Watch CODZ panel on Mandela at The Brecht Forum, 2/6/14

Part I

Part II

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Zionism is a “false theology,” says new Presbyterian study guide

by Joe Catron – 31 January 2014, Electronic Intifada

http://electronicintifada.net/content/zionism-false-theology-says-new-presbyterian-study-guide/13117?utm_source=EI+readers&utm_campaign=3a0faaca93-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e802a7602d-3a0faaca93-260781185

In five months, the Presbyterian Church (USA) will consider divestment from three US companies with Israeli military contracts, at its general assembly in Detroit.

A new study guide published by the church and compiled by its Israel/Palestine Mission Network has turned a critical eye on the Zionist ideology behind the Israeli policies the divestment measure aims to challenge.

Zionism Unsettled, as the pamphlet is titled, offers much value to any Palestine activist who has not considered the ramifications of Zionism as an ideology.

Its 74 pages sketch both Zionism’s historical outlines and its complex relationships with the Christian and Jewish faiths. A companion DVD offers further commentary.

“With Zionism Unsettled, we are hoping to shine a light on the effects of Zionism as a political ideology that is justified by appeal to selective biblical texts,” Walt Davis, co-chairperson of the IPMN’s education committee and Zionism Unsettled project coordinator, told The Electronic Intifada.

“There’s a good deal of examination of various theologies in Zionism Unsettled, but through the lens of how they have been affected by a nationalist ideology,” Davis added.

“The problem now is that the issue is no longer just a secular political ideology; it has become an ideology infused with biblical and theological justifications. Therefore it now needs to be examined through a theological lens too.”
“Cloak of silence”

Davis added that because the US is a highly religious society, “we want to open a dialogue about this symbiotic relationship that has been shrouded in a cloak of silence. This is what the churches have done in the past when oppressive ideologies like Jim Crow segregation in the US and apartheid in South Africa had become theologies of self-identity for their supporters.”

The publication of Zionism Unsettled does not mark a theological breakthrough. The Presbyterian Church (USA)’s liberal Reformed tradition has rarely offered fertile ground for the growth of Christian Zionism as a religious tendency.

As Zionism Unsettled says, “For decades the [Presbyterian Church (USA)] has opposed the evangelical blend of dispensationalism and Christian Zionism because it fuses religion with politics, distorts faith, and imperils peace in the Middle East.”

Rather, it indicates a political shift, a breach of what Jewish liberation theologian Marc Ellis calls “the interfaith ecumenical deal,” under which a significant number of Christians have supported Israel.

“In its liberal Christian manifestations, Zionism serves as a ‘price-tag’ theology providing Christians with a vehicle of repentance for the guilt accrued during centuries of European Christian anti-Semitism culminating in the Holocaust,” Naim Ateek, co-founder and director of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, writes in Zionism Unsettled.

The study guide also analyzes the disparate threads of Jewish Zionism, first cultural and political, then political and religious, culminating in the fusion of the latter two after Israel’s military occupation of the Gaza Strip, West Bank and other territories in 1967 — and the subsequent launch of its settlement project.

It also suggests the United States’ own history of settler colonialism as a crucial reason for its support, both political and religious, of the similar process of Zionism.
Myths of origin

“Israeli and American myths of origin are similar and derived from the same biblical sources,” Zionism Unsettled says, noting that “the history and ideology of settler colonialism have been so central to the political history of the United States that it is not surprising the political and religious leadership in the US has been predisposed to uncritical support for the Zionist movement.”

Much church activism for Palestine, like past divestment efforts within the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Methodist Church, has remained within the parameters of the Oslo accords, focusing on the post-1967 occupation and aiming for a negotiated two-state solution.

Zionism Unsettled breaks this frame by also considering the ethnic cleansing of 1948, the apartheid facing Palestinian citizens of Israel and the one-state reality.

“The so-called peace process has devolved into a cover under which irreversible territorial and demographic facts on the ground are being implemented with impunity by Israel,” Zionism Unsettled begins. “Israel’s expansion into territory classified under international law as occupied has brought about a de facto one-state entity under Israeli jurisdiction.”

Later it reports “a growing consensus — except, notably, in the US and Israel — that the existing de facto one-state situation/solution is irreversible and that the Israeli form of apartheid (segregation and separate development) is becoming increasingly entrenched.”
“Colonizing minds”

But Zionism Unsettled’s focus remains on ideology, not the policies it inspires. Its authors quote the Palestinian writer and academic Nur Masalha: “Zionism was (and remains) not just about the colonization of Palestinian land, but also about colonizing minds — Jewish, Arab, European, American.”

