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Academic freedom under attack in NYC
February 3, 2013 5:42 PM   Subscribe

The Political Science Department at Brooklyn College is co-sponsoring a panel discussion about the BDS Movement (boycott, divestment, sanctions) against Israel this Thursday Feburary 7th. The event features Omar Barghouti, BDS co-founder and Judith Butler, prominent philosopher. The college has come under widespread attack for its hosting of the event, with a coalition of New York City councillors threatening to defund the school.

Green Greenwald has posted an exhaustive analysis of the controversy and identifies Alan Dershowitz as its orchestrator.
Chris Hayes discussed it this morning (starts at 1:30).
Corey Robin, professor at Brooklyn College, compares the current controversy to the historically prominent anti-zionism of BC professor Hannah Arendt way back in 1942.
Brooklyn College president Karen L. Gould insists the event will go forward.
posted by mek (142 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
From the 'theatening to defund the school' link:
We believe in the principle of academic freedom. However, we also believe in the principle of not supporting schools whose programs we, and our constituents, find to be odious and wrong.
So, academic freedom. Unless we disagree with you. Fuck these guys.

Great post, mek.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:48 PM on February 3, 2013 [51 favorites]


Maybe if they started small, say supporting the Kurds against Turkey and Iraq it might have a bit less anti-Semitic tinge?
posted by sammyo at 5:50 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


We believe in the principle of academic freedom.

Believe? perhaps. understand? Evidently not.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:50 PM on February 3, 2013 [13 favorites]


a bit less anti-Semitic tinge

Please, not this again. Anti-Zionism ≠ Anti-Semitism!!
posted by Bromius at 5:55 PM on February 3, 2013 [80 favorites]


Maybe if they started small, say supporting the Kurds against Turkey and Iraq it might have a bit less anti-Semitic tinge?
The same kinds of folk use the same kinds of tactics against apartheid South Africa. Whether or not you agree with their criticisms of Israel or the parallels so drawn, there really is a background to this movement which is not in any way anti-Semitic.
posted by Jehan at 6:01 PM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Judith Butler is no stranger to being accused of anti-Semitism (despite being Jewish!), so this response to her critics from last August seems appropriate: "I affirm a Judaism that is not associated with state violence"
posted by mek at 6:08 PM on February 3, 2013 [15 favorites]


I don't know who these Hannah Arendt and Judith Butler characters are, but it's pretty clear that they are serious anti-Semites. Good thing the state of Israel exists to stamp out threats like these!
posted by Avenger at 6:13 PM on February 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Dershowitz raises some interesting points (IMHO):

I was once a student at Brooklyn College, majoring in political science. Back in the day, departments did not take official positions on controversial political issues.

Is it normal for a department to take an official anti-Israel stance? And if so, should it be?

The president of the college says this is a matter of academic freedom. But whose academic freedom? Do “departments” — as distinguished from individual faculty members — really have the right of academic freedom?

Another interesting point.
posted by MikeMc at 6:18 PM on February 3, 2013


I must have missed the part where the department endorsed the BDS movement. Oh wait, that's because it never happened.
posted by mek at 6:23 PM on February 3, 2013 [18 favorites]


Butler may be a lot of things, but she's not a philosopher.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 6:24 PM on February 3, 2013


The department specifically chose to co-sponsor (as opposed to endorse) the event.
posted by Bromius at 6:26 PM on February 3, 2013


with a coalition of New York City councillors threatening to defund the school.

Just as long as they don't boycott, divest, or sanction it, because that would be wrong.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:27 PM on February 3, 2013 [13 favorites]


I must have missed the part where the department endorsed the BDS movement. Oh wait, that's because it never happened.
In the last week, we have been contacted by members of the Brooklyn College community and beyond about the political science department’s co-sponsorship of a panel discussion on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
And sponsoring the BDS panel amounts to what? Nothing?
posted by MikeMc at 6:31 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think panels are where you talk about things. If the BDS movement hates Jews, well, that's certainly the kind of thing a pol sci department would want to discuss.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:37 PM on February 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


Is it normal for a department to take an official anti-Israel stance? And if so, should it be?

And sponsoring the BDS panel amounts to what? Nothing?

No it is not normal. And the Political Science Department IS NOT endorsing the views of these panelists. It is not an interesting point by Dershowitz. It is a fabricated claim to stifle any critique of Israeli policy. And good grief, if we are going to argue that a college that "sponsors" a speaker means that they also "endorse" the views of those same speakers, then this thread should be closed immediately to prevent the misery that will soon follow. As Glenn Greewald indicates, Dershowitz himself has been sponsored by this same college and department to speak in the past. And his views are very pro-Israel. So just to be clear, I operate with the assumption that it is possible for a college to sponsor speakers and events in the interest of exposing the academic community to divergent views.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:40 PM on February 3, 2013 [71 favorites]


And sponsoring the BDS panel amounts to what? Nothing?

It amounts to not an endorsement, much less the "official position" that Dershowitz complains about.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:42 PM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


"I think panels are where you talk about things. If the BDS movement hates Jews, well, that's certainly the kind of thing a pol sci department would want to discuss."

I think the concern is the discussion is only going to present one point of view (anti-Israel) and perhaps that's not the sort of thing that the department should be sponsoring. Despite what the head of the department might want people to think sponsorship is a tacit endorsement.
posted by MikeMc at 6:42 PM on February 3, 2013


By way of Greenwald, Corey Robin of the Brooklyn College political science department says:
"The student group explicitly asked us if we would like to 'endorse' or 'co-sponsor' the event; we explicitly opted for 'co-sponsor.'"
So they explicitly chose not to "endorse" the speakers or their views. They "co-sponsored" the talk. The ordinary way of reading that is, they lent their support to bringing the speakers to campus.

What is bizarre is the suggestion that there's something wrong with that.

Departments sponsor and co-sponsor programs of all sorts all the time, including controversial programs on controversial matters. And they should do that. And our elected representatives should not think of themselves as the moral censors of these academic programs.
posted by grobstein at 6:43 PM on February 3, 2013 [18 favorites]


And sponsoring the BDS panel amounts to what? Nothing?

