YORK UNIVERSITY VS. ISRAEL:
Chair, Political Science,
and Executive Director, NGO Monitor
The President of York University in
Far from an attack on academic freedom, such criticism highlights the very absence of the free exchange in a marketplace of ideas which is the indispensible foundation for academic freedom. The extremely complex history of the Arab-Israeli conflict and multiple dimensions of peace efforts contrast starkly with the narrowly constricted ideologies reflected in the list of 44 speakers. This information is readily available using the internet, and had the eleven sponsors -- six from York, four from Queen's university and a government funded research framework -- exercised "due diligence", they would have found that many of the speakers are virulent anti-Israeli activists, and are far removed from academic work to understand complex issues through research and debate. In other words, it is the conference that constitutes a brutal attack on academic freedom, rather than the analysts and critics.
For example, the first speaker on the list is Ali Abunimah, who runs a propaganda internet site known as the "Electronic Intifada", specializing in demonization of Israel through articles such as "Why Israel won't survive".. Abunimah is also affiliated with a political organization (PCHR) based in
While the ideological bios and activist records of all 44 speakers would fill dozens of pages (a task that the sponsors at
An Israeli columnist recently witnessed Halper urging "his Muslim listeners in an American university to reject the Arab Peace Initiative, because it serves the Muslim tyrants. He told his listeners that Israel is actually a force that serves world capitalism, in the framework of the attempt to make enormous populations in the world disappear. The antisemites could not have said it better." To label such activities as promoting peace or remotely connected to university discourse is an insult to intelligent people. Recently, Halper's main benefactor, the European Union, rejected his application for renewed funding, but YorkUniversity – for reasons yet to be explained – is giving him the façade of academic legitimacy.
Amidst the long list of speakers, there are also few genuine academics – whom critics might dismiss as fig leaves for the hard-core propagandists -- but even here, the ideological range runs from strongly critical of Israel (but accepting the legitimacy of Jewish sovereign equality) to extremely critical (one-state promoters, tantamount to "wiping Israel off the map".) Although there are many academics whose research goes beyond one-dimensional Israel bashing, and examines the failures of Arab, Palestinian, and Moslem leaders to contribute to peace making, these dimensions are conspicuously absent from the program. In this Orwellian twist, the use of "academic freedom" is a mask for the crude censorship at
With so many obvious distortions, the defense offered by the President of York University is a farce. Without a free market of ideas, academic freedom, and even the concept of a university, is meaningless. Given a conference which fails to even hint at the complexity of the issues, the result is not censorship, but the transformation of the university into a macabre circus that sells hatred, martyrdom and murder.
In a free society, the circus, like the university, is open to all – as P.T. Barnum observed, "There's a sucker born every minute". But in the
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