Published: Thu, 29 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Last Build Date: Thu, 29 Sep 2016 07:24:09 -0400
Mon, 19 Sep 2016 11:40:00 -0400The City University of New York (CUNY) released a report earlier this month, detailing an independent investigation conducted by former federal judge Barbara Jones and former federal prosecutor Paul Schechtman into whether the actions of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) had contributed to an intimidating atmosphere of anti-Semitism and violence on CUNY campuses. The extensive investigation—spurred by a letter written by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) that claimed SJP's actions had left Jewish students feeling "harassed, threatened, and even physically unsafe"—has led the authors of the report to conclude that it would be a "mistake" to "blame SJP for any act of anti-Semitism on any CUNY campus," and rejected calls to ban the pro-Palestinian group. Noting that many of SJP's theatrical protest tactics such as "die-ins," mock checkpoints, and its annual "Israel apartheid week," constitute protected speech, the authors wrote, "Political speech is often provocative and challenging, but that is why it is vital to university life. If college students are not exposed to views with which they may disagree, their college has short-changed them." This is precisely correct, and also leaves room for the university to take a stand against "hate speech," in the form of condemnation, but not officially sanctioned punishment. Also from the report: As a public university, CUNY is limited in the ways that it can respond to hate speech, whether the words are anti-Semitic, racist, anti-Muslim, or anti-LGBT. CUNY cannot punish such speech unless it is part of a course of conduct so pervasive or severe that it denies a person's ability to pursue an education or participate in University life. It cannot mandate civility or sanction isolated derogatory comments. But what CUNY cannot punish, it can still condemn. As a general rule, CUNY's Administrators and College Presidents have spoken out against anti-Semitic comments. That practice must continue; hate speech must be challenged promptly and forcefully lest it breed. Earlier this year, the University of California Board of Regents moved to ban "anti-Zionism" as a form of hate speech, and the New York State Senate voted to pass a bill that would defund student groups that so much as encouraged boycotts of certain countries (Israel among them). The bill died, but only because the New York State Assembly failed to vote on it before the legislative session ended. Pointing out the absurdity and seemingly arbitrary nature of a law that would ban college students from expressing themselves politically about some countries but not others, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) created the handy info-graphic below. FIRE's Adam Steinbaugh notes that because of the language of the bill, the Vatican, Sweden, India, all of Africa, and most of Asia would have been subject to calls for boycotts on-campus, but not Cuba, Pakistan, Venezuela, or Turkey. Three cheers for unproductive government, because had this bill made it into the Assembly, it would have very likely passed, and free speech on campus would have suffered a staggering defeat.[...]
Tue, 26 Jul 2016 15:54:00 -0400A big part of the reason Bernie Sanders stuck around in the primary process for as long as he did was to ensure the inclusion of a number progressive issues into the Democratic Party platform that otherwise stood no chance of being included. His stubborn (and often wrongheaded) longevity paid off in a number of ways—he got Hillary Clinton to embrace a $15 minimum wage, for example. But one plank his supporters could not get adopted to the platform was a call for "an end to [Israeli] occupations and illegal settlements" in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Though the five Sanders supporters on the platform drafting committee were able to get the language included in the draft, it was defeated 73-95 at a DNC conference earlier this month, and a substantial number of Sanders delegates have been sporting "I Support Palestinian Human Rights" signs, buttons, and stickers at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) to express their dissatisfaction with the party's current policy. One of these Sanders supporting delegates, Ayman Eldarwish of Virginia (who described himself as an American-born of Arab descent) told Reason, "We are disappointed that it did not enter the platform of the Democratic Party. We understand the dynamics of our country (but) the justice scale has to find its resting place correctly." Eldarwish added, "Our unlimited support for Israel is very unreasonable and it distorts the understanding of the reality on the ground. There are people without a land and freedom. They have to find their place on Earth, just like the Israelis want." Walter Conklin from Rhode Island said he thought the U.S.' position regarding Israel and the Palestinians was "absurd," and that despite the violence perpetrated by both sides, there needs to better recognition of the fact that Palestinians "are people." Wife and husband delegates Aila Amany and Iyad Afalqa of California—both supporters of the democratic socialist from Vermont—were decked out in Robin Hood hats (get it?)