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Shouting 'Death to Israel'

Academic Freedom.

by Barnabas
February 26, 2003

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Shouting 'Death to Israel'_Barnabas-Academic Freedom.
Al-Arian had been in a battle with the University of South Florida to keep his job after a tape became public showing him shouting "Death to Israel" in Arabic. He went on paid leave from the university in 1996 and was banned from the campus following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States.

Al-Arian had called his troubles with the university an issue of academic freedom, and said there was "no evidence in the record" that he was linked to terrorist groups.

—CNN, February 21, 2003

A couple of weeks ago the Iraqi scientist known as “Dr. Death” explained carefully that the biological weapons of mass slaughter she had helped develop were for the Israelis, not for ordinary enemies. She set this forth as an ethical position that any reasonable person would understand.

The South Florida professor arrested this week believes that shouting “Death to Israel” is protected by academic freedom, and probably by freedom of speech and of religion as well. And apparently it was, because at the time of his arrest he still held his tenured position, having survived this far the challenge made to his academic fitness. In Barnabas’s eyes, academic fitness includes moral fitness. What Reepicheep says of royalty in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is true of everyone who holds a public trust, including teachers: we are not free to please ourselves as private persons do.

But he wasn’t arrested for shouting “Death to Israel.” so under the law his freedom of speech survived. He was arrested for what he is suspected of doing — leading, under the protection of his civil liberties, a group plotting the destruction of the nation of Israel and which has committed murder in pursuit of its goal.

He is not guilty of the charges against him unless proven so. As usual, Barnabas will yield the burden of proof to the government.

The professor is guilty at a more profound level, however. “Death to Israel” exposes a breach of ethics he either does not understand or refuses to acknowledge. The political and emotional commitment in the Middle East to the extinction of Israel, supported by an appeal to religion that no God worth trusting would ever support, offends the concept of ethics itself. It targets a people for who they are, not for what they do. What they do may be negotiated; who they are cannot be. So their extinction becomes the only solution their enemies will accept.

Dr. Death and the South Florida professor expect us to see the reasonableness of their position. We never shall. We are appalled instead. We are not protecting Israel because we are “Zionists.” Most Americans don’t know what that means. We are protecting Israelis because they are people. We have a way of doing that, most recently in protection of the Bosnian Muslims. That action didn’t make us Sons of the Prophet, nor does our current policy make us Zionists.

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