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Fordham Prof. faced “religious discrimination” charge for calling anti-Israel academic boycott “anti-Semitic”

Fordham Prof. faced “religious discrimination” charge for calling anti-Israel academic boycott “anti-Semitic”

Prof. Doron Ben-Atar was cleared of religious discrimination charge, but now faces administrative threats regarding his vow to “fight” the boycott.

In December 2013, the American Studies Association passed an academic boycott of Israel, the first group of substantial size to do so. That led to a massive outpouring of outrage and rejection by over 250 university presidents and numerous university associations, not to mention the American Association of University Professors.

The ASA boycott was passed with less than 20% of the membership voting for it, but so few people participated that it was enough. The anti-Israel political activists who dominated the ASA “activism” caucus and national council used their influence to the utmost, something we have detailed here repeatedly.

The opposition to the boycott resulted in the ASA playing victim, claiming that criticism of the boycott and steps by university presidents to reject the boycott somehow was an infringement of the boycotters’ academic freedom. As if academic freedom meant freedom from criticism and the ability to politicize an issue only when pro-boycott.

But it appears that in the trenches, the attacks on those opposing the boycott have been even more vicious.

One such incident involved Fordham professor Doron Ben-Atar, who writes about his experience at The Tablet today, Kafka Was the Rage:

The email arrived on the last Friday afternoon of the spring term shortly before 5:00 p.m. Anastasia Coleman, Fordham’s Director of Institutional Equity and Compliance, and its 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.” …

“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. Coleman responded immediately. “This does not involve students and is about your behavior regarding American Studies.”

What a relief. But it was also very odd. The decision of the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli universities in December 2013 had upset me. I wrote emails, circulated articles, and was pleased that my university 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 American Studies Association 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 the moral stand against what most scholars of anti-Semitism consider anti-Semitic bigotry.

It was this stand that led Fordham’s Title IX officer to launch the proceedings….

Prof. Ben-Atar then goes on to describe how his determination to fight the boycott led another professor to charge him with discrimination — that’s right, fighting what he perceived as anti-Semitism led the weight of University to come down on him for religious discrimination. He continues:

The following Monday, Coleman appeared in my office to conduct her investigation. Alas, she refused to explain what I was accused of specifically or how what I supposedly did amounted to a Title IX violation. Remaining vague, she hinted that others, including perhaps Fordham College’s dean, who chaired the fateful meeting, supported the complaint. Who are the others, I asked? Is there anything beyond that supposed one sentence? She would not disclose. I told Coleman that I took the complaint very seriously, but at the advice of my attorney I needed to think things through. Coleman told me she’d be in touch with my attorney, and we parted ways…..

In late July, however, I received Coleman’s report in which she cleared me of the charge of religious discrimination. It was the first time that I learned what I was actually accused of doing, so I’m still not sure how opposing anti-Semitism amounts to religious discrimination. But Coleman was not satisfied to leave things at that. She went on to write that I refused to cooperate in the investigation (even though my attorney informed DeJulio weeks earlier of my willingness to meet her), and concluded that my decision to use an attorney was an indication of guilt. Coleman determined that in declaring I would quit the American Studies program should it not distance itself from anti-Semitism, I violated the university’s code of civility.

Here is the letter, which Prof. Ben-Atar provided to me:

Fordham July 7 2014 Final Determination Ben-Atar

Prof. Ben-Atar vehemently denies that use of the word “fight” in the context of fighting the ASA boycott, was in any way threatening, and no serious person could take it that way. He provided me with the draft minutes from the meeting where this commentary took place, and it’s clear from those minutes that there was no threat (emphasis added):

One colleague said the program must do the ethical thing and denounce bigotry. Understands argument expressed for staying in the ASA. And appreciates the point of view provided in favor of resolution that has been stated eloquently. Prefers that we suspend our ASA membership as other schools have done. ASA allowed only one point of view on its website. Asserts that countervailing (anti-boycott) statements were only allowed 30 seconds to make their concerns know. [Later, when asked to clarify, he corrected this to two minutes.] American Studies Program at Fordham should make a stand: oppose to bigotry, distance itself from the ASA, and if it does not, this colleague said he would withdraw from the American Studies program, and fight the American Studies Program at Fordham in every forum and in every way.

There were two other similar passages in the minutes.

