Wednesday, June 07, 2006
The Sinking of the Cole! (And how I helped achieve it!)
1. The Sinking of the Cole:
Please note how donors to the university were recruited to battle
political bias within that university. This is an important lesson that
all donors to Israeli universities must learn! Please pass the word!
Middle East Wars Flare Up At Yale
Controversial academic shot down for appointment; was campaign against him
Liel Leibovitz - Staff Writer
Juan Cole, one of the country.s top Middle East scholars, was poised for
the biggest step of his career.
A tenured professor at the University of Michigan, Cole was tapped earlier
this year by a Yale University search committee to teach about the modern
Middle East. In two separate votes in May, Cole was approved by both the
sociology and history departments, the latter the university.s largest.
The only remaining hurdle was the senior appointments committee, also
known as the tenure committee, a group consisting of about a half-dozen
professors from various disciplines across the university.
Last week, however, in what is shaping up as the latest in a series of
heated battles over the political affiliations of Middle Eastern studies
professors, the tenure committee voted down Cole.s nomination. Several
Yale faculty members described the decision to overrule the votes of the
individual departments as .highly unusual..
The reasons behind the rejection remain unknown; several calls to a Yale
spokeswoman went unreturned.
But university insiders say that the uncharacteristic rebuff may have been
influenced by several factors, central among them the political commentary
Cole writes on his blog, .Informed Comment.. They also contend that Cole.s
nomination was torpedoed mainly by senior professors in both departments
who were concerned with Cole.s controversial persona.
Often favoring a pugilistic tone and consistently criticizing Israel.s
policies in the West Bank, Cole has attracted a visibility that has made
him a favorite target of several conservative commentators.
When Cole.s potential hiring became publicly known, several of his
detractors, including the American Enterprise Institute.s Michael Rubin
and Washington Times columnist Joel Mowbray, took various steps to protest
the decision. They wrote op-ed pieces in various publications and Mowbray
went as far as to send a letter to a dozen of Yale.s major donors, many of
whom are Jewish, urging them to call the university and protest Cole.s
Cole, while refusing to comment on the tenure committee.s vote, told The
Jewish Week he believes that .the concerted press campaign by
neoconservatives against me, which was a form of lobbying the higher
administration, was inappropriate and a threat to academic integrity.
.The articles published in the Yale Standard, the New York Sun, the Wall
Street Journal, Slate, and the Washington Times, as part of what was
clearly an orchestrated campaign, contained made-up quotes, inaccuracies,
and false charges,. he said. .The idea that I am any sort of anti-Jewish
racist because I think Israel would be better off without the occupied
territories is bizarre, but I fear that a falsehood repeated often enough
and in high enough places may begin to lose its air of absurdity..
.The issue is complicated,. according to one Jewish official at the
University of Michigan who asked not to be named, .because Cole is seen as
a scholar who does not intimidate students in class with his Mideast
views, but has an appalling Web site, highly critical of Israel. So what
are the boundaries of outside behavior affecting academic decisions?.
On The Offensive
Cole.s saga with Yale began earlier this year when a search committee was
formed to find a Middle Eastern studies professor to teach at the Yale
Center for International and Areas Studies, a joint position of the
history and sociology departments.
Political science professor Frances Rosenbluth, who was part of the search
committee, said that Cole emerged as a clear choice.
.The committee read his work very thoroughly, in conjunction with the work
of other scholars,. Rosenbluth told The Jewish Week. .We interviewed other
people, we sent out letters to the field of contemporary Middle Eastern
studies, and [Cole] is very highly regarded as a scholar. That.s why the
committee made its recommendation..
But before Cole was even named as a candidate, some opponents took to the
op-ed pages of various newspapers to press their case.
Writing in the Yale Daily News on April 18, Rubin, a neoconservative who
often writes about the need for a strong U.S. policy against Iran, accused
Cole of having .abandoned scholarship in favor of blog commentary..
The same day, Eliana Johnson, a Yale undergraduate, and Mitchell Webber, a
Yale graduate who is now a law student and a research assistant for Alan
Dershowitz at Harvard Law School, published an op-ed in the conservative
New York Sun. Echoing many of Rubin.s points, Johnson and Webber referred
to Cole as the .professor best known for disparaging the participation of
prominent American Jews in government..
