Don’t confuse Joseph Massad with Mossad. Very different.

Joseph Massad

Columbia University has a lot to answer for, but Joseph Massad, whom we wrote about here last year, has to be near the top of the list. Born in Jordan, he earned his Ph.D. at that New York institution and now holds a tenure-track position there. Nothing has halted his rise, and nothing has brought him down – even though he routinely says staggeringly ugly things about Jews, Israel, and America, and paints pictures of Jewish and Palestinian attitudes, and of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that are utterly unrecognizable to clear-eyed observers of the real world. For him, Jews and Israelis are always bigots and aggressors, America uniquely and almost exclusively imperialist, and Muslims and Arabs are consistently nothing more than innocent victims.

Massad’s most recent book

But that’s only the beginning. Massad is one of those loathsome creatures who claim that it’s the Palestinians, not today’s Jews, who are the descendants of the ancient Hebrews. While erasing from history well-documented acts of Arab violence against Jews, he invents acts of Jewish anti-Muslim brutality. He has routinely equated Israel with Nazi Germany, described America as a primitive and barbaric sinkhole of “violent racism,” and whitewashed Islamic mistreatment of women while depicting the West as Ground Zero for misogyny. Whereas in fact Arab and Muslim leaders were friendly with Hitler and admired the Final Solution, Massad erases this history and invents a new one in which Zionist Jews were allied with the Nazis. Even though he’s gay, moreover, Massad approves of the abuse of gay people by Muslim individuals and governments, defending it on the grounds that homosexuality is a Western social construct and that Islamic authorities have the right to punish it vigorously in order to protect their culture and its values from being polluted by this alien form of immorality.

Jeremy Corbyn

Massad’s latest masterwork is an essay that appeared on the viciously anti-Israeli website The Electronic Intifada on August 24. Entitled “Anti-Semitism vs. Anti-Colonialism,” it was yet another effort on his part to twist facts and torture logic. “Much of the ongoing acrimonious and toxic debate in Britain about allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party,” Massad wrote, “centers on expressions of opposition to Israeli laws, policies, ideologies, actions and declarations.” He might have added that much of it also involves the articulation by Jeremy Corbyn and other Labour politicians of explicitly anti-Semitic sentiments. “When Palestinians resist Israeli colonialism and racism,” Massad goes on to assert, “they are not resisting the ‘Jewish’ character of Israel but its racist and colonial nature.”

Here, as throughout much of his oeuvre, Massad deep-sixes the systematic inculcation of Jew-hatred in Palestinian chilidren and the routine broadcasting by Palestinian media of blood libels, faked footage of non-existent IDF atrocities, etc. No, to believe him, the poisonous and irrational hatred for Jews that can be found among many people in Gaza and on the West Bank, and especially among Palestinian “leaders,” is merely a principled rejection of Zionism on the grounds that it is nothing more or less than a form of Western colonialism.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper

Asked about Massad’s essay, Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center dismissed him as “a denier of reality.” True enough. A writer at the Elder of Zion website also noticed that Massad, in the essay, played fast and loose with a quote from Winston Churchill in an effort to paint him as an anti-Semite. But so what? Massad is so far out there – so shameless a salesman of wholesale historical distortions – that it hardly makes sense to get very worked up at yet another Big Lie from this vile enemy not only of the Jews but of basic decency and truth itself.

Yet more anti-Semitism at Columbia University

Hamid Dabashi

In February of last year we wrote about Hamid Dabashi, a professor at Columbia University who had attained the distinction of being – in the eyes of students – one of the most anti-Israeli professors in the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC). He has accused Israel of committing “incremental genocide” of the Palestinians (in reality, the Palestinian population is steading climbing) and equated Gaza with Ausckwitz. He has called Israel a “miasmatic mutation of human soul into a subterranean mixture of vile and violence,” and after a visit to the country he wrote:

