Tony Kushner and the curious case of professor, and CiF columnist, Kristofer Petersen-Overton

This is cross posted by our friends at Simply Jews

Reading up on the facts behind (and around) the storm raised by The Guardian around the honorary degree refused and eventually granted to the anti-Israeli playwright Tony Kushner, I couldn’t miss an article by one Kristofer Petersen-Overton Tony Kushner and the corporatisation of CUNY. Aside of “corporatisation” being an ugly word, the article was of certain interest. The author is claiming essentially that there is “corporatisation and the adoption of a boardroom mentality in university administrations”. One aspect of this mentality, according to Mr Petersen-Overton is that “CUNY no longer has much time for those with views likely to upset the largesse of its donors”. That’s real bad. This means, in effect, that the issue of hiring progressively-minded teaching staff becomes secondary to political considerations, as is displayed only too clearly in Mr Petersen-Overton’s own case of dismissal from Brooklyn College, barely overturned at the last moment due to the fact that “a small but diverse and dedicated group of people helped mobilise responses and direct media attention”.

That’s real bad. Not only does CUNY allow all kinds of political considerations impact granting richly deserved honors to one of the leading American playwrights, it is denying work to a talented young historian, which act is based solely on his views of Israel. One’s blood starts to boil indeed, reading about all that depravity.

To dispose first of the leading American playwright’s case: his honorary degree aside, he is one of the selected group of AssaJews that have never hid too well their visceral hate of Israel. If you feel not too queasy, Adam Levick of CiF offers a sampler of Kushner’s soundbites. This sampler makes clear why Kushner became an instant darling of The Guardian. It’s also quite clear why his defender, Petersen-Overton, avoided mention of all that music.
Now to the Kristofer Petersen-Overton (KPO) himself. I have looked up some of his articles on the internet. His scientific objectivity comes through loud and clear in the his work Counting Heads: Israel’s Demographic Imperative. Apparently transfer is all Israel is about. His scientific way of collecting facts comes through clearly as well, when you browse through his other opus: Beyond the Threshold of Atrocity: Nationalism, Biopower & Israel’s Occupation of Gaza. Since this is work in progress, possibly scheduled to become KPO’s doctoral dissertation, I am prevented from quoting it. But like many other propagandist pieces on Gaza’s history, it carefully avoids talking about the period immediately after “disengagement”, when naive Zionists ex-occupants allowed thousands of Gazans to work in Israel, coordinated construction of an airport and planned for a sea port in Gaza – all this to be thwarted by the wave of violence that put an end to the attempt to build up good neighborhood relationships. And this work purports to become a dissertation of a scientist…

Should I linger on the KPO’s choice of references, such as Mearsheimer and Walt, Chomsky, Pappe, B’Tselem etc? Hardly…Should I linger on this quote from KPOs’ own bio that hardly qualifies him as a scientifically dispassionate observer:

Outside the academy, I worked for some time as a human rights activist in Gaza and the West Bank and I still maintain close contact with the Palestinian activist community.

Not worth a discussion, methinks. Still, if you want to read more about KPO’s political leanings and objectivity, here is a detailed piece by Bruce Kesler.

It is quite clear by now that KPO is neither personally nor scientifically objective and that his teaching will be rather an uninterrupted anti-Israeli propaganda rally. But what about his professional credentials: do they entitle him to become what is inevitably termed “professor” in Brooklyn College/CUNY? Dr. Robert David Johnson, a man with really impressive academic credentials, is of an unequivocal opinion

The hiring of former Brooklyn College adjunct Kristofer Petersen-Overton was quite extraordinary. Even though New York’s fiscal problems have led to a slashing of the adjunct budget for required, undergraduate Core classes, Brooklyn’s Political Science Department chose to assign an adjunct to teach a Masters’-level elective course, on Middle Eastern politics. And then, even though graduate-level classes in the humanities and social sciences are almost always taught by full-time faculty, the department inexplicably hired to teach the class a second -year Ph.D. student (at the CUNY Graduate Center, Ph.D. students generally take their oral exams in their third year, so the student almost certainly hadn’t even completed his required coursework).

It’s hard to escape the likelihood that a department known for its close ties to the anti-Israel leadership of the CUNY faculty union hired Petersen-Overton because of his extremist views on Israel-related matters (he has, for instance, accused Israel of “colonial genocide,” and his website boasts of his close ties to “activists” in the West Bank and Gaza). Petersen-Overton certainly wasn’t assigned to teach an M.A. course because he possessed the educational credentials to do so.

This certainly puts the matter in an interesting perspective, doesn’t it?

I wouldn’t go on about the academic freedom in general, seeing as how academic freedom usually works only one way with the left wing members of academic circles. The readiness of hard boiled left wing professors to accept the freedom of otherwise-minded people to express their opinion is rather a boring subject.

As for our main protagonist, KPO: I have stumbled on something that is indeed a crowning achievement in KPO’s fight for freedom of speech: his interview to Iranian Press TV:


QED as they say in the scientific circles. After all, who is better qualified to support a valiant fighter for academic freedom than Iran? Well, maybe Fidel Castro or…nah, let’s leave it alone.

I guess the next rally for Kristofer Petersen-Overton’s freedom of speech will be held in Tehran then.

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