Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Palestinian human rights

Cornel West says Harvard donors establish ‘taboo’ on criticism of Israel (and NYT buries that angle)


You have surely heard the news from late February that Cornel West was denied tenure at Harvard and has attributed the rejection to his support for Palestinian freedom.

West, 67, a philosophy professor in the Divinity School who has gotten wide faculty and graduate-student support, made the allegation to scholar Tricia Rose on the Tight Rope podcast two weeks ago.

He said that “donors” and “elite” administrators at the school were his enemies for a number of reasons but especially on Palestine.

West also attributed the denial to Jews “in high places” but qualified that charge to say that anti-Palestinian prejudice is widespread in the elite regardless of ethnicity.


The New York Times has now covered the West story and left the Palestinian angle to the last couple of paragraphs, making the controversy entirely about the representation of black scholars at Harvard and other universities.

That was a real issue in West’s discussion–“massive forms of disrespecting black folks.” But it was not the crux of the matter; and in suppressing West’s critique the Times is merely reflecting the elite taboo West targets.

Middle East Eye also has the story but not in full.

Here’s what West said to Tricia Rose re Palestine on February 23.

West said generally that donors and elites set the ideological limits at Harvard and other “neoliberal” institutions, because the schools are “so tied to image and cash flow and consumer reputation.” Harvard states, “We believe in a robust conversation.” But not all the time, West said.

You got a consensus, you got an orthodoxy, you got a certain kind of dogmatism… on certain issues, and it is also I think possibly tied to the donors.”

When West was denied tenure, he looked over his political record and concluded that it was not his support of Bernie Sanders that got him in bad odor.

But considering two cases of scholars who he believes were denied tenure for their criticism of U.S. imperial policies led West to decide it was his criticism of the Israeli occupation.

Hmmm— I wonder whether it’s outspokenness for my precious Palestinian brothers and sisters under Israeli occupation. And I’ve said over and over again, if there is a Palestinian occupation of precious Jews I’m with the oppressed group and in that case my precious Jewish brothers– and the Israeli occupation of Palestinians I’m with my precious Palestinians because it’s a moral and spiritual issue.

But the problem is that it is a taboo issue among certain circles in high places. It’s hard to have a robust respectful conversation about Israel, the Israeli occupation, because you’re immediately viewed as an anti-Jewish hater, or you got anti-Jewish prejudices or you’re antisemitic, or what have you.

I said, That’s ridiculous. Yes, we’ve got to fight any hatred against our Jewish brothers, I say, yes we got to fight any attempt to degrade Jewish brothers and sisters, but Palestinians have exactly the same value as Jews.

People say, Well now you’re not just making it political but somehow you are trying to charge these Jewish elites with you not getting tenure. I said, Well, it’s true in this particular instance that you do have Jewish administrators. But that doesn’t mean that somehow– Every Jew doesn’t agree with them! You got a whole wave of Jewish comrades and Jewish brothers and sisters who are very critical of Israeli occupation, but not in high places!

Not in high places. Now again, this was my hypothesis. Because given the possibilities of why they would not even be interested in initiating a tenure process, What else could it be?

West returned to the question of money and image later in the discussion and said it’s not just Jews in those high places.

The handbook says these are the procedures and rules, but everyone knows that on the ground a whole host of things is taking place. And when you talk about Israeli occupation you’re not just talking about Jewish donors, at all.

We’re not talking first and foremost about Jewish money. You’re talking about the money elite, who are Jewish, non-Jewish, black, white, red, whatever, who do have a certain kind of tilt on that issue. And it’s an issue that cuts across a whole host of different groups in that regard…

The university is most afraid of their money, they’re most afraid about their image and reputation, and they’re most afraid of a legal lawsuit.

The New York Times covered West’s battle with Harvard on March 2. It interviewed West and left the Israel angle to the very end of a long article. It noted that when West left Harvard in 2002 for Princeton, he called Harvard President Larry Summers “a bully and ‘the Ariel Sharon of American higher education,’ a characterization criticized as having anti-Semitic overtones.”

Then having tarred West, the Times barely mentions the Palestinian angle.

He said he is mystified as to why he would not be given a tenure review, but offered some possibilities: a reluctance to grant a coveted position to someone of advancing age, whose best work might be assumed to be behind him, and concerns that his support for the Palestinian cause might offend the prevailing orthodoxy and donors.

