Remembrance offered by Professor Sadu Nanjundiah.
I deeply regret to inform you of the death of Prof. Norton Mezvinsky in New York City on Sep. 15, 2022. He was ailing over the last few months.
Prof. Mezvinsky taught courses on Judaism, American History and Middle East History, and was the doyen of Middle East Studies in the History Department. He established a nationwide reputation for the program through his indefatigable personal commitment to helping students, faculty, staff and the larger community understand the many dimensions of the conflicts in the Middle East between various states, especially between Israel and Palestine. He was a passionate adherent to human rights for people globally and for a fair and just settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He established the Middle East Lecture Series at CCSU and invited various experts and diplomats who expounded on conflicts in the Middle East, especially the occupation of Palestine by Israel. These included Prof. Noam Chomsky from MIT, Prof. Israel Shahak of the Hebrew U of Jerusalem, Prof. Rashid Khalidi from Columbia U, Trita Parsi from National Iranian-American Committee, Dr. Norman Finkelstein author of several books on the Holocaust, Prof. Sara Roy from the Center of Middle East Studies at Harvard U, Prof. Ghada Karmi and Prof. Ilan Pappe from the University of Exeter (U.K), Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro from New York, Prof. Raymond Baker from Trinity College and many more scholars of the history of the region.
After his retirement from CCSU, Prof. Mezvinsky presided over the International Council for Middle East Studies (ICMES) in Washington, D.C and served as its President till his passing. Its aim was to provide a resource to the public and lawmakers on the background to the conflicts that had continued to bedevil the Middle East after de-colonization and that affected the lives of millions in the region. ICMES sponsored several talks and conferences in D.C., Europe and North Africa on various topics related to political, economic, religious and cultural issues related to the Arab world and Israel.
Norton Mezvinsky was a prolific writer and speaker on Zionism, Judaism and the seemingly interminable conflict between Israel and Palestine. He gave many talks on these subjects at CCSU, nationwide and abroad almost every year and even after he retired from the University. He wrote several op-eds and letters to the editor in the local and national press to clarify and correct misperceptions, misunderstandings and mistakes in reporting and analyzing the several wars between Israel and its Arab neighbors, most recently on the decades long bombing and blockade by Israel of Gaza and the expansive, exclusive Jewish settlement building in the Israeli occupied West Bank of Palestine.
Prof. Mezvinsky's scholarly work, pamphlets and contributions included his seminal book with Israel Shahak on "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel" (translated into four languages examining the history and consequences of Jewish fundamentalism in Israel), "The Character of the State of Israel" (with Constance Hilliard), "Does Israel Have a Future: The Case for a post-Zionist State", "Issues Created by Jewish Nationalism", ""Anti-Zionism (Analytical Reflections)", "The Meir Kahane phenomenon", "Human Rights Violations During the Palestinian Uprising, 1988-1989, The Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights".
Norton Mezvinsky completed his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin in 1960, working on a sociological study on American Jewish Self-Segregation. He also did post-doctoral studies at Harvard University. At the time of his passing he was Distinguished University Professor, Emeritus at CCSU, having been honored with the Connecticut State University Professorship some years before his retirement.
A few reactions to his passing from his colleagues are below.
Professor of Physics & Engineering Physics
Not Another Nickel for Israel’s Crimes
Protest and Rally
Sunday 9/18 at 2 p.m.
Starting at the corner of Main and Washington Streets
With its whitewash “investigation” of the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh the Israeli government shows it will not change its murderous course. Palestinians seem to be killed every day by Israeli forces and it’s just been a month since the latest attack on Gaza in which the Israeli military killed 19 and injured hundreds.
Once again, we must launch protest, protest of the overwhelming support Connecticut politicians give to Israel including the river of money that flows to the apartheid state ($4.8 billion this year).
Shame the CT members of Congress for their blank check for Israel and its crimes.
We also will remember that the horrific massacre of at least 1,400 Palestinians and Lebanese in the Sabra-Shatila camps took place from Sept. 16-18, 1982
Middle East Crisis Committee, Jewish Voice for Peace (New Haven), Plant the Land (Gaza), Bristol Anti-Racism Brigade (BARB), & Bristol Advocates for Marginalized Families (BAMF), Promoting Enduring Peace, Workers Voice,
New - Wesleyan Students for Justice in Palestine
Video of the most recent rally for Palestine in Middletown
Senior Democrat Jim McGovern has called on Secretary of State Blinken to get Israel to reverse itself and drop their designation of Palestinian civil society groups as "terrorists".
According to Haaretz, "McGovern stressed that Israel has "targeted these organizations for decades because of their human rights activism, arresting and detaining staff, raiding their offices, targeting them for surveillance by state intelligence agencies, and making similar accusations to these organizations' donors,"