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Thursday, April 26, 2012

[haw-info] HAW Notes 4/26/12: follow-up on yesterday's message: (a) fund appeal and (b) letter from one of those targeted by David Horowitz's New York Times ad

To members and friends of Historians Against the War,

1.  Many thanks to those who have already responded to the appeal for funds for HAW that we sent out yesterday evening.  The appeal, with a reminder of how to donate, is posted at
http://blog.historiansagainstwar.org/2012/04/haw-info-appeal-for-funds.html.  We hope to hear from more people.

2.  In the same message, we called attention to an inflammatory advertisement on the op-ed page of Tuesday's
New York Times denouncing 14 academics by name, calling for them to be "condemned and shamed" for having expressed support for sanctions against Israel.  (The ad can now be found on-line at
http://zatarandspinach.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/20120424113007773-1.pdf.)  One of those targeted, William Thomson of the University of Michigan (whose name is misspelled in the ad), has written a letter which is included at the end of this message.


Jim O'Brien and Marc Becker
Co-chairs of Historians Against the War

Letter from William Thomson

Yesterday, April, 24, 2012 - a date which will live in memory - 13 academic colleagues and I were suddenly and deliberately attacked by the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

Under a photograph of a 1930's era Nazi Brown shirt, my colleagues and I were identified by name and academic affiliation, inferentially connected to the tragic murder of a French rabbi and three children, and listed with others on the
horowitzfreedomcenter.org weebsite as "BDS supporters of hate and anti-Semitism."

I presume my inclusion in this list was the result of my efforts at the University of Michigan to promote the formation of a University Committee to investigate possible divestment.  Precisely, what we are requesting is:

Whereas, the undersigned believe that any Univesity investments in entities contributing to human rights violations by either Israelis or Palestinians is inappropriate.

Resolved, the undersigned call for the formation by the University of Michigan of an advisory committee consisting of members of the University Senate, students, administration and alumni to determine if any University investments are questionable and in need of appropriate corrective actions.

Although our efforts at Michigan have been consistently mis-characterized by the local opposition as anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic, please note carefully that we are calling for divestment with regard to both Israeli and Palestinian human rights violations.  This call has been supported by a wide range of Palestinian and American Jewish groups, as well as by three Nobel Prize laureates and numerous Nobel nominees.

It is not pleasant being characterized as anti-Semitic, even by ill-informed and misguided individuals.  However, those of us who toil in this arena for any length of time are quite familiar with the charge.  Over time I have come to associate it with an abvsence of reasoned argument by our adversaries.

Similarly this advertisement associates us with the initiation of a new Holocaust.  In my mind such a charge infinitely reduces the recognition and memory of the millions who suffered unimaginable pain and suffering at the hands of Adolf Hitler and his associates.  To cast such charges in such an irresponsible manner is an egregious violation of the memory of a terrible historical reality.

Nevertheless, groups and individuals will resort to unfounded character assassination and ad hominem attacks when reasoned discussion is beyond their abilities.  It comes with the territory, and I have learned to live with it. Wounds are inevitable in the full exercise of our First Amendment freedoms.

My primary argument in this situation is with the New York Times. Why would the supposed Newspaper of Record publish such an indefensible screed, and why it would put it on its editorial page without clearly labeling it as an advertisement?

The ad lists our names and our academic affiliations.  It calls for us to be "publicly shamed and condemned for the crimes [our] hatred incites".  It requests readers to "contact the president of your local university and ask them to publicly condemn their faculty's participation in the Boycott of Hate".

I am too weathered a campaigner to be much affected by these requests.  In fact, there is a part of me that recognizes that such unjustified attacks mean that we are nearing the critical mass that causes real fear in the hearts of our adversaries.

Now being seven years post-retirement, I am thankfully beyond any conceivable retaliation.  My reputation, for better or worse, is probably fixed.  However, others on this list may not be in my position, and at the very least, such an advertisement may have a "chilling effect" on the younger, more creative, more energetic individuals on all sides of this issue, individuals that hold the keys to its resolution.

Unfortunately, I have directly witnessed negative consequences toward vulnerable colleagues expressing views on this topic.  The concern is real.  So why is the New York Times aiding and abetting this environment of fear?

Please consider expressing any concerns you may have to the New York Times Public Editor

(Ombudsperson), Art Brisbane, at public@nytimes.com, or (212)556-7652.

Peace, with Justice,

Bill Thomson


Blogger Marc said...

To the Editors:

Regardless of our particular positions on the state of Israel and its policies toward the Palestinian people, we wish to declare our profound distress at the language and intent of the ad sponsored by the “David Horowitz Freedom Foundation” that appeared on the op-ed page of the NY Times on Tuesday, April 24th. It is a disgrace that this ad attempts to draw a direct connection between support for the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israel movement and the recent tragic murders of a rabbi and three Jewish students in Toulouse. Furthermore, we are deeply disturbed by the Times’ decision to publish an ad that names and targets specific academics, accuses them of being motivated by “hatred,” and that then calls for them to be “publicly shamed and condemned.” The exact details of the “public shaming” that the Horowitz Foundation has in mind are not divulged, but it would apparently go beyond reasoned criticism or vigorous disagreement.

David Horowitz has a long record of attempting to suppress academic freedom, and of seeking to silence scholars who have expressed what he considers unorthodox views. This latest ad, however, is an especially unsavory effort to incite harassment of scholars whose opinions are not to his liking. Horowitz’s tactics, which rely on innuendo and intimidation, are inimical to an atmosphere of free expression and open debate, and should be condemned accordingly.

Barbara Weinstein
Silver Professor of History
New York University New York, NY 10012
New York

Linda Gordon
Florence Kelley Professor of History
New York University
New York

Temma Kaplan
Professor of History
Rutgers University
New Brunswick

Alice Kessler-Harris
R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of History
Columbia University
New York

David Abraham
Professor of Law
University of Miami School of Law
Coral Gables

Elaine Tyler May
Regents Professor of American Studies
University of Minnesota

Marilyn B. Young
Collegiate Professor of History
New York University
New York

Gary Gerstle
James G. Stahlman Professor of American History
Vanderbilt University

Linda K. Kerber
May Brodbeck Professor of History
University of Iowa
Iowa City

Nelson Lichtenstein
MacArthur Foundation Professor of History
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara

Jon Wiener
Professor of History
University of California, Irvine

Mary Nolan
Professor of History
New York University
New York

Lary May
Professor of History
University of Minnesota

9:46 AM  

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