Feb

16

Academic Freedom, Palestine and SDS All Before Lunch

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Today, a group of faculty members sent a letter with 120 professor signatures regarding PrezBo’s “silence regarding academic freedom in Palestine.” While the last Israel/Palestine student rally may not have exactly been of 1968-proportions (ah, but what is these days), the faculty list has many well-known professors, including Lila Abu-Lughod, Gil Anidjar, Richard Bulliet, Yinon Cohen, Victoria de Grazia, Rashid Khalidi, Philip Kitcher, Mark Mazower, Bruce Robbins, Gayatri Spivak, and Michael Taussig. 

Several campus groups, including Students for a Democratic Society, have also been forwarding the email to several political and activist groups on campus with the hope that they can accumulate a “sizable list of student signatures” to add to their 107-person-and-growing Student, Alumni and Community Support list. The student list will not, however, be presented to Bollinger.

The full letter and faculty list can be found after the jump. UPDATE: Our post originally reported that the letter had been made public by SDS. In fact, according to SDS members, the letter was created by “faculty have passed it on to students, who have forwarded it around.” (Photo by LPM)


Dear President Bollinger,

On a number of occasions since becoming president of Columbia University you have expressed your views in public on questions of academic freedom in the Middle East. Yet you have remained silent on the actions by Israel that deny that freedom to Palestinians.

These actions include Israel’s continuing blockade of Gaza, the imposing of barriers, checkpoints, and closures around and within the West Bank that make academic life unworkable, the denial of exit visas to Palestinian scholars offered fellowships abroad or invited to international conferences, including scholars invited to Columbia, and the recent three-week war against Gaza that included not only the bombing of Palestinian schools and colleges, with great loss of life, but the widespread destruction of the material and social fabric on which academic life depends.

We, as Columbia and Barnard faculty, ask you now to make public your opposition to these actions and your support for the academic freedom of Palestinians.

