Another Zionist Attack on Academic Freedom

This is an attempt, admittedly futile, to remove some of the slime thrown at me in a letter addressed to President Gearan and circulated to over 250 people on October 3, 2009. It was written by Jim McKinster and five other faculty members and allegedly signed by 32 people in all. I heard about it by happenstance soon after it was circulated, but neither the President nor any of the six who circulated it was willing to provide me with a copy. That is a typical cowardly response employed by those who use this smear method to accuse, try, and censure someone who dares to speak truth to power. (I finally got a copy last week, hence the 20-month delay in my response.)

Their letter and with a copy of the op-ed I wrote in the Finger Lakes Times are attached.

Allow me to refute the lies and innuendos that these “colleagues” have levied against me, behind my back. Since each of you received the detractors’ letter, I am sending you this rebuttal.

1. The purpose of my op-ed was to define Holocaust denial. That should be clear from the byline “What do deniers really mean?” It was submitted in response to the media frenzy and demonization of President Ahmadinejad who addressed the UN General Assembly and whose picture was shown above my guest appearance piece. Instead of acknowledging this, my faculty detractors feigned outrage that it appeared on the eve of Yom Kippur. I had nothing to do with the timing of the article and make no apology for when it appeared vis-à-vis a Jewish holiday.

2. More egregiously these faculty detractors claimed to know my “personal beliefs” and claimed that I mis-used my title of professor emeritus at Hobart and William Smith Colleges to lend them credence. That is simply a lie. Nowhere are my personal beliefs stated. Moreover my op-ed included an exceptionally long disclaimer showing The Colleges neither condone nor condemn what I had written.

3. The faculty detractors claim that “Holocaust denial carries absolutely no weight among academic scholars in any field whatsoever.” That is simply not true. There are a number of scholars who write about the typical Holocaust narrative and are willing to fight the slime hurled at them by ardent Zionists and by others who feel it their duty to protect the narrative which serves as the sword and shield of apartheid Israel. (BTW, our former provost and former William Smith Dean both demanded that I not use the word “apartheid” in connection with Israel; granted the term was used in the Israeli press and later by President Carter, but it was not “suitable discourse” on our campus where we routinely claim to support free speech and diversity of opinion.)

4. The faculty detractors write that “denying undisputed facts of the holocaust (sic) is not a way to show support for the Palestinians.” First, the three tenets of Holocaust revisionism are clearly not “undisputed. To the contrary, they are hotly and passionately disputed; people’s lives are ruined when they even question these “facts.” In fourteen countries you can get jail time for disputing “facts” surrounding the Holocaust.

Second, disputing “facts” is what science and historical analysis is all about. We academics have no problem discussing and disputing whether or not Jesus Christ is truly the son of God, or if President Obama’s birth certificate is real, or if President Roosevelt knew a Japanese attack on Hawaii was imminent, but we are not allowed to discuss or dispute the six-million figure.

Third, what gives these detractors the credentials to pontificate on what supports or hurts Palestinians? Some of them have been responsible for feting at Hobart and William Smith Colleges anti-Palestinian demagogues including Wiesel and even Netanyahu. They helped give Madeleine Albright our highest humanitarian award, which is a disgrace in light of her statement that the death of over 500,000 Iraqi children was “worth it.” Was I the only one to protest that award?

I have team-taught a senior course on the Palestinians. I have published books and articles on the Palestinian Naqba and the massacre of Arab civilians by Jewish terrorists at Deir Yassin. I have built the only United States memorial to their dispossession and ethnic cleansing. I don’t need, nor accept, biased comments on how to support Palestinians.

5. Calling Holocaust historical revisionism “Holocaust denial” is unnecessarily pejorative. It might be fine for Fox News, but it is not conducive to academic discourse. To call Holocaust revisionism “thinly veiled anti-Semitism” is simply untrue and it demeans scholars and others, including Jews, who question the Holocaust doctrine as we are fed it in hundreds of films, books, articles, and commentaries. Terms like Holocaust Industry, Holocaust Fatigue, Holocaust professional, Holocaust wannabes, and Holocaust High Priest were not coined by “deniers” or anti-Semites; they were coined by Jews. (The High Priest quip is an obvious reference to Wiesel; it was made by Tova Reich in her book My Holocaust. Tova’s husband, Walter Reich, was the former director of the US Holocaust Museum in Washington.)

