ACADEMIC FREEDOM Vs FREEDOM

e849fb3347785f96e8cb79d7b61ff2a5.450x364x1

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The silencing of Salaita is thus far more profound than a mere silencing of speech – it is an attack at the very heart of freedom for all people(s). That is why — and how — we must continue to oppose it.

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Free speech vs. freedom

(Jeffrey Putney/Flickr)
By Heike Schotten* FOR

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I am going to use this space once again to talk about the despicable un-hiring of Steven Salaita at the University of Illinois (I wrote about the Salaita case and what I called The Incivility of Palestinians, last month as well).

I am going to do this because, despite the fact that the academic boycott of the University of Illinois continues apace (there is even, it seems, the rise of a progressive Jewish-identified contingentchampioning Salaita), facile comparisons of Salaita’s case and circumstances with those of various unsavory others are also proliferating.These comparisons are so thick-headed, so tin-eared, so ham-fisted, that they nearly defy imagination.

And yet — they are so revealing of American culture in their epistemological and political presuppositions that their clumsiness subsequently fails to impress, confirming rather the ineffable liberal imperialism of the new American way.

The first comparison, drawn by persistent academic freedom leftie John K. Wilson, is between Salaita and University of Illinois adjunct professor of Religion Kenneth Howell. In emails to students as well as in class, Howell disparaged homosexuality as contrary to nature. In the wake of student complaints, Howell’s department chair opted not to rehire him. The U of I’s Board of Trustees overruled the decision, however, saying that students have no right not to be offended.

In this case, it is not Wilson’s comparison that is the problem; he accurately notes the profound hypocrisy at work in the Board’s subsequent un-hiring of Salaita on grounds that his tweets on social media (outside the classroom) were “uncivil” and might make potential or future students uncomfortable (inside the classroom) in the wake of its decision to retain Howell.

Instead, what’s striking about the Howell comparison is how it makes sense of U of I Board member Patrick Fitzgerald’s otherwise totally bizarre comments at the meeting wherein Salaita was voted down.

Fitzgerald prefaced his vote against Salaita by stating that he could not vote to appoint anyone who engaged in hate speech and, choosing a specific example, said he could never approve someone who made homophobic remarks.

But, of course, Salaita was never accused of homophobia, nor does homophobia seem — necessarily — to have any bearing on his case.

The other injudicious association was made by Michelle Goldberg in her now-notorious Nation articlewherein she compares Salaita with infamous Islamophobe Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

In a wince-worthy set of sentences, Goldberg concludes,

The fact is, both Salaita and Hirsi Ali are complicated, inflammatory figures who have, in the face of shocking moral outrages, said outrageous things. They will make some students intensely and understandably uncomfortable — some might even say “triggered.” If you’re going to argue that students have a right not to be so discomfited, then you’d have to take a stand against both of them, which would be a stand in favor of a grimly censorious, anodyne university climate. The alternative is to defend free speech and academic liberty, and not just for those whose views seem righteous.

Leaving aside the ongoing controversies about “trigger warnings” in the American college classroom, what is remarkable about Goldberg’s argument here is her easy ability to equate someone who defends a colonized people in the throes of an ongoing massacre (Salaita) with someone who supports colonization of those same people and defends that ongoing massacre (Hirsi Ali).

(AP/Seth Perlman)

If we recall that Salaita was un-hired on the basis of the incivility of his speech, however, these preposterous comparisons begin to make more sense. They make clear that, as many anti-racist queer studies scholars and activists have argued, being “pro-gay” and “anti-Islam” are not simply acceptable forms of speech in the US but, more trenchantly, they define the very contours of American exceptionalism, civilizationalism, and imperialism.

Indeed, although Trustee Fitzgerald was not on the Board at the time of the Howell decision, it’s no accident that the example of unacceptable hate speech he reached for was homophobia.

As Fitzgerald suggests, defending the lives, existence, and rights of Palestinians is akin to homophobia — it is hate speech. It violates the intensified, post-9/11 patriotic imperative to profess allegiance to the project of pacifying Muslims both at home and abroad.

In that sense, Fitzgerald is right. Championing gay rights — much less making them the litmus test for Islam’s civilization — is part and parcel of this late day American update on the mission civilisatrice.

Standing staunchly on the free speech soapbox, by contrast, Goldberg finesses her equation of Salaita and Hirsi Ali by saying we can’t distinguish between the two on the basis of “whose views seem righteous.”

And yet, it is plainly obvious that we can.

While people like Goldberg may be unclear about such matters, I myself find it not terribly difficult to distinguish between Steven Salaita and Ayaan Hirsi Ali or, for that matter, between Steven Salaita and a homophobic Catholic. I know with which person I want to be in a room, on a committee, designing a curriculum, or evaluating colleagues for personnel decisions. I know which person I’d prefer to have in a classroom and which person I’d want in my own department.

I want the one who is committed to liberation, the one who speaks and thinks and hears with and from those from below, the one who understands that freedom isn’t a matter of choosing from a diversity of options in a “marketplace of ideas” but rather a reaching toward the fulfillment of justice and freedom for all people(s).

It’s also clear which person university administrators, the state, and those in significant positions of power would like in our departments and classrooms. To suggest that these differences are merely matters of opinion or undecidable controversies characterized by two equal sides evacuates them of political content and veils the hierarchies at work in determining which views are deemed “controversial” in the first place.

In his essay for the recent edited volume, The Imperial University, Vijay Prashad writes:

The struggle over “academic freedom,” as it is generally constituted, is more than that of a principle, but it is over ideas. The principle is against the creation of the very social force that would allow our ideas to have cultural valence. That is what makes its defense insufficient.

Vijay Prashad speaking at Occupy Boston in 2011 (Youtube screenshot)

As I argued last month, the un-hiring of Salaita is both an example and a perpetuation of colonialism. This means that, as Prashad makes clear, defending Salaita on the basis of academic freedom alone is not enough, since that very framework is the one which renders equivocal the difference between racism and anti-racism, hate speech and solidarity.

In silencing and exiling Salaita, the neoliberal American university has engaged in one of the most egregious acts of colonial silencing to date, all the more shocking for its unabashed nakedness.

But make no mistake: this is not simply a denial of academic freedom (although it is that). It is also an attack on the very people, forces, movements, and ideas that seek to upend the imperial university and the empire it serves.

This is why the attack on Salaita is an attack on all of us, and not only in the sense of the solidarity statements we put on our signs at marches declaring “We are all Palestinian.”

(Katherine Mukhar)

The attack on Salaita is an attack on all of us in the sense that it is an attack on the great majority who stand outside the halls of power or even, in the case of academia, within them, but in an oppositional stance toward the machinations of those in power.

The silencing of Salaita is thus far more profound than a mere silencing of speech – it is an attack at the very heart of freedom for all people(s). That is why — and how — we must continue to oppose it.

*Heike Schotten is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she teaches political theory, feminist theory, and queer theory (her work is available here). She has been active in the Palestine solidarity movement since 2006.

LEAKED EMAIL FROM THE ADL REVEALS THEIR ATTEMPTS TO DESTROY ACADEMIC FREEDOM

In the ‘name of Democracy’, the following leaked email sent from the office of the ADL shows how they are attempting to defame Democracy itself ….

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'Copyleft' by Carlos Latuff

‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

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The leaked email … 

The ADL email is another indicator that there will be no let up this fall in Israel lobby efforts to use all repressive means available to stigmatize and punish, if not shut down altogether, campus criticism of Israel’s crimes.

It was sent by From: Brysk, Seth [mailto:SBrysk@adl.org] … you can write to him and tell him what you think.

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Dear …

We write to you today to provide information and recommendations about how to respond to conflicts that may arise on your campus due to the recent conflict in Gaza.

Over the last several years, we have seen individual students and student groups critical of Israel attempt to stifle dialogue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by disrupting events on campus and refusing to work with pro-Israel and Jewish student groups. In the wake of the recent crisis, anti-Israel organizations are placing increasing pressure on academic institutions to engage in a “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) activities.

You should be aware that American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), the leading organization providing anti-Zionist training and education to students and Muslim community organizations around the country, recently issued a statement calling for an “International Day of Action on College Campuses” on September 23. AMP advocates for a variety of BDS-related initiatives – all in an effort to isolate and demonize Israel and Jewish communal organizations. These efforts serve only to polarize students on campus, inflame existing tensions, and often isolate and intimidate Jewish students.

AMP’s call for a “Day of Action” –scheduled for the evening before the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah– urges the elimination of study abroad programs in Israel, a ban on university administrators traveling to Israel, and scholars to refuse to participate in research or conferences with colleagues from Israeli institutions. Such tactics disrupt campus life and stifle the ideals of inquiry, free expression, and the civil exchange of ideas – – precisely the foundation on which university communities are built.

The Anti-Defamation League is a strong advocate of free speech and we do not seek to censor or stifle opinions in the university community. We have a long history of fighting for the ideals of individual expression and the free exchange of ideas, even when we disagree with the ideas being exchanged. However, no university should countenance attempts to discourage and suppress free speech, or harass and intimidate Jewish and other students. When this occurs, as in the examples noted above, appropriate action should be taken.

To address these concerns, we urge you to consider implementing the following policies and practices in the coming academic year:

  • Be aware of the discourse around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that takes place on your campus and the potential for escalation.
  • Review student codes of conduct to ensure that activity which is detrimental to the free exchange of ideas is not allowed on campus.
  • When an event takes place on campus where there is potential for disruption, ensure that adequate security is provided to prevent any dangerous escalation in the disruption and ensure the safety of the speakers, organizers and attendees.
  • Send a senior university official to potentially hostile events and prior to the start of the event have him or her remind those in attendance of university codes of conduct regarding free speech and civil discourse.
  • Remember the school’s obligations under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, particularly the responsibility of the school not only to investigate an incident, but to take prompt and effective steps to eliminate any hostile environment and to take proactive steps to prevent its recurrence.
  • If the actions of the protestors violate any university policies or codes of conduct, appropriately discipline those involved.
  • Use your own right to free speech to condemn actions which go against the ideals of the university.
  • Reach out to individual students and organizations who may have been negatively affected by an incident.
  • Provide educational opportunities on campus that foster an environment of inclusion, acceptance and respect.

As one of the country’s premier civil rights organizations, ADL has decades of experience in helping administrators and students on campus respond to bigotry and intergroup strife. We would be happy to discuss the challenges many campuses face today and to assist your efforts to ensure that your campus remains a place where all viewpoints can be discussed in an atmosphere of respect and civility. We encourage you to be in touch with us if you have any questions.

Sincerely,
Seth Brysk
Central Pacific Regional Director

Anti-Defamation League | 720 Market Street, Suite 800 | San Francisco, CA 94102 Phone: 415-981-3500 | Fax: 415-981-8933 | www.adl.org

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Full report HERE

ZIONISM Vs ACADEMIC FREEDOM

The likes of Alan Dershowitz might be retired, but his legacy of hate lives on ….

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"Copyleft' by Carlos Latuff

“Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

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Zionist group publishes target list of “anti-Israel” US professors

A display at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign protests the firing of Steven Salaita and limits on academic freedom. (Ali Abunimah)

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The Amcha Initiative, the Zionist organization that has repeatedly intimidated, spied on and harassed students and faculty, appears to be escalating its campaign by publishingwhat amounts to a target list of “anti-Israel” professors.

Amcha says that the list is made up of “218 professors identifying themselves as Middle East scholars, who recently called for the academic boycott of Israel in a petition.”

It links to an item at Jadaliyya titled “Over 100 Middle East Studies Scholars and Librarians Call for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions.”

“Students who wish to become better educated on the Middle East without subjecting themselves to anti-Israel bias, or possibly even antisemitic rhetoric, may want to check which faculty members from their university are signatories before registering,” Amcha says.

It urges people to “Share this list with your family, friends, and associates via email, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, or word-of-mouth.”

“Thank you for your actions to protect Jewish students!,” Amcha’s posting concludes.

In the wake of the University of Illinois’ firing of American Indian Studies professorSteven Salaita over his opinions critical of Israel, Amcha’s move can be seen as a renewed effort at intimidation.

Amcha states that it is “troubling” that “many of these patently biased boycotters of Israel are affiliated with government-designated, taxpayer-funded National Resource Centers (NRC) on their campuses.”

It alleges that those pledging to boycott Israeli institutions complicit in Israeli crimes against Palestinians “have violated both the letter and spirit of the federal law which funds their teaching and research.”

Anti-Palestinian groups have previously tried to use the presence of public funding as a pretext to try to suppress free speech and academic freedom.

In one such effort tied to Amcha, a pro-Israel group tried repeatedly to persuade the State of California and other government bodies to prosecute California mathematics professor David Klein for supposedly “misusing” state resources by using his university-hosted personal website to criticize Israel and call for boycott.

Amcha’s claim that disseminating a list of professors calling for Israel to be held accountable can somehow “protect Jewish students” is based on the anti-Semitic stereotype that Israel represents all Jews and that all Jews identify with Israel or are collectively responsible for its actions.

This is exactly this kind of bogus association that lay behind the University of Illinois officials’ justifications for their firing of Salaita.

What is Amcha?

Amcha was founded by Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a Hebrew lecturer at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Rossman-Benjamin is a notorious anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim activist with a history of litigious threats against students and faculty.

An exclusive investigation by The Electronic Intifada earlier this year revealed that Amcha had infiltrated a student trip to Palestine in 2012, confirming long-held activist suspicions that anti-Palestinian political groups are spying on student activists.

An attorney told The Electronic Intifada that such surveillance could be in violation of several laws.

Rossman-Benjamin herself has been caught on video making virulently racist statements against students involved in Palestine solidarity activism on campus.

But despite protests by students, the University of California has taken no action in response to Rossman-Benjamin’s activities.

This type of complicity by university administrations has sadly been the norm and undoubtedly emboldens groups like Amcha to escalate their attacks on academic freedom and those who practice it.

