With Another Semester, A New Set of Challenges

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Dear Friends of SPME:

As students and faculty return to campuses around the world for a new semester this month, those of us concerned with honest discussions about the Middle East are girding ourselves for another academic year in which the debate about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Islamism, the Arab Spring, Iranian intransigence, and the continuing internecine bloodshed in Syria will animate classrooms, symposia, and rallies.

Despite the significant, and often deadly, developments now sweeping across the Middle East, many in academia have not given up on their fixation with the Palestinian cause, and with the seeming endless energy they will expend in continuing to demonize, delegitimize, and slander Israel, and Zionism, in their attempt to help elevate and defend the Palestinian cause.

This special supplement to the Faculty Forum, produced to examine the recent controversy over Berkeley’s Judith Butler (and her suitability to be the recipient of the Adorno Prize), demonstrates clearly some of the tactics in the cognitive war against Israel on campuses. Butler has been criticized, among other things, for seemingly embracing Hamas and Hezbollah, as two particularly troublesome examples, and for giving them credibility as part of a populist, anti-imperialist movement of which she, and many of her like-minded anti-Zionists, see themselves as being a part. So while Butler and her like-minded professors and students on campuses would ordinarily have no ideological kinship with the misogynistic, homophobic, totalitarian, theocratic culture of radical Islam, they have managed to cobble together what some observers have called an “unholy alliance,” in which even jihadists and academics share in a common enmity for American values, military strength, imperialism and, of course, America’s key democratic ally in the Middle East, Israel.

On campuses, that anti-Western, anti-Israel sentiment has manifested itself in Israel Apartheid Week events, calls for academic boycotts against Israeli scholars and universities, divestment from university portfolios of companies supplying material to Israel’s military, and academic panels, symposia, and conferences which regularly devolve into one-sided, politicized events with the single purpose of demonizing the Jewish state and advancing the Palestinian’s march to self-determination.

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East was founded precisely to confront this dilution of scholarship and academic integrity, and not only in relation to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. We seek an honest assessment of developments—political, cultural, economic, and social—across the entire region, moving beyond the current academic obsession with Israel to help insure that an honest, and useful, debate about the changing face of the Middle East can take place. In discussing specific academics, such as Ms. Butler, who, for better or for worse, contribute to that discussion, we hope to bring some clarity to debate.

Dr. Richard L. Cravatts
President, SPME

With Another Semester, A New Set of Challenges

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Richard L. Cravatts

Richard Cravatts has taught advertising, integrated marketing communications, consumer behavior, opinion writing, magazine publishing, editing, public relations, technical writing, account planning, entrepreneurial marketing, and e-commerce strategy at Simmons College, Boston University, Babson College, Tufts University, UMass/ Boston, Suffolk University, Wentworth Institute, Emerson College, Northeastern University, and Emmanuel College.

For over 26 years Cravatts was publisher of the Boston Classical Network, a firm which created playbills to enhance the marketing of the region's major performing arts organizations, including the American Repertory Theatre, Huntington Theatre Company, Celebrity Series of Boston, Handel & Haydn Society, and Boston Lyric Opera. He was the founding editor of Metrowest Magazine and Wellesley Weston Magazine, and associate publisher and editor in chief of Orlando's Best and the Greater Boston Restaurant & Wine Review. He was also the art director and travel editor of Palm Beach Illustrated, as well as the Boston dining correspondent for East/West Network, Inc., publishers of in-flight magazines for the nation's leading airlines.

From 1976-78, Dr. Cravatts was the first director of publications at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University at a time when the School was undergoing dramatic growth and in the midst of a significant capital campaign, and was the founding editor of the School's magazine and portfolio of marketing publications; he also later served in a similar capacity as the first director of public relations at Harvard's School of Public Health.

Dr. Cravatts has published over 350 articles, op-ed pieces, columns, and chapters in books on campus anti-Semitism, campus free speech, terrorism, Constitutional law, Middle East politics, real estate, and social policy, and is the author of the book, Genocidal Liberalism: The University's War Against Israel & Jews. He is also a frequent guest on radio programs and lectures nationally on the topic of higher education and the Middle East.

In addition to being an SPME board member and chair of its Greater Boston chapter,  Cravatts is a board member of both The Journal for the Study of Antisemitism and the Investigative Taskforce on Campus Anti-Semitism, and an Academic Advisory Board member of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law.

Read all stories by Richard L. Cravatts

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