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We Are All For Diversity – But Not That Kind – Not Yet Anyway

There are faculty at Hobart and William Smith Colleges who are anti-Zionists, that is, they oppose the chauvinistic, Jewish-supremacist colonization of historical Palestine and the 44-year dehumanization of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories. Yet like faculty at most American Colleges and Universities they mostly remain “in the closet” out of fear of being smeared with canards of anti-Semitism or worse

A notable exception was our former colleague, Virginia Tilley, who recently wrote:

…Israel as a Jewish state must be abolished, just as white South Africa had to be “abolished”, and for the same reason—because ethnic states simply can’t exist without discrimination and oppression. But does this mean abolishing Israel as a modern territorial state? Of course not, just as South Africa was not “abolished” in this sense. So language about “eliminating Israel” is just pointless sophistry—scare-mongering, rhetorical sabotage …

Thanks to persistent efforts by people in the LGBT community, promoting diversity among sexual orientations and personal life styles has become much easier at HWS. Such diversity, along with racial and ethnic diversity, is not only accepted on our campus; it is extolled and rightly so. The same cannot be said for conservative political philosophy, including the Republican agenda, and certainly not for those of us who are anti-Zionist and proud of it.

Anti-Zionist discourse at Hobart and William Smith Colleges is first shunned. Then it is demeaned as “abhorrent” or “cunning” or “beyond the pale.” Proponents may be ritually defamed, usually in a cowardly manner, even by “colleagues” who are not polemical Zionists themselves. A smear letter may be circulated to hundreds in the community but withheld from the accused on grounds of confidentiality; it is almost a joke. There is little recourse; the Grievance Committee is not charged with hearing, let alone settling, such disputes.

And like the smearing that used to be so prevalent against those in (or alleged to be in) the LGBT community, most of the attacks against anti-Zionists go initially undetected by those against whom they are directed. A notable exception occurred in January. A HWS professor wrote a two-page email to the Syracuse Peace Council demeaning Gilad Atzmon, an Israeli jazz musician who is performing at a Deir Yassin Remembered Scholarship fundraiser on March 13th, calling his ideas and utterances nothing more than anti-Zionist rants and rabid negations of his Jewish identity.

This HWS professor went on to tell all 160 members of the Syracuse Peace Council that at HWS Dan McGowan is labeled as an anti-Semite, a canard that dissuaded the group from co-sponsoring the fundraiser. Two days later the same professor wrote me saying, “I have always tried, to the best of my ability, to defend you from such canards, because I do understand very well how things work here in this country, particularly in educational institutions.” Since a canard is defined as “a false or unfounded report or story, especially a fabricated report,” I ask myself, with “colleagues” as duplicitous and libelous as this, who needs enemies?

But it gets better. People within the Syracuse Peace Council claimed that the HWS Professor said she was afraid of losing her job if HWS found out she was part of a group that endorsed Gilad Atzmon and hence Dan McGowan. If true, and I have no reason to doubt that it is, this is either a very paranoid professor or a very sad commentary on the intolerance and lack of diversity at HWS. But how shall we know? I asked the President, Provost, and Dean of Women for guidance on how to settle this defamation; it has been over six weeks – no response.

Daniel McGowan
Faculty Emeritus

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