It wasn’t long ago – in fact, it was as recently as May 1 – that we reported here on Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman’s refusal to travel to Israel to accept the Genesis Prize. As we noted, the Genesis Prize has been awarded annually since 2014 to “individuals who have attained excellence and international renown in their chosen professional fields, and who inspire others through their dedication to the Jewish community and Jewish values.” The prize has been given to zillionaire Michael Bloomberg, movie star Michael Douglas, violinist Itzhak Perlman, and sculptor Anish Kapoor.
Portman, who starred the movie Black Swan and lives in the United States, was named the 2018 laureate and apparently agreed to appear in Jerusalem to accept it, but later said she would not attend the awards ceremony. Why? Because she was “distressed by ‘recent events.’” Which recent events? Her answer basically came down to: Benjamin Netanyahu. This made no sense, of course, because Netanyahu has been Israel’s prime minister for nine years.
There was widespread anger at Portman for her snub to Israel. There was anger, too, at the Genesis Prize Foundation for picking Portman to begin with. “If the Genesis prize wanted to honor an actress,” said Farley Weiss, president of the National Council of Young Israel, “they should have honored Gal Gadot, who has repeatedly shown her pride in being Israeli, supporting Israel during times of difficulties and is married to a Jewish person raising Jewish kids.”
Who is Gadot? Born and raised in Israel, she was Miss Israel 2004, spent two years in the Israeli Defense Forces as a combat instructor, and went on to star as Wonder Woman in the film of that name as well as in other DC comics-based movies. This year she appears on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. She has apparently been a
So Weiss’s proposal seemed to make sense. Flash forward a few weeks. On May 26 came a news report about Gal Gadot’s latest professional endeavor. Let’s just preface this by saying it’s a small world. Gadot, it turned out, had arrange to co-produce and possibly star in a film based on the Politico article “’My Dearest Fidel’: An ABC Journalist’s Secret Liaison With Fidel Castro.”
Yes, this is the same article we discussed here on May 22 and 24. It was about Lisa Howard, an ABC reporter who met Castro at a Havana nightclub in 1963. They talked for hours. She was bowled over by his “breadth of knowledge.” He was, it turned out, big on Camus. Months later, they met in a Havana hotel room. More hours of talk. Political discussion. She criticized his dictatorship. (It’s important in a romantic movie for there to be some cause of tension between the lovers.) Then came the moment that will presumably mark the end of the movie’s first act: Castro threw his arms around her. They kissed. They lay in bed together.
But there was no sex – not yet. It would “complicate” matters, Fidel said. Perfect – keep the suspense going, as the producers of Cheers did with Sam and Diane.
UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk’s ban from Israel – and from the Palestinian territories under its control – didn’t prevent him from submitting so-called reports about the human-rights situation in those territories. In a 2009 report, he called Israel’s Gaza offensive a war crime – a judgment that was dismissed by the U.K. government as partisan. In a 2010 report, he accused Israel of committing apartheid. In 2011, he used the term “ethnic cleansing.” In 2012, he criticized Israel for its military response to rocket attacks from Gaza. Repeatedly, he called on international bodies to condemn, investigate, and prosecute Israel for its purported crimes – and repeatedly he turned a blind eye to the barbaric terrorist actions by Hamas and others to which Israel’s “crimes” were a thoroughly defensible defensive response.
He also called for boycotts of Western companies – such as Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Volvo – that had even the remotest ties to Israeli West Bank settlements, and even threatened to initiate lawsuits against them. The then U.S. representative at the UN, Susan Rice, reacted with anger to Falk’s high-handed nonsense, describing his call for a boycott as “irresponsible and unaccceptable” and saying that his “continued service in the role of a UN Special Rapporteur is deeply regrettable and only damages the credibility of the UN.” Israel agreed, calling Falk’s report “grossly biased” and demanding his dismissal. Canada’s Foreign Ministry weighed in too, describing Falk’s report as “biased and disgraceful” and saying that if he did not withdraw it, he should resign.
But he didn’t quit. And he didn’t withdraw any of his reports or alter any of his conclusions. He stayed on the job, and kept using it as a platform from which to bash Israel – and to paint Hamas and other terrorist groups as victims. For good measure, he also demonized UN Watch, an independent human-rights NGO that monitors the lies and outrages that are daily fare at a Human Rights Council run by countries that don’t know the meaning of the term.
