Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘The Electronic Intifada

 

How Israel promotes cyberbullying of US students

George Washington University students who support Palestinian rights are being cyberbullied. (DivestThisTimeatGW)

The Israeli government is encouraging its supporters to engage in a cyberbullying campaign against US students after they voted to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s crimes.

Administrators of the Act.IL app began directing its users to “like” and share a Facebook page that was set up solely to threaten and bully student senators of George Washington University in Washington, DC, who had recently voted in support of the resolution.

The Facebook page smeared the divestment campaign as “anti-Semitic.”

The Act.IL app is the product of a partnership between Israeli think tanks, lobby groups and Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairswhich poured nearly $600,000 into the project, according to revealed documents.

This lobby effort was funded largely by casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a major donor to anti-Palestinian causes and to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The ministry is in charge of running a covert campaign of sabotage against BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement in support of Palestinian human rights.

The student senators’ ballots were cast in secret, due to concerns that they could face retaliation if their votes were made public. The vote passed 18-6 with six abstentions on 24 April.

A similar resolution failed to pass – by one vote – last year.

The Facebook page to which the app directed its users, titled “No Secret Ballot,” and an accompanying website with the same name, threatened to expose the student senators who had voted in support of the resolution.

But it seems unlikely they could really have done so, since the voting was done by paper ballot and there is no record of how each student personally voted.

“Foreign government interference in the electoral process is always concerning,” Radhika Sainath, senior staff attorney at Palestine Legal, told The Electronic Intifada.

But, she added, Israel’s “meddling in student democracy by bullying and threatening” college students is “just plain scary.”

The Facebook page and the website were both taken offline soon after, but the app did not remove their listing of the bullying campaign and it remained as an “open mission” until it expired.

Screenshot of the Act.IL app’s “mission” to support a cyberbullying campaign. (@AntiBDSApp)

Students say that the online bullying campaign is an extension of in-person intimidation that occurred leading up to and during the voting process.

Individuals wearing bird costumes and masks, evoking the shadowy blacklisting website Canary Mission, stood outside the senate hall as students voted on the resolution, and reportedly posted signs around campus saying “SJP [Students for Justice in Palestine] you saw two of us, we saw all of you,” according to Mondoweiss.

Canary Mission is an anonymous website that aims to tarnish the reputations of educators and students who speak out for Palestinian rights, and compromise their future professional careers.

University police refused to remove the harassing individuals and failed to protect students, an activist with Divest This Time at GW, a student group which promoted the divestment vote, told The Electronic Intifada.

The student did not wish to be named for fear of retaliation.

“Missions” to bully

The Act.IL app sends users on “missions” to promote Israel’s image, report social media pages and accounts that support Palestinian human rights and harass activists involved in BDS campaigns.

It also encourages users to post pro-Israel talking points in the comment sections of online articles, and to harass journalists who they claim are “biased.”

The app dedicated at least six separate missions to harass New Zealand pop star Lorde after she canceled her Tel Aviv gig in December.

It incentivizes the user experience with points and badges once users complete their missions – effectively turning the harassment of activists into a game.

One of the “missions” the Act.IL app assigned to Israel’s propaganda foot soldiers last November, according to The Jewish Daily Forward, “was to comment on a specific post on the Facebook page of the pro-Palestinian website The Electronic Intifada.”

Israel’s PR operatives wanted to counter the impact of The Electronic Intifada’s reporting on the Dutch government’s support for a promotion by settlement-profiteering Israeli supermarket chain Shufersal.

“War room”

Israel began testing various online propaganda tools in order to counteract negative press, especially after its assaults on Gaza in 2012 and 2014.

These included so-called “hackathons” – events run by the Israeli government in partnership with think tanks and Israel advocacy groups to develop online tools that inject pro-Israel content into social media while smearing BDS campaigns around the globe.

During Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza, for instance, Israeli institutions set up a “war room” of students tasked with spreading anti-Palestinian propaganda on Facebook.

Another government-backed initiative, revealed in 2012, offered students up to $2,000 to post pro-Israel propaganda online, working for five hours a week “from the comfort of home.”

The Act.IL app was one the products born from these efforts, out of an ongoing project run by the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, an Israeli university with strong ties to the military and its weapons development sector.

The app’s manager has boasted that the Israeli army and the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret police, feed the Act.IL developers information on “inciting content,” saying that even those agencies “couldn’t keep [up] with how fast we were getting things removed.”

The strategic affairs ministry “has started to rebrand these initiatives as ‘algorithmic diplomacy,’” writes Ottawa-based researcher Michael Bueckert, who has been monitoring the app over the last year.

Bueckert runs a Twitter account that tracks the app’s announced “missions.”

The app is classic “astroturfing,” he told The Electronic Intifada, using the common term for a fake grassroots campaign.

It directs users to interact with and share social media content, and can even send emails through users’ Gmail accounts to try to influence the outcome of local campaigns “in a way that appears organic and spontaneous – and deliberately in a way that hides the participation of the Israeli state or any other organizations,” he said.

“A trick”

Although the app consistently interferes with local Palestine solidarity campaigns, Bueckert said, “this is the first time that I’ve noticed it take on this aggressive cyberbullying approach.”

“What the app does is a trick,” Bueckert said.

“If you’re on campus, or involved in a local campaign, and you see all of these ‘likes’ coming in for the other side, you could be confused and assume that there’s a public consensus against your campaign,” when in fact it is just the same group of dedicated users of the app, he added.

Last month, the app directed users to send emails and petitions to the city council of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in an effort to thwart activist pressure on the city to drop Hewlett-Packard over that company’s contracts with the Israeli military.

“These are international app users at the direction of the Israeli government, not local constituents,” Bueckert tweeted at the time.

Citing “aggressive tactics by opponents” of the campaign, the activist group MassAgainstHP said in mid-April that they had to postpone their hearing in front of the city council.

Bueckert said that although online campaigns are a normal way activists can support their causes, what is new about the way that the app works is that Israel itself, with the assistance of its military and secret police, is helping to “promote and facilitate this process of online social media wars.”

He told The Electronic Intifada that it was fascinating to see that there are people who are willing to be voluntarily conscripted as “agents of the Israeli government in a very real way.”

Coordinated digital attacks

In addition to the defunct website to which the app directed its users, NoSecretBallot.com, another anonymous website was launched to harass and smear students involved in the George Washington University divestment campaign.

The website gw-against-antisemitism.com claims the resolution is “anti-Semitic” and “divisive,” and can send an email through the site to senators opposing the vote.

Analysis by The Electronic Intifada shows that both websites are hosted by a private registrant through the same domain name provider and have identical IP addresses, a strong indication that one central organization launched and maintained both sites.

Notably, the Israel on Campus Coalition, an Israel lobby network that closely monitors the Palestine solidarity movement, appears to be involved in attacking the student supporters of divestment at George Washington University.

The ICC tweeted a link on 16 April to a petition opposing the George Washington University divestment resolution, but that tweet has since been deleted.

This tweet from the Israel on Campus Coalition seems to have been deleted.

The ICC continues, however, to excoriate the outcome of the vote and smear a student senator, Brady Forrest, who had been accused of anti-Semitism due to his criticisms of Israeli policies and Jewish student organizations that back Israeli violence against Palestinians.

In an email seen by The Electronic Intifada, which addressed Forrest as “Adolf Hitler,” student senators were warned against using a secret ballot during the divestment vote.

