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Posts

FFIPP-UK Newsletter, 18th September 2007

This newsletter contains the following:

1. An update on the UCU resolution and forthcoming UCU action
2. Academic Freedom in Palestine/ Israeli academic responses
3. Middle East politics in the groves of academe
a) De Paul University – latest on the Norman Finkelstein affair and the subsequent Larudee affair
b) Barnard tenure dispute: Dr Au El-Haj and her book ‘Facts on the Ground: Archeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society’
4. “Ariel University Center of Samaria”, formerly the College of Judea & Samaria – update
5. Christian Peacemakers’ Team report
6. More on FFIPP-UK Seminar “Antisemitism & Israel: Responding to Censorship – Freedom, Speech and Action”

* Update on FFIPP-UK Books Project

1. An update on the UCU resolution and forthcoming UCU action

In response to continued misrepresentation of the current situation, the union stresses that there is at present no academic boycott in place, merely that it is committed to organising a debate in the branches about the pros and cons of boycott. The way in which this debate will be held can be found it the UCU circular 34 of 7th August 2007 “Guidance to branches and local associations on the circulation and debate of a call to boycott Israeli academic institutions”.

This mentions a number of regional meetings to take place in October at which ‘legitimate representatives of both Israeli and Palestinian educators’ will be present, and how union member may apply for tickets to these meetings – which are likely to be oversubscribed. The provisional timetable for these regional meetings is for them to begin on 15 October with meetings in Southampton (15th), Cardiff (16th), Birmingham (17th), London (18th), Manchester (22nd) and Glasgow (23rd).

Many articles and contributions have appeared for, against and around the boycott. To follow the debates you can consult the following websites:
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel – and its link to A Survey of Diverse Approaches to Ethical Economic Engagement Adopted by Groups and Individuals Worldwide, Palestine-Israel Action Group (PIAG), August 2007
Engage Online for materials and argument against the boycott
The British Committee for Universities of Palestine seems not to be posting new materials at present

2. Academic Freedom in Palestine/ Israeli academic responses

“…I do not mean that we cannot invoke academic freedom in the abstract to show its absence in certain political conditions: we can and we must. But it makes no sense to value the doctrine in the abstract if we cannot call for its implementation. As an abstraction, it makes sense only in reference to the possibility of its implementation. If the exercise of academic freedom ceases or is actively thwarted, that freedom is lost, which is why checkpoints are and should be an issue for anyone who defends a notion of academic freedom.”
Judith Butler
Israel/Palestine and the Paradoxes of Academic Freedom
at http://www.ffipp-uk.org/foto_papers/butler_FOTO_revised.pdf

And checkpoints are not the only restrictions, as palestinian lecturers and students are not even free to move between different Palestinian Universities. Whatever one thinks of the merits or otherwise of an academic boycott, the relative silence of the Israeli academy in the face of violations of Palestinian academic freedom are extremely disturbing (in stark contrast to the speed with which they and their supporters internationally respond to any threats of boycott). Here are some articles discussing the issue, more or less polemically, but generally include information about realities on the ground.

a) Margaret Aziza PappanoThe ivory tower behind the Apartheid Wall

Electronic Intifada, 25 July 2007

Some extracts:

‘Surely if university presidents are up in arms over a proposed boycott of Israeli academics, they must have something to say about the shutting down of universities, jailing and shooting of students and faculty, daily impeding of students and faculty from getting to classes, denial of student permits to attend universities, and revoking of visas to visiting scholars and researchers that characterizes academic life in Palestine. If a boycott of academic institutions is considered unfair, what does one call the methodical destruction of an educational system?’

‘The university presidents might argue that they are prepared to defend the rights of any group, not just Israelis, to academic freedom. As Tom Traves, President of Dalhousie writes in his statement, “Universities do not have foreign policies and they must assert their right always to be independent of government dictates in the name of short-term political agendas.” Yet, when university presidents have allowed numerous violations of academic freedom to Palestinians to pass without comment, they must realize that their statements, rather than “defending the freedom of individuals” as they claim, function precisely as politicized pronouncements in support of the Israeli regime. You cannot let decades of gross injustices to one side pass and then suddenly leap to the defense of the other side without implicating yourself in a political position.’

