Fight continues for academic freedom in the US

A professor at North Carolina State University is fighting the university and the state government over what seems to be a clear-cut case of discrimination and censorship due to her outspoken criticism of Israeli policy in Palestine.

Dr. Terri Ginsberg was a popular film studies professor at NCSU. But after she began publicly criticizing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, the US-Israel alliance and Zionism (inside and outside the classroom), Ginsberg faced immediate retaliation from the university administration. As I reported back in January 2010 for The Electronic Intifada, she was “punished with partial removal from — and interference in — duty, non-renewal of contract and rejection from a tenure-track position” in 2008.

In a phone interview several days ago, Ginsberg told me that since she lost her job at NCSU, she has been essentially “blacklisted from other university teaching positions” across the country. She added that she’s applied to more than 150 jobs, and she can’t even get an interview — something, she said, that is very unusual for her and for someone with her publishing and teaching track record.

After nearly a year of exploratory panels, grievance reviews, litigation hearings and mediations by and with the university administration, Ginsberg and her lawyer, Rima Kapitan, filed a lawsuit with the North Carolina Superior Court, which in October 2010 dismissed the case, thereby favoring NCSU’s denial of tenure. 

Ginsberg posted on her blog about the case that during the week of depositions,  
NCSU admitted that it suppressed my speech critical of Zionism and supportive of the Palestine liberation struggle while I was under its employ as a visiting professor, and that it chose not to interview or hire me for a tenure-track position because of my scholarship focusing on Palestine/Israel, the Middle East, and the “Jewish.” Amazingly, the University claims that it has the right to suppress, refuse and reject on the basis of these considerations!  As we proceed, we will obviously be arguing against such claims.

Following the court’s ruling in favor of NCSU, Ginsberg and Kapitan filed an appeal this past June to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. However, on 15 November, the appeals court dismissed the appeal and upheld the lower court’s ruling.

Rendering free speech “meaningless”

In a press release following the appeals court’s decision, Kapitan stated that:

The Court, despite finding that several University officials were uncomfortable with Dr. Ginsberg’s speech concerning the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, held that there was no causal link between that speech and the University’s sudden decision not to hire her for a tenure-track position days later. The Court’s opinion was in error for several reasons. It misapplied the summary judgment standard and made factual determinations about disputed issues that should have been decided by a jury. Specifically, it ignored voluminous evidence Dr. Ginsberg supplied calling into question the University’s claims about its stated reasons for her non-hire, as well as circumstantial evidence suggesting that hostility to Dr. Ginsberg’s speech motivated the decision. Among the most troubling claims the Court accepted without question was NCSU’s contention that Dr. Ginsberg was too qualified for the position, despite the fact that NCSU’s own policy documents state that it hires the best tenure-track professors it can, and despite the fact that before her speech about Palestine/Israel, the University was enthusiastic about Dr. Ginsberg’s candidacy.  For the Court to accept without analysis the University’s claims about Dr. Ginsberg’s non-hire when those claims were vigorously disputed not only usurped the role of the jury in the justice system, but rendered the North Carolina Constitution’s free speech section, which is even stronger than its federal counterpart, meaningless in the employment setting.  Dr. Ginsberg will now request a review of the ruling by the North Carolina Supreme Court. 

“We weren’t surprised”

 In our interview, Ginsberg said that she and her legal team “weren’t surprised” by the decisions of the two courts. She added:
Going back to the lower courts and even the original faculty senate when I filed a grievance, and then when I hired Rima Kapitan when we filed the grievance with a circuit court, everyone has consistently ignored evidence, refused to even consider the facts, and has made perfunctory decisions [with prejudice regarding] all of the documentation that we’ve supplied. Given that history, we weren’t suprised that our appeal was denied. I’m enraged and insulted at the abuse of the law. This makes a travesty of employment law, and this is a complete disregard of the implications for academic workers nationally … I was a “contingent worker” — that’s one of the basic reasons given by the university as to why I was not eligible to receive a campus hearing once I had filed a grievance.
According to Ginsberg, contingent labor in universities comprises approximately 70 percent of all academic faculty. 

