Harvard reinvites Oxford’s Paulin; “Harvard Crimson” calls Paulin “ghastly, repulsive and sickening”

November 20, 2002

* “Anyone who equates the Israeli Defense Force to an organization that killed six million Jews” is “ghastly, repulsive and sickening,” says the Harvard Crimson
* As usual, the BBC twists the facts to suit its world views

This is a follow-up to the dispatches of last week (Harvard invites academic who wants some Jews "shot dead" and Harvard withdraws its invitation to Tom Paulin).

 

CONTENTS

1. "In about-face, English dept. re-invites anti-Israeli poet" (Harvard Crimson, Nov. 20, 2002)
2. "Harvard bars Oxford poet" (Guardian, Nov. 14, 2002)
3. "Poet Paulin 'banned from Harvard'" (BBC, Nov. 15, 2002)
4. "No hate speech at Harvard" (Harvard Crimson, Nov. 14, 2002)
5. "Cavanagh's hatred of Summers transparent" (Harvard Crimson, Nov. 15, 2002)
6. "'Ayatollah' Summers' remarks show bigotry" (Harvard Crimson, Nov. 14, 2002)
7. "Withdrawing Paulin's invitation unnecessary" (Harvard Crimson, Nov. 15, 2002)
8. "Harvard grows a backbone" (Weekly Standard, Nov. 25, 2002 edition)



PAULIN: “JEWS SHOULD BE SHOT” MEANWHILE JEWS ARE SHOT DEAD

[Note by Tom Gross]

The Harvard University English department last night renewed the invitation it cancelled one week ago to Tom Paulin, the Oxford University academic and poet. The decision was made on the grounds of "free speech".

Please note that in my original National Review article, following which Paulin was disinvited, I never suggested Harvard should disinvite him once an invitation had been issued and stated clearly that "formal boycotts (even of those who espouse hatred and murder) are undesirable." Contrary to many other press reports neither did Harvard President Lawrence Summers. The original decision to invite Paulin, the decision to cancel, and the new decision to reinvite him were all made solely by members of the Harvard English department.

Since last Tuesday, over 800 articles, letters and comments about Harvard's decision to cancel Paulin's appearance have appeared in newspapers, magazines and websites around the world – from papers as diverse as the Las Vegas Sun and the Belfast Telegraph in Northern Ireland. (One paper that has not so far covered the story, but I understand from my sources will do so tomorrow, is the New York Times.)

There have been many reports in academic newspapers (Harvard's decision was the lead story, for example, in The Chronicle of Higher Education) and also in the UK press. The Guardian alone has published four articles on the issue, including one in its influential education supplement – which is read by many academics at Oxford University, where Paulin is a tenured lecturer. The Harvard English Department's stand last week over Paulin's hate speech and incitement to murder (which so little concerned the authorities at Oxford University when American Jews were the chosen target) will no doubt have come to their attention, and to those at other universities. As Professor Harris says in the letter attached below, they will see that some academics think it is not OK to honor someone who says some sub-group of Jews should be shot dead any more than it is OK to say that "some sub-group of African-Americans should be shot on sight because of their alleged political behavior."

It should also be noted that over a dozen Jews have been murdered on the West Bank in the period during which Harvard disinvited Paulin, including a medic, Yitzhak Bueinish, the father of seven children; another medic, Alex Doko, 33, the father of three children; and Etty Galiah, a mother of seven who worked for the Bank of Israel, and whose only offense was to drive home.

I attach eight articles and letters, with summaries first for those who don't have time to read them in full.

-- Tom Gross

 

SUMMARIES

TOM PAULIN RE-INVITED

"In about-face, English dept. re-invites anti-Israeli poet," news story from today's Harvard Crimson (the daily newspaper of Harvard University, November 20, 2002). "If this fellow is coming back to Harvard, we will be out there to give him the reception he deserves," says one angry student. Two professors of Jewish origin are quoted as saying they are "happy" about Harvard's latest decision. (In this article English Department head Larry Buell is quoted as saying that the original decision to cancel was made "under pressure", implying that the pressure came from Larry Summers. Once again, my sources at Harvard tell me, this is absolutely not true. The pressure came from the number of letters which poured in from students, alumni and faculty, and presumably from the department's own fear of a nasty mess. To pass the buck on to Summers, my sources tell me, is the "height of dishonesty.")

