After years of ascendancy, the BDS movement and the academic infrastructure that supports it maybe taking a turn back. Three recent cases are indicative of this trend.
The conference organised by Oren Ben-Dor and Ilan Pappe questioning Israel's right to exist, originally slated to take place in Southampton University, U.K, and cancelled, in its new iteration, it was scheduled to take place in University College Cork, Ireland in March 2017. However, the UCC administration has not issued a permit because of safety concerns. The UCC stated that security infrastructure and staff is inadequate for the event, requesting that additional security and costs the organizers would have to cover. The administration also announced that a revised date for the conference needs to be agreed by the university, but cannot take place during the term and should not clash with exams. No new date has been set yet.
In Canada, Dr. Anthony J. Hall, a pro-BDS professor who claimed that Zionists were behind 9/11, is facing disciplinary action. Hall was suspended from University of Lethbridge in October 2016 and is now referred to the Alberta Human Rights Commission. Hall's videos and comments in social media have been characterized as anti-Semitic, supportive of Holocaust denial and engaged in conspiracy theories. A hearing at the Commission could take some years to conclude.
It is well known that Students for Justice for Palestine (JSP) is a leading promoter of BDS on Western campuses. The group organizes anti-Israel events and harasses Jewish and Israeli students. The group has scores of chapters on campuses, but its recent request to open a chapter at Fordham University was denied. Fordham administration stated its reasons, that there are "no registered student clubs the sole focus of which is the political agenda of one nation, against another nation... For the university's purposes, the country of origin of the student organizers is irrelevant, as is their particular political stance. The narrowness of Students for Justice in Palestine's political focus makes it more akin to a lobbying group than a student club. Regardless of the club’s status, students, faculty and staff are of course free to voice their opinions on Palestine, or any other issue." In response, Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network announced a solidarity rally for Fordham SJP at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus. The JSP is planning to engage the Palestinian community in the United States to protest. A number of Palestinian groups havewritten to the University demanding a retraction of the decision, including theNational Lawyers Guild with members such as Bina Ahmad, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights steering committee member and human rights attorney and Lamis Deek, a New York based Palestinian human rights attorney.
IAM will report on these and other cases as they develop.
The University Management Team at its meeting on the 16th January 2017 considered the matter of the proposed conference entitled ‘International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism’.
Members of the management team expressed their disappointment and concern that this conference came to the University’s attention through public discourse and social media and not in a formal request for approval or correspondence directly with the University.
The meeting noted the following:
• the proposed event is not a University-sponsored or promoted event but has been invited to the University by a number of academic staff holding positions within the University;
• the proposed conference has previously been the subject of cancellation at the University of Southampton and of judicial review proceedings in the English High Court;
• the website promoting the conference indicates that post the University of Southampton’s decision, other European Universities had been asked to host the event and refused;
• the proposed dates of the conference i.e. 31st March – 2nd April ’17 are during term time. The Western Gateway Building will be fully operational on those dates with potential disruption of access to students and staff arising from the conference. The conference is not permitted to proceed on the dates proposed which are in term;
• the University’s security infrastructure and staffing is inadequate to deal with the management of security for the event given that the University is already on notice of protests. Additional security will have cost implications.
The Management Team concluded that it is prepared to permit the conference to proceed on thefulfilment of the conditions which include the following:
1. a revised date for the conference needs to be agreed with the University which is out of term and not clashing with University examinations.
2. the submission of an Event Management Plan [“EMP”] by the organisers for the agreement of the University which covers all aspects of the conference organisation. No date for the conference can be agreed until the EMP has been finalised;
3. based on the Event Management Plan, the provision of a budget by the organisers to cover any additional costs to the University, particularly additional security costs.
The University’s approval is contingent on agreement on and fulfilment of its conditions.
University of Lethbridge taking prof to human rights commission
Anthony Hall was suspended without pay after making comments online that Jewish groups have called anti-Semetic.
By:StaffThe Canadian Press
Published on Tue Jan 17 2017
LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — The University of Lethbridge says it is lodging a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission about a longtime professor accused of espousing anti-Semitic views.
Anthony Hall was suspended without pay in October following comments he made in online articles and videos suggesting there was a Zionist connection to the 9/11 attacks and that the events of the Holocaust should be up for debate.
