In learning of accusations that Kristofer Petersen-Overton, a Brooklyn College adjunct professor, supported Palestinian suicide bombers and subsequently was recently fired and rehired at the campus, I sought Jeffrey Duban’s opinion on the matter.
Formerly a professor of classics, Duban is an attorney with a practice dedicated to the defense of faculty in promotion and tenure disputes, and faculty and students in disciplinary matters. Understanding that grievances often result from political correctness, Duban has long been a critic of the liberal academy.
Consider his response, particularly insofar as it points to the brazen lack of accountability to society of many college professors and administrators, after the jump.
You ask if I have followed a certain “Academic Freedom” controversy at Brooklyn College, emphasizing the “provostial” action that triggered it. As concerns Petersen-Overton, BC would have done better not to fire than to fire and rehire him. The flip-flop succeeded only in making him a false poster child for “Academic Freedom,” as the issue was essentially moot in the wake of his re-hiring.
The incident apparently arose because a student “didn’t like” some of the books on P-O’s syllabus. No wonder. A cursory look reveals two books by Noam Chomsky and three by Arafat intimate Edward Said, the late 20th century’s most ardent Palestinian apologists — denigrators of America, Israel, and the West, even as they thrived in their posh academic appointments. Said has been “replaced” at Columbiaby the radical Rashid Khalidi (two of whose books appear on the P-O syllabus). One is further not surprised to find within this luminous bibliography of oppression pedagogues anarchist Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth. The syllabus also includes two books and three articles by Israel’s biggest Palestinian apologist, Benny Morris, who sooner weeps for the Palestinian egress of 1948 than for the WW II death-camp transports of his own people. Also featured are articles from the Journal of Palestinian Studies — where one naturally turns for an unbiased account of “Zionism and Jewish History.” For good postcolonial measure — a number of suggested readings that “genderize” the Arab-Israeli conflict. All this conceived by and entrusted to a graduate student, teaching adjunct — though it would be no different whoever of this ilk were teaching.
Matching P-O’s syllabus is his résumé, containing entries such as his research stint with the PalestinianCenterfor Human Rights. The organiziation, as often noted, is viciously anti-Israel and notorious for its factual distortions, even while posturing as a guardian of (Palestinian) civil liberties.
This agenda-driven non-entity becomes a rallying point for “academic freedom,” even as Larry Summers was so profligately trashed!
P-O’s missed opportunity was not being at Columbia to teach the course, where it would have been embraced, even as Jewish students were disciplined or expelled for objecting to it. Now, however, P-O and others like him can teach it at Brooklyn College and elsewhere with Said-like impunity, all to administrative praise.
One expects only the worst from Islamicized academics (not to belabor the present Middle Eastchaos). As further concerns that 1948 egress, the New York Post, these 62 years later, had it exactly right in a recent editorial blaming the United Nations for the Palestinians’ generations-long refugee plight. King Abdullah on his recent two-month surgical and shopping spree spent enough to fund the Palestinian state which haters of the West are now all rushing to “recognize.” A modest part of Mubarak’s recently discovered hoard (some $60 billion) would do the same. Under present conditions, a Palestinian state is a failure in the making by those who have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity (as the saying goes). In truth, the Palestinians have themselves, Arafat, their Arab brethren, and the UN to blame for their ills, no one else.
Of course, it would be too much to expect — especially in the volatile field of Middle Eastern studies — either that BC would have stuck to its guns after firing P-O or that his departmental chair would have insisted on a more balanced syllabus, thereby preventing the entire incident. But even that is moot. P-O was doubtless hired because his sympathies were known. The syllabus was just what was wanted and, as with all administrative wrongdoing or stupidity, a challenge was never expected.