Through their text, they attempt to decolonize one corner of America’s mainstream Protestant mind.

“What has been almost entirely absent from the mainstream conversation about Israel/Palestine is open, frank discussion about the ways in which ideology — that is, political and religious doctrine — has been a driving force of the conflict,” they write.

“Zionism is the problem,” Ateek states in Zionism Unsettled. “For Palestinians and a growing number of internationals around the world it is clear that Zionism is a false theology.”

Both a political ideology and a theology, Zionism has shaped and been shaped by the main religious traditions — Christianity and Judaism — it has engaged.

Zionism Unsettled is not an activist handbook. It is very much a work of theology, albeit political theology. Little of its content is prescriptive, rather than descriptive. Church members and others seeking practical steps to apply its knowledge will need to look elsewhere.

As the study guide was released, a delegation of Presbyterian Peace Fellowship members traveled through present-day Israel and the occupied West Bank on an Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB) tour. Over 12 days, its two dozen participants met activists on both sides of the green line (the internationally-recognized armistice line between present-day Israel and the occupied West Bank), posted updates to the delegation’s blog, and tweeted their experiences with the hashtag #PPFinAction.
“Moral obligation”

“The goal was to prepare a cadre of articulate, better informed, creative, passionate spokespersons from within the Presbyterian Church,” Mark C. Johnson, an IFPB board member who co-led the delegation, told The Electronic Intifada.

Delegates who have traveled to Palestine, spoken with residents and seen conditions firsthand can more convincingly say, “I believe the Presbyterian Church is legitimate in its witness when it supports the BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] call,’” he remarked.

“Ending one’s complicity in crime is not heroic,” Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) told the group.

“I think the delegation’s visit will help familiarize them, and many other Presbyterians through them, with the brutal reality of Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid against the Palestinian people,” Barghouti later told The Electronic Intifada.

He added that he hopes their experiences “will convince a much wider segment of the Presbyterian Church (USA) that divesting their funds from companies that are complicit in Israel’s decades-old occupation and denial of Palestinian rights is indeed a profound moral obligation.”

Barghouti added, “All Palestinians were inspired and moved to tears when a decade ago the Presbyterian Church (USA) became the first mainstream institution in the US to support divestment … For ten years, however, the church’s moves towards divestment have been held hostage to Zionist blackmail, including through so-called ‘interfaith’ groups and the unfounded, chilling and false accusations of anti-Semitism, preventing the Presbyterian Church (USA) from doing the right thing.”

Johnson also hopes the delegation’s participation will affect the divestment debate. “There is a division within the body, but the majority already have given evidence of supporting BDS and positive investment,” he said. “As long as the latter is not used to undermine the legitimacy of the former, this new wave of recruits can make a good deal of difference both prior to the GA [general assembly] and at the GA.”

On 24 January, the delegates issued a unanimous statement supporting a recommendation by the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Mission Responsibility through Investment Committee (MRTI) for divestment.

It quotes Palestinian businessman Sam Bahour, who warned against efforts to substitute investment in Palestinian enterprises for divestment from the occupation. “Investing in our economy is an act of resistance that helps Palestinians not to give up,” he told the group. “But don’t be fooled into thinking that it will help us to end the occupation. BDS is an important tool for that” (“Presbyterian delegation unanimously supports MRTI call to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard,” Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, 24 January 2014).

The Presbyterian Church (USA)’s 2012 general assembly approved a church-wide boycott of Israeli settlement products by 71 percent. A motion to divest the church’s own holdings in Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola, all of which have business connections with the Israeli occupation, was replaced by a margin of two votes out of 666.

With divestment set to return to the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s agenda in Detroit this summer, two years of dialogue, e­ducation, and organizing by activists within the church may be nearing fruition.

Joe Catron is a US activist in Gaza, Palestine. He co-edited The Prisoners’ Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag, an anthology of accounts by detainees freed in the 2011 prisoner exchange, and is a member of the Palestine Israel Network in the Episcopal Church.