In 1946 the US government told us that over 20 million people were murdered by Hitler. Now that figure is said to be 11 million; it is literally carved in stone at the US Holocaust Memorial. For years we were told that over 4 million were killed at Auschwitz, but by the early 1990s that figure was reduced to 1.5 million. Wiesel tells us that people were thrown alive onto pyres; he claims to have seen it with his own eyes; today Yad Vashem trained guides at Auschwitz say that is not true. These are examples of historical revisionism and they are not inherently anti-Semitic.

6. It is most interesting to see academic colleagues say, “(a)s we all know … the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ was introduced to make genocide sound more palatable.” That means they either deny that Palestinians have been (and continue to be) ethnically cleansed or they agree that Israel is performing genocide of the Palestinian people.

7. While the faculty detractors found my speech to be “abhorrent,” they seemed unable to find fault with a single fact I presented. So they resorted to name-calling and labeled the piece “hate speech” and “unsupported vitriol” and smeared my name to hundreds of people. I am surprised that Abe Foxman or the Mossad did not come calling.

8. The detractors genuinely were concerned about the op-ed’s impact on our Jewish students, staff, and faculty. But maybe it is time for all members of the community to see the Holocaust for what it really was and not the unquestionable, unimpeachable, doctrine that makes Jewish suffering superior to that of other people. Maybe it is time to recognize that Zionism as a political movement to create a Jewish state in Palestine began long before the Holocaust and that Zionist discrimination, dehumanization, and dispossession of the Palestinian people should not be excused by it. Maybe it is time to see that since over half the population (within the borders controlled by Israel) is not Jewish, the dream of creating a Jewish state has failed. Walling in the non-Jews or putting them in Bantustans or driving them into Jordan will not make it a purely Jewish state. The nationalist allegiance to “blood and soil” has been a failure and that should be the real lesson of the Holocaust.

9. To say that my op-ed “does not meet our expectation of minimally rational and minimally humane discourse’ is nonsense. The piece is well written, well substantiated, and quite humane.

10. But the faculty detractors are quite right about one thing; they were deeply disturbed and saddened to see a Hobart and William Smith title attached to it. Diversity and perspectives outside the mainstream are to be encouraged, but not if they question Jewish power, Israel, or Holocaust doctrine. Apparently that is beyond the pale.

11. The demand to President Gearan to remove my title of Professor Emeritus is both classic and stupid. Consider how little it would accomplish. I would be supposedly ashamed and I would have to buy a walking pass at the gym that would cost me $40 a year. Would it save HWS from being associated with my writings? Of course not; I would simply use the title of “Former Professor Emeritus at Hobart and William Smith Colleges” with no disclaimer.

But what it would really do is to cast me into the briar bush with Norm Finkelstein, Marc Ellis, Paul Eisen, Henry Herskovitz, Gilad Atzmon, Rich Siegel, and Hedy Epstein (a Holocaust survivor), all friends of mine and all anti-Zionists. Professors Ost, Linton, and Mertens apparently saw this and I credit (or blame) them for my still having the emeritus title.

Lest I seem irreverent or unscathed by this widely-circulated smear letter from my detractors, allow me to admit that I have been hurt by it. Many faculty and other HWS folks now shun me as a persona non grata largely because they only read the slime and never a rebuttal. Of course until now there could be no rebuttal because the smear letter was withheld from me. (Even the Provost’s request to send me a copy was refused.)

My former student and long-time friend, David Deming, who is now the Chair of the HWS Board does not answer my letters. President Gearan does not answer them either. Board member, Roy Dexheimer, disparages me and wonders if I fell “off my meds.” Another Board member, Stuart Pilch, took it a step further and made a threatening phone call to my home and a promise “to hunt me down.”

But the biggest disappointment is with those faculty detractors who never came to discuss or complain about what I had written, but instead chose to spin their own interpretation, which was full of lies and half truths, and then disseminate their smear as widely as possible. Should any of you be one of the signatories, my door is open for further discussion. And if you know the names of the other signatories, I would appreciate your sharing that information with me.

Daniel McGowan is a Professor Emeritus at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Because of admonishment by the administration, it is hereby stated that the above remarks are solely those of the author. Hobart and William Smith Colleges neither condone nor condemn these opinions. Furthermore, the author has been instructed to use his personal email address of and not his college email at for those wishing to contact him with comments or criticisms. Read other articles by Daniel, or visit Daniel's website.