Saturday, July 01, 2006

PIETER W. VAN DER HORST tells his story in his own words in The Wall Street Journal:
Tying Down Academic Freedom

By Pieter W. van der Horst

Word Count: 876

Earlier this month, after 37 years of teaching, I retired from the chair of Early Christian and Early Jewish Studies at Utrecht University. In my valedictory speech, "The Myth of Jewish Cannibalism," I intended to trace the accusation that Jews eat human flesh from its Greco-Roman origins through the Christian Middle Ages and the Nazi period to the present-day Muslim world. Much of the Islamic vilification of Jews has its roots in German fascism. Hitler's "Mein Kampf" has been on the best-seller lists in many Middle Eastern countries. The sympathy for Nazism goes back to the F├╝hrer's days. Palestinian leader ...
Unfortunately, the rest is behind a subscription wall. I've seen the whole thing, but I can't post it here. I've e-mailed van der Horst asking whether there is any plan to translate the lecture into English. I also expressed the hope that the WSJ essay might be made more widely available. But, alas, I got an autoreply that he is unavailable until July 19th.

For those who have access to the whole WSJ essay, I'll make a few comments here. Nothing he says in it sounds factually inaccurate or unreasonable to me. Obviously, I don't know what happened in the private meeting between him and the Utrecht University officials, but his side of the story is that the Rector told him he would "have to assume his "rectorial responsibility" if van der Horst did not cut the passage on Islamic anti-Semitism, which sounds rather more like an order than a suggestion. I don't know anything about the Dutch public figures van der Horst made sarcastic comments about in the draft lecture, but if making cutting, sarcastic comments in public about politicians (say, for example, the current President of the United States) is beyond the pale for academics, well, that's news to me. Let's apply the same standard here as elsewhere.

I still want to see an English version of the original lecture.

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