Even as Richard Falk was systematically savaging Israel, he continued to shift the blame for 9/11 from its jihadist perpetrators to George W. Bush and, perhaps, unnamed others in Bush’s political orbit. These comments not only brought more criticism from Susan Rice, who again called for his dismissal. Even Ban Ki-moon, the then Secretary-General of the UN (and a man who was usually restrained, often maddeningly so, on such matters), spoke up, calling Falk’s claims “preposterous” and “an affront to the memory of the more than 3,000 people who died in that tragic terrorist attack.” But Ban added that he was in no position to fire Falk – only the UNHRC itself could do that.
Falk also offered his opinions on later terrorist acts. After the Boston Marathon murders, he described them as “blowback” from U.S. actions – an implicit defense of the Tsarnaev brothers and an affront to their victims. This obscene remark drew angry criticism from Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, who said that the UN “should be ashamed to even be associated with such an individual,” and, once again, from Susan Rice, who said that it was “[p]ast time for him to go.” In 2011, Falk posted online an anti-Semitic cartoon depicting a dog in a yarmulke (although he later insisted it was not a yarmulke but an IDF helmet). There ensued yet another round of calls for his resignation. This time even Falk’s supervisor at the UNHCR, Navi Pillay, recognized the cartoon as anti-Semitic, but she didn’t fire him – because, she said, he had apologized. Any questions?
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.
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.
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.
Recently we looked at Linda Sarsour, one of the organizers of the January 21 Women’s March. Less than two months later, on March 8, another mass women’s event was held: the so-called Day Without a Woman, which, according to its official website, sought to recognize “the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system – while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity.”
Why another large-scale action so soon after the first? Well, they were meant to be two very different kinds of actions – the first, a march; the second, a sort of “general strike,” an “international day of struggle.” The website for A Day Without A Woman called on women to “take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor,” to “[a]void shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses),” and to “[w]ear RED in solidarity with A Day Without A Woman.” The organizers also declared their solidarity with “the ‘Bodega strike’ lead [sic] by Yemeni immigrant store owners in New York City and the Day Without Immigrants across the U.S.”
Now, about those organizers. As we’ve discussed on this site, one of the four top names behind the Women’s March on January 21, Linda Sarsour, is a fierce supporter of sharia law. As it happens, one of the organizers of A Day Without A Woman is Rasmea Yousef Odeh, who does Sarsour one better: not only is she a sharia enthusiast – she’s a convicted terrorist.
Here’s the story. Back in 1969, Odeh, then a university student, was involved in the bombing of a crowded Jerusalem supermarket. Two students from Hebrew University, Leon Kanner (21) and Eddie Joffe (22), were killed; nine others were wounded. A second bomb at the same site was defused. Four days later, a bomb went off at the British Consulate. Odeh was involved in that bombing, too.
Odeh’s guilt was beyond doubt. She was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which the U.S. State Department considers a terrorist organization and which took “credit” for both bombings. Explosives and bomb-making materials were found in her home. Odeh was sentenced to life in 1970 but after ten years in prison was released, along with several dozen other terrorists, in an exchange for an IDF soldier held captive by the PFLP.
In the mid 1990s, she moved to the U.S., where she eventually became a citizen. She was involved in activism on behalf of Palestinian women in Israeli jails and became associate director of the Chicago-based Arab American Action Network. Four years ago, it was discovered that she had failed to reveal her criminal background when submitting her immigration application. She was convicted of immigration fraud in November 2014, stripped of her U.S. citizenship, and spent a year and a half in prison. In February 2016, however, an appeals court vacated her conviction; last December, she was granted a new trial, which began in January.
“All right,” you may say, “Odeh may be a terrorist. But that doesn’t mean the event was illegitimate. After all, she’s not the only organizer.” Alas, one of the other organizers was Angela Davis, the longtime Communist and Black Panther who was once on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List and was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize. (We wrote about her last year, here and here.) Another was Tithi Bhattacharya, who, as Kyle Smith noted in the New York Post, “praised Maoism in an essay for the International Socialist Review.” These are the people who are presenting themselves as the voices of ordinary American women.