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The ‘Targets’

Universities marked with an asterisk (*) receive federal funding to support programs in Middle East or Near East studies

Bard College
Dina A. Ramadan, Assistant Professor of Arabic

Boston University
Irene L. Gendzier, Professor Emeritus, Political Science

Brown University
Bashir Abu-Manneh, Visiting Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature
Ariella Azoulay, Professor, Comparative Literature
Beshara Doumani, Joukowsky Family Professor of Modern Middle East History

Bryn Mawr College
Peter Magee, Professor, Department of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology

California Institute of Integral Studies
Sahar Driver, Anthropology and Social Change

California State University Sacramento
Ayad Al-Qazzaz, Professor of Sociology

California State University San Bernadino
Jamal Nassar, Dean, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Central Michigan University
John Robertson, Professor of History

Clark University
Anita Fabos, Associate Professor, Department of International Development, Community, and Environment

College of New Jersey
Miriam Lowi, Professor, Departmet of Political Science

* Columbia University
Nadia Abu El-Haj, Professor of Anthropology
Lila Abu-Lughod, Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science
Gil Andijar, Professor, Departments of Religion and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS)
Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature
Wael B. Hallaq, Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities
Rhoda Kanaaneh, Adjunct Associate Professor, Middle East Institute
Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies and Professor of History
Mahmood Mamdani, Professor, Department of Middle East, South Asian and African Studies
Brinkley Messick, Professor of Anthropology
Timothy Mitchell, Professor, Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
George Saliba, Professor of Arabic and Islamic Science Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures

College of the Holy Cross
Sahar Bazzaz, Associate Professor, Department of History

College of William and Mary
Mumtaz Ahmad, Professor of Political Science, Distinguished Visiting Scholar
Stephen Sheehi, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Chair of Middle East Studies

Colorado School of Mines
Hussein Amery, Associate Professor, Division of Liberal Arts and Intl. Studies

CUNY Graduate Center
Anthony Alessandrini, Associate Professor
Talal Asad, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology
Marilyn Hacker, Professor
Samira Haj, Professor of History
Christa Salamandra, Associate Professor of Anthropology

Dartmouth College
Lara Harb, Assistant Professor
Christopher MacEvitt, Associate Professor of Religion

Denison College
Isis Nusair, Associate Professor of International Studies and Women’s Studies

* Duke University
Miriam Cooke, Braxton Craven Professor of Arab Cultures
Frances S. Hasso, Associate Professor in Women’s Studies and Sociology
Engseng Ho, Professor, Department of Anthropology
Abdeslam Maghraoui, Associate Professor of Practice, Political Science

Evergreen State College
Sarah Eltantawi, Assistant Professor

Farleigh Dickenson University
Riad Nasser, Professor

Florida International University
Cheryl Rubenberg, Retired Professor, Political Science

Fordham University
Aseel Sawalha, Associate Professor, Anthropology

Frostburg State University
Haiyun Ma, Assistant Professor, Department of History

George Mason University
Bassam Haddad, Associate Professor, Department of Public and International Affairs

* Georgetown University
Osama Abi-Mershed, Associate Professor, Department of History, Director, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
Fida Adely, Associate Professor, School of Foreign Service
Halim Barakat, Retired Professor
Jonathan Brown, Associate Professor, School of Foreign Service
Elliott Colla, Associate Professor, Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies
Rochelle Davis, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Susan Douglass, Education Outreach Director, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
John L. Esposito, University Professor & Founding Director, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding
Yvonne Haddad, Professor of History of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations
Michael C. Hudson, Professor Emeritus, Walsh School of Foreign Service
Laurie King, Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Lama Abu Odeh, Law Professor
Judith E. Tucker, Professor of History

* George Washington University
Mona Atia, Associate Professor of Geography and International Affairs
Ilana Feldman, Associate Professor, Anthropology, History, and International Affairs
Dina Rizk Khoury, Professor of History
Shira Robinson, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern History

Georgia Tech
Laura Bier, Associate Professor of History

Gettysburg College
Karen Pinto, Assistant Professor
Janet M. Powers, Professor Emerita

Hampshire College
Omar Dahi, Associate Professor of Economics

* Harvard University
Ousmane Kane, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Religion and Society, Harvard Divinity School
Roger Owen, A.J. Meyer Emeritus Professor of Middle East History

Hunter College (CUNY)
Alexander Elinson, Associate Professor of Arabic Language and Literature, Department of Classical and Oriental Studies
Christopher Stone, Associate Professor

Illinois State University
Issam Nassar, Professor of Middle East History

Indiana State University
Glenn Perry, Professor Emeritus of Political Science

Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Christine Baker, Assistant Professor

James Madison University
Manal A. Jamal , Associate Professor of Political Science

John Hopkins University
Todd Shepard, Associate Professor, History

Long Island University
Harriet Malinowitz, Professor of English

Loyola Marymount University
Najwa al-Qattan, Associate Professor

Marquette University
Louise Cainkar, Associate Professor of Sociology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sharon C. Smith, Program Head, Agha Khan Documentation Center

Michigan State University
Salah Hassan, Associate Professor

Montana State University Bozeman
Joan Hoff, Research History Professor

Montclair State University
Fawzia Afzal-Khan, Professor and Director, Women and Gender Studies

Morgan State University
Mary Ann Fay, Associate Professor of History

New School for Social Research
Ann Laura Stoler, Willy Brandt Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Historical Studies

* New York University
Bassam Abed, Clinical Professor of Social Science, McGhee Division
Sinan Antoon, Associate Professor
Tamer El-Leithy, Assistant Professor of History, Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies
Finbarr Barry Flood, Professor of Art History
Michael Gilsenan, David B. Kriser Professor in the Humanities
Arang Keshavarzian, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies
Josefina Saldaña, Professor, Department of Social and Cultural Analysis
Ella Shohat, Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies; Professor, Art and Public Policy, Tisch School of the Arts
Helga Tawil-Souri, Associate Professor

North Carolina State University
Anne Clement, Assistant Professor of History & International Studies

Northeastern University
Ilham Khuri-Makdisi, Associate Professor of History

Northern Arizona University
Yaseen Noorani, Associate Professor, School of Middle East and North African Studies
Scott Reese, Professor of History

Northern Illinois University
Tomis Kapitan, Professor (Emeritus), Philosophy Department

Northwestern University
Katherine Hoffman, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Uri Horesh, Assistant Professor of Instruction, Middle East and North African Studies
Jessica Winegar, Associate Professor, Anthropology

Ohio University
Louis-Georges Schwartz, Associate Professor

Pennsylvania State University – Altoona College
Beth Seymour, Instructor of Anthropology, Communications, History and Women’s Studies

* Princeton University
Richard Falk, Milbank Professor of International Law Emeritus
Molly Greene, Professor
Max Weiss, Associate Professor of History and Near Eastern Studies

Queens College – CUNY
Ammiel Alcalay, Professor, Classical, Middle Eastern & Asian Languages & Cultures
Ron Hayduk, Professor, Political Science

Rutgers University – New Brunswick
Toby Jones, Associate Professor
Yasmine Khayyat, Assistant Professor, African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literatures
Elektra Kostopoulou, Lecturer
Jasbir Puar, Associate Professor
Samah Selim, Associate Professor, Department of African, Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Literatures

Sacramento City College
Riad Bahhur, Professor, Department of History

St. Lawrence University
John Collins, Professor of Global Studies

St. Mary’s College of Maryland
Betul Basaran, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

St. Olaf College
Linda Mokdad, Assistant Professor

San Francisco State University
Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies/Race and Resistance Studies
Dina Ibrahim, Associate Professor, Media and Communication

Scripps College
Lara Deeb, Professor of Anthropology

Simmons College
Elaine Hagopian, Professor Emerita of Sociology

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Steve Tamari, Associate Professor

Stanford University
Joel Beinin, Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History and Professor of Middle East History

SUNY-Plattsburgh
Simona Sharoni, Professor

Swarthmore College
Farha Ghannam, Associate Professor, Anthropology

Syracuse University
Carol Fadda-Conrey, Associate Professor, Syracuse University
Amy Kallander, Associate Professor of Middle East History

Texas State University
Elizabeth Bishop, Associate Professor

Trinity College
Zayde Antrim, Associate Professor of History and International Studies
Vijay Prashad, Professor of International Studies

Tufts University
Kamran Rastegar, German, Russian and Asian Languages and Literatures

University of Arizona
Linda T. Darling, Professor of History

* University of California, Berkeley
Hatem Bazian, Lecturer, Near Eastern Studies and Ethnic Studies
Samera Esmeir, Associate Professor, Department of Rhetoric
Gretchen Head, Visiting Assistant Professor
Charles Hirschkind, Associate Professor, Anthropology
Saba Mahmood, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
Laurence Michalak, Emeritus Vice Chair, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Smadar Lavie, Scholar in Residence, Beatrice Bain Research Group
Minoo Moallem, Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies
Stefania Pandolfo, Professor, Department of Anthropology

University of California, Davis
Omnia El Shakry, Associate Professor, Department of History
Sunaina Maira, Professor
Suad Joseph, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies
Noha Radwan, Associate Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature

University of California, Hastings College of the Law
George Bisharat, Professor

University of California, Irvine
Mark LeVine, Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History

* University of California, Los Angeles
Khaled Abou El Fadl, Distinguished Professor of Islamic Law
Nouri Gana, Professor
Sondra Hale, Research Professor/Professor Emerita, Departments of Anthropology and Gender Studies
Gabriel Piterberg, Professor of Middle East History
Aamir Mufti, Associate Professor
Susan Slyomovics, Professor Anthropology

University of California, Riverside
Sherine Hafez, Associate Professor, Women’s Studies and Middle East & Islamic Studies
Jeffrey Sacks, Associate Professor

University of California, San Diego
Michael Provence, Associate Professor of History

University of California, San Francisco
Claudia Chaufan, Associate Professor, Health Policy and Sociology

University of California, Santa Barbara
Nancy Gallagher, Research Professor, Department of History
Adam Sabra, Professor of History and King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud Chair in Islamic Studies
Sherene Seikaly, Assistant Professor, History

University of California, Santa Cruz
Jennifer Derr, Assistant Professor, Department of History
Camilo Gomez-Rivas, Assistant Professor

* University of Chicago
Fred M. Donner, Professor of Near Eastern History, Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations
Lisa Wedeen, Mary R. Morton Professor of Political Science and the College

University of Colorado, Boulder
John Willis, Associate Professor

University of Connecticut
James C. Faris, Professor Emeritus, Anthropology; Director Emeritus, Program in Middle East Languages and Area Studies

University of Dayton
Ellen Fleischmann, Professor, Department of History

University of Delaware
Muqtedar Khan, Associate Professor

University of Hartford
Robert Lang, Professor of Cinema

University of Hawai’i at Manoa
Ibrahim Aoude, Professor
Farideh Farhi, Lecturer and Affiliate Graduate Faculty of Political Science

University of Illinois at Chicago
Nadine Naber, Associate Professor

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne
Asef Bayat, Catherine and Bruce Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies and Professor of Sociology and Middle Eastern Studies
Wail S. Hassan, Professor of Comparative Literature and English
Linda Herrera, Associate Professor
Susan Koshy, Associate Professor
Faranak Miraftab, Professor, Department of Urban and Regional Planning

University of Iowa
Yasmine Ramadan, Assistant Professor of Arabic

University of Louisville
Julie Peteet, Professor of Anthropology

University of Maryland
Charles Butterworth, Emeritus Professor

University of Mary Washington
Farhang Rouhani, Associate Professor
Ranjit Singh, Associate Professor

University of Massachusetts – Amherst
Laura Doyle, Professor of English

University of Massachusetts – Boston
Leila Farsakh, Associate Professor of Political Science

University of Miami
Christina Civantos, Associate Professor

* University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Evelyn Alsultany, Associate Professor, American Culture
Kathryn Babayan, Associate Professor of History, Director of the Center of Armenian Studies
Rima Hassouneh, Lecturer II, Near Eastern Studies
Khaled Mattawa, Associate Professor, Department of English
Anton Shammas, Professor of Middle Eastern Studies and Comparative Literature
Ronald Grigor Suny, Charles Tilly Collegiate Professor of Social and Political History

* University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Cemil Aydin, Associate Professor of History
Juliane Hammer, Associate Professor, Religious Studies Department
Sarah Shields, Professor
Nadia Yaqub, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Asian Studies

University of North Texas
Nada Shabout, Professor of Art History

* University of Pennsylvania
Anne Norton, Professor of Political Science

University of Pittsburgh
Mohammed Bamyeh, Professor of Sociology

University of Richmond
Sheila Carapico, Professor of Political Science and International Studies

University of Southern California
Sarah Gualtieri, Associate Professor of History and American Studies

* University of Texas at Austin
Kamran Asdar Ali, Associate Professor, Anthropology
Barbara Harlow, Louann and Larry Temple Centennial Professor of English Literature

Univesity of the Pacific
Ahmed Kanna, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, School of International Studies

University of Wasington-Bothell
Karam Dana, Assistant Professor

* University of Washington – Seattle
Arzoo Osanloo, Associate Professor, Law, Societies, and Justice
Chandan Reddy, Associate Professor

University of Wisconsin – Madison
Samer Alatout, Associate Professor, Department of Community & Environmental Sociology

Virginia Commonwealth University
Faedah Totah, Associate Professor, Political Science Department

Wake Forest University
Michaelle Browers, Associate Professor of Politics and International Affairs
Charles Wilkins, Associate Professor, History Department

Wayne State University
Barbara Aswad, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, and Past President of the Middle East Studies Association of North America
May Seikaly, Associate Professor of Modern Middle East History

Wellesley College
Lamia Balafrej, Assistant Professor, Art Department
Lidwien Kapteijns, Professor of History
Sima Shakhsari, Assistant Professor

West Chester University
Lawrence Davidson, Professor of History, Department of History

Whitman College
Elyse Semerdjian, Associate Professor of History

* Yale University
Zareena Grewal, Assistant Professor of American Studies and Religious Studies, Faculty at Council on Middle East Studies
Dimitri Gutas, Professor of Arabic

TIMELY SPOOF ON THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT

"Copyleft' by Carlos Latuff

“Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

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See  reactions to Salaita’s firing HERE

SALAITA BREAKS THE SILENCE ON HIS SILENCING

Steven Salaita broke his silence today for the first time since administrators at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) fired him from a tenured position in the American Indian Studies program more than a month ago.

