American Studies Association BDS Campaign Attacked by Conference of Presidents …
Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff
Truly a show of International Solidarity
Three Israeli stage actors asked to be excused from performing in a play staged at a cultural center in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.
The cast members, employees of the Cameri and Beit Lessin theaters, will be replaced by understudies for the performances of the acclaimed play “Best Friends” taking place in Ariel in the northern West Bank, the theaters said in a statement, the Associated Press reported.
The Cameri said in its statement that is respects the political views of its employees.
“The theater does not force its actors to perform in Ariel. Those who are not interested are replaced by their colleagues. The Cameri Theater chose to allow its actors to exercise their freedom of expression and follow their conscience,” the statement said.
The Ariel cultural center, which cost more than $10 million, was built with public funds and inaugurated in November 2010. More than 50 Israeli theater professionals signed a petition in advance of its opening saying that they would not perform in the Ariel center. At least 150 Israeli academics and authors, and another 150 American and British television and film professionals, also threw their support behind the boycott.
Several major Israeli theaters have staged productions at the Ariel center. Ariel is one of the largest Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
St. James’ Church in central London unveiled an eight-meter-high replica of the Israeli-built concrete wall that entirely surrounds the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, the traditional birthplace of Jesus.
It is an effort to bring to London some of the reality of what it is like to live in Bethlehem in 2013.
The wall deliberately obscures the facade of the historic St. James’ Church “because that is what has happened to Bethlehem’s holy sites and historic places.”
“This Christmas we’ve built a huge wall across the front of our church. We’d really like you to come and see it because it’s what the people of Bethlehem are experiencing today,” explains Reverend Lucy Winkett, rector of the church, in the brief video above.
The wall is part of the “Bethlehem Unwrapped” festival, which features a week of events, starting on 29 December, including music by Reem Kelani and Nigel Kennedy, comedy with Jeremy Hardy and Mark Steel, as well as films and panels.
“We’re unwrapping the traditional, Victorian, sentimental images of Christmas and showing this is what Bethlehem today looks like – an eight-meter high concrete separation wall surrounding it,” explains Justin Butcher, the festival’s director.
Butcher said that the replica took eight months to plan and eight days to build before it was unveiled on 23 December.
During the time it is up, people are invited to write their own messages on it.
In what appears to be a concession to apartheid supporters, however, one of the panels features Israeli embassy spokesperson Yiftah Curiel and Alan Johnson of the Israel lobby group Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), in what is likely to be a spirited debate with Jeff Halper, founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and Leila Sansour, Bethlehem resident, filmaker and founder of Open Bethlehem.
“This wall is symbolic of walls all over the world that divide and confine peoples, restricting free movement and dominating the imagination of those who live behind them,” the festival website explains.
“We believe that bridges not walls are the only lasting foundation for peace. On Sunday 5th January at the end of the festival, the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany, the Wall itself will be transformed into a symbol of peace and hope.”
This short film, posted last Christmas, is “the story of the birth of Jesus told by the people of Bethlehem” themselves.
The video, made by St Paul’s Church, Auckland, New Zealand, shows what the real wall looks like as citizens of Bethlehem talk about its devastating impact.
Individuals supporting the boycott have also been targets of intense vilification and hate campaigns.
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.
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.”
Under such pressure two universities, Brandeis University and Penn State Harrisburg, have canceled their institutional memberships of the ASA.
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 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 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.”
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.
Unsatisfied by the campaigns already underway, Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador in Washington, called for more than mere denunciations of the ASA’s action.
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.
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.
See THIS related report from the zioPost
Since the American Studies Association (ASA) announced this month that its members had voted overwhelmingly to endorse the boycott of Israeli academic institutions, the predictable outpouring of furious responses has been proliferating.
They range from former Harvard president Larry Summers’ recycling of the threadbare charge that the boycott is tantamount to anti-Semitism to the soundbites of homophobic, Islamophobic venom that have been spewed onto the ASA’s Facebook page and into the inboxes of its officers.
But surely the most disingenuous of responses to date is that of The Crisis of Zionism author and Open Zion editor Peter Beinart in The Daily Beast — despite the fact that Beinart eschews the overheated and overtly bigoted language deployed by other critics (“The real problem with the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israel,” 17 December 2013).
Indeed, Beinart generously exonerates the ASA from anti-Semitic tendencies, though the ASA has no need of his good graces on that score. It would have been better for Beinart to consider whether the really anti-Semitic gesture is not the Zionist demand that all Jews, no matter what their political or ethical beliefs, accept a single state as their representative and offer their allegiance to it, even if it is founded in discrimination, exclusion and ethnic cleansing.
To demand such an identification of all Jews is not only to dismiss the growing number of Jews worldwide who are challenging the nature of the “Jewish State,” but also to erase centuries of diverse and non-Zionist Jewish traditions.
Beinart also gives the ASA a pass on inconsistency, both for being an academic association boycotting academic institutions and for seeming to single out Israel for special attention. The ASA doubtlessly welcomes his dispensation, even though what it really reveals is his complete misunderstanding of the history and practice of boycott as a political tactic deployed by social movements.
But it is at the very heart of his column that Beinart reveals the peculiar and irresolvable contradictions that afflict the would-be liberal Zionist and the extraordinary contortions of truly Orwellian language that are required to magic those contradictions away.
How else, indeed, can one manage to normalize a state that has made itself an exception in every possible way while demanding to be viewed as the “only democracy in the Middle East?”
Beinart accuses the ASA and the Palestinian boycott movement as a whole of covertly “oppos[ing] the existence of a Jewish state within any borders.” They refuse, he complains, to distinguish between “the West Bank, where Palestinians lack citizenship, the right to vote and the right to due process, and Israel proper, where Palestinians, although discriminated against, enjoy all three.”
It’s a nice sleight of hand. Admitting that there is discrimination in Israel takes the reader’s eye off the real game, which is to pretend that that discrimination is an aberration, not the very essence of Israel’s basic laws and practices.
Beinart cannot not know that Israeli law makes a distinction between holding formal citizenship (ezrahut) while while distributing the crucial category of nationality (le’um) on ethnic grounds, thus reserving for Jews the most substantial rights, including that of return and access to land.
This distinction was reaffirmed in October by Israel’s supreme court which threw out a petition by 21 citizens to have their nationality recorded in the population registry as “Israeli” rather than “Jewish.” The court ruled that removing this distinction would endanger Israel’s status as a “Jewish state” — that is to say one where Jews are privileged above non-Jewish citizens.
In this malicious shell game, Palestinians and other “non-Jews” face not only discrimination, but permanent exclusion from fundamental rights that in virtually every other state — and any claiming to be a “democracy” — are entailed upon citizenship.