—and told Reason of their disappointment with their party's platform. The Jerusalem-born Afalqa says, "Bernie Sanders was the only presidential candidate who acknowledged the human rights of Palestinians. At the same time, he acknowledged Israel's right to exist, and as a Jewish man that was a big deal." He added that he believes the U.S. has a responsibility to be an "honest broker" in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and that some of his fellow delegates were considering leaving the party because they see no hope that a Hillary Clinton administration will be that "honest broker." Clinton, Afalqa says, will not be a "peace president, she will be a war president," adding that under her husband Bill's administration, "we were not at peace." He cited the sanctions on Iraq as a form of "collective punishment" on civilians and said he would not commit to voting for Clinton in the general election. Afalqa's wife, the Iranian-born Amany, says one reason she supported Sanders in the first place was because he refused to attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before Congress opposing the Iran nuclear deal. The American political relationship with Israel is currently in a rockier state than it has been in decades, which can be seen not only in the pronounced personal tensions between President Obama and Netanyahu—which could very well have lasting implications for the once-intractable alliance between the two countries—but also because young American liberals are increasingly sympathetic to the Palestinian plight and no longer on board with U.S. support for Israel as a default position. At this year's American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Clinton went toe-to-toe with the many Republican presidential contenders in attendance in competition for who could be the most vocal supporter of Israel. In contrast, Sanders skipped the event entirely and gave a fairly measured but still controversial speech which condemned Hamas' attacks on civilians and its opposition to Israel's[...]
Tue, 14 Jun 2016 12:37:00 -0400
(image) Continuing Gov. Andrew Cuomo's crusade against New Yorkers who don't support Israel, state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Nassau County) wants to ban public colleges and universities from funding pro-Palestinian student groups. A new bill sponsored by Martins would require state and city schools to defund any campus organization that supports efforts to "boycott, divest from, and sanction" (BDS) Israel over its treatment of Palestinians. The BDS movement has become popular on U.S. and U.K. campuses.
Martins' bill would also prohibit the funding of campus groups that support economic boycotts of any American-allied nation, although this bit seems designed to distract from his true goal: preventing anti-Israel sentiment on campus. In an interview with the New York Daily News, Martins referred to calls to boycott Israel as "hate speech" and "anti-Semitism" and said the state legislature has "no choice but to step in and prevent taxpayer dollars being used to promote" such sentiment.
It's unlikely that Martins' bill would pass constitutional muster. Selectively banning boycott-advocacy depending on the target is the essence of illegal content-based prohibitions on student speech. Regardless, it's interesting, if wholly unsurprising, to see an authoritarian like Sen. Martins appropriate progressives' pet term, "hate speech," to justify his restriction on progressive speech.
Martins went on to refer to students using their freedom of expression to push peaceful, market-based advocacy against Israel as "anti-freedom and anti-capitalism." (What's that saying about pots and kettles again?)
Earlier this month, Gov. Cuomo issued an executive order barring state agencies from doing business with companies that boycott Israel. "If you boycott Israel, New York will boycott you," the governor stated.
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 14:54:00 -0400When it comes to political activism regarding Israel/Palestine on American college campuses, ideological combatants on both sides often fail to respect the right of those with whom they disagree to have their fair say. Last month, the University of California (UC) voted to include anti-Zionism (broadly defined as opposition to the idea that Israel is the rightful national homeland of the Jewish people) as a form of banned "intolerant expression," and last week a bipartisan group of New York lawmakers demanded that the City University of New York (CUNY) ban the pro-Palestinian group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) from its campuses, alleging that SJP's activism had contributed to a climate of violence and intimidation against Jewish students. In both instances, the evidence that pro-Palestinian political activism is responsible for violence is flimsy at best, but the consequence of such reactions is an environment on college campuses where the freedom to engage in robust and impassioned political speech is chilled. But that doesn't mean pro-Palestinian activists always respect others' right to free expression. Just yesterday, activists "aligned" with SJP shouted down Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat's attempt to give a speech at San Francisco State University, where he made a stop on a brief tour of US college campuses sponsored by the Jewish student group, Hillel. A member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud Party, Barkat supports a "united Jerusalem" in Israeli hands. Since Israelis and Palestinians both consider Jerusalem to be their capital, such a sentiment combined with the increase of Israeli settlements in the largely Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem are considered by many to be a huge impediment to the rebooting of any legitimate peace process. A few minutes into his address, Barkat was forced to abandon the podium as SJP-affiliated protesters chanted things like "Free, Free Palestine," "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free," and "Intifada!" width="560" height="340" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/zLppXswX9e0" frameborder="0"> After