It amounts to sponsoring a panel to discuss something. I mean, the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton sponsored a panel on the conservative movement in America. I've spent a lot of time at Princeton and I can promise you that Woody Woo does not have an official conservative stance. (Not that the Nation didn't accuse them of "tilting right" when they sponsored the conference...)
posted by escabeche at 6:43 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Alan Dershowitz et al. are not interested in good faith arguments. Do you honestly think he gives a shit about that distinction? They just want to silence any and all criticism of their ethnostate, and for it to continue to get unwavering American support regardless of the cost to this country.
posted by bookman117 at 6:43 PM on February 3, 2013 [21 favorites]


I think the concern is the discussion is only going to present one point of view (anti-Israel) and perhaps that's not the sort of thing that the department should be sponsoring. Despite what the head of the department might want people to think sponsorship is a tacit endorsement.

What standard are you defending here? Do you think every time there's a talk on campus, there has to immediately be "equal time" for opponents of the speaker? Only if it's controversial? If Alan Dershowitz or his equivalent has the right to appear any time somewhat speaks in favor of BDS, do BDS activists need to be brought in every time Alan Dershowitz speaks?

Do you think students who go to the BDS talks will have trouble finding any exponent of "pro-Israel" views?
posted by grobstein at 6:47 PM on February 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Whether or not you agree with their criticisms of Israel or the parallels so drawn, there really is a background to this movement which is not in any way anti-Semitic.

On the contrary: the background to anti-Israelism is Arab and European anti-Semitism; it is only the façade which purports to be progressive and liberal. Professor Richard Landes, writing in The Times of Israel, asked Judith Butler:
Although you disassociated yourself from Hamas and Hezbollah’s violence, you did stress the “extreme” importance of “understanding [them] as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global left.”

Does that mean you have no particularly strong objections about their pervasive misogyny, their blatant homophobia, their cult of death, their genocidal discourse? They are the antithesis of everything we on the global left stand for: the dignity of voluntary human interaction. They display all the most prominent and negative traits of the totalitarian impulses that imprisoned minds and murdered tens of millions in the last century. How can you not denounce loudly the shocking notion that a group that pervaded with such violently regressive attitudes be even thought of as “social movements that are progressive.” What about them is progressive?
I think the answer is obvious: Hamas and Hezbollah are Left, progressive, because they are anti-Israel: that overrides everything else. Anti-Israelism unites feminists with haters of women; advocates of gay marriage with those who treat it as a capital crime; and academics with people who think that one Book is all anyone should ever need. I suppose it's philosophically possible that their overriding monomania with the Jewish State is different from the obsession that joined socialists with fascists, clerics with atheists, communists with bourgeois nationalists, all united in Jew-hatred. I just don't think it's particularly likely.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:49 PM on February 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Despite what the head of the department might want people to think sponsorship is a tacit endorsement.

Nope. No, it isn't. Is it a tacit endorsement of Alan Dershowitz when he speaks at Brooklyn College? Nope. No, it's not.
posted by facetious at 6:51 PM on February 3, 2013


I think the concern is the discussion is only going to present one point of view (anti-Israel) and perhaps that's not the sort of thing that the department should be sponsoring.

If only there were almost always some sort of question and answer time after public panels, where people could ask penetrating questions...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:53 PM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Joe, I like you; I kinda wish you could find it in yourself to stay out of these threads. There are enough generalisations about Israelis, Jews, Palestinians, Zionism, and those that support or oppose any of the above without you throwing in a whole lot of generalisations.

Statements like "the background to anti-Israelism is Arab and European anti-Semitism" are so broad as to be irrefutable and ultimately meaningless. You do a disservice to mefites and everyone involved in this issues to dismiss or support them with such glib responses and lumping-in together.
posted by smoke at 6:53 PM on February 3, 2013 [70 favorites]


What standard are you defending here? Do you think every time there's a talk on campus, there has to immediately be "equal time" for opponents of the speaker?

I'm just wondering if the university should be co-sponsoring this. I don't see an issue with student groups inviting controversial speakers but do departments co-sponsor all speakers? If not how do they decide? Would the PoliSci department co-sponsor a militantly Pro-Zionist group to come in and have a panel?
posted by MikeMc at 6:56 PM on February 3, 2013


More broadly, I often find it disquieting when discussion like this inevitably revert to pure principle. I think that if the college was sponsoring a climate change denialist, funded by coal and oil companies to talk, that I would be pissed they allowed it; let alone didn't add equal time, and that "sponsorship" would be more than enough to attract my ire.

The difference, of course, is context. And I think context is important, and I think it's always revealing in discussions about anything like this, who is trying to remove the context when discussing the issues, and fall back on the universal. They tend to be coming from a not-great place.

Would the PoliSci department co-sponsor a militantly Pro-Zionist group to come in and have a panel?

I think it depends on one's definition of Pro-Zionist, certainly tonnes of universities have guest speakers that support settlements, for example. I must say, I don't really see anything militant about boycotts, divestment, or sanctions... Quite the opposite, really.
posted by smoke at 6:59 PM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have no particular brief for Judith Butler, by the way, and I don't know her well enough to defend her against charges of sympathizing with Hamas and Hezbollah. Let's just suppose that she sympathizes with Hamas and Hezbollah, that she is wrong to do so, and that she does for bad reasons.

Supporting political violence is certainly no disqualification to being taken seriously in political science. Henry Kissinger has a Ph.D. you know.

None of this would justify the McCarthyist political media circus Dershowitz, the city council, and the mayoral aspirants are bringing down here. Academics should be able to discuss a wide range of positions without being compared to Hitler by TV personalities.
posted by grobstein at 7:02 PM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Would the PoliSci department co-sponsor a militantly Pro-Zionist group to come in and have a panel?

As many of the links note, Alan Dershowitz himself (who can be fairly described as pro-Zionist) has spoken many times at Brooklyn College without rebuttal. The double standard could not be more clear.
posted by Bromius at 7:03 PM on February 3, 2013 [17 favorites]


Asserting that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic should be just as bannable as telling somebody to go fuck themselves; it is a far worse and far more awful insult.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:07 PM on February 3, 2013 [39 favorites]


As many of the links note, Alan Dershowitz himself (who can be fairly described as pro-Zionist) was has spoken many times at Brooklyn College without rebuttal. The double standard could not be more clear.

I guess what I'm getting at is: is this situation unusual in that a department is co-sponsoring this? Dershowitz speaks at Brooklyn College but is he sponsored by the college or student/alumni groups (or both)? Other than the obvious fact that BDS supports a position contrary to that of Dershowitz and other Zionists is there something unusual about this co-sponsorship?
posted by MikeMc at 7:09 PM on February 3, 2013


Mike, I think you're getting a bit caught up on the "sponsorship" angle here. The college is letting them use the facilities, much like Dershowitz. There is absolutely nothing unusual about this kind of sponsorship in my experience: universities all over the world sponsor a huge variety of panels, speakers, events, that are very much not seen as an "endorsement".

