In the United States, we’ve heard a lot of crazy stuff about building walls, expelling populations, carpet-bombing countries, and so on in recent months.
But Amitai Etzioni’s suggestion [ht: ja] that Israel “flatten” Beirut with overwhelming use of extreme weapons, including fuel air explosives that incinerate everything in their path, along with George Washington University’s refusal to condemn Etzioni, surely takes the cake.
Endowed chair Amitai Etzioni published the article on Monday in the Israeli paper Haaretz, a supposedly liberal bastion, originally using the headline, “Should Israel Flatten Beirut to Destroy Hezbollah’s Missiles?”
In the latest version of the piece, the headline has been modified.
In the piece, the Israeli-American scholar Etzioni argues that “it is time” to seriously consider unleashing extreme weapons against Beirut with the power to incinerate and level everything within a wide range. Beirut’s greater metropolitan area is home to over one million people.
“Most of Hezbollah’s 100,000 missile arsenal are hidden in civilian areas,” Etzioni writes, echoing rhetoric from Israel’s brutal 2006 onslaught on Lebanon, in which it justified killing large numbers of civilians and dropping over a millioncluster bombs by dubiously claiming innocents were being used as human shields.
As for Etzioni’s university:
When asked whether the article violates academic standards of civility, GWU spokesperson Jason Shevrin told AlterNet, “The George Washington University is committed to academic freedom and encourages efforts to foster an environment welcoming to many different viewpoints. Dr. Etzioni is a faculty member who is expressing his personal views.”
Etzioni, who teaches in the department of international affairs and is the director of the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies, is no ordinary professor. At the private school, he has the highly competitive rank of University Professor,described as a status “reserved for a select few individuals who have attained the accomplishments and associated stature to be so recognized.” The position is funded through an endowment, according to GWU materials.
Etzioni did not immediately respond to a request for comment, submitted through his publicly available office contact.
But Steven Salaita, who was fired in August 2014 from a tenured position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for social media posts criticizing Israel’s military assault on Gaza that year, was quick to weigh in. The vague charge of “incivility” played a key role in Salaita’s wrongful termination, for which Salaita eventually sued the university and settled. However, he never got his job back and maintains he has suffered a major blow to his career.
“I can think of no better example of the profound moral inconsistency within academic spaces than this article by Amitai Etzioni, in which he advises Israel to ‘flatten Beirut,’” he said. “Will all of the pious academics so devoted to civility dare speak out? Will they express deep concern about the safety and comfort of Lebanese, Syrians, and Palestinians in Professor Etzioni’s courses? Will they wonder about his ability to be properly disinterested and balanced?”
Disclosure: one of my nieces is a graduate of George Washington University.