On False Accusations of Anti-Semitism within the Academy
While we must always treat claims of discrimination seriously, we must also be aware that there are many who inappropriately use claims of discrimination with regard to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and nationality often in a deliberately abusive and unjustified manner to further their particular cause or argument. These instances of false accusations of discrimination should be treated just as seriously as actual instances of discrimination, and those making the false accusations should receive similar treatment as those practicing actual discrimination.
By Robert R. Cargill
UCLA Center for Digital Humanities
UCLA Qumran Visualization Project
Pseudo-Science and Sensationalist Archaeology
The Fortress at Qumran: A History of Interpretation
Why Christians Should Adopt the BCE/CE Dating System
On the Curious Protests of the Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibition in Toronto
I’ve been reflecting recently upon a quite sinister accusation that some scholars occasionally lob at others within the field of Jewish studies. I thought I’d comment briefly upon this unfortunate phenomenon.
As many readers by now know, Raphael Golb, son of University of Chicago Oriental Institute historian Norman Golb has been regularly, yet subtly accusing me of being anti-Semitic.1 Golb’s attorney, Ronald Kuby, made this accusation explicit in recent court filings. Golb is accused of multiple felony and misdemeanor counts of forgery, impersonation, identity theft, and aggravated harassment in a bizarre case in which I was both a victim and an informant to the New York District Attorney’s office. In a recent motion to suppress evidence collected in the case against his client, Golb’s attorney made explicit the flimsy grounds for Golb’s accusations of anti-Semitism:
75. Cargill, on p. 45 of his dissertation, manifests his anti-Jewish sentiment by referring to the flight of Jews from Jerusalem during the famous Jewish Revolt against Rome and the brutal destruction, rape, murder, and sacking of the city by the Romans, merely as “Jews fleeing a political uprising.” See Robert Cargill, Qumran through (Real) Time: A Virtual Reconstruction of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Georgia [sic] Press 2009). (To understand the significance of the statement, imagine how Jews would react if someone casually described the Warsaw Ghetto revolt against the Nazis as “a political uprising.”)… This is yet another instance of the intellectual anti-Semitism that has plagued so-called Dead Sea Scrolls “scholarship.”2
To describe Jews fleeing the suppression of the Jewish Revolt as “Jews fleeing a political uprising” is in every way responsible and accurate. It is neither skewed nor opinionated in either direction, and makes no judgment or commentary on the actions of either the Jews or the Romans. Yet, Golb strains to frame this particular statement as anti-Semitic in order to find some reason to accuse me of something he believes will turn the public’s (or the jury’s) opinion against me. Likewise, the hypothetical comparison to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising is not only irresponsible and inflammatory, it is unfair, unfounded, and intended only as a feeble attempt to play upon the memories of ethnic atrocities against Jews at the hand of the Nazis. Note that this comparison is nothing more than a parenthetic, hypothetical construct created by Golb or his attorney, and is intentionally inserted purely for dramatic effect.
Golb’s practice of taking benign statements, ripping them from their contexts, adding melodramatic, imagined, and emotionally charged hypothetical statements that are never actually made by a scholar, and then attributing the statement to the scholar he is attacking is nothing new. For the past year, Golb has attempted to call me anti-Semitic using various gimmicks, including attempting to tie me to various fundamentalist, conservative, and evangelical Christian organizations and making weak, ad hominem attacks like attempting to argue references in my book are “academically anti-Semitic” because a word or phrase I chose to use is not viscerally evocative enough of a term.
While anti-Semitism still exists in the world, and many claims of anti-Semitism are justified, Golb’s accusations are just another example of those who intentionally misuse the term for political gain. Obviously, not all Christians are anti-Semitic, nor are all Dead Sea Scrolls scholars. Likewise, one cannot be said to be anti-Semitic simply because one is a Christian or happens to be a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar who disagrees with Norman Golb. But, to slap individuals with whom one disagrees with the label anti-Semitic is irresponsible and makes light of actual cases of anti-Semitism. I am not anti-Semitic, nor have I ever said or done anything to deserve this dishonor other than disagree with the academic conclusions of Norman Golb regarding Qumran. And yet, Golb is now explicitly calling me anti-Semitic.
