Johnny E. Williams
In academia, most scholars shun speaking and writing about the state of Israel’s siege and wars in Palestine. Our silence suggests support for the Israeli government’s violation of international law, specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention’s articles 27-34 and 47-78 stipulating that occupying powers have a general obligation to “ensure… the provision of food and medical care to the population under occupation,” and prohibits “collective punishment” of the occupied population and the “confiscation of private property” by the occupier.
Our subdued reaction to Israel’s occupation of Palestine generally reflects the fear that pro-Israel supporters will damage our careers if we were to speak and write about the facts of the situation.
Pro-Israel supporters use malicious and debased techniques to threaten us into silence such as threatening university administrators with withdrawal of pro-Israel donors’ funding. The threat to withdraw donor funding is so feared by university administrators that the University of Illinois’s Chancellor Phyllis Wise recently rescinded a job offer made to a professor for speaking out against Israeli atrocities in Gaza on social media.
Despite the threat of unemployment and retaliation a critical mass of scholars continue to do our job — questioning the answers generally accepted as fact. We dissect the false Israeli occupation narratives that major media outlets disseminate. We expose how Israel is not, as it says, merely exercising its right to self-defense; it is using the IDF and extrajudicial measures to ethnically cleanse Gaza and the West Bank for annexation.
Academics such as Norman Finkelstein, Juan Cole, Joseph Massad, Nadia Abu El Haj, Erwin Chemerinsky, David Guth and, most recently Steven Salaita, University of Illinois and countless others follow the path of Hannh Arendt, Albert Einstein, and present day Israeli colleagues like Neve Gordon and Ilan PappÃ© by refusing to remain silent about Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity. However, a majority of academics refuse to see or acknowledge how their “neutrality,” deference to authority and “following the path of least resistance” helps fuel Israeli injustices against Palestinians.