Half a century of systematic maiming and murdering of another people has left its deep marks on the faces of these people…the way they talk, walk, the way they greet each other….There is a vulgarity of character that is bone-deep and structural to the skeletal vertebrae of its culture. A subsumed militarism, a systemic mendacity with an ingrained violence constitutional to the very fusion of its fabric, has penetrated the deepest corners of what these people have to call their “soul.” No people can perpetrate what these people and their parents and grandparents have perpetrated on Palestinians and remain immune to the cruelty of their own deeds.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali


Just a few highlights from his professional history: in 2011, he condemned ex-Muslims like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Ibn Warraq who have risked their lives to speak out about the lack of human rights in Islam. For Dabashi, however, these people are not heroes but traitors who “have demonized their own cultures and societies…to advance their careers.” In 2012, after Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad gave a lecture at Columbia University, Dabashi savaged university president Lee Bollinger – not for inviting the barbarian to speak at his college, but for including a few critical words in his introduction. (Bollinger’s remarks, wrote Dabashi, oozed “mind-numbing racism.”)

Lee Bollinger

In 2015, Clemens Heni noted that Dabashi, as the result of a speaking tour of German universities, had “become the darling of German academe,” where his readiness to “defame Israel and downplay the crimes of the Holocaust” found a receptive audience. In 2016, after the terrorist attack on the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando drew attention to Islamic gay-hatred, Dabashi was quick to respond – namely, by equating “Islamophobia and homophobia,” by trying to blame the massacre on the U.S. government, and by arguing that other religions are antigay, too. (Of course, there is a slight difference between committing a massacre in a gay club and refusing to bake a same-sex wedding cake.) 

During all this time, and despite all these outrages, Dabashi has kept his job at Columbia. There has not really ever been any question about him keeping his job, not even after he published those comments about Jews that might just as easily have been written by Goebbels. But he has continued to attract notice. On May 31, the Jewish Journal reported that Columbia was “facing pressure to discipline Professor Hamid Dabashi for referring to Zionists as ‘hyenas.” On May 8, Dabashi had written a post on Facebook that included the following statement: “Every dirty treacherous ugly and pernicious happening in the world just wait for a few days and the ugly name ‘Israel’ will pop up in the atrocities.” In the same post, he called critics of President Obama’s Iran deal “Fifth Column Zionists working against the best interest of Americans and for the best interests of Israelis.”

In response to this Facebook post, a group called Alums for Campus Fairness wrote to Bollinger asking him to do four things: “denounce Dabashi’s comments, make it clear that Jewish and pro-Israel students are welcome on campus, discuss how campus climate can be improved and not allow Dabashi to continue teaching at the school until he ceases his ‘anti-Semitic rhetoric.’” The letter was signed by several members of the Columbia faculty and staff, among others. At this writing, Bollinger has yet to respond to the letter. We will follow the story closely. We will not hold our breath, and we will not be betting any money that the despicable Dabashi will be disciplined, let alone fired.   

Beijing good, Trump bad: lessons from James A. Millward

Before the fall: a 1988 Soviet stamp commemorating Marx

On Tuesday we pondered the fact that Karl Marx, who would have turned 200 on May 5, has been getting awfully positive press lately in the Western media. We cited a recent New York Times op-ed whose author, a philosopher named Jason Barker, looked forward breathlessly to a golden future time when some government actually puts Marx’s ideas into practice – as if most of the large-scale human tragedies of the last century weren’t a result of precisely such efforts.

Barker’s piece, as it happens, was nothing new for the Times, which during the last year or so has been using the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution as an excuse to regularly run op-eds that put a pretty face on Soviet Communism.  It has been difficult, indeed, not to conclude that the Gray Lady, in her dotage, seems to be going through a period of nostalgia for the grand old days of that master apologist and Pulitzer winner Walter Duranty

James A. Millward

Although it didn’t mention Marx, another recent Times op-ed took as blinkered a look at Marxism as Barker’s. On the very day before Marx’s birthday, China scholar James A. Millward (who teaches in the school of Foreign Service at Georgetown University) celebrated China’s current “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which involves the development of “highways and a string of new ports, from the South China Sea through the Indian Ocean to Africa and the Mediterranean,” on a scale that surpasses “even the imagination of a sci-fi writer.” Breathlessly, Millward cheered “China’s economic progress over the past century,” noting that it had lifted “hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty.” One might have expected Millward to acknowledge that the same government that lifted hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty also murdered a similar number of its people. But presumably Millward didn’t consider this little detail revelant to his topic.