In the email imploring student senators to vote against the resolution, the sender includes a link to the gw-against-antisemitism.com website.

The email sender’s address, however, is listed as tom@jvacampaigns.comJVACampaigns.com is a website that helps organizations with “advocacy” and “strategic messaging” as well as bulk email services.

The Israel on Campus Coalition was listed as one of just 20 main clients on their website, as can be seen in the screenshot below, which was taken on 23 April:

Screenshot of recent JVA Campaign page listing ICC as a client.

As of 4 May, the ICC logo and name on their client roster had been removed:

The ICC seems to have been dropped from JVA Campaign’s current client list.

ICC’s partner organization, Hillel International, still appears as a client.

It is not known why the ICC was removed from the JVA Campaigns client list. The Electronic Intifada did not receive a response from the company by press time.

Meanwhile, in the past week, the Act.IL app has been directing its users to sign up to receive campaign emailsfrom right-wing Florida senator Marco Rubio and to sign a petition opposing a BDS campaign at the City University of New York (CUNY).

The student senate at CUNY planned to vote on a system-wide divestment resolution last week.

However, that vote was postponed indefinitely after senators came under heavy pressure from Israel supporters, according to Rani al-Hindi, a member of the Palestine Solidarity Alliance at Hunter College, which is part of the CUNY system.

In mid-April, the ICC had tweeted the same link to a petition against the resolution that was promoted by the Act.IL app.

A one-page website appeared, smearing the CUNY divestment campaign as “anti-Semitic.” Users could click and send pre-formulated emails in opposition to the divestment vote.

Al-Hindi told The Electronic Intifada that student senators received a deluge of these emails from Israel-aligned students, as well as individuals unaffiliated with the university system, pressuring the senators to vote against the resolution.

Students supportive of the divestment campaign had been facing routine harassment by Zionist students, al-Hindi explained.

Last month, 14 civil rights and social justice groups, including Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights, sent a letter to 280 US universities demanding they take urgent action to protect students’ free speech.

Universities must condemn the increasing harassment and intimidation tactics employed by right-wing Israel advocacy groups, including Canary Mission, the letter says.

Nora Barrows-Friedman is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada.

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Meet the spies injecting Israeli propaganda into your news feed

When Sima Vaknin-Gil took over as director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs at the start of 2016, a crucial fact went largely unnoticed.

For years, she had been a high-ranking officer with an Israeli spy agency.

This means that for the last two years a former intelligence officer has been running Israel’s global war against BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

Her ministerial boss is Gilad Erdan, a key ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

They were last month revealed to have spent huge sums creating anti-BDS propaganda targeting social media and news media.

It should be a big wake up call to all defenders of free speech and human rights when a peaceful civil society campaign is targeted by spy agencies responsible for hacking, torture, kidnapping and murder in Palestine and around the world.

Sima Vaknin-Gil, now in charge of running Israel’s anti-BDS ministry, was once chief military censor. (Wikipedia)

 

Military intelligence

While hardly a secret, Vaknin-Gil’s background was barely remarked upon in the media coverage following her appointment, which focused on her previous role as Israel’s chief censor.

An extensive search turned up just one article – a December 2015 interview with arms industry magazine Israel Defense – discussing her career in intelligence.

That interview was on the eve of her appointment as the top civil servant in what is effectively Israel’s anti-BDS ministry. It revealed she had spent more than 20 years as a spy in Israeli air force intelligence, rising to the rank of brigadier general – a position she still holds as a reservist.

During that time, the magazine stated, she worked “closely with US officials and the highest ranking officers of Israeli intelligence.”

In 2005, she started her decade-long run as chief military censor, a role that required regular coordination with Israel’s top spies and military leaders, including the head of military intelligence, the chief of Mossad and the chief of the army’s general staff.

“Flood the internet”

“I want to create a community of fighters,” Vaknin-Gil said soon after her appointment to the strategic affairs ministry.

She said she planned to “flood the internet” with Israeli propaganda that would be publicly distanced from the government.

More recently, at a Jerusalem Post conference, she announced in passing that she came “from the intelligence in the IDF,” the Israeli military.

Streamed live on YouTube, the December 2017 panel was a debate on how best to combat BDS. (Sanctioning Israel)

Vaknin-Gil conceded that BDS activists’ human rights arguments are so compelling at the grassroots in Europe and the US that “over there, unless we will do something, we will lose.”

She credited supporters of Palestinian rights with “acting very, very smartly.”

Palestine solidarity activists “are fighting for the hearts and minds of grassroots,” she said, and asserted, “we just woke up [to BDS] and we have to do it very fast.”

BDS movement co-founder Omar Barghouti told The Electronic Intifada that Israel had failed to win “the battle for hearts and minds at the grassroots level.”

According to Barghouti, Israel is “desperately trying to suppress the enormous growth of the BDS movement for Palestinian rights into the mainstream by passing draconian measures of repression and exporting them through its lobby groups to Western governments.”

Ministry’s deep spy links

Strategic affairs minister Gilad Erdan’s official diary for 2016, obtained by Israeli activists and translated by The Electronic Intifada, confirms his department’s intimate links with the country’s spy agencies.

The diary lists a 17 January meeting with the head of the Shin Bet – Israel’s domestic secret police. The agency has a long history of harassing, kidnapping, torturing and murdering Palestinian activists.

The diary also shows that on 16 February 2016, Erdan had lunch with the head of Mossad, Israel’s overseas agency for spying and assassination.

And on 20 March, Erdan apparently met with the “head of 8200” – a reference to Unit 8200, the Israeli spies responsible for leading cyberwarfare efforts.

According to veterans of Unit 8200, its activities include eavesdropping on the communications of Palestinian civilians living under Israeli occupation for political persecution or to find embarrassing personal or sexual information that could be used to blackmail them into collaborating.

Buying-off the press

Vaknin-Gil’s plan to “flood the internet” mirrors previous covert efforts to spread pro-Israel propaganda.

In 2014, The Electronic Intifada uncovered a plot by tech site Israel21c to plant its puff pieces online and in media using deceptive methods.

Under Vaknin-Gil – an expert in censoring the press – the ministry is instead trying to buy off editors.

Israeli media watchdog The Seventh Eye reported last month that the ministry she runs paid the publisher of Israel’s best-selling daily newspaper $100,000 to publish articles and videos attacking BDS as “anti-Semitic.”

Published in both Hebrew and English by Yediot Ahronot and its website Ynet, the articles did not explicitly disclose that they were paid content.

One English article vaguely stated it was the result of the ministry and the publisher “joining forces,” while two such Hebrew articles stated they were “in collaboration” with the ministry.

Propaganda war

The Seventh Eye explained that this propaganda was “meant to influence readers to support a campaign Israel is waging against its critics.”

As well as Yediot, the ministry also bought faux journalism aiming to enlist support from a global audience, including from the Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post.

The 2016 Erdan diary aligns with this, listing an 18 July “meeting with the editor of The Jerusalem Post newspaper, Yaakov Katz.” The entry does not record the subject of the meeting.

The paid articles were part of a wider strategic affairs ministry campaign, which included a $740,000 budget “to promote content on social media and search engines, including Google, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram,” The Seventh Eye reported.

Another $570,000 was spent on building Act.il, an anti-BDS app, and producing videos supporters were encouraged to spread online.