‘There are other tactics aside from a boycott open to us as academics for addressing the suffering of Palestinians in the occupied territories. A university community might well decide upon a different strategy. Recently New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman suggested that universities would do better to educate Palestinian students, establish exchanges, and send faculty to teach in Palestinian universities. I think that these are great ideas and hope that Israel will agree with Friedman and no longer refuse to issue or arbitrarily revoke visas of visiting faculty and prevent Palestinian students and academics from attending meetings abroad. I am certain that “an open exchange of ideas” on university campuses will lead to a lot of different and creative suggestions for considering how we, as academics, can contribute towards improving the plight of our Palestinian colleagues and supporting our Israeli colleagues in doing the same. But let’s not condemn the boycott out of hand before that discussion has taken place.’

b) Amjad Barham, “Silence means a boycott is justified”

‘Israeli academics are not standing up for their Palestinian counterparts, and a boycott is the best way forward, says Amjad Barham’

Full article at http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/comment/story/0,,2087130,00.html

c) Sharif Hamadeh One Hand Clapping: Applauding Tolerance and Pluralism in Israeli Academia

An older piece that appeared in response to the April 2005 AUT decision, Adalah’s Newsletter, Volume 13, May 2005

‘There are good reasons why Palestinians at Israeli universities have not been heard applauding the tolerance and liberalism of these institutions. For a start, there aren’t many of them. Although Palestinian citizens of Israel comprise approximately 20% of the population in Israel, according to official data, “non-Jews” comprise 9.5 percent of undergraduates, 4.8 percent of students in Masters’ programs, and 3.2 percent of students in doctoral degree programs. Moreover, as the civic-equality group Sikkuy has acknowledged, a “non-Jewish” applicant is three times more likely to be rejected from university than a Jewish candidate. As for the number of Palestinian academic staff in Israeli universities, at the last count, that figure was found to be a paltry one percent.
More disturbing still is the reluctance to improve accessibility for aspiring Arab students…’

d) The Case for Academic Boycott against Israel publication from the Alternative Information Center (AIC)

In this raft document the AIC argues that ‘not only have Israeli academic institutions not publicly condemned Israel’s occupation, but that these very institutions are themselves part and parcel of Israel’s colonial system of oppression against the Palestinians… [It] provides specific and documented examples of how Israel’s academic institutions discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel by restricting their enrollment; persecuting them for political involvement; gagging their freedom of expression and actively working to keep international students away from their towns and villages, amongst others. It further highlights how several of the institutions are themselves part of Israel’s settlement project, being located in the West Bank, founded on the ruins of a demolished Palestinian village or expanding onto Palestinian-owned land illegally occupied in 1967.’

3. Middle East politics in the groves of academe

a) De Paul University – latest on the Norman Finkelstein affair and the subsequent Larudee affair

Inside Higher Ed reported on 6th September – :

“Wednesday [5th September] was supposed to be the day of the big showdown at DePaul University. Instead it turned out to be the day of the big compromise. DePaul and Norman Finkelstein, the professor to whom it had denied tenure, announced that he was resigning immediately. The university and Finkelstein even managed to say some nice things about one another. But while Finkelstein will be leaving, some at the university and elsewhere believe that significant academic freedom issues raised by his case are very much alive.”

The exact terms of the agreement remain confidential, but at a press conference Wednesday [ see below ] Finkelstein reminded the assembled supporters that the denial of tenure to Professor Mehrene Larudee remains ‘an open wound’ at DePaul.

Fuller report

The Muzzlewatch report links to this:

September 05, 2007

Joint statement of Norman Finkelstein and DePaul University on their tenure controversy and its resolution

Norman Finkelstein and DePaul University issued the following statement today in connection with the resolution of their dispute over the University’s denial of tenure to Professor Finkelstein. Except for this statement there will be no public comment regarding the resolution of our controversy or the terms of our agreement.

From Professor Finkelstein: I came to DePaul University in 2001 and was put on a tenure-track position in 2003. To get tenure I had to demonstrate a credible record as a teacher, scholar, and citizen of the university. During my six year stint at DePaul I consistently received among the highest student evaluations in my department. I have published five books to critical acclaim from leading scholars, and they have been translated into 46 foreign editions. I have been recognized as a public intellectual at many of the leading universities in the United States and Europe and have become an internationally recognized scholar in my academic specialties. Based on this record, I should have received tenure. Indeed, after extensive scrutiny of my academic credentials, my department voted overwhelmingly to tenure me as did the college-level tenure committee, which voted unanimously in my favor. The only inference that I can draw is that I was denied tenure due to external pressures climaxing in a national hysteria that tainted the tenure process. The outpouring of support for me after the tenure denial from among the most respected scholars in the world buttresses this conclusion.

