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6 On Radio Silence and the Video That Saved the Day: The Attack against Professor Dubnov at the University of California San Diego, 2012 Shlomo Dubnov Shlomo Dubnov’s story highlights a common campus tactic of anti-Israelists: race-tinged libelous smearing of their opponents. Dubnov spoke against Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) at the student government’s annual debate and promptly became the target of a campaign in which he was falsely charged with harassing an anti-Israel student “of color.” Shockingly, university administrators and colleagues promoted the campaign against him even in the absence of any actual evidence of his wrongdoing. Only after the campaign had done its damage to him, personally and professionally, did video come to light that completely exonerated him—although even that didn’t stop the attacks on him. Dubnov observes with dismay how Jewish academics are intimidated by anti-Israel activists and how difficult it is for Jewish students to be taught by so many professors who urge them to rethink their connections to Israel. Partly as a result of what happened to him, the following year anti-Israel forces prevailed in intimidating their campus opponents and finally passed a student government BDS resolution. It was one of those almost routine events. February 2012. The annual BDS debate, loud and contentious, would go on all night at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) student government meeting. I expected it to be somewhat nerve-racking, and by knowing in advance that lies and false accusations against Israel were going to fly around and that I was going to hear over and over the same accusations of racism, genocide, and ethnic cleansing, I could mentally equip myself as I walked in there. I knew, or thought I knew, that the only decent response to the outrageous accusations would be to speak of tolerance, the need to negotiate, the principles of civil conduct, and so on. I did not at all expect what ended up happening. 92 | Shlomo Dubnov I came to UCSD more than a decade ago from Israel. Soon after my arrival, I organized a group of UCSD faculty as a local chapter of the academic organization Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME). What I was going to say at that student government meeting was pretty much in line with how SPME framed its mission: “promoting academic integrity in the study of the Middle East, particularly with regard to the conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors.” It sounds good, decent, not too aggressive. I was also going to talk about the standards of academic free speech and was prepared to share a letter from forty Nobel laureates that read, in part: Believing that academic and cultural boycotts, divestments and sanctions in the academy are: • antithetical to principles of academic and scientific freedom, • antithetical to principles of freedom of expression and inquiry, and • may well constitute discrimination by virtue of national origin, We, the undersigned Nobel Laureates, appeal to students, faculty colleagues and university officials to defeat and denounce calls and campaigns for boycotting, divestment and sanctions against Israeli academics, academic institutions and university-based centers and institutes for training and research, affiliated with Israel.1 The letter goes on to encourage students, faculty, and university officials to promote and provide opportunities for civil academic discourse, and so on. Yes, this letter was rather dry, academically written, and lacking the energy of students’ typical battles in the marketplace of ideas—if one may refer in this way to the show trials of Israel that the student government was asked yearly to host by the pro-Palestinian student organizations. Nonetheless, sharing the letter and the ideas it expressed seemed the only decent thing one could do in that situation. As for the evening itself, other colleagues of mine, including faculty and staff, also came out to speak for Israel and particularly to support the Jewish students who had more skin in the game, so to speak. At least that’s what I thought: skin in the game but still a game. Some hardy pro-Israeli faculty even stayed there all night, but after a good half hour or so of accusations of racism directed at me as an Israeli professor who actually supports Israel—which I received with an ironic smile—I had had an adequate taste and left the hall. I met a colleague, a professor in the medical school, outside the room; we stopped to chat briefly with some of...


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