“Zionism needs to be interrogated in a legitimate scholarly fashion”

 I asked Ginsberg if her work, research and outspokenness on Palestinian issues has been deterred by the last several years of intimidation and academic blacklisting. “No, not in the least,” she replied, adding,
I have taken the opportunity during this time of unemployment to step up research on this area. I have done a lot of writing and continue to publish writing on this issue, inluding [one of my specialties,] cinema of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This one example of what I’m doing and how my convictions have even been strengthened. One sees how these people who are either Zionists or cowed by Zionist pressure, such as the Israeli lobby … one sees how insidious and unscrupulous and vicious they are.  It’s indicative of the weakness of our system: that really a small group of people representing a particular ideology can have such influence on policy and on the actions of institutions throughout our society. There is a fundamental strucutral problem within our system that needs to be addressed, and perhaps radically needs to be transformed.

One of the strategies we are engaging in, in a broader sense, is that we want to take my case as an opportunity to expand public education on the issue of Zionism and the Israel-Palestine conflict. Zionism needs to be discussed, interrogated in a legitimate scholarly fashion, which is what I’ve been doing. We need to spread the word about the significance of cases like mine, by contacting media, by writing blogs, any way possible about what’s happening in our country, and around the world.
Additionally, on her blog, Ginsberg said that the appellate decision of the court should “set off alarm bells for those who abhor racism and inequality and strive for the protection of constitutional rights for all citizens, regardless of religion, ethnicity, or class status.” She added:
Our justice system should not be allowed to get away with silencing critical academic speech in order to protect opposing views simply because they reflect wealthy and powerful interests, nor should academic faculty become intimidated from  speaking critically for fear of being disciplined or losing their jobs.  

The fact that I have not yet been permitted a formal hearing, either on the NCSU campus or within the court system, resonates clearly with the history of the Palestinian struggle. Palestinians are seldom given the opportunity to air their views freely—without, that is, interference from dominant ideological interests calling for “balanced” or “neutral” discussion. Nor has the longtime suffering of Palestinians been acknowledged by its primary instigator, the State of Israel, which to this day officially refuses to admit having committed the Nakba (the ethnic cleansing of Palestine), and in fact has moved recently to criminalize any discussion of that event within Israeli society.  Similarly the Israel Lobby in the U.S. has tried repeatedly to introduce congressional legislation which, in the name of “combating anti-Semitism,” would criminalize speech critical of Israel, thereby travestying not only the First Amendment but the entire spirit of the Bill of Rights. 

Ginsberg’s most recent articles and scholarly writings can be found at the bottom of her blog post on the updates in her case. Contact information for Ginsberg and Kapitan can also be found on that webpage. The Electronic Intifada will continue to update our readers as the legal proceedings continue.




It's the south we're talking about and that doesn't surprise me one bit. I respect the professor's courage in calling it what it is. My one hope is that this doesn't ruin her career


And yet what is her career worth if she doesn't speak and teach the truth? If all professors had the courage to follow her example, perhaps this sort of discrimination would greatly diminish, even in the still very racist American South.


What the hell is wrong with the citizens of NC?
Are you all so blind that you cannot see your state and federal Constututions being burned before your eyes?
This is what George Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and the other Founding Fathers warned us about!
If the citizens of SC will not stand for their freedom and liberty, then very soon they shall have neither!
You should all be rallying with this brave academic scholar who has sacrificed her careeer for merely being an American!


I presume that Ms. Ginsberg is herself Jewish, based on her name. If true, then this is another example of how Jews in the USA are victimized as much (or more) than non-Jews for questioning Zionism, or the “holocaust” and so on, since the Zionist lobby regards such Jews as “traitors.” An example must be made of them. The list of persecuted Jews is long (Tony Judt and Norm Finkelstein come to mind). One dares not question the “family.”

Ultimately the fault lies with the bulk of society, which blesses the lobby’s crimes. I hope Ms. Ginsberg triumphs, since her victory will be not just over the Jewish lobby, but over mass American stupidity and cowardice. I’ll bet that in this case, the ones who most want Ms. Ginsberg destroyed are not Jewish militants, but non-Jews who fear Jewish militants. This is unfortunate, since it makes a lot of people hate Jews, and regard them as victimizers, when many Jews themselves are victimized. Stupidity knows no color or ethnicity.