the majority of the audience cleared out, Barkat sat among the few dozen students and teachers who remained and tried to resume his speech, while the activists congregated in the back of the room, continuing to shouting and chant in the hopes that even the truncated audience wouldn't be able to hear the speaker they came to see. width="560" height="340" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/My-V_EftVgo" frameborder="0"> Aruta Sheva reports, "Campus and city police were called, yet they stood idly by, allowing the unruly protesters to drown out the mayor’s address." The mayor's support of a "united Jerusalem" deeply offends advocates of the Palestinian cause, but the idea that "Palestine" consists of the land "from the river to the sea" surely offends Israelis and their supporters, as the river to the sea encapsulates both the Palestinian territories and the state of Israel. Both sides can claim that each of these ideas de-legitimizes the rightful existence of the other. Following yesterday's incident, San Francisco Hillel released a statement reading in part: There is a concerning trend that college campuses are not spaces where diverse viewpoints are tolerated. Recently, we have seen acts of outright hostility and physical aggression when one person did not agree with the views of another on campus. This characterization is true, but it is not confined to pro-Palestinian activism. As Reason's Robby Soave reported last December, the mere act of hanging a Palestinian flag in a dorm room window was deemed "disrespectful" to the George Washington University campus community, and the offending standard was ordered removed (watch an accompanying video report of this incident below). Advocates on each side of this complicated and ongoing international crisis frequently push a se[...]
Tue, 05 Apr 2016 11:30:00 -0400New York State Assemblymen Dov Hikind and David Weprin, both Democrats, penned a letter last week (co-signed by a bipartisan group of 33 state lawmakers) to the chancellor of the City University of New York (CUNY) demanding the suspension of the pro-Palestinian activist group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) from all CUNY campuses. Accusing SJP of orchestrating a campaign of "intimidation and fear" against Jewish students, the letter demanded the "toxic" organization which denies "Jewish history and legitimacy" be immediately shut down. CUNY responded by launching an investigation into alleged incidents of anti-Semitic harassment, including what the right-wing Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) described in a letter to CUNY as incidents of students "being pushed, spat upon and having objects thrown at them." But, the Forward reports, ZOA's letter is "vague as to when and where several of the most clearly anti-Semitic episodes took place, and as to what witnesses are making the charges." In an extensive investigation published last week, the Forward found that there is indeed some evidence of anti-Semitism on CUNY campuses, but no clear connection that SJP is behind any of it. Further, regarding some of the cases of alleged harassment, "the question is one of semantics — whether public expressions against 'Zionism' or 'Zionists' constitute anti-Semitism." Of one protest led by SJP: The ZOA letter claims that protesters were also shouting "Jews out of CUNY!" It’s a call heard nowhere on the video. But this discrepancy and arguments over it may miss a bigger issue. What are the protesters actually demanding when they chant "Zionists out of CUNY?" First, there is the worst possible implication — which is the one that at least some Jewish students heard. Asked if by 'Zionists out of CUNY,' her group actually meant that Jews, or non-Jews, who identify as Zionists should not be allowed to get, or give, an education at CUNY, Nerdeen Kiswani, vice president of SJP’s chapter at Hunter, who said she was leading those chants, noted that they were "protesting the ideology of Zionism — not people." The College Fix quotes Assemblyman Weprin as saying, "Hate Speech is not Free Speech and I call on CUNY to keep their campuses hate-free by taking concrete action on SJP." Equating anti-Zionism with hate speech is not confined to New York. As we've noted at Reason, the University of California's (UC) board of regents has recently voted to ban "anti-Zionism" on campus. Even if "anti-Zionism" is motivated by religious hatred or racial animus (which is arguable and difficult to prove in many cases), hate speech is indeed protected free speech, and incendiary political speech (the kind favored by activists on both sides of the Israel/Palestine conflict) is the most protected speech. If any group engages in organized physical harassment on campus, that organization deserves to lose its right to officially engage in campus life. But short of that, even what Assemblyman Hikind describes as the "malicious rhetoric" of a group that disagrees with his worldview deserves the First Amendment protections afforded to groups like Hillel, the Jewish student group whose CEO, Fmr. Congressman Eric Fingerhut (D-Ohio), demanded that debates over Israel within his own organization take place "within the context of a love of Israel, an unequivocal support of Israel." "Unequivocal support of Israel" offends plenty of people, and a case could be made that such a position "de-legitimizes" the Palestinian people's right to self-determination. But it's unimaginable that a group of US lawmakers would demand the removal of a group like Hillel from campus primarily because of their political beliefs, just as the notion that SJP be removed from campus for their beliefs should be considered an untenable proposal. [...]