Faculty Signatures

1. Lila Abu-Lughod, Anthropology and IRWaG

2. Bashir Abu-Manneh, English

3. Nadia Abuelhaj, Anthropology

4. Qais Al-Awqati, Medicine and Physiology & Cellular Biophysics

5. David Z Albert, Philosophy

6. Alexander Alland, Jr., Anthropology

7. Paul Anderer, East Asian Languages and Cultures

8. Gil Anidjar, MEALAC / Religion

9. Zainab Bahrani, Art History and Archaeology

10. Peter Bearman, Sociology

11. Robert Beauregard, Urban Planning

12. Lee Anne Bell, Education

13. Elizabeth Bernstein, Sociology

14. Akeel Bilgrami, Philosophy

15. Brian Boyd, Anthropology

16. Richard W. Bulliet, History

17. Allison Busch, MEALAC

18. Partha Chatterjee, Anthropology and MEALAC

19. Yinon Cohen, Sociology

20. John Collins, Philosophy

21. M. Elaine Combs-Schilling, Anthropology

22. Susan Crane, English and Comparative Literature

23. Jonathan Crary, Art History

24. Louis Cristillo, International and Transcultural Studies

25. Zoe Crossland, Anthropology

26. Ayca Cubukcu, Postdoctoral Scholar, Committee on Global Thought

27. Hamid Dabashi, MEALAC

28. E. Valentine Daniel, Anthropology

29. Mamadou Diouf, MEALAC and History

30. Madeleine Dobie, French

31. Karen Van Dyck, Classics

32. Brent Edwards, English and Comparative Literature

33. Mona El-Ghobashy, Political Science

34. Marwa Elshakry, History

35. Oguz Erdur, Anthropology

36. Elizabeth Esch, History

37. Gil Eyal, Sociology

38. Bernard Faure, Religion; EALAC

39. Kenneth Frampton, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

40. Katherine Franke, Law School

41. Shawn-Marie Garrett, Theatre

42. Stathis Gourgouris, English and Comparative Literature

43. Victoria de Grazia, History

44. Patricia E. Grieve, Spanish and Portuguese

45. Kim F. Hall, Africana Studies Program

46. Saskia Hamilton, English

47. Ross Hamilton, English

48. Saidiya Hartman, English and Comparative Literature and IRWAG

49. John Stratton Hawley, Religion

50. Angie Heo, Anthropology

51. Anne Higonnet, Art History

52. Marianne Hirsch, English and Comparative Literature, IRWaG

53. Martha Howell, History

54. Andreas Huyssen, Germanic Languages

55. Maire Jaanus, English & Comparative Literature

56. Janet Jakobsen, Women’s Studies

57. Natalie Kampen, Women’s Studies

58. Ousmane Kane, Department of International and Public Affairs

59. Joel Kaye, Barnard History

60. Nanor Kenderian, MEALAC

61. Rashid I. Khalidi, History

62. Philip Kitcher, Philosophy

63. Brian Larkin, Anthropology

64. Lydia Liu, East Asian Languages and Cultures

65. Sylvere Lotringer, French Literature

66. Mahmood Mamdani, Anthropology, Political Science, MEALAC

67. Gregory Mann, History

68. Sharon Marcus, English

69. Peter Marcuse, Urban Planning

70. J. Paul Martin, Human Rights Studies

71. Joseph Massad, MEALAC

72. Mark Mazower, History

73. Mary McLeod, Architecture

74. Christia Mercer, Philosophy

75. Brinkley Messick, Anthropology

76. Marc Van De Mieroop, History

77. Peter B. Milburn, MD, Dermatology

78. Monica Miller, English

79. Timothy Mitchell, MEALAC

80. D. Max Moerman, Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures

81. Rosalind Morris, Anthropology

82. Mahmut Mutman, ICLS, Visiting Scholar

83. Mira Nair, Graduate Film School

84. Mae Ngai, History

85. Richard Pena, Film Division, School of the Arts

86. Pablo Piccato, History

87. Peter G. Platt, English

88. Sheldon Pollock, MEALAC

89. Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Anthropology & Gender Studies

90. Wayne Proudfoot, Religion

91. Noha Radwan, MEALAC

92. Anupama Rao, History

93. Sanjay Reddy, Economics

94. Bruce Robbins, English

95. Nan Rothschild, Anthropology

96. Carol Rovane, Philosophy

97. George Saliba, MEALAC

98. James Schamus, Film Division

99. David Scott, Anthropology

100. Karen Seeley, Anthropology

101. Joseph Slaughter, English

102. Herbert Sloan, History

103. Alisa Solomon, Journalism

104. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, English

105. David Stark, Sociology and SIPA

106. Anders Stephanson, History

107. Paul Strohm, English

108. Timea K. Szell, English

109. Neferti Tadiar, Women’s Studies

110. Michael T Taussig, Anthropology

111. Mark C. Taylor, Religion

112. Kendall Thomas, Law

113. J. Blake Turner, Child Psychiatry

114. Nadia Urbinati, Political Science

115. Deborah Valenze, History

116. Achille Varzi, Philosophy

117. Paige West, Anthropology

118. Meyda Yegenoglu, ICLS

119. Rebecca M. Young, Women’s Studies

120. Zeena Zakharia, Teachers College

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47 Comments

  1. well  

    this was never un-public. its been up on academicfreedomcolumbia.org for at least a week. great reporting bwog...

  2. Wow  

    90% of the professors on this list are from useless departments -- what a surprise!

  3. Ditto

    Totally agree with the above comments. These professors are overwhelmingly from bullshit departments that lend them little to no expertise on the Middle East conflict.
    Except for maybe Andreas Huyssen of the Germanic Languages Department, since you know, Hamas is just trying to finish the job!

    On another note, the presence of all of these Womens Studies professors on the list has somehow managed to push my respect for the department from zero to negative. Women in the Palestinian territories have few if any rights, especially under the jihadists of Hamas.

  4. lol  

    Yes SDS, Bollinger should condemn Israel's atrocities. Coz the Jews aren't pissed enough after Ahmadinejad, and our endowment isn't on shaky ground already. If only SDS had a brain to go with all the hot air.

  5. umm  

    I think we should start a petition for Mexican academic freedom. After all, we have checkpoints, don't have totally open borders and don't give them free passes into the US whenever they feel like it.
    Oh wait, you mean they're not entitled to just use our resources for free? No passage into a different country at the drop of a hat? My bad.

  6. here  

    come the pro-IDF trolls!

