Israel Shows Its Contempt for Academic Freedom

by Kevin Jon Heller

The headline is almost a generic one, applicable to dozens of Israeli actions. I’m using it now specifically in connection with Israel denying entrance to my SOAS colleague Dr. Adam Hanieh, who was scheduled to give a series of lectures at Birzeit University:

Dr. Hanieh, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, was deported back to London on the morning of September 13, 2016. He was held for questioning for 10 hours at Ben Gurion airport, and then taken overnight to a detention centre outside the airport. In addition to being refused entry, Dr. Hanieh was banned from entering the country for ten years.

Dr. Hanieh was scheduled to share his vast knowledge of global and Middle East political economy with students in the Ph.D. program as well as the university community in a series of lectures scheduled in the coming two weeks. Hanieh is an accomplished scholar, the author of Lineages of Revolt: Issues of Contemporary Capitalism in the Middle East (Haymarket Books, 2013) and Capitalism and Class in the Gulf Arab States (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), as well as numerous academic articles.

This act of denial of entry and deportation by the Israeli state and its agencies is part of a systematic policy of denial of entry to international academics, professionals and activists intending to visit Palestine. This policy represents an attack on Palestinian academic freedom, and is routinely practiced at the two entry points, the airport in Tel Aviv and the Jordan valley crossing from Jordan.

Israel is truly the Donald Trump of repressive states — unable to tolerate any criticism that doesn’t stay within the bounds of what it considers “legitimate.” Confident states address critics. Israel prefers to harass and silence them.

Business as usual in the Middle East’s supposed great democracy. Keep Hanieh’s treatment in mind the next time Israel complains about mean BDS-ers “silencing” (ie, protesting) Israeli academics.

http://opiniojuris.org/2016/09/17/israel-shows-its-contempt-for-academic-freedom/

20 Responses

  1. Really Mr. Heller, “Palestinian academic freedom” sounds laughable. Readers are fed up with your anti-Israeli rants. And by the way do refer to the http://www.pacbi.org/.

  2. “Readers” = “Ariel.” And I’m on record ad nauseum as opposing academic BDS.

  3. Mr Ariel, I beg to strongly disagree. Readers ask for more informative articles by Prof. Jon Heller. Personally I am “fed up” only by the fact that Prof Jon Heller (and others) wrote this article only today and not in relation to the hundreds of Palestinian scholars that are denied of academic freedom, and freedom of movement, by the “only democracy” on a weekly bases. Whoever knows the reality on the ground cannot simply ignore it. MR Ariel you are on the wrong side of history, although you have certainly a different impression.

  4. He seems also to be a political activist:
    http://www.rmtlondoncalling.org.uk/files/palestine-bds.pdf
    and here
    https://richardmillett.wordpress.com/tag/adam-hanieh/
    and did you receive info from any official Israeli body regarding this case or do yo always pass judgment from afar?

  5. YM,

    Your position seems to be this: relying on statements by a Palestinian university — biased and untrustworthy; relying on statements by an “official Israeli body” — objective and trustworthy. Is that correct?

    The funniest part of Millett’s rant: being surprised that Hanieh’s SOAS biography doesn’t mention his “boycott activism.”

  6. Yisrael Medad:

    1) Political activism is not a crime. Dr Hanieh is free to speak at campus meetings organised by trade unions. I suppose your view may be that any criticism of the Zionist State constitutes ‘political activism’ and must therefore be condemned; but this view is rejected by many scholars/intellectuals of different faiths and political/ideological backgrounds. Sadly, it is not just academics like Dr Hanieh who are subject to such abuse.

    2) Since when do we trust “info from any official Israeli body” to be always objective and truthful? Professor Heller is writing about the bitter experience of an academic colleague who was sent to a detention centre before being deported. Being near or ‘afar’ is irrelevant.

  7. Does he have a history of supporting, financing or participating in terrorism, or being a threat to Israeli security in any related way? Did he lie about why he was going to the West Bank?

    If the answers to both questions is “no”, and I see no evidence to believe that the answers should be “yes”, there was no reason to deny him entry to the West Bank.

  8. Anon @9:44,

    Excellent questions. The problem is that Israel has decided to brand BDS — a purely nonviolent movement — as a threat to its security. So I’m sure the government would answer yes.

  9. After spending two years at SOAS it is apparent that the vehement anti-Israel sentiment is widespread among both students and professional teaching staff. The anti-Israel sentiment often morphs into anti-Jewish antisemitism where the word Jew and Zionist became effortlessly interchangeable.
    I found no desire and/or talk of peace between Israel and the Palestinians; the conversation was always about the removal and destruction of Israel.
    It is a relief to see that Israel has finally woken up to the threat posed by these so called’ fair minded academics’ and treats the haters with the non-violent threat of denied entry to help prevent the ceaseless anti-Jewish/anti-Israel diatribes that they so often espouse

  10. Well said Mr. Galber. Universities like SOAS are breeding grounds of anti-Semitism and groups like BDS try to pass off as non-violent movements; on the contrary they are nothing but anti-Semitic in character and promote hatred for Israel.