Although DePaul’s decision to deny me tenure was a bitter blow, I would be remiss in my responsibilities if I did not also acknowledge DePaul’s honorable role of providing a scholarly haven for me the past six years. It is a fact, and I would want to acknowledge it, that the DePaul administration kept me on its faculty despite overwhelming external pressures. It is also a fact that my professional colleagues displayed rare rectitude in steadfastly supporting me. It is also a fact that DePaul students rose to dazzling spiritual heights in my defense that should be the envy of and an example for every university in the United States. I will miss them.

It is now time for me to move on and hopefully find new ways to fulfill my own mission in life of making this world a slightly better place on leaving it than when I entered it.

From DePaul: Today we have reached a resolution of our dispute with Professor Norman Finkelstein. As a part of that resolution he has agreed to resign effective immediately. With this issue behind us, we can once again turn our full attention and energy to discharging our most important duty: the education of DePaul students, who have placed in us their trust and faith.

Granting tenure is a guarantee of lifetime employment. DePaul’s standards for tenure are demonstrated and sustainable excellence in teaching and scholarship as well as meaningful service to the University. Every DePaul faculty member seeking tenure is evaluated by the same standards: it is an evaluation of faculty conducted by faculty.

Throughout the tenure process, our faculty ensured that the established standards for tenure were their only consideration. Upon receiving the recommendations from the lower level faculty committees, the University Board on Promotion and Tenure – DePaul’s highest academic committee – voted to deny Professor Finkelstein tenure, and the President of DePaul accepted that vote. We understand that Professor Finkelstein and his supporters disagree with the University Board on Promotion and Tenure’s conclusion that he did not meet the requirements for tenure. The system is designed to give every applicant the same opportunity to achieve tenure, and has proven to be fair and effective. In every tenure case, the final decision is one of balancing the various arguments for and against tenure.

Professor Finkelstein has expressed the view that he should have been granted tenure and that third parties external to the University influenced DePaul in denying tenure. That is not so. Over the past several months, there has been considerable outside interest about the tenure decision. This attention was unwelcome and inappropriate. In the end, however, it had absolutely no impact on either the process or the final outcome.

Professor Finkelstein is a prolific scholar and an outstanding teacher. The University thanks him for his contributions and service.

Both parties are satisfied with the resolution of their dispute and wish each other well in their future endeavors.

On Prof Larudee:

The Chronicle of Higher Education wrote about Larudee:
“Our jaws just dropped, hit the floor, when we saw the decision went the other way.”
–Michael A. McIntyre, director, DePaul’s program of international studies, in response to denial of tenure to Dr. Mehrene Larudee.
Another professor at DePaul University was rejected for tenure at the same time as Norman G. Finkelstein, and she believes her advocacy for the embattled political scientist may have derailed her career.

“There is no good explanation for why I was denied tenure,” Mehrene E. Larudee, an assistant professor of international studies, said in an interview on Monday. “So one has to look elsewhere.”

Praised as “outstanding” by the dean of her college and recommended unanimously by distinguished faculty peers during the tenure process, Ms. Larudee was 19 days away from becoming director of DePaul’s program in international studies when she learned on Friday of the decision against her.

(Larudee is a member of the Chicago chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).)

[The material on Larudee comes from JVP at http://www.democracyinaction.org/dia/organizations/jvfp/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=12504

3b) Barnard tenure dispute Dr Au El-Haj and her book ‘Facts on the Ground: Archeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society’

Karen W. Arenson, “Fracas Erupts Over Book on Mideast by a Barnard Professor Seeking Tenure”, New York Times, September 10, 2007

‘A tenure bid by an assistant professor of anthropology at Barnard College who has critically examined the use of archaeology in Israel has put Columbia University once again at the center of a struggle over scholarship on the Middle East.

The professor, Nadia Abu El-Haj, who is of Palestinian descent, has been at Barnard since 2002 and has won many awards and grants, including a Fulbright scholarship and fellowships at Harvard and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. Barnard has already approved her for tenure, officials said, and forwarded its recommendation to Columbia University, its affiliate, which has the final say.’

4. “Ariel University Center of Samaria”, formerly the College of Judea & Samaria – update

(a) Bill Templer Oppose the New “Settler University” Monthly Review Press, 11th August 2007

This is the most comprehensive history and analysis of this new self-proclaimed university currently available in English.