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Breaking silence, Salaita calls on Univ.

of Illinois to rescind his firing over

Gaza tweets

SPEAK NOT AND FOREVER HOLD YOUR PEACE

THE ISRAEL LOBBY’S NEW MANTRA FOR AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES
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Raw power – intimidation, denial of tenure, firings and other kinds of discipline – are being used to try to stop the growth of Palestine solidarity on campus.

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“Civility” is the Israel lobby’s new

weapon against free speech on US

campuses

“Civility” comes in many forms, sometimes wearing a uniform. (Ali Abunimah)

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As I was driving through Indiana en route to Michigan this weekend, I saw this billboard for a local sheriff’s election campaign. There, above the uniformed police officer with his military-style crew cut, is the slogan “Return to Civility.”

It seemed the perfect metaphor for what “civility” has come to mean on US campuses: the forceful policing, at the behest of Israel lobby groups, of any discourse or activism critical of Israel.

In the wake of Israel’s latest Gaza massacre, the civility police are cracking down hard. Most notoriously, administrators and trustees at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have used the excuse of “civility” to fire Steven Salaita for his strong criticisms of, among other things, Israel’s slaughter of hundreds of children in Gaza.

But civility crackdowns are now breaking out across the country. Another alarming case involves a student at Ohio University.

Pouring cold water on free speech

Last week Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis challenged the newly elected student senate president Megan Marzec to take the “ice bucket challenge.” This is a stunt where someone pours a bucket of ice water over their head on video to raise awareness of the disease ALS.

It has become a very mainstream activity which allows the participant to appear philanthropic at no political risk (former President George W. Bush took the “challenge,”inadvertently recalling his administration’s use of water-boarding as a form of torture).

But what Marzec did – as Palestinians have done with their own “rubble bucket challenge” – is to subvert the meme.

She made a video in which she pours a bucket of fake blood over her head to protest Israel’s abuse of Palestinians.

“I’m urging you and OU [Ohio University] to divest and cut all ties with academic and other Israeli institutions and businesses,” Marzec says in the 50-second video that she posted on her Facebook page Wednesday afternoon, The Columbus Dispatch reports.

“This bucket of blood symbolizes the thousands of displaced and murdered Palestinians, atrocities which OU is directly complacent in through cultural and economic support of the Israeli state,” she adds. (The original instance of the video is no longer available but I am including this copy in my post because I believe people should see that it is, contrary to the lurid criticisms, rather tame, polite and indeed civil.)

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Marzec was quickly and swiftly denounced. The Twitter account of the Student Senate tweeted: “On behalf of the student senate, we humbly apologize for the video President Megan Marzec posted.”

The campus group Bobcats for Israel and Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish fraternity, called for her resignation.

“In part of the video she promotes the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement, which is anti-Semitic,” one student critic told The Cleveland Jewish News.

Marzec herself has reported receiving death threats for her protest. She showed The Athens Post newspaper messages she’d been sent that “ridiculed her as a woman, among other insults,” and said that she’s been subjected to “a whole slew of very vile things.”

But she strongly defended her protest. “It’s clear to me that my video was not anti-Semitic,” she told The Post. “Any reframing of the video is caused by outrage that I am standing in solidarity with oppressed Palestinians.”

More than 600 people have signed an online petition in “solidarity with Megan Marzec’s right of free speech to publicly state her political opinions on the liberation of Palestine.” It also condemns “any attempt to employ threats and/or acts of interpersonal violence to intimidate Ohio University students into silence.”

“Civility”

Enter the president of Ohio University, who has come down not on the side of Palestinians victimized by massive Israeli violence, not on the side of Marzec who was trying to draw attention to that violence, and not against those denigrating and threatening her.

Instead, the university and President McDavis issued a campus-wide call for “civility”that criticized only Marzec.

“Her actions do not reflect the position of Ohio University or President McDavis,” the university statement says. “We recognize the rights of individual students to speak out on matters of public concern and we will continue to do so, but want to be clear that the message shared today by her is not an institutional position or a belief held by President McDavis.”

And then here is the “civility” punchline (emphasis added):

In a university community of our size, there are many issues that merit our attention and dialogue. As stewards of the public trust, we have a responsibility to encourage the free exchange of ideas. For it is through dialogue on conflicting views that we will move toward mutual understanding.

I take great pride in the fact that Ohio University is a community that tackles hard issues head-on. The conflict in Israel and Gaza is no exception. But the manner in which we conduct ourselves as we exercise our right to free speech is of utmost importance.

In my First Year Student Convocation address, I emphasized the idea that we are a University family. As members of a University family, we will not always agree,but we should respect one another. And when we engage in difficult dialogue on issues such as this, we must do so with civility and a deep appreciation for the diverse and resilient international community in which we live.

Who is being protected?

There is much to be said about McDavis’ invocation of the “family” – with all its connotations of patriarchy, hierarchy, privacy, discipline and infantilization as a metaphor – but I will leave that for another day.

There are important unstated assumptions in McDavis’ statement. Notably, he seems to be saying that by criticizing Israeli violence against Palestinians, and urging the institution to end its complicity, Marzec was somehow targeting and injuring a component of the campus community or “family.”

Unless there is a brigade of the Israeli army with particularly sensitive feelings permanently stationed on campus, this cannot be the case.

Rather, the implication seems to be that criticism of Israel and its actions is deemed offensive to Jewish students. This is certainly implied by the intervention of the Jewish fraternity.

But we must always reject the equation of Jewish students with the State of Israel, no matter how often pro-Israel groups and university administrations insist on it.

This is the Israel lobby’s new tactic, as I have argued in my recent book The Battle for Justice in Palestine: to equate criticism of Israel or solidarity with Palestinians with “hate speech,” “hate crimes” or even attacks on an individual such as sexual or racial violence that must be ultimately subject to university or juridical discipline and punishment.

In the case of Salaita, this meant the loss of his job based on libelous and speculative claims that his statements about Israel would mean students in his classroom might be endangered.

In the same vein, when Palestine solidarity groups have distributed mock eviction notices as a tactic to educate peers on campus about Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes, they have usually faced false allegations from Zionist groups that the dorm rooms of Jewish students were “targeted.”

It is in this context that Students for Justice in Palestine at Northeastern University was banned last Spring, an unprecedented act of repression that the administration onlyrescinded after a fierce student campaign and a national outcry. The year before they were banned, Northeastern SJP had been forced to sign a “civility statement,” following an organized walk-out of a talk given by Israeli soldiers.

This is the same basic idea behind the wave of complaints against various universities made by Zionist individuals and organizations under Title VI of the US Civil Rights Act in recent years alleging that campus Palestine solidarity activism was making Jewish students feel “unsafe.”

While the strategy has so far failed at the legal level, it is succeeding with university administrations, who are rushing to issue “civility” statements explicitly or implicitly targeting utterers of speech critical of Israel.

It cannot be mere coincidence that Nicholas Dirks, chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, sent an email to the entire campus community last week also calling for “civility.”

Ostensibly marking the 50th anniversary of Berkeley’s famed Free Speech Movement, Dirks said, “we can only exercise our right to free speech insofar as we feel safe and respected in doing so, and this in turn requires that people treat each other with civility.”

What does “civility” mean in this context? Does it mean saying “please,” “thank you,” “sir” and “ma’am” to war criminals? Or does it mean electing a sheriff instead of a professor to run a university to make everyone feel “safe” and secure?

(A similar statement has also just been issued from Penn State University. No particular cause is mentioned as prompting the statement and it does not mention Palestine, but I expect to see more of these.)

Dirks, as I recount in The Battle for Justice in Palestine, was the vice president at Columbia University who, prior to taking his new job at Berkeley, boasted about his role in the witch-hunt against Professor Joseph Massad.

Losing their grip

Zionism is losing its grip. It has lost the substantive debate on the past and future of Palestine in the academy. It no longer has a hold on the hearts and minds of young people the way it did in the years after the 1967 War.

Many of the Jewish students whose “safety” is being invoked to justify the campus crackdowns are joining – and in some cases leading – chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and similar groups.

Key Israel lobby groups, as I explain in the book, see US campuses as the battleground on which the future of US support for Israel will be secured or lost.

Raw power – intimidation, denial of tenure, firings and other kinds of discipline – are being used to try to stop the growth of Palestine solidarity on campus.

Corporatized university administrations across the country are fully complicit in this repression. And this iron fist is being wrapped in the velvet glove of “civility.”

AMERICAS FIRST VICTIM OF THE WAR IN GAZA

ACADEMIC FREEDOM?
FREEDOM OF SPEECH??

AMERICA’S DREAM IS SLOWLY BECOMING A NIGHTMARE!

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Steven Salaita was fired from his position as associate professor in the American Indian Studies program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) apparently over views critical of Israel, especially its current massacre in Gaza.

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University of Illinois fires professor Steven Salaita after Gaza massacre tweets

A mock-up of Israel’s apartheid wall erected by Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (Benjamin Stone/Flickr)

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Steven Salaita was fired from his position as associate professor in the American Indian Studies program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) apparently over views critical of Israel, especially its current massacre in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Cary Nelson, former president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), who has publicly supported the university’s decision to remove Salaita, gave frank comments to The Electronic Intifada revealing the extent of his own pro-Israel views.

Nelson acknowledged that he had been monitoring Salaita’s social media use for months.

This indicates Salaita may be the victim of a retaliation campaign. Salaita is the author ofIsrael’s Dead Soul and The Uncultured Wars, Arabs, Muslims and the Poverty of Liberal Thought, as well as a contributor to a number of publications including Salon and The Electronic Intifada.

He was a prominent campaigner for the American Studies Association’s decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions last December.

In May, Salaita wrote a post for The Electronic Intifada called “How to practice BDS in academe.”

Fired not “revoked”

This morning, Inside Higher Ed reported that Salaita had merely had a job offer “revoked.”

Salaita was “recently informed by Chancellor Phyllis Wise that the appointment would not go to the university’s board, and that he did not have a job to come to in Illinois, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation,” Inside Higher Ed said.

“The sources familiar with the university’s decision say that concern grew over the tone of [Salaita’s] comments on Twitter about Israel’s policies in Gaza,” it added.

Neither the university nor Salaita have commented on the matter. Salaita did not respond to requests for comment.

But a source with close knowledge of the situation, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly, disputed Inside Higher Ed’s version. The source told The Electronic Intifada that Salaita had actually been “fired.”

The source said they had seen documentation indicating that Salaita’s appointment had been through all the ordinary procedures for hiring faculty, up to and including the scheduling of new faculty orientation.

Salaita had already resigned from his position as associate professor of English at Virginia Tech, according to Inside Higher Ed. It would not make sense for Salaita to resign from a secure position without already having been fully and properly hired to a new one.

Even though Inside Higher Ed’s sources say the opposite, the publication’s own analysis supports The Electronic Intifada’s reporting that Salaita has actually been fired.

“As recently as two weeks ago, the university confirmed to reporters that he [Salaita] was coming,” Inside Higher Ed reported. “The university also declined to answer questions about how rare it is for such appointments to fall through at this stage.”

Target

Salaita’s exact status at the university is likely to be important to the outcome of his case.

If a job offer was merely “revoked,” as Inside Higher Ed’s sources claim, then Salaita would likely have far fewer protections than if he had already been hired, and then fired.

Opponents of Palestinian rights are already seizing on this distinction to spin and legitimize the decision to remove Salaita for his opinions expressed in public forums.

According to Inside Higher Ed, AAUP past president Cary Nelson, who is also an English professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said that “it was legitimate – at the point of hiring – to consider issues of civility and collegiality. In this case, [Nelson] said, that would lead him to oppose Salaita’s appointment.”

Nelson’s views are important because his former role at AAUP means he is often cited as an authority on academic freedom issues, though his own anti-Palestinian biases are rarely examined.

In a telephone interview with The Electronic Intifada from his Urbana-Champaign home, Nelson went even further, claiming that Salaita’s supposed social media transgressions “are more serious than collegiality and civility.”

Nelson accused Salaita of “incitement to violence” for retweeting a tweet by another Twitter user, stating: “Jeffrey goldberg’s story should have ended at the pointy end of a shiv.”

Goldberg, a former Israeli prison guard who participated in and helped cover up the torture and abuse of Palestinian prisoners, and now a writer for The Atlantic, is one of the most prominent defenders of Israel’s bombardment that has killed more than one in every one thousand Palestinians in Gaza over the last month.

While Salaita is known for an acerbic sense of humor – a likely reason he would have retweeted the tweet – it is an oft-stated norm of Twitter that “a retweet does not equal an endorsement.”

When pressed, Nelson could provide no example of any tweet written by Salaita that “incited violence.”

Nelson acknowledged, however, that he has been closely monitoring Salaita’s Twitter account for months. “There are scores of tweets. I have screen captures,” he said. “The total effect seems to me to cross a line.”

Salaita has “always tweeted in a very volatile and aggressive way,” Nelson asserted, but “recently he’s begun to be much more aggressive.”

Another example Nelson gave was an 8 July tweet by Salaita, at the beginning of Israel’s current massacre in Gaza, stating, “If you’re defending #Israel right now you’re an awful human being.”

Nelson claimed that this might mean that students in one of Salaita’s classes who “defended Israel” could face a hostile environment.

But Nelson acknowledged that he knew of no complaints about Salaita’s teaching and that Salaita was not even scheduled to teach classes on Palestine and the Israelis.

Asked if he therefore supported a “pre-emptive firing” based on a Tweet, Nelson again insisted that Salaita had not been “fired,” but merely not hired. Nelson claimed that if Salaita had already been hired, he would defend him.

