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July 25, 2016

Turkey Cracks Down on Academics, Anti-Israel Scholars Silent

TIME magazine's November 2011 cover wondering if Erdogan could "save" the Arab Spring

The government of Turkey has instituted a widespread crackdown that has affected academics, as well as the military, judiciary, journalists and others following the failed coup attempt against the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on July 15, 2016. Many organizations quick to criticize Israel for alleged repression have largely been silent about Erdogan’s actual measures.

Liel Leibovitz, a journalist with Tablet, an online magazine, noted that as of July 21, “Erdogan’s government has stripped 59,628 private school teachers of their accreditation, and the state-run Council of Higher Education called on all 1,577 deans of private and public universities to immediately resign (“Hey, BDS-Loving Professors Watching the Assault on Academic Freedom in Turkey: Why so Quiet?? July 21, 2016). Leibovitz also noted that 100 additional academics were fired and a travel ban issued “on all professors still employed.?

The response from many Western-based academic associations, however, was largely non-existent. These organizations include the American Studies Association, the Association for Asian American Studies, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies and the Critical Ethnic Studies Association. Every one of them—while silent on Turkey’s repression—supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement which maligns and tries to delegitimize Israel.

Other academic associations offered weak critiques of the Turkish government’s actions.

Winfield Myers, director of Campus Watch, a project of the Philadelphia-based think tank, Middle East Forum, highlighted one such organization, the Middle East Studies Association (MESA). In his Middle East Forum blog posts, Myers noted that, after an initial delay, MESA, “finally issued a letter condemning the actions against Turkish academics, days after the purges began.? The condemnation, however, was tepid. Myers pointed out that “…while MESA et al. condemn the persecutions, they never mention Turkish president Erdogan by name, nor do they note (much less condemn, the reason behind the purges: to pave the way for the Islamization of all of Turkish society, long a goal of Erdogan and his AKP colleagues and followers.?

The AKP (Justice and Development) party to which Erdogan belongs has its origins in the Muslim Brotherhood. As CAMERA has noted (“Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood in Its Own, Original Words,? July 11, 2013), the Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928 to repel Western influence and restore the Sunni Muslim caliphate that ended shortly after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire following World War I. The Brotherhood’s credo is “Allah is our objective, The Prophet is our leader. The Koran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.?

MESA’s lukewarm missive on Erdogan’s repression stands in stark contrast to some of the much more heated and passionate rhetoric the group occasionally employs. The association’s June 6, 2016 letter protesting New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s support of anti-BDS legislation compared the governor’s actions to a “blacklist…a distressing and dangerous throwback to the days of the ‘Red Scare’ of the 1950s.?

In an earlier example, on Feb. 12, 2002, MESA said it was “deeply disturbed? over the University of South Florida’s decision to fire Prof. Sami al-Arian. “The al-Arian case IS about academic freedom,? MESA declared at the time. As CAMERA has noted (“Palestinian Islamic Jihad Backgrounder,? July 19, 2016), al-Arian was indicted in February 2003 for fundraising for Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a U.S.-designated terror group. Al-Arian was later deported as a result of evidence brought forth by the U.S. government.

William Jacobson, the founder of Legal Insurrection, a blog that focuses on Israel and antisemitism, among other things, pointed out: “The Turkish academic purge raises a test for the anti-Israel academic boycotters. Will they devote themselves this coming academic season to an academic boycott of Turkish universities, in addition to other majority-Muslim nations where minorities are repressed and academic freedom stifled??

Early returns, from silence to muted statements, are not encouraging. They do remind us though that another name for selective outrage is hypocrisy.

Note: An earlier version of this article, citing Tablet magazine, said the American Anthropological Association (AAA) supported BDS. Although the AAA voted overwhelmingly (1,040 to 136 margin) in November 2015 to put forward a resolution boycotting Israel, the association voted to oppose (2,423 against and 2,384 in support) that resolution in online voting that took place from April 15-May 31 2016.

Posted by SD at July 25, 2016 02:49 PM


Please get your facts straight. The American Anthropological Association REJECTED a resolution concerning an academic boycott of Israeli institutions. We expressed our concern about the threat to academic freedom and human rights posed by the Turkish government in January, and have also called upon the US State Department to use its authority to protect Turkish scholars from such threats.

[CAMERA: The post has been corrected. Thank you for the feedback.]

Posted by: Edward Liebow at July 26, 2016 11:48 AM

The fact that there was no condemnation of the Turkish restrictions on Academic Freedom, by pro BDS Academic Groups, is proof- positive that the BDS movement is the sheep's clothing for the Wolf of Anti-Semitism.

Posted by: Eugene Wolkow at July 29, 2016 09:45 AM

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