Mao Zedong

Yes, Millward did admit in passing that China is flexing its muscles and challenging U.S. global dominance. “To the cynical,” he stated, the cultural elements of the One Belt, One Road program are “just so much propagandistic treacle.” But he wasn’t about to be cynical. China, he argued, “is stepping up to be a global good citizen concerned about the economic well-being of its neighbors.” One Belt, One Road “invests China’s prestige in a globalist message that sounds all the right notes – peace, multicultural tolerance, mutual prosperity – and that rhetoric sets standards by which to hold China accountable.” Millward contrasted this sweetness and light with – what else? – “the protectionism and xenophobia displayed by President Trump and emerging nationalistic ideologies in Europe, India and elsewhere.” Yes, that’s right: Millward favorably compared a Communist regime to the democratic governments of the U.S., India, and various European countries that are too “nationalistic” for his tastes. Yet even as Millward provided Xi and his henchmen in Beijing with this terrific piece of free P.R., he omitted to so much as mention the word “Communism.”

A pornographic mind: Randa Jarrar

Randa Jarrar

Last week, the death of Barbara Bush’s death occasioned a series of exceedingly ugly tweets that made headlines. The tweets, as we discussed on Tuesday, were written by Randa Jarrar, a Professor of English and teacher of creative writing at California State University in Fresno. Who is Jarrar? Over to Wikipedia:

Randa Jarrar was born in 1978 in Chicago to a Greek-Egyptian mother and a Palestinian father. She grew up in Kuwait and Egypt. After the Gulf War in 1991, her family moved back to the US, living in the New York area when she was 13. Jarrar studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College, receiving an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan. She has taught College Writing, Creative Writing, and Arab-American literature.

No one who knows Jarrar would be surprised by her Barbara Bush tweets. As the Daily Wire reported on April 18, Jarrar has a history of unpleasant tweets. “I can’t wait for the old white guard of literary writers and ‘critics’ to die. Their time is fucking up, too,” she tweeted in January. More recently she has tweeted about “fucking white women” and told someone on Twitter to “fuck outta here with your white feminism. I said don’t at me bitch. I’m a professor.”

Her own so-called “creative writing” is awash in similar nastiness. In one of her tweets, she called Barbara Bush a racist; in fact, Jarrar confesses in her own oeuvre that she’s a racist.

O.J. Simpson and lawyer Robert Shapiro

In one memoir, for example, she recalls cheering the “not guilty” verdict in the O.J. Simpson double murder trial. “I was siding with Simpson,” she explains, “because he was a person of color.” In other words, she knowingly cheered the acquittal of a brutal wife-killer because he was black.

At the time she was a young waitress. But in the piece, no longer young, she gives no indication of regretting that youthful moment of jubilation. She is not the reflective sort, not a nuanced thinker. Racial identity and the racist label are, to a considerable extent, what she has in place of actual thought. Consider, for example, a piece for Salon, Why I Can’t Stand White Belly-Dancers,” in which she accused white woman who engage in belly dancing of racist cultural appropriation.

Barbara Bush

But enough about race. The important point here is that Jarrar is just not that good a writer. The memoir mentioned above, “What Love Is,” is a rambling mishmash the premise of which seems to be that anything that ever happened to her is, because it happened to her, by definition fascinating. Shoveled into this single essay are anecdotes about the time she got a nose ring, about her parents’ kooky diets, about a school friend whom she admired because she worked as a stripper, and so on; the main story is about her involvement with a violent boyfriend who got her pregnant and then engaged in “reproductive coercion” – i.e., he forced her to have a baby.