When asked if he would oppose the hiring of a person who said that “someone who defends Hamas firing rockets towards Tel Aviv is an awful person,” Nelson answered: “No.”

There could be no clearer admission that Nelson’s opposition to Salaita is based on the content of his views, specifically criticism of Israel.

Resistance to Israel is “criminal”

This became clearer when Nelson expanded on his views on Palestine and the Israelis.

Nelson defended Israel’s attack on Gaza as part of its “right to self-defense,” although he stressed that many aspects of the attack were “unethical” and “immoral” and that pictures of children killed by Israel were “horrific.”

When asked whether he would condemn Israel’s bombing of the Islamic University of Gaza, Nelson used cautious language: “It’s very difficult for someone from a distance to judge particular artillery strikes. My personal view is that Israel should have been more careful. From what I know, there are military actions as part of the Gaza incursion that seem regrettable to me and should not have taken place.”

While asserting Israel’s right to bomb Gaza, Nelson denied that Palestinians have any right to armed resistance to the onslaught.

“I don’t know where that right would come from,” he said. “I don’t view Gaza under as under occupation so I don’t see a right to resistance.”

When asked if the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international bodies were incorrect in their view that Israel’s siege of Gaza constitutes “collective punishment” and is therefore a war crime, Nelson insisted he was unable to make legal judgments.

Nelson added that he did not see that the situation in the occupied West Bank “warrants resistance,” either. “I don’t think there’s a right to violent resistance on the West Bank.”

Asked if he thought “all Palestinian military resistance is criminal,” Nelson answered: “Yes. I think that is my view.”

When asked if any of Israel’s actions could be labeled “criminal,” Nelson repeated that many were “immoral” and “unethical,” but that he was not qualified to give legal opinions about Israel’s actions.

Nelson, an outspoken campaigner against the nonviolent, Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS), said that Palestinians should resort to “civil disobedience” in the West Bank such as “blocking roads.”

Israel has shot dead 17 Palestinians just in the last month in the occupied West Bank.

BDS is “political violence”

Nelson reaffirmed his strong opposition to the BDS movement because some of its prominent advocates – he named Omar Barghouti and philosopher Judith Butler – dispute Israel’s “right to exist as a Jewish state.”

“I consider that to be a form of political violence,” Nelson said.

Asked if he called himself a “Zionist,” Nelson answered: “Yes.”

If there were doubts about Nelson’s clear bias against Palestinians and their pursuit of their rights by any means (except of course the most invisible and ineffective), his frank comments to The Electronic Intifada put them to rest.

On 21 July, Salaita was attacked for his Twitter use in the right-wing, anti-Palestinian website The Daily Caller.

It seems clear that with Nelson now publicly leading the charge, Salaita is the latest victim of a nationwide campaign to intimidate into silence anyone on campus who criticizes Israel or supports effective campaigns to secure Palestinian rights.

Call for action

Brooklyn College political science professor Corey Robin has also pointed out that in the past, Nelson himself has criticized how “claims about collegiality are being used to stifle campus debate, to punish faculty, and to silence the free exchange of opinion by the imposition of corporate-style conformity.”

Nelson has also previously supported academic boycotts, though never for Palestinian rights.

But now, Robin says, Nelson’s about-face is “a symptom of the effects of Zionism on academic freedom, how pro-Israel forces have consistently attempted to shut down debate on this issue.”

Robin urges people to write to UIUC Chancellor Phyllis Wise asking her to reverse her decision.

“As always, be polite, but be firm,” Robin writes. “Don’t assume this is a done deal; in my experience, it often is not.”

Supporters have also launched an online petition, which as of this writing, had already gathered more than 1,500 signatures.

ZION LOSES GROUND IN ITS OWN PRESS

The Forward, which has been fiercely pro-Israel, ran two pieces yesterday that are sharply critical of the Zionist establishment.

Mazal Tov!

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‘Forward’ lives up to its name, bashing denial of Palestinian narrative and donors’ control of Hillel

Philip Weiss FOR
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Roll over Ben-Gurion and tell Jabotinsky the news: The Forward, which has been fiercely pro-Israel, ran two pieces yesterday that are sharply critical of the Zionist establishment.

First, here is a piece defending Students for Justice in Palestine chapters from the ongoing university punishments– SJP “is one of the few campus groups pushing for a just peace in Israel and Palestine”– written by a member and former member of SJP chapters (respectively, Joey Morris at Brandeis and Gabi Kirk, formerly of University of California Santa Cruz). Notice the complete lack of hysteria in this rendering of the argument:

Everyone has the right to criticize a foreign government when it breaks international law, even if others have deep emotional ties to it. …

SJP’s actions are, at their heart, meant to bring the Palestinian narrative to campus. If telling history from a Palestinian point of view makes pro-Israel students feel uncomfortable, that’s not anti-Semitic on our part. It’s denial on theirs.

While pro-Israel groups have filed many Title VI discrimination complaints with the Department of Education, not one has been found in their favor. Pro-Israel students have alleged anti-Semitic harassment and have failed to provide objective evidence, yet administrators still cave to their demands. In contrast, when Northeastern Law SJP student Max Geller received death threats, the university’s response was tepid. The administration applies a double standard to Palestine solidarity groups, delaying the response to their harassment claims while taking decisive action when Israel lobby groups complain.

And then this excellent attack on Hillel, in which Jay Michaelson of the Forward staff tells young Jews just to leave the organization rather than try and reform it from within. Notice how Michaelson goes right to the funding question. “Institution Is Beholden to Donors, Not Students,” is a headline, and he scores “Jewish philanthropists” in the piece. Michaelson explains that the Hillel guidelines shutting down intelligent conversation about the conflict aren’t about institutional ideology or love of Israel but about money.

Remember back in 2009, when the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco issued one of the first gag rules regarding Israel-Palestine? Why do you think they did that? Because they felt like it? No, because two major California-based foundations said that if one dime of their money went to support or endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, however indirectly — a film at a film festival, a speaker on a panel, anything — they would pull all their money. That’s why the policy was put in place, and that’s why it was mimicked around the country.

This is not to say, dear Hillel students, that you shouldn’t be outraged. On the contrary: you should be more outraged. The community institutions which pretend to involve your participation are a sham. Your Hillel “officers” are like student government: They can make petty decisions, but when the rubber hits the road, money talks and they walk.

So direct your outrage in a meaningful way: leave.

The only way these institutions will listen to you is if they begin to fail at their core mission. Their donors will then have to choose between their support of that mission, and their desire to maintain a particular kind of political purity. There is no point in arguing with your Hillel director, or Eric Fingerhut, Hillel’s president and CEO, or the Jewish Museum’s staff. You are clearly right. But if they listen to you, they will lose their jobs.

This is of course the reason that Vassar and Swarthmore have declared themselves Open Hillel’s and Harvard and Berkeley have failed to do so. Because the Harvard and Berkeley chapters are large and too embosomed in the local Jewish establishment to disentangle themselves financially. Michaelson is telling the students to break out now and form their own tabernacle in the desert.

Notice that both these pieces address the Israel lobby. So a progressive Jewish publication that sought to marginalize that analysis is now embracing it. You simply cannot understand the primacy of the special relationship in our politics without talking about the money of the Israel lobby.

The Forward’s apostasy underscores my mainstream political analysis: Not till Jewish progressive culture splits will American political culture break on this issue. You cannot get the Democratic Party unless you transform American Jewish attitudes; Jews are simply too important in the blue state liberal consensus. I’m all for organizing inside the rightwing of American life, with Rand Paul and the National Summit to Reassess the Special Relationship. But that just gets us back to a traditional opposition of the 40s and 50s, Harry Truman versus the State Department. And we saw how that worked out. You have to break down this powerful ideology in its own burrows.

Hat’s off to Forward editor Jane Eisner for having the journalistic integrity to take on these stories.

ISRAEL DECLARES WAR ON AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES

Israel’s War on American Universities

By Chris Hedges

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the AIPAC meeting on March 4 in Washington, D.C. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

 

The banning of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Northeastern University in Boston on March 7, along with a university threat of disciplinary measures against some of its members, replicates sanctions being imposed against numerous student Palestinian rights groups across the country. The attacks, and the disturbingly similar forms of punishment, appear to be part of a coordinated effort by the Israeli government and the Israel lobby to blacklist all student groups that challenge the official Israeli narrative.

Northeastern banned the SJP chapter after it posted on campus replicas of eviction notices that are routinely put up on Palestinian homes set for Israeli demolition. The university notice of suspension says that if the SJP petitions for reinstatement next year, “No current member of the Students for Justice in Palestine executive board may serve on the inaugural board of the new organization” and that representatives from the organization must attend university-sanctioned “trainings.”

In 2011 in California, 10 students who had disrupted a speech at UC Irvine by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren were found guilty, put on informal probation and sentenced to perform community service. Oren, an Israeli citizen who has since been hired by CNNas a contributor, has called on Congress to blacklist supporters of the campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and to prosecute those who protest at appearances by Israeli officials. Some activists at Florida Atlantic University were stripped of student leadership positions after they walked out of a talk by an Israeli army officer and were ordered by school administrators to attend re-education seminars designed by the Anti-Defamation League. Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine (CSJP) was abruptly placed on suspension in the spring of 2011 and barred from reserving rooms and hosting events on campus. The university administration, before the ban, had a practice of notifying the campus Hillel in advance of any CSJP event. The suspension was eventually lifted after a protest led by attorneys for the CSJP.

Max Geller, a law student and a SJP member at Northeastern whom I reached by phone in Boston, accused the university of responding “to outside pressures,” including that of alumnus Robert Shillman, who is the CEO of Cognex Corp., and hedge fund billionaire Seth Klarman, both supporters of right-wing Israeli causes.

“To prohibit students from holding leadership roles and student groups simply because they engaged in a peaceful political protest is antithetical to the university’s mission to educate students,” he said. “It erases any pedagogical value disciplinary process might seek.”

“In the last year,” Geller went on, “I have received death threats, been publicly and unfairly maligned, and have been threatened with disciplinary measures. This has made engaging in speech about an issue about which I care deeply, both as a Jew and an American, a fear- and anxiety-causing prospect.”

Israel’s heavy-handed reaction to these campus organizations is symptomatic of its increasing isolation and concern about waning American support. The decades-long occupation and seizure of Palestinian land and the massive military assaults against a defenseless population in Gaza that has left hundreds dead, along with growing malnutrition among Palestinian children and enforced poverty, have alienated traditional supporters of Israel, including many young American Jews. Israel, at the same time, has turned into a pariah in the global community. If it were to become devoid of American support, which it largely buys with political campaign contributions funneled through groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Israel would be adrift. There are a growing number of banks and other companies, especially in the European Union, joining the boycott movement, which refuses to do business with Israeli concerns in the occupied territories. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking before AIPAC on March 4, surprisingly devoted much of his talk to attacking the nascent BDS movement, which he said stood for “Bigotry, Dishonesty and Shame.” He called for BDS supporters to “be treated exactly as we treat any anti-Semite or bigot.” He warned that “naive and ignorant” people are being recruited as “gullible fellow travelers” in an anti-Semitic campaign.

Israeli officials are also apparently attempting to infiltrate the BDS movement and are using subterfuge to link it to Islamic extremism, according to The Times of London. The Israeli government in addition is pushing censorious, anti-democratic bills in the state legislatures of New York, Maryland and Illinois that would impose financial sanctions on academic organizations that boycott Israeli institutions. Meanwhile, the United States and others enthusiastically impose sanctions on Russia for an occupation that is much less draconian than Israel’s long defiance of international law.

The ADL-designed indoctrination classes for university activists are, according to those who have been required to take them, shabby attempts to equate any criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.

“Myself and two other members of SJP were forced to attend the ADL-sponsored ‘diversity training’ course or we would have violated the terms of our probation and in turn we would be suspended and/or expelled,” said Nadine Aly, a Florida Atlantic student activist who with other activists walked out of a lecture given at the university by an Israeli army officer, Col. Bentzi Gruber, who had helped devise the rules of engagement for Operation Cast Lead, the horrific attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009. I reached her by phone at the Florida campus. “The very idea that the administration is implying that it is racist to criticize Israeli policy is ludicrous. We were put on ‘indefinite probation,’ banning us from holding leadership positions in any recognized student organizations, including student government, at the university until our graduation. I was stripped of my position as president of SJP as well as a student senator, and the former vice president of the SJP lost her position as a Student House representative. It is a shame that this university, like most universities, bows to the pressure of the Zionist lobby and wealthy Zionist donors, when they should be protecting the rights of their students.”

The persecution of scholars such as Joseph Massad and Norman Finkelstein who challenge the official Israeli narrative has long been a feature of Israeli intervention in American academic life. And the eagerness of university presidents to denounce the American Studies Association call for an academic boycott of Israel is a window into the insatiable hunger for money that seems to govern university policy. The current effort to shut down student groups, however, raises traditional Israeli censorship and interference to a new level. Israel seeks now to openly silence free speech on American college campuses—all of these student groups have steadfastly engaged in nonviolent protests—and has enlisted our bankrupt liberal elites and college administrators as thought police.

The failure among academics to stand up for the right of these student groups to express dissenting views and engage in political activism is a sad commentary on how irrelevant most academics have become. Where, in this fight, are the constitutional law professors defending the right to free speech? Where are the professors of ethics, religion and philosophy reminding students about the right of all to a dignified life free of oppression? Where are the Middle Eastern studies professors explaining the historical consequences of Israel’s violent seizure of Palestinian land? Where are the journalism professors defending the right of dissidents and victims to a fair hearing in the press? Where are the professors of queer and gender studies, African-American studies, Native American studies or Chicano studies acting to protect the voices and dignity of the marginalized and oppressed?