We’ve studied a few examples of Time correspondent Karl Vick‘s useful stoogery on behalf of the Castro regime as well as of sundry nefarious, primitive, and belligerent entities in the Middle East. But these efforts pale alongside his attempts to whitewash Hamas.
In a November 2011 piece entitled “Hamas Edges Closer to the Mainstream: Agreeing to Nonviolence, Opening the Door to Recognizing Israel,” Vick wrote that on the Gaza Strip, Hamas had “largely enforced a truce with Israel since January 2009.” To be sure, Hamas had “signed a paper committing itself to ‘popular resistance’ against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories,” but Vick added: “That’s ‘popular’ in contrast to ‘violent’ or ‘military’ resistance. We’re talking marches here. Chanting and signs, not booby traps or suicide bombs.” But there was no reason whatsoever for Vick to interpret the word “popular” that way. As Pesach Benson of Honest Reporting (HR) commented at the time:
When Palestinians say “popular” Vick hears “non-violent.” But what they mean is grassroots.
In the Palestinian dictionary, kids throwing stones at Israelis is grassroots “popular” resistance no less than adults holding a grassroots “popular” candlelight vigil.
Gilad Shalit wasn’t kidnapped by any old resistance committees. He was snatched and held captive by the Popular Resistance Committees. Their popularity comes from promising to kidnap more soldiers, not holding marches, witty chants, or clever signs.
Vick served up more of the same nonsense in February 2012. “The mainstreaming of Hamas continues,” wrote Benson, “thanks to the obtuse dispatches of journos like Time’s Karl Vick.” The reference was to Vick’s article entitled “The Mainstreaming of Hamas Continues as Palestinian Unity Gains Steam.” In the piece, Vick unskeptically reported that Hamas, “which the West knows chiefly for its suicide attacks on Israel,” was putting violence behind it. Yes, Hamas remained “committed to the eradication of the Jewish State,” but Vick described this commitment as only “[n]ominal.” If Hamas had really changed its mind, why not publicly renounce its commitment to crushing Israel? Vick’s answer: “that’s an awful lot to expect of a militant group in the space of a few months.”
It was Vick, too, who filed Time‘s 2012 report on the verdict in the case of Rachel Corrie, an American member of the radical International Solidarity Movement who was run over by an Israeli bulldozer during a 2003 protest, becoming a martyr to the anti-Israeli cause. The bulldozer driver said he hadn’t even seen Corrie; the judge agreed it was an accident. Vick’s take was predictable. Even the headline was tendentious: “Court Rebuffs Case of Slain U.S. Activist.” (As Honest Reporting’s Simon Plosker observed, “The usage of the adjective ‘slain’ or the verb ‘to slay’ usually means the violent killing of someone intentionally, the exact opposite of the Israeli court ruling.”) The judge, Vick wrote, “stood with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Israelis overwhelmingly do.” The implication, plainly, was that the verdict had had nothing to do with justice or the facts, but only with blind loyalty to the IDF.
No Time reader who’d been paying attention over the years to Vick’s reports from Jerusalem would be terribly surprised by his admission, in his article on the Corrie verdict, that his wife had actually worked as a volunteer helping Corrie’s parents while they were in Israel for the trial. That his editors knew about this connection and still let Vick report on the verdict – as if he could possibly write about it with any detachment – made it clear that not Karl Vick’s not the only Hamas stooge at Time. Or in the Vick household.
In our last couple of outings, we met Karl Vick of Time Magazine, who in recent months has made a fool of himself gushing over the “charm” of Havana’s rubble and enthusing over Cuba’s “social equality” – meaning, of course, that everybody there except for members of the top brass is dirt-poor.
But in fact Vick’s role as a useful stooge for Castro is a new one. For the past few years, serving as Time‘s Jerusalem bureau chief, he’s served in the same capacity in relation to various armed entities in the Mideast which, despite their unwavering hatred and violence, he continually represents as having turned over a new leaf. He assured readers that the reformist rhetoric of the “Arab Spring” was totally legit; he’s insisted repeatedly that the Muslim Brotherhood is a moderate force; and for years he’s been claiming that Hamas has turned friendly (or is about to turn friendly any minute now) toward Israel.
