Israeli Apartheid and “Free Speech”
University of Toronto
Department of Acceptable Truths April 1, 2008
To the Members of the University Community:
The University’s Department of Acceptable Truths has been asked to consider changes to university policies governing permitted free speech in the light of concerns that have been raised by faculty members, alumni, and wealthy funders.
Some of these concerns were expressed in a recent advertisement in the National Post signed by a number of professors, who have noted that they “take offence” at the use of the word “apartheid” and have called on the University to ban events at which Israeli apartheid is discussed.
The University has also been approached by an alumni organization, Alumni for Responsible Speech, who have expressed similar concerns and have suggested a number of policy changes to address them. The Alumni for Responsible Speech statement is attached below.
We invite your comments about how the University should respond to these concerns.
Please address your comments to: Department of Acceptable Truths University of Toronto 27 King’s College Circle Toronto ON M5S 1A1 Canada
The University of Toronto: Well-Disciplined Minds for a Well-Disciplined Future
Statement of the Alumni for Responsible Speech
For Immediate Release: April 1, 2008
We, the Alumni for Responsible Speech, stand committed to the principles of freedom of speech and academic freedom.
At the same time, we believe that we all have a responsibility to ensure that these freedoms are used responsibly. We oppose irresponsible free speech, and the misuse of academic freedom.
Alumni for Responsible Speech believe that universities should tolerate free speech as long as it doesn’t upset anyone, but we also believe that universities, as public institutions, have a duty to ensure a safe learning environment for students and faculty, and to take corrective action when free speech or academic freedom are misused in an irresponsible way.
We support the University of Toronto faculty members who have called on the university to ban events criticizing Israeli apartheid.(1)
We applaud the administrators at McMaster University who acted to ban the use of the term “Israeli apartheid” on their campus.(2)
We commend the University of Toronto for asking permission from the Toronto Police Department before making meeting rooms available to groups expressing controversial opinions about Israel.(3)
We deeply regret that the Toronto Police told the University that they saw no grounds for laying charges at this time against individuals who criticize Israel.
Alumni for Responsible Speech strongly support banning the use of the term “Israeli Apartheid,” as well as the banning of any events which criticize Israel. Such action would be positive first steps for the University to take.
However, Alumni for Responsible Speech believe that further measures are needed to stamp out the threat of divisive or unconstructive free speech, which jeopardizes a safe learning environment through the promotion of harmful ideas.
We believe that most reasonable people would agree that free speech is irresponsible and should be prohibited:
1) If it offends one or more faculty members, administrators, or university funders, or if in the view of the university authorities, there is a real and present danger that an event might be used to express opinions that might offend a funder or a member of the university community.
2) If it is used to make negative or disparaging statements about any of the University’s corporate partners, funders or sponsors, or about their labour practices, environmental records, or illegal actions.
3) If it is used to state facts which are unpleasant and which might, if stated publicly, make some members of the university community uncomfortable.
4) If it is used to criticize Israel’s human rights record or Israel’s violations of international law.
We therefore support the banning of words and phrases such as “Israeli apartheid” whose use clearly violates the principles of responsible free speech.
Additionally, we call on the University to ban other harmful or offensive language (see list below) and to prohibit all campus events at which these banned words and phrases might be used.
The university has a duty to provide students and faculty with a safe learning environment. It is therefore incumbent on the university administration to take pro-active measures to protect students and faculty from being confused or offended by exposure to incorrect or harmful ideas, and to ensure that only safe ideas are taught.
Alumni for Responsible Speech believe that the following measures should be implemented immediately in order to safeguard the integrity of the campus environment:
Initiate disciplinary action against any student organization, student newspaper, campus radio station, faculty member, or individual student, who engages in or facilitates criticism of Israel, or any other form of irresponsible speech, in a newspaper article, poster, leaflet, radio broadcast, website, Facebook group, scholarly journal, text message, public meeting, lecture, tutorial, or any conversation taking place on university property.
Amend the University’s Code of Ethics to make it the duty of every member of the university community to report any instance of the use of banned phrases such as “Israeli apartheid” to the proper authorities. The use of these terms should be clearly identified as thought crimes and should be dealt in the same way as hate speech.