Tue, 22 Mar 2016 10:20:00 -0400Much has been made about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) being the only candidate from the two major political parties to skip this year's American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference. To some, he's a self-hating Jew, to others, his absence is a form of quiet protest that positions him as the conscience of progressivism. The democratic socialist senator had been strongly urged by prominent leftist pro-Palestinian activists (including anti-Zionist writer Max Blumenthal and former Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters, who has endorsed Sanders) to skip the event that they claim promoted "the racist, militaristic, and anti-democratic policies of the most right-wing government in Israel's history." Sanders' campaign made no reference to those calls, instead blaming his absence on a busy campaign schedule that had him traveling in Utah yesterday. Sanders had offered to speak via video to the conference, but was refused by the event's organizers. However, in 2012, AIPAC made exceptions for two candidates who were too busy campaigning for president to make it to the hugely influential lobby group's annual meeting, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. The latter's disengaged performance via video screen (he literally fell asleep while waiting to speak and addressed a panel that was not there) might have had something to do with AIPAC's insistence this year that all the presidential hopefuls wishing to speak be physically present. src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZlW23ul5uv8" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> In her remarks to AIPAC, Hillary Clinton subtly jabbed at Donald Trump, who had previously promised to be "neutral" in any negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians when she said, "We need steady hands, not a president who says he's neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday, and who knows what on Wednesday, because everything is negotiable." For his part, Trump's speech to AIPAC made no mention of neutrality, saying "The Palestinians must come to the table knowing that the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable." Three of the four presidential candidates in attendance took shots at what Clinton blasted as the "alarming" Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) movement, saying "Particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise across the world, especially in Europe, we must repudiate all efforts to malign, isolate and undermine Israel and the Jewish people." In statements fraught with chilling ramifications for freedom of speech and protest, Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) promised to "use the full force of the White House to fight this scourge" of BDS, while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) went so far as to say that any college that participates in BDS will lose federal funding and, if in legal violation, "will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." At a rally in Salt Lake City, Sanders gave a speech he almost certainly would not have delivered to AIPAC, but which addressed his Middle East policy in depth. Leading off by mentioning the indisputable fact that he is the only major presidential candidate to have ever spent time living on an Israeli kibbutz, then extolling the historical and cultural ties between the US and Israel, Sanders said Israel requires "the unconditional recognition" of its right to exist from "the entire world" and that Hamas and Hezbollah must "renounce their efforts to undermine the security of Israel." Next, Sanders pivoted into a bit of pragmatic realism that would have been a non-starter at AIPAC: But peace also means security for every Palestinian. It means achieving self-determination, civil rights, and economic well-being for the Palestinian people. Peace will mean ending what amounts to the occupation of Palestinian territory, establishing mutually agreed upon borders,and pulling back settlements in the West Bank, just as Israel did in Gaza – once considered an unthinkable move on Israel's part. Sanders c[...]
