In support of our colleague Eleonora Roldán Mendívil

Prof. Dr. Peter-André Alt, President of the Free University of Berlin Prof. Dr. Tanja Börzel, Director of the Otto-Suhr-Institut, Free University of Berlin Prof. Dr. Bernd Ladwig, ad hoc Director….

Prof. Dr. Peter-André Alt, President of the Free University of Berlin
Prof. Dr. Tanja Börzel, Director of the Otto-Suhr-Institut, Free University of Berlin
Prof. Dr. Bernd Ladwig, ad hoc Director of the Otto-Suhr-Institut, Free University of Berlin
Members of the Board of the Otto-Suhr-Institut, Free University of Berlin

Dear Colleagues,

We have heard with dismay of the decision taken by the Otto Suhr Institute for Political Science of the Freie Universität Berlin to suspend the follow-up teaching contract of Eleonora Roldán Mendívil, and to initiate an investigation of alleged antisemitic content in material that she has published.

The precise allegations against her have not been made public, but seem to relate to material posted on a website notorious for its links to far right European politicians. The provenance of these claims should itself give pause to any academic institution, a main part of whose remit should be to protect academic freedom in research and teaching. This website does not present any specific evidence to corroborate its allegations, other than the young scholar’s impertinence in applying a settler colonial analysis to the state of Israel. This analysis was in any case outside her course ‘Racism in Capitalism’, in which (see her recent interview) she also made no statements at all on Israel.

The theoretical analysis of the role of racism within capitalism is a legitimate academic topic, as is the analysis of Israel within a colonialist perspective. Indeed an international conference on settler colonialism in Israel/Palestine took place at the University of Exeter in October 2015.

According to the International Court of Justice’s 2004 Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Israeli settlements in Palestine violate International Law. This position of the Court was based, inter alia, on numerous resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and the General Assembly, to which resolution 2334 of the Security Council has very recently been added. Were the Otto Suhr Institute to accept the rationale underlying the allegations made against Roldán Mendívil it would place itself in blatant opposition to International Law.

These allegations against Roldán Mendívil are indeed, sadly, entirely consistent with the ongoing campaign on an international scale to suppress criticism of Israel by elastically extending the definition of antisemitism so as to make many criticisms of Israel prima facie evidence of antisemitic motivation. That Israel’s population (within its internationally recognised borders) is predominantly Jewish does not make the state of Israel into a “collective Jew”. Israel is a state, and as such it is appropriate to analyse critically its formation and its policies, and to examine the links between these policies and Israel’s foundational Zionist project, as indeed Hannah Arendt pointed out in her seminal work Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963).

Roldán Mendívil is not a senior academic, but the same standards should apply to all members of a community of scholars. It is unbecoming of a previously respected institution to react to unsubstantiated and evidently politically motivated attacks by the suspension of her teaching. This sort of reaction will throw a chill across freedom of academic thought and expression far more widely than this one individual case. We urge you to rethink your decision, to reinstate her, and to refuse to employ political tests of her writings and teaching.

Yours sincerely

Jonathan Rosenhead, Emeritus Professor, London School of Economics, UK; Chair, British Committee for Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)

Joseph Oesterlé, Emeritus Professor, University Paris-VI, France; President, Association des Universitaires pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine (AURDIP)

Herman De Ley, Emeritus Professor, Ghent University, Belgium; Steering Committee, Belgian Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (BACBI)

Dr Ronit Lentin, Trinity College Dublin (retired), Ireland; Chair, Academics for Palestine

David Lloyd, Distinguished Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside, USA; member of the Organizing Committee of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI)

Samia Mahmoud, Assistant Professor, Birzeit University, Palestine; Steering Committee, Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)