Wednesday, December 8, 2010

More on Bassam Frangieh in the Media

  • Claremont McKenna administrators have not responded to emails from me or from others regarding a statement about the revelations that Professor Bassam Frangieh supports terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah. 
  • I'm currently at work raising money and getting the addresses so I can send the story I wrote to every single Board of Trustee member. If you want to help, please email me at chuckwalla1022 at gmail com

"A certain fashionable disdain for Israel is common in liberal academic circles. And while there are clearly some limits to academic freedom in this country (for instance, openly calling for violence against gays or blacks would get any professor fired), those limits disappear whenever hatred is directed outside certain “protected” liberal special interest groups.  There is generally much more tolerance for people, such as Frangieh, who sympathize with perpetrators of violence against Jews or Americans.

Frangieh doesn’t deserve to be teaching Claremont McKenna students. And I wonder how many of the school’s Jewish donors, who have poured tens of millions of dollars into the school in recent years, will be pleased to see that their dollars are helping to fund the open endorsement of Hamas and Hezbollah?

Instead of such riches, it looks to me like we should all donate cardboard boxes to the college so Frangieh can pack up his office and hit the road."

8 comments:

maxschiller said...

I think perhaps it might be clearer to define on exactly what grounds you wish to call for the professor's dismissal. Specifically, I believe the quote you referred to is rather specious because it is illegitimate to play the part of the suppressed. While certainly there is dissent of Israeli policy in many universities it is very much a two sided issue, and clearly politically Israel is supported by the US government. This is not to say, however, that one should be blatantly pro-Palestiaian or pro-terrorist either. Rather, it is meant to provide a framework for the debate. If you wish to continue the discourse it might perhaps be prudent to expand on the lack of scholarship the professor may have produced. Based on a cursory glance of posting early I believe you introduce the idea but don't discuss it very much within the context of CMC's academic standards. Also, it seems to me that you make assumptions about the work. Granted, I know less about it than you do and don't have much interest in seeing it, but if it is scholarly and has been accepted within the academic community clearly it has met at least minimum standards of academic integrity and should not simply be defined as terrorist rhetoric. You may still challenge the article critically, but do so in the context in which it was published. Finally, despite the fact I have never taken any of his courses nor do I believe I will, I know that he is popular among some students who believe he has something to contribute and is not a virulent hate monger. So it implores you to develop a criteria of why a professor should be dismissed that addresses this issue. This seems to me to be one of the few ways to contextualize the debate in which both sides can agree on the terms.

Charles Johnson said...

Max,

There is no debate at the Claremont Colleges on this topic. Under his tenure as director of the Middle East studies department, there has not been a single pro-Israel speaker on campus. In fact, many, like the Syrian ambassador, or Imam Zaid Shakin are openly hostile to Israel and/or America. I encourage you to read my first article on that topic which appeared in April 2010. Moreover, all attempts at debate, including request for a debate by students and professors, have been met with silence.

I will be discussing the lack of credentials in a subsequent blog post. (There is only so much I can write about in a short piece.) I figured that supporting a terrorism was more interesting to the average reader.

I suspect (or rather hope) also that had a tenure committee known about these publications or support that it would have denied bringing him to campus. Much of it was written in Arabic, which other than Frangieh, no full faculty member on our campus speaks.

maxschiller said...

I don't know what the process is for hosting Middle East speakers, but since you bring it up I guess I'd like to know whether any Israeli scholars in general have been invited, including those who might be critical of Israel. Also, the process of should be considered, namely how respected the scholars are within the academic community and how many invitations are proffered in additional to a whole slew of other logistical considerations.

Since he is writing in Arabic its important to consider any translations you find of his work and not make assumptions. After all it is contextual and you have to accept the fact that he works within a field that is extremely complex. If his scholarship is accepted within his own field, it will be difficult to refute him. If other Arabic scholars address hims polemically, perhaps that is a more legitimate basis for criticism.