“More than anything else, there’s a certain disrespect for Black scholars and taboo issues that don’t allow us to have a robust and respectful dialogue,” he said. “And both of those are very much tied to the way in which the university’s become commodified. It’s a money-driven institution, and it’s sad.”

The taboo subject here is obviously Jewish donors of my generation and older (post 60) who are conservative on Israel. West hedges the charge, saying it’s all administrators regardless of race. I don’t agree.

The issue here is Jewish donors who love Israel. I addressed this in an article about Jewish donors to Harvard in 2008. I quoted an anonymous friend: “What are the names on the buildings? Taubman, Rubenstein, Belfer, Weiner. Where do you think the money is coming from in academia?”

When Larry Summers was forced out of the Harvard presidency in 2007, Marty Peretz attributed it to anti-Israel bias, and threatened a donor rebellion at Harvard.

“I know of at least three gifts in the $100 million range that were very likely to materialize and now are dicey.” A donor rebellion was also threatened when Harvard Kennedy School dean Stephen Walt published his landmark paper on the power of the Israel lobby with Chicago colleague John Mearsheimer.

The Times itself acknowledged Jewish donors as the “elephant in the room” in a related area of giving, the Democratic Party, in Nathan Thrall’s landmark article on why Palestine continues to be a marginalized issue among Democrats.

In part, some Hill staff members and former White House officials say, this is because of the influence of mega-donors: Of the dozens of personal checks greater than $500,000 made out to the largest PAC for Democrats in 2018, the Senate Majority PAC, around three-fourths were written by Jewish donors.

This provides fodder for anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and for some, it is the elephant in the room. Though the number of Jewish donors known to prioritize pro-Israel policies above all other issues is small, there are few if any pushing in the opposite direction…

Yes I am conflating Harvard donors and Democratic Party donors. Obviously it’s not the same pool. But they’re not unrelated. JJ Goldberg of the Forward and Stephanie Schriock of Emily’s List described the power of Jewish donors as “gigantic” and “shocking” in a 2016 J Street forum. 

Goldberg said,

You ask a Democratic fundraiser, where do you get the money from? “Well from trial lawyers, from toys, from generic drugs, from Hollywood. From Jews.” Those are all essentially Jewish industries

When you are raising  money, you need to find rich people who are not right wing, and there are not– pardon me for saying this, there are not many rich goyim who are not right wing. Forgive me for saying that.

West is surely right when he says that a new generation of Jews doesn’t buy into the Israel mythology. We champion such Jewish views at our site. But conservative views on Israel are the dead hand of the past when it comes to philanthropy, and still very influential.

Finally, it is interesting to consider that whatever Cornel West’s transgressions at Harvard, he’s not even talking about BDS, the nonviolent campaign for Palestinian human rights. Just the occupation!

Thanks to Linda G. Ford.

Israel Self-defense excuses are paralyzing the livelihood and security of Palestinians

Maureen Clare Murphy Rights and Accountability 8 January 2021

The Israeli military cleared itself of wrongdoing in the shooting and grave injury of a Palestinian man in the southern West Bank last week, claiming soldiers acted in self-defense.

The “perfunctory investigation” that closed less than a week later exemplifies the culture of impunity long decried by human rights organizations seeking war crimes investigations at the International Criminal Court.

The military claimed that the man who was shot, Harun Abu Aram, was “hit by a stray bullet fired when a Palestinian tried to seize a commander’s weapon,” as the Tel Aviv daily Haaretz reported.

Abu Aram, 24, is paralyzed from the neck down as a result of his injury.

He was shot while he and others were trying to take back a generator that soldiers had confiscated from a family living in an area declared a military firing zone by Israel.

Palestinians residing in that area, a collection of rural hamlets known as Masafer Yatta, are forbidden from building or improving their dwellings.

The incident in Masafer Yatta was recorded on video:


The Israeli military described unarmed Palestinians defending the Masafer Yatta residence raided by heavily armed soldiers as “a violent riot … where [Israeli] forces were attacked.”

The language used to justify Abu Aram’s shooting at close range echoes that used by Israel regarding the use of live fire against protesters in Gaza.

More than 200 Palestinians were killed during regular mass protests dubbed the Great March of Return beginning in March 2018 until their suspension at the end of 2019.

