In September 1944, because the genocide of European Jews was ongoing and the violence of World Conflict II was at its peak, Max Horkheimer, co-founder of the Institute for Social Analysis – aka the Frankfurt College – and the methodology of “important concept” it developed, declared that “wittingly or unwittingly, the Jews have turn out to be the martyrs of civilization. … To guard the Jews has come to be an emblem of the whole lot that mankind stands for. Their survival is the survival of tradition itself.”
It’s telling that 80 years later with the compelled resignation of Harvard President Claudine Homosexual, so most of the similar points that occupied the Frankfurt College then are on the centre of a tradition warfare that, with the 2024 presidential election looming, may decide the destiny of democracy in the US – simply because the founders of important concept predicted. Solely now it’s Palestinians and never Jews who’re the martyrs and symbols, whose survival as a nationwide neighborhood on their land has turn out to be, greater than every other up to date battle, a bellwether of the likelihood to handle the more and more intractable issues going through humanity.
Critics of Homosexual’s compelled resignation, even when accounting for her admittedly sloppy quotation practices, level to her race; advocacy of range, fairness and inclusion (DEI) insurance policies; and principally, her overly lawyered response to questions on “calling for genocide of Jews” through the now notorious December 5 congressional listening to on anti-Semitism on campus as the explanations for her departure. However her place was doomed, and deservedly so, earlier than she fumbled her context-dependent reply to Consultant Elise Stefanik’s query about whether or not requires genocide on campus can be thought-about hate speech.
It was Homosexual’s ethical cowardice within the face of Stefanik’s unmistakably mendacious set-up to the genocide query that exposed not solely Homosexual’s unsuitability for management of the world’s premier analysis college but in addition the deeper mental and political rot on the highest echelons of American academia.
The congresswoman claimed that merely by chanting the phrases “river to the ocean” and “globalize the intifada”, protesters are actually calling for “violence in opposition to civilians and the genocide of Jews”. “Are you conscious of that?” Stefanik requested Homosexual.
Right here Stefanik was overtly deploying the well-worn fascist tactic most lately resuscitated by Donald Trump to nice impact: the “large lie”. It couldn’t have labored higher; earlier than Stefanik may even end her accusation, Homosexual interjected that she discovered these phrases “hateful, reckless, offensive speech [that] is personally abhorrent to me”. Quickly-to-be-fired College of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, who just a few months earlier than had labored additional time to stop the Palestine Writers Literature Competition from going down at UPenn, equally bent the knee to Stefanik’s concocted allegations about rabid anti-Semitism on her campus.
Homosexual may need an issue citing colleagues, however it’s merely inconceivable that the now former president of Harvard is so ignorant and ill-informed as to consider that these two phrases are tantamount to a name for genocide (it’s value noting that “river to the ocean” has been utilized by Zionists for over a century, most lately by Netanyahu to declare that there will probably be “no Palestinian state from the river to the ocean”). Her rush to second Stefanik’s racist accusation in probably the most “private” manner doable represented each an entire disavowal of what she and her colleagues should know to be actuality and the sort of grovelling by tutorial leaders to state officers that characterise totalitarian programs, not functioning democracies.
If there was ever a second for educational integrity to indicate its face, it was then. If there was ever an inflection level within the battle in opposition to fascist propaganda within the halls of Congress, it was then. The one moral response to Stefanik’s deployment of such brazen falsehoods within the service of repressive politics was the each other Harvard alum, Joseph Nye Welch, famously gave to Senator Joseph McCarthy some 70 years in the past after McCarthy, throughout a nationally televised listening to, accused a younger colleague from Welch’s legislation agency of being a communist and urged that the person must be fired. “Have you ever no sense of decency, sir?” Welch had stated earlier than refusing to reply any extra questions on the matter.
Solely clear braveness and harsh reality can defeat “the massive lie”. Welch’s shaming of McCarthy’s “cruelty and recklessness” turned public and media opinion about McCarthy’s anti-communist campaign in opposition to him in a single day. It has impressed congressional witnesses ever since, though clearly not Homosexual and her colleagues. And the value of their cowardice arrived straight with the punchline of Stefanik’s interrogation: her demand they declare whether or not chanting to “genocide the Jews” can be permissible speech on their campuses.