The university says its board of governors reviewed whether a complaint was warranted and justifiable.
"From the findings of that assessment, the board has decided to proceed with a complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission against Dr. Hall for publishing statements, alone and in collaboration with others, that could be considered hateful, contemptuous and discriminatory," it said in a statement Monday.
Separately, the administration is reviewing complaints made against Hall by members of the university community.
The university said Hall's pay has been reinstated because of how long the Alberta Human Rights Commission might take.
A commission spokeswoman said it could take years for a complaint to be heard by a tribunal.
Susan Coombes said details of complaints are kept confidential unless they proceed to a tribunal. There are a number of ways complaints can be resolved up to that point, she added.
Hall — a tenured professor who has taught Native American studies, liberal education and globalization over his 26 years at the university — said he last week received a letter dated Dec. 19 from university president Michael Mahon informing him of the complaint.
In the letter, which Hall provided to The Canadian Press, Mahon said that aside from pay, all other terms of the suspension remain unchanged. Hall is banned from teaching or supervising students, nor can he conduct research in the name of the university, use his affiliation with the university or set foot on campus.
Hall said the complaint is a way for administration to manoeuvre around its collective agreement with faculty.
"It represents an enormous effort to change the landscape of higher education in Canada," he said.
"I was ripped form the classroom mid-term in October and my students were deprived of the course they chose and the professor they chose."
Both the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association and the Canadian Association of University Teachers criticized Hall's suspension before any official finding of wrongdoing.
Amanda Hohmann with B'nai Brith Canada said she's pleased with how the university has handled the situation and says the reinstatement of Hall's pay isn't a vindication.
"Certainly, we would support anything that means that the complaint would be handled properly and is going to succeed," she said.
"We would hate to see something like this thrown out on a technicality."
Hohmann said Hall's appearance earlier this month on a radio show posted on Stormfront — a white nationalist website that describes itself as a "community of racial realists and idealists" — shows the complaint is not an assault on the institution of tenure, as Hall argues, but a defence of human rights.
"Instead of being repentant or apologizing for his behaviour, he's doubled down and he's gone even further down the rabbit hole of anti-Semitism," said Hohmann.
Hall said his participation in the segment — which touched on his suspension, 9/11 theories and the plight of indigenous people, among other things — was not an endorsement of Stormfront beliefs.
"It must be understood that my position is very different than that of those who would segregate territory based on race," he said.
"I condemn that and I think it's important that we talk across different points of view."
Message from President Mike Mahon to University community - Dr. Anthony Hall suspension
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2016
This notice is from the archives of The Notice Board. Information contained in this notice was accurate at the time of publication but may no longer be so.
As many have heard through media reports, I recently took action to suspend a faculty member, Dr. Anthony Hall, from duties and privileges without pay. This action has not been taken lightly, or without serious consideration, debate and expert legal guidance on appropriate process and the implications for both the faculty member in question, and our university community.
As a University we have made every effort to respect the privacy of Dr. Hall and have told those writing to the University on this issue and to the media that we cannot comment on issues related to the employment of an individual with the University. However, Dr. Hall has chosen to make this issue very public and share through his social media and online channels, and with the media itself, partial details of conversations and actions the University has taken. The University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA) also has chosen to provide commentary direct to the media on this issue.
In order to ensure that there is accurate information available, I can share that the suspension of Dr. Hall was done in accordance with section 22(3) of the Post-secondary Learning Act (PSLA) of the Province of Alberta. Section 22(3) states that, “Subject to any existing agreement, a president may, in the president’s discretion, suspend from duty and privileges any member of the academic staff at the university and shall forthwith report the president’s action and the reasons for it (a) to the board, and (b) to the executive committee of the general faculties council.”
Both the Board of Governors and the Executive Committee of the General Faculties Council were informed of the suspension on October 5, 2016. ULFA, in their recent media commentary, has stated that in their opinion the suspension violates provincial law. As ULFA has been informed, there is nothing in the existing agreement, the Faculty Handbook, that limits the ability of the President to act, or would subordinate the PSLA to the Faculty Handbook. It is therefore lawful and prudent for the University to have taken the actions that I have. While ULFA has a different interpretation of how to apply the PSLA in this instance, they do have the option of requesting a judicial review of the use of Section 22(3) to suspend Dr. Hall.