Meanwhile he routinely smears Israel.
Take his 2010 Time cover story“Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.” The article’s premise: while the world views Israel through the prism of “the blood feud with the Arabs whose families used to live on this land,” Israelis themselves are too busy “making money,” hanging around Tel Aviv cafes, and lying on the beach to care about the peace process. The Honest Reporting (HR) website gave Vick a “Dishonest Reporting Award” for the piece, noting that he “appears to subtly reject Israel’s historic claims to the land and to imply that Israelis are at fault in the conflict, since the land really belongs to the Arabs.” Also, he “distorts Israeli resilience in the face of a decade of rocket attacks and terrorism into an image of decadence.” While Israel, argued HR, had made numerous peace moves – “Ehud Barak’s offer of a state at Camp David, Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza, Binyamin Netanyahu’s settlement freeze” – Vick “blame[d] Israel for years of stalemate”; at the same time, “[w]hile there have been no parallel moves from the Palestinians to advance the peace process, only ever-increasing demands on Israel, Vick gives the impression that the Palestinians have been doing everything they can to make peace possible.”
HR wasn’t the only outfit to criticize Vick’s article; the Anti-Defamation League protestedtoo, saying that Vick’s “insidious subtext of Israeli Jews being obsessed with money echoes the age-old anti-Semitic falsehood that Jews care about money above any other interest, in this case achieving peace with the Palestinians.”
A few months after Vick’s cover story, violent Syrians on the Golan Heights tried to charge across the Israeli border; Israel denied Syrian state media’s claim that IDF troops killed 22 of them. Vick reported it this way:
Television images on Sunday…showed apparently unarmed Palestinian civilians marching peacefully down a hill toward Israeli soldiers who had assumed firing positions. Then came a crackle of gunshots; bloodied bodies were then carried back up the hill. It went on for hours, with 20 people reported dead according to Syrian state television. The human cost was high but for a Palestinian movement trying to reframe itself, the footage at least set it on a course along on the lines of Birmingham, Soweto and Gandhi’s Salt March….
HR commented: “Aside from falsely presenting Palestinians as Gandhian acolytes, this description certainly does not correspond with other media reports that confirmed that the IDF had issued clear warnings in Arabic and fired tear gas before firing over the heads of the Palestinians in an attempt to convince them to halt. The use of live fire and then, only used selectively, was solely a last resort.”
Not long afterward, a poll of Palestinians showed that 62% supported the kidnapping of IDF soldiers, 53% thought it was a good idea to teach children songs about hating Jews, and 73% approved of the indiscriminate killing of Jews. Most media reports on the poll downplayed these disturbing numbers, but Vick, according to HR, was the “[w]orst offender.” Recalling Vick’s article “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace,” based on “anecdotal street interviews with a few unrepresentative Israelis,” HR’s Simon Plosker asked: “what happened when Vick was presented with statistical evidence that it may be Palestinians and not Israelis who have issues with peace?” What happened was that Vick wrote the following:
Palestinians are trudging down the same long road as Israelis. Yes, they want peace. No, they don’t think the other side will play ball. So for now their priority is private life: Getting food on the table and keeping the kids safe.
As Plosker observed, this was quite a contrast to Vick’s portrait of Israelis in his 2010 cover story: “When a few random Israelis prioritized private issues over diplomacy, they aren’t interested in peace according to Vick’s previous article. But in his latest offering, when Palestinians say the same thing, they are presented as pro-peace despite rejecting a two-state solution and expounding Jew hatred.”
Let’s start with the highlights of her CV. Her books on globalization and urbanization have been translated into twenty-one languages. Born in the Netherlands, she grew up in Buenos Aires and studied in France, Italy, Argentina, and the U.S.; she’s taught sociology at Harvard and the University of Chicago, and now divides her time between Columbia University and the London School of Economics. She has a bushel full of impressive-sounding establishment affiliations – she’s a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, of a National Academy of Sciences panel on cities, and of something called the Committee on Global Thought, no less, and has accumulated awards and honorary degrees aplenty from places like the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, the University of Poitiers, and the Royal Stockholm Institute of Technology.
