Prominent anti-Israel academics launched a campus antifa group earlier this month for faculty across the United States.
Purdue University's Bill Mullen and Stanford University's David Palumbo-Liu created the Campus Antifascist Network (CAN) to combat "fascists" who use "‘free speech' as a façade for attacking faculty who have stood in solidarity with [targeted] students," as Palumbo-Liu described it on his blog.
Recent Stories in Issues
Mullen, in an interview with Inside Higher Ed, said the mission of CAN was "to drive racists off campuses and to protect the most vulnerable from fascist attack," and "to build large, unified demonstrations against fascists on campuses when they come."
When Inside Higher Ed asked Palumbo-Liu about CAN's views on the use of violence—such as the alleged assault by masked, black-clad antifa members of a conservative student earlier this week—he said the group "would advocate self-defense and defense in various forms of those who are being threatened by fascists, but not violence."
Palumbo-Liu was more forthcoming about his opposition to the alt-right and white supremacists on campuses, saying he was primarily concerned by their "propensity to physical violence, aggressive confrontation and provocation, and violations of others' civil rights."
In his blog post, Palumbo-Liu wrote that CAN would support faculty who fascists "aggressively sought to smear, bully and intimidate … especially faculty of color."
"Progressive scholars such as Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor, Johnny Williams, Dana Cloud and George Ciccariello-Maher, among others, have each been threatened with violence, or firing, for strong anti-racist social justice commitments," he claimed.
Trinity College's Williams wrote on social media after GOP House Whip Steve Scalise was shot that white people are "inhuman a-holes" who need to "die." Drexel University's Ciccariello-Maher tweeted in 2016, "All I want for Christmas is white genocide," and this year tweeted that he wanted to "vomit" when he saw someone give their first-class seat on a flight to a uniformed soldier. Both were investigated by their respective academic institutions for these comments.
Meanwhile, both Palumbo-Liu and Mullen have been leading figures in the academic campaign to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel. In 2014, Mullen issued a call on anti-Israel site Electronic Intifada to "de-Zionize our campuses." Palumbo-Liu, in a 2016 piece titled, "9 things you need to know about the Israeli occupation of Palestine," recommended readers look to alternative news sources for their information on the region, including several sites accused of publishing anti-Semitic content. He later updated the article to remove If Americans Knew from the list, after receiving backlash for recommending an outlet that has repeatedly published conspiracy theories about Jews. IAK has been marginalized even by virulently anti-Israel groups, such as the U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation and Jewish Voice for Peace.
CAN has created an open-access "anti-fascist syllabus" that "analyzes past and present contours of fascist thought and organizing in their various forms, and provides tools for understanding and for fighting fascism today … Primarily, the syllabus articulates fascism as an historical expression of capitalism's tendency to exploit and dominate poor, working class, and oppressed people."
"The syllabus is … intended for students, activists, teachers, unionists, workers, and communities: Muslims, Jews, women, LGBTQI+ individuals, socialists, communists, anarchists, people of color, working-class people, and the alternatively abled, and is an act of solidarity with these communities' struggles for self-defense," according to the description.
The syllabus has collected dozens of articles from left-leaning sources such as the American Socialist Quarterly, Socialist Register, The Nation, Mother Jones, Jacobin magazine, and publications from the defunct communist Sojourner Truth Organization.
In the wake of the white supremacist march at Charlottesville, CAN issued an invitation for more academics to join its cause. The group has already reportedly seen a spike in membership.
Neither Palumbio-Liu nor CAN responded to inquiries about the program.