In short: the college gives Dershowitz many occasions to come and speak his piece to students on their facilities with their help; sponsorship or no, this is really not materially any different than what this is.
posted by smoke at 7:12 PM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Mikemc:

I don't think it is unusual. I know that my department is asked by student groups to co-sponsor events all of the time. We usually make a judgment based on the event's relevance to our discipline and the realities of our department's budget. But I can never recall any instance where we even discussed the views of a potential speaker. That just never enters into it for us. But our campus is not very politically active so the way our department functions may not be typical.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:14 PM on February 3, 2013


Is the threat from the 10 city council members (about one fifth of the council) a legitimate worry? I can't imagine that they'd defund Brooklyn College (with its 16,524 students, of which I am one) or CUNY (with over 271,000 degree-seeking students), for chrissakes. Defunding either seems unimaginable to me.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:17 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Supporting political violence is certainly no disqualification to being taken seriously in political science.

Indeed. Dershowitz himself is a prime example.
posted by odinsdream at 7:19 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the input everyone. So, it seems that there is nothing out of the ordinary about this department co-sponsorship other than the fact that the invited speakers get Alan Dershowitz's hackles up. I know it's not unusual for pro-Palestinian groups to be invited to speak on campuses but one gets the impression that in this case the department co-sponsorship is out of the ordinary. Sorry for any upset caused by my lack of insight on the process.
posted by MikeMc at 7:21 PM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


And we have been kind of thrown off one of the main points of the FPP. Political figures are threatening to defund an academic institution because they disagree with the institution pursuing a potentially unpopular line of inquiry.


And yeah, for the record I have serious reservations on how Israel (the government) handles it's foreign policy and at the same time(gasp) have about as much respect and derision for Judaism as any other given large scale religion, simultaneously caring how all people actually treat each other despite their funny self identifying tags. Wild I know.
posted by edgeways at 7:26 PM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


ocherdraco I don't think it's about defunding, it's about publicity, and I also feel it's about legitimising outrage and expectations of outrage and behaviour. I hate sounding so Victorian, but it's like, can't be just disagree and we be civilised about it anymore? Why is every difference seen as an existential threat? (I'm referring to the sponsoring only. Obviously, some I/P issues are actually a genuine existential threat to people).

I suppose it is a threat, a threat to a reality where only one answer is right, black and white, winners and losers, you don't need to get along, or talk to people, etc. I hate those realities.
posted by smoke at 7:26 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Barghouti favors BDS (Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions of the state of Israel) because "if you don't leash that mad dog, it will bite everyone".

Already has. Still does. Hasn't stopped. And apparently never will, even when their orchestrated leaks of "intelligence" constantly fly in the face of all available evidence.
posted by markkraft at 7:36 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


On the contrary: the background to anti-Israelism is Arab and European anti-Semitism; it is only the façade which purports to be progressive and liberal.
I made a basic point that the existence of the BDS movement is not, in itself, proof of anti-Semitism. But if you wish to accuse every person who speaks against the Israeli government of really being an anti-Semite, then I cannot help but feel sorry for you and for those you wrongly believe you are helping.
posted by Jehan at 7:49 PM on February 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


I know it's not unusual for pro-Palestinian groups to be invited to speak on campuses but one gets the impression that in this case the department co-sponsorship is out of the ordinary.

It looks from the Haymarket Books link like Barghouti is on a book tour and they've got Butler to interview him. He's been to Penn and Earlham and will be at Irvine tomorrow. It appears the event was conceived of by a student group. I would guess the department's co-sponsorship amounts to helping them get a room and convincing Judith Butler to show up (she's surely way too big a name for a bunch of undergrads to convince her to come, though it's also possible the publisher got her to come).

Let's put it this way--I met some Maoists on a book tour courtesy of a South Asian Studies department. Butler's politics (and presumably Barghouti's, but I don't know anything about him) are ridiculously mainstream compared to Maoists from Chicago. (How precisely they thought Maoism sounded like a good idea despite the total lack of a peasantry, I don't know. They were totally trying to channel my Democratic disaffection into something more leftwing and I was thinking "WTF? How on earth did you think Maoism makes sense? You're from Chicago!")
posted by hoyland at 7:52 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't think that anti-semitism is the main force behind all the academic hostility to Israel. I think it's anti-imperialism

For liberals, imperialism is the worst of national sins. And Israel is the last country in the world to be formed by mass immigration of people from elsewhere, to the detriment of those already living there, who got displaced. It is comparable, in liberal minds, to how the US displaced the Indians, or the way Australia was settled, or Canada (for that matter), or South Africa.

South Africa is a particularly important example, because international boycott (over decades) finally seemed to have led to majority rule. Most of the whites stayed afterwards (though by no means all) but the natives are viewed by liberals as having gotten their country back.

And they hope to do the same in the case of Israel. It won't work, of course. But you get all kinds of karma and liberal virtue points by trying.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:55 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Joe in Australia: "I think the answer is obvious:…"
I think your answer is kind of Frankensteinian in its cobbled-togetherness.

Pope Guilty: "Asserting that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic should be just as bannable as telling somebody to go fuck themselves; it is a far worse and far more awful insult"

That's kind of a stretch, don't you think? The assertion is just ignorant conflation, maybe with a little tinge of fear; but telling someone to go fuck themselves is more actively confrontational. I think it's better to point out the conflation over and over rather than resort to banning. But, that's just my take on it.
posted by Red Loop at 7:56 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Entering into any agreement to boycott Israel is a violation of US law punishable by significant fines and 5 years in prison. Even reporting on the status of your business dealings with Israel or Israeli companies that appear on blacklists can be a violation of the law.
posted by humanfont at 7:58 PM on February 3, 2013 [26 favorites]


Hey Metafilter, if you guys don't buy KEDEM tea biscuits and Israeli peppers, I won't either.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:01 PM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


He's been to Penn and Earlham

Earlham Quakers hustle while Penn Quakers merely quake.

Go get 'em Tony Bing!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:03 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Always let your opponents talk. If you don't, your beliefs become dogma, rather than living truths; and if your opponents are truly wrong, it should be easy enough to refute them openly. If you are right in your beliefs, silencing those who disagree with you is a greater danger to your cause than anything they have to say. It's like these people never read John Stuart Mill.

It is also slightly relevant that I was taught John Stuart Mill in college by Norman Finkelstein.
posted by milarepa at 8:05 PM on February 3, 2013 [20 favorites]


Earlham Quakers hustle while Penn Quakers merely quake.