Thu, 17 Mar 2016 16:10:00 -0400The University of California (UC) Board of Regents is considering adding "anti-Zionism" to an ever-growing list of unacceptable forms of "discrimination" that will be outlawed on the state university system's 10 campuses. The new proposal is an addendum to UC's still-under-consideration "Statement of Principles Against Intolerance," which Will Creeley of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) said in 2015 had the potential to lead to "a kind of race to the bottom, sooner or later, by public universities punishing students or faculty for a particular viewpoint." The AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit devoted to battling anti-Semitism on American college campuses, was the driving force behind the addition of anti-Zionism to the list of banned forms of "intolerant" expression, after deeming the previous UC statement to have insufficiently addressed anti-Semitism. In lobbying for the additional speech code, AMCHA cited a number of recent incidents where Jewish students were targeted, including the spraypainting of swastikas on the outside of a Jewish fraternity house at UC Davis. The latest report from the regents working group states: Opposition to Zionism often is expressed in ways that are not simply statements of disagreement over politics and policy, but also assertions of prejudice and intolerance toward Jewish people and culture. Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California. The UC regents are scheduled to discuss the report on March 23, but it seems that the working group is trying to have it both ways, because later in the report, they add that the university "will vigorously defend the principles of the First Amendment and academic freedom against any efforts to subvert or abridge them." It's hard to see how UC plans to square this circle, especially since Zionism, unlike Judaism, is not a religion but a specific political philosophy based on the belief that the land of Greater Israel is the rightful national homeland of the Jewish people. Zionism is not embraced by every person of the Jewish faith, nor is Zionism itself a monolith. There are plenty of self-described Zionists who are vocally critical of the government of Israel's policies, which presently include building settlements in the occupied West Bank, actions that are officially opposed by nearly every nation in the world, including the US. Additionally, holding the belief that the state of Israel's creation was misbegoten or unjust is a political position, one that is frequently debated in academia. While controversial, it is not necessarily motivated by anti-Semitism any more than someone opposed to Hamas running a de facto Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip is motivated by Islamophobia. On the legitimacy of debating Israel's right to exist, Eugene Volokh writes at The Washington Post: Whether the Jewish people should have an independent state in Israel is a perfectly legitimate question to discuss — just as it’s perfectly legitimate to discuss whether Basques, Kurds, Taiwanese, Tibetans, Northern Cypriots, Flemish Belgians, Walloon Belgians, Faroese, Northern Italians, Kosovars, Abkhazians, South Ossetians, Transnistrians, Chechens, Catalonians, Eastern Ukranians and so on should have a right to have independent states. The regents' proposal bears the hallmarks of a classic case of overcompensation and would likely result in legitimate political grievances being prosecuted under the umbrella of "hate speech." The roots of this prospective policy stem from a 2010 US State Department memo which attempted to define how "anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel." The memo lists the demonization of Israel, applying a double standard for Israel, and de-legitimizing Israel's right to exist as instances where [...]
Tue, 15 Dec 2015 14:45:00 -0500
In October, George Washington University police demanded student Ramie Abounaja remove the Palestinian flag hanging from his dormitory window, claiming that they had received multiple complaints from other students. Abounaja complied with the cop's demands but wondered why the police targeted his flag for removal—and not any of the other national flags hanging from dorm windows across campus.
GWU President Steven Knapp did eventually issue an apology to Abounaja. But the incident is still a reminder of how college students use police and administrators to censor people with whom they disagree. Left-leaning commentators like Glenn Greenwald and Matthew Yglesias contend that free speech advocates overlook the censorship of pro-Palestinian voices. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently fired Professor Steven Salaita for his anti-Israel tweets, and the University of California is attempting to suppress criticism of the state of Israel as part of an overly broad restriction of anti-Semitic hate speech.
But the censorship runs both ways. There are plenty of examples of pro-Palestinian students trying to shut down pro-Isreal speech on campus. In fact, students from all sorts of political groups try to censor their opponents—and university administrators are all-too-eager to comply.
So who’s the biggest loser in the campus free speech wars? It’s a question that’s nearly impossible to answer and one that ultimately misses the point. If one person’s free expression rights can be crushed underfoot by an overzealous administrator, campus security officer, or emotionally insecure student, then everyone on campus is in danger. And since “hateful” and “offensive” are subjective terms, we cannot protect the kinds of speech we like unless we also safeguard the kinds of speech we utterly despise.