Cleanse the university’s libraries of books which misuse academic freedom to document unpleasant facts about Israel.
Reconfigure the University’s computer networks to block access to Internet sites critical of Israel, since such sites by definition violate the principles of responsible free speech.
Prohibit guest lectures by visiting professors who are known to abuse academic freedom by criticizing Israel.
Mandate the University’s Department of Acceptable Truths to establish a permanent Un-Israeli Activities Committee to ensure the responsible use of academic freedom on topics related to Israel. The committee would have the power to investigate anti-Israel statements or thoughts, compel testimony, administer loyalty oaths, and where necessary recommend the banning of books, websites, and individuals found to be in violation of university standards.
Appendix I - Terms to be Banned
Israel’s failure to comply with UN resolutions: inconvenient truth, therefore referring to it is anti-Israel propaganda.
Israel’s failure to comply with Geneva convention governing the treatment of civilians in occupied territories: referring to the fact that collective punishment is immoral, as well as illegal under international law, is a particularly pernicious form of anti-Israel propaganda.
Israel’s political prisoners: any mention of the 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli jails is unacceptable.
Israel’s systematic use of torture: some people are offended by this, so mentioning it, or the fact that Israel has been condemned for this by Amnesty International and other respected human rights groups, is contrary to the obligation to maintain a safe learning environment.
Israel’s nuclear weapons: any mention of Israel’s nuclear arsenal or Israel’s overwhelming military superiority is anti-Israel because it contradicts the picture of Israel as a small threatened country.
State terrorism: unacceptable because it suggests that using airplanes and tanks to kill Palestinian men, women, and children in the Occupied Territories is somehow wrong. Occupation or Occupied Territories: referring to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territory is anti-Israel because it implies that Israel should have to abide by international law and totally withdraw from the territories it has occupied.
Gaza ghetto: anti-Israel because it implies that there is something wrong with imprisoning people in a ghetto, shutting off their access to the outside world, and choking off their supplies of water, electricity, medicines, and other vital supplies. Israel’s Borders: this phrase is anti-Israel because it implies that Israel should accept defined international borders and stop building settlements outside its borders. Mutual recognition: anti-Israel because it implies that if Israel wants Palestinians to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a state, then Israel is equally obligated to recognize Palestine’s right to exist as a state. Two-state solution: anti-Israel because it implies that Israel should withdraw from Palestinian territory and permit the creation of a viable Palestinian state.
One-state solution: anti-Israel because it implies that Jews and Palestinians should live together in a single democratic secular state. The movement against apartheid in South Africa: should not be mentioned because so many leaders of the movement, including Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and leading Jewish anti-apartheid activists in South Africa, claim that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is as bad as, or worse than, South African apartheid.
Rachel Corrie: anti-Israel because of the implication that there is something wrong with using bulldozers to kill peace activists. Appendix II - Books to be Banned: A Partial List
As stated, it will be necessary to cleanse the university’s libraries of inappropriate books. Alumni for Responsible Speech have identified the following books as a few of those that need to be cleansed immediately in order to guarantee a safe learning environment.
No doubt the Un-Israeli Activities Committee, ably assisted by university librarians, will find it necessary to add many others to the list. In keeping with the University’s strong commitment to environmental responsibility, which we share, and in order to avoid contributing to global warming, we believe that these inappropriate books should not be disposed of in the traditional heat-producing way.
Instead, they should be converted into biofuels to be used in Israeli bulldozers so that the Israel Defense Forces can flatten Palestinians homes and international peace activists in an environmentally friendly way.
The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. By Ilan Pappe, Oneworld, 2007 This book by the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe describes the “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians from Israel during the war of 1948. It is a prime example of a book that needs to be banned for documenting unpleasant facts.
Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine. By Joel Kovel. Pluto Press, 2007 Joel Kovel argues that the inner contradictions of Zionism have led Israel to a “state-sponsored racism” fully as incorrigible as that of aparthd South Africa and deserving of the same resolution and that only a path toward a single-state secular democracy can provide the justice essential to healing the wounds of the Middle East. Unacceptable ideas throughout: should be banned. Palestine Peace Not Apartheid. By Jimmy Carter. Simon & Schuster, New York, 2006 Former U.S. President Carter calls Israel’s treatment of Palestinians “aparthd” and identifies continuing Israeli control of the occupied territories as the primary obstacle to peace. Uses the banned word aparth**d, therefore should be banned.
Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. By Norman Finkelstein. University of California Press, 2005 Finkelstein’s books on Jewish history and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians are especially dangerous because his rigorous scholarship has been praised by leading scholars of Jewish history such as Raul Hilberg and Avi Shlaim and because the facts he reveals are irrefutable. There is no place for this book in a safe learning environment.
The Other Side of Israel: My Journey Across the Jewish/Arab Divide. By Susan Nathan. Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, New York, 2005. Explores the unequal treatment of Palestinians living in Israel as second-class citizens in a theocratic state that discriminates against Israel’s Palestinian citizens in many ways. Offensive because it undermines Israel’s claims to be a western-style democracy; should therefore be banned.
Sharon and my Mother-in-Law: Ramallah Diaries. By Suad Amiry. Granta, 2003. A diary of everyday life under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank, depicting the Kafkaesque absurdities and injustices Palestinians are forced to live with. Should be banned because it depicts Palestinians as human beings suffering under the Israeli occupation.
Appendix III - Websites to be Blocked: A Partial List
In order to prevent students from being exposed to forbidden words and harmful ideas about Israel on the Internet, the University will need to block the following websites on all the University’s servers. We recommend the use of software developed in China to ensure safe Internet use. This software can also be used to monitor E-mail, IRC, and Facebook, and can be used in conjunction with search engine software to detect searches for banned words and ideas.
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions: www.icahd.org An Israeli direct-action group working to oppose and resist Israeli demolition of Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territories, also engaged in resistance activities in other areas - land expropriation, settlement expansion, by-pass road construction, the wholesale uprooting of fruit and olive trees and more. Could expose students to unpleasant facts and harmful ideas.
Physicians for Human Rights - Israel: www.phr.org.il/phr An Israeli organization that condemns Israel’s human rights violations. Accessing their site could expose students to very unpleasant facts.
Gush Shalom: http://gush-shalom.org An Israeli organization working to influence Israeli public opinion and lead it towards peace and conciliation with the Palestinian people. Could expose students to unpleasant facts and harmful ideas.
BTselem: www.btselem.org The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. Could expose students to unpleasant facts.
Refuser Solidarity Network: www.refusersolidarity.net Supports Israelis who refuse to serve in the Occupation. Could expose students to dangerous ideas.
Electronic Intifada: http://electronicintifada.net/ Palestinian portal for information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its depiction in the media. News, commentary, analysis, and reference materials about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Unsuitable for a safe learning environment because it exposes students to a Palestinian perspective.
Jewish Voice for Peace: www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org Jewish organization founded to “support the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination.” Could expose students to the dangerous idea that Jews and Palestinians have a common future sharing the same land in peace and equality.
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid: http://caiaweb.org Uses the banned term “Israeli Aparthd” in its name, and supports Israel Aparthd Week.
Connexions: www.connexions.org This website is a chronic violator of the principles of responsible free speech. It maintains an extensive selection of so-called “Resources for peace, justice, and human rights” including articles, books, videos, organizations, and websites, and claims that “a solution to the conflict is possible only on the basis of justice, mutual recognition, equality, and an end of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.”
The content of this site is incompatible with a safe learning environment. Furthermore, Connexions has also been guilty of publishing and disseminating offensive satires.
Contact: Ulli Diemer Founding President Alumni for Responsible Speech E-mail: www.connexions.org
1) National Post, March 22, 2008.
2) Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid website: www.caiaweb.org. “Campus Repression at McMaster.”
3) Canadian Jewish News, April 3, 2008. “U of T faculty ad calls for Israeli Apartheid Week ban.” Robert Steiner, a U of T spokesperson, is quoted as saying: “A couple of year ago, we sent the words ‘Israeli Apartheid’ to the Toronto police, to the hate crimes unit, for their assessment and investigation because we were ready to do whatever we needed to do if they assessed that it crossed the line [into hate speech], and they came back and said they had no basis on which to see this as hate speech.”
Courtesy Connexions. “We have come into possession of the following document concerning the debate about Israel Apartheid Week on university campuses. We believe it will be of interest to our readers.”