MEDIA ALERT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 10, 2014
Contact: Eric Ruder
Stand upÂ for academic freedom:
Why isÂ Palestine taboo at Columbia College?
Columbia College students, faculty and community members are organizingÂ a campaign to defend academic freedom afterÂ Columbia administrators retaliatedÂ against an instructor for the content of his course about the Israel/PalestineÂ conflict. TheÂ campaign includes a petition (www.chn.ge/MXMtpY); March 11 and 12Â call-in days to the Columbia CollegeÂ administration; and a public forumÂ featuring Ali Abunimah, a leading proponent of Palestinian rightsÂ (www.tinyurl.com/PalColumbia).
As part of his course, Prof. Iymen Chehade screens the Oscar-nominatedÂ documentaryÂ 5 Broken Cameras, whichÂ depictsÂ popular resistance to Israeli military occupation. After a student allegedÂ that the film showed that Chehadeâ€™s course isÂ â€œbiased,â€ Chehade was summonedÂ for a meeting with Dr. Steven Corey, who is the chair of the Department ofÂ Humanities,Â History, and Social Sciences. Corey told Chehade to teach hisÂ course in a more â€œbalancedâ€ manner, and then ColumbiaÂ College withdrew oneÂ section of his course just hours after it had been made available to studentsÂ registering for classes.
â€œAcademic freedom entails not only the right to speak from a particularÂ perspective, but the freedom from being compelledÂ to engage in a particularÂ type of speech,â€ said Chehade. â€œThe frequent demand from apologists for IsraeliÂ colonialism thatÂ any discussion of the conflict be â€˜balancedâ€™ would be consideredÂ absurd in most other contexts. For example, must everyÂ presentation about theÂ African-American civil rights movement include a speaker who will attempt toÂ justify the denial ofÂ these rights?â€
Student and faculty supporters of Chehade and all those interested inÂ the principle of academic freedom are circulating aÂ petition (www.chn.ge/MXMtpY),Â holding March 11 and 12 call-in days to Columbia College administrators, andÂ hosting aÂ March 20 public forum entitled â€œWhy is Palestine taboo at Columbia College?â€Â (www.tinyurl.com/PalColumbia).
The March 20 forum features Prof. Iymen Chehade; Ali Abunimah, Americaâ€™sÂ best known advocate for Palestinian rightsÂ and author most recently ofÂ The Battle for Justice in Palestine;Â John Wilson of the American Association of UniversityÂ Professors-Illinois; andÂ Columbia college students Ava Ginsburg and Ahmed Hamad, who are both members ofÂ Students forÂ Justice in Palestine/Jewish Voice for Peace at Columbia College.Â After the speaker presentations, there will be ample timeÂ for audienceÂ discussion and debate.