Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Israel on the Armenian Genocide

Yossi Sarid, former Education Minister of Israel, writes in Ha'aretz today on remembering the Armenian genocide. Officially, Israel has long shied from giving any kind of validation to the Armenian genocide. As Sarid puts it succinctly, there are very practical purposes for this non-acknowledgement (bordering on denial) of the Armenian tragedy:
There are two main motives for the Israeli position. The first is the importance of the relationship with Turkey, which for some reason continues to deny any responsibility for the genocide, and uses heavy pressure worldwide to prevent the historical responsibility for the genocide to be laid at its door. The pressure does work, and not only Israel, but other countries as well do the arithmetic of profits and loss. The other motive is that recognition of another nation's murder would seem to erode the uniqueness of the Jewish Holocaust.
Unfortunately, Sarid doesn't draw this second point out further. He simply reflects on his own statements of sympathy for the Armenians in the past (which the government distanced itself from) and points fingers at the Foreign Ministry and the current Minister of Education, Limor Livnat.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry, and not only it, is always afraid of its own shadow and thus it casts a dark shadow over us all as accomplices to the "silence of the world." The Dalai Lama, leader of the exiled Tibetans, has visited here twice, and twice I was warned by "officials" not to meet with him. It would mean a crisis in relations with China, the exact same thing they say about Turkey. I rebuffed those warnings in both cases. I have always believed that moral policies pay off in the long run, while rotten policies end up losing.
Again, unfortunately, Sarid chooses to paint himself as a daring rebel, crying out for truth and justice against the Likud, rather than push the debate further (to where it really needs to go). He makes no reference at all to the fact that there could be policies of Israel (against the Palestinians perhaps?) that are a bit more "rotten" than refusing to meet with the Dalai Lama or speak openly about the Armenian genocide. Sarid doesn't mention the use of the Holocaust to ward off criticism about its treatment of Palestinians, about its own history of ethnic cleansing. It's fine for Yossi Sarid to go as far as he has gone. I just wish he would go a bit further. I think that would be real courage. Instead, his genuine efforts just seems self-congratulatory.

Monday, March 28, 2005


Columbia Faculty Puts Pressure on Bollinger

According to the New York Sun, a "faculty rebellion is brewing at Columbia University against President Lee Bollinger over his handling of the university's investigation into the conduct of professors in the Middle East studies department." While "rebellion" might be a bit of sensationalist journalism on the part of the New York Sun (I know, it's hard for me to believe either), needless to say there are a certain number of Columbia faculty who feel that Bollinger, who has done very little in terms of standing up for those professors who have come under fire from outside pressure groups, has done a disservice to the faculty and needs to either change the way he has been handling this or move on.

According to the Sun, "[l]eading the way is a former provost of the university, Jonathan Cole" who gave a speech last week that was very critical of Bollinger's spineless handling of the situation so far. The New York Sun also quotes:
a professor of sociology, Charles Tilly, [who] said in a telephone interview yesterday that the "vast majority" of faculty members "feel that Jonathan [Cole]'s position is correct," referring to the provost.
Obviously, Tilly's sentiment is hardly a scientific poll of the faculty at Columbia, but there is certainly some sentiment among the faculty that Bollinger is falling down on the job here. After all, his job is not to placate the public, but to run a University, and though one can appreciate his desire to stay "impartial" in this matter, by allowing these accusations and rancor to fester, he's probably having more of an impact on the Columbia community than he thinks.

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