Friday, August 21, 2009

A newly formed antisemitic "educational think tank"

A newly formed "educational think tank," the International Council for Middle East Studies (ICMES), is poised to influence U.S. policy toward the Middle East in ways that could further harm American interests in the region. It will be led by Norton Mezvinsky, a radical anti-Zionist who recently retired after a 42-year-career teaching Middle East history at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). If Mezvinsky remains true to form, ICMES will advocate for holding U.S. policy hostage to the fallacy that Israel is always at fault for the region's troubles.

ICMES found a welcoming home at the International Law Institute (ILI) at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. And according to Mezvinsky, ICMES's goal will be to build cultural bridges and promote faculty and student exchanges between the United States and Middle Eastern countries.

An immediate question comes to mind: with whom will those bridges be built? That Mezvinsky's new organization is being parachuted into ILI, a group that according to its website "raises levels of professional competence and capacity in all nations so that professionals everywhere may achieve practical solutions to common problems in ways that suit their nations' own needs" is most disturbing. We should question how such a politicized individual as Mezvinsky could operate "practically" and decide what are the needs regarding Israelis and Palestinians when he has devoted his entire career to demonizing Israel.

For example, in 2002 Mezvinsky participated in a weeklong teaching institute for Connecticut middle and high school teachers on the Middle East. Among the myths he perpetrated on his students, as recorded by an attendee, was that: "Palestinians were pushed out of their homes due to the 'Absent-Present Laws' that stated that if people who owned the land weren't on it at a given time, the land was turned over to the JNF (Jewish National Fund); and Israel has created refugees, and has intensified oppression."

Jonathan Calt Harris later reported that Mezvinsky told the entire class of teachers that, contrary to historical fact, "'the well-armed and well-funded Israelis' fought the Palestinians in 1948, but did not mention that armies of five Arab countries first invaded the U.N.-sanctioned Jewish state."

Close observers bear witness to Mezvinsky's influence on his students. Rabbi Stephen Fuchs of Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford, a participant in the teaching institute, said that, "[Mezvinsky] has slanted the views of a whole generation of students about the Middle East. I am concerned that he has created a negative atmosphere toward Israel."

Mezvinsky endorses the infamous 1975 UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 that declared Zionism a form of racism. Furthermore, his biased views resemble the propaganda fed to eighth graders in Saudi Arabia, who are taught that, "the blood of non-Jews has no intrinsic value" and that, therefore, the killing of non-Jews does "not constitute murder according to the Jewish religion." Such blatant anti-Semitism has nothing on Mezvinsky's claim that Judaism teaches "the killing of innocent Arabs for revenge as a Jewish virtue."

He also places the sole onus for the Palestinian refugee problem on Israel while never acknowledging the estimated 750,000 Jewish refugees who were expelled from Arab lands. That many of those Arab refugees left under pressure from neighboring Arab countries to facilitate the destruction of their Jewish communities is yet another example of how the Arab-Israeli conflict has been taught at CCSU absent any effort to provide historical context or scholarly balance.

Not surprisingly, Mezvinsky joined forced with the late Israel Shahak to co-author "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel". Shahak, a kindred spirit, was embraced by neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, and Holocaust deniers and was warmly welcomed into the circles of Noam Chomsky and the late Edward Said. When Mezvinsky updated the book and wrote its introduction, published Chomsky's endorsement: "An outstanding scholar, with remarkable insight and depth of knowledge. His work is informed and penetrating, a contribution of great value."

Shahak's hatred of Israel went far beyond the simple endorsement of Arab and Palestinian views or fashionable anti-Zionism, a common enough sentiment among Israeli academic leftists. He openly hated Judaism and Jews. Shahak's entire body of work rests on his conviction that Judaism is the font of all evil and that most global issues can ultimately be traced back to Judaism via a world wide Jewish conspiracy.

Mezvinsky and Shahak are prime examples of Jewish academics who throughout their careers questioned their own religion and the legitimacy of the state of Israel. Edward Alexander of the University of Washington sums up this malady in "The Jewish Divide over Israel Accusers and Defenders": "Jews who assign responsibility for anti-Jewish aggression to Jewish misbehavior not only save themselves from the unpleasant and often dangerous task of coming to the defense of the Jews coming under attack but also retain the delightful charms of good conscience. Hitler's professors were the first to make anti-Semitism both academically respectable and complicit in murder."

Mezvinsky is associated with other supporters of Shahak, including the One State for Palestine/Israel group, which advocates the "one-state solution." (They fail to note that "one state" requires no Jewish State, or that this is part of the Palestinian phased plan to destroy Israel as the Jewish homeland.) At their last conference Mezvinsky was joined by a host of radical anti-Zionist Jewish activists, including: Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada; Joel Kovel, author of "Overcoming Zionism", in which he advocates the elimination of Israel; Phyllis Bennis, an antiwar activist and a fellow at the far-left Institute for Policy Studies; Ilan Pappe, a zealous anti-Zionist who now teaches at the University of Exeter in England; and Gabriel Piterberg a professor of history at UCLA and devotee of Edward Said. These luminaries gathered to discuss a solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a "rational - academic fashion" and, true to form, proffered the one state solution, which is de facto the modern-day "final solution."

