Dear President Celeste and Colleagues on the Faculty of Colorado College:
I wish to commend you for inviting Dr. Hanan Ashrawi as one of the speakers to your symposium, “September 11:One Year Later”, that is to take place on your campus shortly. Please stand steadfast and firm in your decision despite the concerted efforts of pro-Israeli groups to seek a reversal of your invitation to Dr. Ashrawi. It would be a blow to academic freedom, freedom of speech and the integrity of Colorado College to cave in in any manner or form to the demands of the blind and rabid Israel-supporters. Their statements impugning the scholarship and qualifications of Dr. Ashrawi to speak at your college on the subject of “terrorism” are utterly without merit. In fact, they are slanderous and disgraceful given the historical record. One need hardly point out that the first recorded incidents of terrorism in the modern world (post WW II) were carried out by Israeli terrorist groups (led by people who subsequently became Prime Minister’s of Israel, such as Begin and Shamir) against the British (mandatory power in Palestine before Israel’s creation) and the Palestinians who lived in the region. And to this day, the Israeli government carries out state-terrorism against the Palestinian people in the form of deliberate assassinations and horrific “collateral damage” (as evidenced again in the brutal killing of women and children by Israeli tank fire in Gaza and by Israeli helicopter-missile attacks in the West Bank recently). But yet Dr. Ashrawi has the honesty and courage to speak out against all acts of terrorism, Israeli and Palestinian. She has spearheaded a broad-based movement that calls for a peaceful and just resolution of the internecine conflict that has devastated Palestinian lives, property, health, living standards and hope infinitely more than the damage wrought to Israeli society. She is a remarkable woman who has unhesitatingly spoken out against violence and corruption in the Palestinian Authority. In my view, there is not a more suitable person with experience, knowledge, compassion and spirit who can grace your symposium and provide the attendees with a meaningful and sensitive understanding of the root causes of terrorism.
In late July, my colleagues at Central Connecticut State University facilitated a workshop on the Middle East to provide school teachers information and analysis on the history, politics, economics, culture and religions of the region. They were assailed even before the workshop started by very shrill and bellicose pro-Israeli, Zionist groups in the area who also claimed that the workshop was not “balanced” (i.e. it was deemed to be pro-Palestinian and/or anti-Israeli without any evidence whatsoever to level such scurrilous charges). The pro-Israeli groups wanted speakers to “balance” the presentations of the workshop faculty. They called into question, without any basis, the credentials and scholarship of the facilitators, thereby trying to undermine the credibility of the workshop. Their supporters resorted to hate-mails and threatening calls besides overloading the e-mail of the University’s President, Dr. Richard Judd, and others involved in the workshop. But to the immense credit of the organizing faculty and our President, the program went ahead as planned despite the unceasing efforts to scuttle, demean and disrupt it by the pro-Israeli lobby.
The intellectual cowardice of such intolerant groups has plumbed new depths. Their scare-mongering tactics are reminiscent of the terrible persecution of people in and out of academia in the McCarthy-era for the mere suspicion of harboring “socialist” thoughts. Now, people and institutions around the country who attempt to foster an open discussion and debate on terrorism, or on Israel’s unremitting, brutal war against the Palestinian people, are attacked, especially if they criticize Israel in the slightest degree. They are called “anti-Semitic” by the new thought-police, as people were labeled “commies” in an earlier period in attempts to make them social pariahs. Their sole purpose is to stifle free expression and silence any criticism of a country they deem immaculate. Israel’s vicious violence against the Palestinians is “self defence” and beyond reproach.
These are perilous times for freedom in the country. The executive branch of government has enacted, with the complicity of the legislative branch, some of the most restrictive laws ever to collect information on “suspects” and incarcerate them for endless periods without due process as “enemy combatants” or “conspirators in terror”. The media cowers under threat of sanction from the pro-Israeli groups or for seeming to be “not-sufficiently-patriotic”. Politicians are silenced into meekly accepting the Israeli government’s characterization (supported by the U.S. government) of the relentlessly cruel war against the Palestinian people as being an integral part of America’s war on “global terrorism”, and hence above criticism. If any politician dares to step out of line, the powerful pro-Israeli groups organize to engineer his or her defeat at the polls. Just ask Earl Hilliard and Cynthia McKinney. The last bastions of free speech and open debate are in the halls of academia and on the grounds of college campuses.
I, and several of my colleagues at Central Connecticut State University, stand with you in your determination to withstand the intolerance and hate exhibited by those who have pilloried your choice of Dr. Ashrawi to speak at the symposium. Please do not flinch or succumb to the threats and coercive tactics of the Zionists in Colorado. Your right to have the symposium of your choice, and host the indominatable Dr. Hanan Ashrawi as a speaker, is the correct choice.
Dr. Sadanand Nanjundiah
Dr. Sadanand Nanjundiah is a Physics Professor at Central Connecticut State University.