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Crying Wolfe By: Mark Silinsky
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I would like to nominate a candidate for David Horowitz’s America’s Most Dangerous Professors list.  An unconventional nominee, he is not a hard-left bomb-thrower. His tone is calm and measured but his message is poisonous. The candidate? Professor Alan Wolfe of Boston College. His message? A conspiracy of pro-Israel American Jews is trying to suppress the truth about Israel.  If Sholokhov[1] could win a Nobel Prize on the merits of one novel, Dr. Wolfe can be invited to join the Dangerous Professors club with the single article “Why it is so Hard to Talk about Israel,” published in the November 2006 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education.[2]

This is not easy reading. It is flabby, meandering, and self-congratulatory. The author waxes nostalgic of his salad days in the New Left, his bar mitzvah and subsequent poor attendance in synagogue. His analysis is completely bereft of any methodology. Rather he patches together a series of anecdotes to build a Zionist straw man, which he then destroys. Sometimes the reader must pause to determine whether his comments are insights, platitudes, or Japanese haiku. For example, “Intellectuals should act in solidarity with the truth.” Exactly what does the professor mean?  “When Jews work to suppress [by which he means respond to] critics of Israel, they are in no position to criticize anyone who suppresses anything else?”[3] Really? Jews didn’t have the moral authority to discourage attendance at the recent Holocaust denial conference in Teheran?


The thesis that emerges through Dr. Wolfe’s narcissistic fog is that the Jewish suppression of ideas springs from two broad abilities:  to cancel speaking engagements of Israel’s critics and to spike career opportunities for anti-Israel professors.  Dr. Wolfe cites two cases in which intellectuals had their speaking engagements cancelled. He then expounds on how these victims, Christopher Hitchens and Tony Judt, psychologically came to terms with their rejections. Apparently Christopher Hitchens was disinvited from addressing the Republican Jewish Committee. Why was the invitation revoked? Dr. Wolfe doesn’t tell us and perhaps doesn’t know himself.   


As for Tony Judt, the Polish Consulate asked him not to speak at a debate after diplomats understood that he has publicly and repeatedly called for the annihilation of Israel in the form of a one-state solution. A small patch of Poland called Auschwitz is the largest Jewish cemetery in the world, and that country’s diplomats would almost certainly never have invited Judt to speak had they known his agenda for Israel. Yet, Dr. Wolfe smears Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League as effectively muzzling free speech. And what of other cases to support Dr. Wolfe’s sweeping claims of Zionist suppression?  Dr. Wolfe offers none. In fact, Zionists have hardly managed to leash the two verbally diarrheic intellectuals cited; Mr. Hitchens and Dr. Judt are media darlings, and it is hard to imagine that one cancelled appearance even dented their hurried speaking schedules. Surely, Dr. Wolfe knows this but to admit as much would undercut his Zionist censorship argument.


Turn now to the case of the professor who was passed over by Yale. Dr. Juan Cole, whose name will immediately be recognizable to readers of FrontPage Magazine, is the victim in this scenario. Blogger, professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Michigan, and conspiracy theorist, Juan Cole is critical of international Zionism. He also failed to land a prestigious job at Yale recently. Are these two facts linked? You would certainly conclude so having read Dr. Wolfe’s article. “ [P]rominent Jews like Michael Rubin, of the American Enterprise Institute, successfully lobbied Yale University not to offer a professorship to Juan Cole.”[4]  Dr. Wolfe forgot to inform his readers that  Juan Cole has transformed himself into a standing joke outside of far-Left circles by gratuitously sharing his hallucinations of Jewish-Pentagon conspiracies. Had Dr. Wolfe investigated, he might have known that a former Yale professor connected with the selection said, “When it came to crunch time, of course the blog was a factor, but is not what people looked at most seriously. At the end of the day, it wasn’t his blog; it was his scholarly work. And that’s why he was denied the position.”[5]


Dr. Wolfe then moves from Yale to Harvard.  He opines that “in response to major donors [read: avaricious Jews], Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government withdrew its logo from the working paper critical of American support for Israel” written by Harvard’s Stephen Walt and the University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer. Certainly, the Kennedy School withdrew its logo – because of the sloppy scholarship of the paper, which was subsequently revealed under broad-based academic and think tank scrutiny. How do we know this? Because Dr. Wolfe admits the “factual errors and sometimes hysterical tone of their working paper.”[6] But that doesn’t matter, because, once again, he leads us to believe that the long arm of Jewish pressure suppresses the truth.