We wrote recently about third-wave feminist books with titles like Bitch and Shrill. Here’s another one, to which Jarrar has contributed: Nasty Women

In another memoir, “Neither Slave nor Pharaoh,” she writes about her involvement in sexual bondage and discipline: “I met Abdallah on Tinder. He was looking for a dominant woman to step on his cock. I was looking for a submissive man who would let me step on his cock. He’s here now sitting on the wood floor right across from my chair, on a chair attached to my foot. My foot is on his balls.” This piece appeared in Salon.

“What Love Is” is a tacky piece of work, deriving most of its impact from sensationalism – vulgarity and violence. The same is true of “Neither Slave nor Pharaoh,” although it shades from mere sensationalism into porn.

Then there’s “Being a Bad Muslim Helped Get Me Out of a Bad Marriage.” It’s meandering, sexually graphic, flippant about adultery, and, yes, just plain tacky. It appeared in Buzzfeed. These pieces all have one big thing in common: they’re heavy on self-absorption, but light on self-knowledge. They’re the same thing over and over again. They’re the work of the kind of person who invites you over and then reads to you from her diary.

Jarrar has found a formula – full-on confession – and partly because of the sleazy nature of her own life material and partly because of the Arab woman angle, it’s the kind of stuff that certain editors will snap up and certain “judges” will reward with literary prizes.

There you have it, then: the pride of Fresno State. Send your kids there, pay their tuition, and after four years, if you’re lucky, they’ll be able to write porn for Buzzfeed. And, in their spare time, tweet unspeakable things about the recently dead. 

The ugly heart of Randa Jarrar

Randa Jarrar

Whatever you may think of the Bush family – and whatever you thought, in particular, of Barbara Bush, who died last week at the age of 91 – you have to find it absolutely disgusting for an adult in a position of responsibility to respond to the former First Lady’s death with public expressions of glee and hate. Meet Randa Jarrar, a tenured Associate Professor of English at California State University, Fresno, who sent out the following tweets on April 18:

Barbara Bush

Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal. Fuck outta here with your nice words.

PSA: either you are against these pieces of shit and their genocidal ways or you’re part of the problem. that’s actually how simple this is. I’m happy the witch is dead. can’t wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise the way 1.5 million iraqis have. byyyeeeeeeee.

George W. Bush

Within a few hours, these tweets had been re-tweeted by countless outraged members of the Twitterverse. The widespread anger over them led Jarrar to post yet another one:

All the hate I’m getting ALMOST made me forget how happy I am that George W Bush is probably really sad right now

She also boasted about her tenured status, her income, her presumed invulnerability from punishment:

sweetie i work as a tenured professor. I make 100K a year doing that. i will never be fired. i will always have people wanting to hear what i have to say. even you are one of them! <3

CSU Fresno prez Joseph I. Castro

So certain did she feel about her job security that she told her critics where they could go to lodge complaints:

LOL! Let me help you. You should tag my president @JosephICastro. What I love about being an American professor is my right to free speech, and what I love about Fresno State is that I always feel protected and at home here. GO BULLDOGS! ️

Yes, she has freedom of speech, because she lives in a country whose Constitution contains a First Amendment guaranteeing her that freedom. But the fact that she has an absolute right to say what she wants doesn’t mean that her employer shouldn’t have the right to dismiss her.

The First Amendment doesn’t guarantee you your job: it only guarantees that you won’t be arrested for speaking your mind.

Her latest book

This situation raises a variety of issues. One of them is that university teaching jobs are hard to come by. There’s a ridiculous amount of competition for them. Across the U.S., there are a great many gifted people working as adjuncts: they teach a course here, a course there, they work hard, they earn a pittance for it, they have no job security, and they’re treated like peons. Why is Jarrar, of all people, in a tenured position? In these few tweets alone, she demonstrated several traits that, one would think, should turn off an academic hiring committee. The inhumanity, the arrogance, the self-importance, the braggadocio – these are very undesirable attributes in a faculty member.

But there’s more that needs to be said about Randa Jarrar. Back on Thursday.

