Africa’s biggest problem? Art auctions!

Chika Okeke-Agulu

Let’s start with an article by Chika Okeke-Agulu, a professor of African and African Diaspora Art at Princeton University, that appeared in May in the New York Times. In his piece, Okeke-Agulu reported that Sothebys, “the granddaddy of auctioneers,” had recently raked in almost $4 million at its first-ever auction of modern and contemporary African art. “The star of the sale,” Okeke-Agulu wrote, “was the Ghanaian artist El Anatsui’s sculpture made from discarded aluminum bottle caps and copper wire that went for about $950,000.”

“Drifting Continents,” artwork by El Anatsui

Of course one might expect that an Ivy League expert on African art would consider this news a cause for celebration. How wonderful that Americans are willing to pay such big bucks for African artworks! Surely if the auction had turned out to be a big bust, Okeke-Agulu, or somebody else in a similar position, would have written a piece for the Times, or some equally important mainstream publication, complaining about the West’s lack of appreciation for African art. Perhaps the word “racism” would even have popped up.

But since all this stuff sold so well, what to say? Well, to begin with, Okeke-Agulu did acknowledge an upside. The $4 million take, he surmised, “most likely signals the beginning of a more serious interest” in African art “from Western museums, which may finally start to consider such work worthy of inclusion in their permanent collections.” Which, he admitted, is a good thing.

El Anatsui

And yet…

Well, it goes without saying that Okele-Aguru had a “yet.” And this was it: “In this inexorable march to the mainstream, I am tempted to think of contemporary African art as akin to an urban neighborhood undergoing gentrification. Now that it is seen as high culture, the art and artists are gaining value, investors are jostling to get a piece of the action, and private collections are growing in Africa and around the world.” While this development may yield tidy profits for some of the “African modernists…who set out to create new art for independent Africa during the mid-20th century,” it will amount to a terrible loss for others.

Sotheby’s New York

Who? Why, “the continent’s masses,” naturally. “They will be denied access to artworks that define the age of independence and symbolize the slow process of postcolonial recovery.” Alas, lamented Okeke-Agulu, “whole countries in Africa cannot boast of a single art museum of any renown.” For example, consider Lagos, which despite being “one of the world’s largest cities” has no museums containing “the work of a big-name Nigerian artist.” Okeke-Aguru’s verdict: “This is no small problem.”

Compared to what? We’ll pick this up tomorrow.

America’s most dangerous professor?

No sooner had we spent a week covering some of the more appalling useful idiots on California university faculties – much of our information being taken from the invaluable Canary Mission website – than that site trumped itself with a new report on a man whom it calls “the most dangerous professor in America.”

Hatem Bazian

As a graduate student, Hatem Bazian ran the Palestinian students’ group at San Francisco State University and the Muslim Students Association at Berkeley. Now a lecturer in UC Berkeley’s Department of Ethnic Studies, he also serves as provost and as a faculty member at Zaytuna College for Muslim Studies, which he co-founded. He also founded Students for Justice in Palestine as well as Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Documentation of Islamophobia.

Canary Mission cites a 2004 event at which Bazian asked an audience at Berkeley: “How come we don’t have an intifada in this country?” Though he later claimed he was not calling for violence, he said at another event: “The only language that the slave master understands is the language of violence.” In addition, he refused to condemn terrorist actions by Hamas and Hezbollah. In 1999, Bazian was reported by the Detroit News to have cited with approval a line from the Hadith: “The Day of Judgment will not happen until the trees and stones will say, ‘Oh Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.’” In a 2017 lecture, Bazian identified Middle East scholars Martin Kramer, Daniel Pipes, and Steven Emerson as “Islamophobes.”

After 9/11, he published a largely incoherent, semi-literate, and altogether strange series of statements about Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and PLO leader Yasir Arafat: “Sharon has been working earnestly to create or fomenting [sic] internal tension within the Palestinian Authority in such a way that can bring about a decision from an inside group, which no longer views Arafat [sic] actions to be in their best interests, and undertake his assassination.” He went on: “Sharon have [sic] decided that it would be better for Israel to have the Islamic forces in charge of Palestinian affairs because he would have more sympathy in the West fighting ‘Islamic Fundamentalist’ terrorism….We most certainly will hear some Israelis with the distinct N. Y. English accent remained [sic] all of us of the often used cruel statement that the ‘Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.’”