One of the “missions” assigned to Israel’s propaganda foot soldiers using the Act.il app last November, according to The Jewish Daily Forward, “was to comment on a specific post on the Facebook page of the pro-Palestinian website Electronic Intifada.”

Israel’s PR operatives wanted to counter the impact of The Electronic Intifada’s reporting on the Dutch government’s support for a promotion by settlement-profiteering Israeli supermarket chain Shufersal.

The Act.il app was funded largely by casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson – a major donor to anti-Palestinian causes and to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The strategic affairs ministry was forced to disclose the funding information to The Seventh Eye under Israeli freedom of information laws.

But the revelation could be one of the last such disclosures if the ministry gets its way.

Secretive ministry

Israel’s parliament in July gave preliminary approval to a bill exempting the strategic affairs ministry from the freedom of information law.

Erdan argued for the bill, which his ministry drafted, claiming that BDS was a “battlefront like any other” and there was a need to keep “our methods of action secret.”

A 7 November entry in the 2016 Erdan diary suggests that former spy Vaknin-Gil was directly involved in drafting Israeli laws against BDS.

With the subject “BDS law,” the entry reads, “A meeting with Liat and Sima on legislation amendments to the Boycott Law.” (Erdan’s staff at the ministry are referred to throughout the diary by their first names.)

If the law is passed, it will put Erdan’s ministry in the same category as Mossad and Shin Bet, which are also exempt from freedom of information.

With Erdan’s ministry increasingly being run like a globally focused spy agency rather than a conventional government department, perhaps this should come as little surprise.

Haaretz has described the ministry as “a place whose internal terminology comes from the world of espionage and security; its leading figures appear to see themselves as the heads of a public affairs commando unit engaged in multiple fronts.”

As well as being led by one, the ministry is largely staffed by former spies.

Vaknin-Gil’s predecessor as director-general was Ram Ben Barak, formerly a deputy head of Mossad.

As The Electronic Intifada revealed last year, the director of the ministry’s “intelligence” section is Shai Har-Zvi, a lieutenant-colonel in the Israeli army and likely another former spook.

Without giving names, veteran Israeli intelligence journalist Yossi Melman had previously reported that the position was once held by “a former investigator in the security system.”

“Covert sources,” illegal activities

Melman – who confirmed The Electronic Intifada’s exposure of Har-Zvi’s name – wrote that his section’s role “is to collect information and data on BDS and its activists from both open and covert sources.”

Melman also wrote that the ministry hired 25 employees “mostly former officers in Israel’s intelligence community” whose names are classified.

What are these “covert sources” that Erdan’s network of spies are drawing on? Do they involve illegal activities? And are they breaking the laws of other countries they operate in?

“We want most of the ministry’s work to be classified,” Vaknin-Gil told Israel’s parliament in September 2016, when she acknowledged that “a major part of what we do stays under the radar.”

Erdan has also admitted his ministry’s use of international front groups – historically a tool of Israeli spy agencies. “Most of the ministry’s actions are not of the ministry, but through bodies around the world who do not want to expose their connection with the state,” he said last year.

rival government ministry in 2016 accused Erdan and his fiefdom of “operating British Jewish organizations behind the [Israeli] embassy’s back in a way that could put them in violation of British law.”

And Melman revealed in 2016 that the ministry is involved in “black ops” against the movement for justice in Palestine.

It was also reported by Haaretz that the ministry was establishing a “tarnishing unit” to spread lies about BDS activists.

Death threats and hacking

In an article for the Hebrew newspaper Maariv, Melman pointed to attacks on the websites of Palestine’s BDS National Committee and other human rights groups, suggesting the attacks could be linked to Erdan’s ministry.

He also noted death threats targeting Nada Kiswanson, a lawyer with the human rights group Al-Haq, who had been working in The Hague to collect evidence of Israeli war crimes for the International Criminal Court.

The threats are being investigated by Dutch authorities. Melman implied these too could be tied to the ministry.

As well as harassment and sabotage, Palestinian groups have been attacked with smear campaigns aimed at undermining their political and financial support.

Al-Haq and Al Mezan, another Palestinian human rights group that has helped gather evidence of war crimes, have over the past two years faced a sustained campaign of defamation.

These have come both publicly by Israeli officials, and in whispering campaigns, fake statements put out in their names and death threats and other harassment against their staff.

Israel’s covert war also appears to be targeting solidarity activists from Western countries.

Dropping the mask

In July, members of an interfaith delegation to Palestine were barred from flights by Lufthansa staff acting on Israeli orders.

Jewish Voice for Peace’s Rabbi Alissa Wise told The Electronic Intifada that airline staff read out names of activists who were never publicly announced to go on the delegation and did not have tickets. She said this proved Lufthansa had been given a list of persons obtained by Israeli surveillance of activists’ communications.

While Israel’s covert campaign aims to suppress negative information about its violations of Palestinian rights, the campaign itself only further tarnishes its battered image.

With its repressive measures against Palestine solidarity, BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti said, Israel is “dropping the mask of democracy and liberalism and revealing its true face as a regime of occupation and apartheid.”

“Israel is allocating hundreds of millions of dollars, dedicating an entire government ministry, using its intelligence services and flexing its political muscle around the world to fight the movement,” Barghouti added. “But this is a steep uphill battle that Israel cannot but lose.”

With translation and research by Dena Shunra.

Israeli soldiers harass students on US campus

Students had erected a mock wall – representing Israel’s barrier in the occupied West Bank – in the school’s Anteater Plaza and were handing out flyers with information about life under Israeli military rule. Student groups MEChA and the Black Student Union also volunteered to help.

On the first day, two of the soldiers carried Israeli flags and wore shirts identifying their support for the Israeli army, while the others disguised their intent: at least one person wore a traditional Palestinian checkered scarf, while others claimed to be from Palestinian cities and attempted to speak with the students in Arabic.

Some feigned naivety about the issue, while secretly recording responses.

This tactic is reminiscent of Israeli soldiers who dress up as Palestinians – so-called mistaravim – in order to act as provocateurs at demonstrations or to carry out extrajudicial executions in the occupied West Bank.

The next day the group returned, this time they all wore clothes that more honestly identified who they were.

Over four days in total, the group of soldiers showed up to the mock wall. They hurled racial and gender insults while one woman aggressively filmed the activists’ faces and conversations.

They told Daniel Carnie, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine, that he is “not a real Jew” and told him to take off his Jewish skullcap.

A 30 May letter to UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman, signed by Palestine Legal attorney Liz Jackson on behalf of a coalition of civil rights groups, describes what happened at the mock wall.

According to the letter, when the students began a chant that compared Israel’s wall to the US wall at the Mexican border, one of the soldiers shouted, “We want the Mexicans!”

And when a Black student asked one of the hostile members of Reservists on Duty to leave, he called her an “18-year-old punk-ass bitch,” then followed her around shouting at her.

The letter alleges that a “male soldier taunted a female demonstrating at the wall in a sexually threatening tone, saying in Arabic, ‘You want me to stick it in you, don’t you.’”

“These soldiers do not just use propaganda, they use intimidation tactics like taking video footage,” Ghiyath Alazzah, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Irvine, wrote in an email to other SJP groups on the West Coast.

