The complex conflict between the Arab and Muslim world on the one hand, and Israel on the other, is first-page news around the world. It is also at the forefront of discussion on many university campuses around the globe. I have visited many such campuses over the past several years and am distressed to report that the level of discourse has become increasingly dumber, shriller, and less nuanced. Name-calling has replaced serious academic discussion. This is particularly so among hard left Israel-bashers. Israeli policies certainly warrant just criticism, as do the policies of Israeli's enemies. I am not talking about such comparative and contextual criticism. I am talking about abusive words that contribute nothing of substance to the quest for peace. Indeed, by demonizing Israel and dehumanizing its supporters, this kind of hate speech encourages those who oppose a compromise peace and discourages those who seek it.
The favorite rhetorical reversal of the hard left is to call Israel and its supporters "Nazis".
Listen to Ali al-Mazrui, professor of humanities at the State University of New York - Binghamton, director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies, and former North American spokesman for the Islamic extremist group Al-Muhajiroun:
"'Israeli neo-Nazism reversed the scale of genetic values favored by German Nazis. Both forms of extremism exaggerated the impact of the Jewish factor. The Nazis thought the Jewish impact was negative. The Israeli extremists erred the other way.' 'As for the trend towards militarization, Israel has indeed become the most efficient war machine since Nazi Germany.'"
Norman G. Finkelstein, a Hezbollah-supporting ideologue up for tenure at Depaul University, has repeatedly analogized Jews to Nazis and said that he "can't imagine why Israel's apologists would be offended by comparison with the Gestapo." When criticized for these and other comparisons, Finkelstein responded, "Nazis never like to hear they're being Nazis."
Finkelstein finds support from Rutgers Professor Robert Trivers, a most recent winner of the Crafoord Prize, who published excerpts from a letter he sent to me in The Wall Street Journal:
"Regarding your rationalization of Israeli attacks on Lebanese civilians, let me just say that if there is a repeat of Israeli butchery toward Lebanon and if you decide once again to rationalize it publicly, look forward to a visit from me. Nazis -- and Nazi-like apologists such as yourself -- need to be confronted directly."
Hamid Dabashi of Columbia views supporters of Israel as "Gestapo apparatchiks."
Joseph Massad of Columbia has compared former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.
Professor Leighton Armitage, an adjunct lecturer in political science in the Business and Social Sciences Department of Foothill College in Northern California, uses the Nazi analogy frequently.
"What are [the Israelis] doing with the Palestinians, every day? They're killing them. They're not taking their glasses and gold fillings, and everything else, as far as I know, but they are still slaughtering these people. It's exactly what Hitler did to the Jews."
Closely related to the Nazi name-calling is the absurd claim that Israel's actions in relation to Palestinian terrorists is a "Holocaust," comparable to the systematic genocide of six million innocent Jews.
José Saramago, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature, was quoted as saying,
"We must ring all bells in the world to tell that what is happening in Palestine is a crime, and it is within our power stop to this... We can compare it to what happened in Auschwitz."
Nicholas De Genova, a Columbia University assistant professor of anthropology has said that:
"The heritage of the victims of the Holocaust belongs to the Palestinian people. The state of Israel has no legitimate claim to the heritage of the Holocaust. The heritage of the oppressed belongs to the oppressed -- not the oppressor."
Another Columbia professor, Bruce Robbins, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, has said that "The Israeli government has no right to the sufferings of the Holocaust."
Columbia Professor Hamid Dabashi likened Israel's presence in Jenin to the Nazi conduct of the Holocaust after canceling classes to lead a protest against the Israeli incursion into the terrorist stronghold of Jenin.
Prof. Fawaz Gerges, ABC News Consultant and Sarah Lawrence College professor said on National Public Radio in a discussion about the Holocaust Denial conference in Iran, that
"I really believe that both the Jews and the Palestinians, basically, are, have suffered from similar historical injustices."
The most recent entry into this parade of name-calling is Jimmy Carter who insists on calling Isreali policies in the West Bank, "apartheid". This sort of name-calling obscures the reality that the Palestinians could have had their own state if they accepted the Barak-Clinton offer at Camp David. To heighten the irony of the pot calling the kettle black, Jimmy Carter has praised Yasser Arafat for rejecting the offer of statehood, and almost certainly advised him to reject it at the time. (See Alan M. Dershowitz, A Real Dialogue Would Have Been Better, accessed at Ex-President for Sale Part 4 Carter therefore bears at least some of the responsibility for what he calls "apartheid."
This name-calling -- "Nazis," "Holocaust," "apartheid" -- turns a complicated issue into simple-minded sloganeering. It dumbs-down the debate. It drowns out the nuanced constructive criticism of particular Israeli and Palestinian policies. And it discourages peace efforts.