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Defending Zionism under the cloak of academic freedom

by Robin D. G. Kelley – 4 January 2014, Mondoweiss

http://mondoweiss.net/2014/01/defending-zionism-academic.html

In a widely circulated Los Angeles Times op ed piece, Wesleyan University president Michael S. Roth denounced the American Studies Association’s (ASA) resolution to support a boycott of Israeli academic institutions as “a repugnant attack on academic freedom.” Parroting near-identical responses by other American university presidents, Roth’s ill-informed, grossly distorted polemic took me by surprise. While I do not expect him to agree with our stance, I did expect a more considered and intellectually honest disagreement from the president of Wesleyan University—a world-class institution with a long and distinguished record of teaching (and doing) social justice, grounded in an internationalist, humanist vision of liberal arts education; a school to which I gave nearly a quarter of a million dollars of my hard-earned academic salary so that my daughter (class of 2012) could learn what it means to be an informed, critical, engaged citizen of the world.

Roth either misread or deliberately misrepresented the resolution’s carefully considered language. He asserts that the ASA targets Israeli academic institutions merely for their “national affiliation.” This is not true. They are targeted for their complicity in the illegal occupation and government policies of dispossession, repression, and racism. He also claims that the resolution extends to individual faculty. It does not. It strongly condemns any attempts to single out and/or isolate Israeli scholars or any scholar of any nationality. On the contrary, the resolution and its authors encourage collaboration and dialogue, but outside the official channels of the Israeli state-supported institutions that continue to directly benefit from or support the occupation.

Roth repeats the well-worn argument that Israel is being singled out because the ASA has not boycotted countries with documented human rights abuses. But countries such as North Korea have no formal institutional ties to the ASA, and in most instances our own government has taken action, imposing sanctions and trade barriers or openly condemning violations of human rights or war crimes. Of course, there are egregious exceptions such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain—U.S.-backed repressive regimes that some of our most prominent ASA members have subjected to sharp criticisms.

But all of this is beside the point: Israel and the U.S. have a “special” relationship. As Carolyn Karcher recently reminded us in her rebuttal to Roth’s op ed, “the U.S. not only gives far more military aid to Israel than to any other country, but has also vetoed all U.N. resolutions in recent memory that condemn Israel’s abuses of human rights. The ASA resolution specifically cites the ‘significant role’ the U.S. plays in underwriting Israel’s violations of international law.” Three billion dollars a year, every year, is an awful lot of money. The money flows despite the fact that Israel’s blockade of Gaza, the source of the region’s immense poverty, is a clear violation of Articles 33, 55, and 56 of the 4th Geneva Convention prohibiting the collective punishment of civilians and requiring an occupying power to ensure access to food and medical supplies, and to maintain hospital and public health facilities.

Roth, who takes great pride in being a historian informed about and even critical of Israel’s policies, knows that these intermittent wars in Gaza, not to mention IDF attacks and home demolitions in the West Bank, violate our own Arms Export Control Act, which prohibits the use of U.S. weapons and military aid against civilians. And the most recent violent racist attacks on African immigrants in Israel represent some of the worst examples of human rights violations. Some 60,000 undocumented workers, many having fled war-torn or economically devastated countries such as Sudan and Eritrea, are denied refugee status, subject to deportation and imprisonment for up to a year without trial, and endure horrifying violence from racist mobs. The entire community is accused of committing rape, robbery and other crimes, and in Binyamin Netanyahu’s words, threatening to destroy Israel’s “image as a Jewish and democratic state.”

“Under the guise of phony progressivism,” Roth writes, “the [ASA] has initiated an irresponsible attack on academic freedom.” It is not clear what Roth means by “phony,” but the academic and cultural boycott is a legal, legitimate, non-violent form of protest that targets institutions only. The original call for an international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) came from Palestinian civil society organizations in 2005, inspired by the global solidarity movement that helped end apartheid and bring nonracial democracy to South Africa. Since then, the movement has gained support globally as well as from Israeli organizations such as Boycott from Within and Who Profits? The ASA membership voted overwhelmingly to support the resolution, but it did not come to this conclusion cavalierly. The implication that some deep-seated anti-Israel or anti-Semitic sentiment was behind it is downright insulting. The resolution resulted from a long process of debate and deliberation within our organization over how to respond to the ongoing 46-year occupation (the longest military occupation in modern history), the deadly blockade of Gaza, the escalation of violence, the expansion of illegal settlements, the denial of academic freedom to Palestinians and some Israeli scholars critical of their government, and the massive U.S. military aid to Israel that ultimately underwrites ongoing dispossession and an entrenched system of apartheid. These discussions began some six years ago, and they have not been easy.