I emailed Fordham for comment but have not heard back, as to its position.

I am not surprised that someone objecting to the anti-Israel boycott as anti-Semitic would have charges made against him of religious discrimination. That is how the boycotters have managed to turn language on its head, so that the destroyers of academic freedom claim to be the victims.

Prof. Ben-Atar concludes his column with this observation about legal bullying by boycott supporters:

Fordham remains my intellectual home. Some colleagues, appalled by the charge and proceedings, turned out to be actual loyal friends who supported me through the ordeal. But I also learned about another part of the university where colleagues resort to legal bullying to settle political scores; where heartfelt utterings at faculty brainstorming become evidence for politically motivated character assassinations; where those charged with protecting women against real abuses engage in a politically motivated witch-hunt; where fighting against the oldest hatred—anti-Semitism—makes one a pariah. The Jesuit University of New York should do better.

Prof. Ben-Atar was right, the destructive anti-Israel academic boycott — which arose out of the openly anti-Semitic 2001 Durban conference — needs to be fought.

Update: The person who made the “civility” charge and accusation of discrimination took a very different view when it came to controversial figure Steven Salaita whose tweets cost him a tenure offer:

Update 10-15-2014: Fordham’s communications office sent along this statement:

Fordham statement re Doron Ben-Atar


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“…use of the word “fight” in the context of fighting the ASA boycott, was in any way threatening, and no serious person could take it that way.”

Well, that’s the key, rat thar…

These bigots are NOT “serious people”. They are hateful, twisted Collectivists who have no moral compass.

They CAN dish it, but they wet their panties when it comes back. EXCELLENT…!!!

    dunce1239 in reply to Ragspierre. | October 13, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    Now we know that “fight” is politically incorrect, and “oppose” is the only word that will be tolerated until further notice. It will be just a matter of time until oppose is ruled arbitrarily to be an expression of belligerence.

      DaveGinOly in reply to dunce1239. | October 15, 2014 at 12:34 am

      Progressives always state their intentions in terms of “fighting,” “struggling,” and “opposing.” E.g. “We will fight for everyone’s blah, blah, blah.” It’s completely disingenuous to single out the use of this term, commonly used by the left, and ascribe a meaning or intent to it (outside of its context) that no rational person would consider valid.

      But this does not just happen in academia. At one workplace, I was steamed about something and said to my supervisor that I was “on the warpath.” In context, she should have understood that I meant to use all tools at my disposal to deal with the object of my frustration. Two days later, she called me into her office, “counseled” me on my use of “aggressive” and “violent” language, and wrote me up. In her statement, she remarked that she became “fearful” of me. If that was so, she should have reported me to upper management immediately, instead of continuing to work in the same office with me for two days. The funny thing is, the next day she told me about a work assignment she was preparing to give to another worker. She said she was “going to drop a bomb on him.” Being a rational individual, with a firm grasp on the vernacular and figures of speech, I did not report her to management.

All I know is that the most growth and progress in the US history was achieved when most working people had an eighth grade education.

Correspondingly, the more college degrees the population obtains the dumber the population seems to be.

    Henry Hawkins in reply to platypus. | October 13, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    Spend a day at UNC-Chapel Hill. All the adults and half the students walk around in circles bumping into things. Derp central.

The left fears opposition, this makes any opposition a threat to them.

I have to say… the only positive result of the election of Barack Obama is the Progressive left now feels emboldened enough to show us their true totalitarian faces. We can all stop pretending they have any respect for freedom or individual rights. Both are their enemy and the destruction of both is their primary goal.

The good professor needs to punch back twice as hard. Professor McGee herself should now be subjected to complaints and investigations, and to a LOT of publicity.

    Yes indeed. Say that at whenever it is relevant. The left is totalitarian. The left is the enemy of freedom. The left is inherently so.

“I’m still not sure how opposing anti-Semitism amounts to religious discrimination.” — Let me give that a try: Muslims are commanded by their religion to hate Jews and fight them everywhere. Therefore, anyone who defends the rights of Jews and/or Israelis must be an Islamophobe. Q.E.D.

