Add your name to protest against an immediate threat to Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech
We are inviting you to add your names to the letter, copied below, which appeared in the Guardian on 28 February over the names of 243 university staff members. It protests strongly over an unprecedented attack on freedom of expression on campus. The particular issue of censorship concerns the contested issues around Israel/Palestine; however, we believe that the issues should and do concern people who take different positions on that conflict, or indeed have other principal concerns.
The Guardian reported on 18 February that there has been a spike in far-right antisemitic incidents on UK campuses. This seems to reflect the increase in xenophobia since the Brexit vote.
Yet the Government has ‘adopted’ the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism which focuses on criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights, an entirely separate issue, as prima facie evidence of antisemitism. This definition seeks to conflate criticism of Israel with antisemitism. Now Jo Johnson, the Government Minister whose brief includes universities, has written to Universities UK asking for this definition to be disseminated throughout the system. His letter specifically mentions Israel Apartheid Week (a world-wide activity at this time of year since 2005) as a cause for concern.
The response has been swift. Late last week, in undue haste and clearly without legal advice, the University of Central Lancashire banned a meeting to be addressed by journalist Ben White as well as by academics. The University statement asserted that the meeting on ‘Debunking Misconceptions on Palestine’ contravened the definition of antisemitism recently adopted by the Government, and would therefore “not be lawful”.
Meanwhile the Campaign Against Antisemitism, a body set up to defend Israel, cites this definition in asking its supporters to “record, film, photograph and get witness evidence” about Israel Apartheid Week Events; and “we will help you to take it up with the university, students’ union or even the police”.
These are outrageous interferences with free expression, and are direct attacks on academic freedom. As academics with positions at UK universities we wish to express our dismay at this attempt to silence campus discussion about Israel, including its violation of the rights of Palestinians for over 50 years. It is with disbelief that we witness explicit political interference in university affairs in the interests of Israel under the thin disguise of concern about antisemitism.
I wish to add my name to the signatories of this letter and agree my signature may be made public.
The organisers of the letter may contact me by email in relation to this letter and follow up activities but will not share my name or details with any other organisation
Do you hold a teaching or research post in a UK university?
University, College or affiliation
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