Beinart also seeks to cover up another act of exclusion that is fundamental to Israel’s character as a racial state. This is his most fabulously Orwellian moment: “The BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] movement’s call for ‘respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties’ denies Israel’s right to set its own immigration policy. So does the movement’s call for ‘recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality,’ which presumably denies Israel’s right to maintain the preferential immigration policy that makes it a refuge for Jews.”
“Preferential immigration policy” is the sanitary phrase with which Beinart describes the denial to refugees of the right, guaranteed under international law, to return to their homes. Palestinians in the diaspora who seek to return are not immigrants, but an indigenous people that has been ethnically cleansed from lands and communities where they have lived for generations.
They are the people who lived in the village of Issawiyeh, on whose expropriated land Hebrew University has built its Rabin Building, or who were deported from the destroyed village of Sheikh Muwanis, on which Tel Aviv University is located.
Or they are, like the great poet Mahmoud Darwish, the “present absentees”; people disappeared almost as much by the richly inventive language of Israeli discrimination that Beinart echoes as by the actual practices that turn an indigenous people into “immigrants” or “infiltrators.”
And that process of transfer is ongoing for the inhabitants of occupied East Jerusalem who, having been consistently denied permits to extend their houses under Israeli “law,” find their homes demolished or “legally” expropriated by settlers.
The exclusion is ongoing for any Palestinian “citizen” of Israel who, having married another Palestinian from a few miles away in the West Bank, is denied the right to family reunification and must self-transfer to other parts of the occupied territories.
Is the Palestinian demand for Israel to “recogniz[e] the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality” so outlandish or outrageous?
In what other state would such a demand by any minority, indigenous or not, be seen as heralding the destruction of the state or as discriminating against the majority?
The examples that come to mind, inevitably, are apartheid South Africa, or Northern Ireland in the days when it was a “Protestant state for a Protestant people” and Catholics, who forged a civil rights movement to demand equal rights, were confronted with brutal state rejection and violence.
Such regimes, based fundamentally in discrimination or in the grossly unequal exercise of power or privilege, always regard any challenge to the system that maintains inequality as an existential threat.
In this respect, the occupied Palestinian territories are not to be distinguished from the “normal” or “proper” state of Israel. It is not only that, as Gideon Levy recently wrote in Haaretz, all Israeli institutions are complicit in the occupation. It is that the occupation and its practices are the truth of Israel itself.
The early Zionists, in their recognition of the existence of an indigenous Arab population that would not accept colonization and in their belief in the necessity of an “iron wall” of military force to realize their colonial projects, were not only prophetic. They were considerably more honest than current liberal Zionists about the nature of what they were doing.
The increasingly remote possibility of the two-state solution, undermined by the daily expansion of illegal settlements, will not resolve the essentially discriminatory nature of an exclusive racial state. Perceived as a “demographic threat,” another Orwellian euphemism invoked to justify ethnic cleansing, it is Palestinians in Israel who face an existential threat in any two-state solution.
Such a “solution” would not — and should not — put an end, to the Palestinian pursuit of justice and equality. Under what dystopian code should any people abandon its rights or its pursuit of equal treatment under the law?
But this does not mean that the BDS movement intends the “destruction of the state of Israel,” with all the connotations of genocide or expulsion that that phrase, more or less openly invokes. It seeks its transformation.
The BDS movement demands what Israel actually pretends to be: a normal democracy in a state of all its people. It does not ask anyone to leave or to accept less than equal rights. It asks only that Jews be willing to live on equal terms with non-Jews, with Palestinians or Bedouins, Christian, Muslim or secular, and to live in a land of all its people. That would be real belonging, not colonial settlement.
That is an invitation, not a threat. It is an invitation to Jews everywhere, and to all people, to realize the emancipatory potential embedded in every struggle for justice and in every act of local or international solidarity with those struggles.
It is an invitation to free oneself from the painful contradiction of advocating democracy and defending and supporting oppression. It is an invitation to step out of the meshes of a Zionist dream that has become a nightmare, ever more rigid and repressive, and to embrace the possibilities and the risks that true democracy and ethical decolonization entail.
Nelson Mandela’s death has brought to mind again the fact that for a peace process in South Africa to begin, white South Africans had, to their eventual credit, to stand down from their exclusionary racial privileges. In Northern Ireland too, Protestants had to relinquish their monopoly on rule in order for the peace process to begin.
Some have called these the costs of peacemaking. Perhaps it would be better to think of them as the gifts peace brings to those willing to contemplate cohabitation in a just society.
*David Lloyd is Distinguished Professor of English at University of California, Riverside.
RELATED from HaAretz
State concerned ASA boycott might cause other US academic forums to follow, unfairly single Israel out. Deputy FM Elkin says ASA is ‘radical leftist group’
Israel dismissed as “radical leftist” a group of American scholars that has decided to boycott it but worries that other academic forums in the United States could take similar action, the deputy Israeli foreign minister said on Tuesday.
The American Studies Association (ASA) on Sunday became the largest US academic group to back an anti-Israel boycott in solidarity with the Palestinians. Its vote was mostly symbolic as the group has no power to compel its some 5,000 members or any US institution to heed the resolution.
Still, Israel worried the measure could pave the way for grassroots efforts to isolate it in the United States, its main ally and sponsor of its peace talks with the Palestinians. Anti-Israel boycotts have gained some traction in Europe.
The European Union has taken a stronger line than Washington against Israel’s West Bank settlements, demanding they not be eligible for EU academic funds allocated to Israel.
Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin described the ASA as a “radical leftist group” with few links to academia in Israel.
However, Elkin told Israel Radio, “we need to prepare for the danger that it (boycott call) will pass to other, more serious academic forums”.
He said that Israeli diplomats and Jewish American groups were “intensively” trying to dissuade other US academics from following the American Studies Association’s lead.
The Foreign Ministry, Elkin said, had set up an advocacy group, “Faces of Israel”, to “work among those who wield influence exactly in order to prevent cases such as this”.
The ASA’s resolution backed a recent unanimous vote by its national council to urge US schools not to collaborate with Israeli institutions. But it carries broad exemptions for individual Israeli scholars working with American counterparts.
The association said the resolution was a response to “the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; (and) the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights”.
Israel said the boycott campaign unfairly singles it out.
“The ASA chooses as its first ever boycott to boycott Israel, the sole democracy in the Middle East, in which academics are free to say what they want, write what they want and research what they want,” Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, wrote on Facebook.