Again, the decision to suspend Dr. Hall was not made easily or quickly. This action is not focused on Dr. Hall’s published scholarship, driven by complaints of students, or the demands of external advocacy groups. It is focused on his YouTube based videos and comments in social media that have been characterized as being anti-Semitic, supportive of holocaust denial and engagement in conspiracy theories. In sharing and communicating his views such as he has, we have a concern that Dr. Hall has contravened section 3 of the Alberta Human Rights Act, and that he has created an environment that is discriminatory for students and his faculty colleagues whose personal backgrounds, research topics or beliefs are at odds with Dr. Hall’s stated views. The University is reviewing Dr. Hall’s online activities to determine if a complaint to the appropriate Human Rights tribunal is warranted and justifiable and to determine if a discriminatory atmosphere has been created by Dr. Hall.
I acknowledge that this issue is distracting for our community, can be divisive and is bringing uncomfortable attention to our University. It is for this reason that I have chosen to write to the community to provide as much information as I am able. As always, our goal is to work within the values of the University, as noted in our Strategic Plan, to support the communities we serve and create an environment that enables the success of our students, faculty and staff.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Anthony James Hall, a professor at the University of Lethbridge, about former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's remarks that Israel is the main supporter of Takfiri terrorists in the Middle East.
The following is a rough transcription of the interview.
Press TV: How do you feel about Nouri al-Maliki’s statement?
Hall: Well, Nouri al-Maliki [was prime minister] of Iraq from 2006 and 2014. The US turned against him as he ceased to play the role of kind of a puppet leader and began to actually criticize US policy and represent Iraqi people. Here he is observing that Daesh is in fact backed by Israel and of course this is well-known in the Middle East and it’s well-known in Iran but it’s not known at all in the United States, in Europe. This interpretation flies in the face of propaganda we received through Zionist agencies like SITE Intelligence.
And I’m looking at a case where a young black professor at Oberlin College is being persecuted for saying publicly that Israel backs Daesh. So, what the former [prime minister] of Iraq is saying openly and publicly in the United States is treated as a cause for dismissal by prominent university of a young black academic. That to me isn’t new in itself.
Press TV: It is interesting, isn’t it? Because Nouri al-Maliki is actually reflecting what the Iraqi people themselves say in very large numbers, because they even blame the United States for the rise of these Takifiri terrorists as well.
Hall: Especially the United States, and of course, it’s hard to see the difference between Israel and the United States when it comes to this issue. It’s kind of the point of the Zio-American empire. And of course, this propaganda, this is basic to propaganda that started with the false flag terror event on 9/11, which was of course a Zionist job, Israel’s first neo-con job with Benjamin Netanyahu having laid out the scenario way back in 1979.
So, the fact that the former puppet leader set up by the invasion of Iraq, US claimed sovereignty over Iraq and then handed it over to its own representatives, but little by little the Iraqi people are starting to get organized and it looks like Nouri al-Maliki is becoming kind of spokesperson for this indigenous repatriation of Iraq to Iraqis.
For more than a year, Fordham University dragged out the application process for a campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, and then summarily rejected it for its anti-Israel views.
The Catholic university, which already has a Muslim Students Association, is now being warned that it could lose its federal funding for the decision.
Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights wrote to the school Tuesday, arguing that it violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by depriving a since-graduated Palestinian-American student, Ahmad Awad, “the opportunity to share his culture … on an equal basis as other students at Fordham.”
Students applied for club status in November 2015 and expected they would be approved in time to start SJP programming for the spring semester, but nearly a year went by before they had any inkling that ideological objections might sink their club, according to the letter.
