International Zionist Conspiracy Terminates Joel Kovel

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At least that’s what the loony left would have you believe. The reality is much less sinister. Kovel’s contract at Bard ended and he was let go due to lack of funds and poor student evaluations.

Inside Higher Ed reports:

In his letter, Kovel argues that his position at Bard deteriorated as his opposition to Zionism grew and became more public. He cites his various public statements as well as the links of Bard’s president, Leon Botstein, to Israel. Botstein is musical director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, and Kovel’s letter cites as problematic a visit by the orchestra to Bard’s campus in which the national anthems of the United States and Israel were played. (While Bard does have ties to Israel, it notably has ties to Palestinian higher ed that may be deeper than those of most institutions, just this week announcing a series of joint programs with Al Quds University.)

A Bard spokesman declined to comment on the situation, citing the confidentiality of personnel actions. But an evaluation of Kovel, which he released, suggests that his “long and productive career” at Bard has been problematic of late. The evaluation notes an increasing number of student complaints about Kovel’s lack of organization, which he has previously explained by saying that he likes his courses to focus on current material.

Kovel isn’t the only instructor who was fired in this round of cuts. Here is a Bard student commenting on what is happening in other departments:

I am a student at Bard College. I’m a dance major, and really, I don’t think he’s being treated any differently than MANY of the non-tenured professors at Bard right now.

The exact same weekend, the dance department let go two of its part time professors who had been working there for 20 years. That’s two professors out of a total of six in the department. And the two let go were some of the favored in the department overall. Same goes for the theater department, who let go one of their favored professors.

Now, I’m not saying that Joel Kovel’s nonrenewal has nothing to do with politics. I just think it’s important to know that many other professors with no political issues with President Botstein were fired at the same time.

In case you an unfamiliar with Kovel, he is a psychiatrist, professor of Social Studies and an author of numerous books including White Racism, A Psychohistory (1970), Red Hunting in the Promised Land (1994) and most recently, Overcoming Zionism (2007), which is published by far-left Pluto Press.

After the University of Michigan Press halted distribution of Overcoming Zionism, the standard anti-Zionist authors and organizations expressed their outrage. I blogged about the University of Michigan Press’ decision to end their partnership with Pluto Press here. Kovel and Pluto Press editor David Castle founded the Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism (CODZ) to “defend the principle of free speech on debate over Israel.” Israel is the focus of undergraduate and graduate courses, seminars by organizations on the left and right and demonstrations (pro and con) on college campuses across the United States. Organizations like CODZ do not support free speech, they want to control the debate.

Ron Radosh has an excellent post regarding Kovel. Here is a bit:

[W]hen Bard College announced that it was firing Professor Joel Kovel,  his followers and supporters immediately tried to mount a campaign claiming that Kovel had been dismissed from his position because of his open and impassioned attack on Israel and his argument that Israel should be replaced by a unitary secular state made up of both former Israelis and Palestinians. Kovel himself wrote a statement about his termination in which he writes that, “If the world stands outraged at Israeli aggression in Gaza, it should also be outraged at institutions in the United States that grant Israel impunity.”

Kovel goes on to actually accuse Bard of firing him because he believes that it is the role of an educator to criticize the injustices in the world, and that Bard’s failure to not oppose Israel’s occupation and aggression makes it an accomplice in the perpetuation of Israel’s “state violence.” Since he implies that Bard defends both Zionism and Israel ( he points out that its President Leon Botstein is musical director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, and that when it played at Bard the group performed both the Israeli and American national anthems) he argues that the worse Israel’s behavior, “the more strenuous must be the suppression of criticism.” His major point: Bard College “has suppressed critical engagement with Israel and Zionism, and therefore has enabled abuses such as have occurred and are occurring in Gaza.”

As for Kovel’s record at Bard, I have learned from sources that among other things, he used only his own books in the courses he taught. And as for his scholarly record, his publications include books like Red Hunting in the Promised Land:Anticommunism and the Making of America, which was published by Basic Books in 1994.  I have read that book by Kovel, and on the basis of his analysis and argument, I would have hesitated in appointing anyone who wrote such drivel to teach in the humanities, when his own field is that of psychology, and who had previously been a Professor of Psychiatry at Albert Einstein College. In this volume, he uses his psychological credentials to essentially argue that those who oppose communism in the United States- the anti-Communists- were essentially mentally ill.

