Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Toronto Prof. Accuses Prospective PhD Student of Being an Israeli Government Agent

A Jewish prospective Ph.D. student in Middle Eastern studies who was seeking informational meetings with professors at the University of Toronto was accused by one department member of being an agent of the Israeli government. The professor, who is active in BDS-linked causes, refused to even meet with the student on "ethical and academic grounds."

The accusation apparently stems from the student's prior status as a former "Hasbara Fellow", a New York-based fellowship organized by Aish HaTorah (in collaboration with Israel's foreign affairs ministry). Presumably, it's the latter connection that provides the foundation for the claim of being an "agent" -- though many governments fund many fellowships that at least partially are designed to serve the goal of public diplomacy, (usually) without their recipients being viewed as clandestine government operatives. There should be a name for the practice of taking relatively ordinary public, political, or social acts and treating them as uniquely nefarious and/or giving them scary names when Jews do them (see: "pinkwashing").*

The source is the Toronto Sun, so a grain of salt is advised (I'd love to see another newspaper pick the story up), but on face -- ugh.

* On this note, it's worth reflecting on how the word "Hasbara" -- which literally means "explanation" (albeit less in the "let me explain how a steam engine works" sense and more in the "let me explain why I'm out on the street at 3 AM, officer" sense -- frequently gets translated as "propaganda". There's something very revealing in that, no? If you're a Hebrew speaker and you try to explain your position, it is linguistically coded as propaganda. Fancy that!

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