Alazzah also accused the soldiers of “using hidden microphones, attempting to incite to violence by using extremely racist and sexist obscenities in Arabic, English and Hebrew, and even going so far as to physically grab a student.”

“We are sending this email to you to warn you all that your campus may be targeted next,” Alazzah wrote.

Administrators watch passively

School administrators witnessed the confrontations, but did not intervene.

Dean of students Rameen Talesh was one of the administrators present during the week’s activities, according to Carnie and Alazzah.

Carnie told The Electronic Intifada that students asked Talesh to stop Reservists on Duty from harassing them, but Talesh said there was nothing he could do.

But advocates for the students say that the accumulation of racist speech and harassing behavior created an environment of intimidation that was grounds for the school to intervene.

“Here, there was overwhelming evidence that foreign military agents engaged in sustained harassment of Palestinian students, and other students of color perceived to be allies of Palestinian students,” Palestine Legal’s Jackson wrote to Chancellor Gillman.

Jackson alleges that the school violated its obligations under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as well as its own policies, by standing by passively: “Administrators cannot act with deliberate indifference to a hostile climate of severe or pervasive harassment targeting students based on their race or national origin.”

On the night of 10 May, Reservists on Duty held their panel discussion.

SJP members came to the event with the intent to ask challenging questions.

During the event, a woman who had been filming the students during the preceding days lunged at one of the students with her fists up, according to Carnie and Alazzah. She was restrained by an administrator and then the SJP students broke out into a chant before they were asked to leave.

Part of this altercation can be seen in the video above.

The next day, 11 May, Jackson’s letter states, the same woman who had nearly attacked a student, returned to Anteater Plaza and shoved a sign out of the hands of a student protester, hitting the student in the face with the sign.

According to Jackson, these two physical assaults were also grounds for intervention, yet administrators took no action.

Alazzah was informed on 16 May that his group was under investigation for allegedly disrupting the question-and-answer portion of the discussion with Reservists on Duty.

The university confirmed to the The Electronic Intifada that members of its staff were present during some of the week’s incidents. A spokesperson wrote that administrators are “reviewing reports of that week from all interested parties and will take action, as appropriate.”

A year of pressure

The investigation is taking place after a year of heavy pressure from Israel advocacy groups, including the Amcha Initiative, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights, Hillel, StandWithUs and the Israeli consulate, to crack down on Palestine activism on campus.

On 30 May this year, Hillel of Orange County wrote to Chancellor Gillman.

Emphasizing that SJP and an earlier incarnation of the Palestine solidarity group have been investigated three times since 2010, the letter strongly suggests that the university’s disciplinary process had yet to be effective.

Last year, UC Irvine investigated SJP after students from several groups protested a film screening sponsored by pro-Israel organizations.

That investigation cleared SJP members of accusations they had harassed and intimidated participants, but found that it was “more likely than not” that the student protest outside the venue had generated enough noise to disrupt the viewing of a film about Israeli soldiers.

The students were given a warning and required to host an educational program. Israel advocacy groups expressed unhappiness that the penalty was not more severe.

Hillel also invoked a UC Irvine policy document titled “Higher Ground.”

Published in October 2016, after the university cleared SJP, “Higher Ground” attempts to integrate the UC Regents’ “principles against intolerance,” which were approved in March 2016.

The UC Regents is the governing body for the entire University of California system. The regents produced the “principles against intolerance” in response to heavy pressure from pro-Israel groups, which wanted the regents to adopt the controversial US State Department definition of anti-Semitism. That definition conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish bigotry.

The UC Regents rejected that definition and removed a sentence equating anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism.

The “principles,” which are unenforceable themselves, did however specify a prohibition against “anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism” – a weaker formulation than Israel advocacy groups wanted.

But pro-Israel groups have since sought to use this formulation as a basis for going after Palestine activism.

UC Irvine’s “Higher Ground” document appears to be a direct capitulation to this agenda.

Silencing criticism

In an 18 July 2016 email to Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, co-founder of the anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim group Amcha Initiative, UC Irvine’s associate chancellor Michael Arias, wrote: “Following up on your suggestions, Chancellor Gillman plans to ask [UC Irvine’s] Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion to undertake a review of existing policies to confirm they are consistent” with the “principles against intolerance.”

Arias promised Rossman-Benjamin the university would “revise as necessary” any of its policies.

The following month, Gillman asked Douglas M. Haynes, a university vice provost, to conduct the assessment.

In October, Haynes produced “Higher Ground,” which critics say reproduces the misperception that anti-Zionist activities exclude Jewish students.

According to Palestine Legal’s Jackson, the document “conflates anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, discards the UC’s commitment to free speech and excludes the interests of Palestinians and other vulnerable communities.”

After “Higher Ground” was published, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights and StandWithUs, two Israel lobby groups that have spearheaded efforts to silence Palestine activism, wrote to Haynes to applaud the report.

They also sent Haynes a “white paper” supposedly meant to help UC Irvine understand and recognize “anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism.”

Their paper claims that anti-Semitism today is mostly expressed in “coded” ways, but points the administration back to the State Department’s definition as a guide. That controversial definition, which Israel lobby groups have urged institutions and governments around the world to adopt, claims that “demonizing” Israel, holding Israel to a “double standard” and “delegitimizing” Israel are forms of anti-Semitism.

It also alleges that “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination and denying Israel the right to exist” are anti-Semitic. This would potentially categorize advocacy for a one-state solution founded on equal rights in a democratic non-sectarian state that grants full citizenship to Israelis and Palestinians as a form of anti-Semitism.

Last month, Haynes spoke at a conference hosted by the Academic Engagement Network, a group founded to counter support for Palestinian rights on college campuses.

On 6 June, Haynes responded to Jackson’s letter to Gillman. Haynes asserted that the administration’s priorities align with the “principles against intolerance.” Haynes’ letter also makes allusions to balancing students’ First Amendment rights while maintaining “safety and security” and enforcing “civil discourse.”

According to Haynes, the university is still “reviewing the May 10th incident,” presumably a reference to the Reservists on Duty panel.

Hold them accountable

Palestine Legal’s Liz Jackson believes UC Irvine does indeed have a discrimination problem, but it is students advocating for Palestinian rights who have been the targets.

According to Jackson, the harassment students faced from the Israeli soldiers “is just the latest example of UC Irvine’s discrimination problem.”

Jackson accuses the administration of “ignoring harassment complaints by Palestinian and other students of color, and meanwhile singling out these same students for discriminatory treatment because of their viewpoint in favor of Palestinian rights.”

Some of those students have filed a complaint asking the university to investigate the pervasive harassment they say they face based on race and national origin.

“We must hold UC Irvine accountable for this discrimination,” said Jackson.

 

 

Alice Walker disinvited from University of Michigan over ‘Israel comments’

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Alice Walker speaks in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

(Lazar Simeonov / TEDxRamallah)

Calling the withdrawn invitation “Censorship by Purse String,” Walker wrote, “Such behavior, as evidenced by the donors, teaches us our weakness, which should eventually (and soon) show us our strength: women must be in control of our own finances. Not just in the family, but in the schools, work force, and everywhere else. Until we control this part of our lives, our very choices, in any and every area, can be denied us.”

Walker is listed as one of the speakers represented by the American Program Bureau agency.

