Salon.com recently published two pieces relating to Israel that reflects the deterioriated quality of journalism at the electronic magazine. The first article repeats the malicious charge that Jews carried out the “ethnic cleansing” of Arabs from Israel in 1948. The second article, ostensibly a review of the film “Trumbo,” attempts to pin the label of “McCarthyism” on Jews because the University of Illinois rescinded a job offer to a professor whose unhinged diatribes against Jews revealed an emotional instability that rendered him unfit for the appointment.
Salon’s debased journalism is not limited to just Israel and Jews. Noted atheist author Sam Harris recently commented after Salon “bowdlerized” an interview with the magazine that, “As long as we’re talking about the regressive Left, it would be remiss of me not to point out how culpable Salon is for giving it a voice.” Harris provided details of how Salon editors completely misrepresented his views while concealing their deviousness from readers.
This type of dishonesty is similarly evident in Salon’s handling of Israel. On Nov. 30, 2015, Salon’s Ben Norton addressed the establishment of the State of Israel in his piece, “U.N. voted to partition Palestine 68 years ago, in an unfair plan made even worse by Israel’s ethnic cleansing.” Sadly, but predictably, Norton draws upon the discredited revisionist history of anti-Zionist Ilan Pappé, who disdains academic objectivity. Norton accuses Israel of ethnically cleansing Arabs during the war of Israeli independence. A critique of the piece by blogger Elder of Ziyyon exposes the fraudulent narrative.
To understand Norton’s deceit, it is necessary to briefly recount the actual sequence of events during that period. In November 1947, the United Nations adopted a partition plan that called for two states, a Jewish one and an Arab one in the portion of the Palestine Mandate west of the Jordan River. The UN plan was satisfactory to neither side, but the Jewish leadership accepted it. The Arabs rejected the plan, choosing aggression instead. Local Arab groups initiated acts of violence against Jews. Then, in May 1948, immediately following Israel’s formal declaration of independence, the surrounding Arab states invaded the fledgling Jewish state. To the chagrin of Israel’s enemies, the Arabs failed to strangle the Jewish state in its infancy. Instead Israel consolidated its limited territory by the time a ceasefire was agreed upon in mid-1949.
The war launched by the Arabs in 1947 set in motion the dislocation of a substantial portion of the Arab population in that portion of the Mandate that became Israel. Most of the Arab flight was prompted by a combination of fear stoked by Arab leaders, like Haj Amin al-Husseini, and a desire to clear the path for invading Arab armies, with the expectation of returning after victory over the Jews was achieved. In some places, Jewish civic leaders, alarmed by the departure of Arabs, pleaded with the local Arab population to stay. Only a small portion of the Arab refugees can be attributed to compulsion by Jewish forces. In most of those instances, Arabs were compelled to abandon their homes due to exigencies of the war.
For those interested in a credible history of this period, the works of Professor Efraim Karsh are recommended. Karsh adheres to a traditional view of historical scholarship that remains faithful to the archival evidence. His scholarship exposed the fabrications and shoddiness of polemicists like Pappé on whom Salon relies. For Norton and his ideologically-driven ilk, the political ends justify their dishonest accounts.
Norton’s anti-Israel agitation is characteristic of the feverish obsession with Zionism characteristic of the far-left. A review of his recent articles on the topic include advocacy for Roger Waters’ boycott campaign against Israel. The title of a piece Salon published on Nov. 10, 2015 declares, “Occupation is the root cause of violence” implying that the history of the conflict began in 1967, the date Israel took control of Judea-Samaria (the West Bank) in a defensive war. However, Arab violence against Israelis existed well before 1967. So one can only conclude that for Norton, “the occupation” does not refer to Israeli control over Judea-Samaria, but rather refers to the State of Israel as a whole.
Several of Norton’s articles also display an apologetic attitude toward radical Islam.
A second anti-Israel hit piece on Dec. 2, 2015, came wrapped in a review of the recently released film, “Trumbo.” Several paragraphs into the review, author David Palumbo-Liu launches into an attack on what he alleges is “McCarthyism” directed against critics of Israel in academia. Palumbo-Liu’s charge is completely divorced from reality. Any obsever of the current American and European academic scene is well aware that it is awash in anti-Israel agitation. Boycott resolutions proliferate in academic associations hijacked by minions of extremists marching in lockstep.
