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Israel officials intervene to have US academic removed

October 1, 2021 at 1:43 pm

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill [William Yeung/Flickr]

Israeli diplomats reportedly put pressure on the dean of a US university to have a teacher critical of the occupation state removed using allegations of anti-Semitism. Details of the intervention by Israeli consular officials, in what has been slammed as another example of the gross interference by a foreign state, were reported by the Intercept.

Israeli consular officials in the southeast US arranged meetings with a dean at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to remove graduate student, Kylie Broderick, from teaching the history department course called ‘The Conflict over Israel/Palestine’. Details of the visit by Israeli officials are said to have been exposed by two UNC professors who had knowledge of the meeting.

The intervention by the Israeli officials followed a pressure campaign by right-wing pro-Israel websites and an advocacy group who pointed to postings Broderick had made on Twitter that criticised Israel and Zionism and, without evidence, cited the postings as evidence of anti-Semitism.

Over the past few years there has been a concerted campaign to conflate anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel using the adoption of a highly controversial definition of racism known as the International Holocaust Definition of anti-Semitism. Seven of the 11 examples of anti-Semitism cited in the IHRA conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Critics have argued that its adoption has had a chilling effect on all levels of society especially in universities and campuses.

Read: Campaigners warn of chilling effect of UK anti-Semitism definition

The two UNC professors revealed that in addition to the intervention by the Israeli government, the university faced pressure from a member of the US House of Representatives.

“It is not a new phenomenon where outside parties have tried to stifle academic freedom on this subject,” Broderick is reported saying. “But these people have never seen me teach, never seen my past evaluations which have said that I treat students fairly, and thus have no right to dictate what I say inside the classroom.”

Read: HRW warns of threat to free-speech following rescinding of job offer to critic of Israel

“I think that a representative of a foreign government attempting to police an academic class is, in the first place, ridiculous, and an obvious overreaction to what is essentially an issue that started on Twitter,” Broderick added. “I also think it is strange that the Israeli consulate general was granted an audience. If this was a class on Hungary or Australia, would the university have permitted the attempted interference of a foreign government? The fact that this meeting happened at all is clearly a threat to academic freedom.”