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5 Slouching toward the City That Never Stops: How a Left-Orientalist Anti-Israel Faculty Tour Forced Me to Say Something (Big Mistake!) Gabriel Noah Brahm Gabriel Brahm went on a faculty research trip to Israel organized by his university. The trip turned out to be largely an anti-Israel hatefest aimed at indoctrinating the visiting professors about the evil Zionist entity. Brahm protested and asked for greater balance. Instead, he became the target of a disciplinary investigation that resulted from his refusal to go along with the anti-Israel propaganda. He was cleared of the charges in that case but, the following year, threatened with denial of tenure, even though his record of publication and teaching exceeded his university’s requirements. Brahm appealed and won. Yet the case, as he writes, testifies to the “atmospheric antisemitism” that targets Jewish academics who are unwilling to denounce Israel. Since attachment to Israel is a foundational building block of identity for the vast majority of self-identified American Jews, the “normal repertoire of being Jewish,” Brahm concludes, “makes you radioactive.” The deleterious impact of anti-Israelism on the academy is cumulative, multifaceted, and complex—the overdetermined product of loosely affiliated genres of ignorance, prejudice, resentment, venality, and intellectual laziness. Some of the hostility directed toward Israel on campus is openly ideological, while some is less explicitly doctrinaire and more atmospheric—the result of diffuse sentiment more than concentrated thought. In the former, manifestly political category, the works of Noam Chomsky, Ilan Pappé, and Edward Said stand out among many. But such often highly abstract anti-Israelism is generally not where the rubber actually meets the road in the workplace. Indeed, in the day-to-day academy, having much of an opinionaboutmuchofanythingatall—otherthanpoliticallycorrectapprovedopinions —can be dangerous. That is where the real censorship and abuse take place— from one colleague to another to another—in the halls of the Foucauldian academic 84 | Gabriel Noah Brahm archipelago of sites for the enforcement of regimented intellectual discipline. It is a corner of this treacherous space I now want to map in what follows. Atmospheric Antisemitism, Radioactive Zionism Anti-Israelism’s most pernicious effects, as a practical matter, show up in what Michel Foucault called the “capillaries of power.”1 Off the kind of radar on which a relatively few big ideas/authors show up, many otherwise invisible microaggressions against Israel-identified Jews occur when Israel bashers and Judeophobes sense a target in range or smell blood in the water. Jews who loudly reject or quietly neglect (ignore) Israel are OK. But as soon as a Jewish person self-identifies as Zionist, he or she becomes vulnerable. In Mark Banschick’s apt image, he or she becomes radioactive.2 That’s what happened to me. It was early 2011, and I was the only Jew selected to participate in what turned out to be an anti-Israel academic study trip to the Middle East. (Although an Israeli-American colleague applied, she was rejected.) Of course, at the time, I didn’t know it was an anti-Israel enterprise that I was getting involved with—I had thought, happily, Israel was just a part of the agenda. When finally it dawned on me that the bias I perceived was not merely a series of unfortunate accidents, and I thereafter objected to its pervasive ideological slant, I was then quickly branded a gadfly—a troublesome, typically annoying Jew, overly attached to Israel, too fond of debate3—and, as punishment, made to run a lengthy gauntlet of sado-bureaucratic reprisals brought on by those I had offended. I call what I subsequently endured atmospheric antisemitism because it was a product of an environment in which being Jewish set you up for abuse—unless you quietly submitted to the hostility aimed at the central symbol of secular Jewish collective life today, the Jewish and democratic state of Israel. What happened to me could not have happened (it seems clear) to someone who didn’t identify sufficiently with Israel to (a) know something about it and (b) feel a justifiable sense of indignation, at some point, when Israel was systematically smeared over a long period of time. Structural antisemitism and institutionalized antisemitism are closely related terms that also work to describe the same phenomenon. Whatever you call it, it’s an example of what happens when holding on to certain ethnic traits that one cannot reasonably be expected to let go of—in this case, one’s Jewish identity—puts one at...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780253034083
MARC Record
OCLC
1019844795
Pages
456
Launched on MUSE
2018-05-05
Language
English
Open Access
No
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