Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Curbing academic freedom, again: this post can be considered a followup to my earlier attempt to defend Larry Summers. This time, though, it isn't feminist groups who are trying to pressure academics into consensus. FrontPage magazine has published an article on a recent hire by Berkeley entitled "Berkeley Hires a Feminist Liar."

The piece is about Meira Weiss, a professor of Medical Anthropology, formerly at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who agreed to resign (and accept a position at Berkeley) following an internal investigation. What sort of investigation? Quoting Frontpage,
...there is clearly more to the story than simple flakiness or academic unfitness. After all, the Hebrew University is crawling with such professors...she must have been caught with her fingers in a very serious cookie jar. I repeat that the press here is being coy and has not revealed the details of what exactly Weiss’ misdeeds really were.
That, believe it or not, is the sum total of the evidence against Weiss.

Weiss may, in fact, be guilty of something. Or she may not be. But calling Weiss a liar based on such flimsy evidence reveals nothing more than innate bias and prejudice on the part of Frontpage.

One does not have to read the article for long to understand the reasons for this prejudice:
She has written that early Zionist leaders endorsed or practiced mass eugenics...While she has evidently published a few serious articles related to health, much of her other work is feminist boilerplate, and – like most radical feminists - she is pro-Palestinian.
Wow, feminist and pro-Palestinian! Clearly, the woman is unfit to teach.

Apart from engaging in typical anti-intellectual tricks - personal attacks on academics which do not endorse certain views - Frontpage also reveals a remarkable lack of reading comprehension. Quoting the following from a review of one of Weiss' books,
Prof. Meira Weiss, an anthropologist of medicine at Hebrew University, describes in her book "The Chosen Body" how the settlement of the land and work on the land were perceived by these Zionist thinkers as the "cure" that would restore the health of the Jewish body that had degenerated in the Diaspora. In Nordau's terms, a "Judaism of muscle" would replace "the Jew of the coffee house: the pale, skinny, Diaspora Jew. " At a time when many Europeans are calling for a policy of eugenics, the Jews have never taken part in the `cleansing' of their race but rather allowed every child, be it the sickest, to grow up and marry and have children like himself. Even the mentally retarded, the blind and the deaf were allowed to marry," wrote Ruppin in his book "The Sociology of the Jews." "In order to preserve the purity of our race, such Jews [with signs of degeneracy] must refrain from having children.
and follows it up with:
This racialist nonsense, it goes without saying, has already been picked up by anti-Semitic and neonazi web sites as “evidence” of the depravity and racism of Jews.
and elsewhere,
She has some wacky theories about the “Jewish body” and these seem to be comparable to certain discredited ideas about the “German body”.
Of course, one only has to read the passage carefully to realize that these are not Weiss' views; these are her descriptions of the views of certain 1930's Zionists. This is something that seems to be too subtle for Frontpage: when Weiss talks about the Jewish Body she clearly is talking about the ways people have conceived of it, talked about it, represented it. She clearly does not believe (judging from these passages) there is something physically distinctive.

Weiss may be right in the points she makes, or she may be wrong - I am frankly not qualified to say. But Frontpage makes no attempts to prove her wrong. Rather her views are to be considered wrong and repulsive simply by default. If there is anything that can match NOW's spirit in quashing free inquiry as revealed in the anti-Summers campaign, this is it.


At 4:02 PM, Blogger angela said...

not to undermine the intellectual underpinnings of your post, but the dude described as "the Jew of the coffee house: the pale, skinny, Diaspora Jew" sounds pretty hot.

At 3:06 AM, Blogger angela said...

it's your special day!

At 5:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Weiss, like other "post"-Zionists, interpolates the Struggle for Palestine for Her Own Career Advancement.

Once in a lifetime let us agree with the practices of a Zionist institution. This time, I fear they're perfectly right in firing Weiss. Let us acknowledge the high price paid by Jewish radicals, both in "Israel" and abroad, as part of the struggle for Palestine. Weiss is not one of them. The opposite is the case. She was a loyal card-carrier of a racist academic institution until she was caught cheating. She is from one of Israel's wealthiest industrialist families, and probably bought her way to the Berkeley faculty like she "bought" a ghost writer, who finally opened her mouth on condition of annonymity. "Post" Zionists, from their comfortable positions and privileged class-race (European) background, interpolate the Anti-Zionist struggle without paying the price. So only saint Ilan Pappe is kept tenured. They tried to fire him, but were amazed at the international support he got. The rest of Israeli academics who are anti-Zionist are forced into academic exile abroad. Anton Shammas in Ann Arbor. Ella Shohat in NYU. For further discussion of this topic of how the "post" Zionists benefit financially and academically from the Anti Zionist struggle for Palestine, please surf the excellent site of Mona Baker: www.monabaker.com .

At 9:58 AM, Blogger alex said...

Weiss's "comfortable position," "priveleged background," and the wealth of her family are not relevant to this discussion. As far as I am concerned, the only relevant subject is the quality of her scholarship. I object to claims that it is shoddy or plagiarized without proof, coming either from you or Frontpage. I have no idea whether Weiss is guilty of any of the charges levelled against her, but if these charges are to even be taken seriously, they must be accompanied by some evidence.


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