THE ABSURD TIMES — STILL

The Absurd Times Gaza, Egypt, Christians, Oil, Moslems, etc.

Posted in Uncategorized by @honestcharlie on December 19, 2013

THE ABSURD TIMES

Illustration: Prince Bandar, just a little help from our friends.

We have grown so used to splenetic prose over the issue of the Palestinians and the occupied territories that a quiet, reasoned, discussion seems strange. We do not have Derschowitz, Finkelstein, Holocaust, Anti-Semetic, and all the other idiocy we have grown to expect. Below is a substantial discussion of the decision of the American Studies Association, a group representing thousands of U.S. scholars, deciding to boycott Israel for excellent reasons listed below.

This is actually encouraging as it seems to eliminate the abstract concept of some supernatural force at work and instead focuses on human rights. If they are able to do that, perhaps something will be accomplished.

Still, I’d like to share with you a letter written by one of my friends (yeah, I got a couple, actually) about a PBS episode:

“To: TV <tv>
Date: Thu, 12 Dec 2013 00:08:29 -0800
Subject: How can you do such a terrible thing?

I have just been watching a whitewash of Israel’s horrid subjugation of
Palestinians in BBC-TV John Ware’s ‘Israel : Facing the Future’,
ostensibly chronicling Israel’s reaction and response to the Arab Spring.

Palestinians are being portrayed as devious and unpredictable, capable
of terrorist attacks, etc. israel is shown as struggling to survive as
a Jewish state, faced with Arab resistance and threats.

Let’s look at some facts. Israel receives more aid than any other
foreign country from the US, over 3 billion dollars a year.
Palestinians receive barely enough aid from us to survive, indeed, many
do not. Land and water rights are continually stolen from
Palestinians, who are the legal owners of their own land, by Israeli
military force, weapons supplied to israel by the US in most cases.
Perhaps there are more dire humanitarian crises in the world, but none
funded solely by the USA.

KQED, you may have strong financial support from pro-Israel or Israel
right-or-wrong enthusiasts, I would call them some of them fanatics who
want to see Israel rid itself of non-Jewish residents or keep them
under complete subjugation, an evil practice which can only be called
apartheid. Did we not see South Africa’s white government crumble due
to pressure from the rest of the world in terms of boycotts, sanctions
and divestment?

KQED, how can you air a BBC TV series supporting Israeli oppression and
occupation, practices that have earned it over 80 UN resolutions
against such evil, all of which were vetoed by the US virtually alone?

I am shocked and amazed at this lack of responsibility on your part and
beg that you also show programming revealing what is really going on in
Israel from a prominent filmmaker such as John Pilger, his ‘Palestine
is Still the Issue’ is not a new documentary, but it or similar films
deserve airing on KQED.

Israel, with our billions a year in aid, is committing virtual genocide
against Palestinians, this must be stopped and the truth must finally
and completely come out.

You courageously showed the important film ‘5 Broken Cameras’ and
received both acclaim and vitriolic attacks. I know how hard it is to
oppose large lobbies and organizations who don’t like to see the truth
about Israel revealed.

But now I must protest as strongly as I am able against ‘israel:
Facing the Future’ series. It is propaganda for Israel, justifying its
government’s terrible record of humanitarian abuses.

Would you like another example” I asked Michael Krasny to interview
South African justice Richard Goldstone concerning his accusation of
Israel for war crimes during the 1999 Gaza attack called ‘Cast Lead’
which left 1400 Palestinians dead. He did not reply but later emailed
me that Justice Goldstone was to be interviewed. This subsequent
interview happened only after Justice Goldstone, under obvious
pressure, reversed himself and dropped the war crime charged against
Israel.

is it not obvious what transpired? KQED, how can you be a party to
such selective coverage. it is an abomination. I would like to
make an appointment to speak with your
programming department in person at any time you wish, when would be
convenient for you?

Sincerely yours,”

We also have an expose of Saudi Arabia and it’s work in supporting terrorists in Syria.

For what it’s worth, things are no better in Egypt, either. The current government has only one virtue to it: it does not invoke God to justify their actions. Everywhere else, religion is used.

For example, what about Saudi Arabia and Syria? Why? Well, they are Sunni and Iran are Shia. Now, actually this is all about oil, but they can not bring themselves to actually ask people with a straight face to fight in the name of oil, so they use God. See, all that Sunni oil is threatened by all the Shia oil in Iran. Well, why Syria, no oil in Syria? Yeah, but Iran supplies Hezbollah (the Army of God) in Lebanon which protects Arabs or Moslems in Lebanon and Gaza. Israel, in the name of God, Abraham, and Begin, attacked them once and lost, actually, they were humiliated. Since then, Israel was going to make sure that their God was safe from Shia’s God, using the Saudi God to help by attacking the Shia passageway in Syria.

