Yearly Archives: 2007

Wiretapping: An Issue In Israel Too

With all of the attention paid to the illegal and intrusive wiretapping programs of the Bush Administration over the past few years, it is interesting to note this story about a similar problem in Israel. This story in Ha’aretz (which is accompanied by a two-minute film clip if you follow the link) explains that the Israel Defense Forces ran phone taps for years under the supervision of the censor. Ha’aretz reports, however, that soldiers often went beyond the scope of permissible wiretaps, which encompassed foreign journalists making international calls from Israel. They also listened in to conversations “…prime ministers held with world leaders and even private conversations by ordinary citizens.”

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The Finkelstein brouhaha at Oxford

(For comprehensive commentary and reporting on this story, head over to the excellent blog, The Magnes Zionist:Self-Criticism from an Israeli, American, and Orthodox Jewish Perspective)

There has been a lot of back and forth about what is apparently the latest incident of muzzling, but frankly, I’m not entirely convinced.

Norman Finkelstein was to argue against this motion put forth at Oxford: ‘This House believes that one state is the only solution to the Israel Palestine Conflict’ and in favor of a two-state solution. Finkelstein was, at a relatively late date, replaced on the two-state team by Peace Now-UK Co-Chair Paul Usiskina, who, unlike Finkelstein, is much more sympathetic to Israel and grounds his two-state argument in a Zionist framework. In protest, the one-state team (Israeli professors Ilan Pappe and Avi Shlaim, and UK’s Dr. Ghada Karmi) withdrew from the debate.
Karmi wrote about what happened in the Guardian, and on what she regards as a form of Intellectual Terrorism, a product of the US Israel Lobby exported to the UK.

According to Luke Tyrel, the head of the Oxford Union, pressure to disinvite Finkelstein came from numerous parties, but especially Finkelstein nemesis Alan Dershowitz, who was originally invited to participate but declined.

Many people expressed concern that the debate as it stood was imbalanced and people felt that as someone who had apparently expressed anti-zionist sentiments that you might not be appropriate for this debate. I tried to convince them otherwise but was accused of putting forward an imbalanced debate and various groups put pressure on me. I received numerous emails attacking the debate and Alan Dershowitz threatened to write an Oped attacking the Union. What is more he apparently attacked me personally in a televised lecture to Yale.

(Indeed, Dershowitz wrote his essay anyway, and saw Oxford Union is Dead printed in the right-wing echo chamber at Frontpage Amagazine and the Jerusalem Post.)

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Free Speech Also Means Responding To Hate Speech

A short while ago, I received an e-mail requesting support for a speaker appearing at a forum in Oregon. Included was an op-ed which apparently appeared in the local newspaper which was essentially making the point that free speech was absolute. It was headlined “Freedom of Speech Threatened When Speakers Are Attacked.” The author was defending the appearance of Mark Weber, the director of the Institute for Historical Review, an organization whose primary goal is to “prove” that the Holocaust either never happened or was greatly exaggerated.

Needless to say, the request for support was refused. That the author of the op-ed mentioned above would conflate a holocaust denier like Weber with Desmond Tutu and Norman Finkelstein, however, also reflects the dangers of spurious accusations of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Tutu has been accused of the former, Finkelstein of the latter. When such people, however deeply anyone disagrees with them, are painted with the same brush as someone like Weber, the parable of the boy who cried wolf is proven.

Muzzlewatch is, of course, dedicated to opening up debate and defending both the right and ability of individuals to speak from their conscience about Israel and the conflicts in the Middle East without fear of professional and personal attacks. That includes those who support current American and Israeli policies, and Muzzlewatch has defended such people in this space.

But the issue of free speech is taken to absurd lengths when one argues that hate speech must have a platform. That is very different from arguing, as I certainly would, that even the most hateful bigot has a right to his or her views and the right to be free from government restriction on the expression of those views. But that doesn’t mean that a public, private, educational or media institution must provide a platform for hate speech.

