Stanley Fish on Israel and academic freedom Earlier this month, Fox News reported that a student group planned to have dinner with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the university's president this week. The university denies that Columbia is or ever planned to sponsor such a dinner, but Stanley Fish, writing for The New York Times Opinionator Blog, notes, "even if the dinner never takes place, it has already acquired enough of a media reality to be controversial." The Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center sent Columbia a letter claiming that the dinner would be illegal citing Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, a Supreme Court decision that outlaws providing material support to terrorists. It's pretty clear the decision there wouldn't touch the Ahmadinejad dinner, Fish says. He brings up the furor to explore why "Israel and much of the Arab world become a third-rail topic in the academy." Perhaps, he suggests, it is that academics tend to have a favorite "underdog," and the Palestinians have been filling that role for a while now. Or maybe it's because so much of the academy is Jewish and going out of its way to promote "objectivity." But Fish isn't satisfied with the answers he's provided. They "don't account for the intensity of the feelings," he says.
Bret Stephens on the future of Europe "When the history of the rise and fall of postwar Western Europe is someday written, it will come in three volumes. Title them 'Hard Facts,' 'Convenient Fictions' and--the volume still being written--'Fraud,'" writes Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal. The "hard facts," Stephens says, were the military necessity on which postwar Europe was founded, the "hard money" that "created the Deutsche mark, abolished price controls, and put inflation in check for generations," and the common market "that gave Europe a shared economic--not political--identity." Decades of prosperity ensued, Stephens says, but then government spending as percentage of GDP exploded, the birth rate declined, growth slowed, and Europeans stopped working hard. Stephens defines "convenient fiction" as the idea that Europe's member states together made up an "economic superpower," that soft power could replace military spending, that Europe had a shared culture, and that "Continentals weren't lagging in productivity but were simply making an enlightened choice of leisure over labor." Then comes the era of "outright fraud": Greece entered the euro by lying about its budget. Fiscal rules were ignored and then scrapped. This crisis, then is "a Madoff-type event rather than a Lehman one." Greece will default, Stephens says, and its recapitalization will be paid for by Germany. No fiscal union will pass because voters won't want to sacrifice independence. So the European "project" will "explode." Riots will spread from Athens to "Milan, Madrid, and Marseille," he predicts, and "countries will choose decay over reform. It's a long, likely parade of horribles."