Told by administrators in April they only needed to make “boilerplate edits” to the group constitution – particularly the chapter’s relationship to the National Students for Justice in Palestine – the students learned in September 2016 that Dean of Students Keith Eldredge had questions about the chapter’s “proposed programming”:
At the meeting [that followed in October, Director of the Office of Student Leadership Dorothy Wenzel] and Dean Eldredge expressed concern that SJP’s presence would “stir up controversy,” in the same manner that had happened when Professor Norman Finkelstein, whose scholarship supports Palestinian rights, spoke on campus in 2009. Dr. Wenzel and Dean Eldredge asked students if they would consider not using the name “Students for Justice in Palestine” and expressed concern about the club’s support for using the tactic of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) to pressure Israel into respecting Palestinian rights. Dr. Wenzel also said that she spoke to several Jewish faculty members about SJP in the previous academic year, and requested their opinion on whether SJP should be established at Fordham.
Administrators also gave the Jewish Student Organization heads up that SJP’s application would be voted on by the student senate, leading the would-be SJP leaders to complain that the school gave JSO “an undue advantage to mobilize support against us” before it was even formed.
The senate also invited JSO to speak to the body about the SJP application.
Kayla Wolf, the incoming vice president of operations for the student government, also asked whether an anti-BDS executive order by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo or city council resolution condemning BDS would block the formation of SJP, according to the letter.
Though the senate voted to approve the club, saying it “has faith that Students for Justice in Palestine can func'tion on campus respectfully,” Dean Eldredge had trouble making the final call, for lack of “neutral or objective” information about SJP.
At a Dec. 12 meeting, Eldredge asked two would-be SJP members what BDS means to them – in particular “the dissolution of the state of Israel” – as well as why they describe Israeli actions as “apartheid” and if SJP works with Jewish groups including J Street.
The last day of the semester, 13 months after its application, Eldredge rejected the club:
I cannot support an organization whose sole purpose is advocating political goals of a specific group, and against a specific country, when these goals clearly conflict with and run contrary to the mission and values of the University. … Specifically, the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel presents a barrier to open dialogue and mutual learning and understanding. In a statement announcing their vote to approve the club, United Student Government at Lincoln Center acknowledged the need for open, academic discussion and the promotion of intellectual rigor on campus; however, I disagree that the proposal to form a club affiliated with the national Students for Justice in Palestine organization is the best way to provide this.
Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights blasted Eldredge’s reasoning as a violation of Fordham’s own mission statement:
It is clear, as reflected by comments from Fordham administrators, that Ahmad, [Redacted], and the students interested in starting SJP were delayed over a year, interrogated, railroaded and ultimately censored because some students and faculty disagree with SJP’s viewpoint supporting Palestinian rights, or received pressure from individuals and groups against Palestinian rights. …
When Fordham treats a particular viewpoint in a disparate manner based on how much controversy the viewpoint could provoke, it blatantly violates its promise to guarantee freedom of inquiry on campus. When Dean Eldredge decides that BDS is too polarizing to allow students to debate it, he makes a mockery of “rigorous thinking.”
To allow students with one political viewpoint to block the speech of those with whom they disagree is a further insult to Fordham’s guarantee of open inquiry.
The letter demands Fordham immediately approve the club’s formation, apologize in writing to the organizers and “issue a written statement” saying Fordham guarantees “the right to engage in controversial speech.”
In a press release, Palestine Legal staff attorney Radhika Sainath said banning SJP would be like Fordham banning the College Republicans because “no one’s more polarizing than President-elect Donald Trump.”
Fordham refuses to recognize Students for Justice in Palestine chapter as an official club, citing its political agenda and the risk of polarization.
By Elizabeth Redden
January 18, 2017
Fordham University has denied an application to form a Students for Justice in Palestine chapter on campus, citing as its rationale the group's political goals -- including its support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel -- and the potential for polarization.
Keith Eldredge, the dean of students at the Manhattan campus of Fordham, a Jesuit institution, outlined the reasons for the denial in a Dec. 22 email (a slightly redacted version is available here). “While students are encouraged to promote diverse political points of view, and we encourage conversation and debate on all topics, I cannot support an organization whose sole purpose is advocating political goals of a specific group, and against a specific country, when these goals clearly conflict with and run contrary to the mission and values of the university,” Eldredge wrote.
“There is perhaps no more complex topic than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it is a topic that often leads to polarization rather than dialogue,” Eldredge’s letter continues. “The purpose of the organization as stated in the proposed club constitution points toward that polarization. Specifically, the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel presents a barrier to open dialogue and mutual learning and understanding.”