Top three stooges of 2017

It’s not clear what, if anything will happen to Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding now that its founder, benefactor, and namesake is under arrest in his Saudi homeland for bribery, extortion, and money-laundering, but chances are good that the current director, Jonathan A.C. Brown, will land on his feet. Allah knows there are plenty of other magnificent job opportunities in the Western world for top-flight apologists for radical Islam, and Brown is at the very tip of the top. Since converting to the Religion of Peace in 1997, as we wrote in March, he’s been an ardent apologist for Islamic slavery (which, he’s explained, is “kinder and gentler” than other kinds of slavery, because it’s not “racialized”), a defender of Koranically sanctioned child marriage, and a whitewasher of the sharia-imposed death penalty for gays.

Which brings us to Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, an assistant editor at Foreign Policy who, after Brown came under legitimate attack for his disgusting views, dismissed the criticism as Islamophobia. This, it turned out, was not a one-off: Allen, who’s married to a Muslim, had previously written an article in the Washington Post suggesting that her family was Islamophobic for serving non-halal food on Thanksgiving, and has since painted U.S. government terror probes as acts of bigotry. Yes, as we noted in May, Allen skirted the fact that these probes have uncovered widespread terrorist links, but never mind: in her world, Muslims are always innocent and concern about terror always a front for hate.

Then there’s Jordan-born Columbia University professor Joseph Massad, who consistently paints Israeli Jews as racist oppressors who’ve never felt a benign impulse and Palestinians as innocent victims who’ve never known a bigoted thought. In this regard, of course, he’s barely distinguishable from Brown and any number of other contemporary academics. What singles Massad out is that he’s a gay man who, on the grounds that gay identity is a Western construct, considers campaigners for gay rights in Muslim countries tools of colonialism and takes the side of their oppressors. When Egyptian cops arrested and brutalized 52 gay men in 2011, then, Massad approved, responding to U.S. congressmen who sought to help the victims by serving up this heartless comment: “It is not the same-sex sexual practices that are being repressed by the Egyptian police but rather the sociopolitical identification of these practices with the Western identity of gayness and the publicness that these gay-identified men seek.”

Happy New Year.

Catching up with Yvette Felarca, fascist “anti-fascist”

Yvette Felarca

In April, we spent most of a week here discussing Yvette Felarca, a leader of “The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights, and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary,” known, for short, as “By Any Means Necessary,” and, for shorter, as BAMN. It’s a California group, founded in 1995, that has spent the last two decades holding protests, bringing lawsuits, and committing acts of violence – or, to use a word that both the FBI and the Defense Department have used to describe its activities, terrorism.

Felarca, who is also a middle-school humanities teacher in Berkeley, has participated fully in BAMN’s storm-trooper-type brutality – beating, rock-throwing, setting fires, breaking store windows, and so on – which she excuses as a legitimate means of defending America against the words of Nazis and fascists.

In June of last year, she was arrested at a demonstration in Sacramento; at her arraignment, which didn’t take place until August of this year, she was charged with “felony assault by means of force likely to inflict great bodily injury and two misdemeanor counts of inciting and participating in a riot.” (Reportedly, she had punched a man in the abdomen and told him to “get the fuck out of our streets.”)

This past February, Felarca was in the center of the action when vioent BAMN members managed to keep journalist Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking at UC Berkeley. Appearing on Fox News afterwards, Felarca charged Yiannopoulos with leading “a movement of genocide.”

Felarca experienced no professional blowback for her arrest in Sacramento or for her participation in the violence in Berkeley. At the latter event, the Berkeley police stood down. The mayor of Berkeley, asked for a comment, echoed Felarca’s absurd claim that Yiannopoulos was a white supremacist. Despite calls for Felarca’s firing, the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) kept her on. So things stood when we last looked in on Yvette.

Felarca being taken into custody on September 26

Here’s an update. On September 26, members of “Patriot Prayer” – a conservative Christian group based in Portland, Oregon – held a small, peaceful rally at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way in Berkeley. The speakers were “quickly…drowned out by protesters” from BAMN and another group, Refuse Fascism. (The latter is a campaign run by the Revolutionary Communist Party; BAMN itself is an RCF spinoff.) The “Patriot Prayer” contingent then marched down Telegraph Avenue to People’s Park, only to be trailed by the leftists; arriving at People’s Park, the conservatives began holding speeches, in response to which the BAMN and Refuse Fascism members heckled them. And worse.

