As President Trump made waves with an executive order meant to stifle speech, action, and education that highlights Palestinian rights, a case that might have been affected by that very order was resolved in Massachusetts. The suit, brought by several anonymous students against the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, attempted to censure the university for hosting a panel that supported the movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel and to establish that such events were inherently discriminatory and must be forbidden on campus.
The panel, which took place as scheduled on May 4, 2019, featured some of the country’s most outspoken supporters of Palestinian rights and progressive causes, including former Women’s March Co-Chair Linda Sarsour, Temple University Professor Marc Lamont Hill, musician Roger Waters, and Sports Editor for The Nation Magazine, Dave Zirin. All these people are fierce critics of Israeli policies from a progressive viewpoint.
The event, entitled, “Not Backing Down: Israel, Free Speech, and the Battle for Palestinian Rights,” was specifically designed to discuss efforts to stifle criticism of Israel, on campus and beyond. The suit itself, and the effort preceding it to force the cancellation of the event, couldn’t have demonstrated the need for that panel more clearly. Read more at Responsible Statecraft
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.
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.
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
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 →
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.