Fight, Fight, Inner Light; Kill Quakers Kill!
posted by leotrotsky at 8:11 PM on February 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


Smash 'em! Bash 'em! Beat 'em senseless! Do we have consensus?
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:15 PM on February 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


^Butler may be a lot of things, but she's not a philosopher.

Her higher degrees in philosophy, named chair in the Department of Rhetoric at Berkeley, and recognition with the Adorno Award for, amongst other things, philosophy suggest that yours is a minority opinion.
posted by gingerest at 8:17 PM on February 3, 2013 [46 favorites]


Entering into any agreement to boycott Israel is a violation of US law punishable by significant fines and 5 years in prison. Even reporting on the status of your business dealings with Israel or Israeli companies that appear on blacklists can be a violation of the law.

Holy shit, I had no idea. I knew there were laws about providing material support to proscribed countries/groups, but I can't believe that extends to boycotts. That's ridiculous. No I'm wondering if Australia has one of those... surely not...
posted by smoke at 8:17 PM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Fuck BDS in the ear, is my personal opinion, but *waves*, what up, fellow Earlhamites!?!
posted by gsh at 8:19 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Still, anyone who gives Hamas, Hezbollah or the Iranian regime the status of “honorary leftists” on the basis of their opposition to Israel (and thus the Washington Consensus) has lost most of their credibility as a progressive, whether they're motivated by mediæval Jew-hatred, Cold War-era geopolitics or some other unfathomable impulse.
posted by acb at 8:19 PM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thanks for posting this in such a way that it won't be deleted from the Blue.
posted by anarch at 8:21 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


"but telling someone to go fuck themselves is more actively confrontational"

Than calling them anti-semitic? Marginally so.

Both are pretty significant insults, but one has no flippant, non-serious context. Only one gives you no other choice than to view it as a personal attack on your character.
posted by markkraft at 8:24 PM on February 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


Asserting that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic should be just as bannable as telling somebody to go fuck themselves; it is a far worse and far more awful insult.

With all due respect, this is ridiculous. I think most thinking people - including Israelis - agree, being against Israeli policies is not automatically anti-Semitic. But anti-Zionism - being against the Jews having a homeland - is in its very nature a judgement against a religious group, especially in light of how many of the countries in the Middle East are grounded on religious lines. Palestinian Nationalism is a mirror image of Zionism - a nationality fighting for a homeland of their own (although in their case Palestinian leaders have stated on numerous occasions that Jews will not be allowed to be full citizens there, let alone having the parliamentary representation and full religious freedoms as Muslim and Christian citizens of Israel do). And yet no one levels the same claims against Palestinian Nationalism or even acknowledges the inherent potential problems in their own charter.

All anti-Zionists may not be anti-Semites. I would love to believe in my liberal heart that most are not, especially here. But to pretend that therefore no anti-Zionists are anti-Semites, and that anti-Zionism is never anti-Semitism, in the face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary, is far more insulting.
posted by Mchelly at 8:30 PM on February 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


While I agree that something has to be done to help Palestinians, and I do not agree with threats to defund the school over co-sponsoring BDS speakers, I do find this statement a little problematic:

Alan Dershowitz et al. are not interested in good faith arguments. Do you honestly think he gives a shit about that distinction? They just want to silence any and all criticism of their ethnostate, and for it to continue to get unwavering American support regardless of the cost to this country.

Are people upset with Israel because it is an "ethnostate"? What does that term mean? Do critics of Israel distinguish between Isrealis and the Isreali government? Are all Isrealis "Jews"? Are "Jews" the problem here?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:31 PM on February 3, 2013


But anti-Zionism - being against the Jews having a homeland - is in its very nature a judgement against a religious group

Hmm now? I'm a Jew, and very much not a Zionist, and I have a homeland. It's called the United States.
posted by threeants at 8:36 PM on February 3, 2013 [35 favorites]


Are people upset with Israel because it is an "ethnostate"? What does that term mean?

The fact that you can get basically automatic citizenship for belonging to a specific ethnic group would be kind of a tell.
posted by threeants at 8:38 PM on February 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yes, the idea that Israel is a homeland for the Jews is part of the reason why I'm an anti-Zionist, and I'm also Jewish.
posted by andoatnp at 8:38 PM on February 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Well, I guess we disagree!
posted by KokuRyu at 8:42 PM on February 3, 2013


KokuRyu, you may have missed this story?
posted by forgetful snow at 8:47 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, I guess we disagree!

Um...I guess so! I suppose "Are people upset with Israel because it is an "ethnostate"? What does that term mean?" was one of them trick retory-cle questions you're not supposed to answer.
posted by threeants at 8:50 PM on February 3, 2013


Not exactly, but there is little point in arguing, is there?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:51 PM on February 3, 2013


How true is it that Israel deceitfully gave Ethiopian Jews birth control injections?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:53 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that whenever there is an ongoing issue in our world where people are being killed, there is always a point in arguing and talking it out.

From your rebuttal:
>Haaretz says the Ethiopian women were "coaxed" or "strongly convinced" to have the Depo-Provera shot, not forced.

Ah.
posted by forgetful snow at 8:57 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


How can you not denounce loudly the shocking notion that a group that pervaded with such violently regressive attitudes be even thought of as “social movements that are progressive.” What about them is progressive?

Because they are humans, and they are being oppressed and denied fundamental human rights by a powerful state. To support humans facing oppression is progressive, as is understanding the way that Israel has spent decades intentionally attacking and effectively destroying the civic and political and cultural institutions and infrastructure in the West Bank and especially Gaza, actions which would make it impossible for anyone to build a decent society.

Blaming the violent prisoners rather than the violent guards is about the least progressive thing I can think of.
posted by crayz at 9:01 PM on February 3, 2013 [24 favorites]


"Still, anyone who gives Hamas, Hezbollah or the Iranian regime the status of “honorary leftists” on the basis of their opposition to Israel (and thus the Washington Consensus) has lost most of their credibility as a progressive"

There are, however, valid arguments that Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran as largely responsible players who are more willing to negotiate in good faith than they are given credit for -- arguably more so than Israel -- even if they are all part of the problem.

One of the obvious problems is that when it comes to Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran, preconditions are routinely put on them vis-a-vis negotiations that simply aren't put on other major political entities, much less on Israel.