Had Roth taken time to read discussions leading up to the resolution, particularly the extensive critical analyses by Judith Butler or the special issue of the Journal of Academic Freedom devoted to the question of academic boycotts, he may not have been so quick to indict the resolution as an “irresponsible attack on academic freedom.” As a matter of fact, the boycott will have no direct impact on the ability of individual Israeli scholars to teach, conduct research, and participate in meetings, symposia, or conferences around the globe. And ASA members are not required to abide by the resolution—it really only applies to official association business. The most important point, however, is that the resolution expresses a fundamental demand that the privileges of academic freedom extend to all: Palestinian teachers, researchers, students of all ages, as well as Jewish and Arab Israeli scholars, writers, intellectuals, artists, and students critical of the regime. Roth is silent when it comes to the academic freedom of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and within Israel itself.

While cognizant of the limited space afforded opinion pieces, I still find it baffling that an intellectual historian who has written about the Holocaust can treat academic freedom as an autonomous category separate and above other freedoms. As Sarah T. Roberts so eloquently explained:

It is a peculiar sort of academic elitism that puts academic freedom, a somewhat abstract concept in itself, in a position of primacy before other types of very real and tangible physical freedoms: the freedom to circulate unimpeded, the freedom to be treated as an equal citizen, the freedom to even access spaces of higher education, which must certainly be a prerequisite for the much-lauded academic freedom that is causing so much consternation.

Palestinian people living in lands occupied by Israel are barred from these things. There are precious few freedoms for Palestinians, academic or otherwise, in Israel and in occupied Palestine. In this sense, the boycott is, in fact, a response to an actual lack of academic freedom for an entire people, not the creation of a potential for loss of some higher-order freedom for relatively few individuals. Supporters of academic freedom must side with Palestinians or their position makes little sense and loses its meaning completely.

The boycott is one of many actions in defense of Palestinians who are denied the right to travel freely because of checkpoints and roadblock. Palestinian students and teachers risk harassment, arrest, detention, injury and even death just to get to their institutions to perform basic tasks like teaching, research, and learning. In fact, in the first half of 2013 alone, 13,064 students were affected by access denial, and UNICEF documented egregious incidents of Israeli settlers in the West Bank attacking Palestinian students. In the realm of higher education, Palestinian scholars are routinely denied the right to travel abroad to participate in conferences and symposia, let alone travel between Gaza and the West Bank.

Any consideration of “academic freedom” must acknowledge the ongoing history of Israeli raids, closures, and constant disruptions of Palestinian universities such as Birzeit and Al Quds, as well as the hundreds of students currently detained in Israeli prisons for political activity, or for reasons unknown based on “secret evidence.” Israel can detain Palestinians for up to six months without charge or trial, with no limits on renewal. Administrative detention, as it is called, is based on three laws: Military Order 1651 which empowers the army to issue orders to detain civilians in the West Bank; the Unlawful Combatants Law which applies to Gaza residents; and the Emergency Powers Detention Law used against Israeli citizens. These laws violate Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which prohibits arbitrary detention, requires that detainees be told why they are being held, and stipulates that every person has the right of habeas corpus.

Violations of Palestinian academic freedom in higher education are legion. In 2008, filmmaker and professor Nizar Hassan was suspended from his teaching position at Sapir College because he asked an Israeli student not to carry his firearms and wear his military uniform to class. The administration appointed a committee to investigate Hassan’s alleged anti-Israel teaching, but he argued before his interrogators that he had acted out of the very humanist values that undergird a liberal arts education. “They wanted to believe that I object to the army uniform because I am Palestinian,” he explained. “But I reject the uniform because it is opposed to my universal and human values. I acted as I did because I am a teacher and a human being.” However, the committee thoroughly rejected Hassan’s argument. An “Arab” humanist was simply inconceivable. The report concludes: “Nizar [sic] abused his status and his authority as a teacher to flaunt his opinions, feelings and frustrations as a member of the Arab national minority in Israel, cloaking himself in a ‘humane’ and ‘universal’ garb, whereas in fact he demonstrated a stance of brute force bearing a distinctly nationalist character.”1 The administration threatened dismissal if Hassan did not apologize to the student and submit a written statement promising to respect and honor the uniform of the Israeli Defense Forces. Hassan refused. The administration eventually backed down in the face of international pressure; Hassan returned to his post after a one-semester paid suspension.

