Bret Stephens ‘has spent the better part of the last three decades acting as a professional mouthpiece for such forces as U.S. imperialism, Israeli apartheid, climate denialism, and racist policing,’ the groups wrote
The University of Chicago should cancel its invitation to New York Times columnist Bret Stephens because of his support for Israel and the police, a group of leftist student groups wrote in a recent statement.
The university invited Stephens, an alumnus, to speak at Class Day on June 2, which is part of the school’s graduation ceremonies.
But Stephens (pictured) “has spent the better part of the last three decades acting as a professional mouthpiece for such forces as U.S. imperialism, Israeli apartheid, climate denialism, and racist policing,” according to a coalition statement and so the university should cancel him.
The open letter, published in the campus newspaper, was signed by CareNotCops, the Environmental Justice Task Force, Students for Disability Justice, Students for Justice in Palestine, UChicago Against Displacement and the campus Democratic Socialists of America.
“Stephens has used his journalistic platform to lend these and other reactionary causes a veneer of intellectual and political ‘respectability,’ dressing up the grossest lies, crimes, and prejudices of the U.S. political establishment in the polished rhetoric of NYT-style journalism,” the coalition wrote in The Chicago Maroon.
The group took offense at Stephens’ support for the war in Iraq and Israel.
The letter stated:
Stephens’s disregard for Arab life is nowhere more evident than in his history of enthusiastic support for Israeli colonialism. Stephens has devoted much of his career to cheerleading Israel’s century-long project of stealing Palestinian land, demolishing Palestinian homes, violently expelling Palestinian civilians, and replacing them with Jewish-only settlers. Still more galling, however, is Stephens’s insistence that it is the Palestinians—not their colonizers—who deserve primary blame for what they suffer. According to Stephens’s profoundly racist portrayal of the situation, Palestinians, like other Arabs, are a fundamentally backward and irrational people: perpetually victimized by their own foolish decisions, possessing no “great universit[ies]” or “serious scientific research” to boast of, imprisoned in a “stunted literary culture,” and consumed by a near-congenital “hatred” of Jews.
The columnist’s views on race and cops are also offensive to the student groups. “If this rhetoric of racialized victim-blaming sounds all too familiar, that’s because it is no less frequently employed by defenders of institutional racism in the domestic U.S. context,” the group wrote, comparing the columnist’s Israel views to his views on race. “Here, too, Stephens has earned a paycheck for himself in recent years, using his journalistic platform to voice support for U.S. police departments and demonize the Movement for Black Lives.”
The letter also criticized his opposition to mask mandates and his skepticism about the consequences of climate change.
The group concluded by stating it supports free expression but the “dignity” of students must also be respected.
“A University that maintains a culture of free expression while also respecting the dignity of its students, neighbors, and others around the world is certainly conceivable,” they wrote. “So long as racist ideologues like Stephens are being hosted at Class Day ceremonies, however, there will remain a long way to go toward achieving this goal.”
IMAGE: University of Chicago/Jason Smith