  7. Useful professors  

    #s 4, possibly 11, 58, 77, 93, 112.

    By my count that makes 6. Therefore #2, you're dumb. 95% of the professors are from useless departments.

    If SDS wants Bollinger to take any perceptibly anti-Israel stance they should probably get a few more Arab/Muslim rich people to donate a Muhammad room right next to the Milstein rooms (note the 's' at the end).

    Or, oh, I don't know, have them donate a million or two.

  8. SDS  

    did not make this letter, and have only forwarded it out over our listservs, as many other groups have done. please change this bwog. thanks.

  9. TRUTH  

    It's obvious that this has to do with alumni donations and stuff. Think of it in logical terms:

    1. The Gaza attacks were genocide (no other way about this!)
    2. Normal and intelligent people are opposed to genocide.
    3. Pres. Bollinger is normal and intelligent.
    4. President Bollinger is opposed to genocide.
    5. President Bollinger stands with Gaza.

    Now, of course, a sad but oddly true premise:

    1. Being pro-Gaza rings of Anti-Israel.

    Another premise:

    2. Many donors are probably pro-Israel.

    Conclusion:
    3. If Prezbo expresses support for Gaza, he'll lose donations.

    What I'm saying is, of course, that somehow expressing a sentiment such as "Genocide is wrong" is being seen as bad by those who support Israel in anything it does. Those who do, of course, are not thinking straight. This was the Israeli government, not God or Moses who decreed such horrors. So being Pro-Gaza should mean anti-Israeli government, not anti-Israel.

    Bollinger is in a tough position because his job is extremely political. He has to cater to people if he wants donations. Of course, I think he should do what's moral, not just what's prudent.

    The other professors, at least, have no real excuse to hide their backing of Gaza. They essentially just teach and research.

  10. LIES (just to keep form)  

    "Truth,"

    Not to be gruesome or callous, but the death of 1000 people in a nation of 1.5 million is not genocide. It is not even close.

    (gruesome part)
    1,000/1,500,000 = .00066666667. In other words, roughly .06% of the population of Gaza died in the recent conflict. The conflict claimed the lives of less than a tenth of one percent.

    This is ugly, dehumanizing calculus. I don't like doing it. So why is this important? Because genocide describes, to quote from the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide,"acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group."

    Now, admittedly, the notion of "in part" is a bit iffy. So let's look at how the ICC defined it in 2004:""the part must be a substantial part of that group. The aim of the Genocide Convention is to prevent the intentional destruction of entire human groups, and the part targeted must be significant enough to have an impact on the group as a whole." (Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstic - Appeals Chamber - Judgment - IT-98-33 (2004) ICTY 7 (19 April 2004)).

    Lest you forget, the 1948 convention was convened in the wake of the Holocaust. The context for the statement was the recent slaughter of 6 million Jews. How significant was this amount? The total Jewish population of Europe at the time was about 8.8 million. I know this because I work with the Holocaust on a regular basis. To break the scale down a bit further, of the estimated 3,300,000 Jews of Poland, 3,000,000 were dead by 1945.

    What happened in Gaza was not genocide. It was nothing like genocide. 1200 Palestinians died in heavy urban combat, in a war that Hamas provoked and had long prepared for. Your first principle, that "The Gaza attacks were genocide" is wrong.

    MORE IMPORTANTLY, when you bandy out the term "genocide" like some fashion statement, it denigrates the level of suffering of millions of victims. Not just Jews. Rwandans. Armenians. Sudanese. It is unconscionable. When you do it in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, with the particular assertion that Israelis/Jews are no better then the Nazis--the very executioners that systematically slaughtered their entire civilization--it becomes grotesque in its misrepresentation of truth and reality. It is an unjustified, pernicious, and particularly vile slander. Indeed, the inability to distinguish even the slightest amount of grey between a small scale urban conflict and the wholesale slaughter of millions leads some to call such an act inherently anti-Semitic--evincing a particularly irrational intolerance or hatred of Jews. Now, I'm not saying you are an anti-Semite. People can make racist remarks and not be racist. But you would do well to show some caution and responsibility with the words you use when discussing sensitive issues, including the particular sensitivities that Jews feel when it comes to the Holocaust and the topic of genocide. Otherwise, your ignorance will make you indistinguishable from a bigot.