This is in essence the Wolfe thesis: Prominent Jews and Jewish organizations have persistently and effectively suppressed the “right” to criticize Israel, often through surreptitious means. He has the graphics to clarify the message, had any ambiguities remained. The cover page on the Chronicle shows a diverse racial mix of men and women with towels shoved in their mouths, gagged by the Jews.


Dr. Wolfe poses as the public intellectual who is mensch enough to confront Zion’s lobby, but somebody should ask him who made the rules about debating the Middle East. Who determined that it is out of bounds to slam those who trash Israel, or America, or any other democracy? Why should Jews refrain from uncovering internet tirades of those who revive anti-Semitic myths, slander American Jewry, or advocate the elimination of the Jewish national homeland?  Is there something wrong with analyzing the lectures and publications of professors and pointing out flawed arguments; wild analogies; lack of clarity; weak methodology; falsified evidence; or just goofy, conspiratorial ideas? In fact, shouldn’t we hold scholars to even higher standards than garden-variety bigots or clerics? It is not the “suppression of debate” to hold critics of Israel responsible to high academic standards; it is valid debate.


To suggest that Jews prevent criticism of Israel on campus beggars the imagination. It is those who loathe Israel who have a happy home on university campuses, and Dr. Wolfe knows this.  Though so far unsuccessful, a disinvestment from Israel has been part of campus life for years. At Georgetown, Duke, and other universities, the International Solidarity Movement openly canvasses support for Hamas and other extremists.  At Columbia, Rashid Khalidi absolves suicide bombers of mass murder, and Amy Gutmann, the president of the University of Pennsylvania, cuddles a student dressed as a suicide bomber at a Halloween party.  I suggest that Dr. Wolfe scan the papers presented at the annual Middle East Studies Association meeting to see how effective agents of Tel Aviv have been in silencing critics of Israel.


Which bring us back to Dr. Wolfe’s bar mitzvah. Dr. Wolfe’s article is the stuff of dreams for anti-Semites. Dr. Wolfe never lets the reader forget that he is a Jew writing in condemnation of coordinated Jewish attacks against basic American freedoms. This explains his repeated and quickly tiring references to his ethnicity. Bar mitzvah? Who but his Yiddish mama would give a rat’s matzo ball about his bar mitzvah? Answer:  Israel-hating college faculty, who can use Dr. Wolfe’s commentary as fodder for their agenda.   


Alan Wolfe is one of the careerist Jews who have prospered in the current campus political climate. Campus speech codes have prevented Hillel House from openly and honestly discussing militant Islam. Conservatives of all religions are regularly ridiculed, harassed, and assaulted with pies on the rare occasions they are invited to speak to college audiences. But the likes of Alan Wolfe have nothing to fear. Compliant Jewish professors, particularly those with identifiably Jewish names and stereotypic facial features like Dr. Wolfe, have made themselves very useful to universities.  The academy shields itself from charges of anti-Semitism by hiring and promoting Jews who work in their interest.  I am sure that nothing is put in writing, but I am equally sure that there are unspoken assumptions. These Jews are paraded in front of cameras to assure alumni and Congressmen that all is well on campus.  And, yes, in the case of Dr. Wolfe, they lend credibility to conspiracy theories by overstating the intention or ability of American Jewry to silence anything or anybody, particularly on campuses. It is for this reason I nominate Dr. Alan Wolfe as a dangerous professor, with the only reservation that this august recognition might further fuel his narcissism. I hope he reflects upon the danger his article presents to his kinsmen at home and to the one country outside of America that would offer him sanctuary in times of peril.



[1] Mikhail Sholokhov won the prize largely on “The Quiet Don.”

[2] Wolfe, Alan, “Free Speech, Israel, and Jewish Illiberalism,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, Section: The Chronicle Review, Volume 53, Issue 13, Page B6, November 17, 2006. 

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] White, David, Juan Cole and Yale: The Inside Story, Campus Watch website http://www.campus watch.org/article.id/2668 August 3, 2006.

[6] Wolfe, Alan, “Free Speech, Israel, and Jewish Illiberalism”


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Mark Silinsky has a Master's of Philosophy from Oxford University.

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