 

“FREE SPEECH IS ONE THING, HATE SPEECH IS ANOTHER”

"Harvard bars Oxford poet." (November 14, 2002). This is one of four articles carried on this matter in The Guardian. Dr Rita Goldberg, who supports the right to free speech, says that "Tom Paulin has crossed the line. Free speech is one thing, hate speech is another. We all know in our gut when speech is hate speech and when it's perfectly rational discourse." [NB. Both Rita Goldberg and Tom Paulin have not yet attained "professor" status, contrary to what the articles attached here state.]

 

“BBC TWISTS THE FACTS TO SUIT ITS WORLD VIEWS”

"Poet Paulin 'banned from Harvard'" (BBC, November 15, 2002). As usual when it comes to so much of its reporting on Jews and Israel, the BBC twists the facts to suit its world views, wrongly stating in this piece that "Harvard University said they had ... to rescind the invitation after his [Paulin's] anti-Israeli comments." This is not what Harvard said. (One of the people on this list also drew my attention to the BBC's sentence: "Now his polemical, knockabout, style has ruffled feathers in the US, where the Jewish question is notoriously sensitive." He pointed out that "the phrase 'the Jewish question,' which I think Karl Marx first used in the mid 19th century, now carries an unmistakable Hitlerian connotation. Is 'the Jewish question' ok according to the stylebook of BBC or general British journalism?" he asks.)

 

“NO HATE SPEECH AT HARVARD”

"No hate speech at Harvard: English department was right to cancel lecture by poet who calls for killing Jews" (Lead editorial in The Harvard Crimson, November 14, 2002) "Paulin is certainly entitled to express his own opinions – and of course, extremely critical views of Israel should not preclude him from speaking at Harvard, on that subject or any other," says the Crimson. But it would be wrong "for Harvard to honor Paulin by allowing him to deliver the Morris Gray Lecture, which has been previously given by such Nobel Prize-winning luminaries as Seamus Heaney and Anthony Hecht. To let Paulin give a distinguished lecture at this University after expressing such an offensive and violent message would inevitably legitimize his hateful rhetoric... Anyone who equates the Israeli Defense Force to an organization that killed six million Jews" is "ghastly, repulsive and sickening," says the Crimson.

 

“CAVANAGH’S HATRED OF SUMMERS TRANSPARENT”

"Cavanagh's hatred of Summers transparent." Letter to the Harvard Crimson by Jay Harris, Professor of Jewish Studies at Harvard. "Such a person [Paulin], whatever his accomplishments as a poet, has no place in a world of civilized discourse," says Prof. Jay. Jay criticizes some of the anti-Israeli extremists at Harvard, such as psychology Professor Patrick Cavanagh, who has been campaigning against Harvard President Summers ever since he spoke out against anti-Semitism on American campuses.

 

PROFESSOR CAVANAGH CALLS SUMMERS AN “AYATOLLAH”

"'Ayatollah' Summers' remarks show bigotry." Letter to the Harvard Crimson by Patrick Cavanagh, professor of psychology at Harvard. Prof. Cavanagh accuses Summers of "bigotry" and calls him an "ayatollah."

 

“WITHDRAWING PAULIN’S INVITATION UNNECESSARY”

"Withdrawing Paulin's invitation unnecessary." Letter to the Harvard Crimson by Alan Dershowitz (professor of law at Harvard) and others. They call Paulin "despicable" but say it "is truly dangerous is the precedent of withdrawing an invitation."

 

WEEKLY STANDARD WRONGLY ATTRIBUTES PAULIN DECISION TO SUMMERS

"Harvard grows a backbone" Weekly Standard (edition dated November 25, 2002). I attach this as one of the examples of a leading magazine wrongly attributing the Harvard English department's decision last week to cancel Paulin's appearance to Lawrence Summers. "Last Tuesday, after 'discussions' with Summers's office, the Harvard English department rather abruptly canceled, and publicly apologized for having scheduled in the first place," states the Weekly Standard. Both these statements are untrue.