Indeed, the very premise the op-ed author uses to defend Weber’s appearance, that “free speech is threatened when speakers are attacked” is the height of absurdity. Public speakers are attacked all the time. In my own case, as someone who has been critical of Israeli and American policies as well as those of the Arab states, Iran and the various Palestinian factions, I have been attacked from all sides of this debate. I’m still speaking as freely as ever. Continue reading

Nadia Abu El-Haj gets tenure at Barnard despite smear campaign

The smear campaign to deny Palestinian American scholar Nadia Abu El-Haj tenure at Barnard has failed. The right-wing tabloid New York Sun reports today she “has been granted tenure following a heated battle, a source at the college said last night.”

Paula Stern, the Israeli American settler and Barnard grad who initiated the campaign against Abu El-Haj sent out a rambling email to various lists:

Nadia Abu El Haj, a controversial professor of Anthropology at Barnard College has been given tenure. This is a warning to Jewish students at Barnard and Columbia – you will now have one more professor to avoid, one more purveyor of hate in your ranks. Already the lowest forms of life are crawling out amid the ivy. A swastika was painted on a door of a Jewish professor at Columbia, a noose on the door of a black professor, more swastikas in other places – think you that there is no connection?

When a school opens its doors to a man such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and when they hire people like El Haj and Massad, they invite hate to dine, to make its home in its once-hallowed halls. Too many waited too long, and El Haj’s acceptance is the result.

Stern closes with this:

Recently, Moslem authorities ordered a trench dug on the Temple Mount…and what did they find as they carelessly dug…remnants of OUR First Holy Temple. El Haj can lie all she wants…but the earth does not lie and from its depths comes the truth she is trying to deny.

And that truth, here in this land, is our greatest victory of all.

Read what New York Jewish Week’s Larry Cohler-Esses, who actually read the book, has to say about Stern’s campaign.

Hat tip to Dr. Jim West.

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More on the attacks on Sabeel’s Boston conference

Check out Richard Silverstein’s in-depth analysis of CAMERA’s High Tech Lynching of Palestinian Christian Group Sabeel.

Sabeel is a Palestinian liberation theology organization that supports a two-state solution and nonviolent resistance to the occupation. They’ve had conferences across the United States, sponsored and supported by various Christian denominations, which have usually gone off without a hitch.

But their most recent conference in Boston, which featured Nobel prize winner Archbishop Tutu and an open discussion of the concept of apartheid, caused particular ire among many in the pro-occupation and institutional Jewish community. Sabeel and Tutu confronted an intense campaign to vilify Sabeel as an anti-Semitic, hate organization.
Liberation theology, which emerged as a powerful voice of conscience in Latin America in the 60′s, by definition, uses Christian imagery and stories about Jesus to understand and fight contemporary injustices. Some of the images used by Sabeel, although entirely consistent with the liberation theology approach, understandably make some of us Jews uncomfortable, precisely because of the Church’s history of virulent anti-Semitism. But to take Jewish discomfort and turn that into vilification of Sabeel as an anti-Semitic group is simply beyond reason. It’s downright immoral. (Silverstein’s piece carefully dissects the arguments made in Boston by pro-occupation groups.)
See also our post on Rabbi Arthur Waskow’s experience with pressure from some Boston-based pro-occupation organizations.

There are a lot of benefits of a wholesome lifestyle. But can medicines help us? In fact, it is not so easy to find trusted web-site. Choosing the best treatment variation for a racy disease can get really confusing considering the merits and demerits of the existing treatment methodologies. Diflucan (fluconazole), the first of a new group of synthetic antifungal agents, is existing as a powder for oral suspension. Viagra which is used to treat erectile dysfunction and similar states when erection is of low quality. Cialis is a medicine prescribed to treat a lot of complaints. What do you know about buy cialis online cheap? Our article focuses on the treatment of erectile dysfunction and buy cialis cheap. Generally, both men and women suffer from sexual dysfunctions. What are the symptoms of sexual disorders? In fact, a scientific reviews found that up to three quarters of men on such remedy experience erectile disfunction. Such disease is best solved with professional help, commonly through counseling with a certified physician. Your sex therapist can help find the treatment that is better for you and your partner. The most common undesirable side effects of such medications like Cialis is dizziness. This is not a complete list of potential side effects and others may occur. Even if this preparation is not for use in women, this medicine is not expected to be harmful to an unborn baby.