Academic freedom includes the right to free speech and assembly. In November of 2012, during Israel’s bombing of Gaza [Operation Pillar of Defense], Palestinian students at Hebrew University were arrested for holding peaceful demonstration in front of the campus, and at Haifa University Palestinian students were banned from further protests after gathering to observe a minute of silence in solidarity with the people of Gaza. Following the ban, Zionist students and staff were allowed to assemble in support of the bombing and many chanted “Death to Arabs” and other virulently racist slogans.

One of the worst examples of state suppression of academic freedom is the notorious “Nakba Law,” passed in the Knesset in March 2011. The Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic) refers to the violent expulsion of some 750,000 Palestinians from 380 villages during the 1948 war, and the barring of the refugee population from the right to return or reclaim lost land, homes, personal property, bank accounts, etc. The law permits the minister of finance to reduce government funding to any institution (including schools and universities, civic organizations and local governments) that commemorates either independence day or the anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel as a day of mourning (‘Nakba Day’), or mentions the Nakba in school textbooks. Besides the Nakba Law, right-wing parties have passed laws that directly infringe on the freedom of speech and academic freedom of Arab and Jewish citizens, including the so-called ‘boycott law’, which allows citizens to file a civil suit against anyone in Israel who calls for a boycott against the state or Israeli settlers in the West Bank – whether or not any damages can be proved.

In other words, many of us support the boycott out of concern for academic freedom—though, as I pointed out above, this does not supersede the main objective: to end the occupation and extend civil and human rights to all. The university presidents who have come out so strongly against the resolution betray a pedestrian understanding of academic freedom, both here and inside Palestine/Israel. Indeed, I was a bit surprised that neither Michael Roth nor Larry Summers nor any of the American university presidents who are so concerned about academic freedom mentioned the important document issued five years ago by Israeli scholars Menachem Fisch, Raphael Falk, Eva Jablonka, and Snait Gissis of Tel-Aviv University. They called on the broader academic community—especially senior scholars—to protest government and university policies that deny academic freedom to Palestinian students and faculty in the Occupied Territories:

We, past and present members of academic staff of Israeli universities, express great concern regarding the ongoing deterioration of the system of higher education in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. We protest against the policy of our government which is causing restrictions of freedom of movement, study and instruction, and we call upon the government to allow students and lecturers free access to all the campuses in the Territories, and to allow lecturers and students who hold foreign passports to teach and study without being threatened with withdrawal of residence visas. To leave the situation as it is will cause serious harm to freedom of movement, study and instruction – harm to the foundation of academic freedom, to which we are committed.

Nor have the university presidents much to say in defense of Jewish Israeli scholars, whose criticisms of government policies have left them vulnerable to blatant violations of their academic freedom. In December of 2012, Rivka Feldhay, a professor at Tel Aviv University, was banned from participating in a scientific conference in Berlin because she signed a petition four years earlier supporting Israeli soldiers who refused to serve in the West Bank. The right-wing Zionist group, Im Tirtzu (Hebrew for “if you will it”) launched a virulent campaign against Tel Aviv University philosophy professor Anat Matar for her opposition to Israel’s administrative detention of Palestinian prisoners. Dr. Matar is also a member of “Who Profits?: Exposing the Israeli Occupation Industry,” whose son spent two years in prison for refusing to enlist in the military. Im Tirtzu mobilized dozens of students to file complaints against her to the university, but rather than defend her right to free speech and intellectual freedom, the university decided to investigate her.

Another Tel-Aviv professor, Yehuda Shenhav, experienced similar attacks for statements he made in his anthropology class. A particularly high profile case involved the Department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University, where what began as an Im Tirtzu-led campaign largely against Professor Neve Gordon turned into a state-sponsored witch hunt against the entire department. As early as 2008, Im Tirtzu accused some of the politics faculty of anti-Zionism. Then in August 2009, Professor Gordon published an op ed piece in the Los Angeles Times in support of the BDS movement in an effort to force Israel to move toward a two-state solution. Attacks on Professor Gordon coincided with a national review of all politics departments. After a couple of high profile resignations and administrative reshuffling, a reconstituted review committee issued a damning report on Ben Gurion’s politics department that pointed to “community activism” as a central problem. Although the university acceded to the committee’s recommendations, the government’s Council for Higher Education appointed another committee and concluded that the department had to be shut down altogether. Only international pressure, including a powerful op ed piece in the L.A. Times by my colleague David Myers, compelled Israel’s Minister of Education to withdraw the order for closure.

