April 9: On The Palestine Exception (with some thoughts concerning anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Zionism in the academy)

This panel on will feature Gil Hochberg (UCLA/Columbia), Joseph Massad (Columbia) and Jasbir Puar (Rutgers).

  • Date: Monday, 9 April 2018
  • Time: 7pm-9pm
  • Location: Northwest Corner Building 501, Columbia University

Day 1: On The Palestine Exception

The most important and perhaps most revolutionary ethno-state, and it’s one that I turn to for guidance … is the Jewish state of Israel. – Richard Spencer

You could say that I am a white Zionist – in the sense that I care about my people, I want us to have a secure homeland for us and ourselves. Just like you want a secure homeland in Israel. – Richard Spencer

The link between anti-Semitism and Zionism has a long history — one as long as Zionism itself. Beginning with the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther inaugurated the belief of a Jewish return to Palestine and their conversion to Christianity to hasten the Second Coming of Christ. The founder of the Zionist movement, Theodor Herzl, advocated for common cause with European anti-Semites in their mutual goal removal of Jews from Europe. Then there is the little known Zionist-Nazi alliance to rid Germany of its Jewish population culminating in the Haavara Agreement and Bernhard Lösener’s newspaper introduction to the 1935 Nuremberg Laws:

If the Jews already had their own state in which the majority of them were settled, then the Jewish question could be regarded as completely resolved today, also for the Jews themselves. The least amount of opposition to the ideas underlying the Nuremberg Laws have been shown by the Zionists, because they realize at once that these laws represent the only correct solution for the Jewish people as well. For each nation must have its own state as the outward expression of its particular nationhood.

Richard Spencer is, therefore, hardly an aberration in linking the basic precepts of Zionism to the White Supremacist desire of a white ethno-state.

Yet critiques of Zionism and advocacy in support of the struggle of the Palestinians have been defined by Zionists as a form of anti-Semitism. For years, university administrations across the US have suppressed pro-Palestine groups and allowed the victimisation of professors and students who support the non-violent academic boycott of Israel. Long before the rise of the alt-right, this has been known as the Palestine Exception to Academic Freedom.

However, with the rise of the alt-right movement in the wake of Trump’s election, the curtains have fallen. The link between White Supremacy, male chauvinism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Zionism is clearer than ever.

The following speakers will discuss these themes in the context of expanded attacks on academic freedom:

  • Gil Hochberg, Professor of Comparative Literature and Gender Studies at UCLA and Columbia University. Hochberg is a cultural studies scholar who specializes in visual and literary representations of Israel and Palestine, Jews and Arabs, Muslims and the Orient. Her latest book is Visual Occupations: Vision and Visibility in a Conflict Zone.
  • Joseph Massad, Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University. Massad’s academic work has focused on Palestinian, Jordanian, and Israeli nationalism. He has argued for the necessity of understanding the historical link between anti-Semitism and Zionist ideology. His most recent book is Islam in Liberalism.
  • Jasbir Puar, Professor of Women’s & Gender Studies at Rutgers University. Puar is a queer theorist who has written extensively on South Asian diasporic cultural production as well as racism, nationalism, patriotism and terrorism. Puar is the author of Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times.