Professor Paul Rozin makes a thinly veiled threat, following Gil-White's article on the history of the PLO
BRIEF PREFATORY NOTE from Francisco Gil-White
In the Fall of 2002, I
circulated to the Asch Center list the draft of my article documenting the
Nazi origins of the PLO, and requested comments and criticisms. The name
"Mikhail," in the email you will read below, refers to Mikhail
Lubyansky (Kenyon College), who replied with a mouthful. In public, to the
Asch Center list, he alleged that I was a liar, and that therefore my views
on the Arab-Israeli conflict should not be believed. He claimed that I had
supposedly boasted to him that I made up stuff in my academic work. When I
challenged him to produce the email where I had supposedly said this, he did
so, and thus proved to everybody that I had said nothing of the sort. Mikhail
Lubyansky eventually gave me what he thought was a public apology, and
conceded publicly that my piece on the Palestinian movement was factual.
Rozin accuses me of "stridency and intolerance." But all I did was share my documentation on the PLO with my Asch Center colleagues and ask for comments. The reply was a frankly bizarre and entirely unprovoked slander from someone at the Asch Center whom I barely even know. The Asch Center director then upbraided me as if this had been my fault, explaining also that my effort to document some facts about the PLO were highly offensive. Who was strident and intolerant? The Asch Center was. Another example of "stridency and intolerance" at the Asch Center may be found in the reaction by the people at the Asch Center to my documentation on Kosovo.
Below is the text of Paul
Rozin's email, followed by my analysis of its content.
Date: Sun, 16 Mar 2003
I return to find that you
have produced a crisis on the Asch list.
The result is that almost
everyone is irritated by you, and wants to
You have a level of
confidence about complex social phenomena that I
Let's talk soon. I think you
are on your way to committing academic
ANALYSIS OF THE ABOVE EMAIL, by Francisco Gil-White
According to Rozin, I will "accept evidence of questionable reliability" when it suits me. In fact, however, there was nothing special about my documentation of PLO origins. Nothing that I had written was new, really. I was merely stating something that those who purvey information to the masses always choose not to mention: that the PLO traces its roots to the German Nazi Final Solution, and that this matters to any interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. So it is a bit silly to allege that I "accept evidence of questionable reliability" when I am reporting standard facts that, though perhaps not well known, still they are not part of any historical dispute.
Rozin further alleges that an army of respectable people -- "Numbers of balanced and informed colleagues" -- believe that I am a shoddy scholar, and presumably on the same absurd basis that I have accepted questionable sources for standard historical facts that nobody disputes. But Rozin mentions by name only one "balanced and informed colleague": Ian Lustick.
Now, social scientists disagree all the time -- there is nothing special in this. In fact, science requires and therefore fosters disagreement, so that a variety of points of view will be defended, and then whoever accounts best for the most reliable data (eventually) wins. Of course, if scientist A believes that scientist B made a mistake he may want to see the mistake corrected. The way to do this is for A to show B the evidence that disproves B's assertion, or else to publish an article that publicly demonstrates B's mistake. But Paul Rozin had a different process in mind -- one that has absolutely nothing to do with science. As you can see from the text above, Rozin wanted to mediate (his word) a meeting between Ian Lustick and myself.
The meaning of "mediate," according to Dictionary.com, is as follows:
In other words Ian Lustick and I were not supposed to be disagreeing scientists who would present evidence in defense of our respective positions, but "conflicting parties" in a "dispute" whose differences had to be mediated. The implication in all this is that I had gone out of my way to offend Lustick, when in fact all I had done was circulate some facts I had gathered about the origins of the PLO and asked for comments. My article did not even mention Lustick.
The dictionary's example of a dispute, a labor-management dispute, is especially useful here. You see, I was brought to UPENN psychology by the Asch Center, and Ian Lustick is an Asch Center director -- not coincidentally, its resident expert on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and a well-known public figure who for years has strongly endorsed creating a PLO state on the West Bank and Gaza. Paul Rozin, who was suggesting that I satisfy Lustick, is also a director at the Asch Center and moreover a tenured professor in the psychology department, to which he personally recruited me. The psychology department had deputized Rozin to be my official mentor, to guide me while the tenured psychology faculty determined whether or not to reappoint me to a second Assistant Professor contract. The wheels of the reappointment process were beginning to turn even as Paul Rozin sent me the email above.
So, academic management was telling the academic employee on probation: agree with us about the PLO or else you will be "committing academic suicide." Any non-tenured faculty member in my position would have perceived Rozin's email as an obvious threat to get in line or get out. Naturally, this sort of thing erases academic freedom and therefore makes social science impossible. How can proper research about the Arab-Israeli conflict be conducted when those scholars who investigate and make known the Nazi origins of the PLO must sacrifice their jobs? And how can this fail to contribute to a distorted public understanding about what really goes on in Israel and about which side the US Establishment really supports?
Finally, though Rozin reports that Lustick told him I had refused to look at Lustick's suggested references, the accusation is false. I had in fact politely requested that Ian Lustick read and comment on my documentation on the PLO. He then replied that I was not important enough, as a scholar, for him to read my work. I have the emails to prove it. But when pressed Lustick did consent to give me a list of suggested readings that in his view would help educate me in matters in which he believed I was deficient. I read the books he recommended, but they did not refute what I had documented. Mostly, they were irrelevant to the points my own article discussed.
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