Thousands more were injured by Israeli sniper fire, many of them permanently. The snipers got later orders to refrain from killing and instead to target legs in order that the Palestinians refrain from joining the marches. Many children and youths were on purpose targeted.

Only one soldier has been indicted over the use of lethal force against protesters.

The military repeatedly referred to Palestinian protesters as “rioters” in its argument to the Israeli high court regarding its “rules of engagement.”

Such language is intended to obscure the fact that Palestinians had mobilized to call for specific demands.

In the case of the Great March of Return, Palestinians were demanding to exercise their right to return to the lands from which their families were expelled in 1948. (Mind you that 80% of Palestinians in Gaza are transferred Palestinians from the West Bank).

Context of oppression

The “law and order” language (the language used by Nixon and the dictators) is used to obscure decades of injustice in the West Bank as well.

The Israeli military refers to Abu Aram as a “rioter” to avoid addressing the context in which the young man was permanently injured.

Abu Aram and the other “rioters” with him belong to a community that has been subjected to forcible transfer, multiple home demolitions and continuous harassment by soldiers and settlers. (I have already posted an article on the harassment that Palestinians in Yatta are subjected to)

This broader context of oppression is not helpful to Israel’s reputation.

And so Israel says that Abu Aram and those with him “sought to obstruct [Israeli military] enforcement activity” – never mind that this “enforcement activity” is part of a coercive environment created by Israel to push Palestinians off of their land.

As the United Nations has made clear, “individual or mass forcible transfer or deportation” of the population of an occupied territory, like the West Bank, is a grave breach of the Geneva Convention “and is also considered a war crime.”

The imposition of a coercive environment, like that endured by Palestinians in Masafer Yatta, is a form of forcible transfer.

While Israel may use the language of “law and order,” characterizing its military’s behavior as “enforcement activity,” occupation forces are, in fact, carrying out violations of international law.

System of oppression

Whether it’s forcible transfer or the use of lethal force against Gaza protesters, Israel’s high court rubber-stamps these policies intended to pacify all Palestinian resistance to the occupation.

In Masafer Yatta, that resistance was about retaining an electricity generator used by a family who are not allowed the basic infrastructure provided to Israelis living in nearby settlements built in violation of international law.

It is not surprising that Israel’s system of oppression and injustice would clear itself of wrongdoing in the shooting of Abu Aram.

As human rights groups stated this week, Israelis responsible for war crimes against Palestinians “have not been subject to any independent legal investigation in Israel.”

The Israeli military’s self-investigation system “is empirically and conclusively evidenced to be unwilling or unable to genuinely carry out investigations and prosecutions,” the Palestinian groups added.

The four groups – Al-Haq, Al Mezan, Al-Dameer and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights – noted Israeli courts’ complicity in the legitimization of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“It is beyond time for a formal investigation” by the International Criminal Court, the groups said.

In late 2019, the court’s chief prosecutor concluded a five-year preliminary examination, stating that requirements to launch a full investigation into suspected war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza had been met.

More than a year later, an investigation has yet to be opened.

The absence of accountability, the Palestinian human rights groups observe, has only allowed for the “consolidated, ongoing and internationalized assault on the right of the Palestinian people to dignity and to self-determination.”


“Defining political issue of our time”:

NYU grad student union overwhelmingly votes to boycott Israel over violations of Palestinian human rights

BDS is an international grassroots movement that uses peaceful economic means to pressure Israel into complying with international law and respecting Palestinian human rights. The campaign was called for by Palestinian civil society and by major trade unions in the occupied Palestinian territories.

NYU Graduate Student Organizing Committee is first private university labor union to support  ‪#‎BDS‬, as movement grows

Remi Kanazi shared this link

NYU Graduate Student Organizing Committee is first private university labor union to support BDS, as movement grows|By Ben Norton

Graduate students at New York University have overwhelmingly voted to boycott Israel in protest of its violation of Palestinian human rights.

Exactly two-thirds of voting members of the graduate student union the Graduate Student Organizing Committee, or GSOC-UAW 2110, supported a referendum on Friday that calls for New York University and United Auto Workers International to withdraw their investments from Israeli state institutions and international corporations complicit in violations of Palestinian human and civil rights.

At least 645 union members participated in the vote. An additional 57 percent of voting members pledged to uphold the academic boycott of Israel, refraining from participating in research and academic programs sponsored by institutions funded by the Israeli government.