As one commentator wondered years ago, apropos of these odd reflections: “How can university deans and chancellors, in good conscience, hire professors who cannot speak or write grammatically? How do those same professors maintain credibility, let alone win Ph.D.s, when they cannot pass a standard written English test?”

The Canary Mission website describes Bazian as a “chameleon”: “In the academic world, he is slick and intellectual. In his writings he has a sophisticated anti-Zionist narrative that delegitimizes the Jewish people’s history, identity and connection to Israel…[A]t rallies the veneer falls away and we see his crude racist rhetoric — a rhetoric that is aggressive and pro-violence.” The website added that Bazian was unusually menacing because of his “mesmerizing influence over many students.” Canary Mission further noted the importance of his role as founder of the SJP, chapters of which have held events at which members chanted “Intifada, intifada, long live the intifada” – which, Canary Mission pointed out, is “exactly what Bazian preaches.”

Prison report: Lula in, Leopoldo out

While all kinds of terrible things are happening in South America and around the globe, that continent recently supplied us with a couple of pieces of very good news.

Lula

In Brazil, almost a year after socialist President Dilma Rousseff’s removal from office, her mentor, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has been sentenced to nine years and six months in prison. Both were brought down by their roles in the Petrobras scandal, a.k.a. Operation Car Wash, the largest scandal ever in the history of that nation. Lula, a Worker’s Party politician who served two terms in Brazil’s highest office and who anointed Rousseff to succeed him, was found guilty of corruption and money-laundering. Lula plans to appeal the verdict; meanwhile, four – count them, four – other corruption trials lie ahead of him.

Dilma Rousseff

The specifics of Lula’s corruption are tawdry and rather dull: he was found guilty of taking a massive bribe – in the form of a luxury beachfront apartment – from a construction company, OAS. In addition to presenting Lula with the apartment, OAS also gave Lula’s party about $27 million in bribes in return for a suspiciously lucrative contracts with Petrobras. At the trial, Lula denied having anything to do with the apartment in question.

Protégé and mentor in happier times

It’s hard to explain just how staggering the conviction of Lula is in his home country. He’s not just a former president but a national icon. His admirers believe that his socialist policies helped boost the Brazilian economy, lifting millions out of poverty. As a result, he’s widely revered as a folk hero, the ultimate man of the people, the very personification of socialist largesse – so that the idea of him raiding the treasury on behalf of OAS in exchange for an apartment seems a particularly cheesy sort of betrayal.

Lula is actually eligible to run again for president, and, prior to his conviction, was leading the polls in the run-up to next year’s elections. But if his appeal fails, he won’t be allowed to be a candidate. In any case, his conviction has surely diminished him in the eyes of at least some of his fans.

Leopoldo López

So that’s the good news from Brazil. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Venezuela, which is basically a tool of President Nicolás Maduro, took an action that surprised the world: it ordered that Leopoldo López be removed from prison, where he has languished for more than three years, and placed instead under house arrest.

Nicolás Maduro

López, of course, is someone whose fortunes we’ve been following pretty closely on this site: as we wrote in March of last year, he is “the chavista regime’s most eloquent critic [and] the opposition’s most charismatic leader” and was plainly locked up “for no other reason than that he is …by far the most potent threat to the power of…Maduro.”

Hugo Chávez

This is a man who, as mayor of one of the five municipalities that make up Caracas, was recognized for his erudition and eloquence and showered with international awards for excellence and transparency in public service – making him the very antithesis of the crude caudillo Hugo Chávez and his lunkhead successor, Maduro. As we have put it previously:

López is so manifestly everything that Maduro is not, so completely the Gallant to his Goofus, that it seems almost too tidy a scenario; if this were a film script, the producer would almost certainly order the writer to make the villain at least somewhat less buffoonish and corrupt and the hero somewhat less noble and courageous.

Liliana Tintori at the White House in February with President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Senator Marco Rubio

Our most recent mention of López here was in March, when we noted that his wife, Liliana Tintori, had met with President Trump at the White House not long after the latter’s inauguration. At the time, Trump issued a call for López’s immediate release. It was more than President Obama had ever done for López, and it may well have made a difference.

