I recently attended a panel discussion about the Palestinian Authority’s attempt to win recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations. Three academics had been invited to contextualize and analyze the meaning of this action. The event was sponsored by the University of Alberta’s department of political science and the local Palestinian Solidarity Network. A few days later, a letter appeared in The Journal, authored by Joseph Mandelbaum, in which he accused the department of “complicity in the spread of misinformation,” and, by implication, of legitimizing anti-semitism.
My intention in writing this is not to refute point-by-point Mr. Mandelbaum’s claims, but to place his accusations within the context of a broader campaign to discredit and silence critics of the actions of the state of Israel. This campaign has created an environment in which it is difficult for anyone to say anything critical of the Israeli state without being accused of anti-semitism. It particularly targets university professors, and has a chilling effect on academic freedoms as well as on political debate.