This assault will not end with groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine. The refusal to hear the cries of the Palestinian people, especially those 1.5 million—60 percent of them children—who are trapped by the Israeli military in Gaza, is part of the wider campaign by right-wing operatives like Lynne Cheney and billionaires such as the Koch brothers to stamp out all programs and academic disciplines that give voice to the marginalized, especially those who are not privileged and white. Latinos, African-Americans, feminists, those in queer and gender studies also feel this pressure. Under a bill signed by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, books by leading Chicano authors have been banned from public schools in Tucson and elsewhere in Arizona on the ground that such ethnic studies promote “resentment toward a race or people.” It is language similar to what Ambassador Oren has used to justify his call for criminal prosecutions of BDS activists—that they are advancing “bigotry.” The neoconservatism that grips Israel has its toxic counterpart within American culture. And if other marginalized groups within the university remain silent while Palestine solidarity activists are persecuted on campuses, there will be fewer allies when these right-wing forces come for them. And come they will.

Those of us who denounce the suffering caused by Israel and its war crimes against the Palestinians and who support the BDS movement are accustomed to sleazy Israeli smear campaigns. I have been repeatedly branded as an anti-Semite by the Israeli lobby, including for my book “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.” That some of these dissident voices, such as Max Blumenthal, who wrote “Goliath: Fear and Loathing in Greater Israel,” one of the best accounts of contemporary Israel, are Jewish does not seem to perturb right-wing Israeli propagandists who see any deviation from the Israeli government line as a form of religious heresy.

“I have been on tour discussing my book, ‘Goliath,’ since October 2013,” said Blumenthal, with whom I spoke by phone.  “And on numerous occasions, Israel lobby groups and pro-Israel activists have attempted to pressure organizations into canceling my events before they took place. I have been slandered by teenage pro-Israel students, prominent magazine columnists and even Alan Dershowitz as an anti-Semite, and my family has been attacked in right-wing media simply for hosting a book party for me. The absurd lengths pro-Israel activists have gone to stop my journalism and analysis from reaching a wide audience perfectly illustrate their intellectual exhaustion and moral poverty. All they have left is loads of money to buy off politicians and the unlimited will to defend the only nuclearized apartheid state in the Middle East. As young Arabs and Muslims assert their presence on campuses across the country and Jewish Americans reel in disgust at Netanyahu’s Israel, we are witnessing pro-Israel forces wage a fighting retreat. The question is not whether they will win or lose, but how much damage they can do to free-speech rights on their way towards a reckoning with justice.”

“It would be heartening if prominent liberal intellectuals would agree with all of my conclusions, or would accept the legitimacy of BDS,” Blumenthal went on. “But the only reasonable expectation we can hold for them is that they speak up in defense of those whose free-speech rights and rights to organize are being crushed by powerful forces. Unfortunately, when those forces are arrayed in defense of Israel, too many liberal intellectuals are silent or, as in the case of Michael Kazin, Eric Alterman, Cary Nelson and a who’s who of major university presidents, they actively collaborate with fellow elites determined to crush Palestine solidarity activism through anti-democratic means.”

Hillel chapters, sadly, often function as little more than Israeli government and AIPAC campus outposts. This is true at Northeastern as well as at schools such as Barnard College and Columbia. And university presidents such as Barnard’s Debora Spar see nothing wrong with accepting Israel-lobby tours of Israel while Palestinian studentsmust risk imprisonment and even death to study in the United States. The launching of campuswide defamation campaigns from supposedly religious houses is a sacrilege to the Jewish religion. In seminary I read enough of the great Hebrew prophets, whose singular concern was for the oppressed and the poor, to know that they would not be found today in Hillel centers but would instead be protesting with SJP activists.

The campus Hillel centers, with lavish budgets and gleaming buildings on campuses often situated in centers of urban blight, offer running events, lectures and programs to promote official Israeli policy. They arrange free trips to Israel for Jewish students as part of the “Taglit Birthright” program, functioning as an Israeli government travel agency. While Jewish students, often with no familial connection to Israel, are escorted in these well-choreographed propaganda tours of Israel, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who remain trapped in squalid refugee camps cannot go home although their families may have lived for centuries on what is now Israeli land.

Israel has for decades been able to frame the discussion about the Palestinians. But its control of the narrative is coming to an end. As Israel loses ground it will viciously and irrationally attack all truth tellers, even if they are American students, and especially if they are Jews. There will come a day, and that day will come sooner than Israel and its paid lackeys expect, when the whole edifice will crumble, when even students at Hillel will no longer have the stomach to defend the continuous dispossession and random murder of Palestinians. Israel, by ruthlessly silencing others, now risks silencing itself.

Chris Hedges will deliver a lecture sponsored by the Northeastern University Political Economy Forum at 6 p.m. March 25 at West Village F, 20, 460 Parker St. in Boston.

 

Written FOR

HIGHER EDUCATION COULD BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH …

… If you are a Palestinian

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I risked imprisonment and death in order to study at Washington University.

Last summer I was thrilled to learn that I had earned admission and a scholarship to the Brown School of Social Work. But I almost could not be here – for one reason.

I am a Palestinian from Bethlehem.

 

I risked imprisonment by Israel and death to study in the United States

Murad Owda *

Israel’s wall around the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem restricts the basic freedom of thousands of Palestinians every day.

(APA images)

I risked imprisonment and death in order to study at Washington University.

Last summer I was thrilled to learn that I had earned admission and a scholarship to the Brown School of Social Work. But I almost could not be here – for one reason.

I am a Palestinian from Bethlehem.

I needed to go to the United States consulate in Jerusalem to apply for my visa. Bethlehem is only six miles from Jerusalem, but it is extremely difficult to get there because less than a decade ago Israel built a giant wall between the cities.

I went through the proper bureaucratic channels to apply to enter Jerusalem. The Israelis denied me permission – on four separate occasions. They claimed I was a security threat – but offered no explanation why. I have never committed any crime or been to jail.

When I explained the situation to the American officials they told me that’s not their problem. In order to apply for a visa I needed to be at their consulate at 10AM on 16 July.

So I had to sneak around like a criminal, evading soldiers. I went miles away to find a small opening. I went through hills. I went through thorn trees. I crawled through a sewage pipe – knowing that others caught in such pipes have suffocated to death after Israeli soldiers discovered them and shot tear gas into the pipes or sicced dogs on them.

When I arrived in Jerusalem I washed myself with a bottle of water, covered my cuts and bruises with an extra pair of clothes I had in a backpack and went into the consulate to talk with the American officials. Then I immediately hid in a friends’ house for three days, not daring to go outside.

I made it here. I’m lucky – thousands of other Palestinians who want to study aren’t so lucky. That’s why it upset me to read that Washington University Chancellor Mark Wrighton recently condemned the American Studies Association’s (ASA) endorsement of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Although an extremely limited boycott, which only targets institutions and not individual academics, Wrighton stated that he was “deeply troubled and dismayed” because “the boycott directly violates academic freedom.”

What about my academic freedom? What about the tens of thousands of Palestinian children and teachers whose movement to and from their schools is impeded by the Israeli military?

Forget academic – what about basic freedom? Israel made my family stateless refugees in 1948 until now. It steals our lands. It steals our water. It denies us freedom of movement. It taxes us without representation. It subjects us to arbitrary violence and detention without any meaningful due process. It allows fanatical, armed religious settlers to torment us and applies a separate code of law to Palestinians than it does to Jewish Israelis.

Why is Chancellor Wrighton unconcerned about violations of both my academic rights and my basic human rights, but he is “deeply troubled and dismayed” that perhaps a handful of Israeli academics may have to pay for their own airplane tickets if they decide to participate in an ASA conference?

I commend the ASA for heeding the call of the Palestinian people for boycott, divestment and sanctions against institutions that are complicit in sustaining the Israeli system of ethnic discrimination and domination.

This nonviolent movement helped change the unjust apartheid system in South Africa – and it can also support our struggle to end apartheid in Palestine so that all can enjoy equal rights, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion.

*Murad Owda is from Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem, Palestine, and an MSW student at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

 

Written FOR

MUST SEE VIDEO ~~ ACADEMIC BOYCOTT DAYS

Up in the mornin’ and out to school
Israel’s universities are the tool
Palestinian history, they give it a pass
Too busy with jobs for the army brass
Workin’ your fingers right down to the bone
To help control the occupied zone

Ring, ring goes the bell
Village kids are in the prison cell
Discrimination at Ben Gurion
Palestinian students almost unknown
Back in the classroom they cook the books
Apartheid don’t know how mean it looks

Soon as 2005 rolls around
They’re boycottin’ to bring apartheid down
You say they violate freedom of speech
But you don’t practice what you preach
Up to the corner and round the bend
Palestinian freedom is at an end

Set the campus on stolen land
This is where the seizure of Palestine’s planned
With the grants you love, you work for the boss
All day long Palestinians waitin’ to cross
Doin’ demographics at Haifu U
Better send some natives to Timbuktu

Hail hail brand Israel
Our prettier face must prevail
Long live hasbara
To fool the world is the holy grail
Look out, they’re callin’ us to account
Academic apartheid’s beyond the pale

ZION TRIUMPHS IN NEW YORK STATE

See Immediate ACTION ALERT ….. HERE

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The new legislation would prevent New York higher-ed institutions from paying membership fees to academic groups that boycott Israel and will no longer reimburse students or scholars for their travel expenses to conventions of groups that have voted to boycott the Jewish State.

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Another great blow to Democracy and Academic Freedom …

In line with the policies of New York City, the State itself is now backing the occupation of Palestine with the following legislation …

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New York State passes anti-boycott legislation

Bill proposed by Democratic state senator passes chamber, if signed into law will prohibit New York universities and colleges from paying dues to ASA and other academic organizations that boycott Israel

By Yitzhak Benhorin FOR

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WASHINGTON – New York State Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that directly addressed the controversy surrounding the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israeli universities.

The bill, to become law if signed by the governor, would prohibit the state’s massive higher education system from funding organizations that “have undertaken an official action boycotting certain countries or their higher education institutions” according to the language of the legislation.

The bill was sponsored by Democratic Senator Jeff Klein, and it passed with a wide margin of 56-4.

The senator’s office released a statement: “This legislation sends a very simple message, which is that we should never ask taxpayers to support religious, ethnic, or racial discrimination.”

The statement stressed the New York legislator’s relationship with the Jewish State: “I will not allow the enemies of Israel or the Jewish people to gain an inch in New York.”

The new legislation would prevent New York higher-ed institutions from paying membership fees to academic groups that boycott Israel and will no longer reimburse students or scholars for their travel expenses to conventions of groups that have voted to boycott the Jewish State.

Violators of the new bill would be cut off from state aid for the academic years in which the violation occurred.

The president-elect of the ASA, Lisa Duggan, told Al Jazeera that the New York Senate legislation is intended to cover Israel’s “ongoing violations of international law and human rights.”

In an emailed statement to Al Jazeera, Duggan said: “This law’s supporters claim to oppose discriminatory boycotts, but they have designed their legislation to let Israel off the hook for restricting the academic and other freedoms of Palestinians, while punishing those who protest those injustices.”

ISRAEL’S HYPOCRITICAL BACKLASH AGAINST BDS

Zionists have been quick to accuse the ASA resolution of violating academic freedom, but this accusation does not stand up to meaningful scrutiny. In fact, it is Israel that systematically denies this right to Palestinians.
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Backlash against boycotting Israel’s universities reeks of hypocrisy

David Letwin

A Palestinian schoolgirl inspects the damage to a classroom hit days earlier during Israeli bombing in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on 26 November 2012.  (Eyad Al Baba / APA images)

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The American Studies Association’s recent endorsement of the Palestinian call to boycott Israeli academic institutions is a triumph for the entire boycott, divestment and sanctions(BDS) movement.

Israel’s ongoing crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people — 65 years of ethnic cleansing, colonization, denial of refugee rights and second-class citizenship, including extension of this brutal regime into the territories occupied since 1967 — has been perpetuated with the full complicity of Israeli academia.

The association’s vote powerfully affirms that such racism and injustice must not be legitimized through so-called “engagement” with abetting institutions.

Zionists have been quick to accuse the ASA resolution of violating academic freedom, but this accusation does not stand up to meaningful scrutiny. In fact, it is Israel that systematically denies this right to Palestinians.

And in reality, these attacks have little to do with academic freedom in the first place. Nor do they reflect an aversion to boycotts per se, which Israel and its supporters widely apply, for example, to the entire populations of Gaza and Iran — and now to the ASA itself.

Targeting Israel

Their real objection is that BDS targets Israel. Rather than admit this outright, however, BDS opponents typically complain of double standards.

“Did [the ASA resolution’s] authors,” wrote editors of The Washington Post, “pause to consider China’s incarceration of writers and scholars who dare to think and speak out for freedom, or the ethnic groups in China persecuted for refusing to heel to the Beijing masters?”

Writing in The Huffington Post, Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan College, stated: “The ASA listens to civil society only when it speaks against Israel. As its scholarly president declared, ‘One has to start somewhere.’ Not in North Korea, not in Russia or Zimbabwe or China — one has to start with Israel. Really?”

James F. Jones, president of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut made a similar point: “In this strange case, why the ASA would propose an academic boycott of Israel and not, for example, of Syria, the Sudan, North Korea, China, IranIraq, or Russia escapes rational thought.”

Congressman Eliot Engel stated: “If you must “start somewhere,” than I strongly suggest the ASA turn its attention to Syria, where Bashar al-Assad’s forces have indiscriminately shelled universities, killing students even as they sat for exams.”

Desperate

These arguments, however, are merely desperate attempts to distract attention from the fundamentally unjust nature of the “Jewish state” and trivialize Palestinian suffering.

As writer Mike Marqusee recently pointed out, these arguments are also virtually identical to earlier cries of “hypocrisy” against those who boycotted apartheid South Africa rather than “black dictatorships” elsewhere in Africa.

The logical fallacies here are numerous. First, one injustice never excuses another, nor do opponents of one injustice have to answer for unrelated injustices.

