On the liberty to teach, pursue, and discuss knowledge without restriction

 

ac freedom.jpg

by Gilad Atzmon

It didn’t  take long for the American Administration to crudely interfere with an open society’s most sacred ethos, that of academic freedom.  We learned this weekend that the US Department of Education has ordered Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to remake their joint Middle East studies program after concluding that they were offering students “a biased curriculum that, among other complaints, did not present enough “positive” imagery of Judaism and Christianity in the region.”

Academic freedom is a relatively simple principle. It refers to the ”liberty to teach, pursue, and discuss knowledge without restriction or interference, as by school or public officials.”

This principle seems to be under attack in America.  The American administration has openly interfered with the liberty to freely teach, pursue and discuss knowledge.

The New York Times writes:  “in a rare instance of federal intervention in college course content, the department asserted that the universities’ Middle East program violated the standards of a federal program that awards funding to international studies and foreign language programs.”

According to the NYT the focus on ‘anti Israeli bias’ “appears to reflect the views of an agency leadership that includes a civil rights chief, Kenneth L. Marcus, who has made a career of pro-Israel advocacy and has waged a years long campaign to delegitimize and defund Middle East studies programs that he has criticized as rife with anti-Israel bias.”

One may wonder why America is willing to sacrifice its liberal ethos on the pro Israel altar?  Miriam Elman provides a possible answer. Elman is an associate professor at Syracuse University and executive director of the Academic Engagement Network, which opposes BDS. Elman told the NYT that this “should be a wake-up call… what they’re (the Federal government presumably) saying is, ‘If you want to be biased and show an unbalanced view of the Middle East, you can do that, but you’re not going to get federal and taxpayer money.”

In Elman’s view academic freedom has stayed intact, it is just the dollars  that will be  withheld unless a university adheres to pro Israel politics.

Those who follow the history of Zionism, Israeli politics and Jewish nationalism find this latest development unsurprising. Zionism, once dedicated to the concept of a “promised land,” morphed decades ago into an aspiration toward a ‘promised planet.’  Zionism is a global project operating in most, if not all, Western states. Jewish pressure groups, Zionist think tanks and Pro Israel lobbies work intensively to suppress elementary freedoms and reshape the public, political and cultural discourse all to achieve Zionism’s ambitious goal. After all, Jewish power, as I define it, is the power to suppress criticism of Jewish power.

This authoritarian symptom is not at all new. It is apparently a wandering phenomenon. It has popped out in different forms at different times.  What happened in the USSR  provides a perfect illustration of this  symptom. In the early days of Soviet Russia, anti-Semitism was met with the death penalty as stated by Joseph Stalin  in answer to an inquiry made by the Jewish News Agency: “In the U.S.S.R. anti-semitism is punishable with the utmost severity of the law as a phenomenon deeply hostile to the Soviet system. Under U.S.S.R. law active anti-semites are liable to the death penalty.”

Germany saw the formation of Jewish anti defamation leagues attempted to suppress the rise in anti Jewish sentiments.* There’s no need to elaborate on the dramatic failure of these efforts in Germany. And despite Stalin’s early pro-Jewish stance, the Soviet leader turned against the so- called rootless cosmopolitans.” This campaign led to the 1950s Doctors’ plot, in which a group of doctors (mostly Jewish) were subjected to a show trial for supposedly having plotted to assassinate the Soviet leader.

In Britain and other Western nations we have seen fierce pro Israel campaigns waged to suppress criticism of Israel and Jewish politics. Different lobbies have been  utilizing different means amongst them the adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism by governments and institutions. In Britain, France, Germany and other European countries, intellectuals, artists, politicians, party members and ordinary citizens are constantly harassed by a few powerful Jewish pressure groups. In dark Orwellian Britain 2019, critics of Israel have yet to face the death sentence, but they are subjected to severe reprisals ranging  from personal intimidation to police actions and criminal prosecution. People have lost their jobs for supporting Palestine, others have been expelled from Corbyn’s compromised Labour Party for making truthful statements. Some have even been jailed for satirical  content. And as you might guess, none of this has made Israel, its supporters or its stooges popular. Quite the opposite.  

