There are moments, even at academic institutions rigorously defending the principles of free research and exchange of opinions, when the employment of these principles might be challenging. There are moments when individuals associated with the institution might display opinions contrary to what can be academically justified, potentially causing harm to the credibility of its research engagement, harm to the fundamental values motivating its work. For me, as PRIO’s Director, I find myself at such a moment. I know that this is the possible cost of being a free and vibrant academic institution, a cost well worth carrying.
Johan Galtung’s comments regarding the terror attacks by Anders Behring Breivik on 22 July 2011 have stirred strong reactions in many parts of the world. Through his own writing and in media comments, Galtung indicates that Israel, and freemasonry, may have been implicated in the 22 July terror, and he discusses the alleged Jewish domination of world media, American universities, and international finance. His unsubstantiated statements are of a kind that contribute to stereotyping one particular group, the Jews. A quote he attributes to Norman Podhoretz, which can be found on numerous racist and anti-semitic sites on the web, serves to imply that all Jews are under the obligation to defend Israel in public debates. Galtung also lends credibility to dubious publications, including speculative works on freemasonry and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I find these statements irreconcilable with the ethos of peace research, a field to which Galtung made substantial contributions.
Peace research is a critical and constructive scholarly tradition. Peace researchers seek to understand violent societal conflicts: why do wars break out; how are they sustained, what does it take to build durable peace? At PRIO, for example, we work on the role of diasporas in peace and conflict in their countries of origin, the ethical discourses of various religious groups and opportunities for inter-religious dialogue, the uses and impacts of sexual violence in war; the resilience of societies in the face of terror, and the opportunities for conflict and cooperation that come from sharing waterways or other resources. Both analytical orientations and thematic foci vary widely within peace research. It is at the core of the mission to be asking difficult questions, developing new methodologies and modes of analysis, debating the most important challenges facing humanity. Peace research is a lively field, where divergent opinions and constructive exchange are deeply valued.
PRIO has played a lead role in peace research globally since its foundation in 1959. At that time Johan Galtung was at the forefront of a group of young and innovative intellectuals, who challenged established wisdoms, launched new theories and searched for ways to cure the world of war and violence. Galtung stayed full time at PRIO until 1969, and played an essential role in developing both the institute and the field of research. At PRIO, we take great pride in the work we do; in our scholarly and intellectual heritage. Our mission is to conduct research on the conditions for peaceful relationships between states, groups and individuals. We aim at the highest standards of academic scholarship, while at the same time seeking to inform peace processes and other responses to conflict, as well as contributing to the global debate on matters of war and peace.
Kristian Berg Harpviken PRIO Director
Johan Galtung responded to accusations of anti-semitism in a letter of December 2012. You can read his statement here.