Tamil Nadu

When Vice-Chairman Of Tamil Nadu State Planning Commission Blamed 'Jewish Lobby' For Harvard President's Resignation

Aravindan Neelakandan

Feb 20, 2024, 03:05 AM | Updated Feb 20, 2024, 11:50 AM IST

Dr Jeyaranjan with Tamil Nadu CM, MK Stalin.
Dr Jeyaranjan with Tamil Nadu CM, MK Stalin.

The attacks on Israel by Hamas and the subsequent Israel-Hamas conflict has revealed how alive and entrenched anti-Semitism is in the West.

Closer home, what should worry Indians is that there is a steep rise in anti-Semitism within the country as well — particularly Tamil Nadu.

Dravidianists see the Brahmins in the Jews. Dravidianist anti-Brahminism shares a lot of characteristic with anti-Semitism: both view a minority as 'cunning' and 'elitist' and as a group that controls the media and economic resources.

In the wake of Hamas attacks, a Dravidianist YouTube channel of a popular medical doctor justified Hitler's hatred for Jews. "The Jews controlled the German media," he says in a YouTube interview, "very similar to the ‘three per cent’ here." ‘Three per cent’ is a Dravidianist euphemism for Tamil Brahmins.

Even more shocking is a recent talk by economist and vice chairman of the State Planning Commission of Tamil Nadu, Dr Jeyaranjan. During the talk, he cautioned the audience about being gullible regarding the openness of American society.

He illustrated his point with the following example:

"First you should know how the president of Harvard University had been driven away from her position. In the three centuries or around in the history of the university, only two women had been its presidents. And this lady was the first black woman. She had been just elected as the president of the university. She could not work in that position even for six months.

"This was related to the world politics. Now there is a war going on between Hamas and Israel. In many universities of the United States, in the campuses, the students are conducting rallies, agitations and meetings to condemn this war. We all know that Jewish lobby is a very powerful lobby in the world. All over the world they are very powerful.

"In such a situation, the presidents of the universities, Ivy League universities, are called to the Senate for a hearing by one Republican Senator. In that hearing, the presidents who went from Harvard and Pennsylvania are asked what the students of their universities talked and what slogans they raised in the rallies and agitations they conducted in the university campuses and in the name of freedom of speech what speeches your students have made.

" . . .The presidents answer that the students have the right and it should be seen only from the context. You cannot avoid that completely. We cannot reject that, the presidents say. But after the presidents had talked before the hearing and returned, you should think what that lobby there did. What they did was that they dug out the PhD thesis which was done twenty five years ago and rightwingers unleash a propaganda of plagiarism charges.

"In social sciences it is very easy to put forth such plagiarism charges. Then they repeatedly magnify the charges. For instance, the New York Times again and again, in fact sixty times before the resignation writes about her. CNN also started a propaganda against diversity, equity and inclusivity or DEI in the universities claiming that this was responsible for many bad things.

"Thus the presidents of both Harvard and Pennsylvania universities were chased away. Even this is bad. But the worse thing is the media and the rightwing want to do away with DEI itself...."

Here are the distortions Dr Jeyaranjan made in his speech:

The presidents of the three leading American universities — Claudine Gay of Harvard, Sally Kornbluth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Elizabeth Magill of the University of Pennsylvania — attended a Congressional hearing on anti-Semitism on college campuses.

The question that was asked to them was if there would be disciplinary action against a call for the genocide of the Jews. It was a straight forward question and the answer, irrespective of creed, race and political affiliation should be quite easy.

Their response was disturbingly diplomatic though: "It depends on the context."

Unfortunately, the vice chairman of the State Planning Commission of Tamil Nadu, either out of ignorance or intention, distorts facts. The original question was about disciplinary action against students inside the campus advocating for the genocide of Jews, not about slogans in support of Palestinians.

While plagiarism charges were leveled against Dr Claudine Gay, the university board rejected them after investigation. Her voluntary resignation came not from plagiarism — though there was pressure on her to quit for this reason — but from her "depending on the context" answer to the question about the genocide of Jews.

These distortions are just as reprehensible and deserving of condemnation as the evasive answers given by the presidents of the universities.

At a time when Tamil Nadu Chief Minister is making efforts to attract global investors to Tamil Nadu, such comments may result in setbacks. Hence, the vice chairman of the State Planning Commission of Tamil Nadu should issue a statement clarifying his remarks, which perhaps were made in haste to play to the gallery.

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