I would certainly hope that since the tenure committee doesn't understand Arabic that they operate on good, relatively objective and reliable sources in making their considerations, and any criticism of the process should be directed at the committee itself.

Charles Johnson said...

Max,

I think it is very important for us to have a debate. Whatever logistical arrangements can be made, ought to be made.

The translations I had done by two different translators. One of them is a foreign officer; the other has grown up speaking Arabic. They are highly reputable, but if you disagree, please take the documents I put at the back of the and pay from your own pocket to have them translated.

Many of those documents, such as the 2000 essay endorsing suicide bombing, were written in English.

I'm curious as to where the endorsement of those petitions could be considered part of a "complex field". Are you really just apologizing for these statements in the hopes that they aren't true?

I assure you that they are.

Lowell R. said...

I wrote a comment the other night that unfortunately got lost or something. I will try to restate it, but it will be in bullet points.

-"Zionist plot" is not an appeal to anti-Semitism no matter how you look at it. Being anti-Zionist is NOT being anti-Semitic. Just because one may disagree with a movement led by Jews doesn't mean that person dislikes Jews. (ie you are not in favor of same-sex marriage, but you have clearly stated you don't dislike gay people).

-I agree that unqualified professors should not be teaching here. However, I have heard only good things about Frangieh from his students. I imagine his evaluations rate him very highly.

-Supporting Israel is also antithetical to peace and diplomacy. They are occupying land that IS NOT THEIRS. See UN Resolution 242, from 1967, among others. They keep building and expanding on land that IS NOT THEIRS. How is that supporting peace and diplomacy? Israel kills far more civilians that Palestine. How is that supporting peace and diplomacy?

-Who translated the pieces for you?

-If CMC really wanted to stand up for human rights and peace, they would boycott and divest from organizations and donors that support or benefit from the illegal Israeli occupation, rather than fire a qualified and well-liked teacher that has built, from the ground up, one of "America's top international programs."

-Nathan Harden's denial of the support for Palestine makes me pity him. To think that the "disdain" for Israel is simply "fashionable" and "common in liberal academic circles" is an uneducated claim. Sorry Nathan, it's not simply a fashionable disdain common in those circles.

-I second all of Max's comments.

Lowell

Charles Johnson said...

Hey Lowell,

I saw your comment on the blackberry, but for whatever reason it did not come across here. Curious...

Anyways, thanks for putting it up. Let's go line by line.

-"Zionist plot" is not an appeal to anti-Semitism no matter how you look at it. Being anti-Zionist is NOT being anti-Semitic. Just because one may disagree with a movement led by Jews doesn't mean that person dislikes Jews. (ie you are not in favor of same-sex marriage, but you have clearly stated you don't dislike gay people).

CJ: The phrase "Zionist plot" as I have mentioned suggests the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the idea that Jews run the world, and that is a very anti-Semitic thing. The petition, which is there for all to see, calls a proposed initiative to divide Iraq into three parts a "Zionist plot".

There is nothing wrong with being anti-Zionist. There is something wrong and I would say anti-Semitic with suggesting that there is some sort of world wide Zionist conspiracy that penetrates the upper echelon of the Senate and wants to divide Iraq into three sovereign nations.

-I agree that unqualified professors should not be teaching here. However, I have heard only good things about Frangieh from his students. I imagine his evaluations rate him very highly.

CJ: That could well be true, I have also heard from students that he inflates grades. I will go in the coming days to compare the average grade he doles out to the rest of the department. Perhaps it is the case that he ought to teach only Arabic, and not the course mentioned above.

-Supporting Israel is also antithetical to peace and diplomacy. They are occupying land that IS NOT THEIRS. See UN Resolution 242, from 1967, among others. They keep building and expanding on land that IS NOT THEIRS. How is that supporting peace and diplomacy? Israel kills far more civilians that Palestine. How is that supporting peace and diplomacy?

