Category Archives: Joel Beinin

No breaks for academics: Joel Beinin and Yasir Qadhi

Stanford Middle East Studies professor Joel Beinin, a world-class scholar who wrote, among other things, the definitive book about the dispersion of the Jews of Egypt, was long ago declared trayf by some for his critical views of Israeli policy. Beinin, who once lived on a kibbutz, has had more than his share of cancellations and attacks from groups like Campus Watch. Willamette Week has the latest about Beinin’s decision to remove himself from consideration for a tenure-track position at Portland State University after being politically vetted by one of the interviewers. This was not his first experience with unprofessional political vetting at PSU. In a leaked email, Joel wrote:

…Tom Luckett asked me a highly inappropriate political question during my private meeting with him. He too, was unaware of the impropriety of this line of discussion. And when I mentioned, as light heartedly as I could, to Marvin Kaiser that I had been politically vetted by Michael Weingrad, his response was, “Of course.” It appears then, that at all levels at PSU there is a serious lack of appreciation for academic freedom. This is especially unfortunate for a public institution

Muslim academic Yasir Qadhi, a vocal advocate for religious coexistence and moderation, and a critic of terrorism, is working on his doctorate in Islamic Studies at Yale. He tells an all too typical story about the impossible standards to which Muslims are selectively held. In a refreshingly honest piece, he acknowledges making some dumb comments in a lecture years ago that even then, did not amount to Holocaust-denial. But years later, thanks to the hysterical right wing Frontpage Magazine, he is denounced by a leading British politico from the stage of the Global Peace and Unity event for just that reason. (Meanwhile, real anti-Semites like Pastor John Hagee get to be keynote speakers at AIPAC conferences…) Qadhi writes:

People change over time. Views develop, are modified, or discarded outright. Simplistic notions, especially those held in younger years, are typically shown to be stereotypical and false. And this is exactly what happened in this case as well, and I have no qualms admitting my mistakes, even as I criticize the exaggerated response it generated.

One final point of advice to speakers out there: realize that you never know when and how something you say may be used against you. When I gave that lecture, so many years ago, I was a completely unknown nobody. I honestly had no idea that one day I would be as recognized as I am today, so much so that the Shadow Home Secretary of the UK feels compelled to dissociate himself from the likes of me! I gave that lecture in a local masjid, to a small audience, and it was only recorded on audio cassette. To hear such material – a passing comment made so many years ago – exaggerated to the level that it has been, causing such a large scandal, is really quite amazing. I wonder how such people discovered my blunder. Did someone actually compile all of the thousands of hours of my recorded material, including these audio cassettes, and sift through it with a fine-toothed comb, or was it an accidental ‘discovery’? And why did no one – and I mean no one - attempt to contact me to clarify my current stance?

Beinin writes about Harker incident in SF Chronicle

Stanford Middle East history professor Joel Beinin tells his own story in this op-ed about silencing, concluding that smear campaigns and shutting out dissenting voices are the tactics of people who can’t win based on the facts.

Last Sunday in San Francisco, the Anti-Defamation League sponsored “Finding Our Voice,” a conference designed to help Jews recognize and confront the “new anti-Semitism.” For me, it was ironic. Ten days before, my own voice was silenced by fellow Jews.
I was to give a talk about our Middle East policy to high school students at the Harker School in San Jose. With one day to go, my contact there called to say my appearance had been canceled. He was apologetic and upset. He expected the talk would be intellectually stimulating and intriguing for students. But, he said, “a certain community of parents” complained to the headmaster. He added, without divulging details, that the Jewish Community Relations Council of Silicon Valley had played a role.

Muzzlewatch breaks Beinin story, ADL gets busted by the media

A collective gasp of disbelief could be heard some weeks back in the Bay Area progressive community when it was discovered that the ADL was putting on a conference – by and for progressives – on anti-Semitism on the left.

I say discovered because nowhere on the registration page did it actually say who was organizing the event. The only contact information was a gmail address. Also conspicuous was the fact that of the 50 or so co-sponsors, the Bay Area’s most prominent progressive Jewish groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, Tikkun and Progressive Jewish Alliance were nowhere to be seen. AIPAC and BlueStar PR, however, were.
Was this really a conference to address anti-Semitism on the left? Or was it a blatant ADL ploy to silence dissent by appropriating the “progressive” label and calling all criticism of Israel anti-Semitic?

The truth probably is somewhere in between. In fact, many excellent, thoughtful people did participate, and we think anti-Semitism on the left is a real issue that needs to be addressed. (So, by the way, is Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism. We’re waiting for the ADL to put on that conference.) But a quick glance at the program left no doubt that there would be ample discussion about things like fighting divestment and “emphasizing what’s right in Israel” from BlueStarPR, the folks who have perfected the art of promoting Israel by simply dissing the entire Middle East.
What was remarkable about this conference was that virtually none of the media outlets were buying just the ADL’s take on the “new anti-Semitism”. Check out these more thoughtful stories on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle and in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

And this archive of a 1 hour show on San Francisco’s KALW that we did with Rabbi Jane Litman, the rabbi the ADL brought in to organize the conference. After the conference, we were contacted by even more reporters from both the Jewish and corporate press.

This San Jose Mercury News article is notable not only for delving into the complexities of the issue, but for mentioning Muzzlewatch. In fact, it mentions the story we reported earlier about Professor Joel Beinin being booted at the last minute from a Harker School speaking engagement due to pressure from a parents group, with some kind of involvement by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Silicon Valley (though they have not responded to a request for a statement), that was no doubt, fulfilling its mission as a “protector of Israel.”

(Here at Muzzlewatch, we reject the term “pro-Israel” because many of the groups who proudly use that moniker are blindly marching Israel down the path of self-destruction. Further, it insinuates that if you care about Israelis, you don’t care about Palestinians. At Muzzlewatch, and Jewish Voice for Peace, we take the sadly radical position that you can and should care equally about both. We’re pro-humanity.)

Harker’s official response to Beinin cancellation

A spokesperson for the Harker School just sent us this statement. Make of it what you will:

The purpose of Harker’s Distinguished Speaker Series is to present our upper school students with topics from leading experts to inform and stimulate debate. We addressed the same viewpoint as Beinin’s earlier this year, and realized, albeit belatedly, that two speakers from the same viewpoint – out of only 4 to 5 speakers all year – didn’t represent the balance and variety we’re seeking in the speaker series.

Joel Beinin talk gets cancelled at last minute….again

Professor Joel BeininJoel Beinin is a tenured Middle East history professor who is on leave from Stanford while he serves as the head of Middle East Studies at the American University in Cairo. Just today Beinin, who used to be the president of the Middle East Studies Association and is an outspoken critic of Israeli policies, was unceremoniously dumped as a speaker at an event tomorrow at San Jose’s elite Harker School, apparently due to pressure from a group of parents and an outside advocacy organization. We’ve written to Harker for their statement on the incident and will keep you posted as we learn the facts. Meanwhile, Beinin writes:

I suppose I should feel like I am very powerful if people are so convinced that I have to be prevented from speaking. But really, it just adds to my shame that this is what American Jewish identity has come to.

Last time this happened to Beinin was when the admirably “bipartisan” Israel Action Committee of Marin’s Rodef Sholom decided to invite Beinin to talk about his area of expertise, Egyptian Jews. When the rabbi of Rodef Sholom found out, she and the executive director went over the heads of the committee and revoked the invitation, causing the longtime committee organizer Roy Mash to quit in disgust.

Read Roy Mash’s extraordinary open letter:

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