Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 2, 2015

In reply to an Islamophobe

Filed under: Islamophobia — louisproyect @ 7:25 pm

A.J. Caschetta

Today I found myself embroiled in an ongoing confrontation between a pro-Palestinian professor named Jonathan Judaken at Rhodes College in Tennessee and an Islamophobe named A.J. Caschetta who teaches English at the Rochester Institute of Technology. It all started with an article that Caschetta wrote on Daniel Pipes “Middle East Forum” on behalf of JihadWatch, a blog associated with David Horowitz’s Freedom Center. So right off the bat you can figure out that Caschetta is bad news.

Titled “Are Muslims the New Jews?”,Caschetta’s article denounced a Judaken lecture at the University of Rochester as being soft on Islam. He described Judaken’s lecture as exaggerating the Islamic contribution to Western civilization and crediting Islam with having “preserved, elaborated on and indeed expanded upon Western thought” in Judaken’s words. He also took exception to Judaken’s claim that Jews were ”treated much better” in the Muslim world after expulsion from Christendom. Now this is a topic that I have devoted a fair amount of research to, culminating in an article titled “Jews in the Maghreb”. The whole question of how Jews got treated in the Muslim world is highly politicized with people like David Horowitz and A.J. Caschetta likening it to Nazi Germany and others moored to the planet Earth agreeing with famed Jewish historian Shelomo Dov Goitein that Jewish life “flourished” there.

As might be expected, Caschetta refers his readers to passages in the Quran that supposedly demonize Jews. Frankly, as someone who attended Hebrew school and had drummed into his head for 3 years that the Jews were the “chosen people”, something that gave them the right to occupy Palestine and ethnically cleanse the people who had been living there for millennia, this sort of scripture-quoting struck me as a sick joke.

After Judaken read Caschetta’s article, he wrote a commentary in Inside Higher Education titled “The New McCarthyism” that quite rightly places Caschetta’s article in the context of a well-funded and vicious organized attempt to silence critics of Israel:

I had a sense something had happened in the blogosphere when I began to receive anti-Islamic hate mail in my inbox, and requests for the lecture from as far away as Sydney, Australia. This happened because Campus Watch flies its flag under the auspices of the Middle East Forum, a well-financed initiative under the leadership of Daniel Pipes that monitors Middle East studies in the academy.

Campus Watch is part of a network of networks, including StandWithUs, AMCHAInitiative, the David Horowitz Freedom Center and most recently Canary Mission, linked to groups like Jihad Watch. Jihad Watch and these other fora send daily blasts to all those who sign up to receive them on their websites and use email and social media to share their message. Within this self-referential set of bubbles, each consumes the propaganda of their fellow warriors in what they describe as a war for hearts and minds. College campuses are thus key strategic territory in the battle since this is where young minds are shaped.

On June 16th I crossposted Judaken’s article on Marxmail, a mailing list that has a definite political orientation and one that is obviously sympathetic to intellectuals like Judaken, Steven Salaita et al. For some reason totally unfathomable to me, this character A.J. Caschetta emailed Les Schaffer requesting that we post his latest article on this matter that appears in todays Inside Higher Education. So this complies with his request and allows me to put in my own two cents.

Caschetta’s article is titled “The Hollow Cry of ‘McCarthyism’” and is filled with dodgy obfuscations such as the claim that his Middle East Forum article had nothing to do with Israel since the word Israel does not occur once. Maybe that’s because it didn’t have to. If you spend a thousand words arguing that Muslims have hated Jews from the time of Mohammad, isn’t it obvious that this is just another attempt to persuade people that Israel had an excuse for bombing UN schools in Gaza? If we didn’t kill women and children there, the next thing you know they would be swarming into Israel like locusts in order to carry out a genocide against the Jews because of words written in the Quran.

You have to wonder, I should add, how an RIT professor can bond with the likes of David Horowitz who is given to statements such as “We already have a lot of infiltration of Islamic jihadist doctrines into our K-12 school systems.” I can easily imagine Pipes, Horowitz and Pam Geller lining up at Sheldon Adelson’s trough to get their pay-off, but doesn’t Caschetta feel a bit soiled when he does? Aah, maybe I am giving him too much credit.

Finally, a word about Caschetta’s dismissal of Judaken’s worries that he and other pro-Palestinian professors can encounter the same sort of witch hunt that took place during the Red Scare. Since he is part of Daniel Pipes and David Horowitz’s Islamophobic brigades, this is tantamount to Walter Winchell scoffing at the idea that Communists had anything to worry about in 1953.