The question is: why? Why are Golb and his defense attorney trying to paint me as anti-Semitic? Obviously, it is a desperate (and typical) criminal defense technique: make the whistleblower look as bad as possible. However, the reckless use of accusations of anti-Semitism is not new to Golb. The answer to why Golb is falsely accusing me of anti-Semitism lies in an argument Golb has made for years. The gist of the accusation is as follows: because early Dead Sea Scrolls research was led by Roland de Vaux, and because Roland de Vaux was a Catholic Dominican monk, his interpretation of the Dead Sea Scrolls as the product of a sectarian religious sect had to have been skewed. And, because this theory has been the majority opinion of both Jewish and Christian scholars, who understand the Dead Sea Scrolls to be the product of a religious sect, Golb argues that these scholars accept this sectarian interpretation in order to support their own modern, personal Jewish and Christian beliefs. Thus, Golb believes the “truth” of the Dead Sea Scrolls as a collection of disparate Jewish documents from various Jerusalem libraries3 has been lost to history due to the zealousness of scholars adhering to their Jewish and Christian faiths. Because Golb understands this “loss” of “true” Jewish history to be the result of the Christian monk de Vaux’s initial error in the interpretation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, any subsequent acceptance of a sectarian origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls must be understood as “anti-Semitic” because it denies a “proper” view of Jewish history (at least in Golb’s opinion). This is most likely why Golb continues to argue that I am “intellectually” anti-Semitic: because I accept a sectarian origin of the scrolls, and because I happen to have attended a Christian university (Pepperdine), I am somehow denying Jews their “rightful” history (again, in Golb’s eyes alone).
Of course, this logic falls flat when a number of key facts are considered. First, only a handful of scholars argue that the Jewish sectarians responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls have anything whatsoever to do with Christians or early Christianity.4 The overwhelming number of scholars – both Jewish and Christian alike – believe that the Dead Sea Scrolls have nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity, early Christians, Jesus, James the brother of Jesus, John the Baptist, or any other Christian figure. Golb is attempting to paint all Dead Sea Scrolls scholars who happen to be Christian, teach at a Christian university, or that once attended a Christian university at some point in their careers as accepting the idea that the Dead Sea Scrolls are the result of early Christians. This is simply not the case. Golb knows this is not the case, but it does not stop him from arguing it for polemical and rhetorical reasons.
Additionally, Golb’s anti-Semitism argument falls flat because the early team of scholars studying the Dead Sea Scrolls was, in fact, an international team that concluded that the Dead Sea Scrolls were the product of Jewish sectarians (that is, not Christians). Additionally, because nearly all Jewish and Christian scholars today agree (with the few exceptions mentioned above) that the Dead Sea Scrolls are the product of Jewish sectarians and not Christians, Golb’s argument is again rendered false. Golb is attempting to capitalize on some early sensational publications by these few, now refuted scholars who argued that there was a link between the Essenes and the Christians. Golb intentionally creates this straw man in order to paint any acceptance of a sectarian origin of the scrolls as denying a “true” Jewish history (again, only in the eyes of Golb), and therefore as anti-Semitic. It is an easily refuted, fallacious argument.
So, given the fact that Golb’s argument that the sectarian interpretation of the scrolls is anti-Semitism falls flat, why does he persist in arguing that I am anti-Semitic? Why would he falsely assert that I am anti-Semitic, despite that fact that I have dedicated my academic life to the study of Judaism and the Hebrew language,5 combating racism and homophobia,6 that I have raised my daughter in Jewish traditions and paid tuition so that she can attend private Jewish schools,7 and that I have written in defense of Israel on a number of occasions?8
The answer is, unfortunately, a quite sinister one: Golb apparently wants to do harm to me personally by attempting to harm my young career. The easiest way to harm a young scholar of ancient Judaism is to accuse him or her of anti-Semitism. Accusing a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar of anti-Semitism is the fastest way to destroy his or her career. Ever since the terrible anti-Semitic statement made by original Dead Sea Scrolls team member John Strugnell,9 Dead Sea Scrolls scholars in the field have been very sensitive towards negative comments made about Judaism. While we all condemn Strugnell’s unfortunate remark, Golb has used Strugnell’s comments as a political weapon by attempting to paint many Dead Sea Scrolls scholars affiliated with Christianity or a Christian university in some from or another in an ad hominem fashion to Strugnell and his regrettable comment.
methods are textbook examples of negative stereotyping. The logical
fallacy of this stereotype is as follows:
Strugnell accepted a sectarian
origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls (contra Norman Golb).
Strugnell was a professor of Christian origins at Harvard.
Strugnell made anti-Semitic remarks and is therefore anti-Semitic.
All scholars, whether Christian
or affiliated with a Christian university, must be anti-Semitic.
And, as a result of their anti-Semitism, these Christian scholars accept a sectarian origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls, rather than accepting Norman Golb’s view.
This, of course, is fraught with logical fallacies of converse accidents,10 stereotypes, and sheer nonsense. But, Golb does not have to prove or even defend his unsubstantiated argument. As with many accusations of anti-Semitism, all Golb has to do is make the accusation. His hope seems to be that online readers will react so viscerally to the mere accusation, that they will not even bother to think through Golb’s argument, look at his so-called evidence (or lack thereof), or even ask questions. Rather, Golb hopes that the readers will simply accept the claims of anti-Semitism as true, and discount whatever the falsely accused scholar has to say.
