Response to reply by Monique Canto-Sperber

Academic Freedom ENS | 03/07/2011 | Monique Canto-Sperber’s response dated May 10, 2011 to our petition of March 22 was forwarded to us on June 15. (A copy of her….

Academic Freedom ENS | 03/07/2011 |

Monique Canto-Sperber’s response dated May 10, 2011 to our petition of March 22 was forwarded to us on June 15.
(A copy of her letter can be downloaded below.) Her statement largely repeats arguments with which we were already familiar
when the petition was drafted. We did not find them convincing at the time and her letter gives us no reason to change our opinion.

It should not be necessary to stress that everyone involved with this petition is firmly opposed to anti-Semitism in all its forms. We
have seen nothing to suggest that members of the committee that attempted to organize the two events cancelled by the Director
were in any way motivated by anti-Semitism, and we are concerned that accusations of anti-Semitism, a very grave offense indeed,
are being made frivolously in order to silence one side in a needed debate about the Israel/Palestine conflict.

As for the question of the one-sidedness of the banned meeting, we don’t see a problem. Many meetings that take place at
ENS and elsewhere do not require that every opinion on a matter be presented. It is not a matter of representing opposing
views, and achieving « balance », but of hosting events that ask serious questions about the relationship between discrimination,
occupation, social justice, and international law. There is a long tradition at ENS that has done precisely that.

Those of us who circulated the petition were aware that the banned events were organized in connection with an initiative in
favor of boycott, divestment, and sanctions as a possible response to what are widely seen as Israeli violations of international
law. The petition took no position on this initiative, and a number of those who signed the petition have gone on record in
opposition to the academic boycott in particular. It is safe to say, however, that everyone who signed the petition was deeply
disturbed to learn that the boycott, a long established tactic of non-violent political mobilization, can simply be ruled illegal in France.
One might have thought that such illegality should be of concern to the ENS, the subject for a seminar or conference, and that the
director would make an appropriate statement opposing such a blatant contradiction of international legal precedent, rather than
seeking the support of a court for the bannings and taking refuge in the statement of that court.

If the director of one of the most prestigious institutions of French scholarship feels she faces unspecified sanctions for allowing a
meeting on campus to discuss the exercise of what is elsewhere recognized as a fundamental democratic right, then freedom of
speech in France is in greater danger than we feared.

Natalie Zemon Davis, Professor of History, University of Toronto

Michael Harris, Professor of Mathematics, Université Paris-Diderot

Jonathan Rosenhead, Emeritus Professor of Operational Research, London School of Economics

Joan Wallach Scott, Harold F. Linder Professor, School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study

Canto-Sperber Answer.pdf – on Jun 28, 2011 3:29 AM by Academic Freedom ENS