Second, the BDS movement has never condoned crimes by other regimes to begin with. Third, opponents of the ASA resolution wouldn’t support BDS no matter who else it denounced.

And fourth, they would never be making such arguments in the first place were their own rights at stake.

True hypocrites

Who, then, are the true hypocrites?

Furthermore, the ASA didn’t “propose” the boycott of Israel, as Jones has claimed. Rather, it endorsed an already existing Palestinian call — as Jones et al would do were their purported empathy for the oppressed genuine.

Instead, just as hostile whites often condescendingly dismissed black resistance to Jim Crow as the work of “outside agitators,” defenders of apartheid Israel portray BDS as the pathological brainchild of left-wing Western academics and activists. In both cases, the goal is to attack a movement’s authenticity and validity.

It didn’t work then; it won’t work now.

Indeed, more than anything these attacks signify that Israel has lost the battle for moral legitimacy. With Israel increasingly exposed before the world as a racist regime, its supporters now resort to assassinating the character of those — including a growing number of Jews — who demand justice for Palestinians.

These threats notwithstanding, the association’s stand is reverberating around the world.

“The ASA boycott of Israel,” wrote Palestinian BDS advocate Omar Barghouti, “will be remembered for many years to come as a crucial catalyst in this emancipatory process of reclaiming rights for all who are denied them.”

In Palestine, that process must ultimately lead to the end of Zionist apartheid, and, consistent with renewed Palestinian calls, a single democratic state throughout historic Palestine with equal rights for all.

Meanwhile, it is incumbent on all people of conscience to defend — and emulate — the ASA’s courageous stand.

David Letwin is a teacher living in Brooklyn, New York. He is affiliated with Jews for Palestinian Right of Return and Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition.

Written FOR

ZIONISM ATTACKS THE VERY FOUNDATIONS OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM

 http://www.awakeawareandpartofthesolution.com/blog/assets/0_0_0_0_250_188_csupload_57526329.jpg?u=635040238875052548 
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Earlier this month, members of the ASA voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to endorse the Palestinian call for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions which are complicit in Israel’s occupation and other violations of Palestinian rights.

Individuals supporting the boycott have also been targets of intense vilification and hate campaigns.

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Israel lobby launches fierce counterattack against American Studies Association

UN officials in Gaza announced last month that school construction projects were suspended due to the effects of the ongoing Israeli blockade.

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Israel lobby groups are marshaling their formidable forces for a fierce counterattack against the American Studies Association (ASA), including calls for repressive legislation, boycotts and other measures to punish and silence solidarity with Palestinians.

Earlier this month, members of the ASA voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to endorse the Palestinian call for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions which are complicit in Israel’s occupation and other violations of Palestinian rights.

Individuals supporting the boycott have also been targets of intense vilification and hate campaigns.

Pressure on universities

Last week anti-Palestinian group StandWithUs, which works closely with the Israeli government, sent out an email blast calling on its followers to “Urge university presidents, donors and government to denounce the ASA and sever ties with the organization.”

The ASA has five thousand individual members along with 2,200 library and other institutional subscribers.

Under such pressure two universities, Brandeis University and Penn State Harrisburg, have canceled their institutional memberships of the ASA.

Targeting NYU

Now, New York University (NYU) is under intense pressure to follow in their footsteps. A 21 December New York Post editorial called on NYU’s American studies program to “sever its ties” with the ASA, pointing out that “almost a quarter of the American Studies Association’s 17 non-student councilors are from NYU, including the group’s president-elect, Lisa Duggan.”

It was the ASA’s governing body, its National Council, that first endorsed the boycott and called for a full membership referendum to back its decision.

In a bizarre anti-Semitic twist, the Post editorial emphasizes that NYU “is supported by many Jewish donors and attended by many Jewish students. It features buildings and programs with names like Steinhardt and Tisch. It makes its home in the US city that has the highest number of Jews.”

It is unclear why any of that should be relevant unless one takes the bigoted position – as the Post appears to do – that all Jews are either implicated in or supportive of Israel’s occupation and other human rights abuses that motivated the ASA boycott.

Northwestern president’s preemptive strike

Northwestern University president Morton Schapiro was among a dozen or so leaders of academic institutions who pro-Israel activists say have issued denunciations of the ASA’s boycott call.

“While we support the right of academicians to voice their viewpoints, Northwestern University disagrees strongly with the boycott vote of the ASA. Northwestern also rejects the actions suggested in the resolution,” Schapiro wrote in a 20 December email sent to the university community.

A copy of Schapiro’s email, co-signed by provost Dan Linzer, was sent to The Electronic Intifada by Uri Horesh a lecturer in Arabic at Northwestern.

“I myself happen to be a citizen of Israel, yet I fully support the call emanating from Palestinian civil society to boycott Israeli institutions until Israel ends its apartheid rule and recognizes the Palestinian people’s right to self determination” by meeting all the demands in the BDS call including the right of return, Horesh wrote back to Schapiro.

Horesh added that Schapiro’s statement is “odd” given that “there has not been a public debate or discussion of these matters in any University forum.”

Princeton resists

Princeton University president Christopher L. Eisgruber expressed his “dismay” at the ASA’s boycott decision and affirmed that “My personal support for scholarly engagement with Israel is enthusiastic and unequivocal,” in a statement sent to William Jacobson, a Cornell University law professor and pro-Israel blogger at the publication Legal Insurrection.

But, Eisgruber adds, “I do not intend to denounce the ASA, make it unwelcome on campus, or inhibit the ability of faculty members to affiliate with it. … engagement may be better than a boycott.”

Bullying and intimidation

In a 20 December press release emailed to The Electronic Intifada, the ASA Caucus on Academic and Community Activism states that “members of the American Studies Association are getting hate mail or threatening mail following the ASA membership vote in favor of a resolution calling for boycott of Israeli universities.”

The ASA Facebook page has been “subject to an avalanche of abusive postings” and “senior faculty have explicitly and implicitly intimidated junior faculty who support the boycott,” the release states.

“More generally within the academy, some are threatening to cut funds for faculty who want to attend the ASA in the future. We are also learning that individuals and groups outside the academy are threatening legal action against the ASA,” the press released adds.

Former Harvard University president Larry Summers has, for instance, called the ASA boycott “anti-Semitic in effect” and urged universities to deprive faculty of funds to participate in ASA meetings and activities.

Claire Potter, a professor at the New School University and long-time prominent critic of the ASA boycott, decided to vote for the boycott resolution in the end after careful deliberation.

Since then, “I have been receiving nasty and threatening electronic messages from those supposedly defending Israel: swastikas and pictures of concentration camps arrive daily, as well as accusations that I am promoting another Holocaust,” Potter writes at her widely read Tenured Radical blog.

“Expressions of hate and intimidation, even if they come from isolated individuals, constitute part of a larger pattern of attack on anyone who criticizes Israel or Zionism. These disturbing messages can take the form of threats. As such, they should not be dismissed or discarded,” the Caucus on Academic and Community Activism says in its press release.

It urges ASA members to report threats and intimidation both to the caucus and to the appropriate officials at their institutions.

Call for government repression

Unsatisfied by the campaigns already underway, Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador in Washington, called for more than mere denunciations of the ASA’s action.

“What’s needed is a way to fight back, and Congress can do it,” the American-born Oren, who renounced his US citizenship in 2009, writes in Politico.

Oren cited as a desirable precedent a 1977 US law “making it illegal for US companies to cooperate with any boycott of Israel and imposing stiff penalties on those that did.”

It is unclear whether Oren is unaware that such laws, in an academic context, would grossly violate First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association – the very values that opponents of the boycott claim they want to protect.

Still, Oren may find a receptive audience in Congress where the leaders of the bipartisan Israel Allies Caucus have strongly denounced the ASA.

Backlash likely to backfire

Anti-Palestinian groups likely believe that with a strong counterattack they can raise the price to any other group that might want to follow in the ASA’s footsteps and thus deter anyone else from taking action in solidarity with Palestinians.

Israel lobbying groups’ outrage and bullying tactics may claim a few more victories, just as Brandeis and Penn State Harrisburg moved to boycott the ASA.

Yet the repressive backlash also exposes the lie that many boycott opponents are concerned about “academic freedom.”

In the long run, the only thing such tactics are likely to achieve is to spread the debate about Israel’s abuses and the merits of boycott as an ethical solidarity strategy to campuses across the United States.

There is evidence that is already happening. In a Los Angeles Times opinion piece denouncing the boycott as “a repugnant attack on academic freedom,” Michael S. Roth, president of Wesleyan University, nonetheless had to concede that many of the Israeli policies that motivate boycott supporters are indeed “abhorrent.”

There’s something, at least, that we can all agree on.

Written FOR

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See THIS related report from the zioPost

ASA BOYCOTT RESOLUTION IRKS THE FOUNDATIONS OF ZION

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ASA membership votes to boycott Israel by landslide

Ali Abunimah 

The full membership of the American Studies Association (ASA) has voted by a two-to-one margin to endorse an academic boycott of Israel, it was announced today.

The referendum was called after the National Council, the ASA’s governing body,endorsed the boycott itself on 4 December.

The vote is likely to be seen as an historic milestone in the Palestinian campaign forboycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), particularly in the United States, where university administrations have forcefully opposed student and faculty initiatives of this kind.

The ASA describes itself as the “nation’s oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history.”

It has 5,000 individual members along with 2,200 library and other institutional subscribers.

The ASA has also published detailed guidance and a “Frequently Asked Questions” document [PDF] about what the boycott means in practice.

More can be read HERE

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The Resolution ….
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Council Statement on the Academic Boycott of Israel

ASA National Council Votes Unanimously To Endorse Academic Boycott of Israel

One year ago, the Academic and Community Activism Caucus of the American Studies Association (ASA) asked the Executive Committee (EC) to consider a resolution to honor the call from Palestinian civil society to support the academic boycott of Israel. The EC forwarded the resolution to the National Council. Following the deliberative procedures detailed below, the Council unanimously decided to issue a revised version of the resolution, which we now recommend to members of the ASA.  Please follow this link to read the resolution.

The Council voted for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions as an ethical stance, a form of material and symbolic action. It represents a principle of solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and an aspiration to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians.

We believe that the ASA’s endorsement of a boycott is warranted given U.S. military and other support for Israel; Israel’s violation of international law and UN resolutions; the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights; and the support of such a resolution by many members of the ASA.

Our resolution understands boycott as limited to a refusal on the part of the Association in its official capacities to enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions, or on behalf of the Israeli government, until Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law.

The resolution does not apply to individual Israeli scholars engaged in ordinary forms of academic exchange, including conference presentations, public lectures at campuses, or collaboration on research and publication. The Council also recognizes that individual members will act according to their convictions on these complex matters.

The ASA is a large organization that represents divergent opinions. Anticipating strong and potentially divided feelings on this question, the Council unanimously decided to ask ASA members to endorse the resolution by a vote.

Background on the Resolution

The resolution is the culmination of a long history of discussion and debate in the ASA. In 2006, in response to Israel’s attacks on Lebanon and Gaza, the ASA International Committee (IC), including a former ASA President, discussed the possibility of endorsing a boycott. In 2009, in the wake of Israel’s military assault on Gaza and in response to requests from ASA members, several bodies in the Association again took up the question of a boycott: the IC, the Program Committee for the 2009 convention, and the Executive Committee, which included the current ASA President. The consensus then was that members needed more opportunities to learn about and discuss the issues and so the Program Committee organized two featured panels: “Palestine in Crisis” and “Academic Freedom and the Right to Education: The Question of Palestine.” Scheduled in prime times on Friday and Saturday of the convention, the panels addressed the plight of Palestinian universities and academics and the profound pressures on teaching and research contexts in the U.S. and Palestine where education and intellectual freedom were under attack. The second panel focused in particular on the boycott movement.

In the wake of such discussions, the Academic and Community Activism Caucus (ACAC) met at the 2012 ASA convention to consider a resolution and gather signatures. This resolution was then submitted to the Executive Committee and, in December, posted on the Caucus’ page on the ASA web site. Information about the resolution was also included in the December 2012 ASA Newsletter distributed to all ASA members.

In March of 2013, the Program Committee for the 2013 ASA convention met and discussed ways to create opportunities at the meeting to discuss issues related to calls for boycott. The resulting program included 8 sessions on “Middle East American Studies,” with four focused specifically on United States/Israel/Palestine. At the same time the Ethnic Studies Committee organized two panels about settler colonialism that discussed the Israeli occupation of Palestine, while the ACAC organized a panel called “Boycott as a Non-Violent Strategy of Collective Dissent.”

In May 2013 the Executive Committee met and discussed the proposed resolution submitted by the ACAC at great length. It agreed that it would be in the best interest of the organization to solicit from the membership as many perspectives as possible on the proposed resolution to aid the National Council in its discussions and decision-making. With the past President and a prominent, senior member of the Association serving as moderators, it held an open session during the November National Convention at which the National Council was present to hear directly from the membership. Members were notified of the open discussion well in advance of the convention and it was highlighted as a featured event in both online and print versions of the program. Additionally, members who could not attend the session or the convention were encouraged to contact the EC directly via email, and many did so. 

The Saturday November 23rd open discussion was attended by approximately 745 ASA members. Members distributed information about the boycott in advance, and the hall was filled with leaflets representing different views. The moderators carefully and clearly articulated the different actions that could be taken and the process for deliberation. To guarantee an orderly and fair discussion members who wished to speak put their name in a box from which speakers were randomly selected. Speakers were limited to 2 minutes, providing the opportunity to hear from forty-four different speakers during the time allotted for the special session. The discussion was passionate but respectful.  Speakers included students, faculty, past Presidents, former members of the National Council, former and current members of the AQ editorial staff, American Studies department chairs, and an ASA member also representing the organization Jewish Voice for Peace. While different opinions were articulated, the overwhelming majority spoke in support of the ASA endorsing an academic boycott.

