“Protected identity harm” report filed with Stanford University administration after student photographed for reading “Mein Kampf”

January 29, 2023 • 1:20 pm

What we have here is one or two Stanford students being reported to the University administration after a photo was circulated online of one student reading Hitler’s Mein Kampf.  There are two reports of the incident, the first from FIRE and the second from the student newspaper The Stanford Daily. They’re in order below, and you can read them by clicking on the headlines.

First, the report was made to the Stanford bias reporting site designed to collect reports of incidents that might harm “protected groups”:

The Protected Identity Harm Reporting process is the University’s process to address incidents where a community member experiences harm because of who they are and how they show up in the world.

They add:

Specifically, a PIH incident is conduct or an incident that adversely and unfairly targets an individual or group on the basis of one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics: race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, veteran status, marital status or any other characteristic protected by applicable law.

The Protected Identity Harm (PIH) Reporting process, intakes information via a reporting mechanism to 1) help students who have been affected by these incidents and 2) collect data. It is not a judicial or investigative process* though we do hope to provide a path to resolution for the affected individuals or communities who need to heal.

But it is certainly an investigative process, and a quasi-judicial one as well. (In this case the protected group was Jewish people.)  And the students involved in the photo have been called to account by the administration and are certainly preparing their formal apology—if they want to stay at Stanford.

Read on:

From FIRE (my bolding):

Reading a book on a college campus should not prompt formal administrative intervention. But that’s what’s reportedly happening at Stanford University this week, after a photo of a student reading Adolf Hitler’s autobiography, “Mein Kampf,” circulated on campus last Friday.

The Stanford Daily said over the weekend that administrators were working “swiftly” with the students involved to “address” the incident. Two campus rabbis emailed Jewish students saying administrators “are in ongoing conversation with the individuals involved, who are committed to and actively engaged in a process of reckoning and sincere repair.”

Stanford was reportedly alerted to the book-reading via its Protected Identity Harm reporting system. Effectively a bias response system, Stanford says PIH reports help the university “address incidents where a community member experiences harm because of who they are and how they show up in the world.”

Now it’s not clear how many individuals were responsible for this incident, or who reported it. Presumably the “guilty party” was the person reading the book, and perhaps an accomplice who photographed that, though it’s not clear that the photo wasn’t taken surreptitiously. The “students involved” implies more than one, but this could include the student who reported the incident. I can’t find the photograph.

The Stanford Daily adds this, implying that two students collaborated on this (my bolding again):

The photo of the student reading the book was posted to another student’s Snapchat story Friday evening, according to a screenshot of the image obtained by The Daily.

University spokesperson Dee Mostofi confirmed that the Office of Student Affairs and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (ORL) became aware of this incident on Saturday. Mostofi added that the two offices, along with Stanford’s Hillel chapter, are working with the leaders of the residence that the students belong to address the social media post and its impact on the community.

“Swift action was taken by the leadership in the residential community where both the individuals who posted and the one pictured are members,” Kirschner and Hahn Tapper wrote. Student Affairs and ORL are actively working with students involved to address the issue and mend relationships in the community.

The FIRE article notes that the students have already been notified that they’re in trouble, and are “actively involved in reckoning and sincere repair.” Isn’t that punitive and judicial?

FIRE adds this:

Because college students should not have to report to university authorities for merely reading a book — one, by the way, that has been required reading in at least one recent Stanford humanities class and is available to borrow from the university library — FIRE asked Stanford today to provide additional clarity about the way it handles these kinds of “harm” reports on campus.

FIRE also notes that this picture doesn’t seem to violate the freedom of expression that Stanford promises to its students. Because there is an investigation and presumably the student who read the book and the picture taker are being investigated, FIRE wrote a letter to the President of Stanford, 

Part of FIRE’s letter, sent to President Marc Tessier-Lavigne on January 25:

Reading a book on a college campus should not prompt formal administrative intervention.

Despite Stanford’s insistence that its PIH Reporting process “is not a judicial or investigative process and participation in a resolution is voluntary, it is unacceptably punitive and chills expressive activity. Being “invited” by administrators with institutional disciplinary authority to engage in a formal reconciliation process to atone for reading a book—one that has been previously assigned as required reading for a Stanford class6 and is available to check out at Stanford’s library is not conducive to the campus free speech culture. Stanford deems central to the university’s functions. Nor is it consistent with California’s “Leonard Law,which requires Stanford to provide free expression.

Despite these obligations, Stanford chills student speech when the response to a PIH report involves notifying an accused student that they may have caused “harm” by merely exercising their rights.

The PIH system’s “resolution” mechanisms also raise compelled speech and thought reform concerns. Stanford “invites” accused students to meet with their accuser to engage in, for
example, “restorative justice, [a] healing circle, [or] mediation to help move towards resolution.” Stanford’s “goal” is for students to:
[I]mmediately focus on the resolution practices, but also account
for:
Acknowledgement of Harm (and History)
Accountability and steps taken towards change (to the
extent possible)
Healing/Harm Reduction (if desired)

 

This presupposes that students must acknowledge their expression as “harmful” and commit not to cause “harm” in the future. In this case, students will understand that certain protected speech is nonetheless off limits, and they will self-censor.

Here’s what FIRE suggested:

If Stanford wants to provide both this PIH reporting system and promote a culture of free expression, it should undertake a cursory review of PIH complaints and first determine whether the conduct alleged constitutes protected expression. In such cases, Stanford can offer support to the complainant without notifying or involving the accused student. 

And they asked for a response from Stanford by February 1.

Now it’s entirely possible that this was designed as an anti-Semitic stunt to scare Jews. In that case, it’s reprehensible but still not a violation of free speech. (Needless to say, if the student really was reading the book out of interest, or had been assigned it, and it wasn’t a scare tactic, Stanford should stay well away from the reader and photographer.) But in either case FIRE is right: the students who read the book, and perhaps the one who took and posted the photo, were exercising their rights of free speech, which Stanford supposedly guarantees. Getting them involved in a bias reporting investigation solves nothing, but serves only to chill speech in general. (Remember, if speech is protected, offensive speech must be protected, and that includes “hate speech”.)

