Electronic Intifada, Nora Barrows-Friedman, Feb 18, 2012
The California State University (CSU) system has sent a letter in response to a Zionist group, rejecting their claim that Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian and a frequent contributor to The Electronic Intifada, should not receive CSU sponsorship during his upcoming campus tour because of his criticism of Israeli policies.
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin and Leila Beckwith, professors and co-founders of theAMCHA initiative, appealed to the CSU chancellor and the presidents of CSU-Northridge, Cal Poly, and CSU-Fresno, urging them to “revoke sponsorship of Ilan Pappe’s tour.”
As I reported last month, Rossman-Benjamin and Beckwith are at the forefront of a campaign to discredit and punish professors who speak out against Israeli policies. Their targets include CSU-Northridge professor David Klein, who has been under attack from AMCHA for his outspoken support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and for his organizing against CSU’s resumption of the Israel study abroad program.
In their appeal to the CSU administration, AMCHA wrote:
As you may know, Ilan Pappe is an Israeli Jew who harbors deep animus towards the Jewish state, has publicly called for its elimination, and engages in activities to harm its citizens, such as a campaign to boycott Israeli academics, which he helped to found. In addition, he openly supports the terrorist organization Hamas and falsely accuses Israel of “crimes against humanity,” including “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing.”
Pappe has readily acknowledged that his “scholarship” is driven by his anti-Israel political agenda, and his historical writings have been repudiated by numerous eminent scholars of Israel and the Middle East. Moreover, much of the rhetoric Pappe uses to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state is anti-Semitic according to the working definition of anti-Semitism employed by the U.S. State Department, as is the academic boycott which he promotes in his talks and writings.
Although we are dismayed that Ilan Pappe is coming to speak at three CSU campuses, our concern is not with the events per se, but rather with the fact that these events are being organized and promoted by faculty and administrators of the California State University system, using the name, resources, and imprimatur of CSU, in order to vilify and harm the Jewish state and its supporters.
The letter included dramatic claims that professors who have organized Pappe’s lectures “have been permitted to exploit their University positions and taxpayer-funded University resources to promote their hatred of the Jewish state and their efforts to harm it.”
Additionally, the AMCHA initiative wrote that the lecture tour is in “clear violation of the will and intention of the CSU Trustees who formally resolved that ‘outside speakers brought to the campus will contribute to educational values, that is the pursuit of truth and citizenship values, and not be brought in for propagandizing purposes.’ Indeed, this resolution of the CSU Trustees introduces CSUF’s 2005 policy on outside speakers and events.”
They go on, wanting to appear as though they’re not asking to censor Pappe:
Please understand that we are NOT asking that these three events be cancelled or that Ilan Pappe be censored. Rather, we are calling on you to rescind all CSUF, Cal Poly, and CSUN sponsorship and support from the Ilan Pappe events, for the following reasons:
… These events are in violation of CSU policy and the California Education Code (89005.5), which prohibit the use of the name of any CSU campus for the support, endorsement, or advancement of political or partisan activity or program, with “boycott” specifically named.
The fact that events which will undoubtedly foment hatred of the Jewish state and its supporters are being organized and promoted by University faculty, senior administrators, departments, and colleges cannot help but create a hostile environment for Jewish students at CSUF, Cal Poly, and CSUN, in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
However, despite their hysterical pleas and citation of codes to fit their specific purpose of silencing dissent and discussion on campuses, CSU decided to unanimously stand up for academic freedom and dismissed AMCHA’s pressure. CSU officials stated in a letter, posted below:
Universities are charged with teaching students how to think for themselves. This includes accessing and processing knowledge and ideas and considering, discussing and debating them.
… There is no danger to a free society in allowing opposing views to be heard. The danger, instead, is in censoring them. It is easy to support free speech when we agree with what is being said. The real test is when we are asked to defend the expression of views with which we disagree.
Ilan Pappe’s CSU tour begins next week.