London school stands up for TA

"A pro-Israeli propaganda exercise masquerading as an academic conference has no place, but to celebrate Tel Aviv as the Israeli war machine is nothing short of sick."

gaza bombed mosque 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
gaza bombed mosque 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
LONDON - A London university has refused to bow to pressure to cancel a series of lectures commemorating the centenary of Tel Aviv because of Israel's operation in Gaza. The Centre of Jewish Studies at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), has hosted since October a bimonthly special lecture series entitled "100 Years of Tel Aviv." This week, the academic union at the university and a Palestinian pressure group called for the lectures to be cancelled. "A pro-Israeli propaganda exercise masquerading as an academic conference has no place in SOAS at the best of times, but to hold a celebration of Tel Aviv as the Israeli war machine wreaks death and destruction on the Gaza ghetto is nothing short of sick," said Graham Dyer, chair of the branch of the University and College Union at SOAS. He added that cancelling or postponing the series was not a denial of academic freedom but an expression of "basic humanitarian sympathy with the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza. "We cannot celebrate anything during this holocaust," Dyer said. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel said it was "morally repulsive" to be celebrating Tel Aviv "while Gaza burns" and called on the university to cancel the "ill-conceived propaganda exercise." Calling on people to boycott the lecture series, Prof. Sabry Hafez, from the Middle East Languages and Cultures Department at SOAS, said that he was "gravely concerned" that his department is "indirectly involved in such act of unashamed propaganda and little or no academic merit." "I call on all the members of this department, and other colleagues in the School, to make their views known, and to write collectively to the director to cancel this ill-conceived program," he said. "I also call on all my colleagues to boycott this program if it is not cancelled." But the university said it welcomes a diversity of views and that at its core was a commitment to academic freedom. "Any call for cancelling this series will be seen as not based on opposition to the centenary but on the participation of Israel academics," said Prof. Colin Shindler, chair of the Centre for Jewish Studies. "Academic institutions rightly do not suppress different narratives and opinions." The lecture series is being conducted in conjunction with Tel Aviv University and the Pears Foundation.