Sexist 'professor of war' storms out of Cambridge

Adam Clark & Hazel Shearing - Deputy News Editors 28 February 2013

A visiting professor has stormed out of a lecture at Cambridge vowing never to return after accusing University officials of ‘muzzling him’. Professor Martin van Creveld – until recently the Humanitas Visiting Professor in War Studies at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities – abruptly ended his lecture series on 18 February.

The military historian had been giving a talk on ‘Information, Intelligence and the New Wars’, when a disagreement with the Centre’s Director, Professor Simon Goldhill, led to the cancellation of the lecture series and van Creveld’s return to Israel.

His invitation to conduct research at the University of Trier was withdrawn after complaints about a misogynistic tone to his lectures. In his introductory lecture he asserted that “Without women, who let themselves be seduced, there would be no wars or war games”.

Last Monday, when a member of the audience asked a question concerning the privatisation of intelligence, van Creveld asked Goldhill’s permission to tell an anecdote. After Goldhill replied that he would prefer van Creveld not to, he refused to answer the question and finished the lecture, proceeding to rant about his dissatisfaction with the University and swearing never to return.

Attendee Geoff Jones told The Cambridge Student that Creveld appeared “extremely angry”, and that he accused Goldhill of having silenced him. Another attendee, Nelson Jones, later tweeted “Van Creveld lecture ends on an awkward note as he accuses Simon Goldhill of “muzzling him” and swears never to set foot in Cambridge again”.

Another attendee, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed this, telling TCS that van Creveld said he would not return to Cambridge as it was “not worth it” and he “hates being muzzled”.

While the nature of the anecdote was not made clear to the audience, van Creveld has previously made sexist comments in his lectures and academic work. In an article entitled ‘The Great Illusion: Women in the Military’ published in Millenium: Journal of International Studies in 2000, which analysed the rise of women police officers, he wrote “In a world where any man who so much as touches a woman is likely to be accused of ‘sexual harassment’ it is helpful to have a few of them around”.

In March 2012 lecturers and students at the University of Tel Aviv petitioned for his dismissal based on his sexist views. Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that he had ‘humiliated’ female students and that the Hebrew University of Jerusalem had encouraged him to retire early.

While in Cambridge, van Creveld gave a talk to the Cambridge University Jewish Chabad Society, discussing the book and his research on gender issues. He proceeded to talk about the differences between female and male genital circumcision, arguing that it was unfair as women were allowed to cry during the procedure.

Journalist and MPhil student, Zoe Strimpel, who attended the talk, told TCS that while she had realised his talk might be provocative, he abandoned his subject area and seemed “obsessed with the injustice of feminism, as he perceived it”.

When contacted van Creveld was unavailable for comment. The lecture series is listed on Facebook as having being cut short due to “unforeseen circumstances”.

Goldhill was unwilling to give TCS any more information, noting only that “he has now left the country and gone back to Israel. The lectures were not cancelled because of any controversial remarks”.

Adam Clark & Hazel Shearing – Deputy News Editors