Some of the history:
‘The College of Judea and Samaria was founded in 1982 in the “radical messianic” Gush Emunim settlement Kedumim, the self-styled “vanguard of the Jewish resettlement of Samaria” on the hills outside Palestinian Nablus. The College functioned initially as a branch of Bar-Ilan University… The College was relocated to Ariel in 1991 and has functioned there until recently as a branch of the Orthodox religious Bar-Ilan University, whose main campus is located in Ramat Gan east of Tel Aviv. With some 9,500 students, the CJS has been the largest public college in Israel, part of its rationale in now reinventing itself as a “University” no longer formally affiliated with Bar-Ilan U. The Israeli Supreme Court rejected a petition earlier this year brought by progressive academics seeking an injunction to prevent CJS from acquiring university status, seeing this as a move in the politics of West Bank settlement.

‘Reflecting deep antinomies between different segments of the Israeli political class, Education Minister Yuli Tamir and some officials of the Council for Higher Education (CHE) in Israel say this self-initiated change is misguided, misleading, and unjustified; indeed Minister Tamir is irate. The CHE, with authority for all tertiary education inside the “Green Line,” has officially declared it does not recognize this unilateral decision and will not deal with any requests from the Ariel campus as a self-designated “University Center.” But apparently CJS has the legal permits to declare itself the “Ariel University Center of Samaria.” It operates technically under the aegis of the separate Council for Higher Education-Judea and Samaria, which does not function under laws binding inside the Green Line and the CHE that functions there.

‘Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc), Peace Now, and a number of other progressive groups in Israel are now organizing to counter this unilateral move by CJS. A first joint protest was held at the campus on 3 August 2007.’

(b) On 10th August 2007 Ha’aretz reported that:

The heads of the Council for Higher Education and the council committee responsible for the budgets of academic institutions do not recognize last week’s announcement by the College of Judea and Samaria that it is now a “university center.” …

Yigal Cohen-Orgad, who heads the institution’s executive committee, said he was “very surprised that the education minister is acting in contrast to what she publicly committed to, which is to act only within the framework of the law.

“All the steps to upgrade the college were carried out precisely in accordance with the directives of the deputy attorney general,” he said. “According to legal opinions we have, there was no need to get the approval of the military commander.”

5. Christian Peacemakers’ Team report

Two informal reports (here and here) from the Christian Peacemakers’ Team member Seán O’Neill were published on the Just Peace UK website in July. They are an interesting personal account from someone who went on the orientation course for international students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Some extracts:

When I went to the orientation for international students at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, I expected the ethos to be pro-Israeli. However, I was taken back by the level of propaganda and fear mongering.

“Never get on the Arab bus. It doesn’t go anywhere you want to go.”

“Where is it safe to go in East Jerusalem?” (East Jerusalem is the older, Palestinian part of the city.) “As for the Old City, you’ll be all right in the Jewish quarter,” he explained. “The Christian and Muslim quarters however are iffy, and at night they’re not safe. As for the rest of East Jerusalem, stay away. There’s just nothing for you to see there.”

. When I tell many of my fellow students that I stay on the Mount of Olives, a Palestinian neighborhood near campus, their eyes open wide and their faces tighten, as if I’m either crazy or in imminent danger. When I explain that I work in the West Bank, and go there often to visit friends, their jaws drop.”

6. More on FFIPP-UK Seminar “Antisemitism & Israel: Responding to Censorship – Freedom, Speech and Action”

Papers from this seminar are available on the website

Rosemary Bechler has produced a follow-up paper in response to Robert Fine’s critique.
Further contributions will also be posted on this site.

* Update on FFIPP-UK Books Project

We are very grateful to the UCU for including the following in their ‘Campaigns Update, 14th September 2007′:

Books for Palestine

UCU is a supporter of FFIPP, the Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, which is a network of network of Palestinian, Israeli, and International academics and reseachers working for an end to the occupation and for a just peace. In Gaza in particular, universities have been closed for prolonged periods and students prevented from traveling to university to study. Universities in Gaza are also starved of resources. As part of their work to promote academic freedom in the occupied territories, FFIPP are collecting books and donations to help buy study resources.

You can help by
• donating books (English is widely used) – all kinds and levels welcome, but introductory textbooks are particularly needed – up-to-date and in excellent condition please
• donating money – so that we can buy books that are specifically requested and contribute to shipping costs;
• acting as a local agent – as a focal point for donations in your college, university or department.
For more information on how you can help, please email Richard Kuper at books@ffipp-uk.org

We will be sending out an appeal for books to all on our mailing list and well beyond in the next few weeks. If you are interested in helping in any way please email us.

 

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