I don't think that most people who sincerely want peace view any of the above entities as "honorary leftists". If anything, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran are militant religious conservatives, so it's a big mistake to lump them in with anyone on the left. But can they be negotiated with? Yes. But you just can't expect that inking a deal with them will stop all anti-Israeli / anti-American sentiment in their sphere of interests, because it simply cannot.

The more reasonable and pragmatic these entities are, the more likely it is that violent splinter groups will break off from them. It's a bit like government by the Family Research Council... they could be opposed to abortion, but the more willing they are to compromise, the more likely it is that someone will start bombing clinics. The same thing happened with Ireland and the IRA... but that hardly means that it was a mistake to negotiate with the Irish people.

You have to be willing to face the wrath of increasingly marginalized extremists in order to get to a lasting peace, but the Government of Israel seems to want to skip that essential step. In that sense, those who argue for Israel to stand tough are generally Israel's worst enemies.
posted by markkraft at 9:08 PM on February 3, 2013 [11 favorites]


Omar Barghouti is currently studying for a masters degree in philosophy at Tel Aviv University, about which he says, "My studies at Tel-Aviv University are a personal matter and I have no interest in commenting." Perhaps he will exempt his university from his boycott demands.
posted by No Robots at 9:08 PM on February 3, 2013


By the way, I too think it's very weird to think of Hamas as a "left" movement, so I looked up the quote. Here is what happened. In a Q/A session, someone asked Butler:

"But even within leftist and anti-war activists and intellectuals there is always this kind of condemnation and hesitation in supporting these two groups just because of the violent components of their resistance movements. Doesn’t our inability or hesitation in supporting these groups do more harm than good?”

And Butler said:

“Understanding Hamas/Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left, is extremely important. That does not stop us from being critical of certain dimensions of both movements. It doesn’t stop those of us who are interested in non-violent politics from raising the question of whether there are other options besides violence.”

I read that as "I'm going to start with a conciliatory sentence, questioner, to let you know that in some overall sense we're on the same side, so that you'll actually listen to what I'm about to say, which is that I think you're badly wrong to say that anti-war activists like us should be supporting Hamas and Hezbollah. Western progressives should not be getting behind terrorist groups and should not be hesitant to condemn terrorism."

At any rate, not "Me and Hezbollah, we're tight."

By the way, I am a Jewish Zionist, I think divestment from Israel is a terrible idea, and I perceive miles of moral separation between contemporary Israel and apartheid South Africa, so I'd say that Judith Butler's views on Israel are radically different from my own. But criticize her for what she says, not for what selective quotation can make it sound like she's saying.
posted by escabeche at 9:09 PM on February 3, 2013 [26 favorites]


For liberals, imperialism is the worst of national sins. And Israel is the last country in the world to be formed by mass immigration of people from elsewhere, to the detriment of those already living there, who got displaced. It is comparable, in liberal minds, to how the US displaced the Indians, or the way Australia was settled, or Canada (for that matter), or South Africa.

Is it so much about imperialism or about nationalism? On some level, Zionism is very nineteenth century. It's like this remnant of the nationalisms that the Second World War supposedly put paid to. But, of course, the Second World War and the Holocaust are at least partly why the state of Israel came into being when it did , so we (being Europe, I guess) didn't really move past this icky nineteenth century business, we just shoved it off over to the side (geographically). And so when Israel talks about being a Jewish state it forces this acknowledgement that we didn't really move past it as much as we like to think we did.

I don't know, hopefully that's coherent. I was strongly tempted to write "Nationalism! Nineteenth century! It's all terribly circular and I'm confused!"

(It seems worth noting that Labor Zionism was a big thing at one point. I don't know a whole lot about it, but it seems relevant to a discussion of Zionism as imperialism, as socialism and imperialism are generally not friends.)
posted by hoyland at 9:21 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Far out, Joe, your original quote was an absolutely dishonest and twisted ellipsis of what Butler said. I hope you'll acknowledge that.
posted by smoke at 9:25 PM on February 3, 2013


" But anti-Zionism - being against the Jews having a homeland - is in its very nature a judgement against a religious group"

Then what does that say about most American rabbis, who up until around 1920 or so were very much opposed to zionism?

Indeed, in the mid-'40s, even after thoughts on the matter had shifted significantly due to Hitler, there was a very significant statement put out by anti-zionist American rabbis, claiming that forming a state in Palestine would lead to no end of evils, basically citing concerns that have since come to pass.

It was rebutted by a statement of many other American rabbis, who, while expressing concerns, thought that Israel *could* be a force for good, if it didn't proceed to do all sorts of things that it has since gone on to do.

Also, please keep in mind that many who are opposed to Zionism are *NOT* opposed to a Jewish homeland at all. Many of them would be glad to see such a homeland exist... in the United States, even. Even Theodor Herzl at one point supported settling in Cyprus or an area of the Gaza that was unpopulated at the time.

Location, location, location. Some are better than others. I, for one, would gladly welcome the creation of a Jewish state that's over ten times larger... but there's a catch.
posted by markkraft at 9:27 PM on February 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Jesus this has drifted from the original point, which as I understand it was this: if an academic department does something as beyond-the-pale as cosponsoring a panel containing members who advocate taking some (relatively minor) action against Israel, that department should be defunded.

Butler, Dershowitz... who cares which one endorses the lesser evil (which is really what the debate seems to be about, here and elsewhere). The councillors are talking about stifling the conversation itself through blackmail. Or, more accurately, sanctions. That fucking sucks.

Seems like they're equating Butler's position with hate speech, and treat BC like they invited David Duke or Fred Phelps. That's a hard case to make.
posted by supercres at 9:28 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


But, of course, the Second World War and the Holocaust are at least partly why the state of Israel came into being when it did ,

Partly? The Holocaust played one hell of a big part in the creation of Israel.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:34 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Smoke wrote: Statements like "the background to anti-Israelism is Arab and European anti-Semitism" are so broad as to be irrefutable and ultimately meaningless.

I hope you will grant that there was a great deal of anti-Semitism in Europe last century. In the Arab and much of the Moslem world generally anti-Semitism is so virulent that it is unquestionable; the very word "Jew" is used as an insult; respected Heads of State rant about the supposed perfidy of Jews and their control of world affairs. Where did European anti-Semitism go? Surely it didn't disappear with the Holocaust. And as for Arab anti-Semitism, how could it not be the background for Arab anti-Zionism, particularly when no distinction is generally made between "Jews" and "Zionists" in political speech.

