(December 5, 2021 / JNS) Last year, Lior Sternfeld and Michelle Campos signed the so-called Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism, which asserted that the call for Israel’s destruction was not anti-Semitic.
The signatures of Sternfeld and Campos, as well as those of many other anti-Israel academics, were not surprising. Sternfeld had previously signed a petition in support of BDS activists which concluded with the claim that the signatories could refuse “to enter the State of Israel.” He and Campos had also signed another petition accusing the Jewish state of “apartheid”.
More recently, Campos, Sternfeld and Orit Bashkin signed the Declaration on Israel and Palestine in Jewish Studies accusing Israel of engaging in “state violence” against Hamas. In language echoing Soviet propaganda, he denounced Zionism as “ethnonationalist” and “settler colonial” systems of “Jewish supremacy” which led to “segregation” from “Palestinians.”
Israel, all of this, he claims, has existed in occupied territory, not only since 1967, but also since the 1948 War of Independence.
From an academic point of view, the various professors and graduate students declare that they will support their colleagues who boycott Israel, and as academics to “amplify and support our Palestinian colleagues and others” and emphasize the “place of Palestine. in Jewish Studies ”.
With the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
NEH is one of the most toxic elements in the federal government. While the Trump administration has tried to fund it, the Biden administration is using it to push critical race theory into the classroom. But to leave no one behind, he is also funding a 1619 project for Israel.
Sternfeld, Campos and Bashkin received a grant of nearly $ 250,000 to “reimagine” Jewish life in the Middle East before Zionism. The NEH grant, one of the two largest in Pennsylvania, funds a “large-scale collaborative project to rewrite the stories, narratives and memories of and by Middle Eastern Jews in the 19th and 21st centuries.”
“Most of the history books just want to show that Zionism was the only alternative for Jews living in the Middle East. To say that Jews were subject to restrictions that would not allow them to prosper and live in the Middle East is just absurd, ”Sternfeld argued in an article on the project.
The only absurdity here is Sternfeld, who cannot even enter Iran, insisting that a million Jewish refugees and a thousand years of discrimination are imaginative.
The NEH would never fund the revisionist story that denied that black people were discriminated against during segregation. Why is he funding the same kind of revisionism against Israel?
The three beneficiaries of NEH’s reappropriation of taxpayer money on their behalf have made little concealment of their hostility to the Jewish state.
Lior Sternfeld described Hamas as a “scarecrow”, suggested that Israeli attempts to cut Hamas “deserved to dig tunnels” and asserted: “Can anyone really compare the risk of living anywhere? in Israel, at the risk of living anywhere in Gaza?
Sternfeld slandered Israel as an “apartheid regime” and insisted that through “manipulation” the Israelis “have come to believe that the whole Middle East genuinely wants to eradicate Israel and the Jews”, and that for some reason the Israelis “don’t believe the Arab rulers.” when they talk about peace (be it the Arab League’s peace initiative or the Egyptian leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Bashkin writes in a journal of “discriminatory practices” as “the building blocks of the meaning of Israeli citizenship,” and rants against Israeli efforts to defend itself against Hamas.
Campos accused the Israelis of racism and repeated anti-Semitic tropes that the White House and Congress were “easily manipulated” by Israel and sent diplomats who were unwilling “to stand up to Israel.” She falsely claimed that Israel had killed “hundreds of Palestinians – including militants, yes, but mostly civilians and those who were just defending their homes and villages.”
Academic work does not have to be defined by personal politics, but Sternfeld, Campos, and Bashkin’s “Reimagining Jewish Life in the Modern Middle East, 1800 – Present: Culture, Society, and History” is likely to be nothing. other than a further distillation of an anti-Zionist revisionist history that falsely insists that Jews lived in peace under Arab-Muslim occupation.
A workshop proposal by Sternfeld and co-signed by Campos and Bashkin applauds “revolutionary studies which regard Jewish communities as part of their respective societies” and proposes an attempt to counter narratives “which lament the end of Jewish existence in Middle East and the Muslim world.
Sternfeld writes a revisionist history about the Jews of Iran without ever having been there. One scholar who wrote “Iranophobia: The Logic of an Israeli Obsession” even praised his “Revisionist History of the Jews in Iran”. Campos approaches Jewish life under the Ottoman Empire in the same way. His work has even been translated into Turkish. And Bashkin writes about Iraqi Jews.
