Creating new perspectives since 2009

‘End of free inquiry’: Jewish scholar has job offer rescinded for criticising Israeli genocide

June 19, 2024 at 3:03 pm

University of Minnesota [AlexiusHoratius/Wikipedia]

The University of Minnesota has withdrawn a job offer to Israeli- American Jewish scholar, Raz Segal after he characterised Israel’s assault on Gaza as a “textbook case of genocide“.  Segal was set to lead the University’s Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, but his offer was revoked following a campaign led by pro-Israel groups and the resignation of two board members who opposed his selection.

Speaking on Democracy Now, Segal described the hiring process as “completely legitimate”, involving a public announcement, applications, interviews and community engagement. However, after being officially offered the position on 5 June, Segal faced what he called a “hateful campaign of lies and distortions” from the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), leading to the University’s decision to rescind the offer on 10 June.

Segal believes he has been “targeted because of [his] identity as a Jew who refuses the narrowing down of Jewish identity to Zionism” and sees the JCRC-led opposition as a “crude political intervention” in the hiring process. He emphasised that the JCRC does not speak for all Jews in the Twin Cities, citing hundreds of supportive emails from local Jewish community members.

READ: UK campus crackdown: King’s College students ‘strangled’, ‘choked’

Segal warned that this “crude political intervention” and its legitimisation by the University is “extremely dangerous”, joining a broader attack on academic freedom in the wake of Israel’s military onslaught on Gaza. “It spells the end of this idea of free inquiry, of academic freedom, of research and teaching — and all in the service, of course, of supporting an extremely violent state,” Segal stated.

Segal’s case highlights the growing suppression of dissent against Israeli policies in American universities, with clampdowns on student protests, mass arrests and university presidents being pressured to equate opposition to Zionism with anti-Semitism. He argues that this trend threatens the very idea of a liberal university and the foundational Western values of free inquiry and academic freedom.

Segal’s description of Israel’s military operation in Gaza as a genocide has drawn support from dozens of Holocaust and genocide studies scholars, amid an international outcry over the actions of the apartheid state. Segal pointed to the case against Israel in the International Court of Justice where it is under investigation for genocide and the International Criminal Court’s request for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

As students and faculty across the University of Minnesota express outrage at the decision to rescind Segal’s offer, the case raises alarming questions about the state of academic freedom and the ability of universities to withstand political pressure from pro-Israel groups when it comes to critical discussions of Israel’s decades of illegal Occupation of Palestine.