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Editorial Article

Why does University of Haifa sociologist Sammy Smooha cheer for Israel's enemies?

By Lee Kaplan

He recently stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Arab students waving PLO flags in a demonstration at his own university, the University of Haifa. Those same students then produced a calendar celebrating not only Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah, but Osama bin Laden too! His name is Sammy Smooha and he is about to end his reign as Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Haifa.

Smooha's curriculum vitae is actually quite impressive in terms of conferences in his own field of sociology, but a few things stand out. These include his connections to groups in the European Union that are dead set against Israel, as well as some financial support from the Ford Foundation that never met a Palestinian NGO supporting terror it didn't like.

It's not just that Smooha embraces anti-Israel Arab elements and supports them in their attacks on Israel's existence. It's that he feels that Israel as a Jewish state is nothing more than an "ethnic democracy" for Jews, by which he means something BAD. He has built his career on claims that Oriental or Sephardic Jews are victims of discrimination in Israel. He has demonstrated little interest in the plight of Oriental Jews being bombed and rocketed by Palestinians in Sderot and Netivot in Israel’s south.

Smooha is among a powerful clique of modern sociologists in Israel who feel their studies must be critical of the Jewish state’s existence. Another sociologist from the Shalem Center at Hebrew University, Alek Epstein (a liberal who refuses to serve in the IDF yet!) has done a comprehensive study of Israeli sociologists like Smooha. In a hard-hitting article, Epstein examined 501 research studies that were presented at Israeli sociology conferences between 1998-2002, observed the researchers, and their analyses. Epstein later characterized his findings as the "betrayal of the sociologists" with Sammy Smooha smack at the top of the list.

Epstein discovered that few of the abstracts presented by Israeli sociologists at national conferences had to do with current needs of Israeli society and that many were "from a post-Zionist, if not anti-Zionist, perspective." None of these articles addressed topics of genuine pertinence to Israeli society, according to Epstein.

Smooha himself frequently today laments for the Palestinian Arab population within Israel and next door in the Palestinian Authority, but loses any sociological sense when he expands his love for the perceived "underdogs" of Israeli society.

The truth is that the field of sociology in Israel during the last decade has built itself on being intensely critical of Israeli society, as if in some vacuum where Israel is not surrounded by 22 Arab states plus Iran literally hell-bent on the Jewish state's annihilation. Smooha, whose PhD is from leftist-leaning UCLA (this author is a UCLA grad, the same year as Smooha, and who also took many humanities courses there), brings to Israel from abroad a biased politicized educational ideology.

Recently, Smooha attained international prominence while participating in an international conference at York University in Canada dedicated to Israel’s extermination. The symposium was entitled Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace and Smooha, accompanied by some Arab professors and Israeli anti-Zionist academics discussed the need for one single state in place of the two state “solution” as a formula for “peace.” The “one-state” solution would solve the problem of Jewish existence in the Middle East pretty much the way Rwanda solved its bi-national problems. The “one-state solution” is little more than a call to dismantle Israel to create an Islamic state where Jews and Arabs live “equally” under an Arab majority.

Among the 43 “scholars” at this Canada conference were assorted International Solidarity Movement activists and anti-Israel/anti-Semitic activists from around the world like Ali Abunimah and Mazen Qumsiyeh, who founded Al Awda, all opposed even to two states for two peoples if one of those peoples is the Jews!

Smooha’s presentation at that conference reclaimed that even the majority of Arab-Israelis are not opposed a two state solution. Smooha proposed though that a one state solution “for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can considerably be strengthened if the Israeli segment of the Palestinian people (1.1 million, one-seventh of the world Palestinian population, 16.5% of Israel's citizen population) rejects Israel and its minority status in it and if Israeli Jews are amenable to renouncing their commitment to Jewish state.” In other words, he isn’t necessarily against a single Arab Moslem state replacing Israel as a “solution.” He just thinks it’s not possible right now unless Jewish-Israelis agree and Arab-Israelis cooperate. He also exaggerates the “Palestinian” world population as supposedly being nearly 8 million people, a totally fictitious number invented by the PLO and Hamas.

Dr. Alek Epstein of the Shalem Center has adroitly explained the origins of the Smoohas in Israel's sociology world as "dedicated to advancing their ideology that they have come to focus far more on rewriting Israel's history than on examining the issues of the greatest concern to Israeli society today. Their proclivity for myth-smashing, coupled with their commitment to imported theoretical models preclude any serious discussion of the unique aspects of Israeli life and cause them to downplay, or even distort, historical facts. These problems are so acute that they call into question the credibility of sociological research in Israel. Although criticism is no doubt an essential research tool-a fact of which traditional sociologists were well aware-its employment in the service of ideology serves not only to de-legitimize what was once a prestigious academic discipline, but also to alienate sociology from the society it purports to study. Given the field's role in shaping society's self-perception and the impact its students later have on Israeli public life, ‘critical sociology’ is something Israelis cannot afford to ignore."

And while common Israelis duck Qassems and Katyushas in Sderot and Ashkelon, Smooha and his fellow sociologists can gather overseas to discuss the need for a single Arab state to replace Israel.


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