FULL ARTICLES

HARVARD ENGLISH DEPARTMENT RE-INVITES TOM PAULIN

In about-face, English dept. re-invites Anti-Israeli poet
Dept. fears cancellation sent wrong message about free speech
By Alexander J. Blenkinsopp
The Harvard Crimson
November 20, 2002

Concerned about the message it was sending on free speech, the English department yesterday renewed the invitation it cancelled just one week ago to Tom Paulin, an award-winning Irish poet who has expressed violently anti-Israeli views.

English department chair Lawrence Buell said the department's faculty met last night for two and a half hours and voted to re-invite Paulin. The vote, which was unanimous apart from two abstentions, marks a reversal of an earlier decision by a smaller group of English professors to cancel the speech.

A main factor in the decision, Buell wrote in an e-mail, was the "widespread concern and regret for the fact that the decision not to hold the event could easily be seen, and indeed has been seen – both within Harvard and beyond – as an unjustified breach of the principle of free speech within the academy."

University President Lawrence H. Summers, who said in a speech two months ago he is concerned that anti-semitism is on the rise in "progressive intellectual communities," had conversations with English department faculty before Paulin's invitation to deliver the annual Morris Gray Lecture was first cancelled.

According to The National Review, Summers said privately he was "horrified" that Paulin, who has called Israel a "historical obscenity," had been invited to campus.

Facing protests from students, alumns and faculty, Buell announced last week that Paulin would not be coming to campus after all.

Then, last night, the department decided to re-invite Paulin.

"The meeting was patient, it was passionate, and it went to the heart of everything this – or any university – stands for," said Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory Jorie Graham.

Paulin, a renowned poet and Oxford lecturer who is currently teaching at Columbia University, has said that Brooklyn-born Jews who move to Israeli settlements in disputed territories "should be shot."

His re-invitation is sure to ignite protest on campus.

"If this fellow is coming back to Harvard, we will be out there to give him the reception he deserves," said Max P. Davis '04, a member of Harvard Hillel's Social Action Committee. "If he comes back and has his free speech, I'm sure I'll have mine as well."

Professor of English and American Literature and Language Peter M. Sacks cited a need for diverse ideas and viewpoints at Harvard as underlying the department's decision.

"We felt that we wished to affirm our Constitutional and intellectual commitment to a vigorous and independent willingness to encounter and if necessary debate divergent points of view," Sacks wrote in an e-mail, "and we therefore decided to renew the invitation."

Buell also noted that the members of the English department who initially helped decide to cancel the talk "might have acted under a sense of pressure."

At the time of the original decision, more than 100 students, alumns and faculty members were protesting anti-Israeli views expressed by Paulin.

Alan J. Stone, Harvard's vice president for government, community and public affairs, said that as of last night, he was not aware of the English department's decision, and that Summers had no comment.

Professor of Psychology Patrick Cavanagh, who signed the Harvard-MIT divestment petition and criticized Summers for exerting what he said was inappropriate pressure on members of the English department to cancel Paulin's visit, called the renewal of the invitation "a positive move."

"I'm happy that the English department has really decided on its own," he said.

According to a colleague of Paulin, the poet is likely to accept the reinvitation.

James Shapiro, a professor of English at Columbia University who said he is a colleague and friend of Paulin, returned a telephone message left for Paulin at Columbia's English Department.

"I'm sure he'll accept," Shapiro said. "It's not just Tom Paulin that's relieved about this – it's a lot of other people relieved about this."

Some faculty members stressed the fact that yesterday's meeting was the first by the entire English department.

"There had been no meeting of the English department, on this issue, before this one," Graham said. "This was the first meeting the English department had a chance to convene on this matter."

Buell said the decision to renew the invitation took place without consultation with Paulin, and "in no sense endorses the extreme statements by Mr. Paulin that occasioned last week's protests against the invitation."

Paulin has repeatedly said he is not anti-Semitic, and that he wishes for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Middle East.

Harvard's about-face may also have implications for other schools.

The University of Vermont originally scheduled a talk by Paulin on its campus for today, but canceled it some time after the lecture at Harvard was canceled, according to a receptionist for the University of Vermont's English department.