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Sat, 28 Nov 2015 12:00:00 -0500In late October, a young Palestinian woman named Danya Irshid, only 17 years old, tried to stab an Israeli soldier at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, and was shot to death. Within hours, another young Palestinian living in Hebron, the 22-year-old Raed Jaradat, uploaded an image of Danya's body to his Facebook page, adding the Arabic caption, "Imagine it is your sister." The same day (or, some accounts say, the next day), Jaradat, armed with knife, attacked another Israeli soldier in Hebron, and Raed too was shot to death. At Jaradat's funeral on November 1, Raed's father publically asked Danya's father for her hand in marriage, on behalf of his late son. The betrothal was accepted on the spot: the late Danya Irshid became Danya Jaradat in the eyes of the families, the tearful fathers were raised onto the shoulders of dancing celebrants, as they might be at a wedding of the living, to the sound of upbeat wedding music. The two martyrs were announced as having married in heaven. The reports about this singular event all agree, by the way, that Raed and Danya had never met. There's a brief, subtitled video of all this here; we'll take a closer look at it in a moment. Posthumous marriage between the living and the dead is not unknown; it's allowed in some places for various legal—or even just sentimental—reasons. France has allowed it since the 1950s, where its legal status is an extension of proxy marriage. Even marrying the dead to the dead has a history: the Chinese once practiced so-called "Ghost Marriage," in which they wedded the dead to other dead partners (or sometimes to living ones), often to placate spirits with a reason to be unhappy, though such events have become very rare. The Sudanese have a form of Ghost Marriage where a living brother stands in for a dead one; any children of such a marriage are considered as the offspring of the dead brother. In Islam, the marriage of unmarried believers in heaven is apparently part of the expectation of Paradise, at least according to this Koranic excursus, which purports to be authoritative (though one should assume scholarly debate on such a matter), and which addresses aspects of heavenly marriage in great detail. "The believing men and women who died before they got married in the world will be married in Paradise; all of the single people will be married there," it says. However, that description suggests the wedding of deserving souls according to divine will, and as a divine reward; it would seem to have nothing to do with the wants or actions by the living families. What happened in Hebron, on the other hand, was the result of family intervention, and looks a lot like old Chinese Ghost Marriage, but with a doubtful Islamic twist. At any rate, this posthumous marriage of Palestinian martyrs seems to have been a first among modern Palestinians, or at least that is how a Palestinian news agency in Gaza described it. (Quick aside: Since so many Westerners seem fixated on paradise's dark-eyed houris, let's note that the excursus' scholar promises that wives in paradise will be the houris' sultanas.) Now back to that video of the funeral/marriage. What's going on there? Is martyrdom being rewarded? Are the souls of the dead being placated? Actually, it rather looks as if the event is political. The opening moments of the subtitled video show a man at a podium leading events at Raed Jaradat's public funeral. He announces that Jaradat's father is asking Danya Irshid's father "for his daughter's hand in marriage for [his son] the martyr in Paradise." Even as this man is speaking, however, the camera swoops from him to a row of seated mourners, where it rests on the father of Danya Irshid while he is still in his seat. This is clearly rehearsed. While one would assume the families would consult in advance on such an unusual event, the cameraman seem[...]
Sun, 22 Mar 2015 00:00:00 -0400The Benjamin Netanyahu on display in the days before and after Tuesday’s Israeli election is the same one who has been in power all these years. Right along, he was there for all to see, so no one should have been surprised by his performance. I seriously doubt that anyone really is surprised. Americans who slavishly toe the Israeli and Israel Lobby line may act surprised, but that’s really just their embarrassment at having to answer for the prime minister of the "State of the Jewish People." Democrats especially are in a bind. They can’t afford to distance themselves from Netanyahu and alienate Jewish sources of campaign donations, yet they are visibly uncomfortable with his so openly racist fear-mongering about Israeli Arab voters—"The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them in buses." The Democrats' defense of that ugly appeal as merely a way to get the vote out is disgraceful. (Imagine something equivalent happening in the United States.) Democrats are also nervous about Netanyahu’s declaration that no Palestinian state will be established as long as he heads the Israeli government. (His post-election attempt to walk it back somewhat was not well-received.) Life was so much simpler for people like Hillary Clinton when Netanyahu didn’t say things like that in public. Meanwhile, hawkish Republicans—that’s redundant— are unfazed. For anyone paying close attention, Netanyahu’s racism and ruthless opportunism are not news at all. A few years ago a candid video from 2001 surfaced in which he cynically described Americans as "easily moved," i.e., manipulated. The Israelis, he said, can do what they want with the Palestinians because the Americans "won't get in their way." These are the same Americans who are forced to send Israel $3 billion a year in military assistance so that it can regularly bomb and embargo Palestinians in the Gaza Strip prison camp and oppress Palestinians in a slightly more subtle manner in the shrinking West Bank and East Jerusalem. With Netanyahu, you really do know what you get, which arguably makes him a better choice to run Israel than the left-of-center Zionist Union because the Laborites share most of Likud’s beliefs about the Palestinians; they’re just more circumspect and therefore more comforting to so-called Americans "liberals." Saying you support negotiations toward a Palestinian state is not the same as actually being for a viable Palestinian state. Palestinians have little left of the walled-off West Bank and East Jerusalem because of Jewish-only towns built over the years by the two dominant parties, Likud and Labor. And Gaza is a bombed-out disaster area. (Even for many two-state advocates, justice is not the concern. Rather, demographic circumstances make one state untenable for these pragmatists because out-and-out apartheid, which the world would frown on, would be seen as the only alternative to a genuinely democratic state with a Jewish minority. The one-staters have their own solution to the Palestinian problem, the one used in 1948: transfer.) The prime minister is a sophist extraordinaire; he says whatever he needs to say to gain his objective of the moment. When he ruled out a Palestinian state before the election, in a bid to shore up his right-wing base, he was interpreted as reversing a commitment he made in 2009, after he had returned to power, the same year that Barack Obama took office. The campaign reversal put Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry in a most uncomfortable position, since they had made the fraudulent "peace process" a top priority, until talks broke down last spring, a failure they pinned at least in part on Netanyahu. Once the election was over and some reconciliation with the U.S. government was r[...]