Of course, all Dead Sea Scrolls scholars today, along with most readers following this particular case by now know that it was, in fact, Golb who was behind this pervasive campaign of defamation, identity theft, impersonation, and fraud. By now, all readers know that it was Golb who was using aliases to spread lies and accusations of anti-Semitism, plagiarism, fraud, and other malicious fabrications against several prominent Dead Sea Scrolls scholars who disagreed with the views of Norman Golb. And, most today know that Norman Golb’s son, Raphael, has been arrested for his misdeeds and charged with aggravated harassment, identity theft, forgery, and criminal impersonation. However, this was not always the case. Until Golb’s arrest, many online readers were not aware that the claims of anti-Semitism against several Dead Sea Scrolls scholars affiliated with Christian universities were unsubstantiated and untrue. Many did not know that these accusations were actually a part of a coordinated campaign of deceit and misinformation designed to harm the reputations of many scholars. Many online readers were not aware that Golb’s campaign appears to have been designed to decrease ticket sales of museums hosting Dead Sea Scrolls exhibitions, and harm the reputations of scholars invited to lecture in support of these exhibitions. Our reputations were only cleared once Raphael Golb was arrested, the aliases were silenced literally overnight, the accusations of anti-Semitism stopped cold (until this recent motion to suppress evidence), and Golb was formally indicted by a New York grand jury of masterminding the entire defamatory campaign. It was not until Golb was called on his absurd allegations, and the academic community stood up and said, “Enough!” that the false accusations of anti-Semitism ceased. And, it was not until Golb’s arrest that it was definitively shown that Golb was abusively throwing around accusations of anti-Semitism in an effort to harm scholars he or his father didn’t like.
Still, as one who has given my life to the study of Judaism and reconciliation between Christians, Muslims, and Jews, it did not feel good to be called anti-Semitic, regardless of who was saying it or how absurd the claim was.
Comfort came in the form of a comment, ironically made by a fellow victim of this campaign, Jewish New York University scholar Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, who told me, “Don’t worry, Robert. By Golb’s logic, I’m anti-Semitic too.” His words were as comforting as the knowledge that Raphael Golb had been arrested, and that Golb would be forever exposed as having used deliberately deceptive tactics in an effort to do harm to the careers of other scholars.
But, while biblical scholars and Dead Sea Scrolls scholars now know that charges of anti-Semitism coming from Golb are untrue, other scholars falsely accused of anti-Semitism may not be as fortunate. While we must always treat claims of discrimination seriously, we must also be aware that there are many who inappropriately use claims of discrimination with regard to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and nationality often in a deliberately abusive and unjustified manner to further their particular cause or argument. These instances of false accusations of discrimination should be treated just as seriously as actual instances of discrimination, and those making the false accusations should receive similar treatment as those practicing actual discrimination.
Scholars must stand up. For, it is only when we stand up to the bully and expose the bully’s misdeeds that the bully will ever be publicly identified as such, and only then will action be taken by the academy to curb the bully’s abuses.
1 One of Raphael Golb’s aliases, “Charles Gadda” accused me and several other Dead Sea Scrolls scholars of anti-Semitism in his Feb. 26, 2009 NowPublic.com post, “Antisemitism and the Dead Sea Scrolls.” The post was “Charles Gadda’s” last post on the NowPublic website (http://www.nowpublic.com) before Golb’s arrest and NowPublic’s removal of all posts made by Raphael Golb under his multiple aliases. Prior to its removal, the original article was available at: http://www.nowpublic.com/culture/antisemitism-and-dead-sea-scrolls.
2 Defendant's Motion To Suppress Evidence in The Case of The People of the State of New York vs. Raphael Golb, § II.D.75 (pp. 43-44), available at the bottom of: http://www.bobcargill.com/who-is-charles-gadda.html#Press_about_the_Arrest_of_Raphael_Golb.
3 See Norman Golb’s June 5, 2009 essay entitled, “On the Jerusalem Origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls.” Available on the Oriental Institute website at http://oi.uchicago.edu/research/is/jerusalem_origin_dss.html.
4 See the section on Jacob Teicher, Robert Eisenman, and Barbara Thiering, in Cargill, Robert R, Qumran through (Real) Time: A Virtual Reconstruction of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Bible in Technology 1, (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2009), 45-47. These few scholars understand at least some connection between the Qumran sect and early Christians.
8 For example, see Cargill, Robert R., “On the Curious Protests of the Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibition in Toronto,” Bible and Interpretation, August, 2009. Available at: http://www.bibleinterp.com/opeds/curious.shtml.