Pro-Israel students are besieged by anti-Israel and anti-Semitic groups and activists on campuses across North America. In response, CAMERA has developed a strong and growing Campus Division. But students are not the only targets. The Volokh Conspiracy blog of The Washington Post describes the situation being endured by a pro-Israel professor:
Andrew Pessin is a distinguished philosophy professor at Connecticut College. He is also, as I understand it, the only Jewish professor at the college who regularly speaks up on behalf of Israel in an intellectual climate that is often dominated by left-wing and foreign students hostile to Israel.
This made him the target of one Lamiya Khandaker, a student who took his intro to philosophy class without incident last Fall. In February, she sent him an email complaining about a Facebook post from the previous August, in which used the metaphor of a rabid pit bull to describe the situation in Gaza, to wit, “One image which essentializes the current situation in Gaza might be this. You’ve got a rabid pit bull chained in a cage, regularly making mass efforts to escape.”
Khandaker suggested that she found the post racist. Pessin clarified in response that he was not referring to Palestinians in general, but to Hamas and why its behavior provides a rationale for the Israel blockade of Gaza. Nevertheless, he wrote, “if my analogy inadvertently invites that overly literal misunderstanding then I am truly sorry and surely need to be more careful, and I’ve taken the post down.” Khandaker, unsatisfied, complained to other members of the university community.
It should be noted that the Hamas “charter” calls for the destruction of Israel, creation of an Islamic theocracy in its place, and genocide against the Jewish people.
The Connecticut College newspaper, The College Voice, printed several letters condemning Professor Pessin, without even bothering to contact him for comment or clarification beforehand. (One letter-writer later apologized, commendably, in a separate letter. For additional information, see two subsequent Volokh Conspiracy posts.)
Pessin himself wrote an apology letter to the editor. Naturally, sensing weakness, the forces of bigotry redoubled their efforts to persecute Pessin.
As reported in The Algemeiner:
What’s truly disgraceful is how Connecticut College has enabled the SJP-led inquisition campaign against Pessin. The History Department issued a statement condemning “speech filled with bigotry and hate particularly when that speech uses dehumanizing language and incites or celebrates violence and brutality.” The Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity also chided Pessin in a similarly worded statement. Then, at the beginning of April, the college canceled all classes so that students could attend a mandatory session on racism, during which Pessin’s post was bracketed with racist graffiti against African-Americans daubed on a bathroom wall.
At each turn, the accusations and insinuations against Pessin have grown louder and more outlandish, to the point where his principle antagonist, Khandaker, is now accusing the college of “institutional racism” by continuing to employ him. Plainly, these fanatics won’t rest until the college hands Pessin his notice, leaving him to fend for himself, with his reputation in tatters through no fault of his own.
Remember, all this hysteria was generated by an old Facebook post that was, at worst, injudiciously worded, like so much of the material that gets passed around on social media. For that reason, one has to conclude that Pessin’s post was mere cover for the real reason that he’s being treated so shamefully: that he’s a Jewish academic who supports Israel and isn’t afraid to say so.
Reportedly, Pessin and his family have been deluged by hate mail and threats, causing the professor so much stress that he is on medical leave. In the meantime, the university community at Connecticut College and elsewhere continues to flounder, unmoored from reason, academic integrity, and fidelity to the free exchange of ideas.
As an op-ed in The Christian Post states:
North Americans who cherish their freedoms must oppose the dangerous trend on campuses today: university administrations that tolerate intolerance while hate groups try to silence those who defend the only democracy in the Middle East…. If universities are increasingly dominated by an Islamist agenda, and they are where our democracy’s future is trained, what sort of future awaits us?
Attacking Professor Pessin while ignoring Hamas (the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, designated a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel, Canada, Australia and other countries) amounts to a contemptible intellectual and moral inversion. Hamas is worthy of criticism as the terrorist group blows up school buses, tunnels under kindergartens for kidnap/murder missions, uses aid money to buy missiles with which to target Israeli civilians, murders gays and persecutes Christians in Gaza, uses Palestinian civilians as human shields after launching a war against Israel, and commits many other war crimes, crimes against Israeli and Palestinian civilians, not to mention crimes against human decency.
If Pessin’s pit bull analogy dehumanizes people, in this case Hamas, what must be said about the many Hamas and Palestinian Authority media and leaders who frequently refer to Jews as descendents of apes and pigs? The Hamas charter calls f
or the extermination of Jews not just in Israel but everywhere. This is a group that actually advocates genocide, ironically the same accusation the anti-Israel activists make against Professor Pessin. In his case, it is unfounded and outrageous.