Contrary to Palumbo-Liu’s contention that opinions critical of Israel are suppressed, those who share his beliefs readily inject their anti-Zionist polemics wherever they can. Recently, the National Women’s Studies Association [NWSA] passed a boycott and divestment resolution by a vote of 653-86. In so doing, they reveal their moral bankruptcy by abandoning oppressed women throughout the Middle East and casting their lot with the misogynists and homophobes who hold sway in much of the Middle East. These “scholars” scheme to isolate and destroy the one sanctuary in the region where women and gays are allowed to fully participate in society free from fear and retribution. The misguided NWSA resolution follows similar resolutions by the American Studies Association, American Anthropological Association and a variety of radicalized ethnic studies associations, which reflect the degenerated state of their academic disciplines.
No longer content with signing feel-good, hypocritical resolutions and emboldened by the fecklessness of college administrators, untethered academic cultists are increasingly engaging in outright discrimination and intimidation. Just this past month, at the University of California at Santa Cruz, a student council member was effectively barred from voting on a resolution promoting divestment from Israel because he was Jewish.
Salon’s Palumbo-Liu misdirects his readers, by raising the case of Steven Salaita, whom he alleges “was fired from his position at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, largely at the behest of wealthy donors displeased by Salaita’s sharp and cutting statements on social media critical of Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2014.”
Issuing a declaration oozing with Orwellian irony, Palumbo-Liu contends that “similar to the Red Scare, anyone in 2015 who wants to take a public position that may be perceived to be critical of Israeli policy
has to consider the personal and professional risks. We call this the new McCarthyism.”
In fact, Salaita has been feted by radicalized academia. Dissenting professor Martin Kramer noted that at a conclave of the Middle East Scholars Association (MESA) in 2014, Salaita was introduced to a standing ovation. Kramer recounts that Salaita has been on tour speaking at numerous universities, but he never has had to share the stage or engage in a substantive debate with any critics.
Cary Nelson, the former President of the American Association of University Professors responded to Salaita’s charges that it is Israel’s supporters who face repression:
I know many secret Zionists who avoid expressing public support for Israel. They worry that to do so might torpedo their jobs. They worry it might limit their chance at presenting a conference paper or being appointed to a committee.
So the real McCarthyism in academia is directed against Israel’s defenders. People like Palumbo-Liu are, in reality, the McCarthyites.
Palumbo-Liu claims that Salaita was denied his position as a result of his “social media critical of Israel’s attack on Gaza.” Characteristically, he avoids specifics. The following are a sampling of Salaita’s criticisms:
Zionist uplift in America: every little Jewish boy and girl can grow up to be the leader of a murderous colonial regime.
Zionists: transforming ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.
After three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered in June 2014 Salaita tweeted:
You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the (expletive) West Bank settlers would go missing.
Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg (who writes for the Atlantic Monthly) claims that Salaita tweeted an implicit threat against him, suggesting that Goldberg “should have ended at the pointy end of a shiv.”
In rescinding Salaita’s appointment, the University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise stated in a letter to the faculty that
the decision regarding Prof. Salaita was not influenced in any way by his positions on the conflict in the Middle East nor his criticism of Israel. Our university is home to a wide diversity of opinions on issues of politics and foreign policy… What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them…
Wise’s full statement is available here.
In contrast to the real victims of “McCarthyism,” screenwriters who lost their means of support and their careers, Salaita has done quite well. The school, apparently preferring to avoid a protracted legal battle, agreed to a settlement of $875,000. Meanwhile, Salaita received an appointment to American University in Beirut. His unhinged rants against Jews will likely receive a sympathetic hearing in his new environment.
Ironically, the other professor whom Palumbo-Liu mentions as a victim of pro-Israel “McCarthyism,” former DePaul professor Norman Finkelstein, had some choice wordsfor Salaita.
I’ve read Salaita‑or, let’s say, I’ve endeavored to read him. Even Google has yet to invent a translation program that makes coherent sense of his prose. . . . [I]n a rational world it would be cause for wonder how he got hired in the first place. It’s a telling commentary on the state of the humanities that his tweets got greater scrutiny than his (so‑called) scholarship.
Referring to Salaita’s appointment as a professor at American University, Finkelstein added “That’s not bad for someone with a PhD from the University of Oklahoma who, before being hired to teach Native American Studies at an excellent second‑tier university, last taught English composition at Virginia Tech.”
Finkelstein, himself a defamer of Israel and self-professed admirer of Hezbollah, nevertheless raises a troubling question. How did someone whose expressions contain such bigotry and venom garner an appointment at a reputable university in the first place? That’s the sort of probing question that would never be asked by Palumbo-Liu and the so-called “journalists” at Salon.