Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘David Palumbo-Liu

 

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.

About time for Palestinian liberation: Statement by over 1,000 Black activists

The actual distance between Ferguson, Missouri, and Gaza is about 6,000 miles. But last summer, the repressive and deadly violence visited upon blacks and Palestinians, respectively, made that distance seem to disappear.

Immediately, lines of solidarity began to emerge between those groups, and in August a set of activists and organizations in Palestine issued this statement:

We the undersigned Palestinian individuals and groups express our solidarity with the family of Michael Brown, a young unarmed black man gunned down by police on August 9th in Ferguson, Missouri. We wish to express our support and solidarity with the people of Ferguson who have taken their struggle to the street, facing a militarized police occupation.

From all factions and sectors of our dislocated society, we send you our commitment to stand with you in your hour of pain and time of struggle against the oppression that continues to target our black brothers and sisters in nearly every aspect of their lives.

We understand your moral outrage. We empathize with your hurt and anger. We understand the impulse to rebel against the infrastructure of a racist capitalist system that systematically pushes you to the margins of humanity.

And we stand with you.

At the same time, I wrote an article in Salon that spelled out the similarities between the forms of oppression both groups live under, including dispossession from lands and homes; de facto forms of inequality; state violence; the constant interruption of daily life; and the ways the perpetrators of such violence are often immune from prosecution.

Nevertheless, such comparisons were criticized by some here in the U.S., and acts of solidarity were sometimes regarded with suspicion:

In what ways might solidarity with Palestinians be harmful to black political projects here?

Individual activists such as Angela Davis and Cornel West addressed that issue and spoke out on the need for black solidarity with the Palestinians.

As West put it:

In terms of the various kinds of Zionist critiques, we make it clear that this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with anti-Jewish hatred or anti-Jewish prejudice.

This has to do with a moral and spiritual and political critique of occupation.

Secondly, there is no doubt that Gaza is not just a “kind of” concentration camp, it is the hood on steroids. Now in the black community, located within the American empire, you do have forms of domination and subordination, forms of police surveillance and so forth, so that we are not making claims of identity, we are making claims of forms of domination that must be connected.

There is no doubt that for the Ferguson moment in America and the anti-occupation moment in the Israel-Palestinian struggle there is a very important connection to make and I think we should continue to make it.

But until today there has not been a mass statement of support from black activists and groups to echo the one issued by Palestinians last year.

Now, in a historical event, well over 1,000 black activists, artists, scholars, students and organizations have released a comprehensive, carefully crafted and passionately intoned statement reaffirming their “solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people,” and supporting “freedom and equality for Palestinian people.”

In this sweeping and momentous document, the signatories make a point of drawing out the historical connections between the issues of black and Palestinian freedom and rights, and the urgency of their present-day struggles, calling the fight for Palestinian liberation “a key matter of our time”:

On the anniversary of last summer’s Gaza massacre, in the 48th year of Israeli occupation, the 67th year of Palestinians’ ongoing Nakba (the Arabic word for Israel’s ethnic cleansing)—and in the fourth century of Black oppression in the present-day United States—we, the undersigned Black activists, artists, scholars, writers, and political prisoners offer this letter of reaffirmed solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people.

The list of signatories includes scholar-activists Angela Davis and Cornel West, political prisoners Mumia Abu-Jamal and Sundiata Acoli, rappers Talib Kweli, Boots Riley and Jasiri X, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. Organizational signers include the Florida-based Dream Defenders and St. Louis-based Hands Up United and Tribe X, which were founded after the killings of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown, respectively, as well as the 35-year-old Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis.

The statement calls on the U.S. government to end diplomatic and economic aid to Israel, for black and U.S. institutions to support the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with its obligations under international law, and for supporters of black and Palestinian liberation to target the private security company G4S for boycotts and divestment, as well as other companies doing business in the occupied territories.

Besides endorsing both academic and cultural boycotts (which in the U.S. is facilitated by the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel), as well as divestment and sanctions, the statement makes emphatically clear the signatories’ commitment to the three goals of BDS and especially addresses the issue of Palestinian refugees:

Our support extends to those living under occupation and siege, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the 7 million Palestinian refugees exiled in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. The refugees’ right to return to their homeland in present-day Israel is the most important aspect of justice for Palestinians.

Andrew Bossone shared the link

“In terms of the various kinds of Zionist critiques, we make it clear that this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with anti-Jewish hatred or anti-Jewish prejudice.

This has to do with a moral and spiritual and political critique of occupation. Secondly, there is no doubt that Gaza is not just a “kind of” concentration camp, it is the hood on steroids.