In any event, López is out of jail, and that’s good news. But, like the rest of the people in his country, he’s not yet entirely free. We’ll continue to keep an eye on the course of Venezuela’s fortunes, and Leopoldo’s.

Lying about Israel: Saree Makdisi

Saree Makdisi

Today we’re continuing our look at Saree Makdisi, a nephew of slimy academic fake Edward Said and a vicious UCLA anti-Semite in his own right. Yesterday we glanced at a Los Angeles Times op-ed in which he served up a stunning defense of the unvarnished Jew-hatred of veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas. But Makdisi has actually been a fount of mischievous L.A. Times contributions. In another one of these propaganda tidbits, he complained about “attacks on academic freedom” and “the intimidation of students” on U.S. campuses.

Edward Said

Was he referring to the widespread harassment of Jewish students (and faculty!) by Muslims and their ideological allies? As the Honest Reporting website noted, “it is Jewish and pro-Israel (or even just neutral) students who are intimidated, delegitimized, harassed, excluded, discriminated against, held responsible for Israel’s actions, targeted with anti-Semitism, have had to hide from a violent anti-Israel mob and be extracted by the police, and been disrupted and shouted down and silenced to stop them speaking the truth to defend Israel against BDS lies.” But no, Makdisi wasn’t referring to any of this. He was referring to the fact that the torrents of anti-Semitic rhetoric churned out by himself and other academics in American universities were now being monitored and reported on by their critics. Never mind that Makdisi’s writings about Israel and the Palestinians are often riddled with lies, and that his critics quote him with meticulous accuracy.

Milan Chatterjee

The specific concern of Makdisi’s op-ed was a course at Berkeley that, as Honest Reporting put it, “distorts the history of the Jewish connection to Israel, denies Israel’s right to exist, and explores how Israel might be destroyed, no doubt making things feel even more uncomfortable and unsafe for Jewish and pro-Israel students.” Honest Reporting also quoted a student leader, Milan Chatterjee, who actually left UCLA because of the intense level of harassment he endured at the hands of Makdisi’s BDS thugs. But Makdisi expresses no concern for such kids – on the contrary, if they’re feeling discomfort it’s because they’ve been exposed to a truth. The real victims, those who are really being intimidated, according to Makdisi, are him and his fellow pro-Palestinian heroes. The Honest Reporting site had a cogent reply to this nonsense: “Tell that to the Jewish students at the UC Irvine who had to barricade themselves to escape a BDS mob trying to violently disrupt an event.”

Tamar Sternthal

In yet another oped, published in January 2016, Makdidi called for an academic boycott of Israel. Replying to it, Tamar Sternthal of CAMERA complained that the lies in his L.A. Times op-eds “would earn a failing mark on a high school paper.” As an example of his falsehoods, Sternthal cited Makdisi’s claim that “there is not a single high school in the Palestinian communities in the Negev desert in southern Israel.” Sternthal replied: “In fact, there are more than 40 high schools for Bedouin students in the Negev.” Another Makdisi lie: “Israeli universities systematically fail their Palestinian students.” On the contrary, wrote Sternthal, Israel’s Council for Higher Education runs an undergraduate scholarship program for 650 Arab students: “Why would Israel allocate millions of shekels just for Arab students simply to systematically flunk them out?” Lies, lies, lies. Somewhere up there, Makdisi’s deceit-ridden uncle Edward is smiling.

 

Chip off the old block: Saree Makdisi

Saree Makdisi

This week we’ve been hopping from one West Coast college campus to another, taking brief meetings with some of the Golden State’s more unsavory academic anti-Semites. Today and tomorrow we’ll be spending a bit more time with a particularly prominent member of that breed, namely Saree Makdisi, a UCLA professor of English and Comparative Literature.

Edward Said

Makdisi just so happens to be a nephew of Edward Said – the late Columbia University superstar who came up with the idea of delegitimizing Western scholars of Arabic, Middle Eastern, or Asian culture by accusing them of “Orientalism.” Makdisi is a chip off the old block. As he explains on his own page at the UCLA website, he writes about “the crossroad of several different fields, including British Romanticism, imperial culture, colonial and postcolonial theory and criticism, and the cultures of urban modernity particularly the revision and contestation of changed urban spaces, including London, Beirut and Jerusalem.”

