Academic and Artistic Freedom and the Israel-Palestine Conflict: Towards a Canadian Pedagogy of the Suppressed

Len Findlay


In this essay I argue that the suppression and discouragement of teaching and discussion relating to the Israel-Palestine conflict can and should be countered by a pedagogy rooted in the most robust traditions of academic freedom and inspired by the most challenging practices and products of artistic freedom. Freedom of inquiry, imagination, and exchange are essential to the analysis of current realities and the capacity to envisage them otherwise.  This is especially true in the current chilly climate where the asymmetries of power, resources, and communicative clout are most pronounced--or, to put it more colloquially, in situations where the playing field is least level and where academic and artistic freedom are most needed and most at risk.  Such asymmetrical power relations are especially evident (as well as subtly coded) in the playing out and playing off of the Israel-Palestine conflict in the United States and Canada, thanks to the intimidation, amnesia, and gross simplifications that have strengthened their hold on public discourse in both countries since 9/11 2001. The unconditional support extended to Israel by the George W. Bush administration as a key part of the so-called “war on terror” has been eagerly imitated by Stephen Harper’s government and disappointingly reinforced in November 2010 in the so-called Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism (O’Malley, 2010).

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