The common theme of anti-Zionist revisionist history is that the Jews enjoyed a good life under Muslim rule. They only moved to Israel because the left failed to build its utopian tyranny.
The underlying idea implicitly is that if the Arab world had undergone a true left-wing revolution, Israel would never have existed or even been necessary. Instead, Jews, Turks and Arabs would all have lived happily in a socialist utopia. No matter how much the reality of the Soviet Union discredited this kind of anti-Semitism wrapped in utopian clothes, leftists can never give it up.
Rather than some sort of insightful perspective, it just copies and pastes old Communist arguments against Zionism into an Arab-Muslim context. Not only is this kind of revisionist history nothing new, but its Jewish supporters only rely on the old propaganda of Arab socialist academics demanding that Jews accept their place in their own nationalist projects.
It suffices to believe that the Jews were never a people, and never had a nation or a history.
Revisionist history of this genre is embellished with interviews with elderly Jewish refugees from Muslim countries with a fondness for Arabic. The resulting exercises are as hollow as interviews with German Jewish refugees who retain a penchant for Goethe’s and Berlin’s cafes.
But what’s outdated in the Middle East looks like an exciting new idea in American academia.
Jews, like all minorities, have always been oppressed under Muslim rule. Although there were periods of larger and lighter persecution, the myth that Sephardic Jews living under Sharia law had it easier was largely a product of the fabricating of Ashkenazi Jewish myths and of local appeasement.
While Sternfeld and Bashkin make the history and suffering of Sephardic Jews their own, both bear distinctively Ashkenazi European surnames. Sternfeld even celebrated his NEH cash with “I’m Beyond verklempt share the news, ”in the comedic Yiddishism typical of a minstrel show adopted by anti-Israel activists trying and failing to appropriate Jewishness.
Asking myself why Sephardic Jews “vote for right-wing parties,” said Bashkin, “I have often wondered if I was born to Iraqi-Israeli Jewish parents, what my own political inclinations might have been.”
The goal behind the appropriation of the Sephardic experience is to justify anti-Semitic violence against certain Jews. Or, as Campos writes in an article on the Hebron massacre of Jewish men, women and children, of “the degree to which indigenous Jews lived intimately within the wider Palestinian community.” The Jews who remained under Muslim rule were “natives”, while those who had been expelled and returned to their homeland were not.
Michelle Campos calls the brutal murder and mutilation of Hebron’s Jewish men, women and children as “sixty-seven Jews” killed in “clashes across the country.” Behind the astute academic discourse lies a rejection and dehumanization of the Jewish victims of Islamic oppression. Campos, like most revisionist historians, seeks to replace the brutal reality of over a thousand years of oppression with selective fond memories and unfulfilled left aspirations.
Lior Sternfeld praised Jewish participation in the Islamic revolution in Iran in the form of Edna Sabet, born a Jew, who “in the wake of her Muslim husband … joined the mujahedin”.
“Despite its tragic end, his story illustrates another aspect of the intricate weaving of identities and loyalties that characterize many of his generation,” Sternfeld explained.
There are hundreds of thousands of Persian Jews living in Israel, but revisionist historians insist on replacing them with the only Jewish woman who “joined the Mujahedin.”
Revisionist history begins by erasing the past, even if it insists that it truly recovers it. Like Project 1619, it seeks a particular point of view to reframe the current reality while erasing the larger story that does not fit its ideological agenda.
Anti-Israel and anti-Zionist historians erase Jewish history to justify erasing Israel.
And like Project 1619, the revisionist story here is meant to be injected into schools.
“The book is not just for scholars. We want it to be accessible to high school students and teachers, ”says Sternfeld.
Propaganda is rarely intended for scholars. And this particular form of propaganda, produced by radical anti-Israel leftists, is believed to influence the American education system.
Leftists demand that the United States stop providing military aid to Israel, but they are happy to accept USAID money for their anti-Israel group and NEH funding for their anti-Israel stories.
Daniel Greenfield, Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer specializing in the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
This article was first published by FrontPage Magazine.