No faculty members from the department or administrators from the school were available for comment yesterday afternoon.

– Alexandra N. Atiya contributed to the reporting of this story.

 

HARVARD BARS OXFORD POET

Harvard bars Oxford poet
Protests erupt over Paulin's anti-Israel views
By Oliver Burkeman
The Guardian
November 14, 2002

Harvard University has cancelled an appearance by the controversial Oxford academic Tom Paulin after more than 100 students and faculty members objected to the poet's inflammatory anti-Israel views, which include the claim that Jewish settlers in the West Bank are "Nazis" who should be "shot dead".

Mr Paulin was scheduled to give the Ivy League university's prestigious Morris Gray poetry reading tonight, but Harvard said that, after protests, the event had been shelved late on Tuesday "by mutual consent of the poet and the English department".

"The English department sincerely regret the widespread consternation that has arisen as a result of this invitation, which had been decided on last winter solely on the basis of Mr Paulin's lifetime accomplishments as a poet," said Lawrence Buell, the department's chairman, in a statement.

A Harvard statement added that the invitation had been made "in ignorance of the views that he has expressed" and that "the English department shares the concerns expressed" by the protesters.

Mr Paulin, who is lecturing at New York's Columbia University but is a member of Hertford College in Oxford, told the Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram Weekly last April that American-born settlers in the occupied territories "should be shot dead. I think they are Nazis, racists, I feel nothing but hatred for them." The newspaper quoted him as saying: "I never believed that Israel had the right to exist at all."

Mr Paulin told al-Ahram he had "utter contempt" for the "Hampstead liberal Zionists" who "use this card of anti-semitism" against critics of Israel. In fact, he argued, Israel itself was "a product of both British and Stalin's anti-semitism".

He had already sparked protests from Jewish groups in Britain over a poem in the Observer last year describing "another little Palestinian boy/ in trainers jeans and a white teeshirt/... gunned down by the Zionist SS".

Mr Paulin did not respond to emails or phone calls yesterday, and a spokeswoman for the Columbia English department said he was unavailable. But his Columbia colleague Jim Shapiro condemned Harvard's actions as "disastrous".

"I say this as somebody who is a Zionist, who teaches Jewish studies, who has opposed petitions on my campus for the university to divest from Israel," he said. "The idea of rescinding an invitation because someone has not passed a political litmus test establishes a very dangerous precedent.

"Do I think Tom said a stupid thing? Absolutely, and I know few people who haven't said stupid things. Do I think Tom is an anti-semite? I can say from extensive discussions with him on the Middle East that he isn't. These students have an absolute right to heckle Tom Paulin, but they do not have the right to force the university to rescind the invitation."

Rita Goldberg, who was involved in the Harvard protests, said that she supported Mr Paulin's right to free speech but felt she had a duty to inform the English department of controversies in Britain they might not have known about.

"I was very reluctant to do this, but I think Tom Paulin has crossed the line. Free speech is one thing, hate speech is another," Professor Goldberg said. "I think anti-semitism is on the rise, and Tom Paulin must be quite confused about his own relationship to Jews. He used a public platform to advocate violence, and that is incitement."

Israel, she said, "is a democracy with an active critical population of its own, and to make everyone a great mush of Zionists and Jews who are somehow like the SS has to be inflammatory. We all know in our gut when speech is hate speech and when it's perfectly rational discourse."

 

POET PAULIN “BANNED FROM HARVARD”

Poet Paulin 'banned from Harvard'
BBC news online
November 15, 2002

Poet Tom Paulin has been banned form Harvard after saying American Jews settling in the occupied territories were "Nazis" who should be "shot dead", according to reports.

Paulin, who grew up in Belfast, was due to give the prestigious Morris Gray poetry reading at the Boston university on Friday night, but the event was cancelled on Tuesday.

The university said it was "by mutual consent of the poet and the English department", the Guardian newspaper reported on Friday.

More than 100 students and members of staff protested at the poet's invitation because of his steadfastly anti-Israeli views, it reported.

Occupied territories

The protests were over an interview the poet recently conducted with Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram, where he repeated anti-Israeli views.

He reportedly told the paper that American Jews who settled in the occupied territories "should be shot dead.

