Juan Cole, jihad apologist

Juan Cole

How can it be that, in all the time Useful Stooges has been around, we’ve never written about Juan Cole? How could we have managed all this time to overlook one of America’s most credentialed “experts” on – which is to say, one of its most shameless apologists for – Islam?

This is a man who, after the Boston bombings, denied that the Tsarnaev brothers could be Muslims because “[b]eing a fanatic is, contrary to the impression both of Fox Cable News and some Muslim radicals, not actually the same as being a good Muslim; in fact, the Qur’an urges the use of reason and moderation.” To get away with writing such things, of course, you have to assume that most of your readers have never so much as glanced at the Qur’an.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: not a real Muslim!

“If the motive for terrorism is religious,” Cole added, “it is impermissible in Islamic law. It is forbidden to attempt to impose Islam on other people.” On the contrary, it could be argued that the main point of the Qur’an is to explain to believers that their primary obligation as Muslims is to spread Islam to the infidels. “Islamic law forbids aggressive warfare,” Cole insisted. Oh, is this why the Qur’an refers to the non-Muslim part of the world, which the faithful are urged to conquer by the sword, as the “House of War”?

Cole was equally quick to try to de-Islamize Omar Mateen’s massacre of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. “I don’t think it probably was terrorism in any useful sense of the term,” Cole said. “To put all this on Muslims and Islam in general is frankly absurd.”

Omar Mateen: Not a real terrorist!

This is a man who has routinely blamed Islamic terrorism on America – and, secondarily, Israel. If terrorists attack the U.S. it’s because “the United States is a superpower and is always sticking its nose in other people’s business.” But why, then, do terrorists attack pretty much every country in Western Europe? Why do they attack targets in Thailand and India and even in the Muslim world? He relies on ad hominem nonsense to discredit his opponents: in one lecture, he “insinuated that [Rudy] Giuliani had no standing to use the term ‘Islamic fascists’ because he was an Italian-American” and that Charles Krauthammer “probably doesn’t even know a Muslim and therefore is not credible on Middle East issues.”

Rudy Giuliani: no right to speak about Islamofascism

A writer who attended another Cole lecture noted that if one didn’t know any better, “one would have departed the lecture believing that Iran justifiably protects its own interests; that America is a malignant and aggressive force and Israel its trigger-happy satellite; that Turkey’s Islamist Freedom and Development Party (AKP) is headed by a practical and liberal Prime Minister Erdogan who promotes ‘Middle Eastern multiculturalism’; and that a moderate Islamist party in Tunisia called Ennahda does the same.” While arguing that the term “Islamic terrorism” is offensive, and “Islamo-fascist” even worse, Cole regularly uses the phrase “Zionofascism.”

The Ivy League colleges have hired a great many anti-Americans, anti-Semites, apologists for Islam and Communism, you name it – and we’ve written about several of them on this site. But Cole was a bridge too far even for Yale. When Cole – who has spent most of his career at the University of Michigan – was considered for a teaching job at New Haven, the appointment committee found him too “divisive.”

Cheney-Lippold: fellow Israel-hater

Given all this (and much more), it’s hardly any surprise that, after his UM colleague John Cheney-Lippold was disciplined for refusing to write a recommendation letter for a student who planned to spend a summer term at Tel Aviv University – a case we covered in October – Cole wrote a letter supporting Cheney-Lippold. In defense of Cheney-Lippold’s hard-line support of the BDS movement, Cole noted that that position has been “adopted by the Democratic Socialists of America, an increasingly significant caucus in the Democratic Party.” He proceeded to pile on to Israel, cataloging the ways in which it has supposedly violated UN rules, calling its occupation of conquered territories “criminal,” likening the Israeli system to apartheid, and comparing Palestinians to “slaves.” In other words, more of the usual. Juan Cole may be many things, but he’s certainly not unpredictable.

Michigan’s recommendation-letter Nazi

John Cheney-Lippold

First of all, let’s make it clear that when we say “recommendation-letter Nazi,” we’re using “Nazi” in pretty much the same sense that it was used in the “Soup Nazi” episode of Seinfeld. In this case, the individual in question is a University of Michigan professor named John Cheney-Lippold. A few weeks ago, when one of his students, a young woman named Abigail, sent him an e-mail asking for a recommendation for a study trip to Israel, he agreed to provide one, only to send her an e-mail some time later rescinding his agreement.

He had, he explained, “missed out on a key detail,” namely the fact that the country she was planning to study in was Israel. This was problematic, because he supports the BDS movement. “As you may know, many University departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine,” he wrote. His boycotting of Israel, he told Abigail, “includes writing letters of recommendation for students planning to study there.”

His book

Cheney-Lippold teaches in the Department of American Culture and has written a book called We Are Data: Algorithms and the Making of our Digital Selves. He is considered an expert on the way in which we represent ourselves online. If there is anything positive about the way in which he represented himself to Abigail in that e-mail, it is that he was polite and apologetic. Nor did he try to upbraid her or guilt-trip her for studying in Israel. In the present climate, we suppose, he should get points for that, at least.

Still, anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism.

In any event, his e-mail to Abigail spread quickly on the Internet after a pro-Zionist group at U of M posted it on Facebook on September 16. One fact that emerged soon afterwards was that Cheney-Lippold was wrong in stating that many academic departments at the U of M were involved in the BDS movement. The university’s PR office issued a statement affirming that it opposed any boycott of Israeli institutions of higher education, and that none of the academic departments at the univeristy was officially involved in any such boycott. “It is disappointing that a faculty member would allow their [sic] personal political beliefs to limit the support they [sic] are willing to otherwise provide for our students,” read the PR office’s statement. “We will engage our faculty colleagues in deep discussions to clarify how the expression of our shared values plays out in support of all students.”

Another picture of Cheney-Lippold

Peruse that last sentence again. We will engage our faculty colleagues in deep discussions to clarify how the expression of our shared values plays out in support of all students. It is nearly beautiful in its near-meaninglessness, its riot of vague abstraction. Clearly, this is one university where communications with the outside world are in charge not of students of Chaucer and Shakespeare but of people who have proven themselves to be past masters of PR lingo.

For his own part, Cheney-Lippold, after being hunted down by an intrepid staffer for the Michigan Daily, provided the following comments. “I support the boycott because I support solidarity,” he said. “I follow the idea that people who are being discriminated against or people who need help … I feel compelled to help them. I was following a call by representatives of Palestinian civil society to boycott Israel in a very similar tactical frame as South Africa.” (Does he write like this? Or just talk like this?) “The idea is that I support communities who organize themselves and ask for international support to achieve equal rights, freedom and to prevent violations of international law.”

He had more to say. “As a professor, I’m not just a machine writing things for people.” No, you see, when you ask him for a letter of recommendation, you’re initiating a “dialogue,” which involves “talking through differences and really figuring out where each other stands, not expecting something or assuming something, but really trying to get into what is the key difference. Seeing what can we do more, how can we have a larger campus-wide discussion. I want to push it beyond the horse-race politics of what John did or did not say.” Horse-race politics? Don’t ask us, we don’t get it either.