Koran inspired and kept alive with each prayer muttered……
This was first published in INN and republished here with the author’s consent.
2006: Dutch University Censors Academic Lecture on Muslim anti-Semitism
Ten years ago, the censure of a lecture at Utrecht University on Muslim anti-Semitism reached the international media.1 The victim of this censorship, Professor Pieter van der Horst, was a leading internationally known academic who taught early Christianity and Judaism at the university. He was also a member of the Royal Dutch Academy, whose members are the Netherlands’ leading scholars.
On 16 June 2006, Van der Horst gave his farewell lecture on the topic of “The Myth of Jewish Cannibalism.”2 In it, he illustrated the history from the more than two millennia old pre-Christian Greek anti-Semitism to the popularity of the anti-Jewish blood libel in the contemporary Arab world. That same day, the Dutch Jewish weekly NIW wrote that the lecture’s text had been severely censured by the university’s rector.3 Van der Horst later confirmed this claim in an article entitled “Tying Down Academic Freedom” in the Wall Street Journal.4
In it, Van der Horst mentioned that as a result of academic pressure he felt forced to delete parts of the lecture. For example, he eliminated the following paragraph: “Much of the (contemporary) Islamic vilification of Jews has its roots in German fascism. Hitler’s Mein Kampf has been on the best-seller lists in many Middle Eastern countries. The sympathy for Nazism goes back to the Führer’s days. Palestinian leader Haj Amin al-Huseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, even closely collaborated with Hitler. He spent the war years in Berlin and visited Auschwitz, a trip that inspired his plans to build a concentration camp in Palestine.”
Before the lecture’s date Van der Horst was called by the university’s Rector Magnificus Willem Hendrik Gispen, to appear before a committee which told him that the university had to protect him from himself. If he did not delete the references to Islamic anti-Semitism he might be threatened by violent Muslim groups. He would also damage the university’s ability to build bridges between Muslims and non-Muslims. To add insult to injury, the committee falsely claimed that the scholarly level of Van der Horst’s lecture was poor.
Van der Horst mentioned that Gispen said to him he had twenty-four hours to decide whether to remove the contested passages, otherwise he would assume his “rectorial responsibility.” Although the specific meaning of this threat was unclear, Van der Horst understood the broad message: Utrecht University strives for political correctness rather than academic truth. Initially intimidated, he deleted the contested text from his lecture.5
When the uncensored text was published it became known that Van der Horst had also referred to the propagation of anti-Semitism in Iran, Syria, and the Palestinian territories. About the latter he wrote: “The crudeness of the anti-Jewish brainwashing one can find there exceeds the worst expectations. In many Palestinian schoolbooks children are taught year after year that it is a holy duty to destroy the Jewish people because Jews, as children of Satan, rebel against God and conspire against humanity and Islam.”6
Van der Horst’s lecture text was already an understatement at the time. It did not even mention that the then President of Iran, the fanatic anti-Semitic hate monger, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, frequently incited to genocide.
The Van der Horst affair and several lies associated with it developed in many directions. Articles and op-eds for and against Gispen and Van der Horst appeared in major Dutch papers. The NRC daily titled an editorial “The Fearful Rector.”7
Interviewed by the NRC on the affair, Gispen gave evasive answers. He sidetracked the interview with irrelevant remarks such as statements that his Jewish wife and daughters were wearing stars of David. Gispen also claimed that he needed personal protection after Utrecht University changed the name of their nanomaterials science institute to honor the prewar Dutch Nobel Prize winner and chemist, Peter Debye, who had collaborated in anti-Jewish measures and signed letters with “Heil Hitler” when working in Nazi Germany. Gispen, however, did not suggest that the threats he had received had anything to do with Muslims.8 As an aside: In 2008 Debye’s name was reinstated.9
The NRC would later falsely claim that five out of seven rectors of Dutch universities supported Gispen’s censorship. Arnold Heertje, a well-known retired professor of economics, approached them and found that only two supported Gispen’s censorship.10
Heertje understood how hypocritical Utrecht University’s leaders were. He wrote that Gispen’s behavior was motivated by fear that Utrecht University would lose market share by discouraging Muslim students and imams from studying there. He said that the rector behaved like a high school principal who wants to maximize its number of students. Such a business-oriented attitude toward academic freedom was damaging universities. Earlier, Heertje had raised the question of whether somebody who treated academic freedom that way could serve as a rector of a university.11
The Van der Horst affair explains the politics of academia in one case and the struggle that people have to go through if they stand up for truth that is not considered politically correct. Ten years later we see the issues at stake in this affair even clearer. Utrecht University’s leaders were extreme cowards and opportunists, willing to undermine academic freedom and obfuscate the truth about the widespread undisputable anti-Semitism in the Muslim world.
This affair also had an interesting aftermath. After these events became internationally known, the Israeli Academy of Sciences invited Van der Horst to lecture in Israel. In an ironic response to Utrecht University, the invitation said that Van der Horst could speak about whatever he wanted and no influence would be exerted on the contents of his lecture, “as [is] usual in academic circles.”12
Van der Horst also delivered two brilliant lectures at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, namely, “The Egyptian Beginning of Anti-Semitism’s Long History”13 and “The Origins of Christian Anti-Semitism.”14 At the time I told Van der Horst that there was one sweet side-effect to the affair. Before it, he was a highly appreciated professor, but only known in his field. As a result of the publicity about the censure of his lecture, many more Dutchmen now knew his name as an important scholar.
1 Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Utrecht University: The Myth of Jewish Cannibalism, Censorship, and Fear of Muslim Intimidation,” Academics Against Israel and the Jews (Jerusalem: Center for Public Affairs, 2007), 236-241.
2 The uncensored text of the lecture in Dutch can be read at: www.franklinterhorst.nl/Toespraak%20prof%20van%20der%20Horst.htm
3 Ted de Hoog, “Censuur in Holland,” NIW, 16 June 2006.
4 Pieter W. Van der Horst, “Tying Down Academic Freedom,” Wall Street Journal, 30 June 2006.
6 Pieter W. Van der Horst, “De Mythe van het joodse kannibalisme (De ongecensureerde versie),” CIDI, Den Haag, 2006. (Dutch); www.franklinterhorst.nl/Toespraak%20prof%20van%20der%20Horst.htm
7 “De bange rector,” NRC Handelsblad, 15 June 2006. (Dutch)
8 Jannetje Koelewijn, “Ik ben niet bang en van censuur is geen sprake,” NRC Handelsblad, 22 June 2006.
9 // volkskrant.nl/archief/utrecht-geeft-het-debye-instituut-zijn-naam-terug~a924493/
10 Arnold Heertje, “De Rector is geen manager: Academische censuur,” Trouw, 30 June 2006.
11 Arnold Heertje, “Zwijgen over antisemitisme,” Parool, 21 June 2006.
12 Gerstenfeld, 240