A Tale of Two Conferences: On Power, Identity, and Academic Freedom

By Mazen Masri

This article will examine the extent of the applicability of academic freedom in relation to scholarship on the Israeli-Arab conflict. This will be done by comparing two conferences that took place in the same city at almost the same time, both dealing with issues pertaining to Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East conflict. The article will argue that in reality, academic freedom is relative. The level of protection in fact varies according to the power that interested parties wield and the identities at play, and the vulnerability of scholars is usually a reflection of the current power dynamics in the nonacademic world. This differential applicability of academic freedom is the result of uneven application of academic standards and sometimes the creation of standards that are expected to apply solely to scholarship on the Middle East and the Israeli-Arab conflict that is not “pro-Israel.” This uneven and differential protection may become a threat to academic freedom.

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