Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Scholars for Academic Freedom: Unclear on the Concept

And the winner in the category of "Unclear on the Concept" is Scholars for Academic Freedom.

Several days ago, the President of the UC system, Mark Yudof issued statement regarding the sanctity of free speech in the UC California system. In response, a group of "scholars" (are they Professors? Students?) have accused him of "delivering a blow to dissent and protest".

“University campuses are proper venues for collisions of ideas and viewpoints,” Yudof wrote in an open letter to the UC community on Friday. “What is not acceptable are hate-driven physical, and yes, verbal attacks on any group or individual that are meant to silence or intimidate those who would express differing opinions.”

The "scholars", at least one of whom, Jess Ghanam is an organizer in the extremist anti-Israel group Al Awda accuse President Yudof of "focusing exclusively on protests against speakers who represent the Israeli government or whose presentations endorse the manner in which Israel maintains its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.", ignoring his condemnation of hate incidents directed towards the LGBT and African American campus communities.

The glaring inaccuracies in the press release by these California "scholars" stands out. They write "he appears to have relied on a letter from the AMCHAI Intiative" Yet, in an article in the Forward Yudof’s spokesman, Steve Montiel, said that the statement was not motivated by AMCHA’s letters," but by a longstanding effort by Yudof to reject bigotry on campus while upholding the right to free speech."

“He has spoken out before,” said Montiel. “Really, the motivation is an ongoing commitment to him and chancellors of all the campuses to a learning environment that is open and fair and safe for everyone.”

And he has spoken out since. Yet they chose to ignore Yudof's statement condemning an appearance by Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan at UC Berkeley, sponsored by the Black Student union. Yudof re-affirmed Farrakhan’s right to speak at the event “Louis Farrakhan is a provocative, divisive figure with a long history of racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic speech,” Yudof said. “It was distressing in the extreme that a student organization invited him to speak on the UC Berkeley campus... But, as I have said before, we cannot, as a society or as a university community, be provoked by hurtful speech to retreat from the cherished value of free speech"

Even more onerous are the libelous statements directed towards the non-profit advocacy group Standwithus, regarding an incident involing Palestinian activists disrupting traffic at a busy intersection. According to an article in the Daily Cal the event took place "south of the UC Berkeley campus" on Durant and Telegraph. Why would an off-campus incident that did not involve Cal students be of concern to UC president Mark Yudof? Furthermore, the "scholars" have presented absolutely no evidence to their spurious claim that Standwithus was somehow involved. There is no evidence that employees of Standwithus, or volunteer members of their advisory board or steering committee were involved in this incident. The "scholars" also conveniently have forgotten to mention the "large stick" that was brandished at pro-Israel activists- which understandably might have been considered a threatening gesture.

Last weekend, we were able to document Al Awda's role in the dissemination of a fraudulent photo simply to demonize Israel. Al Awda has already shown their cavalier attitutude towards truth, as they continue their march to destroy the state of the Jewish people. Have the "Scholars" for Academic Freedom even taken note of their affiliation with the truth - challenged Al Awda group? And do they even care?

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