Cambridge University apologizes for censoring BDS event

Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University. (photo: David Iliff)

University officials had threatened to cancel event on BDS unless Palestinian academic was replaced as chair.

By Shafik Mandhai | Al Jazeera | Mar 6, 2018

“[The University’s decision] portrayed Dr. Salih in a manner that does not befit a respected academic with more than 15 years’ experience of chairing meetings in a balanced and scholarly way. We therefore would like to apologize to Dr. Salih for removing her as a chair, and we recognize that there was no evidence to support the view that she would not ensure a democratic debate, allowing all views to be expressed.”
— Cambridge University statement

The University of Cambridge has apologized to a Palestinian academic, whom it prevented from chairing a talk on the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement in November last year.

Ruba Salih from the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) in London was stopped from moderating the event organized by pro-Palestinian activists and replaced by the university’s own choice, apparently over concerns about her neutrality.

The decision sparked anger among activists, who saw it as yet another example of a university attempting to shut down or disrupt debate on Israel and the BDS movement.

Hundreds of academics and students also signed an open letter condemning the university’s conduct.

Cambridge said the move to impose an alternative chair was the “wrong response” and that the decision evoked “understandable” concerns relating to academic freedom.

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Tuesday, Salih welcomed the apology, saying it ensured the importance of preserving academic freedom on university campuses.

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