In Israel, there are more construction sites going up on Palestinian Land in order to prevent another Holocaust because everybody knows that the best way to prevent Holocausts is to build building and push Arabs off their homelands. God told them so.

But what about the persecuted Christians? Back when Morsi and the Moslem Brotherhood were running the show in Egypt, some Coptic Christians got hit and some minister and some association pointed out that 100,000 Christians/year were slaughtered for their faith. Well, actually, nearly a million killed each other in a part of Africa one year. Divide that by ten, and you get 100,000/year.

Still, there is Christian oil. So many people wonder why the Moslems of North Sudan attack the Christian of South Sudan. Actually, the south is where all the oil is, so we want it to be safe from religious persecution.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Debate: Is Academic Group’s Boycott of Israel a Victory or Setback for Justice in Middle East?

The American Studies Association, a group representing thousands of U.S. scholars, voted to boycott Israeli universities on Sunday. Members backed the boycott by a ratio of more than 2-to-1, citing “the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students” and “the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights.” The association’s vote to boycott follows a similar measure approved Monday by the leadership council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association. In April, the Association for Asian American Studies also supported an academic boycott of Israel. Backlash against ASA’s boycott came quickly. William Jacobson, a clinical professor at Cornell Law School, says he now plans to challenge the group’s tax-exempt status. Others were more critical of the boycott approach itself. The largest professors’ group in the United States, the American Association of University Professors, said it opposed the boycott in part because it is largely symbolic. The resolution has no binding power, and no U.S. colleges or universities have signed on. We host a debate on the resolution with two guests: Cornell University Professor Eric Cheyfitz, who endorses a boycott of Israeli academic institutions; and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Professor Cary Nelson, who opposes the boycott.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
NERMEENSHAIKH: We turn now to a debate over what is being hailed as a major milestone for the global campaign to boycott and divest from Israel over its treatment of Palestinians. On Sunday, the American Studies Association, a group representing thousands of U.S. scholars, voted to boycott Israeli universities. Members backed the boycott by a ratio of more than two-to-one, citing, quote, “the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students” and “the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights.” The association’s vote to boycott follows a similar measure approved Monday by the leadership council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association. In April, the Association for Asian American Studies also supported an academic boycott of Israel.
Meanwhile, backlash against ASA’s boycott came quickly. William Jacobson, a clinical professor at Cornell Law School, says he now plans to challenge the group’s tax-exempt status. Others were more critical of the boycott approach itself. The largest professors’ group in the United States, the American Association of University Professors, said it opposed the boycott in part because it is largely symbolic. The resolution has no binding power, and no U.S. colleges have signed on.
AMYGOODMAN: For more, we’re joined by two guests. In Ithaca, New York, Eric Cheyfitz is with us, one of the members of the American Studies Association who endorsed the boycott of Israeli academic institutions, a professor at Cornell, where he teaches American literature, American Indian literature and federal Indian law. Professor Chafitz has written several books, including The Poetics of Imperialism.
Also joining us by Democracy Now! video stream is Cary Nelson, who opposed the American Studies Association’s vote to join the global campaign to boycott and divest from Israel. He took a similar position when he was president of the American Association of University Professors from 2006 to 2012, professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and author of No University is an Island: Saving Academic Freedom.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s begin with Professor Cheyfitz. Talk about the significance of this vote and how it took place, the American Studies Association vote.
ERICCHEYFITZ: Thanks, Amy. Thanks for having me on. Well, the vote came about because the activism caucus of the American Studies Association brought forward a resolution based on the Asian American Studies resolution that supported the academic and cultural boycott of Israel. And that resolution then went to the national council—or it went to the executive committee, who passed it on to the national council, which voted unanimously to support it, just recently, I think December 4th. And from there, it went to the vote of the entire membership, who, as you pointed out, for those who came out to vote, supported it, I believe 66 percent in favor. So that’s—that’s the origin.
It answers a call—and this is important—from the Palestinian academic and cultural boycott of Israel, which was announced in 2004, and which asked people around the world, organizations around the world, to support this boycott. And that was a call from Palestinian civil society. You can go to their—certainly the website of the Palestinian academic and cultural boycott of Israel, and there are over a hundred and—well, there are 171 organizations—unions of farmers, unions of workers, professional organizations—that support that boycott. So it was in response to a specific call.