The civil rights and legal advocacy organizations Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights first publicized the email from Eldredge as part of an 11-page joint letter to Fordham's president they released on Tuesday. The letter describes in detail a protracted application process for the students who proposed the club -- they first submitted an application in November 2015 -- and outlines the types of questions they report facing from administrators about their political beliefs and their plans to collaborate with Jewish organizations on campus. Those questions included "What does BDS mean to you?" "Does BDS mean the dissolution of the state of Israel?" and "Why use the term 'apartheid'?"
Students for Justice in Palestine chapters across the country have regularly attracted controversy with, for example, their programming marking "Israeli Apartheid Week" or with "mock eviction" events meant to draw attention to the removal of Palestinians from their homes. In its profile of the organization, the Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights group focused on anti-Semitism, describes SJP as "the primary organizer of anti-Israel events on U.S. college campuses and the group most responsible for bringing divestment resolutions to votes in front of student governments." ADL writes that "since its founding in 2001, SJP has consistently demonized Israel, describing Israeli policies toward the Palestinians as racist and apartheid-like, and comparing Israelis to Nazis or Israel to the Jim Crow-era U.S."
Yet SJP has organized on many campuses, with many college and university leaders viewing the group as a part of the student organizing landscape (one that often includes pro-Israel groups). Various SJP chapters have had run-ins with college administrators before -- Palestine Legal has written previously about what it describes as the differential treatment of student groups that focus on Palestinian issues, writing in a 2015 report that "universities often respond to complaints from Israel advocacy groups by investigating and disproportionately disciplining students and student groups for events and actions in support of Palestinian rights" -- but Radhika Sainath, a staff attorney for the organization, said this is the first case of which they're aware in which a SJP chapter has been pre-emptively banned.
"All evidence indicates that the denial was based on the viewpoint of students’ message and/or their national origin," the joint letter from Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights states. The letter observes that all four of the original applicants for the SJP chapter's executive board were students of color, three were Muslim and one was Palestinian-American.
The letter continues, "The denial violates free speech and association principles, the university’s commitment to protect free inquiry, and could give rise to a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act," which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, which advocates for free speech on campuses, has also taken an interest in the case and plans to send its own letter to Fordham, according to Ari Cohn, the director of FIRE's individual rights defense program. "In this case, I think that the justification for denying SJP recognition is completely without merit and cannot stand at any university that proclaims that it values freedom of expression, which Fordham’s written policies do," said Cohn.
Cohn noted that Fordham has chapters of the College Democrats and College Republicans, both of which advocate for specific political goals. "The fact that the group [SJP] is oriented toward advocating a specific political viewpoint is not out of the ordinary, and student organizations at every campus across the country do just that," Cohn said. "It’s a little bit baffling to see that justification used to deny a student organization recognition."
Eldredge, the dean of students who wrote the email outlining the reasons for the denial, referred an interview request to a college spokesman, Bob Howe, who issued a written statement. "Fordham has no registered student clubs the sole focus of which is the political agenda of one nation, against another nation," the statement said. "For the university's purposes, the country of origin of the student organizers is irrelevant, as is their particular political stance. The narrowness of Students for Justice in Palestine's political focus makes it more akin to a lobbying group than a student club. Regardless of the club’s status, students, faculty and staff are of course free to voice their opinions on Palestine, or any other issue."
Ahmad Awad, a graduating senior at Fordham and the would-be president of the SJP chapter, said the group is still pushing for recognition on campus. He said Eldredge's reasoning for denying the organization club status is contradictory to Fordham's mission statement, which articulates a commitment to freedom of inquiry and to the promotion of justice and protection of human rights.
"Yet we were declined when that's what we were trying to advocate for," said Awad. "We’re advocating for a free Palestinian people. We’re advocating for a Palestinian people who are not oppressed and occupied."
The school’s administration has vetoed the student government’s vote to approve SJP for club status. Not only does this move violate free speech principles and civil rights protections, but it also disrespects the authority of the student governing body. It is also a direct attack on Palestine solidarity activism.
We are calling on all those who fight for justice to stand with us as we resist this shameful decision by Fordham University. We need your solidarity and support. We cannot allow this attack on student activists. It’s an attack on our entire community.