For my newer readers, I would recommend a look at the dossier I collected on victims of this well-organized,  well-funded and utterly reactionary crusade a while back. The first couple of pages should suffice:

NY Times October 2, 1983
THE STONY BROOK RIFT: RACISM AND ZIONISM
By MICHAEL WINERIP

ON Aug. 17, five faculty members at the State University of New York at Stony Brook met to review the evidence against Prof. Ernest Dube.

It was skimpy evidence, those five executive committee members agreed – certainly nothing they ever dreamed would attract the attention of the Governor.

In a two-page letter, a visiting professor from Israel had charged Professor Dube with using the classroom for ”the kind of sloganeering that is practiced by the anti-Semite,” including teaching that Zionism is racist.

The Israeli professor, Selwyn K. Troen, had never been to Professor Dube’s class nor made an attempt to talk with Professor Dube. He based his letter on conversations with a single student and a copy of the course syllabus and shortly afterward flew back to Israel.

”Frankly, I thought what Professor Troen said was bull,” said Joel Rosenthal, a Stony Brook history professor and head of the committee. That same day, after reviewing the evidence available, the committee decided that Professor Dube was within the bounds of academic freedom abnd had not acted improperly.

* * * *

NY Times, October 19, 2000
Columbia Debates a Professor’s ‘Gesture’
By KAREN W. ARENSON

When Edward W. Said, a celebrated literary scholar, Columbia University professor and outspoken Palestinian advocate, hurled a rock toward an Israeli guardhouse from the Lebanese border in July, a photographer caught the action. The photo, which captured Mr. Said with his arm reached far behind him, ready to throw, appeared in newspapers and magazines in the Middle East and the United States.

Mr. Said’s rock-throwing occurred during a visit to Lebanon with his family last summer. He has given several explanations for it. In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, he said it was merely a competition with his son to see who could throw farther.

But his explanations did not satisfy critics like Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. Mr. Foxman wrote to Columbia’s president, George Rupp, calling Mr. Said’s behavior ”a crude, disgraceful and dangerous act of incitement” and saying that it warranted ”clear repudiation and censure from the Columbia University community.”

* * * *

Jewish Ledger, June 26, 2002
CCSU, Tunxis institutes for teachers lack balance, Jewish leaders say
by Adam N. Schupack

Two professional development institutes to educate Connecticut public school teachers about the Middle East and Islamic world have drawn criticism from members of the Jewish community and a Connecticut congressman for their lack of balance.

At least three professors teaching at the programs at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) in New Britain and Tunxis Community College in Farmington are anti-Israel activists, according to Jewish leaders.

“We feel that it is important that middle and high school teachers receive a balanced presentation of the issues, and we’re not convinced these faculty will be able to accomplish that,” said Cathrine Fischer Schwartz, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford.

* * * *

NY Times, November 21, 2002
Poet Who Spoke Against Israel Is Reinvited to Talk at Harvard
By ROBERT F. WORTH

Citing concerns about freedom of speech, Harvard University’s English department has renewed an invitation to the Irish poet Tom Paulin to give a lecture, just a week after he was disinvited for expressing strongly anti-Israeli views.

The new invitation, approved in a vote on Tuesday night, drew sharply differing responses from faculty members and students at Harvard, which has been troubled by heated debates and demonstrations about Israel in the past year. Some expressed relief, saying the university had crossed the line by disinviting a poet because of his political views. Others were outraged and said the decision would lead to renewed protests.

* * * *

New York Sun, January 27, 2004
Hamas in Florida Classroom
by Daniel Pipes and Asaf Romirowsky

A visiting Palestinian professor at Florida Atlantic University, Mustafa Abu Sway, is “known as an activist” in Hamas, a group on the American government’s terrorism list, we reported in October of 2003. We also disclosed that his salary is being paid by the American taxpayer, via the Fulbright exchange program.

Our little scoop met with yawns or with disbelief. Mr. Abu Sway himself, in an interview with the Palm Beach Post, denounced our article as a “witch hunt.” Florida Atlantic University ignored the disclosure: “We have no reason to take any action,” the university’s president told the Post, a paper that published four skeptical responses, including an editorial insisting that “there is no known evidence” against Mr. Abu Sway.

Actually, being named as “a known activist” in Hamas by the Israeli government — who knows terrorism better ? — qualifies in itself as “evidence,” but since October we have learned that Mr. Abu Sway also, according to Israeli sources.

* * * *

Berkeley Daily Planet Tuesday May 25, 2004
UC Lecturer’s ‘Intifada’ Comment Brings Death Threats
By JAKOB SCHILLER

A recent speech delivered by a UC Berkeley lecturer during an impromptu anti-war protest in San Francisco has set off a firestorm of criticism around the country, including death threats and calls for his removal from the university.

