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Israel, academics and apartheid

September 06, 2009

Re "Back Israel," Opinion, Sept. 1

Ben-Gurion University President Rivka Carmi claims to defend academic freedom even as she suggests that one of her professors leave his job and his own country simply for writing an Op-Ed article published in this paper. That's not academic freedom; it is bullying.

She characterizes Neve Gordon's article as "divisive," and yet academic freedom is tested when difficult issues are brought up.

She dismisses Gordon's ideas, claiming that he only states his personal opinion. Gordon was the chair of the university's political science department. His scholarly book, "Israel's Occupation," was published last year by the University of California Press.

One would think he has enough academic credentials to speak on nonviolent alternatives to right the wrongs of the Israeli occupation.

Sydney Levy

Oakland

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Carmi condemns Gordon's nuanced and principled stance as demagoguery, then declares her university a proud -- not academic, not even Israeli -- but Zionist institution.

Of which Zionist ideology exactly is Carmi proud?

The one that demanded a homeland for the Jewish people in response to the persecution and genocide they suffered in Europe before and during World War II, or the Zionism that created Israel by expelling most of Palestine's native inhabitants on the orders of the same man after whom Carmi's university is named?

By associating nationalist ideology with what she claims to be an "open and impartial" institution, failing to answer any of Gordon's arguments and implicitly threatening him with dismissal using the absurd excuse that he has "forfeited his ability to work effectively within the academic setting," Carmi shows who the real demagogue is.

Ala Khazendar

Pasadena

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Contrary to what Carmi asserts, it is not Gordon who has overstepped "the boundaries of academic freedom," but she herself.

Carmi substitutes the sanction of ostracism for dispassionate argument about the facts of the case. Gordon's conclusion that Israel is an apartheid regime is based on facts, not on mere soul-searching.

Carmi cannot refute the evidence that Israel is an apartheid state, and tries to silence Gordon by pretending his "thought crime" goes beyond the pale of academically acceptable speech.

As another Israeli academic has said: "Only when Israeli society's well-heeled strata pay a real price for the continuous occupation will they finally take genuine steps to put an end to it."

That is why Gordon is right and Carmi wrong: The movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions is as applicable to Israel now as it ever was to South Africa.

David Lloyd

Los Angeles

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The better off we all would be if there were more people such as Carmi actually working with all, irrespective of ethnicity, who are willing to participate in improving the well-being of both Arabs and Jews throughout the Mideast, and fewer people whose principal energy seems to be either devoted to depriving Arabs of dignity and a decent life on the one hand or boycotting and/or eliminating the state of Israel on the other hand.

Marc Jacobson

Los Angeles

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As president of Ben-Gurion University, Carmi is to be commended and praised for her responsible position and her personal tolerance of all her academic colleagues -- whether Israeli, Palestinian or Arab.

However, I am not convinced by her assertions that Gordon is off-target on this issue.

The policies of Israel are in complete discordance with her tolerant views and have been for as long as I've been alive.

Bob Loza

Burbank

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