In May, British cosmologist Stephen Hawking withdrew from a prestigious Israeli conference. Cambridge University said he did so as part of a boycott by some British academics in protest against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, lands the Palestinians want for a future state.
The American Studies Association was the second US scholarly group, after the Association for Asian American Studies in April, to endorse an academic boycott of Israel.
See yesterday’s post
The Bill for Arranging Bedouin Settlement in the Negev, more commonly known as the Prawer Plan, has been scrapped, former minister and drafter of the plan Benny Begin announced at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Thursday (Haaretz report).
The bill, first introduced in 2011, is a government plan to forcibly relocate some 40,000 Bedouin citizens living in dozens of “unrecognized” villages in Israel’s Negev desert, which the government has never agreed to recognize or provide services to. The plan has drawn heavy criticism from both Bedouin citizens and human rights groups. In recent months it has also been the source of wide-scale protests across Israel and Palestine. The police suppression and violence that took place at those protests grabbed the attention of mainstream Israeli media.
At a press conference held at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv, Begin said: “Right and Left, Jews and Arabs, joined together – at the expense of many Bedouin who are in crisis – to rile things up to a boiling point for their own political gain.”
Begin condemned all those who opposed the bill, adding, “we did the best we could, but sometimes you must face reality.”
Begin said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted his recommendation to permanently terminate the current version of the bill, after citing the undeniable opposition from across the political spectrum.
While today’s news will at the very least delay the State’s plan to implement the largest displacement a Palestinian population since 1967, there is little reason for celebration. It it will only be the end of the current version, which was in jeopardy mostly due to concerns from right-wing MKs that it was “too generous” to the Bedouin. It is probable a revised bill will be drafted that will in all likelihood not be any better as far as Bedouin claims. There were many flaws to both the content and form of the bill, but by far the most blatant was the fact that no one from the Bedouin community has been consulted or involved in the process – even after an alternative master plan was submitted.
Earlier this week, coalition leader Yariv Levin specified inferred as much when he said that a revised bill should be drafted and that “whoever won’t agree should be forcefully placed in the areas allotted to Bedouin. The agreement to join the generous outline should be limited in time, and it should be determined that the lands would only be leased to the Bedouins, not registered with the Land Authority as their property.”
In response to the announcement, Rawia Aburabia, an attorney with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and a Bedouin citizen, stated that the Israeli government now “has an opportunity to conduct real and honest dialogue with the Negev Bedouin community and its representatives. The Negev Bedouin seek a solution to the problem of the unrecognized villages, and a future in Israel as citizens with equal rights.”
As he sat in prison he dreamt of seeing the end of apartheid both in South Africa and Israel. Half of the dream has been fulfilled.
Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff
NELSON MANDELA’S ADDRESS TO RALLY IN CAPE TOWN ON HIS RELEASE FROM PRISON
11 February 1990
Friends, comrades and fellow South Africans.
I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all.
I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.
On this day of my release, I extend my sincere and warmest gratitude to the millions of my compatriots and those in every corner of the globe who have campaigned tirelessly for my release.
I send special greetings to the people of Cape Town, this city which has been my home for three decades. Your mass marches and other forms of struggle have served as a constant source of strength to all political prisoners.
I salute the African National Congress. It has fulfilled our every expectation in its role as leader of the great march to freedom.
I salute our President, Comrade Oliver Tambo, for leading the ANC even under the most difficult circumstances.
I salute the rank and file members of the ANC. You have sacrificed life and limb in the pursuit of the noble cause of our struggle.
I salute combatants of Umkhonto we Sizwe, like Solomon Mahlangu and Ashley Kriel who have paid the ultimate price for the freedom of all South Africans.
I salute the South African Communist Party for its sterling contribution to the struggle for democracy. You have survived 40 years of unrelenting persecution. The memory of great communists like Moses Kotane, Yusuf Dadoo, Bram Fischer and Moses Mabhida will be cherished for generations to come.
I salute General Secretary Joe Slovo, one of our finest patriots. We are heartened by the fact that the alliance between ourselves and the Party remains as strong as it always was.
I salute the United Democratic Front, the National Education Crisis Committee, the South African Youth Congress, the Transvaal and Natal Indian Congresses and COSATU and the many other formations of the Mass Democratic Movement.
I also salute the Black Sash and the National Union of South African Students. We note with pride that you have acted as the conscience of white South Africa. Even during the darkest days in the history of our struggle you held the flag of liberty high. The large-scale mass mobilisation of the past few years is one of the key factors which led to the opening of the final chapter of our struggle.
I extend my greetings to the working class of our country. Your organised strength is the pride of our movement. You remain the most dependable force in the struggle to end exploitation and oppression.
I pay tribute to the many religious communities who carried the campaign for justice forward when the organisations for our people were silenced.
I greet the traditional leaders of our country – many of you continue to walk in the footsteps of great heroes like Hintsa and Sekhukune.
I pay tribute to the endless heroism of youth, you, the young lions. You, the young lions, have energised our entire struggle.
I pay tribute to the mothers and wives and sisters of our nation. You are the rock-hard foundation of our struggle. Apartheid has inflicted more pain on you than on anyone else.
On this occasion, we thank the world community for their great contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle. Without your support our struggle would not have reached this advanced stage. The sacrifice of the frontline states will be remembered by South Africans forever.
My salutations would be incomplete without expressing my deep appreciation for the strength given to me during my long and lonely years in prison by my beloved wife and family. I am convinced that your pain and suffering was far greater than my own.
Before I go any further I wish to make the point that I intend making only a few preliminary comments at this stage. I will make a more complete statement only after I have had the opportunity to consult with my comrades.
Today the majority of South Africans, black and white, recognise that apartheid has no future. It has to be ended by our own decisive mass action in order to build peace and security. The mass campaign of defiance and other actions of our organisation and people can only culminate in the establishment of democracy. The destruction caused by apartheid on our sub-continent is in- calculable. The fabric of family life of millions of my people has been shattered. Millions are homeless and unemployed. Our economy lies in ruins and our people are embroiled in political strife. Our resort to the armed struggle in 1960 with the formation of the military wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe, was a purely defensive action against the violence of apartheid. The factors which necessitated the armed struggle still exist today. We have no option but to continue. We express the hope that a climate conducive to a negotiated settlement will be created soon so that there may no longer be the need for the armed struggle.
I am a loyal and disciplined member of the African National Congress. I am therefore in full agreement with all of its objectives, strategies and tactics.
The need to unite the people of our country is as important a task now as it always has been. No individual leader is able to take on this enormous task on his own. It is our task as leaders to place our views before our organisation and to allow the democratic structures to decide. On the question of democratic practice, I feel duty bound to make the point that a leader of the movement is a person who has been democratically elected at a national conference. This is a principle which must be upheld without any exceptions.
