Dishonesty in the Service of Animus

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The seemingly insatiable appetite of the Forward for anti-Orthodox scandal-mongering has claimed its latest prey, Touro College, a “Jewish-oriented institution that reaches out especially to Orthodox students” (never mind that a full 32% of its student body is “minorities,” and that in 2007 the college opened a medical school in Harlem, specifically to improve medical care in that community and increase the number of “minorities” practicing medicine).

According to the paper, the college “came under pointed questioning by curriculum experts after the Forward revealed that it granted academic credits for an online course put together by a pro-Israel advocacy group, ” known as Jerusalem Online U. As one reads further, however, it becomes clear that the course didn’t exactly “[come] under pointed questioning by curriculum experts.” Rather, one Zachary Lockman, a professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University, “reviewed the course syllabus on the Forward’s behalf.”

And what did the good professor find? That “[i]f Touro College has pretentions to be a serious academic institution, this is not a course that students should get credit for.” Zachary Lockman offering expert opinion on the impartiality of an academic course on the Middle East?! This is incredibly rich. To understand why, consider this description of him by David Horowitz, author of The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America and a leading expert on anti-Israel bias in American colleges:

Lockman has been part of a movement, initiated by Edward Said, to transform Middle Eastern Studies departments into mouthpieces for anti-Israel and anti-American propaganda. He routinely calls Israel the “Zionist entity” … while referring to Palestinians as the “indigenous people” of the land “occupied” by Israel. Like many of his colleagues, he subscribes to the view that Israel and America… are perpetrators of colonial aggression against the Arab world… declaring at a 2009 UCLA event that “colonialism is Zionism.”

But there’s more. In 2008, Lockman spoke at the “First National Teach-In on Freedoms at Risk in America” at NYU, which was convened to decry the attention being paid by organizations like Campus Watch to the politicization of the discipline known as “Middle East Studies” by anti-Israel professors.

Other speakers at the “teach-in” included Norman Finkelstein, one of the most notorious Holocaust revisionists and Israel-haters of our time, and Lynne Stewart, the Maoist lawyer convicted of providing material support to terrorists for sneaking messages from her imprisoned client, the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, to fellow terrorists. Mohamed Yousry, a translator for Stewart who was convicted along with her, was an NYU doctoral student who wrote his thesis on the Blind Sheikh. The supervising professor who suggested that thesis topic? Zachary Lockman.

Also in 2008, Lockman spoke at another NYU event on academic freedom, where he bemoaned the “ideological straitjacket on what can be taught in the classroom.” And a 2007 article in The Nation entitled “The New McCarthyism” quoted Lockman to the same effect:

There certainly is a sense among faculty and grad students that they’re being watched, monitored. People are always looking over their shoulder, feeling that whatever they say–in accurate or, more likely, distorted form–can end up on a website. It definitely has a chilling effect.

So let’s review what we know about Zachary Lockman. He’s a leading figure in the effort by the faculties of Middle East Studies departments across the country to use their academic bully pulpits to propagandize for the Palestinian cause. Indeed, Lockman is a past president of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), which has in recent decades become so hyper-politicized that one of its founders, the preeminent scholar Bernard Lewis, was moved in 2007 break away and establish a competing Middle East Studies organization.

This is the paragon of impartiality and academic probity whom the Forward chose to review Touro’s course offerings and to pronounce that “[i]f Touro College has pretentions to be a serious academic institution, this is not a course that students should get credit for.” Even had we known nothing about Lockman’s background, the highly unprofessional tone of derision in that comment alone would alert us to the true nature of this professorial poseur.

So there we have it: Campuses across America have become hotbeds of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic ferment due to a toxic mix of blatantly biased Middle East studies professors and aggressive Muslim student groups, but Heaven forfend that even one college should offer even one course seeking to counterbalance that onslaught.

And to compound the irony, Lockman himself is a great defender of so-called “academic freedom,” repeatedly whining in public about the “ideological straitjacket” that prevents him and his cohorts from freely dispensing anti-Israeli and American agitprop in their classrooms and the tragedy of feeling “that they’re being watched, monitored.” Sort of how Touro might be feeling right about now, professor?

So much for Lockman, but let’s not lose sight of the role of the Forward, that self-described “revered institution in American Jewish life,” in this tangled web of hypocrisy and deception. Putting aside the paper’s palpable anti-religious animus, what does the Forward’s selection of this shameless Palestinian apologist as the arbiter of academic impartiality, and its failure to inform readers of Lockman’s history, tell us about the paper’s journalistic ethics?

Originally published in Mishpacha.

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11 Responses

  1. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    In response to Mr. Cohen, I would reply that I read those newspapers to reply to their articles and authors with letters to the editor and response articles, something I did actively for many years. I read those newspapers because even if I don’t write, I live in a world where others do read them and I will have to reply when asked by those others what I think. And finally, I read those newspapers because every once in a while, something that’s written is true. When that happens, we are exposed to an uncomfortable truth about ourselves that we might not have learned otherwise, and that is for the best. Finally, there are those times that those newspapers will print something positive about our community that we ourselves were unaware of. It has happened.