Remaining in session over the course of 8 days after the open session, Council members spoke and wrote from different perspectives, debated different possibilities, and critically yet generously engaged each other. The resulting resolution reflects, we think, the history and present state of conversations within the ASA, offering a principled position for the Association’s participation in the academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions while respecting the unique conditions and diverse positions of our membership on this issue.

In the last several decades, the ASA has welcomed scholarship that critically analyzes the U.S. state, its role domestically and abroad, and that reaches out beyond U.S. borders. Our commitment to cutting-edge and transnational scholarship has been accompanied by the comparative study of borders, migration, and citizenship. The ASA also has a history of critical engagement with the field of Native American and Indigenous studies that has increasingly come to shape and influence the field and the Association, and the Council acknowledged the force of Israeli and U.S. settler colonialism throughout our deliberations. Finally, the resolution is in keeping with the ASA’s continuing commitment to ethical research and the right of scholars to dissent and to take public positions.

The Council believes that the resolution is of particular significance to scholars of American Studies. Together, we endorse it, and recommend that ASA members endorse it as well.

The ASA National Council

Jennifer Devere Brody, Stanford University
Ann Cvetkovich, University of Texas, Austin
Jeremy Dean. University of Texas, Austin
Lisa Duggan, New York University
Avery Gordon, University of California, Santa Barbara
Matthew Frye Jacobson, Yale University
E. Patrick Johnson, Northwestern University
J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Wesleyan University
Marisol LeBrón, New York University
Karen Leong, Arizona State University
Sunaina Maira, University of California, Davis
Martin F. Manalansan IV, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Curtis Marez, University of California, San Diego
Roya Rastegar, Bryn Mawr College
Chandan Reddy, University of Washington, Seattle
Juana María Rodríguez, University of California, Berkeley
María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo, New York University
Nikhil Pal Singh, New York University

Due to a family emergency, Juri Abe, Rikkyo University, Tokyo, Japan, was not present for the National Council meeting where the resolution was passed.

From

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And the zionist response …

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Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said, “This vote to boycott Israel, one of the most democratic and academically free nations on the globe, shows the Orwellian anti-Semitism and moral bankruptcy of the American Studies Association.”

“The Middle East is literally filled with dead from governments’ reaction to the convulsions of the ‘Arab Spring,’ but the American Studies Association singles out the Jewish state, the one Middle Eastern country that shares American values, for opprobrium?”

Full Report HERE

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And of course there’s ‘The Mouse That Roared’ …..

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Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:

This shameful, morally bankrupt and intellectually dishonest attack on academic freedom by the American Studies Association should be soundly condemned by all who are committed to the ideal that open exchange of ideas is the most effective way to achieve change. Targeting Israeli institutions solely because they are in Israel — the only democratic country in the Middle East where scholarship and debate are encouraged and flourish — is based on a myopic and fundamentally distorted perspective of Israel and the conflict and is manifestly unjust.

We commend those members of the ASA who boldly spoke out and voted against this shameful resolution. We further applaud the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) for reiterating its opposition to academic boycotts which “strike directly at the free exchange of ideas.” 

Although the ASA resolution will likely have limited practical impact on Israeli academic institutions and on Israeli academics, those members of the ASA who voted in favor of this resolution should also understand the hateful message they are sending. As Lawrence Summers, who, when he was president of Harvard a decade ago said about an initiative to boycott Israel, “Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent.”

We call on academic institutions across the United States to enhance their existing relationships with Israeli universities and research institutions and stand resolutely in support of open exchange, dialogue and study.

From

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Abraham_Parrotman (1)

DERSHOWITZ AND KLAN ONCE AGAIN STRIKE OUT AT BROOKLYN COLLEGE

Brooklyn College is once again on the defensive from local pro-Israel forces.
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The first salvo in the campaign against White and Brooklyn College came on November 4, when New York Daily News reporter Reuven Blau published a piece calling White “a controversial author who has likened Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the Nazi Holocaust is bringing his act to Brooklyn College.”
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Brooklyn College under attack from Dershowitz and Hikind over author talk on Israeli ‘apartheid’
 Alex Kane

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ben-white

Author Ben White speaking at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in New York City. (Image via russelltribunalonpalestine.com)

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Brooklyn College is once again on the defensive from local pro-Israel forces.

Brooklyn Democrats have harshly criticized the school and academic departments over an event featuring Ben White, an author and activist who is critical of Israel. He is set to speak at the school November 14.

The fracas comes nearly a year after Brooklyn College found itself at the center of a storm over the school’s hosting of an event featuring proponents of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Like last year’s controversy, this year’s features ardent supporters of the state of Israel accusing the speaker of anti-Semitism and the school’s departments of supporting the event, which will feature White arguing that Israel is an apartheid state.

“It is predictable and unfortunate that defenders of Israeli apartheid seek to smear me as an individual in order to distract from the ongoing violations of international law and Palestinian human rights,” White told me in an e-mail. “I oppose anti-Semitism as a form of racism, and in fact, it is precisely because of opposition to racism that I am in solidarity with the Palestinians’ struggle for their basic rights in the face of Israeli policies of systematic discrimination.”

Members of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter at the school are the ones organizing the event.  The Political Science Department and the Sociology Department have agreed to co-sponsor the event, though the school says that does not connote endorsement of the speaker and the event.

“Ben White is not just anti-Israel, he is also an anti-Semite,” state Assemblyman Dov Hikind, an influential Orthodox Jewish politician who got into hot water for wearing blackface as part of a Purim costume, told the website Matzav.com. “Brooklyn College’s continued co-sponsorship of anti-Israel hatefests is abhorrent.”

Fueling the outrage at Brooklyn College is the claim that the departments are “supporting” the event, though the claim rests on a misunderstanding of new Brooklyn College policies on student events.

The first salvo in the campaign against White and Brooklyn College came on November 4, when New York Daily News reporter Reuven Blau published a piece calling White “a controversial author who has likened Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the Nazi Holocaust is bringing his act to Brooklyn College.”

“It’s unfortunate that Brooklyn College seems to be consistent in sending a message to their Jewish students that they are not respected on campus,” Brooklyn City Councilman David Greenfield told the Daily News.

The reporter, Blau, charged that White defended “Iranian hatemonger” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and that White has “defended anti-Semitic comments made by the former German politician Jurgen Mullemann, who likened the Israel’s policies to those of the Nazis.” The proof offered up is White’s 2007 statement that “Palestinians…in the name of a social-democratic experiment, had to endure massacres, death marches and ethnic cleansing.”

In 2009, White explained that his 2006 piece on Ahmadinejad was “critiquing the mainstream analysis of some recent remarks by Ahmadinejad, and the politicised context in which they were being framed.” He went on to say, “I make no bones about it – Ahmadinejad is either a Holocaust denier himself, or cowardly encourages those who are (and probably both).”

Joining the campaign against White is state Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, who sent a letter to the interim chancellor of the City University of New York, a system Brooklyn College is a part of. “Publicly funded institutions do not have the right to spew hatred without permitting an equal response,” he wrote, according to the website SheepsheadBites.com.

But it’s the claim that the college is “supporting” the event that is driving the story. Alan Dershowitz, the pro-Israel attorney, told the Daily News that “If these departments deny they are taking sides, I challenge them to ‘support’ a speech by me on the Mideast.” Dershowitz’s criticism that academic departments are “supporting” the speech is rooted in new guidelines disseminated by the college on student events, likely drawn up in response to last year’s torrent of criticism over an event on BDS.

Under the new draft guidelines–whether it is the official policy of the college is unclear–the word “supporter” takes the place of what used to be known as “co-sponsor.” A “supporter,” the new guidelines explain in a footnote, is the “preferred term that is used at Brooklyn College to describe the type of assistance provided in a manner that was previously described as a ‘co-sponsor,’ meaning the group lends its name only for the purpose of encouraging attendance at the event.” To a lay person, though, “supporter” means something much different.

The Brooklyn College Political Science Department released a statement clarifying that they “decided explicitly to co-sponsor these events; it is not a ‘supporter,’ advocate, champion, or endorser of these events and the views that will be expressed there.”

The college released a similar statement from Director of News and Information Keisha-Gaye Anderson, who also said, “Brooklyn College will continue to support the right of student clubs to host programs of interest to them, including those that may be controversial.” The statement also emphasized that “there are a number of scheduled and proposed events this semester hosted by the Israel Club.”

Those explanations, though, are unlikely to tamp down the furor over White’s talk.

Both Hikind and Dershowitz are no stranger to campaigns targeting those critical of Israel–especially at Brooklyn College. Last year, they led the charge against Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler, who spoke at the college on BDS. The event went on as planned despite calls to cancel it and threats from a City Councilman to cut funding for the college.

But it was marred by controversy over the fact that four Jewish students were tossed out of the event. A report by a law firm and CUNY concluded that there was no anti-Semitism in the decision to toss them out–despite the claims from Israel advocates–though there was no justification for the tossing either.

Written FOR

‘BIAS’ PROBE AT RUTGERS U

When I think of Rutgers University the first thing that comes to mind is the fact that Paul Robeson was an All American Football Player there, the first Black man at a major US campus to have that honour. I thought of Rutgers as a bastion of Liberal thought, that is, until I read the following;
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Rutgers students face “bias” probe for flyers criticizing Israeli home demolitions

 Ali Abunimah 

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SJP member Amanda Najib delivers a mock eviction notice at the Rutgers University campus in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

 (Syjil Ashraf)

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Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey, is under investigation by campus administrators after complaints of “bias.”

One Zionist group has alleged that SJP specifically targeted the dorm rooms of Jewish students on the New Brunswick, New Jersey campus with mock “eviction notices” designed to draw attention to Israel’s practice of demolishing Palestinian homes.

But this claim has been contradicted by the university in a statement to The Electronic Intifada.

A campus rabbi has even demanded that SJP be “disbanded” by the university to set an “example.”

The “bias” investigation comes after the university has already issued a written warning to SJP that it violated school policy by posting the flyers without prior approval from administrators.

The claims are only the latest in a long-running effort by pro-Israel advocates to paint Rutgers University as hostile to Jewish students.

Action to raise awareness

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Activists have used mock eviction notices on several campuses to draw attention to Israel’s demolitions of Palestinian homes.

 (Syjil Ashraf)

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“On the night of Sunday, October 6th, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) board members printed mock eviction notices and distributed them in dormitory buildings,” Students for Justice in Palestine — Rutgers New Brunswick explained in a statement emailed to The Electronic Intifada.

“This action was intended to call attention to the systematic demolition of the homes of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and Israel.”

Last week, The Electronic Intifada published a photo story of Khirbet al-Makhul, a Palestinian community of 120 people in the occupied West Bank, demolished to make way for a live-fire training area for the Israeli army.

In August, Human Rights Watch urged Israel to “immediately end unlawful demolitions of Palestinian homes and other structures,” noting an alarming increase in the number of Palestinians made homeless in eastern occupied Jerusalem since last year.

“Our completely fake notices brought no harm; it is the confiscation of Palestinian land that these notices bring attention to that continues to bring harm to millions,” Rutgers SJP added.

Bogus allegation Jews targeted

Andrew Getraer, executive director of the pro-Israel advocacy group Rutgers Hillel, told theDaily Targum, the campus newspaper, that “We had many students who came to us who were very upset when they received eviction notices, who felt harassed, who felt that they have been deceived and made to feel targeted and unsafe in their dorm rooms, and … We directed them to the appropriate deans … There were several students who filed complaints.”

Getraer claimed that “in some cases, Jewish students were targeted and explained how some students came to Hillel stating how they were the only student who received a flyer on their floor.”

SJP at Rutgers denied this, explaining the measures it took to avoid the possibility of bias accusations:

We posted the notices under many doors on different floors of student dormitories and residence halls. We chose doors at random, aiming to maximize the number of people who would be viewing the notice, with one exception: we intentionally avoided the Hillel building and Les Turchin Chabad House, locations with many, if not exclusively Jewish, residents. This was done to avoid the possibility that Jewish students would feel that they were singled out or targeted.

A university statement appears to support SJP’s account and contradict the claims of Hillel’s Getraer.

“The flyers were distributed randomly to about 800 students and the university is in the process of reviewing a student complaint arising from the incident,” university spokesperson E.J. Miranda wrote in an 11 October email to The Electronic Intifada.

Identical claims that Jews were targeted have been made in other cases where campus Palestine activists distributed mock eviction notices, including at Harvard University andFlorida Atlantic University.

Florida Atlantic confirmed there was no evidence Jewish students were targeted and declined to take punitive action.

The claim that Jews were targeted at Harvard appears to have been fabricated by Israel’s far-right Arutz Sheva website.

Call to disband SJP

Pro-Israel groups have been swift to condemn the SJP educational effort and to call for official retribution.

Rabbi Esther Reed of Rutgers Hillel told the Targum that she found the flyers “alarming and reprehensible” as well as “factually inaccurate,” complaining that they “vilified Israel.”

Rutgers Hillel also released a formal statement condemning the flyers, stating that they made “students feel unsafe in their homes.”

Another Hillel official, Rabbi Akiva Dovid Weiss, opined on the incident for Arutz Sheva, calling on Rutgers to ban SJP to set an “example for all others”:

[No] student in this university ever will feel safe until they know that university groups that engage in this kind of behavior will be unconditionally disbanded, since actions that compromise the emotional safety of our students within the privacy of their own residences cannot be tolerated and have no place on our campus.

The flyers were also condemned by anti-Palestinian and anti-gay activist group Christians United for Israel (CUFI) on the conservative news site The Blaze, which stated that “We focus on the real debate as opposed to theatrics.”

Bias investigation

The Targum reported on 11 October that complaints had been filed with the bias committee, and that committee, which “deals with the content in the flyers,” in turn alerted the Office of Student Life, which oversees student organizations.

Kerri Wilson, director of student involvement, told the Targum that SJP “was found responsible for violating student involvement posting policy for the residence halls,” resulting in a written warning over the unauthorized distribution of the flyers.

“We have faith that the Rutgers community and administration will recognize that our cause is important, not only to the Palestinians, but to the humanitarians in all of us,” the Rutgers SJP statement said in reference to the complaints.

