Using “Anti-BDS” Laws To Protect Israeli Settlements

In the wake of the collapse of the last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks last April, it’s become widely accepted that the continuing growth of Israeli settlements is a key obstacle to an agreement. This has created difficulties for those inclined to support the Israeli government’s ability to do whatever it wants. One way to make it easier to defend the settlements and the occupation that sustains them is to obscure the difference between them and Israel proper. As I wrote last month, a method that lobbyists like the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have been employing lately to accomplish that is to target the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS).

Several recent pieces of legislation demonstrate how this is accomplished. In Illinois, a billprohibiting Illinois from contracting with businesses that are boycotting Israel passed unanimously in both the State Legislature and Senate. The language of the bill specifically includes “territories controlled by the State of Israel” – that is, territories occupied by Israel after the 1967 war, which no country in the world, including the U.S., recognizes as part of Israel. Read more at the FMEP blog.

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.

Brooklyn College Faculty Union Speaks Out in defense of BDS Event

The absurd events at Brooklyn College continue to roll along. The thought police, led by the great promoter of anti-Semitism (through his ceaseless efforts to dehumanize

Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti, the speakers whose appearance at Brooklyn College has sparked controversy

Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti, the speakers whose appearance at Brooklyn College has sparked controversy

Palestinians), Alan Dershowitz insist that any and all programs involving the Israel-Palestine conflict must present Israel’s point of view. One cannot miss the fact that they show no such concern when only the Israeli view is represented, as happens often on campuses and community centers across the country. And, to be sure, there is nothing wrong with that view being presented. But neither is the view of those who are working in support of the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel due to its 45-year old occupation.

That this issue even arises shows the absurdity of the debate on this issue in the United States. The fact that some New York City politicians are actually threatening to cut Brooklyn College’s funding should send a chill up anyone’s spine who believes in free speech and democracy, whatever their views of Israel, Palestine and BDS. But the university president is holding fast to the view that an institution of higher learning, whether privately or publicly funded, has a first duty to present a diversity of views and not every such presentation needs to be in a debate format. And she is being defended by her staff, in the form of their union.

Pasted below is the letter the union sent to a long list of cowardly, clueless or bigoted politicians who are trying to shut down a legitimate, non-violent Palestinian view from being heard. It doesn’t matter what you think of BDS, or which side, if any, your heart lies on with regard to the Israel-Palestine conflict. This is about free speech and academic freedom. And for that, a hearty BRAVO to Brooklyn College’s president, Karen Gould, and the union, as represented by Dr. Barbara Bowen.  Continue reading

URGENT: Journalists’ petition against the prosecution of Uri Blau

Uri Blau is the Ha’aretz report who received information from IDF reservidt Anat Kamm. You can read about that case here and you can find more in-depth background here  and here.

Blau may or may not be prosecuted, but, particularly in light of the massive WikiLeaks and Palestine Papers revelations, this sort of reporting has to be protected. It’s not just an Israeli issue–if Blau faces prosecution, this could have implications for journalism around the world.

Dimi Reider at 972 magazine offers analysis and background, but more importantly, includes a petition for journalists, bloggers and other writers to sign. If this fits you, please do add your name; instructions for doing so are also included in Dimi’s piece. Even if it does not, please spread word of this petition around. In the realm of ideas, free speech and the spirit of investigative journalism, there isn’t a more important issue today.

CUNY Said to be Reconsidering Kushner Degree

The New York Times is reporting that the CUNY Board of Trustees is plannign an emergency meeting Monday to reconsider the decision to drop Tony Kushner from their list of honorary degree recipients for this year.

I think we can all pat ourselves on the back for this one, but really, the decision was so outrageous, there was hardly any support for the revolting behavior of Jeffrey Wiesenfeld.

I have no doubt that the CUNY trustees were simply cowed by Wiesenfeld, and thought they were taking a path of least resistance. That’s usually how it is with such bodies. University trustees are notoriously leery of controversy, because any controversy tends to be of concern to the parents of prospective students and to donors.