Alice Walker not “optimum choice”

Gloria D. Thomas, director of the Center for the Education of Women, acknowledged that Walker had been disinvited, but said that the matter was a “misunderstanding.” In an email to The Electronic Intifada, Thomas wrote:

The [Walker’s] blog was a result of an unfortunate misunderstanding. As director of the Center for the Education of Women (CEW), I decided to withdraw our invitation because I didn’t think Ms. Walker would be our optimum choice for our 50th anniversary.

Our 50th anniversary funding is assured. All donations, for this and other events, are accepted with no provisos or prohibitions regarding free speech. In fact, in a conversation with one of Ms. Walker’s friends/representatives, I indicated that I would be willing to speak with other units around campus to serve as a possible co-sponsor for a lecture by Ms. Walker in the near future.

Asked if a speaker had been chosen to replace Walker, Thomas wrote, “No contract has been signed yet. This information will be made available on our website once the contract is confirmed.”

Walker: supporter of Palestinian rights

In recent years, Walker has become increasingly outspoken in her support of Palestinian rights, sometimes likening Israel’s abuses to the Jim Crow racist system she grew up with in the southern United States.

Walker has written about her visit to Gaza, and participated in the June 2011 solidarity flotilla that attempted to reach the territory besieged by Israel, which led to her beingdemonized by the Israeli army.

Her position on boycott has also been deliberately distorted by Israeli media.

Walker has campaigned for other artists, most recently Alicia Keys, to respect the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

In her letter to Keys, Walker wrote:

I have written over the years that explain why a cultural boycott of Israel and Israeli institutions (not individuals) is the only option left to artists who cannot bear the unconscionable harm Israel inflicts every day on the people of Palestine, whose major “crime” is that they exist in their own land, land that Israel wants to control as its own.

Could Walker, one of the most celebrated figures in American letters, now be paying the price of refusing to be silent about Palestine?

Democrats try to bury Palestine in middle of the night

In the early morning hours of 25 June, while many Americans were asleep, Hillary Clinton allies on the Democratic Party’s platform drafting committee blocked a motion that called for an end to Israel’s military occupation and illegal settlement enterprise.

The vote came after several grueling hours of bickering between members named to the committee by Clinton and Democratic National Committee chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, on the one hand, and those appointed by Senator Bernie Sanders, on the other.

The video above shows highlights of the heated exchanges surrounding the vote.

Deeper struggles over Israel taking place within the party have been brought into the open since Sanders named prominent supporters of Palestinian rights to the committee that is writing the party’s general election platform.

Clinton, who appears likely to clinch the party’s presidential nomination after a hard-fought primary battle with Sanders, named members who back her staunch pro-Israel lin

Andrew Bossone shared this link

Despite the tragedy of the other guy winning, this is the platform of the presumptive democratic nominee:
“Clinton surrogates shot down motions endorsing universal health care, a carbon tax, stronger support for raising the minimum wage, forceful opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and a moratorium on fracking.”
That’s Not even addressing the debate among delegates on calling the occupation of Palestine what it is.
Cornel West abstains from voting to support the platform, and drops the mic with “That’s how I roll.”

Sanders reps make passionate pleas, but are outvoted by Clinton surrogates.
electronicintifada.net 

Dark of night

Throughout the day, Clinton surrogates shot down motions endorsing universal health care, a carbon tax, stronger support for raising the minimum wage, forceful opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and a moratorium on fracking.

While these defeats took place during the day, committee organizers waited until the dead of night to deliberate on issues related to Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.

The vote appeared to be deliberately timed to garner as little attention as possible.

It was the very last section raised and by then it was nearly 1am.

Ironically, holding votes in the middle of the night has been a Republican tactic for passing right-wing measures with as little public scrutiny as possible.

But if the purpose in this case was to suppress public debate over Israel, it doesn’t seem to be working.

End the occupation

Arab American Institute president James Zogby, a Sanders appointee, introduced an amendment to revise the language in the Israel/Palestine section of the platform.

Zogby proposed deleting a drafted pledge to oppose so-called delegitimization of Israel at the United Nations or by the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

He also proposed removing a reference to Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital.

Zogby pushed for wording that called for

1.  “an end to occupation and illegal settlements so that [Palestinians] may live in independence, sovereignty and dignity,”

2.  “an international effort to rebuild Gaza which the UN warns could be uninhabitable by 2020” and

3. recognition that Palestinians, like Israelis, “deserve security, recognition and a normal life free from violence, terror and incitement.”

Sanders “had direct input” in crafting the amendment, Zogby said, arguing, “the term occupation shouldn’t be controversial.”

Indeed, there was nothing radical about the amendment, which left the pledged US commitment to subsidizing Israel’s military machine and the reference to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state” intact.

Even the supposedly liberal pro-Israel lobby group J Street did not object to the word occupation. Although the memo it circulated to members of the platform committee urged them to adopt language opposing BDS.

Champions of occupation

Clinton appointee Wendy Sherman, a lobbyist who effectively sells access to government officials, accused BDS and the UN of “creat[ing] anti-Semitism.”

Former congressman turned lobbyist Howard Berman framed opposition to Israel’s occupation as “one-sided” and suggested that Palestinians bear some responsibility for Israel’s illegal conduct.

Bonnie Schaefer, former joint-CEO of the jewelry chain Claire’s Stores, didn’t even bother addressing the issues raised in the amendment. Instead, she engaged in pinkwashing.

“As a gay Jewish Zionist, Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, as we all know, the only place in the Middle East that I can walk down the street with my wife hand in hand and not be afraid,” Schaefer said.

A Clinton supporter and major donor to the Democratic Party, Schaefer was named to the committee by the DNC.

“Tell the truth”

Zogby fired back, while “you can go and walk down the street of Tel Aviv holding the hand of your wife, I can’t get in the airport without 7 hours of harassment because I’m of Arab descent.”

“We have to be able to call it what it is. It’s an occupation that humiliates people, that breeds contempt, that breeds anger and despair and hopelessness, that leads to violence,” Zogby added.

Civil rights activist and celebrated public intellectual Cornel West, an outspoken supporter of BDS appointed by Sanders, expressed outrage.

“When the IDF [Israeli army] kills innocent people, over 500 babies in 51 days, no matter how many shields they say Hamas uses, it’s wrong,” said West, referring to Israel’s summer 2014 attack on Gaza.

The “Democratic Party must tell the truth,” West implored. “We can never fully respect the Palestinians unless we can name … the boot on their necks.”

“I come from a people who’ve been hated,” West added, drawing an analogy between the long history of denying the horrors inflicted on African Americans and the refusal to recognize the oppression of Palestinians.

The motion was nonetheless defeated in an 8-5 vote, with Sanders’ representatives being the only committee members to back it.

That vote, combined with other defeats throughout the day, prompted West to abstain from approving the platform altogether.

“[If] we can’t say a word about [Trans-Pacific Partnership], if we can’t talk about Medicare for all explicitly, if the greatest prophetic voice dealing with impending ecological catastrophe can hardly win a vote and if we can’t even acknowledge occupation as something that’s real in the lives of a slice of humanity … it just seems to me there’s no way in good conscience I can say take it to the next stage,” West said.

“I have to abstain. I have no other moral option, it would be a violation of my own limited sense of moral integrity and spiritual conscience,” he added. “That’s how I roll.”

West’s and Zogby’s advocacy for Palestinian rights has been so insistent that the Clinton wing of the party has attempted to neutralize them through the most cynical form of identity politicking.