    Just some friendly advice from a fellow CC student who lost most of his family in the Holocaust.

    • Anonymous

      #26-brilliant! I couldn't have said it better myself. Not to belittle the deaths of people in Gaza, but what happened there in no way constitutes genocide.

    • Bystander

      Thoughtful. I like it.

    • January 19 Informant  

      Article II of the Genocide Convention:

      "In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

      (a) Killing members of the group;
      (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
      (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
      (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
      (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. "

      With its blockade of Gaza, Israel is guilty of (c). Conditions in Gaza are unlivable. Israel knows what it is doing. To blockade the border in this manner, then act surprised at skyrocketing malnutrition rates is the height of duplicity. It's like Bashir arming the Janjaweed, then acting surprised at the razed villages. AND this affects an overwhelming majority of the Gazan population--1 out of 1.6 million. I should add that during the recent invasion, Gazan deaths per day by percent population were quite close to Darfur's. Is that a large enough "part" for you?

      I know this is difficult to accept for you, given your family history. But ultimately, recognizing and stopping the Gaza Genocide is what they would want.

      • TO Mr. 19th Informant  

        Mr. Informant (and #43),

        Tell me again how, at this very hour, a genocide is occuring in a land where 99.94% of the population is as alive as they were five months ago. And whose population has actually grown over the past two years. As they have been growing (exponentially, I might add) for the past 60 years. Because I can't think of anything more intellectually dishonest.

        You are claiming that genocide is occurring, and has occurred, among a people whose natural deaths outpace the unnatural.

        For the record, Clause C is a reference to the type of systematic starvation that killed 100,000 people in the Warsaw Ghetto in three years. It refers to the calculated starvation that killed over a quarter of concentration camp inmates, and transformed every inmate who lived long enough into a walking skeleton.

        This is not the case in Gaza. The UN brings aid shipments to Gaza on a daily basis. Despite your claims, Gaza is not in the throws of a humanitarian crisis. There are not thousands of Gazans dying on a daily basis from starvation. Because the Israeli embargo, for all its ill, is nothing like genocide.

        So, when you use the word genocide to describe Israeli treatment of Palestinians, all you manage to do is shut down conversation with a massive bludgeon of a lie, seasoned with a hint of anti-Semitism. While you may think yourself a self-styled expert on mideast affairs, if you can't convince people of the rightness of your cause without twisting facts and making misleading statements, you're nothing more than a propagandist with an axe to grind.

        P.S.
        You are a f*cktard for presuming to speak self-righteously about my deceased family.

        • grr  

          why does every reply from a pro-israeli individual have to has the accusation of anti-semetism?

          i think i might become an anti-semite just from the madness of it...grrr

        • Strange  

          Israel killed 1300 people in Gaza, a majority civilians, because of under 10 Israeli deaths. But when I protest that, I'm told its an issue of intention and morality, and that I "shouldn't play the numbers game."

          Now, when Israeli policy is slowly starving the Gazans--because they are starving, even if it's slow enough to dodge international pressure--I'm told to ignore intent and focus on the numbers. I'm told that there are not thousands dying, so I can't make judgments based on morality.

          That logic confuses me, but whether we're going by numbers or by intent, I know there are war criminals high up in the Israeli government right now.

          #46: Don't become an anti-Semite. That's madness, and I'm sure you were joking.

  11. Actually

    The point you forget to mention is that Genocide implies the INTENTIONAL killing of civilians. That is patently not occurring in the case of Gaza. When a terrorist organization operates in densely populated civilian areas and uses human shields, subsequent attacks against the terrorist group that result in unfortunate civilian casualties do not constitute acts of "genocide".

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmXXUOs27lI&feature=related

    The above link shows video of Hamas launching rockets at Israel from a school in Gaza. Enough said.

    • uhh  

      clearly you are an idiot. hamas does not 'hide' among civilians. it was elected by them. exactly what would u have them do? i guess u wud also prefer obama hide among americans. what a complete idiot.

      • Clearly  

        you are the idiot-- you just called Obama a terrorist.

