Feedback on Robert Segal: SPME – UK looking to monitor Anti-Israelism at British Universities by David M. Seymour, Lancaster University, and response by Robert Segal

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I read the Prof Segal’s comments with interest.
I am a lecturer at Lancaster and introduced the anti-boycott motion to my union branch. I can only say that at all times the union acted with integrity and honesty and, whilst some of the local exec disagreed with my stance (and that of the outcome), at no time was I made to feel uncomfortable. As to Robert Fisk coming to speak, that was for the university to offer the invitation that he accepted. To see that as some kind of inherent and coherent anti-Israelism is both wrong and misleading.
Lancaster offers a liberal and inclusive environment for all its staff and students.
Dr. David M. Seymour

David M. Seymour
School of Law
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4AY

[email protected]
01524 592530

Response by Robert Segal

Nov. 27

I have been away–in the US–for almost two weeks and only now have a chance to reply to the response to me from Dr David Seymour, who is in the School of Law (formerly Department but, like the polytechnics, magically elevated by a change in title) at my former employer, Lancaster University.

I taught at Lancaster for twelve years and wrote regularly in defense of Israel against attacks from individuals and groups in the University and in the town. Not once did Dr Seymour, self-professed fellow supporter, contact me. So be it.

Dr Seymour tells us that he led the cause against the proposed AUT boycott of Israel. Since I never mentioned the issue of the boycott, I do not grasp the import of his self-congratulatory point. Is it not enough that the motion was even introduced? Shame that only Israel is singled out for recrimination. Has a boycott of, say, Chinese academia for that country’s occupation of Tibet since 1950, its killing of Buddhist monks, and its attempt to destroy a culture as peaceful as the Arab culture is murderous, ever been entertained?

My objection was to the inviting of Robert Fisk by the University for at least the third time in my stint there, and also to the public honoring of him as an expert on the Middle East. Dr Seymour invokes the right of the University to invite whomever it wishes. Did I say that the University had no right to invite Fisk? Did I not say that the systematic failure of the University to counter the inviting of him and of other salivating anti-Zionists was my concern?

How touching of Dr Seymour to inform us of the “liberal and inclusive environment” that Lancaster University offers “all its staff and students.” Let him tell us whom the University or any of its departments has invited to speak on behalf of Israel. Happily, someone from the Israeli Embassy did come to speak, but he was not sponsored by either the University or a department. And of course he had to travel with bodyguards and the room surrounded by security–a true sign of “a liberal and inclusive environment.”

I am prepared, though not at this moment, to enlighten Dr Seymour about past incidents at the University. How dare he presume to dismiss my concerns when he, having never even met me, has no idea to what I am referring? If he wants to debate me on the treatment of Israel by, e.g., the University’s experts on the Middle East, I will be glad to expose his naivete.

Spare us the cant about free speech. The issue is the singling out of Israel for attack. Is that distinction so hard to grasp?

Let me make clear that I never thought that somehow the University as a whole harbored any ill will toward Israel. That would be preposterous. The University is happy to have, e.g., Judaism taught (by me when I was there). Rather, individual incidents made, and perhaps still make, for a one-sided atmosphere.


Robert Segal

Feedback on Robert Segal: SPME – UK looking to monitor Anti-Israelism at British Universities by David M. Seymour, Lancaster University, and response by Robert Segal

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Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) is not-for-profit [501 (C) (3)], grass-roots community of scholars who have united to promote honest, fact-based, and civil discourse, especially in regard to Middle East issues. We believe that ethnic, national, and religious hatreds, including anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, have no place in our institutions, disciplines, and communities. We employ academic means to address these issues.

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