectives by obscuring contexts and distorting facts...Yet the group engages in a wide variety of highly unbalanced and politicized activities both within Canada and abroad. Rather than ‘truly mirror(ing) the expectations of all Canadians,’ the organization’s focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reveals an extreme approach….
“Its domestic advocacy is unceasingly critical of Israel even as it downplays Palestinian human rights abuses and ignores Palestinian terrorism. An op-ed on the Alternatives website by Neve Gordon on the subject of the construction of the security fence accuses Israel of 'ethnic cleansing' and ignores the complex reasons behind the wall. Instead, Gordon resorts to simplistic slogans such as exhorting ‘international leaders’ to ‘tell Prime Minister Sharon that at this historical moment he has an option between walls and ethnic cleansing, on the one hand, and open borders and freedom, on the other.’ Moreover, Gordon simplistically compares the State of Israel to Nazi Germany: ‘As the government of the Jewish state forces the Palestinians in ghettos, history must be turning in its grave… yet the so-called security wall does not separate these Palestinian residents from Jewish Israelis, but rather from their brethren in the West Bank.’”
Berkeley, once the front line of the free speech movement, is promoting anti-Israel propaganda by hosting anti-Israel extremists who are Israeli as a way to pretend that the Arab campaign to destroy Israel is “balanced” and “objective.” It would a bit like having an American Studies department with Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill, and Robert Jensen – but then universities already do.