Professor Joel Kovel Sacked for Opposing Zionism
Joel Kovel, former Alger Hiss Chair of Social Studies at Bard College, was fired this past February because of his public stance against Zionism. In a recent statement, Kovel describes the conflict with the Bard administration, one which began in 2002 after he came out against the Israeli state.
Kovel’s most recent book, Overcoming Zionism was published in 2007. At the behest of Amerikan Zionists the book was briefly censored by the University of Michigan Press. The next year Bard College, which has been called one of the most ‘progressive’ colleges in the country, refused to renew Kovel’s teaching contract.
The sacking of Professor Kovel comes as part of a long line of attacks on radicals in academia. Most notably, Kovel’s dismissal comes at a time when Ward Churchill is preparing to sue the University of Colorado for a similar politically motivated termination.
Cases like Joel Kovel and Ward Churchill blow completely open the myth of free speech in Amerika. While the First Amendment nominally exists, channels of expression such as professorships are reserved for one type of speech: the kind serves the interest of imperialism. Though a few individual radicals have made their way into positions of greater access to the means effective speech, keeping these positions depends on not making waves: not effectively challenging Amerika’s role in the world.
Ward Churchill and Joel Kovel crossed that line. Churchill described 9/11, Amerika’s only ‘tragedy’ in recent memory, in its correct terms: a long overdue event whose ‘victims’ were technocrats, or “little Eichmanns,” in a fascistic global empire. Whether he was a professor, a voice in the media or an elected politician, such remarks demanded his purging from the effective channels of speech.
Kovel is not the first to face punishment for taking a stand against the Israeli state. In early 2007, Professor Norman Finklestein was denied tenure at DePaul University, another ‘progressive’ institution. A long time critic of Israel, in 2000 and 2005 he wrote two books which examined Israel’s use of the Holocaust as justification for its crimes and occupation today.
Being oppressors upon the world, Amerikans and Israelis are natural allies. Amerika and Israel have a common strategic interest, a fact which is not lost on the population of either country. As settler nations founded on stolen land and the graves of indigenous populations, cultural affinity comes easy. Thus attacks against Israel are treated as attacks against Amerika. It should come as no surprise that polemicizing against Israel results in being demonized and reprimanded by Amerikans.
The Bill of Rights is just a piece of paper. Freedom of speech exists in a limited way and has never been granted to the extent of effectively challenging existing power. Joel Kovel, like Ward Churchill, is one of many radical professors who have recently found this out.