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Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, Ph.D.
In their book, The Jewish Lobby, the authors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer have written about the academic repression of those daring to speak in defense of Palestinian rights and criticizing Israel's oppressive policies towards an entire nation under siege. Unfortunately, while this author has been cited in that book in a footnote in connection with Iran's nuclear program, there is no mention of my experience of academic and non-academic repression simply because I have consistently heeded my moral and ethical responsibility as a Middle East intellectual to defend the Palestinian rights no matter what the consequence. I wish to bring this matter to the public attention, particularly since I believe I have been subjected and, indeed, targeted for legal harassment due to my principled stance. I hope that President Obama and American politicians take note of my situation which is a searing indictment of the state of academic freedom in the U.S.
Repression at Boston University
In 1992, I was a political science faculty at Boston University and lost my job directly as a result of my decision to speak at a campus rally that protested the university’s honorary law degree on Israel’s former Prime Minister, Izhak Shamir. In my speech, I questioned the appropriateness of bestowing this honor on a hawkish Israeli politician who had a violent background with the pre-independence terrorist groups and who had shown callous disregard for international law by ignoring the UN resolutions calling on Israel to withdraw from 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 had already ordered the books for the next semester and my name was on calendar of courses and, 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 University raised 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 firing and 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 was critical of Israeli Prime Minister Sharon for sending his tanks into a Palestinian refugee camps in violation of UN and humanitarian laws, and for ignoring US president’s call to withdraw; my letter read as follows: “To the Editor: Regarding Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's defiance of President Bush's call for immediate withdrawal from the Palestinian-controlled territories (front page, April 8): Unless the president is willing to jeopardize the prestige of the world's lone superpower, he should 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 calling for its withdrawal and its military assault without an iota of concern for civilian lives and welfare, it is ethically and legally incumbent on President Bush to issue an ultimatum to Prime Minister Sharon to withdraw or face sanctions. KAVEH L. AFRASIABI Binghamton, N.Y., April 8, 2002 The 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. Apparently quite a few Jewish alumni had threatened to stop their contributions to the university until they got rid of me – which they did in the middle of the semester, in direct breach of my contract. This happened after I refused to meet with a delegation of Jewish organizations at 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 one does not want to hear. I then received a one line letter from the university informing me that 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 the UN quarterly, UN Chronicle, around the same time and he too was terminated shortly thereafter, after years of employment at Binghamton. Needless to say, I found it odd that a university that prided itself as a liberal institution with strong commitment to social sciences should behave so intolerantly toward a scholar who simply heeded his responsibility, just as I had in other occasions, such as calling for interfaith harmony the Middle East. Although I had ample ground to sue both Boston
University and Binghamton University, I chose not to and in each case confined myself to written responses asking for a reconsideration of the politically-motivated violation of my contract. 3. Repression in Cambridge, Massachusetts Nearly two years ago, in the Summer of 2010, I was unfairly subjected to a false arrest by the Cambridge Police Department that claimed I had not paid a 1986 ticket, yet subsequently a judge dismissed this false claim and admitted that the record showed I had paid that ticket, a quarter of century earlier! Worse, the Cambridge cops denied my constitutional right to make a phone call when in their custody and then the next morning separated me from other inmates taken to the court and physically harmed me after driving on the highway at full speed and then slamming on the brakes, causing me to hurtle forward into the wire screen, hitting it with my head, causing bleeding and a severe head injury that required several months of treatment and numerous visits to hospitals and head specialists. Subsequently, partly as a result of the adverse publicity and strong international support in the form of a petition signed by thousands of people, the City of Cambridge agreed to cover my medical expenses that ran into tens of thousands of dollars. As if intent on revenge against me, less than a year later, Cambridge police wiped out its own corrections on their websites about the reasons for my arrest, thus violating the terms of my agreement with the City of Cambridge. Why is this happening? As a former advisor to Iran's nuclear negotiation team (2004-2005) who has been critical of Iranophobic warmongerings in the US and Israel, is harassment by the Cambridge police part of a plan to silence my views? Is there any connection between this and my latest book, Iran Phobia And US Terror Plot: A Legal Deconstruction challenging the FBI story about an alleged assassination plot by Iran against the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia? Having experienced, and stood up to, repeated episodes of horrendous violations of my civil and human rights with impunity, I am naturally dismayed and frustrated by the egregious shortcomings of American democracy and its legal system, that have resulted in relentless attacks on my rights and dignity. As a former advisor to UN’s Program on “Dialogue Among Civilizations”, who has always advocated inter-faith harmony and tolerance, I find it ironic and supremely sad that on the whole the American system that boasts of its "democratic traditions" has treated me so poorly, indeed as if living under a system of legal and political Apartheid. In conclusion, I implore everyone to contact Boston University and Binghamton University and let them know that they ought to issue a formal apology to me.
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