CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM
January 23, 2017
To: Zwischenzeit Editorial Board
From: California Scholars for Academic Freedom
We write on behalf of the California Scholars for Academic Freedom** to express deep concern over what appears to be your editorial board’s violation of the free speech rights of Professor William I. Robinson.
Professor Robinson has made available to us his ongoing correspondence with Zwischenzeit editor Dennis Firmansyah from November 14 of 2016 to January 5 of 2017. According to this correspondence, on November 14, Mr. Firmansyah contacted Professor Robinson on behalf of the Zwischenzeit editorial board to request an interview on the topic of the election of Donald Trump and its wider international implications. Professor Robinson agreed to proceed with the interview and received a list of interview questions from Mr. Firmansyah on November 15, which he answered and submitted to Zwischenzeit on December 4. On December 6, Mr. Firmansyah wrote to Professor Robinson acknowledging receipt of the interview and confirming it would be translated into German and published the following week.
The interview, however, had still not been published by the end of December. In response to Professor Robinson’s December 29 query regarding the delay in publication, Mr. Firmansyah stated in a January 2 email letter that Zwischenzeit had declined to publish the interview. While the editorial decisions of media outlets would not in themselves concern California Scholars for Academic Freedom, in this instance it appears that the decision not to publish the interview with Professor Robinson was based solely on his scholarship and political views as expressed elsewhere and not in the interview itself.
Mr. Firmansyah stated in his January 2 email letter to Professor Robinson that Zwischenzeit decided not to publish the interview because in it Professor Robinson references Israeli settlements in Palestine and uses the settlements as an example of 21st century fascism and of “the creation of green zones.” Mr. Firmansyah goes on to state in his letter that the interview would not be published because “it is highly controversial to mention concentration camps in the same paragraph of a text with Israeli settlements and Israeli apartheid.”
We have examined the interview that you conducted with Professor Robinson and we can find no mention whatsoever of green zones or concentration camps in Israel or of Israeli apartheid. It would appear that Mr. Firmansyah, justified the decision to censor Professor Robinson based on writings that Professor Robinson has published elsewhere. It suggests that subsequent to the interview the Zwischenzeit editorial board researched Professor Robinson’s scholarly publications which are readily available on-line, some of which make reference to Israeli apartheid, the occupation of Palestinian territory, and what he refers to as “green zones” in the occupied territories. But these matters are not the subject of the interview and are never mentioned in the interview.
The implication here is that you have blacklisted Professor Robinson because of his views on Israel/Palestine independent of, and unrelated to, the interview that you conducted with him. In reviewing the explanation you provided to Professor Robinson for censoring him we can find no other explanation as to why you would refuse to publish the interview after you requested it of him. We are particularly concerned because the matter goes beyond free speech. If your justification for failing to publish the interview is Professor Robinson’s views on Israel/Palestine as expressed elsewhere then you are, in effect, silencing him because of his political views.
We believe that Zwischenzeit’s decision to silence Professor Robinson violates the magazine’s own mission statement. You state on your website, “Just as we do not understand ourselves as the mouthpiece of any political organization or person, we try to connect and generate discussion with each other over a broad range of opinions among those who suffer from society. Above all we always try to listen to all those who participate in society’s happenings and to include them in our reporting.” It would thus appear that the editorial board’s refusal to publish Professor Robinson’s solicited interview is self-censorship, a bowing to efforts to stop criticism of the Israeli government.
Was it fear of criticism that prompted your refusal to publish? Was the board’s consciousness that it lacked the courage of its convictions responsible for your discourteous failure to notify Professor Robinson of its change of mind?
As scholars devoted to the full enjoyment of academic freedom and to the free speech rights of its members, and of all members of the university community, we call on Zwischenzeit to rescind its decision to censor Professor Robinson and to publish the interview that you requested of him.
Manzar Foroohar, Professor of History, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. firstname.lastname@example.org
Sondra Hale, Professor Emerita, University of California, Los Angeles. email@example.com
Vida Samiian, Professor of Linguistics & Dean Emerita, CSU Fresno. firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Rofel, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz. email@example.com
**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) is a group of over 200 scholars who defend academic freedom, the right of shared governance, and the First Amendment rights of faculty and students in the academy and beyond. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere. California Scholars for Academic Freedom investigates legislative and administrative infringements on freedom of speech and assembly, and it raises the consciousness of politicians, university regents and administrators, faculty, students and the public at large through open letters, press releases, petitions, statements, and articles.