By Barry Rubin
If you want to understand how the far left controls campuses, consider this story.
There is no university more supportive of the Arab nationalist (historically), Islamist, and anti-Israel line in the United States than Georgetown’s programs on Middle East studies. Every conference it holds on the Middle East is ridiculously one-sided. The university has received millions of dollars in funds from Arab states, and it houses the most important center in the United States that has advocated support for a pro-Islamist policy.
One day in 1975, not long before he died, the great Professor Carroll Quigley walked up to me when I was sitting in the Georgetown University library. Everyone was in awe of this brilliant lecturer (remind me to write him a tribute explaining why he was so great).
[In fact the classroom where Carroll Quigley taught his main class was Gaston Hall, where decades latest Obama demanded to cover up the cross before he spoke there! What would this pious Catholic have said!]
I thought he might have remembered me from my extended explanation of why I was late for class one day because I had rescued a sparrow and taken it to a veterinarian (true). I vividly recall that detail, because I couldn’t think otherwise why he would want to talk to such a lowly person.
“May I sit down?” he asked.
“Of course!” I said, stopping myself from adding that it was an honor. Without any small talk, he launched into a subject that clearly weighed on his conscience. “There are many who don’t like your people.”
What was he talking about? I thought, is he talking about Jews?
He explained that he had just come from a meeting where it was made clear that the university had a problem. They were getting Arab money, but on the secret condition that it was for teaching about the Middle East but none of it could be used to teach about Israel. How was this problem to be solved?
Simple. They would call the institution to be created the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. It was explicitly expressed that this was how the problem would be dealt with. Quigley was disgusted. Ever since then, I have referred to that institution as the Center for Contemporary Arab Money.
Georgetown was the place where the university accepted tens of thousands of dollars from Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi–who was, of course, very active in promoting anti-American terrorism–to establish an endowed chair in Middle East studies. When the president of the university backed down due to bad publicity, the professor who had been named to the post responded by calling the Jesuit university president a “Jesuit Zionist.”
This same professor–and I am not joking in saying that compared to today, he was a fine scholar and a comparatively decent man given what goes on now–was also a personal friend of Palestinian terrorist leader Nayif Hawatmeh and an outspoken Marxist.
To his credit, he told me in 1974 on a visit of mine to Lebanon, “One day we will be ashamed of all the terrorism [against Israel].” But I don’t think he ever spoke out publicly. At my Ph.D. oral exams, he said something like this as his question: “I don’t care whether you believe it or not, but give the Marxist analysis of development in the Middle East.” He did not ask me to critique it! As a Marxist, atheist though, the son of a Muslim imam, he did participate in the traditional glass of scotch after they passed me. And they did pass me, something I would never assume might happen today. These professors really did believe in scholarship and balance in the classroom.
Another professor (you can guess I was sure he was not on my board), however, was an example of the new generation of indoctrinators. One day, I was standing in the line in the campus post office shortly after I had clashed with him in class. The two girls I could overhear were talking about the disturbing incident in class. To my relief, they took my side. I guess that, too, wouldn’t happen today.
This teacher’s radicalism and knee-jerk hatred of Israel was so terrible that we used to joke about it. A right-wing Zionist in the class did an experiment. He wrote an exaggerated version of a Marxist, anti-Israel rant. It read like a satire. He got an “A” from this professor. In retrospect, however, we should have seen that the field was getting far worse.
Ironically that professor was the unjust victim recipient of his own doctrine. He was later fired on a complaint by an African student that he was a racist, which of course he wasn’t.
In one graduate seminar, still another professor–an older anti-Israel guy but still a conservative and a gentleman of the old school–couldn’t stop the class from laughing as it discussed the ridiculous new book, Orientalism, by Edward Said. We easily pointed out the holes in the book and Said’s claims of perpetual Western bias against Arabs. We looked at Orientalism itself as outdated but respectable, too anthropological and generalizing for our tastes. We looked at ourselves as historians and social scientists.
But the idea that Orientalists were agents of imperialism was untrue. They were great scholars, though some did do political work in which their views weren’t shaped but often mistakenly implemented, just like such things happen today. Who would have believed that this ignorant and malicious book could ever take over the entire field and destroy scholarship?!
I guess we should have also known better from the fate of the professor who I had openly argued with. He was the new-style leftist referred to above, the kind who is typical today. While I disliked him, he was clearly not a racist but the very model of the new Politically Correct falsifier. He was fired after being accused by an African student of alleged racial bias due to his low grade. No kidding. This professor was obviously not racist, a victim though of his own Political Correctness.
I didn’t feel this was a victory but that he had been mistreated, albeit ironically. I faced similar situations. I will never forget how my job interview at another university, the only time I ever applied for a teaching position, was interrupted by one professor screaming at me, “How could you ever possibly represent the narrative of the Palestinian people?” To which I responded that I didn’t think I was supposed to represent its case, clearly. I merely thought I was supposed to teach about it.
Note that the professor who would have been willing to hire me was an Arab liberal. But he tried to hint to my naive younger self why I didn’t have a chance.
You should understand that at that time, in the early 1980s, I had never written about the Arab-Israeli conflict. And although this professor had me in his Arabic class, I don’t think he remembered me and certainly knew nothing about me. I think the problem was my last name. All of this reminiscing is prompted by a news story I just read.
An Arab professor at Georgetown, a place that is flush with Arab money, full of apologists for anti-American Islamism, a place where no Israeli or pro-Israel student might dare to tread, has just launched a campaign claiming that he was discriminated against and fired for anti-Israel bias! So this is how you handle things. You lie.
Take over the university or relevant departments; spend 30 years or more in biased hiring practices and dishonest, propagandist “scholarship;” and no matter how many insiders know the truth, you still claim that the university is biased against the left and the defamers of America and Israel!
And those who don’t know better may believe it. The problem for this Egyptian professor is that there was no organized campaign against him, and no one outside the university knew who he was. The fact is that his scholarly work wasn’t very good. Highly politicized, though obscure media appearances are still not sufficient to demonstrate research excellence.
You could call this the Juan Cole principle after a radical professor whose radical pronouncements on contemporary Middle East issues were frequent–though he was a specialist on Middle Ages religious disputes–and who missed out on a good job (at Duke) because of his lack of scholarly work, then claimed bias.
It was sufficient in a notorious case at Columbia University for a crackpot extremist to get a promotion but not at Duke University. At any rate, we now see that crying bias is the first refuge of scoundrels. The real victims never get far enough along in the process for them to build a case and can never muster support from a biased media either.
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Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs
(GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International
Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other
recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The
Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle
East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.