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3 Bullies at the Pulpit Doron S. Ben-Atar Shortly after the American Studies Association’s 2013 Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) resolution, Doron S. Ben-Atar announced at a faculty meeting that should Fordham’s American Studies program fail to distance itself from that resolution, he would resign from the program and fight against it until it opposed bigotry. He promptly found himself the target of a Kafkaesque university investigation in which he wasn’t informed of what the charges were or who was charging him and was told that his decision to seek legal counsel was an admission of guilt. He—who opposed BDS in the name of opposing bigotry—learned that he had been charged (bizarrely) with “religious discrimination” only when the final report came exonerating him. The process took months of his life and resulted in other retaliatory acts even after he was exonerated. Relations with fellow liberal leftists were destroyed, insofar as he did not toe the party line on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Ben-Atar analyzes the kinds of BDS bullying that occur in the academy and shows how seamlessly anti-Israelism can blend into antisemitism. The email arrived on the last Friday of the spring term shortly before 5:00 p.m. Anastasia Coleman, Fordham’s director of Institutional Equity and Compliance / Title IX coordinator, wanted to meet with me. “It has been alleged,” she wrote, “that you may have acted in an inappropriate way and possibly discriminated against another person at the university.” I was stunned. My wife, kids, and friends have been warning me for years that my sense of humor and intellectual irreverence (my latest book is about bestiality1) could get me in trouble in these prudish times. I imagined myself brought before an academic disciplinary tribunal from Francine Prose’s Blue Angel, where all my past transgressions would be marshaled to prove that I don’t belong in the classroom. My mind raced, recalling the many slips of the tongue I had had in three decades of teaching. I perspired profusely and felt the onset of a stomach bug. What would I tell my mother? “Did it have anything to do with a student?” I shot back anxiously, hoping to get a sense of my predicament before the director left for the weekend. I was lucky. Ms. Coleman responded immediately. “This does not involve students and is about your behavior regarding American Studies.” Bullies at the Pulpit | 67 What a relief. But it was also very odd. The decision of the American Studies Association (ASA) to boycott Israeli universities in December 2013 had upset me. I wrote emails, circulated articles, and was pleased that my university’s president quickly declared his opposition to the measure. I joined a national steering committee that set out to fight the boycott and participated in the drafting of a few statements. As an American historian who delivered in 1987 his first paper at the annual meeting of the ASA and served on the executive committee of Fordham’s American Studies program, I wanted Fordham’s program to sever official ties with the national organization until it rescinded the measure. Other programs have taken this courageous symbolic step, and I thought it proper for the Jesuit university of New York to take a moral stand against what most scholars of antisemitism consider antisemitic bigotry. I emailed Michelle McGee, director of Fordham’s American Studies program , and asked for immediate action. She shot back some ill-informed cliché about the boycott’s stand for Palestinian intellectual freedom, betraying both her ignorance of the complex reality in the region and her blind toeing of the party line. I asked for a faculty meeting to discuss our response. Fordham, as it turned out, was an institutional member of the ASA. The university administration decided that it was up to the American Studies program executive committee to decide on its position vis-à-vis the boycott. McGee, however, failed to form an executive committee, and thus, elections for a new executive committee had to take place. A slate of candidates was presented a few weeks later. The candidates, however, backed by McGee, refused to disclose their position about the boycott. On February 24, 2014, the American Studies program held a faculty meeting chaired by the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to discuss the boycott . The meeting was sparsely attended. Fifteen percent of the affiliated faculty showed up. The attendees consisted of four of the five members...


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