Thugs and Racists: The Michael Dunn Controversy

Something a little different today at Souciant. I explore the verdict in the case of Michael Dunn, a middle-age. middle class white man who killed a 17-year old black kid. Racism in the US may have gotten better, but not nearly as much as we’d like to think.

The Forgotten Key To Israel-Palestine: Water

This piece originally appeared at LobeLog

There was a real diplomatic blowup in the Knesset last week, when Naftali Bennett led a walkout of the chamber by his HaBayit

Rooftop water cisterns in Jenin.

Rooftop water cisterns in Jenin.

HaYehudi party during a speech by European Union Parliamentary President Martin Schulz. The comment Schulz made that elicited his response was this: “A Palestinian youth asked me why an Israeli can use 70 cubic liters of water and a Palestinian just 17. I haven’t checked the data. I’m asking you if this is correct.”

Is this just another example of Israeli hyper-sensitivity and over-reaction? In fact, it is not. At first glance, this seems like a foreign leader framing a question, one that seems to be regarding an issue that makes Israel look no worse than frequent statements about settlements and foot-dragging on the peace process. It actually touches on an issue that is at the very heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict, but that is too often overlooked. That issue is water. Continue reading

Congressmen Try to Restrict Free Speech To Prevent Boycotts of Israel

This article originally appeared at LobeLog.

Earlier this week, a bill was hastily removed from the agenda of the New York State Assembly. The bill was designed as a response Freedom_of_Thought_Ben_Franklinto the American Studies Association’s decision to boycott Israeli educational institutions. But it was so poorly written that even opponents of the ASA boycott saw it as potentially damaging to academic freedom in general. The bill was removed from the fast track in New York so it could be re-written to be more acceptable to its potential supporters. A similar bill is currently working its way through the Maryland state legislature.

Now the US Congress is getting into the act, with a bill that has the same goal, but takes a different approach. The bills in New York and Maryland did not specifically mention Israel, although it was clear that the ASA action against Israeli academia is what prompted the bills. Instead, they tried to argue that academic freedom meant that the state must penalize institutions that choose to express themselves through the power of boycott if the target is a country that has extensive academic connections with the United States. Continue reading

Britain’s Troubled Media

I’m proud to announce that in today’s Souciant we have Emmanuel Stokes interviewing Glenn Greenwald. Please check it out, it will be worth your while.

Oppose Anti-Boycott Maryland Bill (SB 647): Impinging on Academic Freedom and Free Speech

Readers, I have started a petition to oppose this bill in the Maryland State Senate. It would be a severe governmental intrusion on academic freedom and freedom of speech.

The bill was put forth in response to the American Studies Association decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Whether or not you support the ASA decision, a law like this one must be opposed. It’s simply a bad idea. It would not only penalize any state-funded academic institution (as most are) from participating in ASA or any other association which passed a similar decision, it would even prevent individual academics from participating in conferences organized by such groups. The irony is that ASA went out of its way to make sure that individual academics would not be so constrained by their own decision.

Please sign the petition which is directed to the Maryland legislature and governor, especially if you live in Maryland. This attempt to promote governmental interference in academic freedom and free speech must be defeated.

SodaStream Super Bowl Ad Obscures More Important Economic Pressure On Israel

When I watched the Super Bowl on Sunday, I tried to avoid the unpleasant experience of also watching Scarlett Johansson’s

A protest against SodaStream in DC in 2012

A protest against SodaStream in DC in 2012

shameful ad for SodaStream, but failed. That controversy has been boiling for the past week, and while supporters of Israel’s draconian occupation policies are dancing over Johansson’s decision to stand by SodaStream, the tune they’re dancing to is Nero fiddling while Rome burns. On many levels, the economic pressure on Israel is only gaining momentum, and the Johansson controversy both highlights that and masks some far more important events in this category.

On a personal note, I’m terribly disappointed in Johansson. I’ve enjoyed her work in both serious films like Lost in Translation and Match Point as well as in lighter fare such as her role as the Black Widow in various Marvel Comics adventure movies. I’ll enjoy those less now. Johansson might have been naïve at first about SodaStream, as the Financial Times suggests in their sharp criticism of her stance. But Oxfam International engaged her on this subject before breathing a sigh of relief at her decision to step down as their global ambassador. She knows by now how phony her line about SodaStream “building a bridge between Israel and Palestine” is. She simply chose whatever money and other material benefits she expects to get out of the SodaStream ad over the principle of ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and over the excellent international aid work of Oxfam. Continue reading