A “changed urban space”: a car bomb in Beirut

That last part is particularly interesting. Talk about euphemism: “the revision and contestation of changed urban spaces.” Such as the Muslim takeover of the East End, the violent expulsion of Jews and Christians from Beirut, and the concerted effort by Palestinian Muslims and their activist academic allies to deny that Jerusalem was, indeed, the ancient capital and holy city of the Jewish people.

Makdisi is himself one of those mendacious souls who deny flat-out that Jews have any historical connection whatsoever to Judea and Samaria. A leader of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, he calls Israel an “apartheid state,” accuses it of deliberately trying to stunt the grown of children in Gaza, and has promoted as authentic those staged “Pallywood” videos in which Palestinians pretend to be abused or killed by Israelis. On his Twitter feed, he alternates between defending Muslims – terrorists included – and demonizing Jews, Israel, and America.

Emergency services at the scene of the Manchester bombing

After the terrorist attack on the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, he banged out several tweets implying that the murders of those girls were motivated by – and presumably even justified by – American and British actions in the Middle East. Two examples:

Saree Makdisi‏ @sareemakdisi May 31

They” hate “our” values, eh? (a) what values? (b) connect the dots between violent foreign policy & domestic blowback.

Saree Makdisi‏ @sareemakdisi May 31

Car bombs in Baghdad and Kabul and yet more US indiscriminate murder of civilians in Yemen, Syria, Iraq. Connect the dots to Manchester.

He also writes regularly for several anti-Semitic websites, and has also had a number of op-eds in the Los Angeles Times, all of them about Israel and the Palestinians. In them, he’s called on Americans to boycott Israeli schools, accused Israel of a “policy of erasure,” and denied that anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism.

Helen Thomas

Some of his L.A. Times op-eds deserve special attention. In one of them, published in 2010, he defended notorious remarks that had recently been made in an interview by the Lebanese-American White House reporter Helen Thomas. The Israeli Jews, Thomas said, should “get the hell out of Palestine.” Thomas added: “Remember these people [Palestinians] are occupied. It’s their land. It’s not Poland, it’s not Germany.” When asked by her interviewer what the Jews in Israel should do, she said: “They should go home. Poland. Germany….. And America. And everywhere else.” Makdisi, being as slick a customer as his uncle, defended Thomas in a cagey way, with sentences like this: “One does not have to agree with Thomas to note that her remark spoke to the ugly history of colonialism, racism, usurpation and denial that are at the heart of the question of Palestine.” No, her remarks spoke to the bigotry of a nasty old woman who refuses to accept that there have always been Jews in the Levant, and that Israel, not Poland or Germany, is indeed their ancestral home.

More tomorrow.

North to South: Anti-Semitism at the University of California

Here we go: Day 3 of our brief survey of just a few of California’s more notorious anti-Semitic academics.

David Lloyd

David Lloyd is a professor of English at UC Riverside. You’d think he might be an impressive character: he holds B.A. (1977), M.A. (1981), and Ph.D. (1982) degrees from Cambridge and taught at several other California colleges (Davis, Scripps, Berkeley, USC) before settling in at Riverside in 2013. He is supposedly a poet, and supposedly an expert on Irish history. With those fancy Cambridge degrees in hand and all those impressive academic posts, you’d think that over these decades he’d have produced some serious poetry or worthwhile scholarship or books for the general reader. But no. When you look him up online, and separate out the items related to him from those related to the other academic David Lloyds around the world (including a Welsh biologist, an Irish chemist, an Australian university official, and a professor of business at the University of Missouri), pretty much all you can find by this David Lloyd is one nasty anti-Semitic rant after another.

For the fact is that during most if not all of his career, Lloyd’s primary focus has been on Israel, which he despises. He has sponsored branches of the anti-Israeli group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at various California campuses, including Riverside, and has even founded a branch of Faculty for Justice in Palestine.

Tina Matar

As if this weren’t enough, he is involved in several other anti-Israeli campaigns, collectives, and committees. His devotion to this cause also led him, in 2015, to sponsor a course – entitled “Palestine & Israel: Settler-Colonialism and Apartheid” – that was taught by the undergraduate head of SJP-Riverside, Tina Matar, and that occasioned a critical letter from 27 major human-rights, pro-freedom, and Jewish organizations to Janet Napolitano, president of the UC system.

