Monday, November 8, 2010

(BLOG) Should Academic Free Speech Accommodate Holocaust Denial?

"By Richard L. Cravatts: If you scratch a Holocaust denier long enough, you may reveal an anti-Semite, but not always. You will, however, probably find someone like the morally repellant Kaukab Siddique, a Pakistani-born, tenured associate professor of English and journalism at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, who seemingly puts great faith in conspiratorial dramas in which a crafty and all-powerful enemy—in this case, Jews—weaves an oft-repeated claim that six million of their people were exterminated just to elicit the world's sympathy and promote Zionism and the creation of Israel.

Siddique has been embroiled in an intellectual firestorm, largely of his own making, since his paroxysms of hatred toward Israel were exposed in a video taken during his appearance at a Labor Day rally in Washington and posted by The Investigative Project and reported on by the Christian Broadcasting Network.

In vitriol-laced language that unfortunately is not at all uncommon these days from the professoriate and many of their impressionable, like-minded students, Siddique was filmed crying out to the crowd at the September 3 event: 'I say to the Muslims, ‘Dear brothers and sisters, unite and rise up against this hydra-headed monster which calls itself Zionism.’' More troublesome than this spectral horror of creeping, pernicious Zionism was Siddique’s exhortation to the receptive audience that Zionism itself was an aggressive, dangerous ideology that must be extirpated. 'Each one of us is their target and we must stand united to defeat, to destroy, to dismantle Israel,' he said, 'if possible by peaceful means.' [Italics mine]

This grotesque anti-Israelism, of course, frequently animates the thinking of broad swathes of the West’s intelligentsia, who, obsessed with Third World victimism and a virtual cult of Palestinianism, think nothing of calling for the destruction—by boycott, divestment, de-legitimization, even armed resistance—of Israel, a sovereign nation, American ally, and the single democracy in the Middle East.

But Siddique, it has been revealed since this recent furor began, has an even more pernicious intellectual defect which calls into question, not only his academic credibility, but his very qualifications to hold tenure at a university at all. Because linked to his invidious attitudes about Zionism, Israel, and Jews, Siddique also plays a leadership role in Jamaat al-Muslimeen (JAM), a 'radical separatist Islamist' group based in Baltimore that focuses its limited intellectual resources on spewing forth anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and engaging in Holocaust denial. At an August meeting of this inspirational group, for instance, Siddique spoke to the rapt attendees and touched on the same theme of his that was revealed in the D.C. rally, namely, the treachery of Jews and the boundlessness of their power. 'We're under the grip of a Jewish Zionist power structure in this country,' he told the audience, and further suggested that one reason Jews were able to obscure the sins of Israel and exploit the Holocaust for material and emotional gain was due to the existence of the dreaded 'Zionist-controlled media.'

When asked about his D.C. rants concerning Zionism and Israel, Siddique was quick to assert, as many crypto anti-Semites are, that he, of course, harbored no enmity towards Jews, only towards pernicious Zionists and their brutal, illegitimate, rogue nation, Israel. In fact, he has previously asserted that JAM is 'not against the Jews as a collective,' and the only reason 'we are against the Jews [is] because they have usurped Palestine and they take interest on loans and have built up the exploitative economic structure,' collectively blaming Jews for being rapacious thieves who not only stole Palestinian lands for economic gain, but then used those ill-gotten gains to further manipulate the world economy—a well-worn anti-Semitic trope.

It is one thing for a tenured professor at a modern university to have negative attitudes towards Jews and Israel. It is altogether a more serious matter when a member of the professoriate, as is the case with Siddique, thinks that his academic free speech gives him moral cover to delve into the intellectual netherworld of conspiracies, historical distortions, and full-blown Holocaust denial. In a now widely-circulated email thread on the crackpot conspiracy-theory web site, for example, Siddique revealed that his world view creates conspiracies as a way of explaining the unfolding of historical events; his is a pessimistic and frantic outlook, famously characterized by historian Richard Hofstadter as 'the paranoid style' of politics, which shifts responsibility from the self to sinister, omnipotent others—typically and historically the Jews.

Thus, in his incoherent ramblings on the site, he suggested that the Nazis were not actually that harmful to European Jewry, a point he attempted to prove by grotesquely and cruelly suggesting that '[t]he German behavior was so good that Elie Wiesel (the arch holocaust propagandist) left Auschwitz WITH the retreating Germans when the Russians advanced towards the camp.'

And besides, Siddique continued, was it not the Jews’ own propensity for ill-doing that brought on justifiable Nazi anti-Semitic inclinations? In Siddique’s feverish imagination, those negative feelings did not, at any rate, amount to a genocide of a whole people. 'The Jews,' he wrote, 'as in America today, controlled the entire economy. German leaders made powerful speeches against Jews but that does not amount to holocaust [sic].'

