|Scholars researching or teaching the Israel-Palestine conflict are often confronted with a number of outside pressures and requests. These are often friendly student invitations to help with a teach-in, or clergy who wish to host lectures. Some political groups invite us to speak out on the issue, while others go so far as to harass or threaten us. Many of us turn down requests to speak out publicly about current issues in the interest of “impartiality” or defend themselves against accusations by insisting on their own balance or “objectivity.” Others, in contrast, see public engagement as a right or obligation of intellectuals. Regardless of where we stand, most professors would probably agree that the university environment must welcome open debate of multiple perspectives. Some progressive groups, including Open Hillel, justify their work similarly, to open the campus to a full range of opinions on the Israel Palestine conflict. |
But the call for a "full range" of opinions does not in itself address a tension for academics faced with outside pressures or a personal commitment to take a side or speak out against what we see as injustice. After all, speaking out at certain events takes us out of “scholarly” spaces where “free and open debate” is a widely accepted value. Rather, it associates us instead with “partisan” organizations or groups that take a specific position on current issues. By definition, all voices are not welcome in these places. In an atmosphere of campus tensions, outside harassment, and gross injustices, how should scholars navigate between classrooms where open debate is the ideal, versus the obligation to “join” and take a stand for justice? Can professors wear multiple hats? Must “impartiality” be sacrificed for “justice” or vice-versa? What should be scholars’ guiding principles when we appear as public figures?