by Professor Andrew Rubin, Georgetown University | Email circular | 9 November 2004
An Open Letter to Congressman Weiner,
I met you in the Spring of 1988 when you were the friend of a classmate of mine in college. Years have passed since then. You are no longer Senator Charles Schumer's Legislative Aid, but a Democratic Congressman in a district of Brooklyn and Queens, and I am now a Professor of English at Georgetown University. Like you, I am an American-Jew and condemn anti-semitism wherever I see it.
Yet unlike you, I do not share your belief that you have shared recently with The New York Sun that Professor Joseph Massad at Columbia University is an anti-Semite and should be fired for the exercise of so-called bias in the classroom. I have known Professor Joseph Massad for ten years personally and have read many of his incisive books, essays, and articles that have widely expanded our knowledge of the historical sources and effects of Zionism in this world, and I find your charges of anti-Semitism against him dishonest, defamatory, and even barbaric in its conflation of the criticism of various forms and practices of various Zionist ideologies with the hatred of and the discrimination against Jews.
I hope you would out of respect for the ethical value of non-coercive forms of knowledge and the principle of academic freedom retract and disabuse yourself from your statement and baseless allegation that you have made. Were you a responsible man you would actually take the time to actually read Professor Massad's scholarship, where you will, I assure you, find nothing anti-Jewish about his work, rather a strong-minded and razor-sharp analysis and criticism of the emergence and practice of different forms of Zionist ideologies and Israel's ongoing occupation of the West Bank and Gaza; its attempt to militarily, politically and physically destroy a population of human beings living since 1948 as refugees and exiles--and under military occupation for over 35 years.
In spite of your public insinuations and political campaign to influence Columbia University -- an institution, alas, outside of your own district and real constituency -- to fire Professor Massad, as you wrote in a recent letter to Columbia University's President, Lee Bollinger (that somehow made its way into the pages of the New York Sun), you seem to overlook the fact that should be a foundational tenet to any Congressman like you -- the fair and transparent democratic process of political representation. The casuistry and dramatic irony fails to phase you as a representative: not a single student (former or otherwise) of his has ever filed a material complaint against him alleging the exercise of bias in the classroom as you and those behind your shameful efforts continue to imply disgracing the principle of academic freedom.
Since the political defeat of your party’s candidate in this presidential election, I am now even more certain that the University and the academic freedom it preserves is perhaps the last place in our society and our culture where different ideas can flourish, and the discussion of the conditions of conflict can be transformed into forms of reconciliation.
I sincerely hope you cease this reckless use of your political power from your little fiefdom in Queens and Brooklyn, inflaming the passions of a few vocal American Jews for your own political gain, exploiting and demeaning the memory of families of Jews who died in the Holocaust, and threatening the very principle of academic freedom by attacking an extraordinarily accomplished scholar who is not an anti-Semite.
Your political energies would be better spent redefining the Democratic Party so that this period of Protestant evangelical fascism, which is the real source of anti-semitism and the hatred of others in this country, no longer dictates the conditions of discussion, debate and policy at an extraordinary cost to the lives of human beings abroad and at home.
Professor Andrew N. Rubin
Department of English Literature
Professor Andrew N. Rubin
Assistant Professor of English
306 New North
Washington, DC 20057
tel: (202) 687-7455
fax: (202) 687-5445