Now in the black community, located within the American empire, you do have forms of domination and subordination, forms of police surveillance and so forth, so that we are not making claims of identity, we are making claims of forms of domination that must be connected….

There is no doubt that for the Ferguson moment in America and the anti-occupation moment in the Israel-Palestinian struggle there is a very important connection to make and I think we should continue to make it.”

More than 1,000 black activists released a statement reaffirming their “solidarity with the Palestinian struggle”
salon.com|By David Palumbo-Liu

 

“Anti-Semitic” term to be defined by State Department? Are Middle East people included as Semitic people to be saved from Western persecution ?

Does Signing on to the State Department’s definition deny academic freedom and free speech?

Recently a battle has begun over the way the U.S. State Department defines the term “anti-Semitic.”

As the Los Angeles Times notes, the current State Department version,

“defines more general ethnic and religious hatred against Jews but also declares that it is anti-Semitic to demonize Israel, deny Israel’s right to exist, liken Israeli policy to that of the Nazis and blame Israel for all inter-religious tensions.”  (Israel apartheid policies are more astute and framed in fraudulent legal forms than any racist State dared to go)

The Times goes on to note that

57 rabbis from California and 104 University of California faculty members called on UC administrators to adopt that State Department definition when dealing with protests and potential discipline for anti-Semitic statements.

They said they did not aim to silence free speech, but they contend that too often protests against Israel have turned into inciting anti-Jewish attitudes.

In a letter to UC President Janet Napolitano and the UC regents, the rabbis urged that campus leaders “be trained in using the State Department definition to identify anti-Semitic behavior and to address it with the same promptness and vigor as they do other forms of racial, ethnic and gender bigotry and discrimination.”

Is being a critic of Israeli state policies the same as being an anti-Semite?

 posted this May, 20, 2015

Careful readers will note the extreme slipperiness of the assertion that the petitioners do not “aim to silence free speech, but …”  They seem to address the issue of how this definition of anti-Semitism might be used to suppress free speech, but then they plow ahead undeterred, as if the denial of academic freedom and free speech was an unfortunate but inevitable price to pay.

Before we sign on to this bargain, it’s necessary to get back to the basic issue:

Is being a critic of Israeli state policies actually the same as being an anti-Semite?

 If every time one voices a criticism of Israel one is acting as an anti-Semite, and if making an anti-Semitic statement is prohibited by the State Department, then ardent supporters of Israeli state policies have won a huge victory:  they have essentially made Israel immune from criticism.

 And made anyone even thinking about raising a serious concern about Israel think twice about just how (or even if) to voice that point of view.

 But that victory is based on false reasoning, if not a lie.

Being an anti-Semite means denigrating, persecuting and victimizing a people solely because of the fact they are Jewish.

Being a critic of Israel’s policies means criticizing a set of actions undertaken by a government. This seems self-evident,.

But those who wish to make the equation between anti-Semite and critic of Israeli state policies care less for accuracy and more about silencing and punishing critics with any means available, legitimate or not.

We all should seriously think about why we are, and should be, especially firm in our condemnation of anti-Semitism.

At the same time we should, out of respect for the term itself, not abuse its meaning and significance for political or ideological gain.

We condemn anti-Semitism not only because bigotry is wrong; we condemn it because of the terrible effects anti-Semitism  (and all ethnic cleansing arguments) has had historically, and continues to have today.

However, some Israel advocacy groups are making it more difficult to combat actual instances of anti-Semitism by using the label in a broad and reckless fashion simply to smear critics of Israeli state policies.

They also make it impossible to defend the human rights of Palestinians, which is what many of them aim to do.

We are de facto put in the position of acquiescing to the status quo;

we are de facto made into tacit supporters of Israel, out of fear of being tarred with the anti-Semite brush.

In sum, for those who are critical of, or at least dubious about, Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians and others, we are forced to be silent, we are forced to go against our better selves, out of fear of being called a horrible thing, something we detest.

(Policies of silencing freedom of expressions by means of fear from laws is the tactics used by dictators and oligarchic government)

Another way of putting this: We are forced to be dishonest, we become hypocrites by omission.

Now our own inner silencing mechanisms are being aided and abetted by the state, and by certain pro-Israel organizations.

Legislation in several states and at the national level has accepted and exploited the equation of criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism, targeting in particular the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Such bills use precisely the same tactics and even words of Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a 2014 speech before AIPAC, Netanyahu criticized BDS no fewer than 18 times:  “Attempts to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, the most threatened democracy on Earth, are simply the latest chapter in the long and dark history of anti-Semitism.  Those who wear the BDS label should be treated exactly as we treat any anti-Semite or bigot. They should be exposed and condemned.”


adonis49

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