Wednesday, December 5, 2007

At Harvard:
"the conversation about the Israel-Palestine issue in particular has been shut down"

"Orwellian Uses of ‘Free Speech’ "

Professor of Anthropology and of African and African American Studies

November 30, 2007

On the Web at:

"...Members of the Harvard Faculty have been hired and made to feel safe while propagating ideas about the allegedly different mental capacities of different sexes and races, about the alleged virtues of torture, about the alleged innocence of white Americans’ treatment of Native Americans, about our black students’ allegedly being the cause of grade inflation at Harvard, and about the allegedly bestial and masochistic qualities of the Palestinian people. And the exponents of such opinions continue to enjoy free speech and the cooperation of their colleagues. Yet dissenting opinions about Israel-Palestine are confined to back-corridor whispers.

"If we do not face the issue of how the conversation about the Israel-Palestine issue in particular has been shut down, the principle of “free speech” will remain an empty, abstract principle. With my motion, I did not ask my colleagues to agree with me about Israel or even about the disadvantages of the dearth of high-ranking minorities on the Faculty Council and in the University administration—another major obstacle to dialogue among a necessary range of perspectives about University policy and practice. I asked them, as my partners in the pursuit of truth and fairness, to add their thoughts and efforts to creating a conversation full of respect and free of intimidation about even the hottest of issues—a conversation in which people with a broad range of reasoned opinions and historical perspectives are actively invited to participate, a conversation in which the majority and the most highly placed people do not assume that, once they have heard from each other, they have heard enough. Their response was a massive and freely spoken vote to shut the conversation down."