Posted by: Doug Henwood | April 23, 2009

The war on William Robinson

For daring to draw similarities between Israeli behavior in Gaza and the Nazis, the ADL and the rest of the gang of intellectual policemen are at war with William Robinson, a sociology prof at UCSB. I met Robinson at a conference in Amsterdam in 2002 and interviewed him for my radio show; the archived version is here. While I have some differences with him on the issue of “globalization,” he’s a serious scholar and a likable guy, and he deserves support. Here’s an article from Inside Higher Ed on the case.
And site organized by some of Robinson’s students in his support. Sign the petition and send a letter to the pig administration!

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Responses

  1. William Robinson is indeed one of the most interesting scholars on globalization. I have met him a while back and have read his books avidly on the subject. This is just nuts.

  2. Why doesn’t he just reply to the accusation — that the equation of Israel and Nazi Germany constitutes a form of antisemitic demonization?
    It’s pretty simple.
    It wouldn’t be hard simply to admit he crossed the line of legitimate critique. Then he could carry on teaching, as well as criticizing Israeli policy if he wants.

  3. Robinson said that what Israel is doing in Gaza is the same as what the Nazis did to the Warsaw ghetto: seal it off, resulting in desperation, famine, and disease. Lots of people don’t like to hear that, but it’s true.

    And just who are you to police the bounds of “legitimate critique,” anyway?

  4. […] The war on William Robinson « LBO News from Doug Henwood via kwout […]

  5. I agree with s.I completely that equating Israel and Nazi Germany is anti-semitic demonization. Further, not only it is viciously anti-semitic, it’s also extremely intellectually careless, or sloppy.
    To be excruciatingly clear about it, any comparison of Israel and the Nazis would only hold in the following situation:

    – IF – …
    for example, Israel was building death camps for Palestinians and closing off areas like the Gaza Strip, then attacking those areas, annihilating all who fought against it(how many died in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, say 40,000) then shipped any survivors to death camps in the interior of Israel, where, upon arrival, Palestinians not able to work, or were too old, sick, etc. were immediately selected to be sent to gas chambers and killed, while others were worked to death or sent to gas chambers at a later time,

    -THEN-…

    such a comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany would be tenable.

    Since nothing like this is happening in the Middle East, then the comparison(Israel ~ Nazi Germany) is not tenable in any way, and not only is it not tenable, it shows a lack of thought.
    In my opinion, people who make this comparison are anti-semitic and not thinking clearly about what they’re saying, something I didn’t really expect on this site.
    I’ve taken up enough space, except to say that this plague or curse of anti-semitism is a blight on the human race, never mind the pathetic remnants of the so-called Left.

  6. Just one more thing,
    I would defend Robinson’s right to free speech, and I don’t think he should lose his job. As horrible as his opinions are, he still has the right to express them and shouldn’t be punished for it.
    There are a number of people like him in academia, for example, isn’t there a tenured engineering professor who’s a Holocaust denier at a university in Illinois somewhere?

  7. I get a real kick out of people who instantly throw up the ‘anti-semite’ argument – like Jews are somehow special. If one speaks against blacks, or Asians, or illegal Mexicans, they’re ‘racist,’ but if they speak against Jews, they’re ‘anti-semites.’
    What a bunch of idiots.
    It is an accurate comparison, between the Nazis and Israel. . . the only difference is the degree in which both Terrorist Regimes terrorize(d) those unable to defend themselves – like saying killing 10 people in a drunk driving accident is bad, but if only 4 people die, and you’re a Jew, it’s ok.
    Get an education.

  8. Professor Robinson’s opinions are not horrible or anti-semitic. There are atrocities commited against Palestinians and if he wanted to encourage critical thinking in his students on the subject he should have the academic freedom to do so. Will Robinson is one of the best teachers I ever had and I don’t beleive for a second that his intention was anything more than to open the eyes of his students. Come on- at univesity level you should be able to handle looking at opposing viewpoints.

  9. Bracketing the demonisation/accusations of anti-semitism (which are completely bogus), I’m not sure the comparison really holds. The motives and the intentions seemed to be different in both instances, though in part that’s because Israel is to a limited degree kept in check by international opinion. Although they keep pushing the boundaries of the permissable, its pretty obvious that what keeps Israel in check is the fear of transgressing what’s acceptable and so becoming a pariah nation.

  10. Ed, the comparisons don’t have to be exact to be valid.

  11. FYI, a speech (video) by Sir Gerald Kaufman, the veteran Labour MP, yesterday compared the actions of Israeli troops in Gaza to the Nazis who forced his family to flee Poland.

    Sir Gerald Kaufman, who was brought up as an orthodox Jew and Zionist, said: “My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town a German soldier shot her dead in her bed.

    “My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza. The present Israeli government ruthlessly and cynically exploits the continuing guilt from gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians.”

    He said the claim that many of the Palestinian victims were militants “was the reply of the Nazi” and added: “I suppose the Jews fighting for their lives in the Warsaw ghetto could have been dismissed as militants.”

    Also, a straightforward comparison from an Israeli military officer:

    If our job is to seize a densely packed refugee camp or take over the Nablus Casbah, and if this job is to be given to an Israeli officer to carry out without casualties he must before all else analyze and bring together the lessons of past battles, even—shocking though this might appear—to analyze how the German Army operated in the Warsaw Ghetto.

  12. A historical comparison does not have to be exact to be valid. No historical comparison can be exact. It is, therefore, an ideological standard to demand historical cases be identical.

    The point of any historical analogy is to compare cases for similarities and differences to reveal the dynamics that underpin social forms of power.

    In both cases, the observation is of an authoritarian state project. Like the Nazis, the Zionists, with an advanced war machine, are engaged in colonialism. They are removing an indigenous people from land they wish to settle, forcing them into ghettos, erecting fences, walls, checkpoints, and surveillance towers, periodically crushing the resistance with overwhelming and disproportionate force, causing massive civilian casualties, while grooming leaders of the subjected population for collaborators. It’s a standard model.

    What makes this particular case so striking to those who make the comparison is that those who behave this way would justify their behavior by appealing to the treatment of their elders at hands of that other colonial project.

    Moreover, it is difficult to find another case in the world today where a relatively defenseless populations is actually walled into a giant ghetto in a manner similar to that Jews experienced in Warsaw. Does anybody care to provide alternative contemporary examples?


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