AMYGOODMAN: And what does the boycott mean?
ERICCHEYFITZ: Well, the boycott means—first of all, I wouldn’t downplay symbolism and visibility—the Palestinian cause, particularly in the United States, where it does not get a fair representation in the press, needs visibility. But it also can have practical effects down the road. Certainly, boycotts in—during the civil rights movement here in the United States and boycotts in South Africa had those effects, by putting precise material pressure on institutions who were supporting various oppressive regimes.
NERMEENSHAIKH: And, Cary Nelson, could I ask you to respond? Why is it that you are opposed to an academic boycott, and this academic boycott, in particular?
CARYNELSON: Sure. Well, the AAUP has, for many years, opposed all academic boycotts, basically because we believe that what’s most desirable is to keep free exchange amongst academics worldwide and to do everything possible to facilitate all kinds of intellectual and cultural exchanges between academics. And we’re well aware that saying that you can simply boycott a university and not have an impact on its faculty members is really a false kind of reasoning. If Ben-Gurion University funds the travel of six of its members to come to the American Studies Association meeting and pays their registration fees directly, that presumably is unacceptable, because it’s a relationship between the ASA and an Israeli university. So, it simply is false to suggest that interchanges between American and Israeli faculty members won’t be compromised by this, you know, should it really take any effect.
But I think, more deeply, the AAUP has never opposed economic boycotts. And I, personally, am very interested, have for many years supported an economic boycott of West Bank industries. I think Israel needs to get out of the West Bank. And I’m interested in targeted economic pressure to encourage, if not Bibi’s government, at least some future Israeli government, to negotiate really with—in good faith with the Palestinians. So, there are both practical reasons, in terms of the effects on Israeli and American academics; there are principled reasons, which reflect a desire to maintain academic freedom worldwide, which really does have to mean free interchange; and finally, there are political reasons—for me, at least—feeling that this whole boycott argument is really not an effective strategy, it’s a counterproductive strategy. I’m in favor of strategies that might actually help move the Middle East to a two-state solution, which is what I’ve long believed in.
I think, to some degree, I also have to say I think that the AAUP did a really good job of arguing the case against academic freedom, even though the ASA leadership wouldn’t put our letter on their website, which they—they produced a very one-sided website as a way of reaching out and trying to persuade its members. But I think, to some degree, the AAUP was boxed into making an argument that the ASA members really didn’t care about. It’s not fundamentally about academic freedom. It’s not even fundamentally about boycotting Israeli universities. This effort within the ASA is part of a long-term effort to delegitimate the state of Israel—that is, to move—to remove any sense of moral authority or reason to exist for the state of Israel, amongst at least opinions of American academics. And that’s what it’s really about, I think, fundamentally. That’s something the AAUP really wasn’t prepared to address, because we don’t talk about—you know, we don’t officially talk about those kinds of political issues.
NERMEENSHAIKH: Eric Cheyfitz, could you respond to what Cary Nelson said, that a boycott of this kind is, first of all, counterproductive, and, second of all, that this particular one is just seeking to delegitimate the state of Israel?
ERICCHEYFITZ: Well, there’s no evidence of that whatsoever in any statements that the ASA has put out, nothing about delegitimizing Israel. It has to do with protesting the oppression, the Israeli oppression of Palestinians, and the suspension of their academic rights on the West Bank and in Gaza.
The AAUP’s standards, which are actually the gold standards for academic freedom, have nothing to do with institutions. You can read those standards. They have to do with the rights of individuals within institutions—teachers, scholars and students—to speak out freely, in—particularly in relation to the scholarship that they’re doing. So, boycotting institutions is not a direct—is not directed at the academic freedom of individuals, who are free to do their research, teach and travel. The ASA has said in their statement that they welcome Israeli scholars and Palestinian scholars of all persuasions to come to ASA meetings. And I really think that to charge the ASA with trying to delegitimize the state of Israel is an actual—is a very, very skewed reading of anything that the ASA has put out.
AMYGOODMAN: Professor Nelson, can you respond?
CARYNELSON: Sure. Well, first of all, I’m glad—hello, Eric. We’ve been allies—
ERICCHEYFITZ: Hi, Cary.
CARYNELSON: —on some other issues in the past, but apparently not this one. I’m very glad that Eric is an expert on academic freedom. I have, of course, co-authored a number of the AAUP’s statements to that effect, and obviously I got it wrong, and I’m glad to be corrected, if I can be a little bit sardonic.
