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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Monday, September 23, 2002 Globe scribe, defending NPR ramparts, attacks Harvard president on anti-Semitism warning. But the 'intellectual fraud' in this case isn't Larry Summers.
Boston Globe columnist Eileen McNamara paints Harvard President Larry Summers as an "intellectual fraud" for warning of anti-Semitism in the campus Israel-divestiture movement.
Ascribing bigotry to those with whom you disagree is the last refuge of cowards. It is especially offensive from a university president, McNamara writes.
During his address at morning prayers in Memorial Church last week, Summers tried to have it both ways. Insisting that he values vigorous debate and academic freedom, he nonetheless upbraided certain Harvard students and professors for ''advocating actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect, if not their intent.''
Summers cited a petition urging the university to divest in Israel because of its policies toward the Palestinians, a call that the president said serves unfairly ''to single out Israel among all nations as the lone country where it is inappropriate for any part of the university's endowment to be invested.''
The merits of divestment as a means of exerting political pressure on the government of Ariel Sharon is a worthy topic of debate, even of heated argument, but for Summers to suggest that proponents of that strategy are racists is to marginalize, in the ugliest possible way, the views of people no less principled than he.
"No less principled than he?" "Marginalize?" The guiding light of the MIT-Harvard divest-from-Israel campaign is Noam Chomsky. Gallons of ink have been spent debunking the so-called Peter Pan of the anti-American Left. (Here are two fine savagings, courtesy of Alan Dershowitz and City Journal's Stefan Kanfer.) But a passing familiarity with the Chomskyite faction behind the divestiture campaign – in Dershowitz' description "a motley assortment of knee-jerk anti-Zionists, rabid Anti-Americans, radical leftists (the Spartacist League), [and] people with little knowledge of the history of the Arab-Israeli dispute – would be enough for most sentient beings to dismiss the effort.
And singling out one bad actor on the international stage for retribution is hardly unique to these petitioners. Witness the Bush administration's focus on Iraq, to the exclusion of Iran and other unstable nations that also harbor terrorists.
Yeah. Even if these Ivy League protesters are wrong, what about that simpleton Bush? How much more enlightened US foreign policy would be, were it only guided by the Globe editorial department, or by the Unitarian peace activists from Somerville who must surely serve as a barometer of public opinion, given their overwhelming prevalence in the newspaper's Letters to the Editor section.
That his business and political experience did not entirely prepare Summers for the freewheeling atmosphere of university life has been clear since his arrival at Harvard.
That would be a reference to the Cornel West brouhaha. It might come as a revelation to Eileen McNamara that rapmaster West's departure for Princeton has not universally been viewed as a loss to the Crimson.
It was evident again when he cited as an example of encroaching anti-Semitism a rally against global capitalism in which chanting students could be heard equating Sharon and Adolf Hitler. Well, a German justice minister last week reportedly compared President Bush's tactics toward Iraq to Hitler's toward Europe before World War II. Is she anti-American or merely hyperbolic?
To lump, as Summers did, the intemperate chants of students with such genuine signs of the rise in worldwide anti-Semitism as the burning of synagogues and the popularity of neo-Nazi political candidates across Europe, is to mistake unpopular speech for race hatred.
To not lump them together is to miss that rises in overt anti-Semitism and synagogue-burnings have accompanied the tide of anti-Israeli and anti-American rhetoric on the Left during the Mideast crisis.
Has Eileen McNamara simply not been paying attention? Has she missed reports out of San Francisco or Berkeley or Canada on anti-Semitism amid the campus Left? Has she not heard of Cynthia McKinney, or read the MEMRI transcripts of what passes for Arab news coverage?
Did she simply crank out a high-dudgeon column without bothering to examine the issues or her own comfortably-held prejudices? Or can it be that accepting Larry Summers' warning would mean acknowledging an uncomfortable truth: that the socially-conscious NPR-listeners who constitute Eileen McNamara's readership have been siding with the Brownshirts, have been siding with the Klan?
Who, in this case, is really the intellectual fraud?