DOUG HENWOOD: We’re now joined by William Robinson, who is a Professor of Sociology at the University of California in Santa Barbara, someone I met about six or seven years ago at a conference and, although I’ve disagreed with him on some issues, I though he’s a serious and thoughtful guy. I was very distressed to learn, reading Insider Higher Ed, the website, today that he’s being persecuted by the Zionist lobby for an e-mail that he sent around to some of his students. Welcome William Robinson, tell us the story of what you sent and what’s been happening.
William Robinson: Yes, good afternoon to everyone. I included some material which was highly critical of the Israeli invasion of Gaza as part of the reading material for a course on globalization and global affairs, and this was in January. And I am now facing charges, here at the university, of anti-semitism and violating the faculty code of conduct because two students in the course – there were eighty students – these two submitted a formal letter of complaint that they found offensive the material condemning the invasion of Gaza. The students immediately withdrew from the course, I don’t even know them personally. And what is particularly egregious about this case is not that the students submitted a complaint – any student is allowed to do that – but rather that the university took the complaint seriously and is actually prosecuting me…
DH: You have tenure right?
WR: Yes, I am tenured, I am a full time professor…
DH: So in theory you’re protected against persecution for your beliefs.
WR: No, in theory, I have total, I and even if I don’t have tenure, have academic freedom, and this is in total violation of my academic freedom and of all of the principles of academic freedom, and of the university’s own charter on academic freedom, and the American Association of University Professors principles and procedures on academic freedom, so there is absolutely no basis for any of this. What’s going on, and I want to explain, behind the scenes we have been able to find out – students on campus and faculty have formed a Committee to Defend Academic Freedom which is taking up this issue, and by the way, there is a blog that they put up with all of this information, which at some point I would like to give your listeners – but we have found out that the Anti-Defamation League, which, as you know, and your listeners probably know, is an organization which, at one time, did very good and very important work in denouncing anti-Semitism, but since then has become a, basically, a mouthpiece for the Israeli government, a defender of the policies and practices of the Israeli state, and goes after and attacks anyone that criticizes those policies. So these students did not even accuse me of doing anything which we would consider anti-Semitism – discrimination against Jews, against the Jewish religion and so forth – they said openly and outright that the professor introduces material which criticized the state of Israel and that equals anti-semitism.
DH: Now, I think some people found offensive that you had likened Israeli behavior to the Nazis. Is that an issue?
WR: Well I didn’t do that. What I did was I forwarded several items from the world media, from the internet media. One item was an article written by a Jewish journalist in a Jewish newspaper here in the United States, and it was criticizing the invasion of Gaza…
DH: So you didn’t endorse this position?
WR: I didn’t endorse it but I did include, I said, in presenting this material, I said that Gaza is Israel’s Warsaw and I explained the context. That’s because in Warsaw the Nazi’s surrounded Warsaw, concentrated Jews in Warsaw, wouldn’t let anyone in, wouldn’t let anyone out, wouldn’t let supplies in, wouldn’t let supplies out; as a result there was famine and disease and so forth…
DH: Which is exactly what’s…
WR: …exactly and precisely what the Israeli’s are doing in Gaza. And that’s been denounced by the Red Cross, the United Nations, the international human rights organizations, and moreover, academic freedom totally allows me to present such controversial material and that’s part of what the university is all about. We academically debate these controversial issues. I want to explain though what happened. We got some inside information in the last week. The president of the Anti-Defamation League Abraham Fox-…
WR: Foxman, he arrived here in Santa Barbara and he called a meeting with a select group of faculty, and he called the meeting for no other reason than to say that we want Professor Robinson prosecuted, and this is explosive. We have just learned about this; we’re going to go public with it. And so there is this outside Israel lobby which has come on to campus, and which is accusing me of anti- Semitism and of doing all of these terrible things in order to create an atmosphere of complete intimidation. You know that anyone who criticizes the policies of the state of Israel is silenced, and is given that label of anti-smitism; that’s a way of creating this atmosphere of intimidation, that no one can speak out about what’s going on in Israel-Palestine, and so forth. That’s the larger context.
DH: Ok, I’m sorry to make this so rushed, but this is a last minute addition and the rest of the show is full, just let me conclude…What can people do?
WR: [Go to] sb4af.wordpress.com. That’s the blog that the Committee to Defend Academic Freedom has set up, and a lot of this information is on there, a lot of the documents are on there.
DH: All right, well thank you William Robinson and best of luck in your fight and we’ll be back to look at this in the future.
WR: Thank-you, thank-you very much.
DH: I’ve been speaking with William Robinson, who is a professor of sociology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, under persecution by the intellectual police at the Zionist lobby, the Anti-Defamation League.
DOUG HENWOOD is the editor of the Left Business Observer and host of WBAI’s Behind the News.