As a (secular) Jew, I’m very sensitive to the rise of anti-Semitism on American campuses and among the American Left. It worries me, as does the seeming embrace of “anti-Zionism” on campus.  And if Jewish students say they were harmed by seeing this photo, well, it’s perfectly fine for Stanford to offer them counseling and tons of support.  I would hope, though, that Jewish students would develop a hide thick enough to withstand a photograph like this without being traumatized. (I realize that this may be part of a campus pattern, which would make it extra bothersome.)

But Stanford should leave the students involved in the incident alone (there were probably two, since they live in the same dorm). Otherwise the “perps” are being not only investigated, but punished, for of course a note from the administration that you’re being investigated, followed by a process of “restoration” are by chilling your speech, forms of punishment. You’re being punished for saying what is legal.

h/t: Ginger K.

Anti-semitism at a Canadian medical school

December 14, 2022 • 11:30 am

Ayelet Kuper is not only an internist at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine (TFOM) at the University of Toronto, but also was senior adviser on antisemitism. She had that job for only a year, but that was enough. An article she just wrote for the Canadian Medical Educational Journal (click below to read, pdf here, reference below) recounts the pervasive anti-Semitism she experienced and encountered in the job. It’s worse than I imagined, especially in Canada, which I think of as a tolerant land.

But no—Kuper (who many didn’t know was Jewish) found the usual stuff: tropes about Jews being all-powerful, about being “white” and therefore not oppressed, and, especially, equated to Zionists, which to those who are thickheaded think means “approving the Israeli government’s policies”. In reality, it means, accepting Israel as a Jewish state an favoring its preservation. When you say you’re anti-Zionist, you are saying that you’re anti-Semitic.

Further, there is the false assumption that all Jews favor killing or oppressing Palestinians, favor everything the Israeli government does, and we see a total ignorance of things Jewish. This ignorance includes the widespread but false claim that James Temerty, after whom the school was named) was also Jewish. (That’s used to promote the “Jewish power” trope.)

There are links to this story at the Globe and Mail here (archived) and the Toronto Sun here. In fact, this set of “reflections” seems to have made a bit of a splash in the Canadian press.

Much of Kuper’s narrative is anecdotal, but the anecdotes, providing you believe the author, add up to a ton of Jew hatred. Further, as you see below, other people have since weighed in verifying Kuper’s claims of pervasive and growing anti-Semitism at TFOM—and other Canadian universities.

The re-framing of anti-Semitism:

However, growing support for antisemitism at TFOM has been carefully re-framed since the spring of 2021 as political activism against Israel and as scholarly positions held under the protection of academic freedom. The resultant physician advocacy has, however, been rife with dog-whistles, traditional antisemitic tropes,  and disingenuous claims of oppression. I personally experienced many instances of antisemitism, including being told that all Jews are liars; that Jews lie to control the university or the faculty or the world, to oppress or hurt others, and/or for other forms of gain; and that antisemitism can’t exist because everything Jews say are lies, including any claims to have experienced discrimination. More specifically, I experienced the now common strategy among those at TFOM who have made what I believe to be antisemitic statements to say that any Jew who calls them out is just racist and is lying in order to oppress Palestinians; this strategy was reportedly also explicitly taught to TFOM learners by faculty members during an off-campus event.

The myth of “Jews control everything”:

Although this allusion to the longstanding myth of “Jewish power” was only one of many antisemitic aspects of the leaked complaint letter, it is a reference to the traditional antisemitic trope that is, in my experience, invoked at TFOM more often than any other. In larger political contexts, Jews are routinely accused of controlling the media, the economy, and the actions of major nation states. At the local level within HPE, I have heard it said (in person and on social media) within TFOM that Jews control CaRMS (the Canadian Residency Matching Service, which manages the residency selection process), Jews control faculty hiring, and Jews control TFOM’s promotion decisions. To share a specific example, when a lecture on religious discrimination was instituted within the medical school in the spring of 2021, I was asked by non-Jewish learners why content about Jews was “being forced on the students by the Jew who bought the Faculty.” Those learners explained that they meant James Temerty, who with his wife had made a sizeable donation to the Faculty (which was subsequently renamed in their honour), and who is not Jewish; I was specifically told that a substantial number of students had assumed that the Temerty family was Jewish because of their obvious wealth. I have also heard repeated many times a pervasive belief in certain circles of faculty members and learners that anyone at TFOM who angers “the Jews” will have their career destroyed by “the Jews”–and I have had it explained to me on multiple occasions that this fear of Jews, instead of being a bias to be combatted, is actually the reverse: that those who fear Jews based on this egregious stereotype are actually the ones being discriminated against, since they have to cope with their fear of “the powerful Jews”!

Why Jews aren’t oppressed “people of color”

Several years ago, when I taught and debriefed antioppression training for medical students, I learned that white-passing Jewish TFOM students were being told by their peers that their pale skin means that they aren’t allowed to claim to have any experience of oppression. This transpired even in settings where white students with intersectional identities such as being 2SLGBTQIA+ or being female were simultaneously encouraged to talk about discrimination they had experienced due to those identities. I’ve been told by colleagues that being born in Israel and refusing to denounce the existence of my place of birth as a Jewish state means that I am inherently racist and that any discrimination I encounter as a Jew in Canada is therefore deserved. I was told by yet another TFOM faculty member that Jews mustn’t be allowed to speak on their own behalf about antisemitism and shouldn’t even be subject to the protection from discrimination as outlined in the Ontario Human Rights Code (which focuses on the impact of discriminatory acts rather than on their intent) on the grounds that what Jews call antisemitism isn’t real (so it wouldn’t make sense for us to be allowed to speak to the impact of something that did not exist). In another form of personal silencing leading to epistemic injustice, as a child and grandchild of Holocaust survivors I have been berated over the past several years (by non-Indigenous colleagues who claim to be acting as allies to Indigenous people) for using the concept of intergenerational trauma and told that Jews are “appropriating” the term.

She also mentions this, which I think is funny (but sad):

(For more on this issue, see David Baddiel’s book “Jews Don’t Count” and his brilliant explanation of Jews as “Schrodinger’s whites, white or nonwhite depending on the politics of the observer.”)