To put it bluntly, under the current regime academic freedom and civil liberties for all—Palestinians, Bedouins, and African immigrants more than others—are in jeopardy, and will remain in jeopardy so long as Israeli society is rooted in occupation, dispossession, militarization, racism and segregation. Some might argue that violations of Jewish Israeli academic freedom make the case against an academic boycott because, as Roth argues, there are Israeli scholars critical of the regime. Of course, the defense of a segment of academia at the expense of everyone else contradicts the principles of academic freedom. But equally damning is the evidence that Israeli universities have refused or are unable to protect their own faculty and students. The facts are unequivocal: in every case, it is the university administration that backs up state repression, that participates in denying the very intellectual freedoms Roth and his friends hold so sacrosanct. As the ASA resolution makes clear, Israeli institutions are complicit, and in defense of all of our colleagues they must be challenged.

Let me end with a very recent example of an assault on intellectual freedom from right here in the U.S. Just this fall, the artistic director of Washington D. C.’s Theater J and brilliant playwright Ari Roth, decided to produce Motti Lerner’s controversial play, “The Admission.” It tells the story of Teddy Katz, a graduate student whose master’s thesis uncovered an attack by an Israeli brigade on the village of Tantura during the 1948 war. Although Katz never called it a massacre, 240 unarmed Palestinians were killed and were never given the opportunity to surrender. The play explores not only the massacre at Tantura but the state’s attack on Katz and his defender and teacher, historian Ilan Pappe. Despite presenting solid scholarly evidence within the standards of academic history, Katz was forced to stand trial, his thesis withdrawn from the University of Haifa, and Pappe was eventually driven out of Israel. What is interesting is that a play about a gross violation of academic freedom suddenly became the object of a boycott by a group called Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art (COPMA). COPMA waged a vicious campaign against Ari Roth and Lerner; Jewish Federations of Washington even threatened to pull $250,000 in donations if the play were staged. Roth refused to back down, just as he had a few years earlier when he produced the controversial play “Return to Haifa.” But he was compelled to move the play from the main stage to a workshop.

Where were Michael S. Roth or Richard Slotkin or Larry Summers or any other gallant defenders of academic freedom when Ari Roth was battling boycotts and pickets? The truth of the matter is that Michael S. Roth and many of the most high profile, vocal critics of the ASA resolution are less interested in defending academic freedom than defending the occupation, the expansion of settlements, the continued dispossession of land, the blockade of Gaza, the system of separate roads, the building and maintenance of an apartheid wall – no matter what the cost. Nothing in Roth’s editorial or similar statements directly criticizes these policies or suggests a different strategy to compel Israel to abide by international law and to end human rights violations. I don’t expect to persuade Roth or other university presidents to support the boycott, but I do wish they would come clean and admit that unconditional support for Israeli apartheid and occupation is not about academic freedom or justice. I’m not holding my breath.

1 Quotes take from Jonathan Cook, “Academic Freedom? Not for Arabs in Israel,” The Electronic Intifada (March 4, 2008), http://electronicintifada.net/content/academic-freedom-not-arabs-israel/7398. For an excellent account and critical analysis of Hassan’s case, see Leora Bilsky, “Muslim Headscarves in France and Army Uniforms in Israel: A Comparative Study of Citizenship as Mask,” in Maleiah Malik, ed., Anti-Muslim Prejudice: Past and Present (Abingdon, UK and New York: Routledge, 2010), pp. 79-103.

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Theses on Zionism

by Joseph Massad – 9 December 2013, The Electronic Intifada

http://electronicintifada.net/content/theses-zionism/12982

In the spirit of Marx’s celebrated Theses on Feuerbach:

I.

European Christians oppress European Jews. They then demand that the Palestinians must allow European Jews to oppress them in turn and that the Palestinians must ignore if not celebrate their own oppression, while condemning European Christian oppression of European Jews.

II.

European Jewish Zionists also demand that Palestinians celebrate the oppression inflicted on them by European Jews (and non-European Jews mobilized by Zionism) and marvel as to why the Palestinians resist the understanding that European Jews have the exceptional right to oppress them because as Jews, they were oppressed by European Christians.

III.

European Jewish Zionists are horrified that anyone would suggest that they should celebrate the oppression inflicted on them by European Christians. They are equally horrified that anyone should suggest that the Palestinians should not celebrate the oppression inflicted on them by European (and non-European) Jews.

IV.