DePaul’s Merhene Larudee’s rights violated

The DePaul Academic Freedom Committee sent out this statement today:

Tenure Process Violated DePaul Professor’s Rights, Review Board says

Professor Mehrene Larudee’s rights were violated by DePaul University during her tenure process, according to a Review Board decision issued October 26. Unanimously approved for tenure by her department, the International Studies Program, as well as the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LA&S), she was turned down by the University Board on Promotion and Tenure (UBPT) in May, and the president denied her tenure in June. It is widely thought that she was denied for supporting Prof. Norman Finkelstein during his controversial tenure case last spring.

According to the Faculty Handbook, Larudee should have been notified promptly both of the fact that the UBPT had voted against tenure for her and of the reasons why. Had this rule been followed, she would have had a chance to give the President reasons to reverse the UBPT decision. The Review Board agreed that her rights were violated, but offered no remedy, saying the Handbook has no defined mechanism for a response to the President. Larudee insists the Handbook does define a right to respond. The Review Board also rejected her separate claim that her academic freedom was violated.

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U of Michigan says yes to Pluto Press

You can read the transcript of Amy Goodman’s interview with Joel Kovel on Democracy Now:

We turn now to an important victory in the battle for free speech here in the United States. Last week the University of Michigan Press voted unanimously to continue distributing books from the London-based independent publishing house Pluto Press. The controversy began earlier this summer when the university press decided to stop distributing a new book by author and activist Joel Kovel published by Pluto Press. It’s called “Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine.”

The editorial board of the U. of Michigan student paper roundly condemned the university for their role in the threatened termination of their relationship with Pluto Press.

From the Daily- Start the presses:
“University Press’s wavering is inexplicable and inexcusable”

MICHIGAN DAILY (University of Michigan; Ann Arbor)
Signed editorial

Published on October 30, 2007

The University of Michigan Press is supposed to be devoted to publishing books that “contribute to public understanding and dialogue about contemporary political, social, and cultural issues.”

Sometimes that means defending controversial books, and it doesn’t get much more controversial than the Israeli-Palestinian debate.

Unfortunately, in deciding whether to continue distributing Bard College Prof. Joel Kovel’s book, “Overcoming Zionism” and whether or not to renew its contract with the book’s publisher, Pluto Press, the University Press undermined all of its supposed values. Although the UniversityPress made the right decisions in the end, along the way it wavered on its commitment to protecting academic debate and cowered behind decisions that lacked any transparency.

Not everyone will or should agree with Kovel’s book. Printed by Pluto Press, a Leftist independent publisher based in Britain, “Overcoming Zionism” argues that the ideology of Zionism amounts to “state-sponsored racism,” which is incompatible with democracy. The book goes further to say that in order to achieve peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Zionism must be rejected in favor of a secular, single-state, democratic solution.

As criticisms of the book surfaced, the University Press balked at defending its reasoning for distributing the book. Instead, last August, the press’s director, Phil Pochoda, decided to halt distribution, simply citing “serious questions raised by several members of the Universitycommunity about the book.” In other words, some people objected to a controversial book, and the press, rather than defending the principles it exists to serve, simply backed down.

There is no doubt that some people will have objections to Kovel’s contentions, but is there any reason besides complacency and cowardice that those contentions should not be presented into the debate?

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Charges dropped against Palestinians in 20 year-old case

Silencing is one thing. Then there is criminalization. We can finally mark the end of one particularly egregious case of criminalizing Muslims and Arabs who live in this country and dare to criticize policy or support Palestinian self-determination.