  11. Thank you, Kevin, for the post. Unfortunately, the incident that you describe in your post is reality on the ground on a daily basis. Birzeit is a university that it is really trying its very best but isolating it (as well as other institutions) is a standard policy by Israel. I was based for 4 years in the Middle East (Qatar) and many times we wanted to organise an international law seminar at Birzeit Uni but we knew that it would not be feasible because invitees would not get in.

  12. Thank you for the post, Kevin. It is important to call out not just the tyrants of the world, but also more free societies acting this way (especially when we are members of the more free societies). This incident reminds me of Noam Chomsky being denied entry a few years ago, I believe for a talk at Birzeit University also.

    Just one point: It is not anti-semitic to oppose the actions of the state of Israel. It is insulting to those victims of anti-semitism to equate criticism of state policy with anti-Semitism. Too bad Kumar and Richard prefer unsubstantiated claims, as a real discussion requires evidence.

  13. While Kevin speaks with surety, my educated guess is that Dr.Hanieh wouldn’t, or couldn’t answer some questions posed by the airport authorities.

    One thing leads to another, and he’s sent home.

    Was Dr. Hanieh treated fairly? Probably not. Was this an attack on academic freedom? No.

  14. And BTW. One time, I was questioned and than strip searched while EXITING the country.

  15. Re: the truth of Kevin’s comment @ 9:58 am

    “Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked called the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement ‘the new face of terrorism’ in New York on Sunday. Speaking at the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in New York, Shaked said, ‘The BDS is illegitimate. I define it thus: BDS is another branch of terrorism in the modern age.’ Shaked claimed that the aim of the BDS movement was to ‘to wipe Israel off the map.'” This is an exemplary instance of the rhetorical and political mastery of “doublespeak” by Israeli authorities.

  16. To Kevin: this “Your position seems to be this: relying on statements by a Palestinian university — biased and untrustworthy; relying on statements by an “official Israeli body” — objective and trustworthy. Is that correct?” I think is quite, if not overwhelmingly statistically correct. Any problems with that aspect? Do you adopt the opposite, that Pal. sources are always correct and Israeli ones never?

    To Ali: your charge – “your view may be that any criticism of the Zionist State constitutes ‘political activism’ and must therefore be condemned” – is wrong. I think biased, unreliable, incorrect and especially content-intended criticism meant to deny Israel the right to exist is to be condemned. Any problem with that?

    And to both: my reference to whteher official Israel gov’t responses were sought or asked for, I was always taught that before committing an opinion to paper and to the public, some form of checking whetehr an incident, an event, a thought or an action actually took place they way described. That may not be a legal requirement, outside a courtroom, but anywhere else it is an ethical responsibility to be observed. I was just asking.

    Oh, and as for Kevin’s claim that BDS is “a purely nonviolent movement”, standing on the edge of a pool while a person drowns maybe defined as an non-violent act but I don’t think it really is in the end.

  17. @Yisrael Medad Good riposte to Kevin and Ors.

  18. @Kumar, appreciated

  19. Yisrael Medad

    My post, and Kevin’s posts too – if I may add, cannot be construed (at least with a straight face) as “biased, unreliable, incorrect and especially content-intended criticism meant to deny Israel the right to exist”. The “problem” is that you try to obfuscate or becloud any measure of criticism as denial of Israel’s right to exist – or something worse. This kind of propaganda may sit well with the Kumars of this world, but will be seen as rather cheap attacks by many others.

    The fact remains that Israel continues to severely restrict many fundamental freedoms (including academic freedoms) of the Palestinian people. Dr Adam Hanieh’s denial of access to Palestinian territory (Palestine), his detention and subsequent deportation are but one small but sad example of Israeli State policy.

  20. To Ali: this part of your comment: “My post, and Kevin’s posts too – if I may add, cannot be construed (at least with a straight face) as “biased, unreliable, incorrect and especially content-intended criticism meant to deny Israel the right to exist”. The ‘problem’ is that you try to obfuscate or becloud any measure of criticism as denial of Israel’s right to exist – or something worse.” is simply misplaced. I was not specifically referring to you, nether Kevin. I was making a general statement. I was thinking broadly and expressing myself largely. If I had mentioned you by name or if I had quoted something specific, which I always try to do when referring to something specific, trust me, I’d do that.

    As to that “problem” you do mention, sorry but it does not exist. I will always, to repeat what I just wrote above, relate to specific claim of fact when it isn’t, a specific historic reference which has been misrepresented, a specific quotation that has been taken out of context. And most certainly I do not subscribe to your charge that “any measure of criticism” is to be thrown to the junk hill. Living here (and not reading NGOs’ reports and Arab/BDS propaganda, I know what happens. I fully admit to wrongdoings. But I also know when someone cannot accept that Israel does do right and does have the right to exists and does have the right to defend itself and I do know when the other side is evil and uncompromising.

    And as to that specific charge – that Israel does “severely restrict many fundamental freedoms (including academic freedoms) of the Palestinian people” – there is a good reason for doing that. But I would suggest to you that you use your good offices to first get the Palestinian Authority to stop inciting, stop paying the families of terrorist murderers (by a scale of how many they killed!),and get back to the negotiating table. Get Hamas to cease to deny Israel to right even to exist at all. We have Peace Now, B’tselem, Yesh Din and a myriad of other groups, what has the Pal. Authority? How many years since elections there?

    And I still prefer Kumar.

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