• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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Religious Studies Lecturer Launches attack on Lancaster Uni

For the past twelve years, US scholar of religion Robert Segal has been based at Lancaster University in the north of England. Segal (with whom I once shared the back of a car) is known for his work on methodology, Gnosticism, myth and Jung, and was largely responsible for making us all aware that Joseph “Power of Myth” Campbell had a nasty habit of interspersing his “follow your bliss” perennial philosophy classes with anti-Jewish diatribes.

Now, however, Segal has left Lancaster for Aberdeen, and he has launched a hilariously catty attack on his former employer:

…Apart from one actor and one venture capitalist, the only successful graduate of the University in its forty years has been Robert Fisk. He has been honored by Lancaster more effusively than a head of state. A few weeks ago he was invited anew to give the inaugural lecture to some Institute of Peace Studies at the University–one of those one-man operations that in American academia would be called an “institute” only as a joke.

The lecture was widely publicized, just as every possible tidbit of activity at Lancaster is publicized in an effort to tell the world that Lancaster is Harvard.

Meow. Why does one get the feeling that Segal’s departure was perhaps not a happy one? But it must have been quite a blow to the university: one can only hope that there are other Americans there to advise staff as to what would be considered to be a “joke” by American academic standards, and to provide the required accents which might make the benighted staff think that they’re in Harvard.

So what sent Segal over the edge?

…I would relish an occasion for publicizing the anti-Israeli bias at the University. I can offer you examples that will, I think, shock you.

Maybe someone could show Segal how to work the internet, where he could publish all his flesh-creeping revelations.

Segal’s complaint, unsurprisingly, appears on the website for the pro-Israel lobby group “Scholars for Peace in the Middle East”. He also vents his spleen against ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Ahron Cohen, who is due to speak to the Palestine Solidarity Group at Leeds University on the subject of “Judaism vs. Zionism: Anti-Zionism is not Anti-Semitism”. Segal is on the case, and helpfully informs us that

I have never heard of this rabbi…

However, he is able to hazard a guess about him:

…I will be surprised if his animus toward Israel does not stem from lingering Orthodox opposition to a secular Jewish state.

So will I.* Segal then turns to deep ruminations on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

I daresay that the animus of Arabs and Muslims toward Israel has a rather different source.

No doubt pure anti-Semitism is the answer, with no role played by military occupation, poverty, and human rights abuses. And I daresay that the animus (I assume he’s using the word in the non-Jungian sense) of Robert Segal toward Palestinian complaints is, by contrast, completely justifible…

*UPDATE (12 December): Actually, Ahron Cohen is a bit of a disaster area, and he is currently in Iran giving cover to Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust pseudo-conference.

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