By the end of the day, Felarca – who at the time was out on bail – was in cuffs, arrested on suspicion of rioting, obstruction, and battery. Along with two fellow BAMN members, both male, she was held at Santa Rita Jail. Her bail was set at $20,000. (The bail for her BAMN colleagues, who had apparently wreaked less havoc, was set at $10,000 for one and $5,000 for the other.) That evening, a spokesman for the school district replied to a query about Felarca by saying that it was “monitoring developments” and that, “[s]hould an occasion arise for the District to take action, we will respond in an appropriate manner, in keeping with federal law, the California Education Code and the BUSD collective bargaining agreement with our teachers.”

In other words, when a Berkeley schoolteacher is arrested at multiple public events for committing acts of violence, that, in itself, isn’t enough reason for school authorities to “take action.” One wonders what BUSD’s response would’ve been if Felarca had been on the other side.

Felarca will be arraigned on November 8. In the meantime, presumably, she’s still spending her weekdays in front of a Berkeley classroom. One can only imagine what she is cramming into her pupils’ heads in the guise of “humanities.”

 

Catching up with George Ciccariello-Maher, expert on “white supremacy”

George Ciccariello-Maher

Last Christmas Eve, George Ciccariello-Maher, a previously obscure professor at Drexel University and an enthusiastic booster of chavismo, made national headlines with a tweet reading: “All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide.” On Christmas Day, he referred fondly to the “massacre of whites,” explaining that, in his view, the mass murder of about four thousand caucasians during the Haitian Revolution “was a good thing.” Those who looked further into his Twitter feed discovered that earlier in the month he’d proudly boasted: “Sorry, I’m not ‘alt-left,’ just an actual communist.”

When the media got wind of all this, George blamed the fuss on “white supremacists.” If George had written such a thing about pretty much any other identity group, you can be sure he’d have been fired instantly and condemned by Drexel’s administration in the strongest possible terms; instead, the university issued a tepid press release slapping him on the wrist and promised an investigation. In response, George went on the offensive, describing his bosses’ action as a “chilling” and “frightening” reaction to “harassment” by outsiders. When leftist commentators and George’s academic colleagues stood up for him, blaming the media attention on right-wing bigots, the powers that be at Drexel withdrew their plans for an investigation,

Drexel University

In January we devoted a week to George’s case, which provided a perfect example of the double standards that currently rule the ivory tower roost. These days, a public declaration of even the mildest moderate or conservative opinion by a professor can lead to major trouble – to charges of having sown discord among students, caused them emotional distress, committed “microaggressions” against them. A biology instructor who makes even the most innocuous statement of fact about differences between the sexes can find his career in danger. But to express enthusiasm for the massacre of white people is fine – as Drexel’s president ultimately pronounced, George was simply exercising his First Amendment rights.

In March, George’s Twitter feed once again put his name in the headlines. On a plane, he saw a fellow passenger giving his first-class seat to a soldier in uniform. “People are thanking him,” wrote George. “I’m trying not to vomit or yell about Mosul.”

The notorious tweet

Now George is back in the news. On the morning of October 2, the day after the mass killing in Las Vegas, he took to Twitter again. So far, nobody knew anything of substance about the killer or his motives, but George had all the answers. “Yesterday was a morbid symptom of what happens when those who believe they deserve to own the world also think it is being stolen from them,” he wrote. “It is the spinal column of Trumpism, and most extreme form is the white genocide myth. The narrative of white victimization has been gradually built over the past 40 years. White people and men are told that they are entitled to everything. This is what happens when they don’t get what they want.”

On the far-left TV show “Democracy Now!”

Once again, the authorities at Drexel distanced themselves from George’s views, saying that their thoughts and prayers were with the survivors. There’s no reason to believe, however, that they’ll go any further this time than they did last Christmas. As far as they’re concerned, George has all the right in the world to spread his poison. What is appalling is that this man is responsible for teaching young people, and that the ranks of American university faculties are full of people who share his reprehensible views and have rushed to his defense for expressing them.