    DaveGinOly in reply to Radegunda. | October 15, 2014 at 12:53 am

    Muslims are also taught that infidels must suffer every indignity, offense, and violence that believers wish to inflict upon them, and that any retaliation or attempt at self-defense is illegitimate. This is why when Israel defends itself against rockets fired from Gaza, the Muslim world howls with indignation – their understanding of their privileged position in the world as Muslims doesn’t admit that any self-defense against Muslim aggression is legitimate.

The left is always talking about how it will “fight” this and “fight” that. Any objection to its opponents using the word is the grossest hypocrisy. Stalin would be proud–but then, Stalin taught them.

I was deeply concerned by the writing “style” of Director Coleman. Director Coleman misuses the word “infer” in place of “imply.”

Director Coleman states that Professor Ben-Atar “subject[s] [him]self to a possible violation of relevant sections of the University Code of Conduct.” I think that this means that Professor Ben-Atar is placing himself in jeopardy of being a victim of some other preson’s misconduct, as opposed to saying that Ben-Atar might be violating the Rules himself.

This says a lot about the decline of standards at Fordham. I wonder if it is indicative of a general decline in Jesuit education.

Progressive fascists: If they didn’t have lies, they’d have nothing to say at all.

–Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

OnTheLeftCoast | October 14, 2014 at 8:18 am

Until the ASA takes the principled stand of rejecting Saudi and Qatari money, the double standard of its stance on Israel shows them up for the antisemitic whores they are.

For Coleman to object to calling antisemitism antisemitism shows where she herself stands. If Fordham continues to employ her, that shows where Fordham stands. Of course, they hired the illiterate racist in the first place.

Hey, is Doran Ben-Atar related to Pat Benatar? Sorry I couldn’t help it.

This stupid BDS BS is going to go down in flames and it is a stain on western civilization.

Larry A. Singleton | October 15, 2014 at 2:15 am

I’m just a dumb-ass construction worker but I’m amazed at the sheer stupidity of some people professing to be “educated”. Anything other then the full support of Israel is promotion for genocide. Anybody who doesn’t understand that the “two-state solution” is suicide for Israel doesn’t understand this issue at all. I just finished an article today that summed it up perfectly. It was an Op-Ed by Prof. Louis Rene Beres. And he says the following:

“For one reason or another, a clarification yet to be disclosed, the Jewish State must keep its almost 1.7 million Arab citizens (approximately 20% of the total population), but “Palestine” is entitled to be Judenrein, or “free of Jews.” For anyone who can recall pertinent history from 1917 (Balfour Declaration) to the present, this openly asymmetrical recommendation is conspicuously discriminatory and unjust.”

“Even now, the official PA map identifies Israel as a mere part of Palestine. The official logo of PA Television still shows all of Israel as Occupied Palestine, with only the Palestinian capital in Jerusalem. Fatah’s official insignia remains Israel smothered by a grenade, bayoneted rifle, and submachine gun. All PA school textbooks use a map of the Middle East in which Israel does not even exist, and has been replaced in its entirety by a state called Palestine.”

“Ironically, the United States, long aware of these defamatory descriptions, had recently supported the military training of “Palestinian security forces.” Of course, as these forces were mainly Fatah fighters, we Americans had been diligently and expensively training yet another generation of anti-American terrorists. Although Mr. Obama still refuses to acknowledge these mistakes, Fatah’s Charter declares unambiguously: “Our struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished, and Palestine is completely liberated.”

“What could be more clear?”

Yeah; What indeed?

For some reason a memory started pounding on my brain after I’d read this. I poured through my “Jewish books” that I’d recently gotten and found what I was looking for in Nathan Ausubel’s “A Treasury of Jewish Folklore”:

Rabbi Hillel’s Golden Rule: “Do not unto others What you do not wish that others do unto you. That is the whole Torah. Everything else is only commentary. Go and learn!”

Islam has nothing to compare with this as their “brotherly love” is reserved for Muslims only.

Note: I was introduced to Ausubel a few years ago when I found a copy of his huge volume of “The Book of Jewish Knowledge” on the back porch of an abandoned house in a pile of other books.

Larry A. Singleton | October 15, 2014 at 2:18 am

Read these books. Including The Haj by Leon Uris and Because They Hate by Brigitte Gabriel.

Indoctrination U: The Left’s War Against Academic Freedom and The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America by David Horowitz

Ivory Towers On Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America by Martin Kramer

The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men by Christina Hoff Sommers

“Indoctrinate U.” Watch This Documentary!!!