Finally, an update from the Globe and Mail:

This is devastating stuff. And it’s happening at a medical school – that in the postwar period had a quota system restricting the number of Jewish students.

If the current and future doctors of Canada think this way, what do less educated members of our society think of “the Jews” (a recently trending topic on Twitter)?

This is not just a problem at TFOM. Dr. Kuper says there were instances where Jewish students in other University of Toronto departments were forced to express their beliefs about Israel before being allowed to participate in school activities.

And this is not just happening at the University of Toronto. Dr. Kuper points out that antisemitism has been reported at other higher education institutions in Canada.

Since the article was published, Dr. Kuper says she has heard not only from “many dozens” of Jewish people at TFOM who said her paper resonated with their experiences, but also from Jewish academics elsewhere at U of T and other Canadian universities and medical schools. They have thanked her, she says, for encapsulating their experiences. She has also heard from Jewish Torontonians in other fields who have experienced antisemitism at work.

Maybe this isn’t “systemic” anti-Semitism, but it’s surely pervasive anti-Semitism. I wouldn’t have expected this from Canada. But anti-Semitism is growing everywhere, including the U.S., where it is by far the most common religious form of “hate crime”.

h/t: Christopher

___________________

Kuper A. 2022. Reflections on addressing antisemitism in a Canadian faculty of medicine. Can. Med. Ed. J [Internet]. 2022 Dec. 5 [cited 2022 Dec. 14];. Available from: https://journalhosting.ucalgary.ca/index.php/cmej/article/view/76086

“Jews Don’t Count”: David Baddiel’s movie on Progressive anti-Semitism

November 28, 2022 • 9:15 am

Reader Eli sent me a link to this movie along with the header, “UK documentary on anti-Semitism from the Left—’Jews Don’t Count’, and his email said this (I’ve added a link)

You may be interested in a recent UK documentary on contemporary leftist antisemitism, “Jews Don’t Count”. It’s made by David Baddiel, a UK Jewish comedian, based on his book released last year, and includes interviews with Sarah Silverman, David Schwimmer (from “Friends”), Stephen Fry and others. It was broadcast in the UK on Channel 4 but it is also available in the U.S. (so far hasn’t been taken down).
The Guardian gives it four stars out of five, and here’s an excerpt of their review:

 

[Baddiel’s] central thesis is that “Jews don’t count as a proper minority” when it comes to contemporary notions of prejudice and racism. He sets out to explore why so many people seem to ignore antisemitism, as well as “the dysfunction between progressives and Jews”.

It feels like a particularly bleak statement to make, but it couldn’t be more timely. Anti-Jewish hate crimes continue to rise in the UK and the US. Conspiracy theories and racist tropes about Jews and power continue to be given mainstream platforms. Baddiel’s book lends itself brilliantly to a TV format, which can bring in many other voices. “What do you think of when you hear the word ‘Jew’?” he asks, in the first of many monochrome interludes in which he speaks directly to camera. “Let’s ask some Jews.”

. . .What I like most about this documentary is how conversational it is. The thesis that Baddiel set out in his book (delivered here in the monochrome sections) forms the backbone of the programme, and on screen it feels like the opposite of the kind of back-and-forths that mostly happen online, often anonymously, about the same subjects. He sets out what he believes and meets people who agree with him and who sometimes disagree. It cuts through a lot of online noise and crude finger-pointing. He has a complex and nuanced conversation with his niece, Dionna, who describes herself as “a biracial person”. They discuss whether antisemitism is a “different” form of racism, and if Jews can “pass” as white.

. . . It is a sign of a solid documentary, I think, that every time a question came into my head, Baddiel was either asking it, or setting about answering it, as if I had said it out loud. Often, he pre-empts how people will respond to the point he is making. As someone who spends a lot of time on social media, he is used to anticipating what will be thrown back at him. People sometimes send him a screenshot of him in blackface, playing the footballer Jason Lee on Fantasy Football League in the 1990s, asking, “This you?”

Only four critics have reviewed it on Rotten Tomatoes, but they all give it a thumbs-up.

It’s just one hour long, and I’ve watched it all—it’s absorbing and gives a good idea of the anti-Semitism pervading much of the Left in the U.S. an U.K.  As Eli recommends, watch it before it’s taken down!

A conversation between Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bari Weiss on the relationship between blacks and Jews

November 22, 2022 • 12:30 pm

Bari Weiss doesn’t seem to write much on her own Substack site lately, probably because she’s doing podcasts and enlisting a lot of writers to form her own media mini-empire. She does get some good writers, but I do miss her own pieces.

Here’s one conversation she’s recently posted with basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar—now a writer, activist, and film-maker.  I haven’t seen his films, but I have read his essays, and they’re good.

The topic of their conversation is something I’ve brought up before: the eroding relationship between African Americans and Jews. As Abdul-Jabbar and Weiss both note, Jews and blacks used to be partners in the civil rights struggle (with blacks taking the lead, of course). Jews, also a disliked minority, found natural affinity with black protestors. Remember that both of the whites killed in the Mississippi murders of Goodman, Cheney, and Schwerner—killed by the Klan for registering blacks to vote—were Jewish.  That is not a random sample of whites.

But lately the relationship is eroding, aided by the anti-Semitism of Louis Farrakhan (and Kanye West!) and a seemingly growing number of attacks on Jews by blacks. Somehow the relationship needs to be repaired from both sides, but I, for one, don’t know how. Here Abdul-Jabbar espouses the comity that used to exist and urges both sides to fight for equality.

Click to read (it’s free, but subscribe if you read often).

I’ll give just three quotes. In the first exchange, Weiss (“BW”) gives a fact that surprised me, one she got from Abdul-Jabbar (“KAJ”):

BW: I want to end by focusing on the relationship more broadly between blacks and Jews in America. In July of 2020, you published a powerful condemnation of antisemitism titled “Where Is the Outrage Over Anti-Semitism in Sports and Hollywood?” Here’s a passage that struck me:

One of the most powerful songs in the struggle against racism is Billie Holiday’s melancholic “Strange Fruit,” which was first recorded in 1939. The song met strong resistance from radio stations afraid of its graphic lyrics about lynching:

Southern trees bear a strange fruit

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root

Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Despite those who wanted to suppress the song, it went on to sell a million copies that year and became Holiday’s best-selling record ever. The song was written by a white, Jewish high school teacher, Abel Meeropol, who performed it with his wife around New York before it was given to Holiday.

