Adonis Diaries

Archive for March 27th, 2016

 

Anti-Zionism does Not equal anti-Semitism: People in the Near East are catalogued Semitic too by the racist Western colonial powers

Someone please tell Hillary Clinton and the University of California

U.C. is at it again, with its deceptive attempt to thwart criticism of Israel.

. Tuesday, Mar 22, 2016

Last summer there was a flurry of activity in the University of California system as U.C. regents were pressured to suppress criticism of Israel on U.C. campuses.

One regent in favor of such silencing played a trump card: He threatened to bring his particularly well-connected partner in to add muscle.

The regent was wealthy developer Richard Blum, his wife is Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Here is what Blum said in September:

I should add that over the weekend my wife, your senior Senator, and I talked about this issue at length. She wants to stay out of the conversation publicly but if we do not do the right thing she will engage publicly and is prepared to be critical of this university if we don’t have the kind of not only statement but penalties for those who commit what you can call them crimes, call them whatever you want.

Students that do the things that have been cited here today probably ought to have a dismissal or a suspension from school. I don’t know how many of you feel strongly that way but my wife does and so do I.

So now a U.S. senator says she’ll use the power of her office to suspend undergraduates for speaking out against Israeli state policies?

Interesting read of her mandate.

Blum was particularly incensed because just a few months before, free speech and pro-Palestinian activists had won a victory.

As I wrote back then:

For a while it looked like on July 23 the regents of the University of California were going to adopt the U.S. State Department definition of anti-Semitism and in some fashion or another put policies into place that would have a severe impact on what can and cannot be said about Israel on each of the 10 U.C. campuses, which together enroll some 230,000 students.

Those students, along with 190,000 faculty and staff, would all be constrained under the regents’ interpretation of the definition.

The decision would in fact be continuing a process that began in 2012, when the California House passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism (HR35), and continued into this past spring, when the Senate passed a similar resolution (SCR35).

The stage was set, the momentum was there, activists and advocates on both sides were ready to march on the regents meeting in San Francisco and address the regents and U.C. president Janet Napolitano. (A former politician and a judge?

But just before the regents were to meet, it was announced that they had decided to drop the matter entirely and instead to have a discussion about “tolerance” in general at their meeting in the autumn.

Since the autumn there has been speculation as to what, exactly, the regents would vote on; how would “tolerance” be defined?

Well, now we know, and the document under discussion still shows the two main perspectives of the prior discussions. We see efforts to produce a broad and positive statement for tolerance, and also the fingerprints of those who wish to smuggle in a false and destructive equation of anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism, thereby making the University of California a place where any criticism of a certain state’s illegal policies is intolerable.

The manner in which this is done in the current draft is deceptive and underhanded.

In the main body of the text, the rightful condemnation of anti-Semitism is clear and unadorned: “In a community of learners, teachers, and knowledge-seekers, the University is best served when its leaders challenge speech and action reflecting bias, stereotypes, and/or intolerance.

Anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination have no place in the University. The Regents call on University leaders actively to challenge anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination when and wherever they emerge within the University community.”

Fair and good.

But in the introduction to the document we find the proposal for tolerance when it comes to anti-Semitism presented this way: “Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.”

This portion of the document, separated from the section where the proposals appear, is couched as a “contextual statement.” Thus a casual reader could endorse the proposal itself while being unaware that the entire framing of the discussion of anti-Semitism is being used as a cover for silencing voices protesting state policies that might include, among other things, the continued demolition of Palestinian homes and the building of illegal settlements, which have been publicly condemned by the U.S. State Department and which are part of a Zionist project.

What this means is that if the U.C. proposal passes, the U.S. State Department can protest illegal settlements and the Occupation as a whole, but students and teachers in the U.C. system cannot.

This sleight of hand has been called out by both activist groups and mainstream news sources such as the Los Angeles Times.

California Scholars for Academic Freedom (disclosure—I am a member) states: “For the record, we wish to underscore that criticisms of Zionism are co-extensive with the history of Zionism and have from the start included Jewish voices from a variety of political and religious orientations. The inclusion of such a broad category as either intolerant or bigoted represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the political viewpoints critical of Zionism.

Many political positions, including those that favor Palestinian rights, statehood, and political self-determination, can be considered anti-Zionist although they comply with internationally accepted norms of human rights and principles of democratic self-governance.”

The Los Angeles Times editorial notes that the document

conflates anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism and says both are forms of discrimination that “have no place at the University of California.” It’s difficult to read that as anything other than a warning to those students or faculty members who have fundamental disagreements with the state of Israel. ..

