McCarthyism in Action at Yale · 10 June 2003

By Eliana Johnson

Mazin Qumsiyeh is a professor of genetics at the Yale Medical School and a hater of Israel, which he refers to as an apartheid state. Professor Qumsiyeh has recently indulged his hatred of Israel and its Jewish supporters in a manner remarkable for a university professor.

In the past Professor Qumsiyeh has railed against the an alleged "cabal" of Jews manipulating Bush administration foreign policy: "It is now clearly evident from their own documents that those who put Israel and personal wealth ahead of US public interests were first to plan this war [in Iraq] over 10 years ago." In a recent e-mail message sent over the Yale e-mail system to the members of the Yale Coalition for Peace, Professor Qumsiyeh disclosed his purported discovery that this cabal extends far beyond the Bush administration. In his e-mail message he warned that a similar cabal exists at Yale. Qumsiyeh wrote:

"For your information, I include here the list of members of Yale Students ífor DemocracyÎ, the pro war cabal that subscribes to the same Straussian theology that the neo-cons around Bush have been pushing (Wolfowitz, Perle, Wurmser, Kristol, Feith). I think you will find the list informative. Note that there is significant overlap of this list with the íYale Friends of IsraelÎ listserve."

The names and e-mail addresses of 64 Jewish students followed his message. Professor QumsiyehÎs research was not quite as brilliant as he believed it to be; he had mistakenly copied the Yale Friends of Israel member list for comparison purposes rather than the member list of the Yale College Students for Democracy. He was therefore comparing two identical lists of members of the Yale Friends of Israel; not surprisingly, he found "significant overlap" between the two lists. And not surprisingly, Professor Qumsiyeh mistakenly named many students who were staunch opponents of the war in Iraq, and who were horrified at being identified as members of a pro-war cabal by dint of their affiliation with the Yale Friends of Israel.

But the mistaken premise of Professor QumsiyehÎs message is beside the point. The message bears an ugly subtext consistent with Professor QumsiyehÎs fevered "Jews on the brain" mania. In an article he authored for Jerusalemites.org, he labels the same men to whom he likens YaleÎs pro-war JewsÂPaul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, in particularÂ"Israeli apologists" and "racists¹whose main interest has always been a strong and domineering íJewish Stateι"

University professors and administrators frequently throw the term "McCarthyism" around as a term of abuse under inappropriate circumstances, but when the phenomenon actually appears, as in Professor QumsiyehÎs message, they are tongue-tied. Professor QumsiyehÎs message contains all the hallmarks of the phenomenon usually described as McCarthyism. It makes unfounded accusations from a person in a position of authority against students who possess no recourse against him. The accusations are intended to damage the reputations of the students he listed by smearing them as members of a sinister "pro-war cabal," as "Straussians," "neo-cons," "Israeli apologists" and "racists."

Even worse, Professor Qumsiyeh implicitly exhorts a student group -- the Yale Coalition for Peace -- to join his smear campaign and defame a group consisting of its presumed political opponents. The message blatantly seeks to stigmatize students for their political affiliations.

But Professor QumsiyehÎs inflammatory accusations go beyond McCarthyism to anti-Semitism. He dubs the students "Straussians" and "neo-cons," not-so-secret code words for "Jews." All the named government officials are Jewish, and it is the Jewish students he seeks to identify as such. His subsequent intimation that the Jewish Yale students who support the war in Iraq do so in the interests of Israel, rather than the United States, is blatantly bigoted and unfounded. In one fell swoop, Professor Qumsiyeh seeks to brand every Jewish student even loosely affiliated with a pro-war group as guilty of dual national loyalties. His accusation that they act as agents of a larger Jewish cabal is equally offensive and equally false.

Unfortunately, students have been left on their own to defend themselves from the McCarthyism of YaleÎs anti-Semitic left. The Yale administration has refused to condemn Professor QumsiyehÎs use of a Yale e-mail account and Yale e-mail lists to defame a Yale student group and its Jewish members on the basis of their religion. Allison MacFarlan, the Academic Computing Systems officer who looked into the situation responded simply, "We have investigated the circumstances of Prof. Qumsiyeh's posting to the Yalepeace-list, and can find no violation of existing¹policy."

Few would dispute that anti-Jewish conspiracy theories like Professor QumsiyehÎs come without destructive consequences attached. One would hope and expect the forceful condemnation Professor QumsiyehÎs actions from the Yale administration. If that is not to be, let us hope that YaleÎs anti-war students know enough to reject Professor QumsiyehÎs claims, his methods, and his example.

Eliana Johnson is a freshman at Yale University. She can be reached at eliana.johnson@yale.edu.