Anti-Zionism fills the place which anti-Semitism occupied seventy years ago. We like to project our views backwards and imagine that anti-Semitism was the province of ignorant thugs, but in fact it was practically an academic discipline: there were learned discussions about the existence of Semitism; whether this or that thing should be ascribed to Semitism; and if so whether it should be opposed. We're wiser than that now, having seen both the awful effects of that sort of thinking and the intellectual vacuity that lies beneath it. But it is characteristic of racism that just because the name has become taboo does not mean that the attitudes are extinct.

Anti-Zionism is an answer for everything wrong in the Middle East (which has thereby assumed a hugely disproportionate role in world affairs) but it's also a rallying cry for the Left and a slur for the reactionary Right. Even better: it provides a convenient figleaf for genuine anti-Semitism. Norm Geras, a professor of Marxism, gave a talk last year on what he calls "alibi anti-Semitism". I don't think I can do justice to his argument, but his point is that using anti-Zionism to excuse, accept, or wilfully ignore anti-Semitism is itself anti-Semitic. If this seems unnecessarily tendentious, consider whether any shared political position would be enough to get you to, for instance, welcome the fellowship of a White Nationalist party.

For what it's worth, I think the proposed defunding of CUNY is wrong and stupid, and even its supporters should see that it is counter-productive. But can I be the only one to see the irony in the complaint that the councillors are attacking academic freedom - when the proposed conference is about a compulsory boycott of Israeli academic institutions?
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:36 PM on February 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


" But anti-Zionism - being against the Jews having a homeland - is in its very nature a judgement against a religious group"

And is it not also a judgement against a religious group to think that the Catholic Church has big problems with pedophilia and child abuse by its priests? What's wrong with making judgements about religious groups?
posted by jacalata at 9:40 PM on February 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Far out, Joe, your original quote was an absolutely dishonest and twisted ellipsis of what Butler said. I hope you'll acknowledge that.

That tendentious ellipsis was carried out by a newspaper editorial Joe was quoting; Joe himself is not to blame for it.
posted by escabeche at 9:41 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have attended a number of lectures/ discussions like this from a range of speakers representing the entire spectrum of views on this topic. They all go the same way. The pro-Israel people and the pro-Palestian groups argue with the speaker or support them depending on the POV of the speaker; then everyone goes home. Speeches are impassioned and sometimes there is yelling, though usually things stay pretty civil. It seems silly to me that this is getting any attention, much less the calls to defund CUNY.
posted by humanfont at 9:44 PM on February 3, 2013


It's a common enough thing for people to try quashing research about controversial subjects if one side feels the data won't be favorable to its position. To that extent this thread doesn't need to be a debate about Israel. The specific issue is just setting, not plot.
posted by cribcage at 9:44 PM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


...if an academic department does something as beyond-the-pale as cosponsoring a panel containing members who advocate taking some (relatively minor) action against Israel, that department should be defunded.

I think there's a bit of "sauce for the goose" involved: If you argue for defunding Israel, then we'll argue for defunding you.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:58 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


That tendentious ellipsis was carried out by a newspaper editorial Joe was quoting; Joe himself is not to blame for it.

Yeah, I know that, but when you're cherry-picking your incendiary and tendentious quotes from incendiary and tendentious sources, I feel it's incumbent to do a little research beforehand.
posted by smoke at 9:59 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Opinion of Jews ≠ opinion of Israel ≠ opinion of Palestinians ≠ opinion of Hamas ≠ opinion of BDS ≠ opinion of co-sponsoring a panel on BDS ≠ opinion of defunding the school.
posted by chortly at 10:03 PM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


May I humbly suggest this thread doesn't need to be everyone vs. Joe rehashing the same old P/I back and forth, given that his views have been thoroughly laid out many a time before AND he agrees that defunding is wrong. On preview, also what chortly said.
posted by mek at 10:05 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


With respect, Smoke, I think you should have phrased your criticism of me more carefully: I quoted Richard Landes, who selectively quoted Judith Butler - but he was careful with his quotation marks and he actually linked to the question and her answer for anyone who wanted to hear it in full, and he also linked to her responses to her critics.

But I think this was a fair criticism of her: when she said that Hamas and Hezbollah are "social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left" she was praising them highly. For someone with her beliefs, to someone speaking before that kind of audience, to be progressive and to be "on the left" is the nec plus ultra of political virtue. But we all know that even leaving the issue of violence aside (which I think is ludicrous: they are militias, after all) they are clericalist, misogynist, anti-Semitic thugs. Literally the only thing which is "on the left" about them is their implacable hatred of Israel.

Anyway, if you listen to the question and response you can see that the question is whether criticising the violence of Hamas and Hezbollah "does more harm than good to our solidarity of these groups". I would have said "what bloody solidarity". Judith Butler said (and good for her) that people shouldn't refrain from criticising those groups, but the context isn't, as Escabeche understood it to be, "should we be supporting Hamas and Hezbollah"; the context was "Hamas and Hezbollah are on our side, should we tell those anti-violence people to shut up". And Judith Butler's response was "Yes, they're on our side, but we can still criticise them."

OK, so her position is somewhat better than the woman who asked the question, but really? Can you possibly imagine Hamas or Hezbollah renouncing violence, which is absolutely their raison d'être? So maintaining "the right to criticise violent tactics" is a vacuous position which effectively does nothing except salve the conscience of someone who claims to be a pacifist. On the other hand, before her answer to that question she responded to someone asking whether "debate on the power and influence of the Israel lobby is legitimate or if any criticism of it is anti-Semitic". And to her credit, she responded that yeah, sometimes it is anti-Semitic, Mr Guy-Who-Seems-To-Think-He's-a-Panellist-and-Tells-People-to-Google-His-Article. So good for her.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:37 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Arab-Israeli Conflict's Secular Past and Religious Future
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:46 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Let try to stick to the specific topic here as opposed to another general I/P re-hash, please.]
posted by taz at 10:46 PM on February 3, 2013


Yeah I'm genuinely sorry I brought it up, I should have said nothing. I'm questioning why I even bothered commenting in the first place, to be honest; should have known better. :S
posted by smoke at 11:02 PM on February 3, 2013


For someone with her beliefs, to someone speaking before that kind of audience, to be progressive and to be "on the left" is the nec plus ultra of political virtue.

This kind of rhetoric is not helping, either.
posted by mek at 11:04 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


[... and if we need further discussion about how to have the discussion, take it to Metatalk. This thread is now about the topic of the post. Thank you.]
posted by taz at 11:10 PM on February 3, 2013


I often find it disquieting when discussion like this inevitably revert to pure principle. I think that if the college was sponsoring a climate change denialist, funded by coal and oil companies to talk, that I would be pissed they allowed it; let alone didn't add equal time, and that "sponsorship" would be more than enough to attract my ire.

