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Tel Aviv U's Red Professor By: Steven Plaut
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Israel's Tel Aviv University has long been a notorious outpost of "Post-Zionist" (i.e. anti-Israel) professors and openly communist faculty members. It would be hard to pinpoint the very worst and most outrageous of these professional radicals, but Yehouda Shenhav is surely a serious contender.

Shenhav is an Associate Professor and past department chairman of sociology at Tel Aviv University.  Born Yehouda Shaharabani to Iraqi parents who had immigrated as refugees to Israel, he later changed his name to a less obviously Asian one. He teaches Marxism and anti-Zionism to Tel Aviv University students and he edits the pseudo-academic Israeli journal Theory and CriticismPublishing anti-Israel propaganda and boilerplate Marxism, Theory and Criticism was founded in 1990 by a gaggle of Israeli communists, Arabs, and leftist anti-Zionists. Shenhav also sits on the board of another anti-Israel "journal" published by extremists at Israel's Ben-Gurion University.

Shenhav was a visiting faculty member at Columbia University when the radicals at the late Edward Said's campus were turning it into a hotbed of anti-Jewish sentiment. Unsurprisingly, Shenhav did not speak out against the rising campus anti-Semitism there nor did he denounce the academic ultras. Instead, Shenhav attended anti-war events throughout the region, starring Columbia faculty and others opposed to the American-led war against Iraqi Baathism and Islamist terrorism.

 

During his appearances, Shenhav compared the war in Iraq to "Israeli acts of aggression in the West Bank," which he saw as "acts of colonialism" led by "crude military men." (Notwithstanding his incessant complaints about the immorality of Israeli society and the intolerable colonialism of its government, Shehav has never refused his taxpayer-financed university salary.)

 

Shenhav is a "critical" part of the leftist clerisy that has taken over a once-serious Israeli think tank, the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, turning it into a little taxpayer-supported arm of anti-Jewish propaganda and activism. He is one of the charter members of a far-leftist group of Asian Jews (those whose families immigrated to Israel from Islamic countries) calling itself the "Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow Coalition". While pretending to be a lobbying group for underprivileged Asian Jews in Israel, the "Rainbow Coalition" spends most of its time promoting the Communist Party's formula for ending "occupation" and bringing peace to a future Middle East that evidently will not contain a Jewish state. The "Rainbow" is one of the anti-Jewish Israeli groups celebrated by the Marxists at Z magazine, Noam Chomsky's favorite magazine. While having a picayune membership, the "Rainbow" nevertheless is awash in funds it gets from the radical New Israel Fund and similar foreign groups.

 

Shenhav is clearly the star of the "Rainbow Coalition" web site, which is crouded with pieces by anti-Israel writers, including pro-terror Stanford professor Joel Beinin, "Professor" Smadar Lavie, a feminist and anti-Zionist who is not a professor at all, and even an Israel-bashing article by UFO crackpot conspiracist Barry Chamish. The web site publishes articles endorsing the campaign by European anti-Semites to boycott Israeli universities.

 

Yehousa Shenhav is among the better-known of Israel's anti-Israel academics. He has signed many of those anti-Israel petitions, collected regularly by certain academics, including one endorsing the Jewish woman arrested for helping her Palestinian boyfriend plan terror bombings, and another proposing international intervention to end Israeli sovereignty. Shenhav's main "academic thesis" has long been the claim that Asian/Sephardic Jews who came to Israel from Arab countries are in fact Arabs of the Jewish faith. He insists that their national identity is determined, like throughout the West, by language, whereas anyone with the slightest familiarity with the Middle East knows that nationality groups there are defined primarily by religious identity.  (That is why secular Jews who do not practice Judaism are still Jews.) In trying to stake out a niche as an academic exponent of "multiculturalism," Shenhav in fact shows that he is a victim of his own Western provinciality, lacking any understanding of so basic a fact of life.

