Brandeis faculty emails reveal anti-Israel bias

Fox News – by Hollie McKay

Emails within a tight circle of academics at an exclusive university just outside Boston founded by American Jews reveal a long-standing and vehement anti-Israel bias and anger at Fox News and a human rights advocate who renounced her Muslim faith.

Thousands of messages on a Brandeis University ListServ obtained by conservative students and reviewed by were hyperbolic in their condemnation of Israel, regarding the recent fighting in Gaza and prior conflicts with the Palestinians. Accusations that Israel has committed war crimes and “holocaustic ethnic cleansing” against Palestinians appear in the messages from academics at the school.   

In one message, Brandeis Professor of Sociology Gordon Fellman urged Israeli academics to sign an “open letter” to “end the illegal occupation in Palestine.” The letter states that “the government of Israel, having provoked the firing of rockets by its rampage through the West Bank, is now using that response as the pretext for an aerial assault on Gaza which has already cost scores of lives.”

It goes on to note that “an atmosphere of hysteria is being deliberately provoked in Israel, and whole communities are being subject to collective punishment, a war crime.” Fellman later encourages participants to read an work titled, “S. African Nobel Laureate Tutu likens Mideast crisis to apartheid.”

The one-sided view of the Middle East is not new at the school, founded in 1948, the same year Israel was established, with funding from the American Jewish community.

“Zionist olive trees grow wondrously on Palestinian corpses,” Political Science Professor Donald Hindley wrote in 2007. “In that way, we combine great trees with our own holocaustic ethnic cleansing.”

Robert Lange, a physics professor at the Waltham, Mass., school, wrote in an email that “settlements on the West Bank are armed robbery.”

Some 8,500 emails were uncovered by Brandeis student Daniel Mael and passed on to Joshua Nass, founder and chairman of the Voices of Conservative Youth. Nass said they were given access to the server after some subscribers were “troubled by the path the list was taking and lent access to a few students” so it could be made public.  A ListServ is a mailing list software that sends one message to all the group’s subscribers. This particular ListServ, titled “Concerned,” was started by faculty members in 2002 “out of concern about possible war with Iraq.” It has more than 90 subscribers, some of which are professors from other universities, and is used to correspond about current news, Israel, Jewish people, America and world affairs in general.

In addition to expressing hatred for Israel, several professors rage among themselves about conservative values, Fox News and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a human rights activist who survived genital mutilation as a child in Somalia, renounced her Muslim faith and now crusades against radical Islam. Ali was slated to receive an honorary doctorate at Brandeis in April before the ceremony was canceled amid campus protests. Emails reveal where at least some of the faculty stood on the matter.

In March, Brandeis Professor of English Mary Baine Campbell wrote that Ali is “an ignorant, ultra-right-wing extremist, abusively, shockingly vocal in her hatred for Muslim culture and Muslims, a purveyor of the dangerous and imaginary concept, born of European distaste for the influx of immigrants from its former colonies… To call her a ‘woman’s rights activist’ is like calling Squeaky Fromm an environmentalist.’”

Campbell’s hate is also directed at Fox News. In one email, she imagines organizing a crippling boycott of the top-rated cable news network, urging participants to join a “new campaign to weaken the power of FOX” and “write to companies who advertise” on the “poisonous” network.

An email from Fellman urges others to help prevent the cable news network from being awarded Helen Thomas’ former front-row center seat in the White House briefing room because it is “not a legitimate news organization” and insists the “real, public news organization” NPR should be given the spot.

But given Brandeis’ roots and tradition, the vitriol directed at Israel is perhaps most shocking. According to its website, Brandeis was founded as a nonsectarian university under the sponsorship of the American Jewish community to “embody its highest ethical and cultural values and to express its gratitude to the United States through the traditional Jewish commitment to education.”

“To see that kind of sentiment, disgusting as it is, is a double-standard (toward) America’s only allies in the Middle East. These sentiments are being sponsored and paid for… imagine how this hurts the Jewish donors to Brandeis University,” noted Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which focuses on racism in America and a history of the Holocaust. “Of course the very academic feel particularly free to let it all hang out because it’s all covered under rubric of freedom of expression when they’re not held accountable.”

However, the university’s president, Frederick Lawrence, has been quick to distance himself from the controversial mailing list. When approached for comment, Brandeis spokesperson Ellen de Graffenreid sent a letter Lawrence sent to all faculty staff regarding the issue.

“While we maintain our staunch support of freedom of expression and academic inquiry, some remarks by an extremely small cohort of Brandeis faculty members are abhorrent. Such statements, which include anti-Semitic epithets, personal attacks, denigration of the Catholic faith and the use of crude and vulgar terms in discussions about Israel, do not represent the Brandeis community,” he wrote. “I condemn these statements under no uncertain terms.”

At least one professor who found himself on the ListServ appeared to see through the Israel-bashing, and called his ivory tower colleagues on it.

“Let’s not be disingenuous. You guys hate Israel. That’s what unites the group. That’s why it was founded,” Doron Ben-Atar – a professor of history at the New York-based Fordham University – wrote in a post earlier this year. “You support BDS and circulate their petitions – a movement led by Omar Barghouti who not only declared that Israel has no right to exist, but has told a group in San Diego a few months back that Israeli soldiers use Palestinian children for spot target practice and that they use their body parts… I think when progressives lose their center and align with bizarre Islamist groups we are all worse off.”

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