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Academics as Theologians: Judith Butler and Stephen Hawking

The internet wages war mainly via words and images. However words and ideologies are indeed important in understanding and in influencing the world. The Jewish Bible claims that G-d’s ideas and words preceded the creation of the world. “In the beginning there was the word” and indeed ideas do precede actions in a thinking world.

Judith Butler, a feminist, a philosopher, a professor of critical thinking who also happens to hold the Hannah Arendt Chair in Philosophy at the European Graduate School in Sass-Fee, Switzerland, – another point of irony for anyone who knows about the controversies that swirl around Hannah Arendt, who was also a Jewish and academically acclaimed, but very controversial  philosopher) is about to receive an honorary degree from McGill University in Montreal.

She has been criticized for supporting the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement that was seeded at the notoriously anti-semitic first Durban UN Human rights conference,and which has become an international political arm of the Palestinian “electronic and political” intifada against Israel. BDS has become an industry solely focused on Israel and has spawned legal opposition groups. Here is how one of them Shurat Hadin describes the BDS movement:

“The Briefing: Israel, and the Jewish community at large, is beset by a dangerous international campaign utilizing new strategies to delegitimize the Jewish State. Unable to defeat the IDF militarily or weaken the population through persistent terrorism, the extremist groups, Islamic terrorists and their rogue regime allies have embarked upon a global effort to demonize and isolate Israel, casting it as a pariah state.The widespread Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and its utilization of Lawfare, is the main component of the “Durban Strategy” adopted by Israel’s opponents at the U.N.’s Human Rights Conference in 2001. Tactics like the Gaza Flotilla,  the effort overseas to indict IDF officers and elected officials for war crimes, blood libels in the media, the boycotting of Israeli academics, and the persistent debate over whether a Jewish State has a right to exist, are having a perilous impact on Israel’s security and diplomatic capabilities.  As the Anti-Defamation League has stated: “The BDS movement at its very core is anti-Semitic.”

Judith Butler has defended herself in a blog: “Judith Butler Responds to Attack”. Sadly, she exposes her lack of critical thinking in a long and wordy defense focusing on her “Jewish and ethical” background without any appreciation of the political and ideological war that she has been drawn into by her academic leftist convictions. At one point she states:

“…A few words are taken out of context, their meaning distorted, and they then come to label or, indeed, brand an individual. This happens to many people when they offer a critical view of Israel – they are branded as anti-Semites or even as Nazi collaborators; However she uses exactly the same tactic of devaluing the scholars who criticize her by saying: “SPME, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East is not, as The Jerusalem Post has reported, a large group of Jewish scholars in Germany, but an international organization with a base in Australia and California. They are a right-wing organization and so part of an intra-Jewish war.

Having attended one of the SPME conferences in Miami, I can assure her that the members of SPME are scholars of academia just as she is, not all Jewish by the way, and actually from all parts of the world including Germany. They have united to fight the spurious BDS movement which was ignited on campuses all over the world and has been embraced by left-wing academics such as herself.

I have written about anti-semitism, the anti-Jewish rhetoric and ideology, that is propagated by Islam in more than one post:

Jonathan Spyer on Obama’s Foreign Policy and Antisemitism: an unsexy subject.

However, today I read an editorial that reveals the Christian anti-Jewish “replacement theology” bias that I would have thought was by now obsolete in the Christian world.  By “replacement theology” I refer to the Christian doctrine that Judaism is an inferior religion that has no validity since it has been superseded by the birth of Christ and Christianity, the superior religion. We all owe Mordechai Ben Dat a debt of gratitude for reading and analyzing the 10 page treatise published by the Scottish Church (PDF), which few of us would ever read, and exposing its virulent outdated ideology in  Polemics as Theology. He writes, “The document titled ‘The Inheritance of Abraham? A Report on the ‘Promised Land,’ is a brazen attack on the Jewish state as well as on the Jewish religion.” If you have some time you will appreciate his insightful article.

In addition, we have recently witnessed the sad case of the atheist scientist, Stephen Hawking, refusing to attend a scientific conference in Israel, because he too supports  BDS, and boycotting Israel for “human rights abuses”.  As Allan Dershowitz astutely pointed out, Hawking has previously attended conferences in China and Iran without objecting to their human rights abuses. Allan Dershowitz writes:

“Yet Iran is a country that Stephen Hawking visited. He did not boycott that Islamic country. He limited his boycott to the democratic nation state of the Jewish people.
Not only did Steven Hawking visit China, he praised it effusively. Although Chinese universities are considerably better than Iran’s, there is no real freedom to criticize the government or the Communist Party. The people who brought us Tiananmen Square still hold positions of authority in China. Dissidents are persecuted. There is no semblance of fair trial. Censorship reigns.
Yet Stephen Hawking did not boycott China. He boycotted only Israel — the only country of these three with real academic freedom and the only country where people with disabilities are fully integrated, first-class citizens of society. In China, many disabled children are aborted due to the country’s one-child policy. In Iran many disabled people are kept hidden within families because of prevalent cultural taboos.
I am neither an academic or a scientist or a rabbi or a priest. All I can do is to share what I see and rely on the power of words and the internet to shine a light on these issues.

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