Stephen Zunes : Civil Liberties
Perhaps it is a sign that we are indeed in the age of Trump when a Jesuit university bans a student organization with “justice” in its name. Although Students for Justice in Palestine went through all the required procedures and obtained approval from the student government, Fordham University in New York has prohibited the group’s […]
In preparing my syllabus for my introductory course on the Middle East this semester, it gives me pause that the California Assembly is still on record declaring that discussing certain well-documented historic incidents in modern Middle Eastern history should “not be tolerated in the classroom.” This unprecedented attack on academic freedom came in the form of a resolution (HR 35), co-sponsored by 66 of the 88 Assembly members, which passed by a voice vote in 2012.
A growing movement has emerged on college campus calling for divestment from companies that support the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories that is part of broader international campaign initiated by Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to end its occupation of territories seized in the 1967 war.
This past week, the Arizona State Bar Association (SBA) held its annual convention. It appears that the ban on my participation is still in effect.
It was exactly ten years ago that the session in which an academic paper I was scheduled to present on the application of international law in conflicts in the greater Middle East was abruptly cancelled just two weeks before its scheduled presentation at the 2003 convention. No one in the organization?s leadership could explain anything objectionable in the paper, which they acknowledged they had not actually read, but were apparently convinced by a right-wing campaign that I was ?anti-Israel? and ?anti-American.?
The California State Assembly has just passed a bipartisan resolution (HR 35) by voice vote which constitutes a serious attack on academic freedom and the rights of students and faculty to raise awareness about human rights abuses by U.S.-backed governments. While purporting to put the legislature on record in opposition of anti-Semitism on state university campuses, it defines anti-Semitism so widely as to include legitimate political activities in opposition to Israeli government policies.
From the Vietnam War to the Central American revolutions to apartheid South Africa to the East Timor occupation to the invasion of Iraq, university campuses have been an important venue for concerned scholars and activists to raise issues regarding human rights, international law and US foreign policy.
However, in an effort to stifle this tradition, University of California President Mark Yudof has launched a campaign targeting human rights activists and others challenging the Israeli occupation and colonization of the West Bank and other policies of the right-wing US-backed Israeli government.