The American Jewish community I grew up in was one that prided itself on its history of joining black Americans in their fight for civil rights. We knew the names Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, two Jewish civil rights activists murdered in Mississippi in in 1964 alongside James Chaney. We studied the picture of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. Has that relationship unraveled?

KAJ: I don’t think it has unraveled. The only difference is that those Jews and blacks who never understood how our fates are intertwined now have an instant platform to express their irrational thinking. The majority of Jews have been steadfast in their support of civil rights when other groups have wavered. They have done it on the ground by joining marches, and they have done it in the arts by writing books and movies promoting civil rights. African Americans need to recognize that commitment and do the same for them.

BW: What does healing the bond between our communities look like?

KAJ: The bond doesn’t need healing, because it’s already there. People like Kyrie Irving and Kanye West give the impression that it’s not, but only because we are all surprised by someone from one marginalized group using the same bad, racist arguments against another marginalized group. Even wrong perceptions can become self-fulfilling prophecies if we don’t address them every time they appear.

We don’t have to heal the bond, we have to strengthen it even more by joining together to condemn every act of prejudice against every marginalized group. We must do it swiftly and emphatically.

A discussion of the odious anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam:

BW: I want to focus on Farrakhan’s influence. He believes that Jews are parasitic, that Jews are behind a plot to exploit black Americans, and that blacks are the real Jews from the Bible. We’re hearing these ideas come out of the mouths of musicians like Kanye West (“Jewish people have owned the black voice”) and athletes like Kyrie Irving (“I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from”). For many Jews, hearing this kind of rhetoric is shocking, but many black Americans have noted that these views are more commonplace than we’d like to admit. So what I think a lot of people are afraid to ask is: How mainstream are these beliefs among black Americans? Are Kanye and Kyrie unique? Or has the influence of people like Farrakhan made this strain of antisemitism somehow more normal than many want to believe?

KAJ: Certain black leaders do exactly what certain white leaders do who want to gather followers, money, and power: They find a scapegoat they can blame. They can’t blame others who are marginalized because of the color of their skin, like Latinx or Asian-Americans, so they go for the default villain of fascists and racists: Jews.

What astounds me is not just the irrationality of it, but how self-destructive it is. Black people have to know that when they mouth antisemitism, they are using the exact same kind of reasoning that white supremacists use against blacks. They are enabling racism. Now they’ve aligned themselves with the very people who would choke out black people, drag them behind a truck, keep them from voting, and maintain systemic racism for another hundred years. They are literally making not only their lives worse, but their children’s lives. The fact that they can’t see that means the racists have won.

Those who condemn Weiss as an alt-righter, racist, and “dark web” adherent should ask themselves, “Would such a person be able to secure an interview with Abdul-Jabbar, much less have a civil and respectful discussion?”

Finally, Abdul-Jabbar’s conclusion:

BW: If you were putting out a statement, what would you say to Jews? To Black Americans?

KAJ: In the words of Marvin Gaye in What’s Going On: “You know we’ve got to find a way/To bring some understanding here today.”

Wouldn’t it be great if a great quote were enough? Marvin may inspire me, but in practical terms I’d say that we have to be mindful of our common goal to live in a country that values us and in which our children will never be called names, humiliated, can walk without fear, can pursue love with anyone they choose, have a fair shot at any profession they choose. That doesn’t just happen. We have to work together to achieve that. And anyone who doesn’t share that goal must be shoved aside.

As Jake tells Bret in the last line of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

It’s a long interview but well worth reading. An as your reward, here are the two songs mentioned in the piece.

Strange Fruit” sung by BIllie Holiday (1959):

Marvin Gaye live, singing “What’s Going On” (he wrote the song) in 1972:

Anti-Semitism rears its head at UC Berkeley

October 13, 2022 • 9:30 am

As you know, the “progressive” Left platform includes “anti-Zionism”, a code word for “the abolition of Israel as a Jewish state”. And that, in turn, means “the abolition of Israel and its replacement by Palestine”.  That is to be enacted through the “right of return”, i.e., all descendants of Palestinians who left Israel when the state was established in 1948 will come back to Israel as citizens. The “descendants” claim means that millions of Palestinians would move to Israel, and we all know what would happen then. Mass fighting and slaughter, to name two things. What Palestine—and the progressive Left—want is not a two-state solution, but a one-state solution, and that state would be Palestine.  If you doubt that, look at the ubiquitous slogan, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” This means that Israel will be completely replaced by Palestine.

Israel isn’t perfect of course, but you don’t have to approve of all the Israeli government’s actions to support the country’s existence. What always baffles me about the “progressive” left is that Palestine is the real apartheid state, prohibiting Jewish inhabitants and oppressing women, gays, apostates, and nonbelievers, as well as frmenting terrorism against civilians. Where would you prefer to live as a nonbeliever, LGBTQ+ person, or a woman? Israel or Palestine?

Ergo the more Left-wing colleges have begun a campaign of demonizing both Israel and Jews themselves, called “Zios” because most Jews support Israel and the continuance of that Jewish state. This college-level anti-Semitism also manifests itself in support of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement, also aimed at eliminating Israel. It’s worth adding that the U.S. government (yes, the Biden administration) is investigating the University of Southern California for civil rights violations of its Jewish students.

But Berkeley exceeded all college anti-Semitism this month when nine student groups decided to ban all speakers who were “supporters of Israel”. That is, a speaker who doesn’t say anything about Israel in his or her speech is still prohibited from speaking if they’ve expressed support for Israel in other places. It’s bad enough to ban speakers whose talk supports Israel, but far worse to punish speakers for the crime of having supported Israel in other places. You are not allowed to speak because you have the wrong sentiments. 

