The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict's Toxic Impact on Academic Freedom, and What Academics Can Do About It

Location: Hemmingson Ballroom, Pamplona, Room 332
Date: Sat, October 21
Time: 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

There are few issues more divisive than the Israel-Palestine conflict on some campuses. Each side defines itself as standing for justice, and the other as condoning or promoting oppression. Outside advocacy groups try to impact the campus, which is seen less as a place to cultivate critical thinking, and more as a battlefield of ideas, where one side is supposed to win and the other to lose. Each side sometimes tries to deny the other the ability to speak, as if allowing expression would be morally unjust. Yet both sides point to egregious violations of academic freedom by the other. And in this they are correct. Each also claims that it is respects academic freedom.

Yes, academic freedom is important, but not as important as standing up to antisemitism. Yes, academic freedom is important, but not as important as standing up for Palestinian rights. How do bias and sacred symbols impact this conflict, where each side too often vilifies the other? Why is that that some student can see the humanity in people they do not know thousands of miles away, but have difficulty interacting with fellow students with whom they disagree? Should the point of education about this issue be to increase empathy, or rather to increase understanding of what may be mutually irreconcilable aspirations? What can academics do to increase knowledge, and the ability of students to engage such a difficult issue, and to examine honestly ideas they might find disturbing, even detestable? This workshop will detail both the damage of the Israel/Palestine conflict to academic freedom, and the opportunity for creative courses and other campus initiatives to not only reduce the toxicity of the debate, but also to provide an example of how to have rational discussions of conflict.

B- Bridging Practice and Theory