“Concerned that Zogby and West’s viewpoint may be gaining traction at least in the public narrative, Bakari Sellers, a former South Carolina representative and now a CNN commentator, sent a letter signed by 60 African American politicians around the country to the co-chairs of the platform committee last week urging them to stick to the traditional language on Israel,” CNN reported.

This move was meant as a “counterpoint to West, a prominent member of the Black community.”

Fundamental disconnect

“Even though ending Israeli military occupation and settlement building have been explicit US policy goals since the early days of the George W. Bush administration, and even though Hillary Clinton as President Obama’s Secretary of State tried to advance these goals, Clinton appointees to the Democratic National Committee’s platform drafting committee outvoted Sanders appointees to exclude these very same goals from the Democratic platform,” Josh Ruebner, policy director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, told The Electronic Intifada.

“As Dr. Jim Zogby, a Sanders appointee, noted in the debate last night there is a fundamental disconnect between official US policy and the unwillingness of the Democratic Party to back it,” Ruebner added.

The US Campaign is calling on activists to urge both the Republican and Democratic parties to support Palestinian rights in their platforms.

Never forget the Deir Yassin massacre by Israelis in 1948.

Dina Elmuti The Electronic Intifada Chicago 8 April 2013

The author’s grandmother, Fatima Radwan (right) and her younger sister Sakeena at the Dar al-Tifl school four years after the Deir Yassin massacre.

Transcribing the vivid details of the account engraved into the fabric of her memory, I am transfixed by all that she’s held onto for 65 years.

From paper to pulse, I write the story buried deep in her consciousness to affirm her truth. Without her, it never would be written at all.

I study the lines on my grandmother’s face knowing behind every one there is a timeless story of unmitigated pain, survival and hope.

This story, where the continued dispossession, suffering and oppression of the Palestinian people began, is one that refuses to be silenced or forgotten. It is the story of Deir Yassin.

Remember the date: Friday, 9 April 1948, a day of infamy in Palestinian history.

My grandmother was nine years old at the time of the Deir Yassin massacre and every day since she has lived with a steadfast commitment to never forget.

Premonition

Thursday, 8 April, ended like any other in the small, quiet village. My grandmother and her younger sister returned home from school to complete their composition assignment entitled Asri’ (meaning “to hurry” in Arabic). She recounts that detail animatedly.

Like other children their age, she wanted to complete the assignment in order to enjoy the next day off. (Fridays are the official day-off, along with Sundays in mixed communities)

The excitement, however, was short-lived. I can’t help but think of the irony in the assignment’s title. Asri’ — it’s almost as though it were a premonition of sorts.

The following day, entire families ran hurriedly in sheer terror, fleeing the only homes they had ever known to escape a bloodbath. By dawn on that Friday morning, life as they had known it would never be the same again. Deir Yassin would never be the same again.

Fathers, grandfathers, brothers and sons were lined up against a wall and sprayed with bullets, execution style.

Beloved teachers were savagely mutilated with knives. Mothers and sisters were taken hostage and those who survived returned to find pools of blood filling the streets of the village and children stripped of their childhoods overnight.

The walls of homes, which once stood witness to warmth, laughter and joy, were splattered with the blood and imprints of traumatic memories.

My grandmother lost 37 members of her family that day. These are not stories you will read about in most history books.

Bitter symbol

The Deir Yassin massacre was not the largest-scale massacre, nor was it the most gruesome.

The atrocities committed, the scale of violence and the complexity of the methods and insidious weaponry used by Israel against civilians in the recent decade have been far more sadistic and pernicious. But Deir Yassin marks one of the most critical turning points in Palestinian history.

A bitter symbol carved in the fiber of the Palestinian being and narrative, it resonates sharply as the event that catalyzed our ongoing Nakba (catastrophe), marked by the forced exile of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes, creating the largest refugee population worldwide with more than half living in the diaspora.

Deir Yassin is a caustic reminder of the ongoing suffering, struggle and systematic genocide of the Palestinian people, 65 years and counting.

When the village was terrorized into fleeing, tumultuous shockwaves of terror ran through Palestine, laying the blueprint for the architecture of today’s apartheid Israel.

Sacred ground

The author’s great-uncle, Muhammad Radwan, outside of the family home in Deir Yassin.

I have been fortunate enough to see Deir Yassin and step foot on its sacred ground. Deir

Yassin remains a permanently cemented and rigorous reminder of the spirit that has never permitted defeat. Despite the illegal settlements, pillaging, plundering and human suffering that took place, my grandmother’s home stands with resolve just as she does today.

The silence of her home and the original stones laid by my great-grandfather’s hands remain haunting reminders of life that once existed behind the cold facade.

Standing outside her home I studied the horizon intently and found solace, irrespective of the large wooden Star of David hanging on the window.

This scathing and unholy reminder of the ethnic cleansing that took place there could never conceal the insult, injury and history it attempts to erase.

In fact, it is a reminder of the inflicted wounds that remain open and the memory that remains very much alive. All the flags, banners and stars in the world, all the inconvenient truths, dehumanizing myths of exceptionalism and litany of crimes, will never succeed in drowning out the truth or erasing the memories.

My grandmother is an intrepid survivor and living proof that neither the old nor the young will forget. She and survivors like her endure with a steadfastness that will live long after they’re gone. Their narratives may not be recorded in our history books but they have left indelible impressions that will remain inscribed in our hearts and minds.

The narratives of these survivors will continue to run through the veins of every Palestinian child who carries them in their blood. And so long as our hearts beat, the eloquent symbols of Palestinian life — resistance, resilience and hope — will continue to run strong.

No amount of fear-mongering, lip service or pontificating will ever keep these narratives of resistance from circulating, because becoming comfortable with our own silence and anesthetizing our minds to all that has passed will never be options.

After all, we are the children of generations of strength. Our grandparents and parents are refugees and survivors, and the blood of Deir Yassin courses through our veins. We are like the olive tree with its tenacious roots in the ground, remaining unshakable and determined to stand its ground with patience and a deeply-rooted desire to remain.

We will see a free and just Palestine because we will have a hand in making it so. Deir Yassin may have catalyzed our catastrophe but 65 years later it also continues to catalyze our devotion and enduring love for a people, a cause and a home that will never be relinquished or forgotten.

All images courtesy of Dina Elmuti.

Dina Elmuti is a social worker researching the impacts of chronic traumatic stress and violence on the physical, mental and pyschosocial health of children in Chicago and Palestine.

 What are the Legacy of “Arab” Liberals?

How destructive was the legacy of Arab liberals in modern times?

Are liberals new trend is to support massive destruction of societies’, dubbed constructive demolition of  the fabrics of societies in order to establish a new order of political structure?

What are the “Arab” liberals views of what’s happening in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Somalia…?

Is this a repeat of the cultural cold war doctrine that has not ended yet?

Joseph Massad in The Electronic Intifada on March 30, 2015

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Arab liberals have allied with Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia to wreak an unparalleled record of destruction. (Ahmed Asad / APA images)

It has become commonplace to present Arab Islamists of all political stripes (liberals, conservatives, radicals, neoliberals, moderates, extremists, nonviolent, violent, etc.) as a most, if not the most, dangerous political force in the Arab world since the 1967 War.