Today, I wish to report to you that my talks with the government have been aimed at normalising the political situation in the country. We have not as yet begun discussing the basic demands of the struggle. I wish to stress that I myself have at no time entered into negotiations about the future of our country except to insist on a meeting between the ANC and the government.
Mr. De Klerk has gone further than any other Nationalist president in taking real steps to normalise the situation. However, there are further steps as outlined in the Harare Declaration that have to be met before negotiations on the basic demands of our people can begin. I reiterate our call for, inter alia, the immediate ending of the State of Emergency and the freeing of all, and not only some, political prisoners. Only such a normalised situation, which allows for free political activity, can allow us to consult our people in order to obtain a mandate.
The people need to be consulted on who will negotiate and on the content of such negotiations. Negotiations cannot take place above the heads or behind the backs of our people. It is our belief that the future of our country can only be determined by a body which is democratically elected on a non-racial basis. Negotiations on the dismantling of apartheid will have to address the over- whelming demand of our people for a democratic, non-racial and unitary South Africa. There must be an end to white monopoly on political power and a fundamental restructuring of our political and economic systems to ensure that the inequalities of apartheid are addressed and our society thoroughly democratised.
It must be added that Mr. De Klerk himself is a man of integrity who is acutely aware of the dangers of a public figure not honouring his undertakings. But as an organisation we base our policy and strategy on the harsh reality we are faced with. And this reality is that we are still suffering under the policy of the Nationalist government.
Our struggle has reached a decisive moment. We call on our people to seize this moment so that the process towards democracy is rapid and uninterrupted. We have waited too long for our freedom. We can no longer wait. Now is the time to intensify the struggle on all fronts. To relax our efforts now would be a mistake which generations to come will not be able to forgive. The sight of freedom looming on the horizon should encourage us to redouble our efforts.
It is only through disciplined mass action that our victory can be assured. We call on our white compatriots to join us in the shaping of a new South Africa. The freedom movement is a political home for you too. We call on the international community to continue the campaign to isolate the apartheid regime. To lift sanctions now would be to run the risk of aborting the process towards the complete eradication of apartheid.
Our march to freedom is irreversible. We must not allow fear to stand in our way. Universal suffrage on a common voters’ role in a united democratic and non-racial South Africa is the only way to peace and racial harmony.
In conclusion I wish to quote my own words during my trial in 1964. They are true today as they were then:
‘I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’
Hundreds of Gazans launch flotilla over naval blockade
Hundreds of Palestinians launched protest flotilla in protests of Israel-Egyptian blockade of Gaza but fail to make it to Israel
Israel eased the blockade somewhat in 2010 after an Israeli commando raid on a ship in an activist flotilla bent on reaching Gaza left nine Turks dead and raised an international uproar, but Palestinians say the gestures were not enough.
On Monday, Gaza’s Coalition Intifada group said about 200 youths boarded fishing boats heading out of Gaza City toward the fishing zone boundary, before returning to shore. Organizers said some boats crossed the six-mile maritime limit.
Palestinian fishermen say they cannot meet demand in Gaza due to Israeli-Egyptian naval blockade on the territory and limit of six nautical miles (11 km) in which they can take out their boats off shore.
“We have sent a message of solidarity with the fishermen and a message to the world that they must act to end the Gaza blockade,” said Shorouq Mahmoud, the group’s spokeswoman.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said none of the boats breached the fishing zone limit.
Israeli forces have regularly shot at Gaza boats seen as trying to breach the blockade.
“Never again for humankind” means supporting Palestinian resistance to Israel’s Prawer Plan.
We hear disturbing reports this year from southern Israel. The Israeli government proposes to relocate some 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their present homes to government-approved townships. This is called the Prawer Plan, and Israel’s parliament approved it by a three-vote majority in June.
The Prawer Plan would destroy 35 Bedouin villages in the Naqab (Negev) region and extinguish Bedouin claims to land seized from them after the foundation of Israel. The government denies basic services to these villages. Right beside them, in many cases, are new, modern, fully serviced communities for Jewish settlers.
Supporters of the Prawer Plan say that it will compensate the Bedouin for their lost lands and improve their economic status. Unconvinced, the European Parliament has condemned the plan and demanded its withdrawal. So has the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the UN Office for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch.
This plan has not been negotiated with the Bedouins and does not have their agreement. It is to be imposed on them. Many have called it ethnic cleansing.
Ethnic cleansing has been defined by the UN Security Council as the forcible removal by one ethnic or religious group of another such group in a geographic area. When I think of ethnic cleansing, I recall my own experience in France under Nazi occupation during the Second World War.
Six months before I was born, the French government of the time passed laws excluding Jews from the civil service, education, the media and other professions. They repealed the law against anti-Semitism and started a massive anti-Jewish hate campaign. Large numbers of Jews were rounded up and put in concentration camps.
Much of France was then under Nazi occupation, but the Nazis didn’t ask for these measures. The French authorities volunteered and did it on their own. But soon the Nazis got into the act. They had a vast project — to clear 10 million Jews out of all European countries — not to deport but to exterminate them.
Ethnic cleansing on a grand scale.
The French police handed over to the Nazis tens of thousands of Jews and other French people to be sent to Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in Poland, where they were almost all slaughtered. French authorities tore children from the arms of their mothers, and handed over the mothers to be exterminated.
Then, weeks later, the children were packed into a death train and sent to Auschwitz to also to die there. Among the adult victims was my mother, killed in Auschwitz in 1943.
The Nazis’ goal was to round up, deport and massacre all the Jews in France — as was being done across Europe. The Nazis documented the names, date of birth, country and towns of origin. I know the date and number of the convoy that took my mother to Auschwitz and the day she died there. It was as though they collected human trophies.
But amid this terrible slaughter, an inspiring thing happened. There was a wave of revulsion in France against the treatment of the Jews. Both spontaneously and through organizations, French people made arrangements to protect them.
Altogether, three-quarters of the French Jews escaped the Holocaust. Some 10,000 Jewish children left their families and were hidden. I was among them.
In 1943, a resistance organization took charge of my care and placed me with a peasant family in Auvergne, a farming region in south-central France.
Last month I went back to Auvergne to learn how it was that I had been saved.
I spoke to many people who remembered those years. Auvergne at that time was a land of refuge, a poor region, but one where there was food and much work to be done.
Emma, one of my new friends in Auvergne, told me there were a dozen Muslim refugees from the Soviet Union in her village, conscripted into the Nazi army, and sent to France. They had deserted to join the anti-Nazi resistance.