Janet Napolitano

The letter expressed concern that the course was “being used for political indoctrination rather than education” and cited Matar’s involvement in recent anti-Israeli campaigns on the campus. An independent, non-partisan organization that analyzes educational materials examined the course materials and concluded that it was one-sided on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that was free of historical background and that seemed designed solely to encourage anti-Israeli activism. During the succeeding months, Lloyd wrote articles and gave lectures in which he represented the course as factually objective and its critics as would-be censors, enemies of academic freedom, and anti-Palestinian bigots.

Curtis Marez

Moving on, meet Curtis Marez, who teaches Ethnic Studies at UC San Diego. We’ve mentioned the unanimous 2013 vote by the board of the American Studies Association to boycott Israel because of its supposed human-rights offenses. Marez was president of the ASA at the time. Later, when confronted by the terrible human-rights records of many of Israel’s neighbors, Marez said, lamely: “one has to start somewhere.” He was still president when the ASA issued a statement claiming that the boycott was aimed only at Israeli academic institutions, not individual professors. But that proved to be a lie, with the boycotts by the ASA and other such organizations causing real damage to the ability of Israeli academics to work in American universities. Some Israeli professors have said, indeed, that in the wake of the ASA boycott their treatment by American colleagues had undergone a serious change, with respect and collegiality turning to unmannerliness and and even open contempt.

The UC system: a nest of Jew-haters

Yesterday we looked at a handful of terrorist apologists and enemies of Israel (and of Jews) who spew their bile from university sinecures in northern California. Today, moving further south, we’ll meet a couple more members of the breed.

An anthropology professor at UC Santa Cruz and director of its Center for Emerging Worlds, Lisa Rofel specializes in “feminist anthropology” and “gender studies.” A Jewish woman who considers Israel a “regime of racial hierarchy that spawns racial violence” and who defends the firing of terrorist rockets at Israeli cities as a response to “systematic injustice” by people from whom Israel had stolen its land. At a 2015 conference, she innocently described the recently deported Sami Al-Arian – a former University of South Florida professor and leader of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad – as having merely been “active in bringing attention to the situation of Palestinians” and lamented his prosecution of Al-Arian as an effort to “suppress academic freedom.” In 2014, she compared an anti-Hamas operation by the IDF to the Nazis’ Warsaw ghetto massacre.

Avery Gordon

Down at UC Santa Barbara, Avery Gordon is a professor of sociology and Feminist Studies (in addition to being a Visiting Faculty Fellow at Goldsmiths College in London) whose fields of expertise, according to UCSB’s website, are “social theory, race, gender, culture and art, radical theory and politics.” She was a member of the National Council of the American Studies Association (ASA) in 2013 when it unanimously voted in favor of an academic boycott of Israel. Three years later, Gordon and her fellow National Council members were sued by rank-and-file ASA members for boycotting Israel in their name – an action that the plaintiffs described as utterly unrelated to the organization’s purposes.

Mark LeVine

Over at UC Irvine, Mark LeVine teaches Modern Middle Eastern History. Like Rofel, he is a virulently anti-Israeli Jew. In 2002, he encouraged activists from Europe and the U.S. to serve as “human shields”; in 2009, he stated in a column for the Al Jazeera website that Israel “has reached the level of collective mental illness”; in 2010, he applauded Irvine students for disrupting a speech at the university by a former Israeli ambassador; in 2014, Cinnamon Stillwell reported on a “profanity-laden” Facebook posting in which LeVine accused Israel of genocide, called it “racist” and “psychopathic” and “not legitimate,” described it as “feeding off the destruction of another people,” and insisted that it “must be dismantled”; in 2015, he wrote that he would want his son to throw rocks at IDF soldiers; last year, he repeated false Palestinian charges that Israel had cut off drinking water to Gaza. He’s also repeatedly stood up for Hamas, dishonestly claiming in 2009 that it would accept Israel’s existence (an action its own charter explicitly forbids) and minimizing its bloodthirsty 2014 murder of three Israeli high-school boys.