The union says this “was an unusually large membership turnout, a testament to union democracy.” It explained in a statement that the vote took place after a period of “vigorous debate and engagement with the union among wide layers of graduate workers.”

“After months of mass mobilization and a four-day election, GSOC members have taken a clear stand for justice in Palestine,” explained Shafeka Hashash, a member of the union’s Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, caucus.

“This historic endorsement of BDS by GSOC at NYU occurs in the wake of growing momentum for the movement across university campuses and labor unions nationwide,” she added.

BDS is an international grassroots movement that uses peaceful economic means to pressure Israel into complying with international law and respecting Palestinian human rights. The campaign was called for by Palestinian civil society and by major trade unions in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Graduate Student Organizing Committee is a labor union representing more than 2,000 teaching assistants, adjunct instructors, research assistants and other graduate workers at New York University, or NYU. It is the first recognized graduate worker union at a private university in the U.S.

The union says its referendum vote it sets “an important precedent for both solidarity with Palestine and for union democracy.”

“In addition to bringing material gains for their members, NYU graduate students are reclaiming the union as a political platform for social justice causes,” explained Maya Wind, an Israeli activist and Ph.D. student at NYU who is a member of the union.

“Through the recent mass mobilization for justice in Palestine we have taken a stand on one of the defining political issues of our time,” she added. “The referendum success is indicative of the traction the movement is gaining across university campuses, and increasingly among graduate students.”

The referendum also calls on NYU to close its sister program in Israel’s Tel Aviv University, which the union says violates its own non-discrimination policy.

A recent U.S. State Department report acknowledged the “institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel,” as well as the unlawful killings, excessive force and torture people endure at the hands of the Israeli military in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories.

The BDS movement is growing rapidly throughout the U.S. and the world.

In the past week, at least two major graduate student unions voted to endorse a boycott of Israel. The Graduate Employee Organization at the University of Massachusetts Amherst passed a BDS resolution by referendum, as well as the City University of New York Doctoral Students Council, which approved an academic boycott measure overwhelmingly via vote.

“The impact of NYU’s referendum will not only reverberate across private academic institutions where unionization efforts have gained momentum, but across the American academy more broadly,” GSOC said in a statement.

At least 8 major U.S. academic associations have voted to boycott Israel in protest of its violation of Palestinian human rights, including the American Studies Association, the American Anthropological Association, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association and the Association for Asian American Studies. Many of these votes had resounding majorities in favor.

Several national unions have also made similar votes, including the United Electrical Workers union.

Despite the democratic nature of these votes, the efforts have faced huge backlash.

Legislators around the U.S. are proposing bans on boycotts of Israel, which legal experts say is unconstitutional.

When the University of California system’s graduate student union voted to endorse the BDS movement by a landslide in 2014, Salon exposed how the small pro-Israel opposition derailed the democratic process with the help of a prominent law firm that has defended powerful multinational corporations like Wal-Mart, Amazon, Apple and Chevron. Under this pressure, the United Auto Workers International Executive Board nullified the vote, even while admitting that it was thoroughly democratic.

NYU’s graduate student union also says the UAW Local 2110 Executive Board “attempted to interfere with democratic elections to union leadership bodies.” GSOC condemned union executives for having “cracked down on their own membership” in an undemocratic manner.

Ph.D. student and union member Sean Larson told Salon the local executive executive board has disqualified a large number of candidates for the leadership election, “disputing our membership criteria eligibility and the eligibility for candidates to run in both elections.”

GSOC is pushing back against the backlash. “In the fight for social justice and against repression, the BDS movement and union democracy are natural allies,” the union affirmed in a statement.

“By empowering the members themselves to speak, the emerging movement for union democracy among graduate students is helping to lead these efforts. Rank-and-file democracy is the future of the labor movement, and the labor movement can secure a vigorous future for BDS in the United States.”

Ben Norton is a politics staff writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.
Note: The picture below is for a Jew wrapping himself in a plastic bag on a plane in order Not to get contaminated by impure passengers 

يهودي متعصب يسافر بكيس على متن طائرة، خوفاً من الاحتكاك بالناس وفقدان “طهارته”. الصورة نُشرت للمرة الاولى قبل ٣ سنوات.

Hauvick Habéchian's photo.




March 2023

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