There were the Roma — the French police rounded up and interned thousands of them. And there were thousands of Jewish refugees in Auvergne, old and young, seeking safety from arrest by French and German authorities.
I met a man who led his community in providing refuge. His name is Robert; he is now 91 years old. When he was 20 years old, he helped hide and protect 130 Jewish persons who had come to seek safety in his little town, Malzieu.
He was ready to lay down his life for them. He showed me an immense wooden wardrobe that he had pushed against a door, behind which there were Jews in hiding.
“How many of the Jews were denounced to the police?” I asked.
“None,” he said.
“So did everyone in Malzieu want the Jews to be there?”
“Not at all,” he said. “Some were anti-Jewish.”
“Why didn’t they denounce the Jews, then?” I asked.
“They may have had resentful thoughts, but they didn’t act on them. They would not act against the feelings of their community.”
So even the anti-Semites, through their silence, aided the resistance.
Recently, the Israeli government offered Robert the medal of the “righteous,” honoring Christians and others who saved many Jewish people. But Robert refused it. “I did nothing special,” he said, “Just the minimum that was my duty. And what we achieved, we did together, as a community.”
Robert exemplifies the tradition of universalism — a spirit of solidarity with all humanity. This is a proud Jewish tradition — the tradition of my family. In terms of Hitler’s Holocaust, its meaning is “never again” — but not just with regard to Jews. It means “never again for humankind.”
After the war, I was an orphan. I left France while still a child and crossed the ocean. Now I am a Canadian, proud of my new life here.
But Canada is now the world’s number one apologist for the Israeli government and its oppression of the Palestinians. What does the Holocaust tell me about the status of Palestine today — and the Prawer Plan?
The sinister Prawer Plan to extinguish Bedouin land rights fits into a pattern of Palestinian dispossession over the last century. It is only the latest step in a process of land theft that has been grinding on for seven decades.
When my parents were born, Palestine was a successful, diverse and tolerant society of Muslims, Christians and Jews. Meanwhile, eastern Europe — tsarist Russia in particular — was wracked by violence against Jews. Many fled the region, and some moved to Palestine.
Among them were my father, when he was a young boy, and his family. But guided by the Zionist movement, these refugees came not as immigrants, to enrich Palestinian society, but as colonial settlers, to displace it: a colonial project of ethnic cleansing.
This was not to my father’s liking, and he moved as a young man to France. Both he and my mother, and most of their Jewish generation in Europe, were skeptical of the Palestine settler project, and sought safety for Jews through social progress in Europe itself.
Step by step, the Zionist project took Palestinian lands, evicting and dispossessing the residents. Then Hitler’s war and Holocaust destroyed forever the Jewish homeland in Poland and neighboring countries. The Jewish survivors searched for a new homeland.
The Canadian government, with the support of many well-intentioned people, thought it proper to grant them a state in Palestine. It seemed only fair, given what the Jews had suffered.
As for the Palestinians, they were callously brushed aside. Indeed the lie was spread that they did not even exist — Palestine was called “a land without people.”
Dispossessing and persecuting Palestinians became a way to atone for Hitler’s crimes. And so we had the Nakba, in 1948, when 750,000 indigenous Palestinians were expelled from their homeland, victims of a new and terrible ethnic cleansing.
The process continues even today. Jewish settlements are imposed on the remaining fragments of Palestinian lands on the West Bank.
Palestinian refugees continue to endure forced exile. Israel wages repeated aggressive wars.
And the Prawer Plan targets remaining Bedouin lands.
And still, today, Israeli oppression of the Palestinians is often justified as necessary to prevent a “second Holocaust” against the Jews. What a lie! The very idea is a monstrosity.
It is the Palestinians who suffer mistreatment, often reminiscent of what Hitler imposed on the Jews. The real threat to Israel’s Jewish population comes from their own government’s cruelty, its apartheid policies, its land grabs, its theft of resources, its long-term drive for ethnic cleansing.
If we have learned one thing from Hitler’s crimes against the Jews, it is that ethnic cleansing, ethnic slaughter and genocide must be opposed today wherever it occurs — and above all in Palestine. To be true to the memory of the victims of the Jewish Holocaust and of all Hitler’s victims, we must defend the Palestinians.
We are building a united world campaign to get out the truth about Palestine. Palestinians must have the right to speak up. The media, manipulated by the elite who control Canada, pervasively confront us with a wall of silence. We face continual challenges to the rights granted to us by Canada’s Charter of Rights, free speech and assembly.
Defending the right to speak, discuss and voice an opinion is central to our efforts to defend the Palestinians.
During my trip to Auvergne last month, I was struck by the magical power of human solidarity, expressed in a varied and resourceful resistance movement that saved the lives of 10,000 Jewish children, including me. Let that same spirit of solidarity inspire us today in supporting victims of oppression here and worldwide, beginning in Palestine.
As a Jew, I say the Israeli government’s actions are not in my name. As Canadians, we must now tell the government of Stephen Harper that his support for Israeli apartheid is not in our name.
Stand up for the Palestinians. Demand that their right to return to their homelands is upheld; demand that they have equal rights in Israel; demand an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.
Join the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel — BDS. It is a nonviolent and democratic way to unite and make Israel accountable for its crimes against the Palestinians.
Let us call for an end to the Prawer campaign and the dispossession of the Palestinians. Palestine will be free!
*Suzanne Weiss is a Holocaust survivor and a Palestinian solidarity activist based in Toronto. This article is an excerpt from a talk given to a student meeting in London, Ontario, on 20 November.
P.S. From The Jewish Voice For Peace …..
Last week, the Anti-Defamation League put JVP on its list of top ten “anti-Israel” organizations.
But their attack seriously backfired.
More than 250 JVP supporters raised over $12,000 to help us fund our new Campus Liaison – one of the projects the ADL fears most.
We promised we’d send ADL President Abe Foxman a thank you note, and wanted to give you one last chance to add your name to it.
If you are proud of our organizing to hold Israel accountable to international law, or the way our Rabbinical Council reclaims justice traditions within Jewish community and ritual, click here to make sure the ADL knows it.
Their complicity with Israeli human rights abuses puts the ADL on the wrong side of history.
Click here to give $18 or even $36 now and add your name to our thank you card.
They did get one thing right. They described JVP as an organization with national impact that recruits grassroots supporters and influences the mainstream public debate about Israel.
And that’s all because of our amazing supporters like you.
