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The High Price of Defending Palestinian and Iranian Rights in America

The High Price of Defending Palestinian and Iranian Rights in America

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Published by Shahrvaraz
Dr. Kaveh Afrasiabi, a prominent scholar of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies, speaks out against the harassment , abuse and repression he has received in America for defending the rights of the Palestinian and Iranian nations.
Dr. Kaveh Afrasiabi, a prominent scholar of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies, speaks out against the harassment , abuse and repression he has received in America for defending the rights of the Palestinian and Iranian nations.

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Published by: Shahrvaraz on Apr 28, 2012
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03/09/2014

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The High Price of Defending Palestinianand Iranian Rights in America
 
Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, Ph.D.
In their book,
The Jewish Lobby,
the authors Stephen Walt and JohnMearsheimer have written about the academic repression of thosedaring to speak in defense of Palestinian rights and criticizing Israel'soppressive policies towards an entire nation under siege. Unfortunately, while this author has been cited in that book in a footnotein connection with Iran's nuclear program, there is no mention of myexperience of academic and non-academic repression simply because Ihave consistently heeded my moral and ethical responsibility as aMiddle East intellectual to defend the Palestinian rights no matter whatthe consequence. I wish to bring this matter to the public attention,particularly since I believe I have been subjected and, indeed, targetedfor legal harassment due to my principled stance. I hope that PresidentObama and American politicians take note of my situation which is asearing indictment of the state of academic freedom in the U.S.
1.
 
Repression at Boston University 
In 1992, I was a political science faculty at Boston University and lost my job directly as aresult of my decision to speak at a campus rally that protested the university’s honorary lawdegree on Israel’s former Prime Minister, Izhak Shamir. In my speech, I questioned theappropriateness of bestowing this honor on a hawkish Israeli politician who had a violent background with the pre-independence terrorist groups and who had shown callousdisregard for international law by ignoring the UN resolutions calling on Israel to withdrawfrom the territories it had occupied through war and conquest.Within two days of my speech, I was notified by my department chair that my position had been terminated, citing a clause in the contract pertaining to financial availability. I hadalready ordered the books for the next semester and my name was on calendar of coursesand, yet, despite my protest that I was being punished for exercising my freedom of speech,there would be no reconsideration of the instant firing.Subsequently, in 1995, a faculty committee on academic freedom at Boston Universityraised my complaint of discrimination in their report, to no avail as the university
 
administration defended itself and claimed that there was no connection between my firingand my public stance against Mr. Shamir.
2.Repression at State University of New York at Binghamton
 Exactly ten years later, in 2002 I experienced a similar repression at State University of  New York at Binghamton, also called Binghamton University, immediately after I published a letter in New York Times, titled “Israel and America out of step," which wascritical of Israeli Prime Minister Sharon for sending his tanks into a Palestinian refugeecamps in violation of UN and humanitarian laws, and for ignoring US president’s call towithdraw; my letter read as follows:“To the Editor:Regarding Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's defiance of President Bush's call for immediatewithdrawal from the Palestinian-controlled territories (front page, April 8):Unless the president is willing to jeopardize the prestige of the world's lone superpower, heshould proceed with the next logical step -- the cessation of all United States aid to Israel.Given the Israeli Government's callous disregard for the United Nations resolutions callingfor its withdrawal and its military assault without an iota of concern for civilian lives andwelfare, it is ethically and legally incumbent on President Bush to issue an ultimatum toPrime Minister Sharon to withdraw or face sanctions.KAVEH L. AFRASIABIBinghamton, N.Y., April 8, 2002The writer is senior associate, Center on Democratic Performance, SUNY at Binghamton."Little did I suspect that I would be starting a small brushfire on campus as a result of my brief publication. I was informed by the director of my research center, Edward McMahon,that he had been summoned to the office of president and grilled about me. Apparentlyquite a few Jewish alumni had threatened to stop their contributions to the university untilthey got rid of me – which they did in the middle of the semester, in direct breach of mycontract. This happened after I refused to meet with a delegation of Jewish organizationsat Binghamton who had laid a siege at the Center on Democratic Performance and through professor McMahon I simply reminded them that democracy means allowing what onedoes not want to hear. I then received a one line letter from the university informing methat my position had been terminated effective that date. The axe also fell on professor McMahon, who had the misfortune of authoring a joint article with me that appeared in theUN quarterly, UN Chronicle, around the same time and he too was terminated shortlythereafter, after years of employment at Binghamton. Needless to say, I found it odd that a university that prided itself as a liberal institution withstrong commitment to social sciences should behave so intolerantly toward a scholar whosimply heeded his responsibility, just as I had in other occasions, such as calling for inter-faith harmony the Middle East. Although I had ample ground to sue both Boston

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