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Monday, October 23, 2006

Leftist academics: The ADL controls Poland!

Last week, I noted some of the strange goings on that resulted from the cancellation of an appearance by NYU Professor Tony Judt that was to take place at the Polish consulate in New York. This has set the leftist academic world into a frenzy. The result is the following open letter that targets Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League's director:

Dear Mr. Foxman:

As you know, on October 3, Professor Tony Judt of New York University was scheduled to give a lecture titled “The Israel Lobby & US Foreign Policy” before a public audience, at the invitation of Network 20/20, which sponsors many forums in New York City. The lecture, like many others presented by this organization, was to be held at the Polish Consulate of New York, which rented its facilities but in no way sponsored the event. Shortly before the lecture was scheduled to begin, however, it was abruptly cancelled by Consul General Krzysztof Kasprzyk, who later told a reporter, “I don’t have to subscribe to the First Amendment.”[1] Patricia Huntington, director of Network 20/20, informs us that when she received a telephone call canceling the event, scheduled to place within the hour, she was told that ADL President Abe Foxman was on the other line to the Consul General.

Ms. Huntington has now accused the Anti-Defamation League of having “forced,” “threatened,” and exerted “pressure” on the consulate to cancel the talk. Although the deputy counsel general has disputed this claim, he did tell the New York Sun that the consulate received calls from “a couple of Jewish groups” as well as “representatives of American diplomacy and intelligentsia” expressing “concerns” over the lecture. In the event, the lecture was cancelled, a move then welcomed by David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, who remarked, “Bravo to them for doing the right thing.”[2]

These facts argue against the press release the ADL circulated on October 5, 2006, disclaiming any role in the cancellation of Professor Judt’s lecture. The ADL has recently been very critical of those academics and intellectuals, like Professor Judt, who have raised questions about the Israel lobby and American foreign policy, an issue on which reasonable people have disagreed. This does not surprise us or disturb us. What does surprise and disturb us is that an organization dedicated to promoting civil rights and public education should threaten and exert pressure to cancel a lecture by an important scholar, as Ms. Huntington says happened.

In a democracy, there is only one appropriate response to a lecture, article, or book one does not agree with. It is to give another lecture, write another article, or publish another book. For much of its hundred-year history your organization worked side by side with other Americans who wanted to guarantee that freedom for all, and your mission statement still declares: “the goal remains the same: to stand up for the core values of America against those who seek to undermine them through word or deed.”[3]

Though we, the undersigned, have many disagreements about political matters, foreign and domestic, we are united in believing that a climate of intimidation is inconsistent with fundamental principles of debate in a democracy. The Polish Consulate is not obliged to promote free speech. But the rules of the game in America oblige citizens to encourage rather than stifle public debate. We who have signed this letter are dismayed that the ADL did not choose to play a more constructive role in promoting liberty.

Mark Lilla, University of Chicago
Richard Sennett, London School of Economics and NYU and

[Long list of names omitted. CiJ]

[1] Larry Cohler-Esses, “Off Limits? Talk by Israel Critic Canceled,” The Jewish Week, October 6, 2006.

[2] Ira Stoll, “Poland Abruptly Cancels a Speech by Local Critic of the Jewish State,” The New York Sun, October 4, 2006.

[3] See www.adl.org/adlhistory/intro.asp.

The ADL has responded:
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:

On October 13, we received a letter from Mark Lilla of the University of Chicago and Richard Sennett of the London School of Economics accusing ADL and me of violating democratic principles of debate by threatening and pressing the Polish Consulate General to cancel a speech by Tony Judt. More than 100 other academics, journalists and others signed on to the letter from Professors Lilla and Sennett.

What is so shocking about this letter is that a group claiming to be defending fundamental values of free expression in a democratic society – values that ADL has worked to ensure for decades –employs techniques which completely debase those values.

Neither the principal authors of the letter nor any of the co-signatories ever sought me out to get the perspective of ADL as to what did and did not happen. Professors Lilla and Sennett simply credit as "fact" the comments and opinions of the president of the group that sponsored the event and leap to the unsupported conclusion that "[T]hese facts argue against the press release ADL circulated . . . disclaiming any role in the cancellation of Professor Judt's lecture;" they have acted as judge and jury without engaging in the least bit of due diligence to ascertain whether there are facts they do not know; and they use inflammatory words like "threaten" "pressure" and "intimidate" that bear no resemblance to what actually transpired.

ADL did not threaten or intimidate or pressure anyone. The Polish Consul General made his decision concerning Tony Judt's appearance strictly on his own.

ADL is justifiably proud of its 93-year record of defending free speech as a bedrock principle of a healthy society. It is disheartening to see leading scholars ignore the very doctrine they invoke by rushing to judgment against our organization. Their behavior is a much subtler and more dangerous form of intimidation than the baseless accusations conjured up against ADL. Now, by raising the specter of "threat and intimidation," Professors Lilla and Sennett want ADL to fall into line and behave as though "the rules of the game in America…" do not also oblige them "to encourage rather than stifle public debate."

When teachers speak out on the rules governing "fundamental principles of debate in a democracy", particularly scholars of the stature of Professors Lilla and Sennett, they have a responsibility to the academy, their students and society to do so with the highest degree of respect for those principles. Sadly, Professors Lilla and Sennett appear to have lost sight this responsibility.

Our suggestion that we meet face to face to put the facts on the table was rejected by Professors Lilla and Sennett.
This morning, in an editorial, the New York Sun, which brought the story to light in the first place, hits the nail on the head:
What a strange, albeit all-too-typical fantasy — that the Anti-Defamation League or Mr. Foxman somehow manipulate or control the workings of the Polish government. How insulting to the Poles themselves, who have a free and democratic government that is fully capable of making its own decisions.Mr. Foxman was quoted in The New York Sun's original news article as saying, "We had nothing to do with the cancellation." He said to us, and we reported at the time, "That was their decision…We didn't ask for it."

Yet the assembled left — led by Mark Lilla of the University of Chicago but including also Ian Buruma, Timothy Garton Ash, Franklin Foer, Jim Sleeper, Gideon Rose, and Rashid Khalidi — are now, in an open letter, calling both Mr. Foxman and the Polish diplomats, in essence, liars. Their accusations are based, at least in part, on the statements of a woman named Patricia Huntington, who originally sought to blame the ADL but who has since retracted her accusations, stating in a letter to us, "I had no idea what actually transpired between the ADL and the Consulate General."


We interpreted the Poles as saying, in essence, that it would be inappropriate for a country on whose soil much of the Holocaust took place to host, in its own consulate, a speaker who has suggested the replacement of Israel with a bi-national state and who has embraced a paper that accuses a vast "Israel Lobby" of manipulating the press and entangling America in the Iraq war. Poland's decision in respect of Mr. Judt is a sign of the value it places on the Jewish State, with which it has built warm relations, and is welcomed by these columns and by many New Yorkers. It is a sign of comprehension that the war against the Jews that claimed so many Jews in Poland in the last century rages yet today, and of the Polish people's determination, this time around, to be on the right side of that war.
Game, set and match.


At 2:29 PM, Blogger Kranky (in the civilized world) said...


I am sure I am not alone in being deeply troubled by wacademics spewing conspiricy theories like "the joooooooos control everything, here is proof(tm)". Anyone else around these parts feel a cold 1930's wind on them?

At 2:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The civilized world is anything but civilized when it comes to Jews. We don't know what will happen or when but if we can be in Eretz Yisrael where we belong, why not come asap?


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