The equation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism might also make it easier to stigmatize protests against Israeli policies — particularly the treatment of Palestinians — even if they don’t actually oppose the idea of a Jewish state.

Pro-Palestinian activists on campus are right to fear that such a statement would target their advocacy even when it doesn’t involve anti-Semitic language or harassing behavior.

This issue is not a matter of splitting hairs; it goes to the heart of issues of free speech, and the exercise of power to suppress certain types of political expression while letting others flow freely.

What is most telling about this latest episode is the tactic being employed. Faced with substantial public pressure from grass-roots activists, the regents’ working group chose this back-door route to insert its insidious equation. Now it has been called out, and we should be watching carefully which way the regents will move.

What is happening in California might well serve as an index to how these issues will play out on the national scene.

The position of at least one of the two front-runners in the presidential elections is crystal clear. Hillary Clinton has consistently been one of Israel’s staunchest supporters.

What is most troubling, however, is the fact that she has come out vocally as someone who will, in her own words, make “countering BDS a priority.”

In a letter to potential donors she uses exactly the same equation of anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism that we find in the U.C. document:

I am writing to express my alarm over the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction [sic] movement, or “BDS,” a global effort to isolate the State of Israel by ending commercial and academic exchanges.  I know you agree that we need to make countering BDS a priority.

I am seeking your advice on how we can work together—across party lines and with a diverse array of voices—to reverse this trend with information and advocacy, and fight back against further attempts to isolate and delegitimize Israel….

I am also very concerned by attempts to compare Israel to South African apartheid.

Israel is a vibrant democracy in a region dominated by autocracy, and it faces existential threats to its survival.  Particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world—especially in Europe—we need to repudiate forceful efforts to malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.

And on Monday, in her appearance before AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), Clinton doubled down on her support of Israel.  As CommonDreams reports:
During the address, Clinton vowed to take the U.S.-Israel relationship to “the next level”—a level which seemingly includes more war and imperialism, few, if any, rights for Palestinians, and definitely no economic boycotts of Israel….
Later, Clinton doubled down on her previous pledge to dismantle the growing international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, linking the campaign against Palestinian apartheid to anti-Semitism, saying “we must repudiate all efforts to malign, isolate and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.”
In a statement to Common Dreams, Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, said that the speech “is a reminder of the current limits of the mainstream discourse on Israel, which rely on racist and Islamophobic tropes to justify unquestioning support for Israel.”

“From Democrats to Republicans, the message is the same,” Vilkomerson continued. “More arms for Israel, a stronger relationship between Israel and the U.S., no mention of Palestinian rights, and no recognition of the impossible contradiction of being both democratic and Jewish when the state is predicated on maintaining systems of unequal rights and rule by military occupation.”

This is deeply troubling, especially as the Palestinian cause has now been established as one of the most pressing human rights issues of our age.  Education on this issue therefore needs to be rigorous, debated, argued, in order for us to make informed decisions and take meaningful action.

The suppression of ideas is anathema to the university, but this is exactly what is being suggested by reputed leaders in education and politics, all under this deceitful equation.

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Stating the obvious, but oh so cleverly

Malcolm Gladwell is a cerebral and jaunty writer, with an unusual gift for making the complex seem simple and for seeking common-sense explanations for many of the apparent mysteries, coincidences and problems of the everyday.

He is also an intellectual opportunist, always on the look-out for a smart phrase or new fad with which to define and explain different social phenomena.

In his first book, The Tipping Point, he studied events such as crime waves and fashion trends and settled on an arresting metaphor to explain why they happen. ‘Ideas and products and messages and behaviours spread just like viruses,‘ he wrote, suggesting that we contaminate and infect one another with preferences and recommendations, until we reach a ‘tipping point’, after which a social epidemic becomes contagious and crosses a threshold to reach saturation point.

The tipping point: who does not now use this phrase to describe a moment of definitive transition? (‘Tipping point’ seems to have become this generation’s ‘paradigm shift’, a phrase popularised by Thomas Kuhn in his 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

The success of the book, which began as an article in the New Yorker, the magazine for which he works as a staff writer, propelled Gladwell into the realm of super-consultancy. He has since become a lauded pontificant and ideas progenitor on the international lecture circuit.

He is the go-to man for a corporate business elite seeking to understand the way we live, think and consume today.

It helps that with his wild, unruly curls and wide-eyed gaze, Gladwell has the look of an übergeek.

