How conservatives view free speech when discussing Israel and war

Let’s not be under any illusion that conservatives who talk about a love of “freedom” (including Rupert Murdoch, for that matter) mean nothing of the sort, but only views that push a pro-US, pro-Israel and pro-war agenda. The Zionist lobby, a long-time fan of bullying opponents, is on-board. Here’s Murdoch’s Australian on the weekend:

A Coalition government would block all federal funds to individuals and institutions who speak out in favour of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.

In a move that has shocked the academic community but won praise from Jewish leaders, foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop has hardened up the Coalition’s policy, saying not only would funds be cut for BDS-related activities, but for any research, educational, or other purpose.

“The Coalition will institute a policy across government that ensures no grants of taxpayers’ funds are provided to individuals or organisations which actively support the BDS campaign,” Ms Bishop told The Weekend Australian.

The policy has alarmed the National Tertiary Education Union, whose president, Jeannie Rae, said it would undermine hard fought-for federal legislation that “protects freedom of intellectual inquiry for university staff and students”.

“One of the traditional roles for universities is to facilitate informed debate about controversial topics,” Ms Rae said.

Even the University of Sydney, which vigorously opposes BDS, was lukewarm, with a spokeswoman declining to comment on “hypothetical” legislation but saying “we defend academics’ right to contribute to public debate”.

The Coalition policy is most immediately directed at Jake Lynch who, along with the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies that he directs, is a vocal supporter of BDS.

Associate Professor Lynch drew the ire of Jewish groups when he rejected a request for help from Israeli academic Dan Avnon, who developed Israel’s only civics curriculum for both Jewish and Arab school students.

Professor Lynch has the backing of Sydney University’s student representative council, which passed a resolution supporting him when officials of the university, to which his centre is attached, disowned the BDS campaign.

Professor Lynch insists the federal government grants he and his centre receive are not used for promoting BDS, but for a wide range of research and education covering many countries.

But Ms Bishop told The Weekend Australian: “It is inappropriate for Associate Professor Lynch to use his role as director of the taxpayer-funded CPACS . . . in support of the anti-Semitic BDS campaign.”

This week Professor Lynch told a student forum the BDS campaign was not anti-Semitic, and said the suggestion was a “cynical smear”.

Professor Lynch described the Coalition’s new policy as “an attempt to silence me by threatening to harm me in my profession”.

“I am being told that I cannot get any government funds for my research, on topics unrelated to BDS, as long as I hold the views I do,” he said.

Australia-Israel and Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein supported the Coalition’s initiative.

“It is obviously inappropriate for publicly funded bodies to engage in BDS against Israel . . . it is the role of government to make this clear,” he said.

Australian conservative are following the lead of censorious types in the US (examples here and here).

Now there’s another disturbing example, sent to my via Melbourne academic Scott Burchill, who wrote to Noam Chomsky and received this reply:

Pretty bad, but the Libs are amateurs.  Here’s an example of Real BDS, from experts.  This is a news item from Science.  A lot of scientists and mathematicians are furious about it, but too intimidated to say anything.

Noam
***

Scientific journals are being asked to help tighten U.S. trade sanctions on Iran. On 30 April, the Dutch publishing behemoth Elsevier of the Netherlands sent a note to its editorial network saying that all U.S. editors and U.S. reviewers must “avoid” handling manuscripts if they include an author employed by the government of Iran. Under a policy that went into effect in March — reflecting changes in a law passed by the U.S. Congress in December — even companies like Elsevier not based in the United States must prevent their U.S. personnel from interacting with the Iranian government.

The sanctions, aimed at punishing Iran for its pursuit of nuclear technology, have been broadened somewhat from previous rules issued by the enforcement agency, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), a division of the Treasury Department.

According to a treasury official, OFAC has not changed its “general license” policy for journals; it still allows them to publish articles authored by nongovernmental scientists from Iran and other sanctioned countries. The new wrinkle is that OFAC insists that all U.S. citizens, no matter who employs them, comply with the sanctions against papers authored by governmental researchers. That apparently prompted Elsevier to issue a warning to its employees.

Elsevier spokesperson Harald Boersma explained in an e-mail that the new restrictions are expected to affect a small number of papers and that the company had implemented “more specific sanctions … over the past year or two” as a result of U.N. recommendations.

“In recent changes … U.S.-owned scientific and medical journals would violate OFAC regulations if they handle scientific manuscripts where any of the authors are employed by the government of Iran. This includes research departments of nuclear facilities as well as the various oil and gas companies which are deemed to be entities of the Government of Iran. The sanctions do not apply to manuscripts from academic and research institutes and manuscripts originating from non-governmental clinical settings, such as hospitals [or] clinical practices. This means that the sanctions only apply to a very small part of research papers coming out of Iran. Our recent communications with editors were motivated out of concern that U.S. citizens acting as editors of our journals might also be subject to personal liability.”

 In a note to editors (a copy of which was obtained by ScienceInsider), Elsevier gives advice on what a manager should do if he or she can’t find a non-U.S. person to work on a paper that requires special handling: “Please reject the manuscript outright.” According to the note, the rejection should apologize to the submitter and explain that because of U.S. sanctions, “we are unfortunately unable to handle your manuscript.”

OFAC tangled with scientific journals almost a decade ago when it proposed much harsher restrictions on communications from Iran. That led to an organized protest by the American Institute of Physics, the Association of American Publishers, and others, resulting in the current understanding: OFAC permits the exhange of scientific but not government-sponsored communications from Iran.

Several other scientific publishing organizations—including AAAS, the publisher of ScienceInsider—said that they did not see a need to change the way they handle manscripts at present.

11 comments