“Students for Justice in Palestine is proud to be at Rutgers University, and we will not — should not — be silenced.”

Bias complaints are handled by the university’s Bias Prevention Education Committeewhich includes a “Response Team” made up of deans of students and a “Bias Prevention Education Advisory Team.”

The Bias Prevention Education Advisory team Team is co-chaired by Hillel Rabbi Esther Reed herself.

It is unclear whether she would play any role in the investigation, given her organization’s advocacy for Israel and her own prejudicial public statements regarding the flyers.

Rutgers Hillel has itself come under attack for promoting bias on campus. In 2003, sixty professors signed a statement expressing “growing unease to the role [Rutgers] Hillel has recently come to play in the promotion of the extreme right on campus.”

Then, as now, Getraer was executive director.

As recently as 2012, Rutgers Hillel has hosted Israeli soldiers who have personally participated in the military occupation of Palestinian land and justified killings of Palestinians.

Rutgers targeted

The allegations of “bias” at Rutgers are only the latest in a series of attempts to portray the campus as a hostile environment for Jewish students as a result of Palestine solidarity activism.

Rutgers is the subject of a 2011 complaint to the US Department of Education by the Zionist Organization of America under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, alleging pervasive anti-Semitism on campus.

A similar tactic has been used by various Zionist groups in an effort to suppress Palestine solidarity activism on other campuses.

But three similar complaints against the Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Irvine campuses of the University of California were recently thrown out by the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, in what has been seen as a major victory for free speech.

While the Rutgers case is still pending before the Office of Civil Rights, university officials have dismissed the allegations as “factually inaccurate and significantly distorted.”

Gregory S. Blimling, the university’s vice president for student affairs, told the Chronicle of Higher Education in April 2012 that the issues raised in the complaint were not about anti-Semitism, but disagreement over Israel’s policies.

“There are people on both sides of that debate,” Blimling said, “who would like to have the other side of that argument not have the same freedoms they do.”

While Blimling may believe that, the indisputable fact is that only anti-Palestinian groups have resorted to legal measures to try to silence criticism of Israel on campus.

Faculty “frightened”

The attack on Rutgers has already affected the right of students to freely learn and talk about the question of Palestine.

Junior faculty are too afraid to even discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in class, according to Professor Charles G. Häberl, 2009–12 director of the Rutgers Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

“They are frightened to say anything about these issues, especially since they don’t have the shield of tenure to hide behind. And I don’t blame them,” Häberl told the Chronicle.

Anti-Palestinian groups are likely to consider that a success.

Full statement from Rutgers SJP

On the night of Sunday, October 6th, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) board members printed mock eviction notices and distributed them in dormitory buildings at Rutgers New Brunswick. This action was intended to call attention to the systematic demolition of the homes of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and Israel. Since 1967, approximately 24,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel, as estimated by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. The facts about Palestinian home demolitions included on the mock eviction notices are all true and substantiated by human rights organizations, as well as international bodies such as the United Nations and International Court of Justice. More information can be found at www.icahd.org.

We posted the notices under many doors on different floors of student dormitories and residence halls. We chose doors at random, aiming to maximize the number of people who would be viewing the notice, with one exception: we intentionally avoided the Hillel building and Les Turchin Chabad House, locations with many, if not exclusively Jewish, residents. This was done to avoid the possibility that Jewish students would feel that they were singled out or targeted.

The fake eviction notices were just that—fake. The notices clearly stated that the eviction was not real, and was authored by SJP.

This peaceful, quiet demonstration is not unprecedented. It originated with student activists at New York University and has spread to other schools across the country, including Harvard, Yale, San Diego State, and Florida Atlantic University. This action is part of our long-term mission to draw awareness to a human rights issue that affects the global community on many levels, including social, psychological, humanitarian, and economic.

The Palestinian-Arab refugee and displaced population is the largest in the world, and forced evictions are one of the milder methods used to achieve this. It cannot, thus, be truthfully denied that for 65 years now, the Israeli government has oppressed and traumatized the Palestinian people by means of racial discrimination, ethnic cleansing, illegal settlement and colonization, forced military occupation, and more. Thousands of Palestinian men, women, and children have been killed since the beginning of this conflict, and Palestinian refugees and their descendants number in the millions.

Rutgers University has a strong history of student protests and being the voice for those whose cries have fallen on deaf ears. We are proud to uphold this tradition that is fundamental to what it means to be a student at this university as well as a citizen of this nation. The First Amendment protects our right to free speech at a public university – especially speech about one of the most urgent international human rights issues of our time. This is a college campus, the quintessential marketplace of ideas, where vigorous debate about serious problems is part of the educational experience. Free Speech is sometimes controversial and upsetting to some; it would be worthless if it were not. But as was recently noted by the U.S. Department of Education in dismissing complaints against campuses like Rutgers alleging that pro-Palestinian activism creates a hostile environment for Jewish students, “[i]n the university environment, exposure to robust and discordant expressions, even when personally offensive and hurtful, is a circumstance that a reasonable student may experience.

Our completely fake notices brought no harm; it is the confiscation of Palestinian land that these notices bring attention to that continues to bring harm to millions. We hope that those who received and read them were given more insight as to the plight of the Palestinian people after being put in their shoes for a few seconds.

We have faith that the Rutgers community and administration will recognize that our cause is important, not only to the Palestinians, but to the humanitarians in all of us. We ask for your support not only in our fundamental right to freedom of speech, but also in fighting for Palestinian liberty, justice, human rights, and self-determination. Students for Justice in Palestine is proud to be at Rutgers University, and we will not— should not— be silenced.

In solidarity,

Students for Justice in Palestine — Rutgers New Brunswick.

 

 

Written FOR

ALICE WALKER RE-INVITED TO SPEAK

See yesterday’s post
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Pollack in the letter reiterated the university’s “firm commitment to free speech and to the expression of diverse viewpoints.”
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Alice Walker Gets New Invite To Speak at University of Michigan

After Being Disinvited by Women’s Center, Provost Invites Walker

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GETTY IMAGES

By JTA

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Author Alice Walker will be invited to speak in a public forum on campus, the provost of the University of Michigan said, after being disinvited from a women’s center celebration.

The provost, Martha Pollack, said in a letter to university faculty posted on the university’s Center for the Education of Women’s web page that the center and the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies plan to invite Walker to speak on campus.

Walker in a blog post on her website last week said she had been disinvited from speaking at the 50th anniversary of the university’s Center for the Education of Women. The Pulitzer Prize winner maintained that she was asked to step down as speaker at the initiative of donors.

The center said the decision to withdraw the invitation was based solely on the “celebratory nature” they hoped to achieve at the anniversary event.

Walker is a well-known supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, movement against Israel, in particular “a cultural boycott of Israel and Israeli institutions,” such as her decision last year to not allow an Israeli publishing house to translate her book “The Color Purple” into Hebrew.

Pollack in the letter reiterated the university’s “firm commitment to free speech and to the expression of diverse viewpoints.”

“At the same time, we respect the right of individual academic units to make decisions about whom they invite to campus, consistent with university principles and values,” she wrote.

Pollack added that the women’s center “apologized for the way the interaction with Ms. Walker was handled and has made clear to me that their decision was not driven by the content of speech.”

Source

ALICE WALKER PAYS THE PRICE FOR DARING TO SPEAK THE TRUTH

In recent years, Walker has become increasingly outspoken in her support of Palestinian rights, sometimes likening Israel’s abuses to the Jim Crow racist system she grew up with in the southern United States.
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Alice Walker disinvited from University of Michigan over ‘Israel comments’

 Ali Abunimah 
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Alice Walker speaks in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

 (Lazar Simeonov /TEDxRamallah)

*World-renowned American author Alice Walker has been disinvited from giving a speech at the University of Michigan because a donor objects to her views on Israel, the agent negotiating the contract was told.

Walker, the Pultizer Prize winning author of The Color Purpleposted on her blog an excerpt of a letter from the agent informing her that the invitation to keynote the 50th anniversary celebration of the Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan had been withdrawn.

The agent wrote:

I’m saddened to write this because I’m a proponent of free speech and have been brought up to allow everyone to have their say. But I also realize that there are other considerations that institutions are faced with. This afternoon I was contacted by the University of Michigan instructing me to withdraw their invitation due to the removal of funding from the donors, because of their interpretation of Ms. Walker’s comments regarding Israel. They are not willing to fund this program and the university/Women’s center do not have the resources to finance this on their own. They are deeply regretful but I wanted to let you know immediately either way. I hope you can appreciate the fact that I’m uncomfortable even having to send this email in the first place. Hopefully we can work together again down the road. Thanks for understanding. I wish things had turned out differently.

Calling the withdrawn invitation “Censorship by Purse String,” Walker wrote, “Such behavior, as evidenced by the donors, teaches us our weakness, which should eventually (and soon) show us our strength: women must be in control of our own finances. Not just in the family, but in the schools, work force, and everywhere else. Until we control this part of our lives, our very choices, in any and every area, can be denied us.”

Walker is listed as one of the speakers represented by the American Program Bureau agency.

Alice Walker not “optimum choice”

Gloria D. Thomas, director of the Center for the Education of Women, acknowledged that Walker had been disinvited, but said that the matter was a “misunderstanding.” In an email to The Electronic Intifada, Thomas wrote:

The [Walker’s] blog was a result of an unfortunate misunderstanding. As director of the Center for the Education of Women (CEW), I decided to withdraw our invitation because I didn’t think Ms. Walker would be our optimum choice for our 50th anniversary. 

Our 50th anniversary funding is assured. All donations, for this and other events, are accepted with no provisos or prohibitions regarding free speech. In fact, in a conversation with one of Ms. Walker’s friends/representatives, I indicated that I would be willing to speak with other units around campus to serve as a possible co-sponsor for a lecture by Ms. Walker in the near future.

Asked if a speaker had been chosen to replace Walker, Thomas wrote, “No contract has been signed yet. This information will be made available on our website once the contract is confirmed.”

Walker: supporter of Palestinian rights

In recent years, Walker has become increasingly outspoken in her support of Palestinian rights, sometimes likening Israel’s abuses to the Jim Crow racist system she grew up with in the southern United States.

Walker has written about her visit to Gaza, and participated in the June 2011 solidarity flotilla that attempted to reach the territory besieged by Israel, which led to her beingdemonized by the Israeli army.

Her position on boycott has also been deliberately distorted by Israeli media.

Walker has campaigned for other artists, most recently Alicia Keys, to respect the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

In her letter to Keys, Walker wrote:

I have written over the years that explain why a cultural boycott of Israel and Israeli institutions (not individuals) is the only option left to artists who cannot bear the unconscionable harm Israel inflicts every day on the people of Palestine, whose major “crime” is that they exist in their own land, land that Israel wants to control as its own.

Could Walker, one of the most celebrated figures in American letters, now be paying the price of refusing to be silent about Palestine?

 

 

Written FOR

STEPHEN HAWKING ‘STANDS UP’ AGAINST APARTHEID

By participating in the boycott, Hawking joins a small but growing list of British personalities who have turned down invitations to visit Israel, including Elvis Costello, Roger Waters, Brian Eno, Annie Lennox and Mike Leigh.
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Stephen Hawking joins academic boycott of Israel
Physicist pulls out of conference hosted by president Shimon Peres in protest at treatment of Palestinians
Matthew Kalman in Jerusalem
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Stephen Hawking
A statement published with Stephen Hawking’s approval said his withdrawal was based on advice from academic contacts in Palestine. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA
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Professor Stephen Hawking is backing the academic boycott of Israel by pulling out of a conference hosted by Israeli president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem as a protest at Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Hawking, 71, the world-renowned theoretical physicist and Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, had accepted an invitation to headline the fifth annual president’s conference, Facing Tomorrow, in June, which features major international personalities, attracts thousands of participants and this year will celebrate Peres’s 90th birthday.

Hawking is in very poor health, but last week he wrote a brief letter to the Israeli president to say he had changed his mind. He has not announced his decision publicly, but a statement published by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine with Hawking’s approval described it as “his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there”.

Hawking’s decision marks another victory in the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions targeting Israeli academic institutions.

In April the Teachers’ Union of Ireland became the first lecturers’ association in Europe to call for an academic boycott of Israel, and in the United States members of the Association for Asian American Studies voted to support a boycott, the first national academic group to do so.

In the four weeks since Hawking’s participation in the Jerusalem event was announced, he has been bombarded with messages from Britain and abroad as part of an intense campaign by boycott supporters trying to persuade him to change his mind. In the end, Hawking told friends, he decided to follow the advice of Palestinian colleagues who unanimously agreed that he should not attend.

By participating in the boycott, Hawking joins a small but growing list of British personalities who have turned down invitations to visit Israel, including Elvis Costello, Roger Waters, Brian Eno, Annie Lennox and Mike Leigh.

However, many artists, writers and academics have defied and even denounced the boycott, calling it ineffective and selective. Ian McEwan, who was awarded the Jerusalem Prize in 2011, responded to critics by saying: “If I only went to countries that I approve of, I probably would never get out of bed … It’s not great if everyone stops talking.”

Hawking has visited Israel four times in the past. Most recently, in 2006, he delivered public lectures at Israeli and Palestinian universities as the guest of the British embassy in Tel Aviv. At the time, he said he was “looking forward to coming out to Israel and the Palestinian territories and excited about meeting both Israeli and Palestinian scientists”.

Since then, his attitude to Israel appears to have hardened. In 2009, Hawking denounced Israel’s three-week attack on Gaza, telling Riz Khan on Al-Jazeera that Israel’s response to rocket fire from Gaza was “plain out of proportion … The situation is like that of South Africa before 1990 and cannot continue.”

The office of President Peres, which has not yet announced Hawking’s withdrawal, did not respond to requests for comment. Hawking’s name has been removed from the speakers listed on the official website.

Written FOR

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RELATED REPORTS …
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From HaAretz
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From Ynet
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