The query flummoxed the three Ivy League presidents exactly as a result of no such phrase has been chanted on their or every other campuses. As a substitute, in one other deployment of huge lie techniques, chants accusing Israel – plausibly, it should be careworn – of genocide in Gaza have been intentionally and falsely reworked by Israel’s long-formidable hasbara, or propaganda, machine into chants calling for the genocide of Jews, circulated virally on social media after which taken up by Stefanik on cue as the idea for her self-righteous inquisition of Homosexual, Magill and MIT President Sally Kornbluth.
Maybe a technology in the past, the three college presidents may have been forgiven for having no prepared response to such a fantastical accusation because it existed outdoors the reality-based universe lecturers are used to functioning in. Again then, as Karl Rove famously declared within the lead-up to the US invasion of Iraq (one other large lie that formed American politics for a technology), the imperial United States was so highly effective “we create our personal actuality.” However at the very least students and journalists had been nonetheless allowed “to check that actuality … judiciously, as you’ll.”
At this time, even that courtesy is now not afforded the mental class because the empire strikes nearer to wreck and its realities turn out to be more durable to take care of. The “reality-based neighborhood” in academia, journalism and social media is beneath unprecedented assault, not simply by hardcore conservatives but in addition by the gatekeepers of mainstream political, financial and cultural energy – particularly on the subject of criticism of Israel.
Whether or not it’s Columbia College banning each College students for Justice and Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, Harvard and UPenn combating Palestine solidarity at each flip, the College of California pushing for “viewpoint-neutral historical past” whereas its campuses improve strain on Palestine solidarity actions, or the outright criminalising and unrelenting threats, harassment, (self-)censoring and punishment of professors, college students and workers, the marketing campaign in opposition to Palestine solidarity is inseparable from and certainly the spearhead for conservative assaults on allegedly “woke” tutorial disciplines and their makes an attempt to extend the measure of justice and societal energy for lengthy marginalised communities.
In that regard, it’s value highlighting that regardless of their obsequious fealty in direction of Israel, Magill and Homosexual had been sacrificed the second doing so served the pursuits of the system they had been defending, on this case by demonstrating the ability of even a junior congresswoman to impose a demonstrably false narrative on the leaders of America’s elite centres of information manufacturing. Tony Soprano would approve.
For greater than half a century, the unusual alchemy often called Israeli hasbara has produced such political gold and with it unprecedented energy for the Israel foyer and carte blanche for Israel to dig in ever deeper because the world’s final lively settler colonial occupation. However that transmutation of cash and connections into political energy has poisoned American home politics and overseas coverage in equal measure, derailing a very progressive agenda for the good thing about world empire and settler colonialism which, with the arrival of the neoliberal order, has fed again ever extra harmfully into an more and more militarised home sphere.
At this time, the concept supporting Israeli colonialism can coexist with racial, financial, gender or local weather justice rings hole to a technology that sees by means of the propaganda to the large violence and injustices it has lengthy obscured. Palestinians could not benefit from the cultural, financial and political prominence that Jews achieved earlier than the Shoah and thus their “survival” or “martyrdom” may not appear to some as globally consequential because the Frankfurt College noticed the destiny of the Jews, however Palestine has lengthy “bridged the hole” between progressive youth insurrection within the West and liberation actions within the International South, exactly the coalition that has reformed by means of the burgeoning world actions for local weather, racial, financial, gender and different types of social justice.
Universities, the information media, the tradition industries – the establishments that had been on the centre of important concept’s analytical gaze and practices a century in the past – are, just like the Frankfurt College itself, as soon as once more on the centre of tradition, and thru it, political warfare. Whereas leaders stay ensnared by the system, artists and lecturers, journalists in addition to college students and even authorities officers are creating unprecedentedly broad networks of solidarity that may stand up to the extreme strain by energy holders to implement fealty and silence dissent.
By way of these webs of solidarity, the battle over the way forward for the college will probably be more and more certain up with campus struggles for Palestine.
The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.