Richard Falk’s war on Israel

Richard Falk

Richard Falk (b. 1930) is a famous Princetonian, although his fame doesn’t derive primarily from his connection to Old Nassau. Rather, his worldwide celebrity is rooted mainly in his nefarious activities in association with the UN.

Now a professor emeritus at Princeton (as well as a research professor at UC Santa Barbara), Falk boasted the grand-sounding title of Special Rapporteur for the United Nations Human Rights Council from 2008 to 2014. His job, specifically, was to look into “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967.”

John Bolton

The Rapporteur became a subject of controversy even before he got around to issuing his first report. Jewish groups opposed his appointment, as did the Israeli ambassador to the UN. A former US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, was outspoken about the selection, complaining that Falk had been picked “not to have an objective assessment” but “to find more ammunition to go after Israel.”

What was it about Falk that gave Bolton such an impression? Well, let’s just say that Falk had a long track record. He started teaching at Princeton in 1961, by which time he’d already publicly identified himself as Communist, expressed his hostility to the concept of nation states, and declared his fealty to world government. He’d been a big macher in such groups as the American Movement for World Government and the World Federalist Institute.

Ayatollah Khomeini

In 1973 he’d served as defense counsel for an activist who had bombed an army research lab at the University of Wisconsin, killing one and injuring four; in the murderer’s defense, Falk stood up for the use of violence by war resisters. In 1979, after visiting the Ayatollah Khomeini in France, Falk wrote a New York Times op-ed declaring that the widespread “depiction of him as fanatical, reactionary and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false.” On the contrary, Khomeini was surrounded by a “moderate, progressive” entourage” and would likely provide Iran with a “model of humane governance.”

George W. Bush

Years later, he’d compared America’s 2003 intervention in Iraq to the Nazis’ actions in World War II. In 2004, he’d written an introduction to a book claiming that George W. Bush was behind the 9/11 attacks. In 2008, he’d suggested that American neoconservatives might have helped plan those attacks. During much of this time, Falk had served on the editorial board of The Nation and written for Al Jazeera and for that kookiest of radical rags, CounterPunch.

And he’d made clear, over and over again, that he was one more Jew who despised the State of Israel. Only a year before his appointment by the UNHRC, he had written an article, “Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust,” in which he used the word “Holocaust” to describe actions by Israel.

Ben-Gurion Airport

He assured his critics that he’d be objective. But Israeli authorities weren’t fooled – especially after he publicly declared their blockade of Gaza a “flagrant and massive violation of international human law.” Falk went on and on about the subject, while remaining silent about Palestinian actions. A few days later, when he flew to Ben Gurion Airport on the first leg of what was supposed to be his first UN fact-finding mission to Gaza and the West Bank, Israel threw him out of the country. And banned him from coming back.

The New York Times and other major media had conniption fits. How could Israel subject such an august personage, dispatched by such an unimpeachable organization, to such abominable treatment? Never mind that the UNHRC has been dominated from its inception by countries considered “unfree” by Freedom House and that, as of 2008, when Falk took up his UN job, those members included Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Zambia, Senegal, Mali, Qatar, Pakistan, and several other countries whose names, when it comes to human rights, do not even deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Israel.

More tomorrow.

Vivian Gornick’s eternal Stalinist nostalgia

Vivian Gornick

We last discussed Vivian Gornick a couple of months ago, when we took note of a piece she’d written for the New York Times romanticizing Stalinism. Gornick’s exercise in nostalgia, we observed, was pretty much a boiled-down version of her repulsive 1978 memoir The Romance of Communism. In her piece, as in her book, she portrayed American Communists as superior souls, driven by convictions that the non-Commie rabble were too ignoble to possess.

When we weighed in on Gornick’s Times essay, we hadn’t yet caught up with another recent item bearing her byline – namely, an article for the Nation entitled “Getting Even.” The subject was Diana Trilling (1905-96), the occasion a new biography of Trilling by Natalie Robins entitled The Untold Journal.