The difference, of course, is context. And I think context is important, and I think it's always revealing in discussions about anything like this, who is trying to remove the context when discussing the issues, and fall back on the universal. They tend to be coming from a not-great place.


Just repeating this for emphasis, because it's the smartest thing I've read in this thread. I have no strong view either way on whether Brooklyn College should host the BDS movement, but I'm unconvinced that anyone here, on either side, sincerely gives a shit about "academic freedom." Like "states' rights," it's become one of those things that everyone just deploys when it lines up with their ideological preference.
posted by pete_22 at 11:39 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


(I think this is relevant to the main thrust of the discussion but I promise not to throw a tanty if mods delete.) Six years after that exchange at the Berkeley teach-in, in August 27, 2012, Professor Butler wrote:
The Jerusalem Post recently published an article reporting that some organizations are opposed to my receiving the Adorno Prize, an award given every three years to someone who works in the tradition of critical theory broadly construed. The accusations against me are that I support Hamas and Hezbollah (which is not true) that I support BDS (partially true), and that I am anti-Semitic (patently false).
and
I do not endorse practices of violent resistance and neither do I endorse state violence, cannot, and never have. This view makes me perhaps more naïve than dangerous, but it is my view. So it has always seemed absurd to me that my comments were taken to mean that I support or endorse Hamas and Hezbollah! I have never taken a stand on either organization, just as I have never supported every organization that is arguably part of the global left – I am not unconditionally supportive of all groups that currently constitute the global left. To say that those organizations belong to the left is not to say that they should belong, or that I endorse or support them in any way.(emphases hers)
She clearly considers Hezbollah and Hamas to be on the Left. (I don't get it, myself. "Yay, theocracy" is not a very social-justicey egalitarian perspective, in my book, but maybe it's all the social welfare stuff?)
posted by gingerest at 12:01 AM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Asserting that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic should be just as bannable as telling somebody to go fuck themselves; it is a far worse and far more awful insult.

I disagree. Telling someone to fuck themselves is an intentional insult. This is an unintentional insult that springs forth from his misconception. I do agree that it is very insulting and somewhat ignorant. I'd hate to replicate the mistake of the councilors by banning even objectionable points of view.

But anti-Zionism - being against the Jews having a homeland - is in its very nature a judgement against a religious group, especially in light of how many of the countries in the Middle East are grounded on religious lines.

I think you're being just as ridiculous as the strawman that you're attacking. I don't believe that any religion has an intrinsic right to a ethno-religious homeland. On the other hand, I don't think that means that they have no right to exist, either. And I especially don't agree with the way that Israel drew its borders, and the policies that it pursues right now to enforce these borders. On the other hand, I don't think that Israel needs to disappear from the map.

Am I anti-Zionist? Let's put it this way: if you transported me back in time to 1949 and put the question before me as to whether or not Israel should be allowed to anex Palestinian territories and become a state, knowing what I know, my answer would be an unmitigated "hell no!" But as for what to do right now...I haven't a clue as to what should be done. Well, I do have one meager idea: dialog.
posted by Edgewise at 1:29 AM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't believe that any religion has an intrinsic right to a ethno-religious homeland. On the other hand, I don't think that means that they have no right to exist, either.

Let's be clear: being anti-Zionist isn't necessarily about "eliminating Israel from the map". Being anti-Zionist could be to oppose the apartheid condition and the state-sponsored violence that Israel currently attempts to exert onto Palestine.

For example: what about the one-state solution? That continues the possibility of the Jews having a homeland, shared with many different groups of people, while not cleaving a territory into two, ceasing apartheid. But that is not Zionist, because it's not about creating an ethno-religious homeland founded specifically on the exclusion of non-Jews.

To be for the one-state solution, shared by current Palestinians and Israelis, would thus necessarily make you an anti-Zionist.
posted by suedehead at 1:48 AM on February 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


Just repeating this for emphasis, because it's the smartest thing I've read in this thread. I have no strong view either way on whether Brooklyn College should host the BDS movement, but I'm unconvinced that anyone here, on either side, sincerely gives a shit about "academic freedom." Like "states' rights," it's become one of those things that everyone just deploys when it lines up with their ideological preference.

Ohh, that's not what I meant, really. I was trying to say more that talking about what "a", hypothetical university was doing or did, for "a" guest speaker did some time, etc. is not very productive or useful, compared to talking about "this" university, "this" speaker - the actual situation at hand.

And further, that this kind of thing is usually the province of people unable to argue their case in specifics (very much true of climate denialists, with their mewling for equal time, treatment etc).

Some in that sense, I agree with you that feelings about IP issues and disproportionate power differentials thereof are colouring people's feelings about this. But I also think that feelings about the politicisation of universities and faculty spaces and their funding, the way public discourse is increasingly conducted, and the merits of outrage are colouring it, too. Not exactly academic freedom per se, but things that have tremendous impact even on the idea of academic freedom, its acceptability and role. I think the world probably needs more panels and less defunding of universities and histrionic threats. Maybe it's just me.

It would be interesting, if a full-on Zionist here sometime, instead of picking up the history books or trawling through old blogs trying to frame every discussion of I/P as the ultimate one, would recognise that shit like Dershowitz' crap hurts their cause far, far more than it helps, and that they can totally support Zionism or whatever, without having to prop up reactionary dickbags - as if whatever perceived injustice permits a zero tolerance policy. Zero tolerance has worked out pretty badly in Israel and Palestine, probably not going to go much better in the outside world.
posted by smoke at 2:04 AM on February 4, 2013


Smoke, has anyone here, anyone at all, supported censorship of CUNY or banning Barghouti or whatever? I think only one who supported the councillors' actions was MikeMC when he was under the impression that the proposed talk was some highly significant event with the full imprimatur of CUNY. When he found out it wasn't he gracefully retracted.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:24 AM on February 4, 2013


Ohh, that's not what I meant, really.

Yeah, I realized I wasn't agreeing with the whole thrust of your argument, but I still think my point and yours are related.

I also think that feelings about the politicisation of universities and faculty spaces and their funding, the way public discourse is increasingly conducted, and the merits of outrage are colouring it, too. Not exactly academic freedom per se, but things that have tremendous impact even on the idea of academic freedom, its acceptability and role. I think the world probably needs more panels and less defunding of universities and histrionic threats.