Those op-eds had little to say about Cole.s academic background, focusing
most of their criticism on what the Michigan professor had written on his
blog. Both pieces appeared to blur the distinction between American Jews
and some Bush administration officials. On Aug. 29, 2004, for example,
Cole wrote a blog entry calling several Bush neoconservatives .pro-Likud
intellectuals. who wish .to use the Pentagon as Israel.s Gurkha regiment,
fighting elective wars on behalf of Tel Aviv..
Referring to the entry in his op-ed for the Yale Daily News, Rubin
contends that Cole .accuses Jewish Americans of using the Pentagon as
Israel.s Gurkha regiment.. Similarly, Webber and Johnson claim that
.according to Mr. Cole, American Jews both inside and out of government
are primarily loyal to Israel and subvert American interests for those of
the Jewish State..
.These articles,. said Cole, .attempted to make my critiques of the Likud,
on both sides of the Atlantic, look like an attack on American Jewry in
general, which is manifestly not the case. For these people, Likud equals
Israel equals Jews, so all criticism of revisionist Zionism and Greater
Israel expansionism is anti-Semitic..
Despite the op-ed pieces, Cole.s nomination was brought to the history
and sociology departments, both of which voted in late May, to approve
Cole.s hiring. The history department, according to several sources in the
faculty, approved Cole with 13 members supporting the appointment, seven
opposing it and three abstaining.
The approval gave rise to a renewed wave of activity. Writing in the
conservative Washington Times on May 22, columnist Joel Mowbray wrote a
sharp critique of Cole, attacking the professor.s tendency to label those
who disagree with him as Likudniks, Zionists or neocons.
Letter To Donors
Then Mowbray went a step further. He drafted a letter, which he forwarded
to a dozen of Yale.s prominent donors, most of whom are Jewish, urging
them to make their disapproval of Cole.s hiring known.
.Yale is poised to hire and award tenure to a professor who doubts that
the 9-11 attacks had any connection to fundamentalist Islam, blames Israel
for causing terror attacks against the U.S. and contends that Iran.s
nuclear ambitions are only a threat in the minds of American .neocons. and
their Tel Aviv counterparts,. reads the letter, a copy of which Mowbray
sent to The Jewish Week.
.A large measure of the university.s reputation is based on the respect of
its scholars and the authority of their published work. So who is this
.scholar. that Yale so desperately wants to hire?.
The letter goes on to address Cole.s .non-scholarly temperament. (citing
one particularly profane entry from Cole.s blog), as well as his
.predilection for name-calling over honest debate..
Last week, as Cole.s hiring was being discussed by the tenure committee,
the letter.s recipients apparently weighed in, according to sources.
Several faculty members said they had heard that at least four major
Jewish donors, whose identity the faculty members did not know, have
contacted officials at the university urging that Cole.s appointment be
And while most faculty members contacted for this piece agree that it is
highly improbable that outside pressure played a part in the tenure
committee.s decision, the letters and the subsequent calls suggest a
campaign to discredit Cole.
The major opposition to Cole, most faculty members interviewed for this
story agree, came from within the departments themselves. At least two
faculty members said they had witnessed senior professors at both
departments attempt to influence their peers to vote against Cole.
One university insider familiar with the case said that there may be
several reasons why the tenure committee shot down Cole.s appointment.
First, according to the source, most of Cole.s scholarship pertains to the
Baha.i faith and is limited to the 18th and 19th centuries, a liability
for a professor charged with teaching about the contemporary Middle East.
Second, the source continued, Cole appears to lack in collegiality, as his
penchant for combative blog entries and personal spats with detractors
might make him an unnerving fixture on Yale.
Finally, Cole.s politics may have played a role, though a less important
one than the other two factors, said the source.
Whatever the reasons, Cole will not be relocating from Michigan to
Connecticut, and the campaigns, both internal and external, over the
nature of Middle Eastern studies in campuses across the country seem
unlikely to abate.
SP: As an afterword, it should be noted that one of Cole's most
scurrilous articles, one that no doubt helped get him turned down for this
gig, was a piece attacking me as a "Kahanist" because I had stated that
denying Kahanists free speech rights is selective suppression of freedom
of speech (while never endorsing Kahanists themselves). Cole also accused
me of leading a Zionist campaign to "stir up racial conflict" when I noted
that teh Sudenese Islamofascists who were murdering black Africans without
Cole having much to say against it!
The articles that helped sink the Cole:
2. Paris Pogrom:
3. Who says there is no such thing as Canadian courage?
Note how the current government in Canada is conservative!
4. Brits afraid to fly flag:
5. But some British press have guts: