University of Pennsylvania affiliates face McCarthy-style treatment

Student groups across the country have been targeted for their political leanings these last few months. Their universities have labeled the coalitions formed in the name of Palestinian liberation, critical of Israel's policies and concerned over human rights violations, as "anti-Semitic". This label of anti-Semitism has in turned been used to justify suspension and internal policies and actions reminiscent of the McCarthy era.

In fact, a group at the University of Pennsylvania issued a lawsuit making just such a claim. They've argued that the school's collecting and potential turning over of documents to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in the name of combating anti-Semitism is both a violation of free speech and a modern reimagining of McCarthyism. Just sub "communism" for "anti-Semitism" and the comparison is easy, you can do it from the comfort of home!

Criticisms of the nation-state, Israel, including statements of anti-Zionism, are First Amendment-protected speech. The new McCarthyism has, since long before October 7, been highly successful at getting individuals fired from jobs, expelled or suspended from universities, denied tenure or advancement, demoted from prominent media roles, and dropped by entertainment agents, as well as successfully obtaining the rescission of offers of employment, and of invitations to participate in conferences and workshops, speaking engagements and numerous other opportunities. The new McCarthyism, which was growing slowly before the Hamas atrocities on October 7, 2023, but is surging up very rapidly now, has already been hugely successful at ending careers and blighting lives, just like its predecessor.

Lawsuit penned against Penn, plaintiffs Huda Fakhreddine, Troutt Powell, and Penn Faculty for Justice in Palestine

The Penn faculty group said, "The Committee is engaged in a partisan witch hunt by seeking syllabi, academic papers, and other material from Penn faculty of all ranks, with the search highlighting keywords like Jew, Israel, antisemitism, Palestine, Gaza, resistance, settler colonialism and diversity, equity and inclusion, to name most of their criteria."…The "would-be McCarthyesque House of Representatives is behaving as if it never heard of the First Amendment," the complaint continues. The faculty members cited the passage of House Resolution 894 — which equates anti-Zionism with antisemitism — and the fact that the committee is seeking to obtain student information deemed confidential under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Prem Thakker, The Intercept

Highlighting "equity and inclusion" as a keyword in an investigation to stop anti-Semitism seems like a stretch. UPenn has seen its president resign over allegations of anti-Semitism, following a hearing conducted by the House Committee.

Plaintiff Eve Troutt Powell, a professor of Middle Eastern history at Penn, told The Intercept that the university was in a difficult position, being under attack from Congress and donor pressure, but that the school should have stood firm. "We have been doxxed and we have been harassed and the university has promised it would protect us," she said, "but we now understand that the university has been giving over documents, perhaps in hopes that this congressional committee will not subpoena the university, and we don't accept it."

Prem Thakker, The Intercept

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