For Shenhav, the "Jewish Arabs thesis" is a purposeful and egregious misapplication of the modern European Jewish liberal posturing. It is designed to make Jews more accepted by claiming to be Germans (or Hungarians, or whatever) of the Jewish religion, and then tendentiously applies the same idea to Jews from Arab countries. Arabic-speaking Jews are Jews, and not Arabs, just as Hebrew-speaking Arabs are still Arabs. Shenhav might be able to find Sephardic Jews who agree with his "Jewish Arabs thesis," and who hold that they are Arabs of the Jewish religion, but there is no validity to the claim. Shenhav has promoted his view that Asian Jews are Arabs in numerous articles and his recent book, The Arab Jews: Nationality, Religion and Ethnicity, won rave reviews from Arab extremists and from PLO front groups.

 

Shenhav considers Zionism to be a form of colonialism. Indeed, Shenhav has long argued that Asian Jews and Palestinians need to unite to fight Zionism, that old "common cause" of the communist party in "Palestine" from the 1920s onward. Asian Jews and Palestinians are, in his view, two wings of the same struggle in absolutely everything--except that Shehav has staunchly opposed the idea of compensation for Asian Jews from Arabs. 

 

Though a child of immigrants to Israel from Iraq, Shenhav wants his own family and those of all other Jewish refugees from Arab countries to be denied their due rights to compensation for property stolen from them. At the same time, he endorses unlimited rights to "compensation" for Palestinians and even their "right of return" to Israeli territory after a Palestinian state is created. This is all the moral equivalent of someone insisting that Germans have the right to compensation for losses during World War II while neither Jews nor Czechs do. Unsurprisingly, Shenhav has been denounced by Justice for Jews from Arab Countries and similar pro-Sephardic groups.

 

While a prominent Tel Aviv University professor, Shenhav has a long track record of promoting crackpot theories about a variety of matters. He has promoted the long-discredited conspiracy holding that Yemenite Jewish children from families who came to Israel in its early years were "kidnapped" and surreptitiously handed over for adoption to European Jews. Not a shred of evidence that any such "kidnappings" took place has ever surfaced, including via DNA tests.

 

Shenhav's latest cause célèbre is the struggle against "neo-liberalism". Those living in the real world--meaning outside of campuses--might be confused by that terminology. But back in the 19th century liberalism used to mean free markets, democracy, and the right to pursue equal opportunity. By the 1960s, American "liberalism" had come to mean the very opposite of traditional liberalism, while the banners of 19th-century liberalism had been adopted by American conservatives. The far Left in recent years adopted "neo-liberalism" as its favorite nonsense term, and its main political crusade today is directed toward attacking what it calls, interchangeably and erroneously, "neo-liberalism" and "neo-conservatism". To paraphrase George Orwell, some ideas are so stupid that one can only learn about them from professors.

 

Shenhav is one of those professors. What he and his ilk really mean by "neo-liberalism" is economic freedom. They may not understand first-year economics but certainly they know that economic freedom is evil and must be suppressed at all costs. Writing in Haaretz on March 22, 2006, Shenhav declares that "neo-liberalism" is a "destructive"  form of "religious-like fundamentalism," a "new form of global imperialism controlled by multinational corporations," which develop "anti-democratic styles of management, laws, justice and morality," all designed to oppress the poor workers.  He has said, "Patriotism and national solidarity are eroded from below by social injustice, and from above by globalization."

 

Shenhav pontificates about how he thinks markets operate, recites long-discredited Marxist "theories," all the while singing sycophantic praises of the recent book A Brief History of Neoliberalism by David Harvey. Harvey is far-Left professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

 

For Shenhav and the cadre of Marxists in the sociology and political science departments at Tel Aviv University, the solution to "neoliberalism" is more of the “progressive” policies that have failed to such disastrous effect in the last century. That makes him but the latest example of the pampered academic whose political fervor is inversely proportional to his expertise.

 

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Steven Plaut is a professor at the Graduate School of the Business Administration at the University of Haifa and is a columnist for the Jewish Press. A collection of his commentaries on the current events in Israel can be found on his "blog" at www.stevenplaut.blogspot.com.


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