  2. SZiskind says:

    Every publication has an agenda. The question is how open are they about their agenda and how appropriate is that agenda for their readership? I think the frum publications are very open about being Torah based and proud of their using Rabbonim to make sure nothing questionable goes in to their publications and their adherance to daas Torah. How upfront is the Jewish Week and the Forward about their secular agenda? Maybe it would be less problematic if they made it more upfront instead of trying to come across as a publication for all Jews including frum ones.

    I’m thrilled btw, that now we can actually comment on Mr. Kobre’s columns. Recently he had a column where he mentioned starting a conversation and I was thinking, what conversation? Okay people could write to him I guess. But now he’ll really start the conversation if his pieces from Mishpacha end up on Cross-Currents.

  3. L. Oberstein says:

    I appreciate the people who come up to me in shul (not during services of course) and say they read my comments. I still don’t understand why bloggers need anonymity and they know who I am but I don’t know who they are in most cases.
    Cross-Currents is one site that discusses political issues from a Jewish point of view. What is important is that not all of us agree what is a “Jewish point of view.”
    I agree that the Forward went too far in this case and probably at other times too, but I could easily write a similar article decrying the slant of other publications in the more orthodox side of the community that have a clear agenda also. The Forward is secular and socialist, they also aren’t afraid to make a lot of trouble and stir the pot. Touro is not controversial and I don’t think this foible is much to complain about. But, and this bothers me to no end, almost every week , the author of this article writes in Mishpacha and somehow ties in his own personal political opinons with Torah ture Judaism. Why is that ok and the socoalist Forward not ok. Why is is ok to say that Judaism is right wing Republicanism but not left wing soicialism, I could make a case for either and so could most of y ou.

  4. Mr. Cohen says:

    I hope and pray [literally] that I will live to see the day when all Jews, especially those who consider themselves to be observant (“Frum” in Yiddish) will stop reading Orthodox-bashing newspapers like: The Jewish Week, The Forward and HaAretz, and also stop advertising in them.

    Whenever I suggest to my fellow Orthodox Jews that they stop reading Orthodox-bashing newspapers, the usual response is some blatantly pathetic excuse why they “can’t” stop reading those newspapers.

    On Yom HaDin, the great Day of Judgment, all those pathetic excuses will be revealed for exactly what they are, and they will not accepted as valid defenses by The True Judge.

  5. Steve Brizel says:

    Yasher Koach to Eytan Kobre on a well written expose of a leftist posing as an objective critic. Apparently, Lockman feels that only courses that meet his POV are “legitimate” courses in Middle East studies. FWIW, Touro has numerous branches around the world, with the overwhelming majority therein decidedly not Orthodox Jews, as opposed to its NYC campuses.

  6. L. Oberstein says:

    The Forward has gained a new life as an English weekly that is heavily subsidized. It has always been a socialist paper and used to print a Saturday morning edition. They definately have a slant that may jive with Haaretz’s joy in exposing religious corruption and sin. If we want to be triumphalist,we can say that they are jealous of our ascendancy and it is just bitterness. The other side of the coin is that the Forward and the NY Jewish Week deal with issues, not only chareidi foibles, that publications of another slant won’t touch. They are the muckrakers and that serves a purpose. Caveat Emptor, they are secular socialists deep in their hearts.

  7. Reb Yid says:

    I’m confused. The article states “Touro College, a Jewish-oriented institution that reaches out especially to Orthodox students”….and you have a problem with this? There’s anti-Orthodox animus in that description? Really?

    It’s an objective fact. Who would deny it? And no reason why that said institution can’t simultaneously attract other minorities as you mention. It’s not a zero sum game, after all.

    But in the context of this article, it certainly is appropriate to mention the considerable Orthodox population at Touro. These are the students, not the other “minorities”, that are mostly likely the recipients of college credits for the “course” in question.

  8. Rejewvenator says:

    In this whole piece I could not figure out whether the author believes that Touro should offer college credit for a course put together by a political advocacy group. I mean forget Lockman for a minute. If Touro is giving credit for a course that really isn’t college level our college appropriate, then Lockman is right, regardless of his other views, hateful though they may be.

  9. Bob Miller says:

    “…what does the Forward’s selection of this shameless Palestinian apologist as the arbiter of academic impartiality, and its failure to inform readers of Lockman’s history, tell us about the paper’s journalistic ethics?…”

    It tells us again what we ought to know already.

  10. E. Fink says:

    Getting credit for JOU is ALSO dishonesty. It is kiruv 101. It has nothing to do with advocacy for Israel.

  11. Shanks says:

    As one reads further, however, it becomes clear that the course didn’t exactly “[come] under pointed questioning by curriculum experts.”

    I don’t see where that becomes clear. They have one small quote from Lockman and if what you wrote is true, you’re right that he shouldn’t have been the academic consulted. But he didn’t say anything crazy here — actually, he’s right — and they also have a quote from Russ Poulin of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education Cooperative for Educational Technologies.