Following the failed coup attempt in Turkey last weekend, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has stripped 59, 628 private school teachers of their accreditation, and the state-run Council of Higher Education called on all 1,577 the deans of private and public universities to immediately resign. Yesterday, the government took the assault on academic freedom a step further, firing an additional 100 academics and issuing a travel ban on all professors still employed.
In light of this blatant assault on the very core of academic freedom, I would like to offer a hearty mazel tov to the legions of American academic associations rising up to fight for principle and stand in solidarity with their beleaguered Turkish colleagues. The calls this week by the American Anthropological Association, the American Studies Association, the Association for Asian American Studies, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies, the Critical Ethnic Studies Association, and others were all shining examples of precisely the sort of fierce commitment to freedom and justice we’ve come to expect of American academics, those lionhearted champions of liberty, those defenders of moral…
What’s that? None of them said anything? Even though they have all voted to boycott Israel for its alleged academic apartheid, a cruel policy of discrimination that has led to such clear abuses like a dramatic increase in the percentage of Arab students attending Israeli universities? How odd.
Those of us following academia’s disintegration may remember the wise words of Curtis Marez, the president of the American Studies Association who, when asked why his organization was singling Israel out for calumny and not, say, Russia or China or Turkey, replied “one has to start somewhere.” Well, professor, you’ve started somewhere, and now you have to keep going. Because if you criticize Israel alone, if you fail to speak when actual assaults on academic freedom are keeping actual educators and scholars from engaging in teaching and research, if you reserve moral outrage for the Jewish state alone and have none to show the true tyrants everywhere quashing the ideals we hold dear, then you and your colleagues would have all proven yourselves to be nothing more than puny anti-Semites worthy neither of our respect nor our tuition dollars.
Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.