Steve Lubet, an emeritus professor of law at Northwestern, describes the situation in the article below from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

An excerpt:

The University of California’s Berkeley campus has been a hotbed of leftist politics since at least the early 1960s, so it is unsurprising that students at its prestigious law school have long embraced the cause of Palestinian rights. It was shocking, however, when the latest expression of anti-Israel sentiment veered into territory so extreme that even the law school’s progressive dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, observed that it could be seen as antisemitic. Although the students had not in any sense established “Jewish-free zones,” as some overheated commentaries called them, what they did was bad enough. Nine law-school affinity organizations, nominally representing a majority of the student body, adopted a bylaw providing that they will not “lend platforms to speakers” who “have professed or continue to hold” Zionist views.

Yes, you read that correctly. The bylaw does not simply prohibit pro-Israel presentations at the organizations’ events. It bans speakers on any topic who happen to support the existence of Israel — a category that encompasses more than 80 percent of the world’s Jews, and includes many Berkeley Law students and faculty. As Chemerinsky remarked in an email to students, “Indeed, taken literally, this would mean that I could not be invited to speak because I support the existence of Israel, though I condemn many of its policies.” For the same reason, I would also be unable to speak to the student groups about my research on 19th-century abolitionist lawyers, notwithstanding my decades of support for the anti-occupation movement within Israel. (Disclosure: I am a 1973 alumnus of Berkeley Law.)

You can see the gist of Dean Chemerinsky’s letter here; he’s Jewish, but by no means an unalloyed supporter of the Israeli government or its actions. Here’s part of what he said:

“I have learned that student groups have been asked to adopt a statement strongly condemning Israel and some have done so. Of course, it is the First Amendment right of students to express their views on any issues,” he wrote.

“It is troubling to broadly exclude a particular viewpoint from being expressed,” he added. “Indeed, taken literally, this would mean that I could not be invited to speak because I support the existence of Israel, though I condemn many of its policies.”

His email went on: “The principles of community for the Berkeley campus stress that we are committed to ensuring freedom of expression and dialogue that elicits the full spectrum of views held by our varied communities.”

Chemerinsky, speaking to J., [the Jewish News of Northern California] added this:

. . . “to say that anyone who supports the existence of Israel — that’s what you define as Zionism — shouldn’t speak would exclude about, I don’t know, 90 percent or more of our Jewish students.”

The reason for the ban, according to the penultimate link above, was “protecting the safety and welfare of Palestinian students”. That, of course, is bogus, a ridiculous playing of the “safety” and “harm cards.. No student would be “unsafe” because of a talk given by a speaker who supports Israel. (What they mean, of course, is that such a talk would “offend” them.) This is a mere show, one meant to express the students’ antisemitism and denigration of a supposedly “apartheid” state in favor of an oppressive theocracy that really practices apartheid.

Who are the groups who passed this resolution? This link gives the list:

. . . the Berkeley Law Muslim Student Association, Middle Eastern and North African Law Students Association, Womxn of Color Collective, Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, Queer Caucus, Community Defense Project, Women of Berkeley Law, and Law Students of African Descent.

In other words, it’s Progressives versus Jews. Now the UCB resolution is not really a violation of First-Amendment freedom of speech because the students have every right to invite their own speakers. But freedom of speech should extend beyond the First Amendment at universities; it should allow students to be exposed to controversial views for reasons best expressed by Mill in On Liberty. By widening “unapproved speakers” to “all speakers who have, at some time in their lives, supported the existence of Israel”, Berkeley Law has collectively stoppered its ears while crying ‘Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah!”

Lubet suggests other ways to express disapproval of Berkeley Law, including asking all speakers to refuse to speak at the school on principle, or asking judges to not accept as law clerks ringleaders of this resolution. I certainly favor the first tactic, though I’ll never be invited to speak at Berkeley Law. I leave it up to the readers to judge the second.

But if you still think that actions like these are designed to express disapproval of the Israeli government’s actions, you’ve bought into one of the dissimulations of the Progressive Left. This has nothing to do with the Israeli government. The real purpose is to show disapproval of Israel as a state and of those who support its existence. It is “anti-Zio”, which is the same thing as anti-Semitism.

How was the first bit of the U.S./Holocaust documentary?

September 19, 2022 • 7:15 am

Yesterday I noted that the new documentary directed by Ken Burns, Lynne Nozick, and Sarah Botstein, “The Holocaust and the U.S.” had its first airing on PBS last night (there will be three two-hour presentations).  There were a fair number of pre-show comments, some of them degenerating into an argument about the U.S.’s departure from Afghanistan, for crying out loud!

I missed the show because of my ridiculously early bedtime, mandated by the insomnia doc, and because someone with a sleep disorder is not supposed to watch the tube before bed. But I will watch it when they put it online on September 18. Meanwhile, I am sleeping better now, at the price of giving up wine with dinner. That will resume when I’m better.

In the meantime, how was the show? (The first episode is called “The Golden Door”, covering from the beginning to 1938.)

To comment below, you have to have watched the show! I just discovered that you (or perhaps only those in Chicago) can watch the first episode, “The Golden Door”, free by clicking on the screenshot below. B (After September 18, you can watch all the episodes free online, but only for a few days.)

The photo, from the beginning of the episode, shows the Frank family, with Anne on the left, Margot on the right, and their mother Edith in the middle. The photo was snapped by Otto Frank, the only one who survived the war.

New documentary by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein, “The U.S. and the Holocaust”, starts this evening

September 18, 2022 • 12:45 pm

It’s well known that the U.S. government didn’t care all that much about the Holocaust as it was happening in Europe, even though information about it was available. Nor did they make much effort to take in Jews or, especially, to rescue beleaguered Jews in Europe.  Ken Burns and Sarah Botstein are now about to present a six-hour, three-part series called “The U.S. and the Holocaust”, part of which explains this neglect.

The show starts this evening, so do watch it. (Check your local PBS schedule.) Here’s the one-minute trailer:

Somehow i have to find a way to see it (my crummy t.v. doesn’t receive PBS).

Below is a 26-minute “Firing Line” interview featuring Burns and Botstein.  You can hear it for free by clicking the screenshots:

 

Here are Burns and his other collaborator, Lynn Novick, on the Today show.

