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Sydney University tries to restrict Prof. Tim Anderson’s criticism of war propaganda against Syria, Iraq and Palestine

University of Sydney Provost Stephen Garton has chosen- as a pretext- one tiny, buried image in the background of info graphic ,shown during advisory analysis made by professor Tim Anderson  about the Israeli attacks on Gaza, to suspend him from his position as a senior lecturer and to ban him from entering the university at which he has worked for more than 20 years.

This move is the culmination of a series of failed attempts by the University’s management to restrict his public comments  on and criticism of war propaganda against Syria, Iraq and Palestine, according to a post published by the professor on his Facebook page on December 4, 2018.

Prof. Anderson told the Syria Times e-newspaper that he has not presented material on the Nazi Swastika [the buried image in info graphic ] during his advisory analysis of the Israeli attacks on Gaza and he has rejected the attempts of the university’s management at political censorship as unprincipled.

“The management’s complaints, over the last 18 months, have been petty and absurd and most of them  have to do with my criticisms of war propaganda against Syria, Iraq and Palestine.. In my view they represent an unusually aggressive regime of political censorship, in which no decent university should be involved,” he said, indicating that Stephen Garton has ignored the ‘intellectual freedom’ rule of the university, which states that academic staff are entitled to ‘express unpopular or controversial views, provided that in doing so staff must not engage in harassment, vilification or intimidation’. 

“ I will point this out to the Review Committee… I have told Provost Garton that I don’t abuse or engage in gratuitous criticism, but I do criticize dishonest propaganda harshly, when justified,” Prof. Anderson stressed.

Academics criticize the suspension of their colleague

Thirty six  academics from the university of Sydney  released a statement opposing the suspension of Dr. Anderson, insisting that the drawing of historical comparisons between the actions of states is essential to intellectual and educational work, and must not be subject to a priori constraints.

 

“Dr. Anderson’s dismissal would be a dangerous, unjustifiable and intolerable attack on the basic conditions necessary for the university to function as an intellectual and educational institution. If it goes ahead, the precedent it will establish will vitiate any claim the university might make to respect the open pursuit of ideas,” the statement said.

It called on the university’s management to reinstate Dr. Anderson immediately. 

Not only academics but also students were against the unacceptable act of the university.

Fascism

Fahad Ali, a student at the University of Sydney, sent a letter to Professor Stephen Garton arguing that any disciplinary action against Dr. Anderson violates academic freedom.

He wrote in his letter: “As has been reported in national and student press, you allege that Dr. Anderson’s use of an altered image of the Israeli flag as “disrespectful and offensive, and contrary to the University’s behavioural expectations... If this is true, then you must be prepared to accept what must necessarily follow: The late Jewish-Israeli polymath Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who was offered the state-awarded Israel Prize in 1993, used the term “Judeo-Nazi” to refer to the actions of Israeli soldiers in the Six Day War… If Professor Leibowitz was a Sydney academic, you would suspend him.”

Further examples about statements made by Jewish-Israeli writers and academics on Nazi Germany were mentioned in the letter of the student, who affirmed that their arguments based not in insult or prejudice but in fact.

“it would be absurd and offensive to suggest that the behaviour of the State of Israel against Palestinians somehow approaches the terrible and immense scale of Nazi actions during the Holocaust. But no one is doing this,” the student said.

He added: “At no point did Dr. Anderson argue or convey that Israel is indistinguishable from Nazi Germany. …Instead, he used imagery that drew an important parallel to make a visual and emphatic point about the violence and dehumanisation that paves the path towards fascism.”

The student underlined that the development of fascism in Israel is a valid and valuable topic of scholarly investigation. Naturally, parallels between the State of Israel and Nazi Germany can and should be made when the evidence indicates such a relationship, and only to the extent that the evidence suggests.

“Dr. Anderson has not, in any way, exceeded these bounds…As is clear, there are proud Jewish citizens of Israel who are deeply concerned about the direction of their state and the disturbing echoes of Nazi ideology in the behaviour and rhetoric of their parliamentary representatives. Rather than chill any discussion on the topic, we are a University that should welcome such inquiry,” Ali clarified.

He urged the university’s management  to withdraw any disciplinary action against Dr. Anderson and to consider the damage to the reputation of the University as a leading institute of education and research that this violation of academic freedom would represent.

In 2012, Prof Anderson joined with a number of Syrian-Australians to form a group called ‘Hands off Syria’. At first they took a strictly ‘hands off’ to foreigners approach; but within 2 or 3 months they decided on principle to back the Syrian Arab Army. Since then he began to write about the dirty war on Syria, leading to his book "The Dirty War on Syria", which came out in January 2016. It is now published in 10 languages (English, Arabic, German, Swedish, Bosnian, Italian, Spanish, Icelandic, Greek and Farsi). His second book on the crisis ‘Countering War Propaganda of the Dirty War on Syria’ was published in Damascus by New Dalmoun Press in 2017. 

By Basma Qaddour

 

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

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