Who’s The Goliath Now?

My last post about the David Project‘s film dealing with anti-Israel bias at Columbia, was pretty cynical. I decided to go to the screening last Wednesday in order to form a fairer understanding of the film and the problem it poses. The place was packed with over 500 people.

Before and after the screening, the people involved in the film stressed that “Columbia Unbecoming” is not about anti-Israel bias or antisemisim but is about the universal problem of political intimidation of students in the classroom. In her introduction to the film last Wednesday, LionPAC’s president clarified that the movie isn’t about antisemitism or initimidation against a certain political agenda, but is about “sexism, racism and homophobia.” When people got up and talked about racism against Arabs and muslims on campus, they were told that precisely for that reason they should support the cause of this film.

Here are a few questions I and other people addressed to the people involved in the film:

1. If the film supposedly presents a general problem of political intimidation at Columbia University and other campuses around the USA, why do all cases brought in the film relate only to the MEALAC (Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures) department? Where is the sexism? Where is the racism? Where are the cases of racism agaist Arabs and Muslims? A person involved in the film wrote to me that “the film was made originally for Jews by Jews… But it is only one facet of a larger problem.” I’m sorry, but you can’t have it both ways. If you focus only on anti-Israel bias, don’t try to extract general statements about racism and sexism that don’t mean anything. Be sincere. Even from the film maker’s point of view, such focus is ineffective and alienating to people who would otherwise be your supporters. Obviously this IS about anti-Israel bias, and it is NOT about racism against Arabs, homophobia or sexism.

2. Why associate yourself with the David Project, which has an obvious agenda? It has targeted Middle East departments both at Columbia and other campuses in the past, not really giving credibility to the argument that “Columbia Unbecoming” does not wish to target MEALAC specificially and that the movie has no political agenda.

3. Why choose film as your format? There are some much more respectful and sensitive ways to deal with the issues presented in the film. Ariel Beery, a Columbia student who is deeply involved in the film and even appears in it, stated a few times that the abuses suffered by the students are analogous to rape. Even if this really inappropiate analogy has some truth to it, is a film (so hyped that even my grandma heard up it) really the most effective way to deal with the problem?

The reason I am making such a fuss about a film I previously ridiculed is because it is destroying careers and reputations of people and is ironically creating an atmosphere of political intimidation against the MEALAC dept.

[Update] Ariel Beery posted answers to my questions on his blog.

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