Grassroots Fundraising Coordinator
Photos © by Bud Korotzer
Good morning. Thank you for this opportunity. My name is Jeremy Hammond and I’m here to be sentenced for hacking activities carried out during my involvement with Anonymous. I have been locked up at MCC for the past 20 months and have had a lot of time to think about how I would explain my actions.
Before I begin, I want to take a moment to recognize the work of the people who have supported me. I want to thank all the lawyers and others who worked on my case: Elizabeth Fink, Susan Kellman, Sarah Kunstler, Emily Kunstler, Margaret Kunstler, and Grainne O’Neill. I also want to thank the National Lawyers Guild, the Jeremy Hammond Defense Committee and Support Network, Free Anons, the Anonymous Solidarity Network, Anarchist Black Cross, and all others who have helped me by writing a letter of support, sending me letters, attending my court dates, and spreading the word about my case. I also want to shout out my brothers and sisters behind bars and those who are still out there fighting the power.
The acts of civil disobedience and direct action that I am being sentenced for today are in line with the principles of community and equality that have guided my life. I hacked into dozens of high profile corporations and government institutions, understanding very clearly that what I was doing was against the law, and that my actions could land me back in federal prison. But I felt that I had an obligation to use my skills to expose and confront injustice–and to bring the truth to light.
Could I have achieved the same goals through legal means? I have tried everything from voting petitions to peaceful protest and have found that those in power do not want the truth to be exposed. When we speak truth to power we are ignored at best and brutally suppressed at worst. We are confronting a power structure that does not respect its own system of checks and balances, never mind the rights of it’s own citizens or the international community.
My introduction to politics was when George W. Bush stole the Presidential election in 2000, then took advantage of the waves of racism and patriotism after 9/11 to launch unprovoked imperialist wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. I took to the streets in protest naively believing our voices would be heard in Washington and we could stop the war. Instead, we were labeled as traitors, beaten, and arrested.
I have been arrested for numerous acts of civil disobedience on the streets of Chicago, but it wasn’t until 2005 that I used my computer skills to break the law in political protest. I was arrested by the FBI for hacking into the computer systems of a right-wing, pro-war group called Protest Warrior, an organization that sold racist t-shirts on their website and harassed anti-war groups. I was charged under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and the “intended loss” in my case was arbitrarily calculated by multiplying the 5000 credit cards in Protest Warrior’s database by $500, resulting in a total of $2.5 million.My sentencing guidelines were calculated on the basis of this “loss,” even though not a single credit card was used or distributed — by me or anyone else. I was sentenced to two years in prison.
While in prison I have seen for myself the ugly reality of how the criminal justice system destroys the lives of the millions of people held captive behind bars. The experience solidified my opposition to repressive forms of power and the importance of standing up for what you believe.
When I was released, I was eager to continue my involvement in struggles for social change. I didn’t want to go back to prison, so I focused on above-ground community organizing. But over time, I became frustrated with the limitations, of peaceful protest, seeing it as reformist and ineffective. The Obama administration continued the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, escalated the use of drones, and failed to close Guantanamo Bay.
Around this time, I was following the work of groups like Wikileaks and Anonymous. It was very inspiring to see the ideas of hactivism coming to fruition. I was particularly moved by the heroic actions of Chelsea Manning, who had exposed the atrocities committed by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. She took an enormous personal risk to leak this information — believing that the public had a right to know and hoping that her disclosures would be a positive step to end these abuses. It is heart-wrenching to hear about her cruel treatment in military lockup.
I thought long and hard about choosing this path again. I had to ask myself, if Chelsea Manning fell into the abysmal nightmare of prison fighting for the truth, could I in good conscience do any less, if I was able? I thought the best way to demonstrate solidarity was to continue the work of exposing and confronting corruption.
I was drawn to Anonymous because I believe in autonomous, decentralized direct action. At the time Anonymous was involved in operations in support of the Arab Spring uprisings, against censorship, and in defense of Wikileaks. I had a lot to contribute, including technical skills, and how to better articulate ideas and goals. It was an exciting time — the birth of a digital dissent movement, where the definitions and capabilities of hacktivism were being shaped.
I was especially interested in the work of the hackers of LulzSec who were breaking into some significant targets and becoming increasingly political. Around this time, I first started talking to Sabu, who was very open about the hacks he supposedly committed, and was encouraging hackers to unite and attack major government and corporate systems under the banner of Anti Security. But very early in my involvement, the other Lulzsec hackers were arrested, leaving me to break into systems and write press releases. Later, I would learn that Sabu had been the first one arrested, and that the entire time I was talking to him he was an FBI informant.
Anonymous was also involved in the early stages of Occupy Wall Street. I was regularly participating on the streets as part of Occupy Chicago and was very excited to see a worldwide mass movement against the injustices of capitalism and racism. In several short months, the “Occupations” came to an end, closed by police crackdowns and mass arrests of protestors who were kicked out of their own public parks. The repression of Anonymous and the Occupy Movement set the tone for Antisec in the following months — the majority of our hacks against police targets were in retaliation for the arrests of our comrades.
I targeted law enforcement systems because of the racism and inequality with which the criminal law is enforced. I targeted the manufacturers and distributors of military and police equipment who profit from weaponry used to advance U.S. political and economic interests abroad and to repress people at home. I targeted information security firms because they work in secret to protect government and corporate interests at the expense of individual rights, undermining and discrediting activists, journalists and other truth seekers, and spreading disinformation.
I had never even heard of Stratfor until Sabu brought it to my attention. Sabu was encouraging people to invade systems, and helping to strategize and facilitate attacks. He even provided me with vulnerabilities of targets passed on by other hackers, so it came as a great surprise when I learned that Sabu had been working with the FBI the entire time.
On December 4, 2011, Sabu was approached by another hacker who had already broken into Stratfor’s credit card database. Sabu, under the watchful eye of his government handlers, then brought the hack to Antisec by inviting this hacker to our private chatroom, where he supplied download links to the full credit card database as well as the initial vulnerability access point to Stratfor’s systems.
I spent some time researching Stratfor and reviewing the information we were given, and decided that their activities and client base made them a deserving target. I did find it ironic that Stratfor’s wealthy and powerful customer base had their credit cards used to donate to humanitarian organizations, but my main role in the attack was to retrieve Stratfor’s private email spools which is where all the dirty secrets are typically found.
It took me more than a week to gain further access into Stratfor’s internal systems, but I eventually broke into their mail server. There was so much information, we needed several servers of our own in order to transfer the emails. Sabu, who was involved with the operation at every step, offered a server, which was provided and monitored by the FBI. Over the next weeks, the emails were transferred, the credit cards were used for donations, and Stratfor’s systems were defaced and destroyed. Why the FBI would introduce us to the hacker who found the initial vulnerability and allow this hack to continue remains a mystery.