In fact, and as the following will show, it has been a new brand of Arab liberals — secularists and Islamists (though the former have been far more dangerous) — who have been and continue to be a most dangerous and destructive political force in the post-1967 Arab world.

The Western States, Israeli and Saudi Arabia wars against Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and anti-imperialist Arab nationalism required the birth of a new liberal intelligentsia.

Their emergence on the scene in the late 1950s and in the 1960s, before the war, was part of the American-sponsored “cultural Cold War,” which financed intellectuals across the world for the anti-communist and anti-socialist liberal imperial crusade that also targeted anti-imperialist Third World nationalisms.

This was part and parcel of the Eisenhower Doctrine, which the Americans inaugurated in 1957 to intervene militarily and in every other way in the Middle East to fend off Soviet influence.

It was in this context that the US intervened in Lebanon in 1958 against Arab nationalism with Saudi- and US-funded Lebanese liberals cheering on in the liberal press.

Many of these liberal Arab intellectuals were lackeys of US intelligence and they and their newspapers were financed by the US and Gulf regimes, especially the Saudis.

They would exalt the virtues of the liberal West against Soviet and non-Soviet forms of communism and socialism and would attack Nasserist Arab nationalism.

While some would argue that Arab liberals are not true to the liberal tradition, I am less concerned with how well they approximate an imaginary Western liberalism, or whether they are “true” or “false” liberals, than with the fact that they present themselves and are presented by others as adhering to “liberal” principles.

These include free parliamentary and executive elections, freedom of expression and of the press, freedom of association, civilian control of government and the military, a capitalist economy and varying degrees of separation between government and religious authorities.

Out of Egypt

In the post-1967 War period, the emergence of this new brand of Arab liberals was seen as confined to the Egyptian Sadatist intelligentsia whose main aim was to combat Nasserism in both its socialist and nationalist aspects and promote pro-Americanism.

As the new century dawned, the Egyptian example became widely generalized across the entire Arab world.

The 1970s Egyptian liberals sang the praises of American power and imperialist capitalist penetration of their country and pushed for full surrender to the Israeli Jewish settler-colony under the banner of the “peace” negotiated by Nasser’s successor, President Anwar Sadat.

They insisted that Israel should be forgiven all its sins and that rendering Egypt its lackey and the lackey of the US would bring about many economic and political benefits to Egyptians.

The Muslim Brotherhood, whose liberal transformation in the 1970s allowed them a seat at the Sadatist table, would join the political contest on the side of the liberal secularists against the Nasserist legacy.

Aside from state intellectuals, prominent litterateurs and artists pushed for this campaign.

These extended from writers Yusuf Sibai to Naguib Mahfouz, and lesser figures like playwright Ali Salem, not to mention famous composer and singer Mohammed Abdel Wahab, intellectuals and academics of the ilk of Anis Mansour and Saad Eddin Ibrahim and many others.

While Mahfouz and Abdel Wahab belong to an earlier generation of Egyptian liberals that have little in common with the post-1960s liberals, including mediocre state functionaries like Mansour, who edited the state-owned magazine October, they all joined the Sadatist ideological project in one way or another.

In this context, it should be mentioned that while the earlier generation of Arab liberals that emerged in the early part of the twentieth century and prospered in the 1920s and 1930s were mostly pro-European in their “civilizational” outlooks, they were not always pro-colonial, though a good number of them were.

Indeed some, like Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed, the “father of Egyptian liberalism” and anti-Arab Egyptian nationalism, were even friendly to Zionism. Al-Sayed would go as far as attending the celebrations of the opening of Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1925.

While the Sadatist liberals were condemned and excommunicated across the Arab world (indeed Sibai, who served as minister of culture under Sadat, was assassinated by the Abu Nidal group on account of his visit to Israel and his support for the Sadatist surrender), their alliance with the US and Israel and their promotion of the selling out of Egypt to a new business class would not bring prosperity.

Rather, it brought enormous poverty to most Egyptians and destroyed whatever achievements in education and healthcare the pre-liberal Nasserist order had achieved.

The only thing that increased and became more advanced in this liberal-supported Egypt was the level of political and economic repression for decades to come and the alienation of millions of Egyptians who lost even the possibility of an economic future, except for the hundreds of thousands (later upwards of four million Egyptians) whose employment was subcontracted to neighboring countries — Libya, Jordan, Iraq and the Gulf states.

Meanwhile, tens of millions of Egyptians languished at home in dire poverty.

Liberalism spreads to Palestine

Soon, and by the late 1980s, the political and economic line the Egyptian liberals pushed for, let alone the international alliances they favored, would be adopted wholesale by a new class of Palestinian, Iraqi and, to a much more limited extent, Algerian intellectuals, who had until then been solid anti-imperial leftists and socialists.

In this vein, West Bank and Gaza-based Palestinian intellectuals pushed for a two-state solution that would grant those territories an independent state at the expense of diaspora Palestinians and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

It was the rights of the latter two groups of Palestinians that these intellectuals, under the sponsorship of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), wanted to barter for an independent state granted exclusively to the one-third of the Palestinian people that lives in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Indeed, many began to predict that the US-sponsored “peace process,” which they supported, would turn the West Bank and Gaza into a new “Singapore,” an economic miracle that would transform the lives of these Palestinians at the expense of the rest. (This is exactly the political line of the Rafic Hariri policies in Lebanon: Turning Lebanon a Gulf State on the Mediterranean Sea)

Once the PLO adopted fully this line of thinking, Palestinian liberal intellectuals became advisors, consultants, negotiators and ministers in the Palestinian Authority and brought about more massive poverty across the West Bank and Gaza, the erosion of international support for Palestinian rights and multiplied the forces of repression of the Palestinians by adding the PA security forces to the Israeli occupation army.

This has led to the squandering of Palestinian political and economic achievements during the first intifada.

Imperial invasions

Simultaneous with the rise of this liberal intellectual class among Palestinians, the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait unleashed a new class of Iraqi liberals who were allied with American imperial geostrategic interests and who immediately called, in the name of democracy  the end of dictatorship, for an imperial invasion of Iraq.

The US-led invasion in 1991 expelled Iraqi forces from Kuwait, but left Saddam Hussein’s government in place, albeit under sanctions that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives — a price US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright notoriously deemed “worth it” to pursue American aims.

The 2003 US-led invasion, under the pretext of locating “weapons of mass destruction,” finally granted the liberals’ wish, and as a consequence cost the lives and livelihoods of untold millions and destroyed the entire country while enriching this class of comprador intellectuals and the new and old business classes they serve.

Indeed, many of them went into service for the US occupation of the country and the ensuing regime it established.

While the Iraqi liberals were the first Arab liberals to call openly for an imperial invasion of their country, one could point to the precedent of Gibran Khalil Gibran and pro-French Lebanese liberal expatriates based in New York who had called in 1918 for a French invasion or “protection” of Syria to liberate it from the Turks.

Concomitant with these developments was the Algerian military coup against the elected Islamists in early 1992, which unleashed a massive civil war and military violence that led to upwards of 200,000 dead Algerians. Some of the extremist liberal secularists, like the Rally for Culture and Democracy party, supported the army’s “eradication” of the Islamists.