The New Yorker has a summary and review of the series, and its assessment is somewhat tepid. Why? Because Burns et al. didn’t make the film the New Yorker thought it should. What did they want? More about contemporary issues, something that Burns addresses in his comments above.

Here’s a bit of McAuley’s critique:

But if contemporary America is of interest, there is an important institutional story to tell here as well, about the U.S. government’s ultimate embrace of Holocaust history beginning in the late nineteen-seventies, when a commission established by President Jimmy Carter proposed the creation of a national Holocaust museum. And also a strange story about a civil society in which a very particular tragedy became universalized and mass-marketed, leading people who may have little or no connection to Jewish life to feel entitled to make a Jewish catastrophe about themselves. Examining the evolution of that uniquely American obsession might have strengthened the film in its final installment. After all, America is still responding to the Holocaust, and often in troubling ways.

The persecution and mass murder of European Jews between 1933 and 1945 loom so large in our culture that even our own homegrown brownshirts now have the Holocaust on the tips of their tongues. In recent years, a sitting member of Congress, Marjorie Taylor Greene, has styled her enemies as “Nazis” and posted a video of a fake-looking President Biden with a Hitler mustache. Beyond the arena of electoral politics, a number of ordinary people wore yellow stars on their lapels to protest coronavirus-vaccine requirements. Given its interest in the contemporary, “The U.S. and the Holocaust” might have confronted, or at least acknowledged, these fixations and distortions. They, too, turn out to be as American as apple pie.

There wasn’t enough about contemporary white supremacy and the Republicans, I guess. Well, I haven’t seen the show yet, an will find a way to do so. But what does the magazine mean by this?

. . . .a civil society in which a very particular tragedy became universalized and mass-marketed, leading people who may have little or no connection to Jewish life to feel entitled to make a Jewish catastrophe about themselves.

Is the answer in something that McAuley wrote earlier in the article?

The destruction of the European Jews, in Eleanor Roosevelt’s telling, was not really about the Jews: it was a parable for right and wrong, a “teachable moment” about perseverance in the face of adversity—could there be anything more hopelessly and terminally American than that? As Roosevelt wrote, Anne’s diary was among “the wisest and most moving commentaries on war and its impact on human beings that I have ever read. . . . Despite the horror and humiliation of their daily lives, these people never gave up.” Anne, she concluded, “tells us much about ourselves and our own children.” Not once did Eleanor Roosevelt use the word “Jew”; the story of “these people” was not the point. By then, the Jewish catastrophe was everyone’s to claim, and the “lessons” of the Holocaust were already in the process of becoming a strangely American form of national self-help.

Typical New Yorker prose: a grandiose and eloquent conclusion that doesn’t seem to hold water.  An American form of self-help? How?

New paper claims to have discovered 17 English Jews killed in 12th-century anti-Semitic attack

September 4, 2022 • 9:20 am

After the Norman conquest of England in 1066, William the Conqueror invited Jews into England. Settling in places like Norwich, York, and Lincoln, they were presumably Ashkenazi Jews, who originated in Europe and the Middle East (my DNA tells me that I’m one of them.)  Their professions were, as a Smithsonian article (second below) recounts, mainly “financiers and moneylenders,” professions that were forbidden for Christians.

But although they were invited in, they weren’t loved, and were ultimately expelled from England in 1290. (Nobody likes the Jews!). History recounts that, around 1190, only 133 years after the Conquest, a group of Jews were killed by Christians who thought they’d do in a bunch of Ashkenazis on their way to the Third Crusade.

Or so the paper below, from a recent issue of Current Biology, tells us. It recounts a genetic analysis of 6 of 17 skeletons—11 adults and 6 children—found in 2004 in a well in Norwich near the location of the city’s ancient Jewish quarter.  This was 18 years ago, and you can see video and photos of mass grave in the “cold case” video below.

The genetic analysis of 6 of these individuals suggests that the skeletons were a group of Ashkenazis, probably ones killed in the 1190 massacre. Click on the screenshot below to go to the Current Biology piece (free access). You can download the pdf here, and I give the reference at the bottom.

First, here’s what was found (photo and caption from 9News.  (You can see a lot more in the video at bottom.)

At least 17 human bodies found at the bottom of a medieval well in Norwich were a group of Ashkenazi Jews who may have been victims of anti-Semitic violence during the 12th century. (NPS Archaeology/BBC)

After the remains were excavated, sorted, and sexed, they found 17 bodies, with 11 adults (a mixture of men and women) and 6 children. The bones were radiocarbon dated to between 1161 and 1216 (95% confidence interval), putting the burial right at the time the Jews of Norwich were killed.

Although a few of the bones were broken, that was from being tossed into the well (head first), which cracked some ribs and vertebrae. As for what killed the individuals, there’s no indication of that: no fractures or indications of blows. They were almost surely killed before being tossed into an empty well, perhaps by stabbing or cutting, or perhaps by smoke inhalation if their houses were burned.

Six of the individuals had DNA extracted from the bones for genetic analysis. The authors didn’t do complete genome sequencing, but did enough to determine that three of them, ranging from 10 years old to young adults, were full siblings—sisters. (You can tell the sex from both the bones and the DNA itself.) These three had identical mitochondrial DNA, showing that they came from the same mother. Another individual was more distantly related to these.

We are also at the stage where we can determine with near certainty the hair and eye color of individuals from DNA, for we know which genes are involved in those traits. As the paper notes,

Two individuals were inferred to have had brown eyes, one with “dark” and one with “light” hair (SB605 and SB676, respectively), while the 0- to 3-year-old boy (SB604) was inferred to have had blue eyes and red hair, the latter of which is associated with historical stereotypes of European Jews.

I wasn’t aware that this is a historical stereotype of European Jews; I would have thought that most of them, like me, had dark hair and eyes, but what do I know from historical stereotypes? And of course two of the three were dark, so what we see is variation, not really a confirmation that these were Ashkenazi Jews. The evidence for that comes from genetic data. First, here’s a reconstruction of the faces of two individuals—a young one and an older one—from both DNA and skulls. These are of course very rough, and don’t tell us much. (I wonder, now that 23andMe has a huge sample of my own genetic data, if they could estimate what I look like from my DNA alone. They already guessed correctly that I have dark hair and eyes.)