He seems to have absorbed one important lesson of the consumerist culture he deconstructs – that the image you project is paramount; in effect, he has made himself, superficially at least, into a brand.

If you didn’t know he was a writer and journalist, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that he was a leading operator at Microsoft or Google. As it is, he’s a kind of literary Bill Gates, a guy so far ahead of the rest of the pack that you never quite know what he will do next.

What is an outlier?

The word may not be a neologism but I have never heard anyone use it in conversation. According to one dictionary definition, an outlier is ‘something that is situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body’.

But Gladwell uses the word with more metaphorical flexibility. For him, an outlier is a truly exceptional individual who, in his or her field of expertise, is so superior that he defines his own category of success. Bill Gates is an outlier and so are Steve Jobs of Apple, Robert Oppenheimer and many others Gladwell speaks to or writes about as he seeks to offer a more complete understanding of success.

The trouble with the book is that Gladwell is ultimately engaged in a long argument with nobody but himself. Throughout, he defines his position against a floating, ubiquitous, omnipotent ‘we’; a Greek chorus of predictable opposition and received opinion. ‘There is something profoundly wrong with the way we look at success,’ he writes.

‘We cling to the idea that success is a simple function of individual merit and that the world in which we grow up and the rules we choose to write as a society don’t matter at all.’ And so he goes on.

These assumptions can be irritating, since who is this naive, unquestioning, plural intelligence identified as ‘we’?

Do we in wider society really believe that outstanding success, in whichever field, is achieved without extraordinary dedication, talent and fortuitous circumstance, as Gladwell would have it?

Do we really take no account of the sociopolitical context into which someone was born and through which they emerged when we attempt to quantify outlandish achievement?

Do we really believe that genius is simply born rather than formed? Gladwell wants his readers to take away from this book ‘the idea that the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are’.

But I don’t know anyone who would dispute this.

The world for Gladwell is a text that he reads as closely as he can in seeking to decode and interpret it. He is adept at identifying underlying trends from which he extrapolates to form hypotheses, presenting them as if they were general laws of social behaviour.

But his work has little philosophical rigour. He’s not an epistemologist; his interest is in what we think, rather than in the how and why of knowledge itself.

There is also a certain one-dimensional Americanness at work: many of his examples and case studies are American and he spends rather too much time in New York, at one point even riffing at length about the founder of the literary agency that represents him.

The book would have been more interesting if he’d roamed wider and travelled more, if it had been more internationalist in ambition and outlook.

However, it’s still fun to follow Gladwell on his meandering intellectual journeys, even if the conclusions he arrives at here are so obviously self-evident as to be banal. Even when he is not at his best he is worth taking seriously.

He has a lucid, aphoristic style. His case studies are well chosen, such as when he writes about the birth dates of elite ice hockey players and discovers a pattern: most are born in the first three months of the year.

His range is wide, and he writes as well in Outliers about sport as he does about corporate law firms in New York or aviation. Little is beneath his notice.

One last thing, as Gladwell might say. There’s perhaps another way of reading Outliers and that’s as a quest for self-understanding, since the author himself is obviously an outlier. In seeking to find out more about how other people like him came to be who they are and to occupy the exalted positions they do, he’s also indirectly seeking to learn more about himself, about how he came to be who he is: the smartest guy at the New Yorker, with the big ideas and the lucrative book deals.

Jason Cowley is editor of the New Statesman. His book The Last Game: Love, Death and Football will be published in April 2009.

Note: I have reviewed extensively most of Gladwell books, (to my knowledge) and I enjoyed the read and the ideas.

The Rise of 1,000 Small Jails

The rate of incarceration of People of color behind bars in small counties increased 10 fold growth when the resident people of color population had only doubled.

A few jails are notorious.

Think New York City’s Rikers Island or the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail.

News stories about overcrowding, violence, and deplorable conditions fuel ongoing public debate about the nation’s two largest jail systems and capture the public’s imagination about just what jail looks like.

But it turns out urban jails are in decline—there is even a movement to “close the jail” in New York City; Los Angeles is already tearing down its largest jail and building a smaller one—and it is rural America that represents the true picture of U.S. jails today.

That’s because growth in the jail population is not driven by the largest counties; it has taken root in a thousand very small ones across the United States.

By Jacob Kang-Brown. Mar 24, 2016

It wasn’t always like this. The nation’s very small counties once had less than half as many people in jail as New York City and Los Angeles combined.

Now, it is the very small counties that have double the combined jail population of the two cities. Original analysis of the Vera Institute’s online jail population tool show that jails have grown the most in small counties, not large ones.