As a result of the Stratfor hack, some of the dangers of the unregulated private intelligence industry are now known. It has been revealed through Wikileaks and other journalists around the world that Stratfor maintained a worldwide network of informants that they used to engage in intrusive and possibly illegal surveillance activities on behalf of large multinational corporations.
After Stratfor, I continued to break into other targets, using a powerful “zero day exploit” allowing me administrator access to systems running the popular Plesk webhosting platform. Sabu asked me many times for access to this exploit, which I refused to give him. Without his own independent access, Sabu continued to supply me with lists of vulnerable targets. I broke into numerous websites he supplied, uploaded the stolen email accounts and databases onto Sabu’s FBI server, and handed over passwords and backdoors that enabled Sabu (and, by extension, his FBI handlers) to control these targets.
These intrusions, all of which were suggested by Sabu while cooperating with the FBI, affected thousands of domain names and consisted largely of foreign government websites, including those of XXXXXXX, XXXXXXXX, XXXX, XXXXXX, XXXXX, XXXXXXXX, XXXXXXX and the XXXXXX XXXXXXX. In one instance, Sabu and I provided access information to hackers who went on to deface and destroy many government websites in XXXXXX. I don’t know how other information I provided to him may have been used, but I think the government’s collection and use of this data needs to be investigated.
The government celebrates my conviction and imprisonment, hoping that it will close the door on the full story. I took responsibility for my actions, by pleading guilty, but when will the government be made to answer for its crimes?
The U.S. hypes the threat of hackers in order to justify the multi billion dollar cyber security industrial complex, but it is also responsible for the same conduct it aggressively prosecutes and claims to work to prevent. The hypocrisy of “law and order” and the injustices caused by capitalism cannot be cured by institutional reform but through civil disobedience and direct action. Yes I broke the law, but I believe that sometimes laws must be broken in order to make room for change.
In the immortal word of Frederick Douglas, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
This is not to say that I do not have any regrets. I realize that I released the personal information of innocent people who had nothing to do with the operations of the institutions I targeted. I apologize for the release of data that was harmful to individuals and irrelevant to my goals. I believe in the individual right to privacy — from government surveillance, and from actors like myself, and I appreciate the irony of my own involvement in the trampling of these rights. I am committed to working to make this world a better place for all of us. I still believe in the importance of hactivism as a form of civil disobedience, but it is time for me to move on to other ways of seeking change. My time in prison has taken a toll on my family, friends, and community. I know I am needed at home. I recognize that 7 years ago I stood before a different federal judge, facing similar charges, but this does not lessen the sincerity of what I say to you today.
It has taken a lot for me to write this, to explain my actions, knowing that doing so — honestly — could cost me more years of my life in prison. I am aware that I could get as many as 10 years, but I hope that I do not, as I believe there is so much work to be done.
Stay strong and keep struggling.
ADC Asks Coachella Valley High School “Arabs” To Reconsider Mascot, Name
Washington, DC | www.adc.org | November 6, 2013 – Recently, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) expressed direct concern to the Coachella Valley Unified School District, over the use of “Arab” as the team name and mascot for the Coachella Valley High School (CVHS), located in Thermal, California.
The CVHS mascot, the “Arab” depicts a man with a large nose, heavy beard, and wearing a Kaffiay. This imagery is plastered and advertised all over CVHS’s athletic facilities and at sporting events. At CVHS sporting events, a student dressed as the “Arab” is present. During half-time shows at sporting events, the “Arab” performs, while a female dressed as a belly dancer entertains the mascot by dancing for him. The attendees and participants at these sporting events clearly show orientalist stereotyping of Arabs.
ADC communicated with Coachella Valley Unified School District Superintendent Darryl S. Adams and CVHS Principal Victor Uribe, and expressed concern with CVHS and the school district permitting and endorsing this imagery about Arabs and Arab Americans. ADC also contacted Coachella Valley Unified School District Board Members, and expressed our community’s concerns.
The ADC letter sent to CVHS Principal and the school district can be read here.
ADC understands that CVHS is located in a city once home to a large Arab population working in the establishment of the date palm industry in the 1920s. However, the imagery associated with the CVHS mascot, the “Arab” is far removed from recognition with any historical reference. Furthermore, there are alternative ways to recognize Coachella Valley’s history than the ethnic stereotypical depiction of the “Arab” by CVHS. The continued use of the “Arab” mascot perpetuates demeaning stereotypes of Arabs and Arab Americans. CVHS gross ethnic stereotyping cannot be tolerated.
ADC President Warren David stated, “ADC is and has been at the forefront of fighting stereotypes and defamation since inception. The negative image portrayed by the dipiction of the Coachella Valley mascot is a disgrace and unacceptable to all who respect an accurate image of Arabs.”
ADC has been contacted by Dr. Darryl S. Adams, Superintendent of the Coachella Valley Unified School District, and further communication to resolve the issue have been scheduled. ADC has launched a petition asking the school district to consider changing the team name and mascot.
Author Ben White speaking at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in New York City. (Image via russelltribunalonpalestine.com)
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.
Demonstrations in more than 400 cities were planned to coincide with Guy Fawkes Day, with Russell Brand at a London protest
Northeastern students walked out of an event featuring Israeli soldiers in April.
A Jewish member of Students for Justice in Palestine at Northeastern University in Boston has received death threats ostensibly because of his involvement in Palestine solidarity activism and outspoken criticism of Zionism.
The threats come as Zionist groups warn of legal complaints against the university, alleging campus “anti-Semitism” — despite an ever-growing record of failure to support these kinds of accusations.
First reported on 18 September by CBS Boston, an anonymous group of Jewish students publicly accused Northeastern University of “an atmosphere of intimidation of those who are supportive of Israel, or an official indulgence of anti-Semitism” (“Jewish students claim discrimination by Northeastern professors,” WBZ-TV, 18 September 2013).
When the story reached the student daily newspaper eight days later, the alleged perpetrators were, predictably, Northeastern Students for Justice in Palestine and a handful of faculty members who dared to criticize the ongoing Israeli colonization of Palestine.
In a letter written in July, the Zionist Organization of America states that if Northeastern University does not address the “hostile environment” faced by Jewish students, then it would risk losing its federal funding — citing guidelines mandated under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (“ZOA letter to President Aoun,” 5 July 2013 [PDF]).
Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects students from racial and ethnic discrimination at federally-funded educational institutions. Israel-aligned groups and individuals have claimed that Jewish students face anti-Semitism, harassment and intimidation because of activism by Students for Justice in Palestine and Muslim student groups, and have filed claims with the Department of Education alleging violations of Title VI.