In short, she’s as establishment as it comes. Routinely, however, Saskia Sassenpresents herself as a fearless anti-establishment radical and “transnational citizen” whose bag is proffering “counterintuitive” solutions to pretty much all the world’s major problems. This fearless-radical pose has won her a kind of cult following that’s rare, to say the least, among professors of the social sciences. A few years back, when she was teaching at the University of Chicago, a recent social-sciences grad student at that institution reported that many of his friends there “were staunch followers of Saskia Sassen – in fact, she was their raison d’etre there.”
A 2014 profile in Le Monde breathlessly pointed out that this globalization expert is also a world-class globetrotter: “Today in Bilbao, yesterday in New York, tomorrow in the U.K….” The irony that went utterly unmentioned by Le Monde‘s awestruck correspondent was that, even though Saskia Sassen burns a lot more than her fair share of jet fuel, she’s a world-class global-warming scold who, in a May 2014 piece for Salon, solemnly browbeat readers about the dark and dire consequences of “global CO2 emissions.”
As it happens, one of the few members of the sociology profession whose fame matches or even exceeds Saskia Sassen’s is her husband, Richard Sennett, who shares her far-left politics (he was a red-diaper baby), her preoccupation with globalization and urban issues, her hand-wringing concern about CO2 emissions and global footprints – and, ahem, her jet-setting lifestyle and two glorious homes in New York and London. For both Saskia Sassen and Sennett, hating capitalism has paid off big-time. A 2001 Guardian profile gushed over their “spacious, almost surreally well-ordered flat” in the heart of London, with a “roof terrace offer[ing] a dazzling view of an apparent jumble of warehousing and wasteground, a scene of brutal slate-grey beauty.” Six years later, a piece in the real-estate section of the New York Times described their “picturesque former carriage house on a cobblestone alleyway just off Washington Square Park” in Manhattan, in which Sennett had been living for twenty-eight years and for which they paid the landlord – Sennett’s employer, New York University – a monthly rent that was “below market rates.”
But this luxury, reported the Times, came at a cost: namely, guilt. (The piece was actually titled “The Guilt of Having a Good Thing.”) Bennett admitted that he felt guilty about living in this “gated community,” from which pedestrians were banned between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. After all, as he pointed out, he’s written himself “about the evils of gated communities.” Why live in one, then? Because “I’m not a sufficiently moral person to abandon this house.” He laughed as he accused himself of suffering from “a moral failing.” The refusal of both Saskia Sassen and Sennett to practice what they so vociferously preach made one wonder just how deep the guilt actually went; and Sennett’s laughter as he accused himself of “a moral failing” raised the question of just what the level of hypocrisy in that household is.
The Times was curious about the details of the couple’s lifestyle. Sennett explained that he and Saskia Sassen “divide up our clothes so that 50 percent are in London and 50 percent in New York.” And he “admitted — sheepishly — to owning duplicates of favorite items,” such as cellos. “I have a cello here and a cello in London, which may seem over the top,” he said. “But after 9/11 it became so difficult to travel with my cello.” Saskia Sassen, for her part, admitted, apropos of a recent trip to a conference in Mexico City: “I like a good comfortable plane ride.” Unlike her husband, however, she wasn’t quoted as accusing herself of “a moral failing.” No surprise there: she comes off as a hell of a lot more strident and self-righteous than he does. One gets the impression that she considers herself quite the moral icon. What with their two terrific homes and their constant air travel, their global footprint is obviously much bigger than most people’s – but one images that Saskia Sassen, at least, feels that they’ve earned it. They’re the exception. It’s all for the cause. For the rest of us, they’re certainly a great poster couple for leading the good life while preaching fiercely against it.