You can find Kovel’s statement at numerous lefty blogs including this one. The vast majority seem to agree that Bard is an outpost of the Zionist colonial project and many think it is a conservative school. This shows how far out these people are. Bard has closer relations with Palestinian institutions of higher education than most colleges in the U.S. and a conservative school would not have a position in the department of social studies, let alone a chair in the department, named after communist spy Alger Hiss.

More at Harry’s Place and Solomonia.

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  1. More disingenuous agitprop from the Green Party.

    —–Original Message—–
    From: GPNYREGION2@yahoogroupscom [mailto:GPNYREGION2@yahoogroups.com]

    To: GPNYREGION2@yahoogroups.com
    Subject: [GPNYREGION2] Green Party on Bard’s firing of Joel Kovel

    Green Party of New York State http://www.web.gpnys.com

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    February 25, 2009

    Contacts: Peter LaVenia, chair2@gpnys.org, 518-463-8653 Eric Jones, chair@gpnys.org, 716-908-5226

    Green Party Calls Upon Bard College Not to Terminate Dr. Joel Kovel

    Accuses College of Dismissing Kovel for Writings on Zionism and Israel

    The Green Party of New York State condemns the recent termination of Dr. Joel Kovel by Bard College after 20 years on its faculty. We agree with Dr. Kovel, a former Green Party candidate for the U.S. Senate fromNew York, that this termination appears to be motivated by political considerations, notably his outspoken criticism in recent years of Zionism and Israeli policy. This incident is part of an escalating attack in Americaon academics who are critical of Israel’s behavior in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Party calls on Bard College to immediately reinstate Dr. Kovel and restore its reputation as one of the most open and intellectually diverse campuses in the nation.

    “A fundamental principle of mine is that the educator must criticize the injustices of the world, whether or not this involves him or her in conflict with the powers that be,” noted Dr. Kovel. “The systematic failure of the academy to do so plays no small role in the perpetuation of injustice and state violence. In no sphere of political action does this principle apply more vigorously than with the question of Zionism; and in no country is this issue more strategically important than in the United States, given the fact that United States support is necessary for Israel’s behavior.”

    Dr. Kovel, who is Jewish, practiced psychiatry and psychoanalysis for twenty-four years. In 1988 he was appointed to the Alger Hiss Chair of Social Studies at Bard College. He has published over a hundred articles and essays and nine books, including White Racism, which was nominated for a National Book Award in 1972. More recently, he has obtained national attention for his writings on ecosocialism, including the acclaimed book, The Enemy of Nature.

    While Bard defends its action on the grounds of budgetary constraints, Dr. Kovel said that his problems with the Bard administration began shortly after he published an article in 2002 entitled “Zionism’s Bad Conscience.” In 2003, after the publication of another article on the “one-state solution” in Israel/Palestine — which would grant full equal rights to all residents, whether Israeli or Palestinian — he was informed by the Dean and Executive Vice-President of the college that he would henceforth be employed half-time.

    In 2007, after publication by The University of Michigan of his book Overcoming Zionism, Dr. Kovel came under attack by various pro-Israeli groups and the book was pulled from distribution. Bard College did nothing during this period to defend or protect his rights as a faculty member — a highly unusual act by any institution of higher learning. Only public outcry forced the publisher to reinstate the work. Finally, the committee to review his contract this year included the campus’ Protestant chaplain, Professor Bruce Chilton, an outspoken member of pro-Zionist circles.

    “This is an act that has disturbing implications for any scholar that questions the orthodoxy on Zionism,” said Green Party of New York State co-chair Peter LaVenia. “Professor Norman Finkelstein was denied tenure at DePaul University in 2007 because of his numerous works questioning Zionism and Israeli policies. Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt — both hardly political radicals — have been shunned from numerous speaking engagements because of their book, The Israel Lobby.

    “The academy is supposed to be a place where controversial ideas are welcomed as contributing to knowledge, debate, and discussion: the foundation of any involved democratic citizenry,” continued Mr. LaVenia. “This is a systematic attempt by disapproving members of the public and academic administrations to silence a point of view with which they disagree.”

    “I take the view that Israeli human rights abuses are deeply engrained in a culture of impunity, granted chiefly, though not exclusively, in the United States — which culture arises from suppression of debate and open inquiry within those institutions, such as colleges, whose social role it is to enlighten the public,” said Dr Kovel. “Therefore, if the world stands outraged at Israeli aggression in Gaza, it should also be outraged at institutions in the United States that grant Israel impunity. In my view,Bard College is one such institution. It has suppressed critical engagement with Israel and Zionism, and therefore has enabled abuses such as have occurred and are occurring in Gaza.”

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