Wed, 19 Nov 2014 20:25:00 -0500
Reason TV Writer/Producer Anthony L. Fisher spoke with Kennedy, Kmele Foster and Reason Editor-in-Chief Matt Welch on Fox Business Network's "The Independents" about the fallout from this week's Jerusalem synagogue massacre.
Original airdate: Tuesday November 18, 2014.
Wed, 22 Oct 2014 18:15:00 -0400
A three-month-old baby was killed and seven other people were wounded on Wednesday evening when a Palestinian drove his car into a light rail train station near Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem and ran over over passersby disembarking from the train.
A 20-year-old woman was in serious condition following the attack, two people were moderately hurt and four more were lightly wounded.
The driver, who was shot by police trying to flee the scene, succumbed to his wounds in hospital hours later. He was identified as Abdel Rahman Al-Shaludi, a Palestinian resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, who in the past served prison time for security offenses.
Mon, 29 Sep 2014 17:30:00 -0400
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared his country's recent bombing campaign in Gaza to the U.S.-led strikes against militants in Iraq and Syria, saying Hamas and the Islamic State group share the same goal of world domination.
Addressing the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, Netanyahu accused Hamas of committing "the real war crimes" in Gaza by using Palestinian civilians as human shields. It was an angry response to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' speech to the U.N. last week in which he accused Israel of conducting a "war of genocide" in Gaza.
Netanyahu railed against world leaders who have condemned Israel for its war with Hamas while praising President Barack Obama for attacking Islamic State militants and other extremists in Syria and Iraq.
Tue, 16 Sep 2014 16:31:00 -0400Last week, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Trustees voted 8-to-1 to deny a tenured position to Steven Salaita, a professor who had been slated to start teaching there this semester. Salaita's job offer was initially rescinded in response to outcry over statements he tweeted about Gaza and Israel, which some have labeled "hate speech." Two weeks before his scheduled August start date, Salaita received the rejection letter from UIUC Chancellor Phyllis Wise, who had been meeting with concerned donors and alumni about Salaita's appointment. In a blog post, Wise explained that her decision "was not influenced in any way by his positions on the conflict in the Middle East nor his criticism of Israel." Rather, the school "cannot and will not tolerate...personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them." "Is this meant to be serious?" asked Robert L. Shibley, senior vice president at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. "If I am an Illinois student or professor, am I actually to be prohibited from 'disrespectfully' 'abusing' ideas with which I disagree? What about racism, fascism, or communism? What if I am 'disrespectful' of a colleague or fellow student's belief that the world is flat, or that the Sun circles the Earth?" In other words, a policy against 'disrespectfully abusing' ideas can never be divorced from the content of those ideas. This is not merely about Salaita's tone, but the fact that those who felt disrespected were able to view his comments as hate speech—a form of expression designed to disparage or intimidate a protected group. In the United States, hate speech is only considered beyond the bounds of protected expression when it's intended to incite imminent violence. But university speech codes have for decades pushed the limits of limiting expression, and lately we've been seeing a resurgence of hate-speech mission creep. Josh Cooper, a UIUC senior who collected more than 1,000 signatures on a petition against Salaita's appointment, told university Trustees that "hate speech is never acceptable for those applying for a tenured position...[and] yes, there must be a relationship between free speech and civility." According to Cooper, the incivil nature of Salaita's social media presence is a "mechanism for silencing alternative views." In more than 100 tweets between late July and August 1, Salaita condemned Zionism and Israel's bombing of Gaza in an impassioned, blunt, and emotional manner. But nothing jumped out at me as being clearly hateful or beyond the realm of non-psychotic discourse. Here's a sample: Zionists: take responsibility. If you support #Israel, fine, but you don't get to pretend you also support democracy or human rights. #Gaza "#Hamas makes us do it!" This logic isn't new. American settlers used it frequently in slaughtering and displacing Natives. #Gaza It seems the only way #Obama and #Kerry can satisfy #Israel's Cabinet is if they bludgeon Palestinian children with their own hands. #Gaza I repeat: if you're defending #Israel right now, then "hopelessly brainwashed" is your best prognosis. Controversial statements? Sure, but nothing too far from Twitter-discourse norms. And certainly not enough to ascertain Salaita as an unhinged, anti-Semitic monster. The charges of anti-Semitism seem to hinge on one Tweet, which has been passed around by media and critics as where Salaita crossed the line: Zionists: transforming 'anti-Semitism' from something horrible into something honorable since 1948. That does sound pretty terrible—taking the actions of Israel or Zionists as indicative of all Jewish pe[...]
