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Emet m'Tsiyon

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hypocrisy in Higher Education

The moral corruption of the American academic world is well underway. We now have academic departments, especially those devoted to Middle Eastern, Arabic and Islamic studies, that are funded by oil-rich Arab governments. We also have today branches of once prestigious American universities that operate in the Persian Gulf sheikdoms. Yale, once highly prestigious as one of the top schools of the prestige-encrusted Ivy League, kowtowed  to real or anticipated pressure from wealthy Arab patrons. This became notorious in August 2009 when the Yale University Press was about to publish a book about the Muhammad Cartoons controversy. After the Yale administration "consulted with experts" (according to the NY Times), the Yale Press decided not to publish any of the Muhammad cartoons nor any of the old and classic artistic representations of Muhammad that were to be in the book.

Now, it just so happens that in April 2009, Yale had appointed a woman who served as an academic operative for Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal to a prestigious, if temporary post.
"In April, Yale named Muna AbuSulayman a “Yale World Fellow” for 2009. This isn’t some honorific, and she’ll reside from August through December in New Haven. (Her Facebook fan page, August 16: “I need help locating a Town House/condo for short term leasing near Yale University… Anyone familiar with that area?”) Can you imagine a better way to set the stage for a major Alwaleed gift? Hosting for a semester the very person who structured the Harvard and Georgetown gifts, and who now directs Alwaleed’s charitable foundation? A stroke of genius." [Martin Kramer, emph. added]
Now, we see that  Madame Abu Sulayman had already been instrumental in bringing some of Prince Al-Waleed's generosity to Harvard and Georgetown. Could it be that Yale too was hoping to share in some of Prince Al-Walid's largesse? Maybe Yale was only acting  like those prestigious professors of mathematics who lent their names in exchange for money to the Mathematics Dept at King Abdulaziz University in Jedda, Saudi Arabia. Does this matter? Yes, it does, if academic integrity and honesty have any worth anymore. Yes, if the academic world is to have any more claim to the  respect of decent and informed people.

In this vein, Jonathan Marks has discovered another reason not to honor the academy. He tells a story involving the fanatical bds movement, the movement to boycott Israel which began with funding in part from the well-connected and well-established Ford Foundation.
. . . . this year’s award for higher education hypocrisy surely must go to eight signatories of the latest anti-Israel petition to emerge from our universities. The petition itself, signed by members of the faculty of New York University, is the standard call to punish corporations that can be connected in some way to Israel’s activities in the West Bank or Gaza. What’s striking about this one is that eight of the signatories, more than ten percent of the present total, are affiliated with NYU’s satellite campus in Abu Dhabi. NYU’s Abu Dhabi outpost, “wholly bankrolled by the oil-rich Abu Dhabi government,” opened in 2010, and its permanent campus, located alongside an “idyllic resort” under development on Saadiyat Island, was completed in 2014. So I wonder when these eight faculty members, who pompously stand on NYU’s “long and proud tradition of demanding that the university live up to its professed values,” will be renouncing their affiliation with the government of the United Arab Emirates. As Freedom House observes in its 2014 report, the UAE bans political parties, and “criticism of the government, allies [and] religion” is prohibited by law.
The UAE also has a labor problem. UAE’s mostly foreign workers do not have the right to organize, bargain collectively, or strike. Expatriate workers can be banned from working in the UAE if they try to leave their employer prior to at least two years of service. NYU responded to this difficulty by issuing a statement concerning labor values they expected to be adhered to in the building of the campus. Nonetheless, some of the workers who built the campus “lived in squalor, 15 men to a room.” Almost all had to pay a recruitment fee, consisting of about a year’s wages, for the privilege of getting the job, then worked 11 to 12 hours per day. Workers with the temerity to strike were arrested, beaten, and deported. But it’s a lovely campus, and I am sure the faculty members who want NYU to live up to its values are enjoying it. Who can begrudge brave and hardworking anti-Israeli petition signers their day at the beach? Besides as the signatories of this letter—who include three of the faculty members who signed the anti-Israel position—explain, “our partners are trying to do their best.” Moreover, many of the NYUAD faculty discuss “the complexities of labor in the Gulf” with their students, which is undoubtedly a comfort to the workers, who, because they were not allowed to hold onto their passports and sometimes not even to have their own bank cards, had little hope of escaping their employers, much less bettering their conditions.
It’s nice, though, that NYU’s Abu Dhabi faculty feels able to discuss labor “complexities” since, according to Freedom House, faculties at Western universities typically “take care to not criticize the UAE government or its policies out of fear of losing funding.” There are other incentives for silence as well: “in 2012, several academics critical of UAE government policies were dismissed from their positions and either arrested or expelled from the country.”
But it is commendable that these faculty members, busy enjoying a campus built by indentured servants, and the hospitality of a government that honors neither academic nor political freedom, have found time away from kayaking in Saadiyat Island’s lovely mangrove lagoons, to demand that NYU break with Israel and live up to its values. Some would call this breathtaking hypocrisy. I call it the quintessence of the academic anti-Israel movement.
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Talking about the conditions of indentured servitude in Abu Dhabi, reminds us that the working conditions and shameful treatment of workers in Abu Dhabi are similar to those in Qatar, although the situation in Qatar may actually be worse. The hypocrites and self-righteous Judeophobes who sign petitions to boycott Israel and who praise and justify Hamas, conveniently omit from their concerns the oppressed, exploited and humiliated foreign workers in Qatar who often die under the burden of their harsh working conditions. Qatar is of course a major funder of Hamas, which declares its genocidal goal regarding Jews in its Charter (Article 7).

While we're talking about the nefarious influence of Muslim money, of Islamic filthy lucre, on Western intellectual life, we may recall that more than 200 years ago the French playwright Beaumarchais put into his famous play, The Marriage of Figaro, how a play was censored because of the pressure of Muslim potentates on a European monarch. This was brought to light by the columnist Ivan Rioufol writing in Le Figaro, the newspaper precisely named after the hero of Beaumarchais' play.

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