The genetic evidence for who these individuals were rests on comparing their DNA with several modern populations from Western Eurasia, as well as looking for sequences of genes that cause disease in modern Ashkenazi Jews. (As an inbred group that probably went through a severe reduction in population size, as well as having substantial intermarriage—”endogamy”—living Ashkenazi Jews have a high frequency of genetic disorders, the most famous being Tay-Sachs disease.

You can see below a plot of where the six individuals whose DNA was analyzed (the black dots) fall in a cluster study—made from what’s known as a principal-components analysis—of the various modern populations. analyzed. Data from living Brits are in the small purple cluster at about 9 o’clock, far away from the Norwich individuals, who fall closer to Southern European and Middle Eastern populations, including modern Ashkenazi Jews, Turkish Jews, and North African Jews. As the authors conclude:

We projected the six Chapelfield genomes on a PCA defined by variation among modern western Eurasian population samples, including modern Jewish individuals. All six Chapelfield [Norwich] individuals project well away from present-day British samples, as well as northern Europeans more generally. Instead, they partially overlap with Southern Europeans, close to Cypriots, modern Ashkenazi, Turkish, and North African Jews. These results are consistent with the Chapelfield individuals having Jewish ancestry (cf. Kopelman et al.)

Click to enlarge:

There’s one more line of evidence that the individuals in the well were Ashkenazim. This is the observation that the six individuals analyzed had a much higher similarity of DNA sequence at the “disease genes” to modern Ashkenazis than to other populations. As the authors note:

To explore this further, we formulated a likelihood function to calculate the exact probability of the six individuals’ observed allele reads at the 159 disease loci, given the allele frequencies of any proposed population.

. . . The maximum likelihood read error rate estimates are notably similar (0.87% and 0.94%, respectively), and crucially these results show that the data are 4,615 times more probable under a model that these individuals were sampled from the modern Ashkenazi population than they were sampled from the modern non-Finnish European population. This approach assumes the six individuals are randomly sampled from either population. Further assessment of the effect of this assumption given that three individuals are siblings suggests that in the case of these data our assumption has a conservative effect on the likelihood ratio

This is scientific jargon saying that, in the end, there’s a much higher likelihood that these genes came from Ashkenazim (modern ones) than from modern European populations. (I’m not sure why they exclude Finns, save that Finns have a high proportion of genes from ancient Siberia.)  The high frequency of alleles that, when homozygous (two copies needed), cause genetic disease, suggest that any “bottleneck” in population size of the Ashkenazi must have occurred before these individuals were killed. That’s several centuries earlier than historians have suggested.

The best guess, then, is that the 17 individuals were Ashkenazi Jews killed by Crusaders who wanted to do in a few Semites on their way to doing in some Muslims in Constantinople. But not every scientist agrees. The Smithsonian piece quotes a dissenter:

Speaking with NatureEran Elhaik, a population, medical and evolutionary geneticist at Lund University in Sweden, casts doubt on the DNA analysis, arguing that the team identified the individuals as Ashkenazi Jews “because that was the only population that they considered.” In response, co-author Ian Barnes, an evolutionary geneticist at the Natural History Museum, tells Nature that local archaeologists and historians know of few other “plausible alternatives” in terms of “other groups that might [have been] in medieval Norwich at the time.”

Given that the paper compared the skeletons in the well with modern populations, most of which were not Jewish, I’m not sure what Dr. Elhaik is on about, but he has published a paper claiming that principal-components analysis is faulty and can be biased to get the results you want. That said, the confluence of the historical and genetic data, and the lack of any other plausible explanation for this slaughter (plus the spot-on estimates from carbon dating to the same period where Jews were being killed in the area), convinces me that the authors are probably right.

*******

Here is an hourlong “Cold Case” video from 2018 about the finding of the bodies, made before any genetic work was done. I haven’t watched the whole thing straight through, but you can see the discovery of the skeletons, other forensic estimation, and people’s best guess at the time what the mass grave told us: 

____________________________

Brace, S. et al. 2022. Genomes from a medieval mass burial show Ashkenazi-associated hereditary diseases pre-date the 12th century. Curr. Biol. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2022.08.036

Anne Frank had white privilege?

August 13, 2022 • 1:15 pm

This isn’t a huge kerfuffle, because the morons espousing the thesis in the title aren’t numerous. And the kerfuffle was popularized by the “scandal site” TMZ. Nevertheless, it shows how crazily woke some people are.  Here’s the TMZ tweet which directs you to a clickbait-y article based entirely on tweets. (What would journalism do without Twitter? It would have to be more serious and do investigative reporting beyond scanning Twitter for faux controversies.)

Here are a few tweets and refutations of some of them. The crazy is heavy here (second tweet):

Another tweet and refutation. I don’t think Anne Frank hid behind her “whiteness”; she hid from the Jew-hating Nazis in the annex of an Amsterdam pectin factory.

Here’s someone observing a wider discussion in the UK:

Here’s a rabbi—a rabbi!—who pays lip service to “visible” Jews, but at the same time has to show her virtue, asserting that Jews “grabbed white privilege” (allowed to do so only because of anti-black racism) and thus are “conditionally white.” Grabbed white privilege? How do you do that?

As you see below, even Hannah Nikole Jones of the 1619 Project can see the fallacy of this claim! And that fallacy is simple: in Nazified Europe, Jews were not seen as white–as “Aryans”, the “master race”. Rather, they were an inferior “race”, more or less the equivalent of blacks in the post-bellum South before civil rights came around.  (I would disagree with Jones’s claim, though, that “race is a fiction”, as that needs severe qualification.)

But as I’ve said before, there is no object, no concept, no organization, and no activity that cannot be demonized by some crazied Wokesters. Anne Frank, for crying out loud!