Here is the joint press release from the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU of Southern California:

CHARGES DROPPED IN 20-YEAR OLD DEPORTATION CASE AGAINST PALESTINIAN ACTIVISTS

Long court battle ends with victory for immigrants

LOS ANGELES – The 20-year effort to deport two men over their alleged political support of Palestinian self-determination officially came to an end today when the nation’s highest administrative body overseeing immigration cases dismissed all charges against Khader Hamide and Michel Shehadeh, members of a group of Palestinian student activists arrested in January 1987, who became known as the LA8.

The action by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) closes one of the nation’s longest-running and most controversial deportation cases, one that tested whether immigrants have the same First Amendment rights as citizens.

Hamide and Shehadeh expressed both relief and happiness that the case is finally over but also anger over what they believed to be a politically motivated, baseless prosecution.

“My family and I feel a tremendous amount of relief today,” said Hamide. “After 20 years, the nightmare is finally over. I feel vindicated at long last. This is a victory not only for us, but for the First Amendment of the Constitution and for the rights of all immigrants.”

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Profs from top universities say no to false charges of anti-Semitism, attacks on academic freedom

Inside Higher Education reports on a new effort organized by Joan W. Scott from the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton, N.J., and former chair of the American Association of University Professors’ Committee on Academic Freedom; Jeremy Adelman, a historian from Princeton; Steve Caton, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard; Edmund Burke III, director of the Center for World History at the University of California at Santa Cruz; and Jonathan R. Cole, provost emeritus of Columbia University.

Saying that they are fed up with “aggressive incursion of partisan politics into universities’ hiring and tenure practices,” five prominent academics have issued a call to “defend the university” and gathered dozens of backers in what they view as a new way to bolster academic freedom.

The Ad Hoc Committee to Defend the University has issued a statement and is asking professors and others to sign on.

The statement makes a general call for academic freedom, and defense of the university against outside political pressure. They make absolutely clear the source of most of these attacks:

Unfortunately and ironically, many of the most vociferous campaigns targeting universities and their faculty have been launched by groups portraying themselves as defenders of Israel. These groups have targeted scholars who have expressed perspectives on Israeli policies and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with which they disagree. To silence those they consider their political enemies, they have used a range of tactics such as:

  • unfounded insinuations and allegations, in the media and on websites, of anti-Semitism or
    sympathy for terrorism or “un-Americanism;”
  • efforts to broaden definitions of anti-Semitism to include scholarship and teaching that is critical of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and of Israel;
  • pressures on university administrations by threatening to withhold donations if faculty they have targeted are hired or awarded tenure;
  • campaigns to deny scholars the opportunity to present their views to the wider public;
  • the promotion of efforts to restrict federal funding for area studies programs and the teaching of critical languages on political grounds;
  • lawsuits in the name of the “right” of individual students not to hear ideas that may challenge or contradict their beliefs;
  • and demands in the name of “balance” and “diversity” that those with whom they disagree be prevented from speaking unless paired with someone whose viewpoint they approve of

Scott told Inside Higher Ed:

…the statement came about because “a number of us were just fed up with the amount of pressure that groups which claim to be defending Israel are exerting.” Citing such cases as the anthropologist at Barnard, Scott said “outside political groups are trying to force the hand of university administrators in ways we think are really dangerous.”

The scholars in these cases deserve tough scrutiny, Scott said, but it should come from scholars in their disciplines — their departments and the outside experts recruited by their departments for evaluations — not from the public or people in other fields. She said that critics of these professors imply unfairly that their work is never reviewed, when their books would never have been published without thorough peer review and they never would have been hired without intense questioning about their scholarship and teaching.

“It is the prerogative and responsibility of the members of the discipline to make these judgments,” she said. “It’s not as if people get a free pass. It’s that at every stage, the review has to be within the discipline.”

She said, for instance, that it would not bother her if Alan Dershowitz offered opinions on law professors, but that he should not have been evaluating Finkelstein, a political scientist. As a general rule, she said, “biologists shouldn’t tell historians how to interpret Middle Eastern history and historians shouldn’t tell biologists what good biology is.”

Sign the petition here.

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