This lamentable record underscores how a tenured professor who taught generations of undergraduates and was influential and an active head of CCSU's Middle East Lecture Series, was able to spread his ideas through the many anti-Israel/anti-Zionist speakers he brought to campus to "educate" the university community. His career illustrates one of the most serious weaknesses in contemporary Middle East Studies: the politicized writing and teaching that have displaced objective scholarship, and the redefinition of academic freedom as the liberty to dispense with academic standards. All of the above should raise serious questions about the credibility and education Mezvinsky will disseminate to a much larger audience through his International Council for Middle East Studies.


Many British students who do well at their final high School exams will NOT be able to get into the course of their choice

Because of the weird British system of finalizing most university admissions BEFORE the final school exam results are known

Teenagers who do better than expected in their A levels have little chance of getting into leading universities under a new government system. Universities and political opponents said that the “adjustment period” introduced this year was a mirage since many desirable courses were already full. The five-day period is supposed to give school-leavers with higher than expected grades the chance to “trade up” to popular courses or prestigious universities, without losing their first-choice place.

More than 50,000 extra people have applied to university this year, but there are only 13,000 more full-time undergraduate places. The number of spaces in clearing is expected to be half of the 43,000 available last year.

Those who are unfairly marked down in A-level exams could lose their place, even if they successfully appeal and later get a higher grade. Some courses are closed to British applicants even though they still have places for foreign students. This is because for financial reasons the Government restricts the number of British students that universities can recruit. Overseas students pay higher fees and do not receive the grants or subsidised loans available to home students.

A spokesman for Surrey University said: “The Government is encouraging us to take more international students. We would like to take more home students but we have to abide by regulations. We are full for home students but have spaces for international students.” Sussex University has separate clearing for UK/EU students and overseas students. Some courses at York University are available only for foreign students. It has about 100 places left for British students, compared with 350 this time last year.

Hull University’s website said: “Publicly funded universities and colleges are required by the Government to limit the number of students that are eligible to pay fees at the ‘home’ rate.” Durham University said those who missed their grades, and later successfully appealed against the mark, could still miss out — unlike last year. Other universities said that they had no way of knowing how the adjustment period would work. Glasgow has a handful of clearing places and none available for the adjustment period. Leeds University said: “We do not anticipate that many adjusters will find suitable courses at this stage.”

David Willetts, the Shadow Universities Secretary, said: “Ministers have sown the seeds of failure for their own policy. Telling people they can trade up when there is a record number of applicants and when universities are already at risk of being fined for over-recruitment is a recipe for disaster.”

David Lammy, the Universities Minister, said that the adjustment period was a trial, which raises questions about its future. He told The Times: “It is a more competitive year and demand is up but there’s absolutely no doubt that there will be more young people accepted by universities than ever bef “Clearing will be competitive but I’m quite sure many universities will be offering places. [Not all?] “We’re trialling this new adjustment period to allow young people to hold the offer they have and see if they can get into another institution or on to another course.”

Mr Lammy said that every year, two fifths of those who did not get a place in higher education applied the next year, and four fifths of those were successful. He saw no reason for this to be different this year or next. However, this could create a backlog, exacerbating problems next year.


Christian pupils are now outnumbered by Muslims at Roman Catholic schools in some parts of England

A survey has found 24 Catholic primary schools in the North West and the Midlands teach a minority of churchgoing children. Fewer than one in 10 children are Catholic at one school in Birmingham, while the Church is ending its involvement with a similar establishment in Blackburn.

Overall, Catholics make up 73.34 per cent of pupils at the 2,300 schools linked to the denomination across England and Wales. But The Tablet, a weekly Catholic magazine, found that in Oldham, Blackburn, Wolverhampton and Birmingham there has been a sharp decline in the proportion of Catholics being educated in local faith schools. At English Martyrs in Sparkhill, Birmingham, just 36 of the 410 pupils are Catholic while the vast majority are Muslim. At Sacred Heart Primary in Salford, there are only seven Catholic pupils and moves are under way to remove it from the diocese’s jurisdiction.

Canon Anthony McBride said: “It seems that, for some reason, many Catholic parents in Sacred Heart parish have, over a number of years, ceased to support their school.” An inspection by the diocese in 2007 said the situation was “seriously affecting the school’s ability to provide a traditional Catholic education”.

Most of the non-Catholic parents let their children attend assemblies although a church visit led to “friction”. Last year the Catholic Education Service said Catholic schools should provide multi-faith prayer rooms for Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Sikh students. It also suggested bathrooms should be adapted to accommodate ritual cleansing.


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