But in this case, they simply underestimated how widespread the opposition would be. Hell, even Ed Koch, another degree recipient and certainly not one who sees Arabs and Muslims, much less Kushner’s views, in a positive light, objected in very strong terms. He even called for CUNY to kick Wiesenfeld off the Board of Trustees, and I can only hoep that plea also doesn’t fall on deaf ears.

Good news here, but until some sense of reason can be brought to debate on the Israel-Palestine conflict and, most particularly, to the US role in it, it’s only a drop in the ocean.

Hillel Bars Jewish Group While the Knesset Targets J Street

In his 1988 book, Israel’s Fateful Hour, the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Yehoshafat Harkabi, regarded up until the day of his death in 1994 as perhaps Israel’s premier expert on the Arab world and Islam, wrote the following:

“Given that Israel’s predicament also affects Jews in the Diaspora, they too should take an active part in the debate. Israelis must allow them to do so and listen to what

The Late General Yehoshafat Harkabi

they have to say…they must not be banished from the discussion, and to this end they must do their homework. They must also dare to speak their minds candidly, without being afraid to disagree with Israel. The reticence of the American Jewish leadership is not to their credit. Instead of publicly expressing their concern, they act as apologists for policies and conduct of which many of them privately disapprove, abdicating their responsibilities as leaders in America and as influential advisers in Israel.”

Harkabi is surely spinning in his grave today.

In two separate but parallel incidents, the assault on dissent from Israeli policies, and especially on Jewish dissent, continued and grew in intensity. The first, an all too typical example of the craven way in which the American Jewish community narrowly confines debate for its own people, was at Brandeis University, where the local Hillel chapter refused to admit the campus chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace.

The second was more stunning, and more of a departure from business as usual. This was the announcement that the leading crusaders against democracy in the Knesset – Othniel Schneller (Kadima) and Danny Danon (Likud) – are taking aim outside of Israel’s borders and targeting J Street.

On the Brandeis matter, I will be brief and refer you to the excellent reporting of the matter done by Jeremiah Haber at The Magnes Zionist. Jerry’s excellent take on the matter can be found here, his report on Brandeis’ J Street U chapter criticizing JVP’s exclusion despite the political differences between the groups is here, and Jerry’s spotlight on the Brandeis JVP chapter can be found here. Also, check out Meretz USA’s statement at their blog.  Continue reading

Post Hacks: Jennifer Rubin and Caroline Glick, Separated at Birth?

There was a time when the Washington Post was understood to be one of the better mass media newspapers in the country, often regarded as on a level with the New York Times as a serious paper.

Media analysts (which is where I started this work, so I’d count myself among these) would assuredly contend that this was damning with faint praise. Still that regard the WaPo, as it’s often called on the internet, was once held in has been in sharp decline for some time now.  Their coverage of Israel, for example, just gave us a startling example of that decline, when the Post decided to hire Jennifer Rubin as blogger.

Washington Post blogger, Jennifer Rubin (photo by Daniel Sieradski)

Rubin had previously written for the neoconservative Commentary Magazine and other outlets after leaving her career as a lawyer. Columnist Ali Gharib, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, says of her:

Rubin has a penchant for relentlessly sticking political opponents with negative labels… During the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy, Rubin claimed that Obama’s “sympathies for the Muslim World take precedence over those, such as they are, for his fellow citizens.” Last year, Rubin derided Obama as “the most anti-Israel U.S. president (ever),” a judgment unequivocally repudiated by even the hawkish Israel lobby group AIPAC. Undeterred, this summer Rubin lamented, in a typically overblown overstatement, that the Israel “must figure out how (quite literally) the Jewish state is to survive the Obama presidency,” insisting the following day that Israel will have to go it alone against Iran.

Rubin got called this week on that penchant for labeling, which some think is libeling. Continue reading