US university forces academic to sign pro-Israel contract

US university forces academic to sign pro-Israel contract

In a move to violate freedom of speech in the U.S., a Palestinian academic, who was invited by the Muslim Student Association at Arizona State University to speak at an event in April, was asked to sign a speaker agreement with a "no boycott of Israel" clause.

Hatem Bazian, a senior lecturer at the University of California-Berkeley and a columnist for the Daily Sabah, has filed a lawsuit against Arizona State University and the state's attorney general over a gross violation of free speech rights.

"I was invited to speak at Arizona State University, and they sent me a contract to sign with various items," Dr. Bazian, a professor of Near Eastern and Asian American Studies and Asian Diaspora Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Wednesday.

He said one of the articles clearly meant a prohibition on boycotting Israel and assurance that the undersigned was currently not engaged in a boycott of Israel.

"I said that I cannot sign this in full conscience, being one of the key BDS [The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement that promotes various forms of boycott against Israel] organizers, an academic who writes on BDS and an activist on Palestine that holds BDS to be a non-violent human rights movement focused on addressing Israel's continued violations of international law," he added.

Bazian said AIPAC (American-Israel Public Affairs Committee) and its regional affiliates "worked overtime" to push for legislation across the U.S. to restrict free speech on BDS and even to criminalize advocacy for Palestinian human rights.

Slamming the legislation for attempting to "defend the indefensible" by restricting freedom of speech and academic freedom, Bazian said the purpose of the effort was to rescue and protect Israel and its continued occupation through "the use of legislation, targeting individuals, structured and systematic defamation as well as working to recruit voices that normalize Zionism among segments of Arab and Muslim communities through the Shalom Hartman Institute Muslim Leadership Initiative and fictitious interfaith projects that are focused on silencing Palestine."

Speaking to AA, Gadir Abbas, an attorney for a leading Muslim advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said the contract presented to Bazian was against the U.S. constitution and the university illegally blocked him from speaking on campus because of his political beliefs.

Abbas said the U.S. was considered one of the biggest champions of freedom of expression, but the contract that Arizona State University had imposed was not in line with that spirit, adding that that was the reason why the advocacy group filed a lawsuit against the university.

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