Wed, 27 Aug 2014 11:29:00 -0400Israel and Hamas have reportedly accepted a long-term truce mediated by the Egpytian government that is mostly the same as a deal offered in the first week of fighting that Israel accepted but Hamas declined. Nevertheless, this time Hamas declared the truce a "victory." The deal will extend the distance from the coast Palestinian fishermen can operate it and will ease restrictions on trade and travel at Gaza's Israel-controlled border checkpoints. Hamas also wanted an airport and seaport in Gaza while Israel wanted Hamas to demilitarize. These and other issues will be revisited if the truce can last through September. The truce is no victory for Hamas or the Israeli government, but if it holds it will be a victory for Israelis and Palestinians because it will bring a respite from rocket launches and retaliatory military strikes. It's also a victory for Egypt, which mediated negotiations between two sides that as a matter of policy don't talk to each other. While Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. "strongly supported" the truce he also said he understood it was an "opportunity, not a certainty," which is certainly true. In the beginning of the fighting, Kerry was heavily involved in trying to get Israel and Hamas to agree to a truce but toward the end even the Israeli left had enough of him. President Obama defended Kerry, calling criticism of his attempts to negotiate a truce unfair. "He has been persistent. He has worked very hard," the president said. Reserving judgment on Kerry's skills as a negotiator, his attempt to negotiate a truce was doomed from the start. The U.S. plays too active a role, yet is not vested enough in the situation in Israel, to have acted as an effective negotiator. Egypt, with which the Gaza strip also shares a tightly controlled border, which sends aid to Gaza, and which has a 35 year old peace deal with Israel, was far better positioned to negotiate a truce than the U.S. America's participation in negotiations may have also made them harder to succeed by drawing so much public and press attention to the process. In those conditions, Israeli and Hamas negotiators might have been more interested in not appearing weak in the court of public opinion. Even Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood president (Hamas is also a part of the broader Muslim Brotherhood movement) Mohammed Morsi understood the role Egypt could play in getting Hamas to agree in a truce, in one of the previous military campaigns over Gaza in 2011. Egypt's ability and willingness to participate constructively in matters of regional security illustrates some of the benefits of U.S. non-interventionism. Countries like Egypt will only step up to keep their regions stable if they are weaned off the idea the U.S. is responsible for stability everywhere. In that vein, Egypt, along with the United Arab Emirates, also recently conducted air strikes against radical Islamist militants making gains in Libya. That country has been sliding into instability since the West's hit-and-run intervention in 2011 that helped an assortment of rebels overthrow the government of Col. Qaddafi, leaving that government's massive weapons stockpiles for the taking of all kinds of miltiants, from Nigeria to Syria. Despite the Obama administration's contribution to this chaos, the U.S. government appeared to lament Egypt's "intervention" in Libya as an "escalation" of the turmoil, according to USA Today. Yet Egypt is far more staked in a stable Libya than the U.S. is, and their willingness to step up there too is more evidence that U.S. non-intervention can spur regional powers to take more responsibilities and not, as interventionists argue, create more chaos. In fact, that's wh[...]