"I think they are Nazis, racists, I feel nothing but hatred for them."

The paper also quoted him as saying ""I never believed that Israel had the right to exist at all."

In a statement, the Harvard University said they had invited Paulin because of his poetic history, but had to rescind the invitation after his anti-Israeli comments.

Paulin, a member of Hertford College at Oxford, has been teaching at Columbia University in New York.

The university has been criticised by Paulin's Colleague, Columbia lecturer Jim Shapiro.

He said banning a speaker on account of his political views had set a "dangerous precedent".

Paulin, who won the Somerset Maugham prize in 1977 for his first collection of poetry, A State of Justice.

He is a regular on the BBC Two arts discussion programme Newsnight Review.

 

NO HATE SPEECH AT HARVARD

No hate speech at Harvard
English department was right to cancel lecture by poet who calls for killing Jews
By The Crimson staff
The Harvard Crimson
November 14, 2002

Harvard is an open academic community dedicated to the vigorous exchange of ideas. The freedom of speech is absolutely central to the University's mission. But Harvard has no obligation to encourage hate speech, speech that explicitly incites ethnic violence. Such speakers have no place in a community based on respect and tolerance, and for that reason, the English department was right to ask Irish poet Tom Paulin not to give the Morris Gray Lecture.

When the department invited Paulin to give the annual speech last winter, he had not yet told Egypt's Al-Ahram Weekly newspaper that Brooklyn-born Jews who have settled in the West Bank "should be shot dead." "I think they are Nazis, racists," he said, "I feel nothing but hatred for them."

If such an obvious call for killing was not cause enough to cancel Paulin's lecture, he also published a poem in London's Observer newspaper calling the Israeli military "the Zionist SS." To say such a comparison is offensive does not do it justice; ghastly, repulsive and sickening are more appropriate descriptions of the moral bankruptcy of anyone who equates the Israeli Defense Force to an organization that killed six million Jews.

These two comments are hate speech, pure and simple.

Paulin is certainly entitled to express his own opinions – and of course, extremely critical views of Israel should not preclude him from speaking at Harvard, on that subject or any other. Whether or not he believes in the right of a Jewish state to exist is irrelevant to a discussion of epic poetry, the original subject of his lecture. But when the English department learned that he advocated killing civilians and considered the Israeli military a modern-day incarnation of the SS, the content of his poetry became immaterial.

It would have been highly inappropriate for Harvard to honor Paulin by allowing him to deliver the Morris Gray Lecture, which has been previously given by such Nobel Prize-winning luminaries as Seamus Heaney and Anthony Hecht. To let Paulin give a distinguished lecture at this University after expressing such an offensive and violent message would inevitably legitimize his hateful rhetoric.

The more than 100 students, faculty and alumni who complained about the English department's choice were right – as was University President Lawrence H. Summers, who expressed his concerns about Paulin directly to members of the English department, according to the Boston Globe. A poet more than anyone should recognize the power of words. If Paulin is going to advocate killing civilians, whether Brooklyn-born Jewish settlers or ardent Palestinian nationalists, he should find no welcome at this University.

The freedom of speech is a crucial value to be continually defended, but it does not require Harvard to host a poet who preaches hate. It is unfortunate that the banner of free speech has been raised in Paulin's defense; that standard is being sullied by his name.

 

CAVANAGH’S HATRED OF SUMMERS TRANSPARENT

Cavanagh's hatred of Summers transparent
Letter to the Editors
By Jay M. Harris
The Harvard Crimson
November 15, 2002

Professor of Psychology Patrick Cavanagh's obvious hatred of University President Lawrence H. Summers has led him to a level of intellectual dishonesty that is breathtaking (Letter, "'Ayatollah' Summers' Remarks Show Bigotry," Nov. 14).

So, Prof. Cavanagh, take a few deep breaths, get past your hatred, and consider the following hypothetical: Imagine some division of the University invited a poet to speak who had suggested that some sub-group of African-Americans should be shot on sight because of their alleged political or criminal behavior, who had said that he has nothing but hatred for these people he never met. Would you really suggest that such a hateful person should be allowed to speak here as an invited guest of the University? Would you really think that withdrawing the privilege (not right) of speaking here with the imprimatur of the University infringes on free speech rights? Would you not see the ugly racism in his callous disregard for the lives of an entire class of African-Americans, whatever their alleged misdeeds? I, for one, am certain that you would protest the invitation to such a person, and correctly so.

