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Response to "Thoughts on academic freedom at Pessah" by David Newman
David Newman (Thoughts on academic freedom at Pessah – 18th April) complains about attacks against freedom of speech. However, Newman describes a strangely one-sided definition of “freedom”. In his article, only those views that match his own political agenda deserve freedom of expression. Students are not allowed to protest against the hard-left anti-Israel propaganda that Newman’s friends and colleagues churn out constantly. Newman complained about the demonstration by students opposing his conference. In his world, protests are only allowed if he approves of them. The conference organisers only invited extreme left-wing speakers so was a mockery to Newman’s demand for academic freedom.
Newman cries foul when students bring cameras into lectures to record the incitement of faculty professors. But he approves of the cameras B’Tselem provide to Palestinian Arabs to make “Pallywood” movies. He attacks isolationist ideologies, but supports BGU professors demanding a total boycott to isolate Israel. His Orwellian “thought police” are a product of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, but certainly not of Israel’s supporters. It is incredible that he praises “security of tenure” as a method to protect BGU professors treacherous to the State. He fails to mention that BGU professor, Yeruham Leavitt, was sacked for making comments that Mr Newman’s fellow “free-speakers” viewed as politically incorrect.
It is not “academic freedom” if a faculty awards students academic credits when they attend anti-Israel demonstrations. It is totally unacceptable that a requirement for passing a course is to conduct pro-Palestinian activism. Professor Neve Gordon (Faculty of Politics & Government), who organised the appalling conference that Newman promoted, regularly espouses that Israel is a fascist, apartheid state. Gordon accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing and has signed petitions calling for an international academic, scientific, economic and cultural boycott of Israel. In 2010, several BGU staff attended an illegal demonstration where their faculties’ students gave Nazi salutes.
So let’s be clear about what constitutes the right to express opinions in our Universities. We certainly don’t need people like Newman to lecture us about what freedom means.
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