In the last decade, the outsized jail growth in very small counties has only continued, but jail populations in larger counties have actually begun to decline.

To illustrate this, I conducted additional analysis to compare two groups of counties—each with a population of 18.6 million.

The first group: Los Angeles County and New York City, which have a combined resident population of 18.6 million in 2014, and are also the largest—and perhaps most notorious—jail jurisdictions in the United States.

The second group: 1,003 very small counties, each with between 10,000 and 30,000 residents in 2014, and also with a combined resident population total of 18.6 million (around one-third of all U.S. counties fall into the 10,000 – 30,000 category).

Each group holds 6% of the total U.S. population, and has grown at nearly the same rate since 1970.

There are differences between the two groups. The growth of mass incarceration in local jails is one key difference.

From the 1970s to the present, NYC and LA’s combined jail population grew 30 percent, from 23,000 to 30,000 people on any given day.

This outpaced the cities’ resident population growth of 25 percent. In contrast, in the very small counties, jail populations started out much smaller.

For example, Gonzales County, Texas—with 20,000 residents between San Antonio and Houston—had 2 people in jail in 1970. But very small counties grew far more. The jail populations in these very small counties grew six-fold from the 1970s to the present—from 9,000 to 62,000—and now hold double the amount of people behind bars as NYC and LA.

Gonzales County had 87 people in jail in 2013, for a jail incarceration rate twice the national average. Or Marion County, Tennessee— with 28,000 residents outside of Chattanooga—had only 8 people in jail in 1970, and now has 131 in 2013.

Another meaningful difference is in diversity: the combined population of New York City and Los Angeles is about 70 percent people of color, and the very small counties are about 80 percent non-Hispanic whites.

To understand the full impact of mass incarceration at the local level, it’s important to understand how it affects people of color.

Compared to very small counties, far more people of color live in NYC and LA County. One might expect NYC and LA to have more people of color in jail. But they don’t—very small counties have more people of color behind bars on a given day than NYC and LA.  

While data limits mean we can only compare back to 1990, the changes since then are dramatic. In 1990, 33,000 people of color were behind bars in NYC and LA, but only 9,000 were behind bars in the local jails of very small counties.

Twenty-four years later, in 2014, very small counties had tripled to 27,000 and NYC and LA had dropped to 25,000.

In some very small counties, the change is dramatic: Custer County, Oklahoma held 11 people of color behind bars in 1990 and 114 in 2013—10 fold growth when the resident people of color population had only doubled.

When thinking in terms of populations, might the increasing numbers of people behind bars in small counties be caused by rapidly shifting demographics, particularly in diversifying suburban areas?

Though the number of people of color in very small counties has grown, this relatively moderate population growth does not explain the huge increase in jail incarceration.

When looking at the changes in terms of rate of jail incarceration, the racial disparities in the very small counties become even more visible. (Looking at rate controls for changes in the population, by taking the number of people of color who are jailed per 100,000 people of color aged 15-64.)

In very small counties, nearly 1,100 out of 100,000 people of color aged 15-64 are behind bars in a local jail on a given day. For NYC and LA, that rate is significantly lower, at just 280.

For a national perspective, the jail incarceration rate of people of color is 502 out of 100,000 aged 15-64, which is less than half the rate in very small counties, and significantly higher than the total national jail incarceration rate of 341.

This disproportionate growth is further evidence that the era of mass incarceration hasn’t delivered on public safety. It has, however,  taken a fiscal toll as well as damaged individuals, families, and whole communities.

Jails are under the jurisdiction of local stakeholders, and their day-to-day size and operations are not significantly affected by federal or state legislative proposals to reduce prison populations.

As we know from looking deeper into the national data, the use of jail incarceration is embedded in the culture and practice of communities nationwide, large and small.

Growing evidence suggests that reform efforts to downsize local jails are catching on in many large jurisdictions. Ways to shrink jail populations safely include alternatives to arrest, expanded pretrial release options, alternative sentencing options, improved drug treatment, and mental health resources.

However, in many small communities, there’s little awareness of a jail overuse problem that would spur the adoption of such tools. For national criminal justice reform efforts to be successful, every county will need to understand not only their jail size in relation to historical trends or similar counties, but also the racial disparities it may contain.

With more information about jail trends nationwide—and who they are affecting—small counties can begin the critical conversation about what kind of change is needed in their own backyard.

This article is part of our Next America: Criminal Justice project, which is supported by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

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