European and Euro-American Christian Zionists and European Jewish Zionists insist on the exceptionalism of Europeans. European Jewish Zionists recognize that European and Euro-American Christians should have the right to oppress anyone they choose except for Jews, while European and Euro-American Christian Zionists recognize that European (and other) Jews have the right to oppress only the Palestinians, and a motley array of other Arabs and Muslims.

V.

European and Euro-American Zionists, Christians and Jews alike, do not consider it controversial when modern Egyptians claim descent from the ancient Egyptians and the Pharaohs, nor do they consider it controversial when modern Iraqis claim descent from the Babylonians; or when the Lebanese claim descent from the Phoenicians, or when the Jordanians claim descent from the Nabateans. The only controversy is over the Palestinians’ claim that they are descendants of the ancient Hebrews.

At the same time, it remains utterly uncontroversial that modern European Jews, who are descendants of European converts to Judaism who were and are foreign to Palestine’s geography, claim instead that they, not the native Palestinians, are the real descendants of the ancient Hebrews.

VI.

When some Zionists admit their war crimes against the Palestinians, the expulsion, the massacres, the destruction of Palestinian cities and towns, the theft of land and property, they claim that they had little choice, as they were persecuted in Europe and needed a refuge, even if at the expense of the Palestinians. When Palestinians insist on resisting these Zionist crimes and claims, the same Zionists accuse the Palestinians of lack of sympathy with their oppressors and of anti-Semitism.

VII.

Zionism bases itself on three claims: (1) that the ancient Hebrews possessed ancient Palestine and nobody else lived there; (2) that modern descendants of European converts to Judaism are the direct descendants of the Hebrews; and (3) that, based on these two claims, modern European Jews have the right to take Palestine from the Palestinians.

While the first two claims lack any historical validity as attested to by mounds of historical evidence, even were we to assume that they were valid, they do not lead to the acceptance of the third proposition. Otherwise all European white Aryans would be claiming northern India as their home (as they claim to have originated there) and would seek to displace all Indians (dark Aryans) living there today and take their land away from them.

VIII.

Religious and secular Zionists use the Jewish scriptures to assert that God promised the ancient Hebrews the land of Palestine and that the Hebrews went there and killed the native Canaanites and took their country. They add that this gives modern European Jews the right to repeat that very same crime today by killing the native Palestinians and by taking away their country.

IX.

Israel claims to be of Asian Hebrew origins, yet it insists that it is part of Europe and the West.

X.

Zionism claims to be an answer to the loss of Jewish cultures (on account of Jewish assimilation in the diaspora) and to the threat of anti-Semitism, which threatens Jewish lives in the diaspora.

Yet it is Israel which has played the major role in destroying all diaspora Jewish languages (including Yiddish, Ladino and Arabic) and cultures and substituted for Jews instead an assimilated European gentile Hebrew-speaking culture. As for safeguarding Jewish lives, today and for the last six and a half decades, Israel, rather than being the safest place for Jews, has been the most dangerous place for them.

XI.

Anti-Zionists have interpreted the Zionist project; the point however is to undo it.

Resist Zionism: Boycott — Divestment — Sanctions!

Joseph Massad is Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University.

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Jewish student receives death threats over Palestine solidarity work

by Ryan Branagan – 4 November 2013, The Electronic Intifada

http://electronicintifada.net/content/jewish-student-receives-death-threats-over-palestine-solidarity-work/12890

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.

Inflammatory campaigns

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.

Fear-mongering

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 solution in Israel-Palestine, and his criticism of Israel’s apartheid policies.

Alam, an economics professor, has has also been subjected to a series of publications and 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.

Litany of violent threats

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 M.A. student in Middle Eastern history, and serves on the executive board of NU Students for Justice in Palestine.

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Petitioning President Kimberly Cline – Long Island University: Stop Stifling Academic Freedom

by Bronwyn Jones, Traverse City, MI

https://www.change.org/petitions/long-island-university-stop-stifling-academic-freedom?share_id=aoTeYRtYDd&utm_campaign=mailto_link&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition

Harriet Malinowitz

My colleague, Professor of English Harriet Malinowitz, has been denied a sabbatical at Long Island University-Brooklyn for her research on Zionism and Propaganda—and the university administration, overriding faculty recommendations, refuses to state a reason.

Sabbaticals are rarely denied, and colleagues in her own department with much sparser publication records have been granted sabbaticals (and even tenure), strongly suggesting that her proposal received discriminatory treatment. Their motives appeared even more suspect when, after the union took it on, they offered to give her the sabbatical after all—but only on the condition that she take early retirement immediately afterward and agree that the deal “not be used or introduced as evidence” in the future. She refused this offer.

