The Playgoer: Philip Weiss blog

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Philip Weiss blog

Philip Weiss, who penned the Nation article on "Rachel Corrie," has now joined the blogosphere with MondoWeiss, hosted by the New York Oberserver.

As the Nation story indicated, Israel-Palestine/Middle East is a main beat of his, but his blog seems to be stretching out to other political areas, as well as the Red Sox.

Of note today is his report of Brandeis U. in the news again for freaking out about anti-Israel art. An exhibit of paintings by Palestinian children has been shut down. In a follow-up he gets a Brandeis spokesman on the record:

"The university had to make a decision. We were getting complaints from people that the exhibit was one-dimensional. There was no other context... It was as if someone was looking at this issue with one eye closed. People were upset and confused. Some people found the images disturbing. We had to make a decision."

Some would consider an audience "upset," "confused," and "disturbed" a sign of a successful artistic encounter. But in the world of money (profit or "nonprofit") such a response means one thing: pull the plug.

According to Weiss, Brandeis adds it "hopes to mount the exhibit after all, some day, but with context."

Weiss relates exactly what images and words in the paintings rubbed people the wrong way. But even if you don't like what the kids say about reclaiming Israeli land, what's so surprising that it becomes "disturbing" now?

And does it take a complete shutdown and months of conferencing to figure out that if you just put up a sign or handed out a flyer saying "we don't agree with everything these Arab children say but we thought you should see what they're drawing"...everything would probably be ok?

Unless of course the problem wasn't just "some people" in general, but a few special people who have clout at the university, of course.

Would anyone deny, by the way, that at least this case constitutes censorship? The exhibit had been up for a week, and then suddenly and bluntly closed. With gestures toward "delay" and "reopening" even vaguer than NYTW's. Can we agree on this one, Ben Cameron?


freespeechlover said...

You are right about academia yrpal. There are horror stories out there about the pro-Israeli jihad that is going on in many spheres of the U.S. today, academia being one of the most targeted. Daniel Pipes is a fascist whose website encourages students to "monitor" and "report" on faculty they perceive to be "anti-Israel." His website and the David Project's notorious attack on Prof. Joseph Massad last year which turned Columbia U. into a three ring circus have done damage. Massad will not teach his course on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and there is no other expert like him to do so. That's censorship, and Massad was not responsible for it. Columbia's administration was. Why? Because Columbia wants to expand and needs New York politicians and people of influence to help it do so. So, a couple of students, not anywhere near even a "group," collaborating with the David Project, which is rabidly anti-Palestinian decided to make a film and show different versions of it to various politicians and the Columbia U. administration. The current president of Columbia bowed to the pressure, and what a fiasco for the university. Why any university administration thinks letting these off campus politicos and a couple of students who have figured out how to launch political careers from the steps of campus get away with this nonsense is bizarre. But unfortunately, academia has not been kind to protecting its faculty from these kind of attacks around Israel or criticism of the Bush administration. The one good thing is that they are being aired in academic email lists, etc. but faculty have yet to really secure the borders of their institutions in ways they should, since it is ultimately up to us as faculty not administration to define the perimeter of academic freedom.

This past year, Brandeis' administration also came under attack for daring to want to bring a Palestinian political scientist who has conducted many public opinion polls in the Palestinian Territories. While the administration supported him being a fellow at one of the university's centers, its supporters, alumni, etc. were up in arms about it. So it doesn't surprise me that an "art" exhibit would create the response it has. We also had a similar brouhaha at my university last year over a Palestinian art exhibit. It had a happier ending at the time, but I doubt that we will see another Palestinian art exhibit on my campus for a while.

This is one reason I've been so interested in the MNIRC brouhaha. There are many intellectual and cultural sites of this effort to suppress viewpoints that aren't very controversial but have sent right-wing pro-Israeli activists, donors, alumni, etc. into political mania. They need to be documented. Hat tip again to playgoer.

freespeechlover said...

There's an article at the Israeli daily, Ha'aretz: It's from the A.P. and titled, "Brandeis University Pulls Palestinian Art from Exhibit." I imagine the A.A.U.P. will something up at their website about it.