Even though legal campaigns to coerce censorship of Palestine solidarity activism on campus — through Title VI complaints — have been dismissed from the University of California system to Columbia University so far, well-funded Zionist organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) continue to pose real threats to free speech and academic freedom.
This latest manifestation of “lawfare” by Israel advocacy groups appears to differ from some previous attempts to stifle debate.
Specifically, the campaign’s focus on disbanding Students for Justice in Palestine while the student organization’s status on campus remains in peril could potentially deliver these powerful pro-Israel forces a victory without necessarily succeeding in challenging Northeastern’s funding under Title VI.
As the ADL and ZOA continue to pressure Northeastern president Joseph Aoun and other administrators, the university’s ignominious record of silencing advocates of Palestinian and Muslim rights on campus calls into question its ability to fairly evaluate these slanderous accusations.
As The Electronic Intifada reported last August, Northeastern administrators officially sanctioned Students for Justice in Palestine last semester for silently walking out of an event featuring Israeli soldiers. The event was hosted by Huskies for Israel, the on-campus Israel advocacy group.
Despite widespread condemnation by the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Constitutional Rights and local union and civil rights groups, Students for Justice in Palestine at Northeastern remains under administrative probation with all funding derived from the student activities’ fee indefinitely suspended.
The provisions of the administration’s sanctions against SJP included a grotesque, enforced normalization charade disguised as a “leadership council” with campus Zionists. Though the university describes these monthly councils as chances for collaboration with other like-minded student organizations, the inclusion of dialogue sessions with Huskies for Israel seems to be an underhanded attempt to tame and limit discourse around Israel-Palestine.
Furthermore, the administration has demanded from SJP the production of a “civility statement” through these problematic leadership councils that is to govern all future political advocacy. Neither Huskies for Israel nor any other student group on campus has ever been forced to comply with such anti-democratic measures.
In addition, the Boston-based (and Orwellian-named) Americans for Peace and Tolerance is supporting the ADL/ZOA effort, which has for years launched inflammatory campaigns against supposed “Islamic extremism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Zionism” at Northeastern University. Americans for Peace and Tolerance has conflated these three divergent phenomena as indistinguishable.
Among Americans for Peace and Tolerance’s many targets was Imam Abdullah Faaruuq, who was removed from his post as Muslim chaplain of the Spiritual Life Center last September despite more than 15 years of service to Northeastern University.
Faaruuq’s advocacy on behalf of Muslim political prisoners Aafia Siddiqui and Tarek Mehenna and consistent opposition to unjust “War on Terror” policies drew a vitriolic response from Americans for Peace and Tolerance’s president Charles Jacobs.
Emboldened by the administration’s unprincipled appeasement, Americans for Peace and Tolerance has since intensified its efforts against Northeastern faculty and students who fail to meet its pro-Israel requirements.
Shortly after the administration fired Faaruuq, Americans for Peace and Tolerance released a fear-mongering video titled “Anti-Semitic Education @ Northeastern University” targeting NU professors Denis Sullivan and M. Shahid Alam.
Sullivan, a professor of international affairs and the director of the university’s Middle East Center for Peace, Culture and Development, is perhaps Americans for Peace and Tolerance’s most consistently attacked individual due to his support of a one-state solutionin Israel-Palestine, and his criticism of Israel’s apartheid policies.
Alam, an economics professor, has has also been subjected to a series of publicationsand videos by Americans for Peace and Tolerance. He has been vilified for his participation in Students for Justice in Palestine’s 2012 Israeli Apartheid Week — a series of Palestine awareness-raising activities and events held each year in universities around the world — and other declarations of support for Palestinian liberation.
The ZOA’s recent letter to Aoun singles out both Sullivan and Alam and demands their immediate dismissal.
While the campaign has succeeded in compelling the administration to sanction Students for Justice in Palestine, the Islamic Society of Northeastern University’s funding and “Islamic extremism” has been targeted by not only Americans for Peace and Tolerance, but also right-wing Islamophobic blogger Pamela Geller.
More gravely, due to witch-hunting on the Americans for Peace and Tolerance-controlled Facebook page “Exposing Islamic Extremism at Northeastern University,” Jewish Students for Justice in Palestine member Max Geller (no relation to Pamela) has received a litany of violent threats in the last few days, along with accusations of being a “self-hating Jew” and a “terrorist sympathizer.”
One commenter on the page who identified himself as a former marine, for instance, wrote of Geller, “I would seriously introduce that kid to the inside of an ambulance.” Geller told The Electronic Intifada that private messages were even more explicit and included death threats.
According to Max Geller, this is simply another manifestation of Charles Jacobs’ pattern of targeting, defaming, and intimidating members of the Northeastern University community and others in Boston in an effort to compel silence on Israeli human rights abuses — which the young activist defiantly refuses to accept.
Even still, over the phone Geller expressed concern after recent messages he received extended these threats to his family, and displayed knowledge of his home address. As the vicious threats continue to be directed at him and his loved ones, it is increasingly probable that Americans for Peace and Tolerance has put the SJP activist in real jeopardy.
This recent, ironic twist to the assertions by the Anti-Defamation League, the Zionist Organization of America and Americans for Peace and Tolerance of a “hostile campus climate” for Northeastern University’s Jewish students is sure to be lost on those now threatening legal action.
While recent victories against Zionist legal intimidation are cause for hope, the particularly strong and well-funded campaign in Boston against Students for Justice in Palestine, the Islamic Society of Northeastern University, and members of the Northeastern faculty will require a combined, determined effort to thwart.
Lacking an administration with the courage and integrity to defend students’ rights and academic freedom, it will be up to Northeastern University student activists and their supporters to keep closed a pandora’s box of repression on US campuses.
The precedent threatened by the Anti-Defamation League and Zionist Organization of America’s legal complaint to the Department of Education make this active, developing situation potentially disastrous not only for Palestinian solidarity activism and free speech at Northeastern University, but throughout the country.
Conversely, a resounding defeat for Zionist lawfare in Boston could finally sound the death knell for this cynical and perverse manipulation of American civil rights law.
As Northeastern Students for Justice in Palestine remains steadfast in its commitment to advocate for Palestinian liberation on campus and braces for a long fight against censorship and repression, it is incumbent upon all those who believe in justice and civil liberties to join the chorus of resistance to Zionist bullying tactics in the US, and to Israeli apartheid in Palestine.
*Ryan Branagan is a Northeastern MA student in Middle Eastern history and serves on the executive board of NU Students for Justice in Palestine