In fact, Siddique concluded, the 'Holocaust is a hoax,' so those who still speak about it should 'Get over it!', since there 'is not even ONE document proving the holocaust [sic],' an assertion that might come as a surprise to the archivists at the U.S. Holocaust Museum and Memorial, as one example, which owns some 51 million pages of documents and 121 million images cataloguing the exact Nazi atrocities Siddique denies ever occurred.

And then in a particularly odious bit of moral relativism, Siddique commits the intellectual parlor trick of grafting onto Israel the Nazi-like crimes he has just finished asserting never happened, again maligning Jews for their perceived omnipotence and power, and Israelis for their crimes against the innocent Palestinians. 'Notice that Jews wiped out entire PALESTINIAN villages,' he wrote, contrasting this behavior from that of Hitler, 'but failed to hide the atrocities in spite of their control of the media.' Even worse, Israel’s brutal occupation and militancy continues to oppress the Muslim world and then accuse the victims of the crimes Zionist themselves perpetrate. 'In Palestine,' Siddique wrote, 'we Muslims can see how you Jews operate. You kill, rape, destroy, build your cities on our villages and then use your media to label us as terrorists.'

If the victim status of Israel—and by extension, all Jews—can be diminished by exposing the lie of the Holocaust, which is what deniers dedicate themselves to achieving, Palestinians become the more aggrieved victim, a people victimized by former victims, the Jews, who spread the lie of their own suffering for material ends. It is not without irony, of course, that while Siddique, not to mention many other anti-Israelites in the West, wants to rob Jews of the piece of dismal history that brought about the extermination of six million of their people, they are eager to regularly repeat the vile comparison they draw between the perceived behavior and shared values of the Jewish state and the Nazi regime. How better to cause the greatest hurt and to speak the gravest criticism than to deny or minimize on one hand that the Nazi atrocities and slaughter ever took place, and then to suggest, that if they did, the people reborn of that fire have descended morally to the same moral level as their former tormenters?

Does it matter if a tenured professor expresses personal opinions, no matter how odious and controversial, and are they not acceptable under the notion of academic free speech? Well, yes and no. With great regularity, academic imbecility and fraudulent scholarship has been substituted for reasoned inquiry on our campuses, and, observes Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, 'academic freedom is meant to protect scholarship, not replace it.' Nor does 'free speech ... absolve anyone from professional incompetence,' Rubin says,' which is the heart of the matter in a conversation about Professor Siddique and his qualification to be part of a community of scholars where certain ideas and theories simply do not deserve nor warrant academic discourse.

More seriously, Siddique’s chronic Holocaust denial, his calls for the destruction of Israel, and his demonization of Zionism, Israel, and world Jewry should be of enormous concern to Lincoln University officials. Far from being 'a concerted act by the extreme right wing aligned with Israel to destroy someone who spoke out against them,' as Siddique himself characterized the reaction to his odious opinions, his ideas have to be understood as blatantly anti-Semitic, and expressive of raw Jew-hatred, regardless of his own attempt to excuse it as mere criticism of Israel.

In fact, if one applies the working definition of contemporary anti-Semitism, produced in 2005 by the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), to Siddique’s core ideologies and attitudes, the anti-Semitic nature of his speech and thought is quite clear. EUMC’s definition, specifically, describes behavior as anti-Semitic when an individual makes 'mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective;' denies 'the fact, scope, . . . or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany . . . during World War II;' and accuses 'the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust,' all of which animate Siddique’s lurid writing and speaking.

Even absent Siddique’s moronic denials of the Holocaust, his obsession with and criticism of the perceived power of Jews in controlling the media, manipulating U.S. public policy to further the interests of Israel, having involvement in the attacks on 9/11, not to mention his characterizations of Jews as being treacherous, underhanded, duplicitous, and avaricious—all of these notions, when put into speech or writing, not only rise to the level of what has been deemed anti-Semitism under the EUMC guidelines, but should be of grave concern to administrators at Lincoln, a historically black university which receives significant state funding from Pennsylvania.

Putting aside the fact that Lincoln’s own code of conduct forbids 'any conduct or behavior that is disrespectful, absurd and rude,' and despite the fact that the university has now distanced itself from comments and beliefs Siddique expressed publicly but outside of the campus walls, there should be universal denunciation of the professor’s whole belief system, riddled as it is with the darkest and most vile of pathologies and hatreds. Tenure comes with some clear responsibilities, not the least of which is to be an intellectual and moral partner with the academic community with which one has made a professional contract. Saying that is acceptable for a professor to harbor delusional, primitive attitudes about the Holocaust and Jews as long as he only utters his calumnies off campus and not as part of his teaching in the classroom is disingenuous at best, and a craven way that university officials try to excuse the inexcusable in some of their tenured intellectual brats.