Diana Trilling

Who, you ask, was Diana Trilling? She belonged to a circle of midcentury Manhattan writers who went by various names – sometimes the New York intellectuals, sometimes the Partisan Review crowd, and sometimes (by insiders) The Family. Among her fellow Family members were Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, William Phillips, Dwight Macdonald, Philip Rahv, Delmore Schwartz, and, not least, Trilling’s own husband, Lionel, who was a professor of literature at Columbia University and a highly respected literary critic.

Most of the New York intellectuals were leftists, but none of them were, like Gornick, Stalinists; several of them would have identified, for a time anyway, as Trotskyites, although the Trillings were more moderate in their politics, pretty much personifying the mainstream liberal anti-Communism of the day. Lionel’s most celebrated book, indeed, was a collection of essays entitled The Liberal Imagination.

Lionel Trilling

And Diana? She started out reviewing fiction for The Nation and went on to write social and cultural criticism and to publish three collections of essays, a biography (of a famous murderess), and a memoir. During her marriage to Lionel (who died in 1975), she also, as Gornick puts it, “kept house, organized their increasingly busy social life, and took an active hand in aiding her husband with his work.” That aid was by no means inconsiderable: Lionel was a subtle thinker but not a fluid writer, and Diana, by all accounts, edited him heavily and made him readable.

She called herself a “family feminist.” Any reasonable person would admire her as a model professional woman, one who managed to combine a respected career with a responsible family life. But this doesn’t do it for Gornick. In Gornick’s view, Diana Trilling wasn’t enough of a feminist – or, perhaps more accurately, wasn’t the right kind of feminist.

But even more troubling for Gornick than Diana’s take on feminism was her (and Lionel’s) view of Communism. Now, for any sensible person, the Trillings’ rock-solid anti-Communism is self-evidently admirable, especially given the tendency of many members of the New York crowd to look fondly on the Soviet Union (or, at the very least, to refuse to judge it harshly). Diana’s later distaste for the New Left and all its epiphenomena (hippies, student revolts, sit-ins, campus takeovers, the Black Power movement) also seems sane, mature, and prescient – especially, again, when viewed alongside the desperately puerile efforts by Family members like Norman Mailer to become a part of the youth movement and thus be seen as au courant, hip, with-it.

Joseph Stalin

It’s no surprise that Gornick, an old Stalinist, has a problem with Diana’s politics. Here’s what Gornick has to say on the topic:

Communism in the United States was the great bugaboo of Diana’s life. From the mid-’30s on, she saw it as a threat to American democracy worthy of the highest moral outrage. Making no distinction between communists in the Soviet Union and those in the United States, she described the Communist Party USA as the evil within that operated under a “chain of Communist command” and that was bent on “the entrapment of innocents.”

Whom does Gornick think she is fooling? It has long since been established that the American Communist Party’s every move was indeed directed by the Kremlin. Its members were, in a very real sense, in the service of evil. They were the tools of a monstrous totalitarianism. There was no operative distinction between Communists over here and over there. Diana Trilling understood that more than half a century ago; Vivian Gornick, now in her eighties, is still in some perverse kind of denial about it. Gornick’s indictment of Diana’s politics continues:

The Trillings

She often thought it more important to fight this evil within than to secure and protect civil liberties, and she could truly never understand why this made others see her as a reactionary. To read her today on communism (with either a lowercase or capital “C”) is jaw-dropping, alternately ludicrous and frightening. Not once in all of her red-baiting diatribes does an insight emanate from anything that might resemble an emotional imagination.

What is Gornick criticizing Diana Trilling for here? She’s criticizing her, apparently, for seeing Communism precisely for what it was, for looking at it with unblinkered eyes, for refusing to buy into any of the rose-colored propaganda that filled so many of the intellectual and literary journals of the time, for seeing through the efforts of American Communists to hide behind freedoms they had sworn to destroy. Gornick, whose view of Communism has been befogged by sentiment throughout her adult life, is criticizing Trilling for not sharing her own repellent delusions. Good for Trilling. Shame on Gornick.