I learned from the NYT that the administration “ordered” the universities’ consortium to submit a revised schedule of events it planned to support, a full list of the courses it offers and the professors working in its Middle East studies program.  I wonder who in the administration possesses the scholarly credentials to assess the academic level of university courses or professors? Professor Trump himself, or maybe Kushner & Ivanka or Kushner’s coffee boy Avi Berkovitch, or maybe recently retired ‘peace maker’ Jason Greenblatt?

 It takes years to build academic institutions, departments, libraries and research facilities. Apparently, it takes one determined lobby to ruin the future of American scholarship.

*In his book Final Solution David Cesarani brings the story of the Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens (Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith) that operated in Germany since the late 19th century “suing rabble rousers for defamation, funding candidates pledging to contest antisemitism…” You can read about the association and its activity here


My battle for truth and freedom involves some expensive legal and security services. I hope that you will consider committing to a monthly donation in whatever amount you can give. Regular contributions will enable me to avoid being pushed against a wall and to stay on top of the endless harassment by Zionist operators attempting to silence me and others.

Donate

Are Jews Helping Their Cause By Attacking the American Studies Association—or are They Shooting Themselves in the Foot?

 photo kleinsilver_zps1e96114a.jpg
New York State Sen. Jeff Klein (L) and
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver

By Richard Edmondson

Recently the New York State Senate passed a bill designed to penalize academic groups who undertake “an official action boycotting certain countries or their higher education institutions.” Introduced by State Sen. Jeff Klein, the bill passed by a lopsided 51-4 margin, and has been viewed as a direct response to the American Studies Association’s groundbreaking action calling for an academic boycott of Israel

Klein’s bill, which passed on January 28, seeks to cut off state funding to schools supporting organizations, such as the ASA, that call for or sponsor boycotts against Israel. A similar measure was introduced in the New York Assembly by Speaker Sheldon Silver, but has apparently now stalled in committee after a chorus of pro-Israel voices, including the New York Times editorial page and even Tablet Magazine, have opposed the legislation.

“The New York bill is an ill-considered response to the American Studies Association resolution and would trample on academic freedoms and chill free speech and dissent,” says the Times editorial. “Academics are rightly concerned that it will impose a political test on faculty members seeking university support for research meetings and travel.”

What this suggests is that rational heads within Jewish circles understand that bills of this nature will be clearly recognized for what they are—as attacks upon academic freedom and freedom of speech—and that Jews and/or Israel supporters like Klein and Silver are doing nothing but shooting themselves in the foot.

Indeed, the New York State United Teachers union has come out with a strongly worded statement opposing the legislation:

While the stated justification for this legislation is to protect and preserve academic freedom, it does just the opposite. It violates the principles of academic freedom, the First Amendment protection of speech and protection of association. We therefore request that this measure not be taken up for consideration.

Withholding state aid from any college or university for speaking publicly about a country; or boycotting a country; or one of its higher education institutions; violates the First Amendment protection of speech. While we may not agree with, or even detest the content of an individual’s – or group of individual’s speech – they are free to express it. This is a fundamental tenet of our Constitution. Similarly, an academic institution has the right to participate in a boycott over issues of public concern regardless of whether we agree or not with the subject matter that the boycott addresses. Calling for a boycott is protected speech, provided that it is not unlawful. Here, the contemplated boycott of “host county” or a “higher education institution located in such host county” would not be unlawful.

The enactment of this legislation would serve to regulate speech based on content and the message it conveys. The denial of government funding to suppress speech made in a public forum on an issue of public concern violates the First Amendment.

This legislation also violates the First Amendment protection of association. Given that a boycott involves concerted activity – the concerted refusal to take an action – the measure seeks to prevent persons from associating for such activity. The bill is also unconstitutionally vague in that reasonable persons can’t know what is prohibited and what is not.

We agree with the notion that our students benefit from having access to a global education not impeded by borders. Moreover, we agree that we should do everything we can to ensure that our students have access to international higher education institutions to help enable them to succeed in a world that is, “continually becoming more interdependent and diverse.”

We respectfully submit however, the enactment of this legislation is not the way to achieve these goals.

NYSUT AND ITS HIGHER EDUCATION AFFILIATES STRONGLY URGE THE DEFEAT OF THIS LEGISLATION.

