Freedom Without Responsibility

The facts of the case are not in dispute. On January 19, 2009, UCSB Sociology Professor William Robinson, then engaged in teaching a course on globalization, “sent an email to students comparing the Israeli occupation of Gaza with the Nazi-controlled Warsaw Ghetto during World War II.” The email contained 42 photos, which Robinson, who specializes in Latin America, had pulled off of the internet, and, among other commentary, the following passage:

Gaza is Israel’s Warsaw — a vast concentration camp that confined and blockaded Palestinians, subjecting them to the slow death of malnutrition, disease and despair, nearly two years before their subjection to the quick death of Israeli bombs. We are witness to a slow-motion process of genocide (Websters: “the systematic killing of, or a program of action intended to destroy, a whole national or ethnic group”), a process whose objective is not so much to physically eliminate each and every Palestinian than to eliminate the Palestinians as a people in any meaningful sense of the notion of people-hood.

The UCSB Academic Senate has decided to end an investigation into whether Robinson violated the faculty’s code of conduct: “The committee did not find probable cause to undertake disciplinary action in this matter. I have accepted the findings of the charges committee. Accordingly, this matter is now terminated,” wrote Gene Lucas, executive vice-chancellor, in a letter to Robinson. Lucas’s letter came after FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, threatened UCSB with a press campaign if it did not drop the case, but Paul Desruisseaux, UCSB’s assistant vice-chancellor of public affairs, stated that this development had not affected UCSB’s decision.

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Freedom Without Responsibility

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