Look, academic freedom is also about the collective, the collective academic freedom of faculty, both of majority faculty groups and minority faculty groups. It’s not just about individual academic freedom. But let’s set that—let’s set that aside. You know, why do I think—why do I think this whole argument within the ASA was actually about something other than an academic boycott? Yes, none of the statements that the ASA made, none of its official pronouncements, said what I just said was basic impulse behind it. What I’m basing my argument on is the writings of many of the proponents of the boycott. Talk about David, Omar, Malini, people who—you know, some of whom I’ve known rather well for years—and their writings, including those just published this year in the AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom, where we staged, you know, a rather full debate on the issue of academic boycotts. Their writings made it quite clear that they feel the Israeli state has no legitimacy.
They typically believe in a one-state solution. And, you know, Americans, I think, can be persuaded that a one-state solution in the Middle East will usher in a kind of peaceable kingdom, a wondrous democratic utopia, despite the fact that, you know, we now look at the effects of the Arab Spring, and we don’t see a lot of effective democracies taking shape in the Middle East. There’s too much sectarian hatred. There’s too little historical experience of democratic institutions. It may be in 50 years that, you know, Egypt will have a genuine democracy. I’m kind of not holding my breath for Iran, or Syria, for that matter. But, you know, looking at the one-state option, I think, is to look at large numbers of dead Arabs and dead Jews. And that’s been behind the arguments that the—many of the advocates within the ASA and elsewhere for the eventual political solution to the crisis, the ongoing, decades-long crisis in the Middle East. So, if I look at their writings, what I see is a long-term progressive effort to delegitimate the state of Israel. And this is just one stage in trying to convince people that the state of Israel has no legitimacy.
And I think that hasn’t been what people have been saying about this, but I think we need to say it, because otherwise we don’t understand why—why were so many ASA members uninterested in the arguments that really were focused on the problem of the boycott? The arguments that ASA leaders made in favor of the boycott were really, I think, you know, either absurd or bogus. I mean, the president of the ASA, when challenged by The New York Times, the Times asked him, “Well, aren’t there other states in the Middle East with much worse human rights records than Israel?” and he made the really—I mean, it’s howlingly funny, in one sense, but it represents political irrationality: “Well, you’ve got to start somewhere.” So I suppose that, you know, we’ll soon see an ASA resolution urging an academic boycott of China. And I think as soon as Syrian civil society gets itself together to make a request to the ASA, which of course won’t happen—and it won’t happen from China, either—then the ASA will be ready to step up to the front based on its deep regard for human rights.
AMYGOODMAN: Professor Cheyfitz, if you could respond? There’s a lot to respond there.
ERICCHEYFITZ: Yeah. First—
AMYGOODMAN: And also, just explain what this vote actually voted for.
ERICCHEYFITZ: Yeah, they voted to support the Palestinian call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. That’s what the vote was for.
As far as the writings of the 5,000 members of the American Studies Association, the very nature of academic freedom is that there are diverse responses to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some of them support a one-state solution; some of them support a two-state solution. Some of them talk about both sets of solutions. This is what academic discourse does. And to try to claim that the ASA therefore represents one set of those writings by some people is, of course, to misrepresent what representation is all about. So, I dismiss that. I dismiss that argument. I think Professor Nelson just carried that to extremes that are not warranted by the record in any way—any way, shape or form.
The boycott is specifically focused on a call by Palestinian civil society, an overwhelming number of organizations, for a cultural and academic boycott of Israel, because diplomacy has failed in the Middle East. The United States is not an honest broker in this process. And so, it can’t hope for success. And diplomacy having failed, and boycotts being a very legitimate form of civil resistance, the Palestinians called for such a boycott. The ASA responded to that call in a principled way.
NERMEENSHAIKH: But, Eric Cheyfitz, could you explain—respond specifically to what Cary Nelson said about the targeting of Israel as against many other countries with equally abusive human rights records? Is it only that their civil societies haven’t asked?
AMYGOODMAN: And we only have 15 seconds.
ERICCHEYFITZ: Well, the first reason is, yes, there was a specific call by Palestinian civil society. That’s important. And second of all, the United States and Israel have a particularly special relationship, and Israel is a very crucial—obviously, the Palestinian conflict is very crucial in the Middle East. So focusing right now on that particular relationship, I think, is very, very, very important.
AMYGOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there. I want to thank both of you, Professor Eric Cheyfitz of Cornell and Professor Cary Nelson of University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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  1. Barry Wright said, on December 19, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    Yeah, it all looks good, am I a Mossad target now or what, ha, glad I at least made it to 70.

    Like


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