Latest chilling of speech on campus: UCLA’s Asian American Studies department goes blatantly political on the Palestine/Israel issue

July 5, 2022 • 10:30 am

What we have below is a prime example of what a University should not be doing: issuing official statements on strong political, ideological, or moral issues.  In this absurd statement, the Asian American Studies Department at UCLA issued a strong attack on Israel and a defense of Palestine—as an official department statement on the department’s website. The only signer is “The Department of Asian American Studies, University of California, Los Angeles,” so I guess it gives the view of every faculty member in Asian American Studies.

There are so many things wrong with it that I barely want to bother. Here are a few:

a.) It’s a statement from a public university that is bound to honor the First Amendment. Issuing statements like this may not violate that Amendment, but (see “b”). . .

b.) “Official” statements that come down hard on one side of a debatable issue—and this one is surely debatable—are liable to chill the speech of other people who adhere to the other side, or don’t agree completely with the statement. After you read it (it’s not long; click on the screenshot), imagine being a graduate student or untenured professor in that department who is Jewish, or who just doesn’t see Israel as the oppressor of Palestinians the way this department does. Would you talk about your opposition, or even write a critique of it on your own social media site? I don’t think so: you’d lose respect, collegiality, and maybe even promotion or tenure.

This is why the University of Chicago has the Kalven Report, a principle that  I’ve discussed in detail. It prohibits departments, administrators, or units of the University from making official statements about politics, ideology, or morality—unless those statements directly involve the mission of the University: freely teaching and learning. Do read the short report; it’s one of the two pillars of academic freedom at the University of Chicago. (The other and better-known of our two free-speech principle are the famous Chicago Principles of Free Expression, now been adopted by over 80 American colleges, both public and private.)

c.) The statement is misleading, tendentious, and biased, neglecting the “settler colonialism” that’s happened all over the world (uniquely singling out Israel in this respect is a sign of anti-Semitism), and completely ignoring the hatred and terrorism that comes from Palestine—an apartheid state that treats gays, apostates, non-Muslims, and women as second-class citizens. It ignores the firing of rockets and killing of innocent Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorists. It ignores the Palestinians’ repeated refusal to accept or discuss Israel’s offer of a two-state solution.

It is in fact a statement with no purpose other than to demonstrate that the Asian American Studies Department is virtuous in its support of Palestine and hatred of Israel. It is an act of Performative Wokeness.  And believe me, I’d be just as opposed to UCLA if they issued a statement demonizing Palestine instead of Israel. It’s the principle I oppose, though I freely admit that I think this statement is grossly biased against Israel and verges on official anti-Semitism.

I’ll give just two paragraphs of the statement, and urge you to read it for yourself (my bolding). The second paragraph below is particularly ironic, while the first shows multiple but different academic units of UCLA also violating our Kalven Principles.  There is no mention of Palestinian perfidy; one would think that that territory has a spotless record of human rights.

The Department of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people as they continue to fight for the right to land, life, dignity, and freedom.  We mourn the staggering loss of life, in which over 200 Palestinians have been killed in one week alone, including 64 children and 38 women at the time of this statement.  The latest upsurge in violence has taken the form of deadly airstrikes, unauthorized evictions, beatings and imprisonments intended to terrorize and displace Palestinians.  Media distortion and censorship has further suppressed Palestinian narratives, and threatened freedom of speech and academic freedom.  With our colleagues from the Palestinian Feminist CollectivePalestine and Praxis: Scholars for Palestinian FreedomNational Women’s Studies AssociationAssociation of Asian American StudiesMiddle East Studies Association,  Gender Studies Departments in Solidarity with Palestinian Feminist CollectiveUCSC Feminist StudiesUCSC Critical Race and Ethnic StudiesUIC Global Asian StudiesUCSD AAPI Studies ProgramUC Berkeley Ethnic StudiesUC DavisUIUC Asian American Studies DepartmentPrinceton University, and Yale Ethnicity, Rights, and Migration, we understand that such violence and intimidation are but the latest manifestation of seventy-three years of settler colonialism, racial apartheid, and occupation.

As an academic department situated on the ancestral and unceded territory of the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples, we oppose settler-colonialism in all its forms, from Tovaangar to Palestine.  We condemn the exploitation, theft, and colonization of land and labor and we strive for freedom and justice for all peoples. Asian American Studies, which traces our history to the Third World Liberation Front Strike of 1968, has long advanced a critique of imperialism, militarism, and settler colonialism in the United States, Asia, Oceania, and elsewhere.  We condemn the exchange of military tactics and financial support between the United States and Israel, noting how U.S. counterinsurgency techniques and military equipment used during the Vietnam War were then extrapolated to the Occupied Territories; how the Israeli military’s policing of the apartheid wall dividing Jerusalem and isolating the West Bank has influenced the U.S.’s own brutal border security policies along the U.S.-Mexico border; and how Israel has too often upheld its support of Asian and Asian American individuals as proof of multicultural democracy, over and against the ethnic cleansing of Palestine via a process of “yellow-washing.”

. . .In solidarity,

The Department of Asian American Studies, University of California, Los Angeles

Well, if you’re situated on stolen land and oppose that, why doesn’t UCLA or the Department give the land back or pay reparations? At least there’s a building housing this department that could be given to the Gabrielini/Tongva people, or reimburse them for the cost of both the L.A. land and the building on it. Of course they won’t, for this is a performative act not meant to accomplish anything beyond saying: “Hey, look! We’re ideologically correct.”

Two of my colleagues had the following reaction to the land-claim bit of the statement that went:

As an academic department situated on the ancestral and unceded territory of the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples, we oppose settler-colonialism in all its forms, from Tovaangar to Palestine.

First response, noting that it’s an Asian-American Studies Department:

I’d like their position on Han colonization of the Yangtze and Pearl valleys and the concomitant colonialist suppression of Yue, Min, Hmong, and other indigenous peoples (to say nothing of Uygers and Tibetans).

Second response:

If more historical knowledge were available, it would surely reveal that the “Gabrielino/Tongva peoples” had colonized the LA region from whoever lived there before too. The natives weren’t sitting around singing Kumbaya before the white man arrived!

Again, although the department says it opposes settler-colonialism in all its forms, the statement is about the “settler-colonialism” of Israel alone. And yet China is one of the biggest settler-colonialist nations going.  What, do you suppose, explains the unique demonization of Israel?