The Athenaeum has taken a stance, at least by way of editorial.
The most recent eruption of tensions between Israel and Palestine in the Gaza strip last week has forced a reconsideration of the doctrine of academic freedom. In light of an Israeli airstrike on an Islamic University in Gaza, Sid Ryan, the president of the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) which represents Ontario university faculty, proposed that Israeli academics who refuse to acknowledge the atrocities that followed this particular bombing as inherently wrong be boycotted from speaking, teaching and researching within the confines of Ontario universities.
Mr. Ryan’s suggestion is the full of diplomatic intentions. [sic] Through banning Israeli hard-liners from Ontario universities, Mr. Ryan would likely have it that CUPE’s actions serve as a warning to both Canadian and Israeli governments that a significant segment of the global academic community finds fault in their support for Israeli military actions causing a swath of civilian destruction and death.
Although Mr. Ryan’s proposal makes it clear that a complete denunciation of the Israeli government is not what is being asked
Mr. McKinnon Blair presumes to know Mr. Ryan’s motives, which he has decided are well intentioned. Has Ryan said anything in the past that would make one doubt this? We remind Mr. Mackinnon -Blair of Sid Ryan’s words in his original press release: “We are ready to say Israeli academics should not be on our campuses unless they explicitly condemn the [ bombing of the Islamic University in Gaza] and the assault on Gaza in general. It’s a logical next step.”
it makes a treacherous assumption [indeed] that support for the greater Israeli invasion of Gaza can be maintained while concurrently condemning the university bombings. For Mr. Ryan, those who cannot differentiate here lack legitimacy in Ontario’s universities….
We see no attempt at differentiation in Mr. Ryan’s statement quoted above.
Although it would be difficult to deny Israel of its entitlement to respond to a terrorist attack against her subjects, Israel’s bombing of a university conveys a stronger statement than is traditionally expressed through shells and mortar. The second half of the twentieth century revealed the deeply embedded mutual contempt between Jews and Muslims. In addition to a military strike, this bombing should be perceived as Israel’s complete and illegitimate rejection of the indisputable legitimacy of most aspects of Islamic scholarship.
Why then does Israel recognize degrees from the Islamic University in Gaza? Here Mr. MacKinnon-Blair presumes to know the mind of the Israeli government and presumably also is privy to Israeli intelligence, ie. there is no other reason for bombing a University’s Science building.
Such an attitude is not conducive to finding a peaceful solution to this conflict. Acadia professor of English Richard Cunningham put it best in an email to the Athenaeum. “Let’s not bomb the university in which ideas counter to our own are discussed and propagated. Instead let’s consider the conditions that lead to people thinking the ideas that oppose ours are legitimate. Maybe, in so doing, we’ll come to question some of our own ideas.”
Mr. Cunningham, who MacKinnon-Blair claims “says it best”, is putting a “we” in the bombing in saying “let”s not bomb the university…” As if all of us are to blame for it. As if we, by our stance or attitude could stop it in its tracks. Let’s feel guilty. Let’s feel guilty then for every terrorist attack, for every missile sent Israel’s way and for every suicide bomber as well. Because we, at least some of us, enable and condone these actions and march in the streets to support them. [Note the “Hitler didn’t do a good job” shout in this video from Toronto] If we saw some questioning of firmly held beliefs here we would be happy, but we don’t.
Despite the expansive interpretation that freedom of expression has achieved in Canada the deleterious effects of the proposed boycott would be heavily outweighed by positive ramifications for the cause of peace. [He thinks. But would it? Would it really advance peace?] Although justifiable, Mr. Ryan’s proposal remains incomplete. His would be strengthened and more effective by reaffirming the custom that advocates for terror also be subject to a similar boycott.
Strengthened? We would say it would be totally changed. It would be condemning Hamas and that Mr. Ryan couldn’t bring himself to do.
And how, if Mr. MacKinnon-Blair and Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Ryan had their way, would these attitudes “conducive to peace” or not be determined? An oath sworn on taking tenure? Would just Israeli or just Palestinians be required to be examined? Who is an Israeli, who a Palestinian? When do they become Canadian and shed their past affiliations? Why not every professor and every student to boot? Would there be a few liars accepted and a few honest people turned away? Or perhaps one would advise lie detector tests or sodium pentathol sessions with interrogators to determine the truth in one’s heart? What about other conflicts elsewhere? And who would determine what a “peaceful” attitude was?
We would sincerely wish that Canadians and Americans born elsewhere, or even second and third generation immigrants, left their age old disputes behind them but increasingly they don’t. [ Note the “Go back to the ovens” shout in this video] And increasingly we are asked to support one side or the other and increasingly those who take the “wrong side” are condemned. We’ll leave you to guess which one that is.
We expect Mr. MackInnon-Blair is trying to say “it cuts both ways” in his editorial. But we know it really only cuts one way.