This appears to be just the latest attack on academic freedom for scholars who challenge conventional wisdom and raise thorny questions about Israel and Palestine. It also seems to be the latest attempt by a struggling, tuition-driven private institution to put intellectual values on the back burner while it tries to build up its donor base.

Prof. Malinowitz’s sabbatical proposal was approved by her department personnel committee and co-chairs, but Dean David Cohen and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeffrey Kane violated the union’s Collective Bargaining Agreement by sending a negative recommendation to the Board of Trustees without giving Prof. Malinowitz a chance to respond. And despite repeated requests for clarification, and letters of protest at the lack of transparency and fairness from other faculty, VP Kane still won’t disclose the rationale for his decision.

We need to let LIU President Kimberly Cline and the rest of the LIU administration know that this raises serious questions about LIU’s academic freedom and integrity. And it’s not the first time these questions have arisen. The university is known for its corruption and mismanagement: it’s rife with upper-administration nepotism (according to a report based on tax filings, the Dean’s son, Brad Cohen, has earned a high-six-figure salary on the staff of the Provost, who is also his mother-in-law [http://www.compliancesolutionsnet.com/compliance-articles/105-newsday-reports-170-li-nonprofits-the-inside-story.html]), while students’ tuition was raised, services were cut, programs were reined in, and staff was fired in an effort to “restructure”; a fiscal farce was reported on in an Inside Higher Education article last year; LIU shamelessly plagiarized its new PR slogan from an old TWA ad campaign; on-campus violence was rationalized away when the perpetrators were basketball stars; and new low-income, underprepared students continue to be lured by false promises and a papered-over picture of LIU’s staggeringly low graduation rate (8% in four years) into dead ends and permanent debt. In the past, Harriet has spoken out on these issues as well, possibly adding retribution to the administration’s motives. As long as they reject transparency and refuse to give any reason at all for denying the sabbatical, one can only speculate about what those reasons are; assembling the known facts may best suggest that which otherwise remains shrouded in secrecy.

It’s time LIU, along with many other contemporary institutions, became accountable to genuine educational values rather than just the bottom line—just as it’s time for scholars who write critically of Zionism to stop having their work speciously attacked and suppressed, whatever donors, corporate Board members, and politically motivated “stakeholders” might think. There has been a litany of such cases; assaults on free inquiry and expression about Zionism have embattled writers from political scientist Norman Finkelstein, anthropologist Nadia Abu El-Haj, and Middle Eastern Studies professor Joseph Massad to President Jimmy Carter and (posthumously) the activist Rachel Corrie.

We ask LIU President Cline to use her power as President to reverse the sabbatical decision and grant Harriet Malinowitz the time to write that every serious scholar who devotes much of her time to teaching needs. Beyond that, we ask President Cline to make LIU fully transparent about the research it does, and doesn’t, support—which is especially crucial when its decisions fly in the face of faculty recommendations. LIU’s mission statement claims that “the Campus serves as a conservator of knowledge, a source and promulgator of new knowledge, and a resource for the community it serves.” If this claim is to be publicly recognized as legitimate, LIU needs to be accountable to the imperatives of academic freedom and open debate about all sorts of issues—whether they are popular, or palatable to the administration, or not. The suppression of controversial scholarship anywhere is a threat to free speech, the generation of knowledge, and open discussion everywhere.

To:
President Kimberly Cline, Long Island University

President Cline, don’t punish Dr. Harriet Malinowitz for writing about a controversial issue. Make LIU’s decision-making transparent, equitable, and accountable to the principles of academic freedom.

Sincerely,
[Your name]

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Arab-American Attorney Abdeen Jabara: I Was Spied on by the National Security Agency 40 Years Ago

17 October 2013, Democracy, Now

http://www.democracynow.org/2013/10/17/arab_american_attorney_abdeen_jabara_i

As more revelations come to light about the National Security Agency, we speak to civil-right attorney Abdeen Jabara, co-founder of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. He was involved in a groundbreaking court case in the 1970s that forced the NSA to acknowledge it had been spying on him since 1967. At the time of the spying, Jabara was a lawyer in Detroit representing Arab-American clients and people being targeted by the FBI. The disclosure was the first time the NSA admitted it had spied on an American. [Click on the above image for the full interview.]

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