This case also exposes a startling double standard that is currently prevalent in academia when it comes to who may say what about whom. Either because they are feckless or want to coddle perceived protected student minority groups in the name of diversity, university administrations are morally inconsistent when taking a stand against what they consider 'hate speech,' believing, mistakenly, that only harsh expression against victim groups needs to be moderated. When other groups―whites, Christians, Republicans, heterosexual males, Jews, for example―are the object of offensive speech, no protection is deemed to be necessary.

Lawrence Summers, for example, lost the presidency of Harvard for merely suggesting out loud at a closed lecture that the reason women had traditionally not excelled in science and math might be due to genetic differences in the sexes. That is a theory that feminists found repugnant and unacceptable to even utter, but it is certainly not as fantastical or delusional as suggesting that the Holocaust is a fable. And more relevant is Lincoln’s own reaction, or lack thereof, to Siddique’s anti-Zionist invective at the rally and the subsequent revelations about his Holocaust-denying hobby. Was it not for the waves of criticism coming from Pennsylvania officials, Jewish groups, and others, Siddique’s behavior would have continued without comment, and no introspection from the university community would likely have occurred at all.

Imagine for a moment that it was discovered that a tenured professor at Lincoln was 'outed' as being a white nationalist, and his postings were sprinkled on the pages of a hate site such as in which he railed, as visitors to that odious site do, against the dangers of non-whites to white culture, the harm that non-whites do to society through criminality, high birthrates, and low morals, and the overall superiority of the white race to other, lower forms of human existence. Would any member of the Lincoln community care whether or not that professor brought those vile attitudes into his classroom or merely expressed them off campus? Would they say that he had a right to express that type of noxious attitude safely under the umbrella of academic free speech? Could any sentient observer contend that a tenured professor who delved into the perverse intellectual netherworld of neo-Nazism and white supremacism could somehow return to the cocoon of a campus and separate his other life from the person he is when he stands in front of students, helping young minds to thoughtfully explore human thought and achievement?

The answer obviously is that anyone who expressed such feelings in the academic community would be immediately and thoroughly shunned, that his or her actions and speech would be labeled for what they clearly were—repugnant hate speech that has no place on a campus. And when an offense is made to members of one of academia’s favored victim groups, the response is immediate, widespread, and thunderous in its self-righteousness.

Consider what happened at the University of California, San Diego, this March, for example, where the entire campus underwent collective apoplexy over some incendiary racial slurs made by students, not a tenured faculty member, involved in an off-campus fraternity party, the racially-insensitive 'Compton Cookout,' and the discovery of a noose and a roughly-fashioned Ku Klux Klan hood on campus—all of which helped stoke tensions and inflame rage at the perceived racism.

Members of UC San Diego’s Black Student Union wasted no time in drafting a six-page memo for school officials (who eagerly embraced them), in which they itemized a veritable encyclopedia of demands by which, it was felt, the racist climate could be modified. Cries of 'institutionalized racism' and a 'toxic environment' at UCSD were heard. Because the BSU felt that African Americans were being 'racially demoralized,' those demands included, among others, establishing ethnic studies programs, a 'rewrite the Student Code of Conduct,' presumably meaning a speech code that would proscribe certain speech deemed inappropriate by the code’s creators, and, ominously, a mandatory 'diversity sensitivity requirement for every undergraduate student.'

While calling for further investigation into the specific incidents that had sparked the outrage, and promising to identify and punish the perpetrators, embarrassed school officials also met with angry minority students, promised to increase efforts at diversity, pledged more minority faculty hiring and student enrollment, set up psychological counseling facilities, met with community leaders and state officials, and even flew in Berkeley’s law school dean, Christopher Edley, to help arbitrate the situation.

But at Lincoln University, when a tenured professor demonizes Jews, delegitimizes Israel, accuses Zionists and Israelis of treachery, theft, brutality, and pure evil, and calls for the Muslim world to rise up and destroy the Jewish state by any means necessary, the reaction is grotesquely understated. In fact, the final moral call by Lincoln’s administration is that, while Siddique’s views are not in keeping with the university’s sensibilities, at least he keeps his morally-imbecilic views and ideology safely outside the campus walls where, presumably, they cannot infect the minds of students within.

Richard L. Cravatts, PhD, director of the Program in Publishing & Digital Media at Boston University, just finished a book, Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel & Jews." (source)

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