McCarthyism Strikes Again

It’s a sad week for Academic and Cultural Freedom. And it’s only Thursday. Here are some highlights this week. First, a reminder of the situation of the situation of Professor Ward Churchill, who is another casualty of the new McCarthyism in American universities post-9/11. For those of you who are not familiar with this important scholar of Native American Studies, you can read up on Churchill’s blog. In a nutshell,
Churchill wrote an op-ed piece published online by Dark Night Field Notes, hypothesizing some of the possible reasons for 9/11 (this was later published as On the Justice of Roosting Chickens: Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and Criminality. It is this writing that began the controversy over his termination from the University of Colorado. Last week (March 29th) there was an article in the Boulder campus faculty newspaper Silver and Gold Record that stated the promotion and tenure decision would be submitted to university President Hank Brown. For those who want to help Churchill, go to Defend Dissent and Critical Thinking on Campus.

Cut to the next academic scenario: two days ago I received word that Norman Finkelstein was denied tenure by the dean even though his department and college (a faculty of peers) recommended him for tenure at DePaul University in Chicago. Finkelstein’s work is some of the most important, careful, methodical scholarship and his voices is one of the most important voices for those seeking clarity on the subject of Palestine, Israel, and U.S. Zionism. Although the decision is not yet final, any independent scholars, academics or others who would like to sign a letter to the President of DePaul University, please email me by April 10th (please include your name, title, affiliation if applicable).

The next scenario is something that did not take place in the U.S., but rather in Bahrain; it should be a reminder of the direction the U.S. is going in when it comes to the freedom of artistic and intellectual expression. One of my favorite musicians, Marcel Khalife, along with Qassim Haddad, performed in Bahrain during the first week of March in the Spring of Culture Festival, organized by the Bahraini Ministry of Information. Some fundamentalist members of the Bahraini parliament stated that the Khalife and Haddad violated Sharia law, stating that there were sexually inappropriate aspects of the performance which were offensive to Muslims. On March 13th the Bahraini Parliament voted to investigate the issue. Khalife was previously accussed of writing music that is inconsistent with Islamic values when he was accused of using a verse from a sura in the Qur’an in one of his songs.

And from the so-called democracy in the Middle East where freedom of expression is purported to be respected, Professor Ilan Pappe is officially leaving Haifa. Pappe, whose recent book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine is the crème de la crème of his scholarship, told The Jerusalem Post that “he is moving to the UK because it is ‘increasingly difficult to live in Israel’ with his ‘unwelcome views and convictions.'”

All of this comes on the heels of US Speaker of the House’s visit to Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. It was particularly distressing to see her come to Beirut. We were in the midst of planning a demonstration against her when we were told she wouldn’t arrive until today, but then she surprised us with a visit here on Tuesday. While the story in the mass media seems to be either focused on her discussion of Lebanon’s failure to disarm Hezbollah in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1701 (of course she never said anything about Israel’s almost daily over flights into Lebanon which serve to terrorize people here nor did she say one word about Shaaba Farms or Ghajar, Lebanese territories still occupied by Israel). Or the mass media is focusing on Bush’s reprimand over her visit to Syria, which seems to me to be equally irrelevant. Somehow no one seems to think her speech before the Knesset is important here. In this speech she went on about meeting with families of the soldiers who were taken in Gaza and Lebanon. Did she visit any of the families in Palestine or Lebanon who were victims of last summer’s war or Israel’s most recent incursion into Gaza or Nablus? Did she visit any of the victims of American-made cluster munitions in Lebanon? It seems to me that Pelosi sent no mixed messages when she was here. For even her trip in Syria, as it has been reported, seems to have focused on opening talks between Syria and Israel. Just what we need another Arab state to sell out Palestinians by making their own deal with Israel.

Finally, it’s great that the English soldiers will be leaving Iran and going home. But it bears repeating: Israel should learn its lesson from this episode. Diplomacy can and does work. You do not need to destroy a people and its country in order to get your soldiers returned to you.

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