Pro-jihad thuggery rules on campus. Whoever offends the new Brownshirts is not allowed a hearing.
“How Political Correctness Chills Speech on Campus,” by Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, September 1, 2016:
This spring, Syracuse University will host an international conference with a theme, “The Place of Religion in Film,” that made one of its organizers think of Shimon Dotan.
The award-winning filmmaker, who sits on the faculty of New York University’s graduate school of journalism, recently finished a feature length documentary, The Settlers, that chronicles the history and present state of the religious settler movement in the West Bank, where more than 400,000 Israeli Jews live on occupied land.
The film is “one of the first close-up views of the motives and personalities in a group that rarely opens up to outsiders,” The New York Times noted. Variety raved that its festival presence is assured, and said that it is gripping enough to break out to wider audiences.
But despite an invitation to show The Settlers at “The Place of Religion in Film” conference, and interest on the part of the filmmaker, the screening will not take place. As happens so often in academia these days, campus politics got in the way.
The original invitation came from William L. Blizek, a professor of philosophy and religion at the University of Nebraska, where he founded the Journal of Religion & Film. “I sent a note to one of your producers to see if we could show The Settlers at the 2017 International Conference on Religion & Film in March of 2017,” he emailed. “Can you tell me if you have a distributor? Or, who should I contact about showing the film. We would like you to come with the film of course.” He later wrote that the conference “would pay your way from Israel to the States,” and then Blizek would fly him from Syracuse to Omaha for another screening.
A few weeks later, on June 24, 2016, Professor M. Gail Hamner, a member of the Syracuse University Religion Department, emailed to renege on the invitation. Her stated reasons are a case study in how free inquiry and expression are chilled on campus:
Dear Professor Dotan,
I know you have been in contact with my Omaha colleague, Bill Blizek, about screening The Settlers and serving as plenary speaker at a religion and film conference in Syracuse in March, 2017. I am the convener of that conference and I found Bill’s description of your work, and the reviews I read of it exciting.
I now am embarrassed to share that my SU colleagues, on hearing about my attempt to secure your presentation, have warned me that the BDS faction on campus will make matters very unpleasant for you and for me if you come. In particular my film colleague in English who granted me affiliated faculty in the film and screen studies program and who supported my proposal to the Humanities Council for this conference told me point blank that if I have not myself seen your film and cannot myself vouch for it to the Council, I will lose credibility with a number of film and Women/Gender studies colleagues. Sadly, I have not had the chance to see your film and can only vouch for it through my friend and through published reviews.
Clearly I am politically naive. I also feel tremendous shame in reneging on a half-offered invitation.
I do want to stress that my colleague who Chairs our SU Jewish Studies program, Zak Braiterman, was fully willing to strongly support your coming, even though he too has not yet screened your film.
Obviously, my decision here has nothing to do with you or your work, and nothing to do with Bill, who contacted you in good faith. I feel caught in an ideological matrix and by my own egoic needs to sustain certain institutional affiliations.
I sign off in hopes that I do have the chance to engage your work one day, and in prayer that you’ll forgive me. My sincere apology and best wishes,
M. Gail Hamner
Affiliated Faculty in Women and Gender Studies
Affiliated Faculty in Film and Screen Studies
The email didn’t sit right with Dotan.
“My concern,” he wrote to the colleague who originally invited him, “is that Gail Hamner rejected the idea of inviting the film without seeing it! She didn’t even ask to see it. All she was concerned about is that BDS activists may not be happy with the screening of an Israeli film at Syracuse. That is really troubling. And that happens at a University, at a temple of freedom of speech, or so we want to believe.”
As I put it in an email to Hamner, “I empathize with the tough political spot you felt yourself to be in. The forces that chill speech and action on college campuses are real and not of your making. At the same time—and I am open to being persuaded I’m wrong on this, but I wonder if you agree—it seems wrong to me to disinvite someone from an academic conference because of political pressure. And there are some who continue to deny that chilling effects like this exist.”
Initially, she emailed, “I will not comment officially. I made the decision based on my personal assessment of the factors before me. To say more than that would be wrong, both factually and morally.”
I reached out again and she sent this longer response:
As a professor in the humanities, I respect, encourage and support the academic freedom of all members of the academy, including Shimon Dotan. I want to be clear, however, that he was never invited by me, or anyone else affiliated with the University, to present his work this semester. While we had considered adding him to an upcoming series, no one from the University ever extended an invitation to him. This is a case of poor communication that has led to a terrible misunderstanding. I regret and apologize for the confusion this situation has caused.
Hamner should not have acted as she did, but I don’t see her as the villain of this story. She didn’t create the chilling effect to which she succumbed, and she appeared to nix the screening with genuine regret, not censorious eagerness….