Global warming, to be sure, is far from the only crisis on her busy agenda. She also frets about the perpetual crisis in Middle East, and considers Israel to be at the root of the whole problem. In her writings about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she consistently depicts Israel as a brutal militant aggressor and Hamas as a benign force – a supplier of food and water, medical supplies, and other services that’s always being put on the defensive by the IDF. Saskia Sassen demonstrated the extent of her hostility to Israel back in 2004, when, as Stanford law prof Peter Berkowitz put it, she “storm[ed] off the stage” during a University of Chicago panel discussion about the Middle East, outraged that the panel was composed of both pro- and anti-Israel voices. As Berkowitz later wrote,
the panel consisted of Professor Saskia Sassen, who spoke on behalf of transnationalism, or principles and forms of government that transcend the nation state; myself, discussing nationalism and how Israel could be both a liberal democracy and Jewish state; Professor Anne Bayefsky…of Columbia University Law School, who analyzed the double standard the U.N. has applied to Israel for decades; and Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Yale University geneticist, who sought to equate Zionism with Nazism, racism and apartheid.
What happened on that panel? According to Berkowitz, here’s how it went down:
After listening to Professor Bayefsky recount the many and varied ways that the U.N. had singled out Israel among all the nations of the world for special condemnation and Professor Qumsiyeh single out Israel as indistinguishable from one of the most heinous regimes in human history, Professor Saskia Sassen knew which opinion needed to be denounced…..Saskia Sassen explicitly upbraided the calm, lucid analyst of U.N. hypocrisy toward Israel (and me implicitly), and sided with the hate-mongering purveyor of the monstrous falsehood that Israel was in principle no different from the regime that murdered six million Jews for no other reason than that they were Jewish.
Here’s what she actually said on the panel in reaction to Bayefsky’s remarks: “We cannot make any headway even in our academic discussion if we talk about the Israeli government as a pure victim the way two of the speakers explicitly or implicitly did….We need to recognize that the Israeli state has operated with excess power in a situation of extreme asymmetry.” Which to her, presumably, meant that a panel discussion on the issue should also be characterized by “extreme assymetry” – in favor, naturally, of the Palestinian side.
And then she walked out – “after she had spoken for a second time,” noted Berkowitz, “but before she could be challenged.” By doing this, charged Berkowitz, “She showed that she held her own opinions to be beyond criticism and regarded her opponents’ opinions as unworthy of serious debate….Taking her conduct and comments together, one is led to conclude that Professor Saskia Sassen objects to sharing a stage with people who hold views that differ from hers; that she finds offensive the obligation to confront evidence and arguments put forward on behalf of positions she dislikes; and that she has forgotten or is unaware that the kind of debate that educates is debate with people with who hold the opposite opinion.” In short, Berkowitz concluded, she had exhibited “the high-handed and authoritarian habits that have become second nature for many faculty on campuses across the country.”
Saskia Sassen’s ardent engagement with such issues notwithstanding, her big bugaboo isn’t global warming or the brutal tyranny of Israel. It’s capitalism. For her, the overarching cause is “social justice,” and Public Enemy #1 is capitalist oppression (a conviction she shares with her late friend and mentor, Communist historian Eric Hobsbawm). She speaks of “capitalism’s deepening crisis” and of “the end of financial capitalism.”In her view, the current global financial system is suffering from a terminal ailment, and there’s no hope of saving it. “It is too late,” she maintains. What we need to do, Saskia Sassen prescribes, is “to definancialise our economies, as a prelude to move beyond the current model of capitalism.”
And what’s the ultimate symbol of capitalism’s rot, as Saskia Sassen sees it? Apparently, the phenomenon of distressed-security funds – which she, echoing Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, doesn’t hesitate to call “vulture funds.” Saskia Sassen despises those funds. They’re “a problem to be taken seriously,” she asserts, because they “threaten capital markets and the economic stability of many countries – and in doing so put the entire international economic system at risk.” When Fernández – in an effort to avoid paying her country’s debt to one such fund, Elliott Associates, as ordered by a U.S. judge in 2014 – took the case to the International Court of Justice, Saskia Sassen lent the President her full support. Of course she did: when you’re a “transnational citizen,” you support transnational institutions. This is one woman who trusts diktats by the UN (up to and including its absurd Human Rights Council) as zealously as she distrusts the free market, the American judiciary, and the West-based international financial order.
Then again, it’s easy, fun, and hip to be a “transnational citizen” who sneers at everything Western when you’ve got dream homes in the world’s two financial capitals and are constantly traveling the globe on a Western passport. “Transnational citizen,” indeed.