The Center for Constitutional Rights has also come out in opposition to the measure:

The anti-boycott bill targets core political speech and raises serious constitutional red flags.  If this bill goes forward it is likely to face constitutional challenge in the courts.

Boycotts to bring about political and social change, which would be targeted by this bill, are unquestionably protected speech under the First Amendment. Our country has a long tradition of boycotts, from the Montgomery bus boycott led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to the boycott of Apartheid South Africa, recently celebrated at the passing of President Nelson Mandela.

Courts have been very clear that the denial of funding, where motivated by a desire to suppress speech, is prohibited by the First Amendment.

The ASA boycott measure was approved in December after being voted on by the organization’s entire membership. Of the 1,252 votes cast, 66.1 percent favored the boycott; 30.5 percent opposed it; and 3.4 percent abstained. It was indeed a milestone in the campaign for justice for Palestine, and possibly also signaled a major shift in public thinking on the Middle East conflict and US support for Israel.

But the reaction was swift in coming. Two academic organizations, the Association of American Universities and the American Association of University Professors, issued statements opposing the boycott, as did the presidents of Harvard and Wesleyan universities, suggesting that the tentacles of the pro-Israel lobby are buried deeper in American society than many people realize. But then, of course, it stands to reason that universities, many of which depend upon private funding, would have a line they would have to toe, much like the politicians in Washington or the New York Legislature.

Yet the ASA has also found support from other academic organizations. The Association for Asian American Studies and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association have both endorsed boycott calls.

And just today, one of the nation’s oldest legal organizations, the National Lawyers Guild, in conjunction with several other organizations, released an “open letter to US colleges and universities,” condemning the “repressive responses” to the ASA boycott call and describing them as a “significant threat to academic freedom and to free speech and association rights.”

New York. The National Lawyers Guild and other organizations calling for human rights and for the rule of law in Palestine and Israel today urged academic institutions to reaffirm their commitment to free and open campus debate. The plea for free expression, including the right to call for human rights boycotts, was prompted by a series of repressive responses to the American Studies Association’s recent resolution to adopt a boycott against state-funded Israeli educational institutions. These institutions provide research and training used to maintain Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

Official discrimination against particular viewpoints violates longstanding First Amendment free speech rights. Administrative usurpation of a faculty’s right to decide whether to maintain a departmental association with a scholarly association violates the core values of academic freedom that school officials claim to be defending. This includes the right to engage in prior debate before making a decision. Faculty are entitled to take public positions, individually and as associations, on matters of public concern.  The severing of official ties with a scholarly association because it took a controversial position on a matter of public concern chills campus speech and debate. Beyond these constitutional violations such actions undermine a school’s responsibility to teach – and model – democratic decision-making and dissent.

The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly reaffirmed that “[i]f there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.” (West Virginia State Board of Ed. v. Barnette)

NLG President Azadeh Shahshahani said,“In a hasty and intolerant official rush to dissociate themselves from the ASA resolution, some colleges and universities are trampling this core free speech right and academic freedom itself, which they purport to defend.”

Click here to read the full text of the letter.

The attacks upon the ASA are indeed “hasty and intolerant” and clearly an effort at “trampling” core free speech rights in America, but that being said I’m going to part company with the National Lawyers Guild. It may sound odd, but I’d actually like to offer Misters Klein and Silver my hearty congratulations and best wishes at getting their bill passed, for it will provide a visible demonstration, one easily grasped by large swaths of the American public, that no truer words were ever spoken than those of Voltaire: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”

The astounding rise to fame of the French comedian Dieudonne would suggest that millions of people in France are fed up with being told what they should or shouldn’t think or who they can or can’t criticize, and a similar process seems to be taking place in America. Clearly people are waking up to “who rules over them.” That is apparent. And the silly bill in the New York Legislature—coupled with the New York Times’ editorializing against it—suggests that this awakening is creating indecision, and perhaps even a certain amount of panic, amongst the leaders of world Jewry.

See also:

Is Support for Israel Plummeting in US Academia?

Are the French People Rising Up Against Jewish Power?

The French MSM: It is to Laugh

ASA Statement on Boycott Resolution

Full Text of Boycott Resolution

%d bloggers like this: