Monday, April 29, 2024

Academic freedom for me but not for thee


academic freedom exceptionalism Zionism supremacy Gaza genocide student activism repression arrests expulsions suspensions evictions militarized police smears slander calumny racism discrimination

Authorities and institutions are trampling upon free speech and academic freedom, mistaking a call for life for its opposite

The irony is palpable. This past week’s wave of student protests on college campuses across the United States, Europe, and Australia have, among other things, allowed the double standards for freedom of expression to swim clearly into focus. The same self-appointed arbiters of academic freedom and free speech who insisted on unfettered access to college campuses for the purposes of peddling transphobia, misogyny, and white supremacy, are now keen to suppress student expression at any cost, no matter how brutal or contradictory. They do so under the guise of combatting antisemitism and at the behest of a foreign government that has itself now razed each of Gaza’s universities in full or in part in the midst of a seven-month-old campaign that saw drone strikes targeting children at play, mass graves dug into the grounds of occupied hospitals, a massacre in a flour line, and the indiscriminate murder of untold thousands upon thousands of civilians while their homes are bulldozed to the ground in the service of a supposed rescue operation. Meanwhile, in an area far from Hamas control, Palestinians of the West Bank continue to endure dispossession, displacement, and violence at the hands of Israeli settlers.

Certainly, October 7 was horrific. So shocking were the reports of Hamas’ and linked groups’ atrocities that they gave pause even to those who would celebrate resistance, and for others provided further justification for the catastrophic assault on the people of Gaza that followed. This staggering violence visited upon civilians is the culmination of a 76-year-long occupation that has gone on so long that in the West many turn away in exasperation or indifference, citing “complexity,” terrorism, incivility, Iran, or prior claims to the land. Although we may live comfortably with orientalism, students pay attention. And none of the old narratives are sticking. What is new is the willingness of people to speak out en masse, knowing full well the costs of protest: blackballing, accusations of antisemitism and sympathy with terrorism, expulsion, and now police violence and incarceration. While American police in riot gear batter students and wrestle economics professors to the ground, the fact that large numbers of protestors are Jewish makes no difference. Neo-Nazis receive better treatment when they come to campus.

Closer to home, the keffiyeh is banned from the Ontario legislature while the provincial government scrambles to pass a bill that, in the name of student wellness, will almost certainly quash student speech. Those who feel threatened by appeals to international law and human rights will feel protected, no doubt. Fear is not something most of us would wish upon those with differing views, especially when it is a residue of Holocaust trauma. While it is important not to dismiss these concerns, we must also think of our students, friends, and colleagues expected to watch this massacre of their people unfold in silence because of the century-long debasement of Palestinian and Arab lives that settlers in North America tacitly accept.  (more...)

Academic freedom for me but not for thee

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