You either support what America stands for (by backing the courageous who speak out against the wrongs of the world) or you do not (and thus do not deserve the privilege to call yourself an American).
1st Amendment folks.
Newsflash: Israel and Jews are not any more special than anyone else in the world.


I agree whole-heartedly with Richard's comment. Also APatriot ! This is the heart of the WHOLE enchilada ...
This is the venue to fight this game called zionism. The stakes could never be higher. The Palestinians' are the answer to this contradiction we call life ...
Do people want a seat at the game or will they be content as collateral damage ?
I have learned from the Palestinians' , just what it means to never give them what they want the most ...
to me , that means spiritual domination . To everyone out there that sees and understands this unbelievable double-standard unfolding right in front of our eyes , with real human beings suffering and paying the highest price humanly possible , please , DO NOT EVER EVER EVER GIVE UP !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Everyday someone new is waking up and our ranks are swelling, we need all of you to get into position and explain to the ones that may listen, just what are the true facts surrounding this issue. When presented with the truth, it is plain to see, zionism is the ROOT of so very much damn evil on this planet and has been going on for far too long. Get your game face on people just like Ms Ginsberg , she is setting the best example she can, playing within a " RIGGED" system that can't be beat without a much bigger spotlight put on it, and thats where the rest of us come in.
For the Palestinians that are reading this, the only thing I can think of saying is,
you will never be alone, ever ever ever. Your plight and suffering will never be in vain. Your courage and forgiveness will be my personal beacon to follow for all time to come. These beasts are sick and simply hate us for the compassion that resides in us all.
Let us prove once and for all, zionists are clinically insane...


I was also about to suggest that Dr Ginsberg herself may be of Jewish background and, given that she is a film studies professor, would know (perhaps even specialise in) the extensive historical eastern European Jewish involvement in the creation of the Hollywood industry, culture and mythos over the 20th century. I'm amazed that so far she hasn't been painted as a "self-hating Jew" by the likes of the Anti-Defamation League and Alan Dershowitz, thought as her case becomes better known, these usual suspects and others like them will start applying the tired cliche.

Richard Wilson, I suspect you are more right than even you realise but perhaps with a bit of twist. The ones who most want to see Dr Ginsberg silenced are those non-Jewish sections of society who benefit from having connections (financial and other) with the present fascist regime and its supporters in Israel who wish to project a monocultural image and identity for Israel and Jewish people generally, and deny the complex history of the Jewish people. Aspects of a particular Jewish culture and history (namely, the historical cultural experience of eastern European Jews) are privileged by the Zionist state over others (for example, the experience of Jews in Islamic countries: ironic, since 30 - 40% of Israeli Jews have cultural roots in those countries) in the creation of a highly nationalistic "Jewish" identity.

We should look to our political, social and economic leaders and leading institutions (government, academia, the media, corporate captains of industry) to find these non-Jewish supporters of Israel and its lobby groups in Western countries.


There is a way to combat this type of blackballing from univerisities. We need to compile a list of the largest donating alumni of this university. Check which companies these alumni sit on the board of directors of, or even work at, and refuse to buy their products or services. That should put enough pressure on the university to stop this type of stuff. If enough people did this, the university would be on its knees begging for Ms. Ginsberg to come back.


Yes, good idea. And maybe shaming NC State further by publicizing the names of the companies with which the members of the NCSU Board of Trustees are affiliated would also help place pressure on the university at least to change its ways. Here's a link to the names and addresses of the NCSU Board of Trustees: . A lot of these people work for companies connected to the U.S. military-industrial complex....


It's very important to keep the kids in the universities stupid, ignorant and hating those the elite in the US. hate. But apparently it's been a hard year for these clowns, as the net explodes with stories opposite to what the Main Stream Government Controled Media preaches. The truth can no longer be hidden from the public since the invention of the net.


"And what is anti-Zionist? It is the denial to the Jewish people of a fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord all other nations of the Globe. It is discrimination against Jews, my friend, because they are Jews. In short, it is antisemitism."

- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 1967

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).