10/30 Jewish Ledger: CCSU prof blasts candidacy of ADL staff person

CCSU prof blasts candidacy of ADL staff person

By Judie Jacobson

Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2007 7:54 PM EDT

NEW BRITAIN-“What is your definition of anti-Semitism and can you provide examples of criticisms of Israel that are anti-Semitic?”

On the face of it, it seemed like an odd question for Dr. Jay Bergman, a history professor at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) to be asking of his colleague Dr. Sadanand Nanjundiah, a professor of physics who primarily teaches the introductory courses in physics, quantum mechanics and mathematical physics at the state-funded school located in New Britain.

But Bergman wasn’t discussing anything Nanjundiah had done in the classroom. Instead, his question came in response to a long e-mail Nanjundiah had sent to the CCSU faculty criticizing the inclusion of an Anti-Defamation League staff member on the short list for the position of Chief Diversity Officer at CCSU.

“It is very troubling to read that one of the candidates for the Executive Assistant to the President/Chief Diversity Officer position at CCSU is identified as ‘currently the Assistant Director for the A World of Difference Institute of the Anti-Defamation League in Hamden, CT,” wrote Nanjundiah, referring to Deborah Colucci, who in her current position helps to oversee a program within the ADL that provides anti-bias training to schools, campuses, workplaces, and communities. Colucci is one of three candidates for the CCSU position selected from among more than 150 applicants to visit the campus for an open forum, to which all faculty were welcome to come.

In an e-mail sent via the university’s list serve to the entire faculty, Nanjundiah “reminded all of the recent history of the ADL.”

“(The ADL’s) focus has become one of defending Israel’s ‘pristine’ image, come what may, and anyone (not even excluding ex-President Carter, Nobel Peace Prize winner and renowned for his humanitarian work) who dares to criticize the government of Israel for its harsh (apartheid-like) treatment of Palestinians in illegally occupied Palestine. Most recently, the ADL has engineered the cancellation of talks by well known scholars like Prof. Tony Judt of NYU, Profs. Walt and Mearsheimer (authors of the book “Israel Lobby”) at various institutions merely because they were critical of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians or because they maintained that the actions of the Lobby were inimical to the interests of the U.S…The ADL’s method…is simple: label anyone who dares criticize Israel or the influence of its Lobby in determining U.S. policies in the Middle East to be ‘anti-Semitic,’ thereby squelching legitimate debate on Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and of the Lobby’s influence in determining U.S. foreign policy.”

And don’t think the long arm of the ADL stops there, Nanjundiah continued.

In case you didn’t know, he wrote, “The ADL has also been involved in pressuring Congress not to pass a resolution that recognizes the Armenian genocide so as not to jeopardize the ties between Israel and Turkey.” Finally, as if for good measure, he added links to several web articles that “expose some of the actions of the ADL.”

In light of all that, wrote Nanjundiah, “…it would be utterly incongruous to consider anyone who comes from ADL for the position of ‘diversity officer’.”

Old habits

Not that this was the first time CCSU faculty had been briefed on the subject of Israel from their colleague. Nanjundiah, who received a degree in aeronautical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay and a PhD in physics from the University of Connecticut, has a well-known penchant for sharing his unflattering views of Israel and its supporters with other faculty via the school’s list-serv.

Likewise, he frequently speaks out on the subject online. For example, responding to what he called a “ludicrous article in defense of Israel” that appeared on the Media Monitors Network website in Oct. 2004, Nanjundiah wrote, “The reality is that Israel has been cleansing all of Palestine of its indigenous population, which is the real genocide in this region. But for die-hard Zionists, Israel can never do any wrong and any criticism or negative characterization of its belligerence or oppression is immediately called "anti-Semitic."

But while several of Nanjundiah’s colleagues have responded with criticism to his list-serv missives, most, including CCSU President Jack Miller, have preferred to sit quietly by and allow him the freedom to present his point of view.

Until now.

This time, Nanjundiah’s e-mail hit a nerve among those who saw it as a witch hunt of sorts.

“Substitute ‘Communist Party’ for the ADL and you are back to the blacklisting and suspicions of the 1950s,” wrote Paul Petterson, a political science professor. “If the organization a candidate worked for raises questions in your mind, go and speak with them directly at the interview process about your concerns. Treat them as we all should be treated n as individuals, with respect.”

Serafin Mendez-Mendez, a communications professor, announced his intention to evaluate all three candidates on their own merits. He also took aim at the anti-Semitic tone he detected in Nanjundiah’s note.

“I despite the potential anti-Semitic subtexts that I am seeing here lately,” he wrote. “The unfair targeting of ‘anything Jewish’ is making me every bit as angry as the Polydong cartoon,” he wrote, referring to a recent offensive cartoon in the school’s newspaper.

Bergman hammered Nanjundiah on his statement that the ADL “labels” those who criticize Israel as anti-Semitic.

“If you are going to criticize people and institutions for misusing the term, you really should indicate instances, hypothetical or real, in which the term is used correctly. Or is it your view that anti-Semitism doesn’t exist, and that it doesn’t exist because the term itself is meaningless?” he wrote.

Bergman was not surprised that Nanjundiah did not answer his query.

“I’ve asked him the same question before and he has never given me the courtesy of a response,” Bergman told the Ledger.

This time around, however, Bergman was pleased to hear from President Miller.

“It is wrong n indeed, grossly unfair n to label “Colucci’s candidacy as “inappropriate” because she works for a particular organization,” responded Miller in a list-serv e-mail to faculty. “Her education, training, and background make her a highly qualified candidate for the position.”

“Prof. Nanjundiah’s commentary, without even the professionalism and courtesy of posing questions to the candidate and allowing her to respond, is not what we should expect from a colleague.”

As the Ledger went to press, a decision on the selection of CCSU’s chief diversity officer had still not been announced.

Source: http://www.jewishledger.com/articles/2007/10/31/news/news05.txt