        Just because Hamas was elected doesn't mean it has legitimacy. That just means that its leaders are strategically savvy and are avid students of history... Hitler was rose to power within the already established political framework. He was idolized by the people, and handed power personally by the president with the warm approval of the masses. Even when he occupied other countries like Austria he was greeted with euphoria.

        I am no believer but Lord help us all if your reasoning follows the artificial logic of politics

        • wrong again  

          except hitler went on a genocidal rampage against his own citizens - THAT makes him a terrorist. and he did it against a specific religion too. As far as I am aware, Hamas has not gone on a rampage against his own citizens, aside from the token killings by both Hamas and Fatah of each other's members which are disgusting.

          But Hamas does provide incredible social and civil services to the society and that makes it a democratically elected government. Is it a terrorist because it kills Israelis? Well it's a terrorist if it kills any innocent people...but then so is Israel. A far bigger one because it ends up doing a better job at it then Hamas.

    • yes

      You beat me to it. But it is equally important to stress the fact that the term "genocide" refers to an attempt to annihilate a people-- not to kill some members of its populace (and that of course was not at all the objective in this case). The concept is really quite simple.

    • Correct  

      #31: You're right about casualties during the operation--provided Hamas used human shields extensively. However, the larger point about the blockade still stands. Israel knows full well what will happen as a result of the blockade. Therefore, this act was INTENTIONAL.

      #32: If only. Countless West Bank villages have been obliterated by the government-backed settlements. This continued whether the locals put down their weapons or not. In Gaza, Hamas actually tried that route. They held a cease-fire for 3 months. After three months, Israel's blockade was still creating unlivable conditions, and Israel still refused to lift it. I recognize the long history of conflict, but it does not justify the current genocide.

      • corrections

        The intention of the blockade is to sow discontent against the government of Hamas, and the use of blockades for such a purpose is by no means unprecedented. Humanitarian supplies have been provided to the Gazans by the Israeli government, and hundreds of millions of dollars in cash have been annually transferred across the checkpoints and distributed to the municipalities. It is not an act of genocide. The problem with Hamas' desire for "cease fire" talks, incidentally, is the fact that cease-fires are all that they are ever interested in. They do not have any desire for long term peace, just temporary cessations of hostilities so that they can regroup, rearm, and prepare for the attainment of their principal objectives-- the revocation of Israeli sovereignty over the lands not presently covered within the sphere of autonomous Palestinian governance and the achievement of total Palestinian sovereignty over "Al Quds." The most they ever talk about is a 10-year "hudna."

        • Me neither  

          I don't like Hamas either. But your criticisms of Hamas are really just attempted justifications for genocide. If a Darfur rebel group decides it is uncompromisingly opposed to Omar Bashir, does this justify Bashir's scorched-earth tactics?

          Israeli transfers of aid are clearly insufficient to create livable conditions for Gazans. Israel knows this, too. So, we can only conclude that the aid is carried out for deniability purposes--like the Sudanese government's marvelous "Darfur development projects." These are diplomatic tools to fool the West, not humanitarian tools to alleviate starvation policies.

  12. Anonymous

    look, instead of warping terminology and ideas to support your argument, let's try to break this down simply. what would happen if hamas were to drop its rockets in the sea and renounce its desire to destroy the state of israel? clearly, there would be peace. israel wouldn't have any reason or desire to bother the palestinians. now, what would happen if israel were to drop all of ITS weapons into the sea? i think you know what would happen in that case--hamas, iran, syria, hezbollah would be all over it. and the truth is, if you read the basic history of the region, you know that this is the existential threat that israel has faced from the very beginning. so go ahead and call the situation in gaza what you will, but the reality is that their suffering has in large part been self-inflicted.

    • noo  

      you are wrong. from what i understand, hamas was created by israel so it wouldnt have to deal with fatah. as long as there is a representative of the palestinian people, there will never be peace. israel doesn't want peace. it wants more land and more settlements.

  13. The Solution

    The solution to the ME problem: Fuck 'em! I hate how the US has to play role of world police and get caught up in others' problems. If the Arabs want to fight over a piece of land, kill each other, inbreed, let them.
    We have our own set of problems. I hope we can find a sustainable source of renewable energy so we don't have to rely on any crazy Arab dictator for energy and we can get the hell out of the ME.

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