CJ: There's a lot here, so let's break it down.
Not a single agreement -- not the Camp David Accords, not the Oslo Accord, not the Road Map -- encourage Israel to "give back all the land" or return to the pre-1967 border.

Resolution 242 calls on Israel to withdraw from territories, but only after negotiations have affirmed the "right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force." There have been a lot of discussion, but the Palestinian Authority has never recognized those borders and no negotiation process has recognized them. Hamas's very charter calls for Israel itself to be wiped out.

-Who translated the pieces for you?

Two professional translators. One who is overseas, another who grew up speaking Arabic.

-If CMC really wanted to stand up for human rights and peace, they would boycott and divest from organizations and donors that support or benefit from the illegal Israeli occupation, rather than fire a qualified and well-liked teacher that has built, from the ground up, one of "America's top international programs."

CJ: The Israeli occupation is not illegal for reasons previously mentioned.

-Nathan Harden's denial of the support for Palestine makes me pity him. To think that the "disdain" for Israel is simply "fashionable" and "common in liberal academic circles" is an uneducated claim. Sorry Nathan, it's not simply a fashionable disdain common in those circles.

CJ: Actually, there's a lot to support that claim. Academia is notoriously hostile to the idea that there ought to be an Israel. Frangieh goes one further by supporting terrorist organizations who have killed Americans.

Israel, by the way, has killed Palestinian civilians, but that is often because Hamas and Hezbollah use human shields when they fire missiles. Israel is the only country I know of that uses text messaging to alert civilians to raids or leaflets areas telling people to flee.

maxschiller said...

What I was alluding to earlier was the reception of the professor's academic work and his status as a scholar. Notice, that arguments made by his scholarship you yourself imply. I don't have time to go through everything but it seems to me that making those arguments requires a leap on your part. In the process of being critical, its acceptable to make that leap, however it must be understood that you are not offering a scholarly analysis which in this case is the basis for judging the legitimacy of his work. The complexity lies in this process. As for his signing of the petitions, that is something entirely different and outside of what I'm addressing. In order to discuss that issue you have to provide a framework for what it means to be a scholar. I have no problem with that. As you may notice I have not taken sides or assumed anything. Personally, I don't feel there should be a moratorium on Israeli professors, which seems particularly odd to me considering that some Israeli scholars are very critical of Israel. Instead I've implored you to give more pertinent arguments as to what it means to be a scholar in a given context and what standards does this particular scholar fail to meet that others do. While you suggest certain faults that the professor has, I fail to see a cohesive analysis that takes into account what it means to be a professor at CMC, like whether it implies a certain amount of political discretion, and what institutional standards he fails to meet.

Your suggestion of a debate is surprising considering that I haven't made an argument regarding the validity of your call for his dismissal. Instead all of my comments have been addressed at the way you framework your argument and problematizing your analytical categories. Ironically, these are the reasons why I feel a substantive debate can take place on the issue. I don't know much about this professor, nor do I have much interest, so I don't have an opinion one way or another regarding his professorship. Trust me, if anyone is critical of professors it is me. But I do think it would make more sense to if you take these things into consideration.

BTW, if outside of this particular discussion you can framework an argument with which I disagree and in which your analytic analysis is pertinent, and there seems to be enough contention surrounding it, I would be glad to participate in a debate.

Charles Johnson said...

Max,

Again, I fail to see where that is acceptable language in any academic context. I was not suggesting that you and I debate; I was suggesting that Claremont could do well with A debate on this topic. More to the point, however, I'm sure you can agree with me that someone who lacks a PhD in history, should not be teaching a course like "Trends and Movements".

His degree is in Arabic literature and that and only that is what he ought to teach. If you watch his YouTube videos, it is very embarrassing to hear him talk about development when he is not a scholar of development.

If we are going to allow anyone with a PhD to teach on any topic, I think we ought to have government professors teaching literature or chemistry or physics.