What happened with Tom Paulin is no different. Paulin is not simply someone who supports Palestinian rights, as you try to whitewash him. He is someone who has said that Brooklyn-born Jews living in the West Bank should be killed (infants too?), that they are all Nazis worthy of hatred. Such a person, whatever his accomplishments as a poet, has no place in a world of civilized discourse.

It is not Summers' bigotry that is showing; it is Cavanagh's indifference to Paulin's bigotry that is on display for all to see.

Jay M. Harris
Nov. 14, 2002
The writer is Harvard College Professor and Wolfson Professor of Jewish Studies.

 

“AYATOLLAH” SUMMERS’ REMARKS SHOW BIGOTRY

'Ayatollah' Summers' remarks show bigotry
Letter to the Editors
By Patrick Cavanagh
The Harvard Crimson
November 14, 2002

By encouraging the cancellation of Irish poet Tom Paulin's poetry reading, University President Lawrence H. Summers has again moved to suppress the free exchange of ideas at Harvard (News, "Controversial Poet Will Not Give Lecture," Nov. 13). Free speech is meaningless if it only holds for the politically correct. As a concerned individual, Summers could have personally joined the protesters planning to boycott Paulin's reading. By acting as president of the University, however, he exposes antidemocratic impulses inappropriate for a university president. For "Ayatollah" Summers to contact English department members about his concerns and then claim, as quoted in The Boston Globe, that "it was for the department to decide" is disingenuous. It is time for Summers to stop targeting, as president, anything and anyone who supports Palestinian rights. His bigotry is showing.

Patrick Cavanagh
Nov. 13, 2002
The writer is professor of psychology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

 

WITHDRAWING PAULIN’S INVITATION UNNECESSARY

Withdrawing Paulin's invitation unnecessary
Letter to the Editors
By Alan M. Dershowitz, Charles Fried and Laurence H. Tribe
The Harvard Crimson
November 15, 2002

To the editors:

By all accounts this Paulin fellow the English Department invited to lecture here is a despicable example of the anti-Semitic and/or anti-Israel posturing unfortunately quite widespread among European intellectuals (News, "Poet Flap Drew Summers' Input," Nov. 14). We think he probably should not have been invited. But Harvard has had its share of cranks, monsters, scoundrels and charlatans lecture here and has survived.

What is truly dangerous is the precedent of withdrawing an invitation because a speaker would cause, in the words of English department chair Lawrence Buell, "consternation and divisiveness." We are justly proud that our legal system insisted that the American Nazi Party be allowed to march through the heavily Jewish town of Skokie, Illinois. If Paulin had spoken, we are sure we would have found ways to tell him and each other what we think of him. Now he will be able to lurk smugly in his Oxford lair and sneer at America's vaunted traditions of free speech. There are some mistakes which are only made worse by trying to undo them.

Alan M. Dershowitz
Charles Fried
Laurence H. Tribe
Nov. 14, 2002

The writers are Frankfurter Professor of Law, Beneficial Professor of Law and Tyler Professor of Constitutional Law, respectively.

 

HARVARD GROWS A BACKBONE

Harvard grows a backbone
The Weekly Standard
November 25, 2002

Congratulations to Harvard's Lawrence Summers, who is rapidly becoming The Scrapbook's favorite university president. Last Tuesday, after "discussions" with Summers's office, the Harvard English department rather abruptly canceled, and publicly apologized for having scheduled in the first place, a poetry reading by Oxford University professor Tom Paulin – which was to have taken place last Thursday. Paulin is the man who this past April told Egypt's Al-Ahram Weekly that American-born Jews who've settled in Israel and the West Bank are "Nazis" and "racists" who should be "shot dead." English department chairman Lawrence Buell, who had previously defended the Paulin invitation, now says his colleagues "sincerely regret the widespread consternation that has arisen."

Right. And see that it doesn't happen again.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.