I Support @ProfKFranke, Free Speech and Democracy

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From today’s New York Times, this story about Columbia Law professor (and longtime FLP blogroll member) Katherine Franke who was detained for 14 hours at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport and then deported from Israel:

Professor Katherine Franke

Franke told [Roger Cohen of the NYT]: “They were not interested in why I was there. They already had a story. I was a leader of Jewish Voice for Peace. I was there to promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement — all this untrue. It quickly ramped up to where the guy was yelling at me for lying. He Googled my name and came up with right-wing trolling sites like Canary Mission or AMCHA that push out ugly stuff about faculty held to be enemies of Israel.” How is it, Franke asked, that “Israel delegates to right-wing trolls the job of determining who should be admitted to Israel?”

Franke has visited Israel a half-dozen times before. She supervises dissertations by graduate students there. She had meetings scheduled with civil rights advocates. She has worked on the Academic Advisory Council of Jewish Voice for Peace and generally she supports its aims but is not a leader of it. A critic of Israel’s human rights record, she has boycotted conferences paid for by the Israeli government, but has participated in other academic conferences in Israel. Faculty members at Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University have told her they are going to write to express their outrage.

In other words, she’s the kind of tough critic a free and democratic society should welcome. Any healthy society is defined by its ability to accommodate civilized debate, not by cries of “traitor” directed at dissenters. Sending her and Vincent Warren, the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, back to America was a measure of how far Israeli political culture has closed.

The full story is here. This treatment of two U.S. academics is outrageous and antithetical to true and meaningful dialogue about democracy and human rights laws in all their complexities.

I support Katherine Franke’s to speak as she sees fit and encourage all supporters of free speech to retweet this post or spread the news in a way that seems appropriate to you.

-Bridget Crawford

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