Sectarian incitement

Ironies abound. Terrified by the popular Arab schadenfreude expressed in massive demonstrations across the Arab world in solidarity with Iraq, demonstrations that did not sympathize with Kuwait and other oil-producing Gulf countries, the illiberal Saudis launched pan-Arab newspapers and satellite channels that bombarded the Arab world with pro-Saudi and pro-US liberal propaganda to reverse this Arab anti-imperial nationalist tide that also opposed the Arab regimes allied with US imperialism.

Intellectuals from across the Arab world joined the effort, abandoning old leftist, communist, Nasserist and Islamist positions and adopted the much, much more profitable pro-US and pro-Israel liberal line politically, and the neoliberal economic order being globalized.

By the dawn of the new century, the Saudis and the Americans issued new orders to their media and agents to spread an unprecedented sectarian campaign against Shiites inside and outside the Arab world.

The campaign would be first articulated in 2004 by the new and neoliberal King Abdullah of Jordan, a self-styled “liberal” monarch who possesses absolute and unchecked power. The king expressed his and others’ fear of the rise of a “Shiite crescent” in the region.

It is in this regional context that Syrian liberals joined the fray.

Upon the long-awaited death of President Hafez al-Assad in 2000, they launched what they called a “Damascus Spring” from intellectual salons and from the halls of the US embassy in Damascus, whose cultural attaché was a main sponsor of their “Spring.”

While they would soon be suppressed by the authoritarian regime of Bashar al-Assad, Syrian liberals would re-emerge in 2011 claiming to speak for “revolutionary” forces that have, with the full participation of the repressive Assad regime, caused the death of hundreds of thousands and destroyed the country.

The US ambassador would also aid in their efforts by making appointments and assigning roles within the Syrian exile opposition.

Not unlike their Iraqi counterparts, the Syrian liberals — secularists and Islamists alike — called for imperial intervention in the name of democracy and to end the Syrian dictatorship.

They got what they wished for in the form of the draconian Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS — also known as ISIL or just “Islamic State”).

Not to be outdone, Lebanese liberals and former Lebanese leftists, communists and Arab nationalists would also have their own “Spring” following the assassination of the corrupt and corrupting neoliberal billionaire, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri in 2005.

They would help launch a local sectarian anti-Shiite campaign in the country and would call for more imperial intervention to save them from their powerful Syrian, but not their more dangerous Israeli, neighbor.

They would also relaunch anti-Palestinian campaigns by cheering the Lebanese army’s destruction of the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared in 2007.

While their country was under heavy Israeli bombardment in 2006, many of these liberals cheered on the Israelis privately and publicly and prayed for the destruction of Hizballah fighters to restore a “liberal” Lebanese order that they longed for.

Liberal extremism

The proliferation of Arab liberals through the good offices of their US and Saudi patrons would lead to more liberal extremism.

Saudi-financed newspapers (both print and electronic, like Asharq Al-Awsat and Elaph) began to espouse openly Zionist and pro-Israeli positions without apology.

Arab liberals would also abet an anti-democratic Palestinian Authority coup in 2007 against the democratically elected Hamas, a coup that was successful in the West Bank but failed in Gaza.

This Palestinian liberal and comprador class of intellectuals also sought to fully submit to US and Israeli political, military and economic diktat (then neoliberal Prime Minister Salam Fayyad best exemplified this submissiveness) and hoped that the 2008-2009, 2012 and the 2014 Israeli invasions of Gaza would finish off Hamas, a hope that would be dashed by the steadfastness of Hamas and other groups committed to military resistance.

It is with this as background that Arab liberals — secularists and Islamists among them — would emerge during the so-called Arab “Spring” of 2011 as leaders of the revolts of Egypt and Tunisia (and Syria and Libya, Bahrain and Yemen). In the telling case of Tunisia, the liberal Islamists’ (mainly the al-Nahda party) and secularists’ infighting brought about a modus operandi that led to the partial restoration of the ancien régime.

In Egypt, the secularist liberals were transformed into outright fascists overnight and allied themselves openly with the Mubarakist forces, both in government, the military and the business sector against the liberal and neoliberal Muslim Brotherhood, which was only able, during its brief stint in power, to ally itself with the Mubarakist army, which ended up toppling its government.

The communists and the Nasserists joined the liberal ranks by transforming themselves, like the liberals, into fascists who fancy their fascism as a form of “liberalism.”

They argued tirelessly and still argue that supporting a military coup against the elected and liberal Muslim Brotherhood, and the massive massacres that the coup authorities committed, were the epitome of liberalism and the restoration of a liberal order.

Arab liberals have gone as far as launching a war against European Muslims and Arabs, demanding that they ought to assimilate into their “host” Christian and secular societies.

The liberal Sheikh of al-Azhar, the chief cleric of this central Muslim institution, demanded that French Muslim women abide by French laws and not wear the hijab.

Yet it is the same Arab and Muslim liberals who demand that Arab Christians must not be made to submit to the majority Muslim culture of their societies and that respect by Muslims and Muslim states must be accorded to their differing Christian religious traditions.

One is dumbfounded by what Saudi and US money and political power (and the crucial Israeli role) can do in a short period of time.

The proliferation of US- and European-funded nongovernmental organizations across the Arab world since the early 1990s (as is the case elsewhere around the globe) has successfully conscripted whole armies of Arab intellectuals and technicians into US-, Israeli- and Saudi-style liberalism.

It is these Arab liberals — especially and mostly the secularists among them — who helped bring about and justify such massive levels of destruction across the Arab world.

The Islamist liberals in turn called for and cheered NATO intervention in Libya, which took place directly, and in Syria, which took place indirectly through massive infusions of cash and weapons.

These levels of destruction are unprecedented in scope even in colonial times.

Tallying these Arab liberal achievements, we find that the horror they visited or helped visit on the Arab world is enormous.

The death and injury of millions from Iraq to Syria, to Algeria, Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt, to Yemen and Libya, the complete destruction of Iraq, Syria, Gaza, Libya and now Yemen, the massive poverty in Egypt, Palestine, Iraq and Syria, let alone in Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen, Sudan, among others, have all been abetted by a majority of Arab liberals.

In fact, many of these events came about as a direct result of policies that liberals in government service or in the opposition and among intellectuals called for and helped bring about.

These liberals continue to work assiduously to justify the destruction and shift the blame for these crimes onto others and to justify all sorts of crimes committed by their patrons.

Neither the radical and extremist ISIS nor its precursor al-Qaida can lay claim to such a stellar record of destruction and misery.

The destruction wrought by and with the backing of liberals has been so immense that even the horrors that the Baath party, in its Iraqi and Syrian versions, has visited on Syria and Iraq and on their neighbors, is smaller in comparison.

Yet it is these same liberals who continue to speak of freedom, peace and prosperity while they bring about more repression, war and poverty.

Arab liberals and Arab liberalism have been a principal enemy of social, political and economic justice across the Arab world during the last half-century.

To claim otherwise would be to ignore their criminal record and to remain oblivious to the horrific reality they helped engender.

Joseph Massad is professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University in New York. He is the author most recently of Islam in Liberalism (University of Chicago Press, 2015).

Asad Ghsoub shared this link on FB this Aril 3, 2015

“Arab liberals and Arab liberalism have been a principal enemy of social, political and economic justice across the Arab world during the last half-century. To claim otherwise would be to ignore their criminal record and to remain oblivious to the horrific reality they helped engender.”

Arab liberalism allied itself with US and Israel to impoverish and destroy whole countries.
electronicintifada.net

adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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