The speech, given by Hatem Bazian of UC’s Near Eastern Studies Department, at one point noted the intifada in Palestine and uprising in Iraq and then asked the crowd why the U.S. has not had its own political intifada to protest the lies U.S. government has used to lead this country to war.

Critics took offense with his use of the word “intifada” and are claiming Bazian could be calling for an armed uprising like the ones in Iraq and Palestine. In Arabic, Intifada comes from a root word which means “shaking off,” but the word has come to be associated with the armed Palestinian struggle against Israel.

* * * *

NY Sun, October 22, 2004
Rep. Weiner Asks Columbia to Fire Anti-Israel Prof
By JACOB GERSHMAN, Staff Reporter of the Sun

A congressman from New York City is calling for the dismissal of a Columbia University professor he accuses of “displays of anti-Semitism.”

Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Democrat of Brooklyn and Queens, has written a letter to Columbia’s president, Lee Bollinger, urging him to “fire” Joseph Massad, an assistant professor of Arab politics and one of the harshest critics of Israel on campus.

* * * *

NY Sun, November 22, 2004
Professor Fearful of Attack
By JACOB GERSHMAN, Staff Reporter of the Sun

After receiving an e-mail from a Columbia University graduate student accusing him of anti-Semitism, the chairman of Columbia’s Department of Middle East and Asian languages and cultures told university officials he felt physically threatened by the student and urged them to alert school security.

Columbia’s provost, Alan Brinkley, told the professor, Hamid Dabashi, he was overreacting, and declined to notify security about the letter from the student, according to an e-mail obtained by The New York Sun.

Mr. Dabashi, whose department at Columbia has come under public scrutiny for its promotion of anti-Israel sentiment and its alleged harassment of Jewish students, was responding to an e-mail he received in late September from Victor Luria, a Ph.D. student who works in a Columbia genetics lab.

* * * *

NY Times, February 28, 2005
Some Limits on Speech in Classrooms
By JOYCE PURNICK

WHILE Columbia University struggles to find the line between academic freedom and unacceptable classroom behavior, the city’s Department of Education has found a facile but provocative solution: banish the guy.

Earlier this month, Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein barred Rashid Khalidi, director of Columbia’s Middle East Institute, from again lecturing to city teachers enrolled in a professional development course because of “a number of things he’s said in the past,” said Michael Best, the department’s general counsel. Asked if the department had verified those purported remarks, Mr. Best did not answer directly: “He’s denied saying certain things; he has not denied saying others.”

Set against the backdrop of a simmering campus dispute over Jewish students’ charges of intimidation by pro-Palestinian teachers, the Khalidi affair has inevitably been linked to the larger controversy. “In this feeding frenzy for finding culprits, he sort of got lumped in with others, and it’s been unfair to him,” said Ari L. Goldman, dean of students at Columbia’s journalism school.

* * * *

Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
No 3, 1 September 2005, 27 Av 5765
Faculty Efforts to Combat Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israeli Bias at the University of California, Santa Cruz
By Leila Beckwith, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, and Ilan Benjamin

The University of California-Santa Cruz (UCSC), founded in 1965, is one of the ten campuses of the University of California, a public institution. The attractive campus is situated on two thousand acres of hills and redwood forests overlooking Monterey Bay. Fifteen thousand students attend, of whom about 20 percent are Jewish, the highest proportion of Jewish students among all the UC campuses.1

Nevertheless, UCSC is home to a great deal of virulent anti-Israeli rhetoric, which creates an intimidating environment for many Jews on campus. Although such hostility can be found at many other universities, what is unique at UCSC is that the animus is not directed by the usual sources, such as well-funded Muslim student groups2 or faculty in a Middle East studies program.3 In fact, the UCSC Muslim Student Alliance is not very active; nor are other pro-Palestinian/anti-Israeli student groups such as the Committee for Justice in Palestine. And while there is a Jewish studies program, there is none for Middle East studies, and no known Arab/Muslim funding of university faculty or activities. Instead, at UCSC the anti-Israeli sentiment is primarily generated by a leftist faculty scattered throughout the university’s academic units.

2 Comments »

  1. It should be duly noted that Troen, Romirowsky, and Rossman-Benjamin are all contributors to Cary Nelson’s book: http://www.amazon.com/Case-Against-Academic-Boycotts-Israel/dp/0990331601

    Comment by David Green — July 15, 2015 @ 6:30 pm

  2. AJ Caschetta’s article is factual and correct. Your rebuttal is subjective and childish. If you disagree with him, take the time to post an intellectual response instead of personal insults, you should be ashamed of yourself.

    Comment by Derek — April 1, 2016 @ 3:25 pm


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