Well, to make my point more directly: I think you (and many others here) are talking about fairness more than freedom. Context matters a lot for questions of fairness, but not so much when you're talking about freedom. Like most liberals I often think fairness is a better goal, but they're still different things, right? There are certain senses in which freedom requires fairness, but "academic freedom" doesn't invoke that connection for me.

I would love to see universities create open fora where the speakers and groups they host are determined purely by petition or something and the administration and faculty have no discretionary power at all. If someone fills out the right forms on time and gets enough signatures and waits their turn, they can present, even if it's NAMBLA or the Klan.

A school that did that could reasonably talk about "academic freedom" as a motivation/defense for what happens on their campus. But if the faculty gets to decide who speaks, it's perfectly reasonable to criticize them for that decision. Not that I'm saying they necessarily deserve criticism in this case, but invoking "academic freedom" shouldn't end the discussion.
posted by pete_22 at 2:36 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh right, I get you now, pete_22. Yeah, I certainly don't disagree with that summary.
posted by smoke at 2:44 AM on February 4, 2013


Wow, I'd truly never understood just how badly Metafilter "does" Israel until stepping into this thread. Holy sheepshit.

So, the whole thing about a religious state is that a not-insignificant part of the population will take all criticism of state action as criticism of their religion. And American Zionists like Dershowitz reframe any criticism of the policies of Israel (which are ugly as fuck--that's basically incontrovertible) as an attack on Judaism or anti-semitism. It's the same as reframing the separation of church and state as an attack on religious freedom. And, hey, I guess if BDS good for the goose, Jewish leaders should feel comfortable trying to use the same tactic on Brooklyn College. But it will be a terrible terrible misstep if Brooklyn College actually backs down on this.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 3:35 AM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow, I'd truly never understood just how badly Metafilter "does" Israel until stepping into this thread. Holy sheepshit.

Heh. If you think this is bad, wait til you see the rest of the Internet.
posted by moorooka at 4:55 AM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Interestingly, Dershowitz was on CBC last Saturday talking about why big-city mayors shouldn't be using divestment as a tactic to reduce investment in gun manufacturers. I couldn't really understand why he thought that, except FREE SPEECH! or something. Now I wonder if he believes that if it's used successfully against the gun industry that it would then be used against other organizations he actually supports.
posted by sneebler at 5:20 AM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's a hard case to make.

No, it's dead easy. It's always easier to make a case based on arrant bullshit, because all you have to do is spew a huge gushing stream of it and get as much public exposure for that as possible. In 2013, the sad and simple fact is that a sizable chunk of your audience is not going to bother fact-checking you and will simply take you at your word, especially if you manage to maintain a properly affronted front.

The key thing to realize is that point-by-point refutation of any bad-faith bullshit argument takes a lot more work than generating one, and is far more likely to be seen as carping and petty negativity, both of which keep the bullshit artists permanently ahead of the game.

Dershowitz doesn't care whether those he disagrees with have any valid points to put. All he has to do is keep on automatically dismissing them en masse as anti-semitic, and as far as his target audience is concerned his case remains unchallenged.

This is all pretty sad. I can publicly state that I think Tony Abbott is a dishonest, underhanded, opportunistic weasel, and that the refugee detention policies of both the major Australian parties are unconscionable and wrong, and nobody is going to tell me I'm un-Australian. However, the fact that I also happen to view Bibi Netanyahu as a dishonest, underhanded, opportunistic weasel and his Government's ongoing occupation and settlement building programs as unconscionable and wrong apparently does mean I'm both anti-Israeli and anti-semitic. Which is bullshit, but you know, whatever; case made.
posted by flabdablet at 6:40 AM on February 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


Let's be clear: being anti-Zionist isn't necessarily about "eliminating Israel from the map". Being anti-Zionist could be to oppose the apartheid condition and the state-sponsored violence that Israel currently attempts to exert onto Palestine.

For example: what about the one-state solution? That continues the possibility of the Jews having a homeland, shared with many different groups of people, while not cleaving a territory into two, ceasing apartheid. But that is not Zionist, because it's not about creating an ethno-religious homeland founded specifically on the exclusion of non-Jews.

To be for the one-state solution, shared by current Palestinians and Israelis, would thus necessarily make you an anti-Zionist.


This. Most American Jews would be considered anti-Zionist (and therefore apparently self-hating anti-Semites) by the conditions some people here are placing on the term. Fairly large majorities of us oppose settlement expansion (and are vehemently opposed to forceful evictions), support talks with a coalition government, and support a one-state solution shared between all faiths and cultures if it is possible.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:33 AM on February 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


On a different tangent from the issues of Israeli and Palestinian statehood. The US antiboycott regulations mentioned up-thread were enacted originally in the mid-1970s. The major international boycott going on at the time that I knew of was part of the international anti-apartheid movement, but online sources seem to indicate that this particular legislation has always been about the Arab League boycott of Israel. I haven't followed the link yet, but it looks like more history and information are provided in this online course.

The regulations' application is broader, however: from the first link,
The Arab League boycott of Israel is the principal foreign economic boycott that U.S. companies must be concerned with today. The antiboycott laws, however, apply to all boycotts imposed by foreign countries that are unsanctioned by the United States.
It seems like there is still a lot of leeway in enforcement based on what boycotts are considered "counter to US [foreign] policy"? For example, the US government didn't officially get on board with the campaign to boycott and divest from South Africa until the 1985 Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, even though many groups, businesses, and municipalities were actively boycotting and advocating a boycott of the apartheid regime in South Africa from 1977 on.
posted by eviemath at 7:45 AM on February 4, 2013


zombieflanders: "Most American Jews would be considered anti-Zionist (and therefore apparently self-hating anti-Semites) by the conditions some people here are placing on the term."

That's because people here are defining Zionism according to their fantasies, and not according to what Zionism actually is.
posted by gertzedek at 7:48 AM on February 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Do tell.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:02 AM on February 4, 2013


Perhaps those who self-identify as anti-Zionist should specify which type of Zionism they oppose.
posted by No Robots at 8:48 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


It seems inevitable that this would turn into a debate about Zionism, but it's really missing the point. The issue is about academic freedom, and the power of authority to control the acceptable range of debate. In this particular instance the political situation in Israel is less relevant than attempts in North America to constrain or silence the debate itself.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:49 AM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Teach the controversy!
posted by No Robots at 8:52 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


...and further to that, characterizing criticisms of the Israeli state as being anti-semitic, demanding that opponents of it tread carefully and qualify every statement, or framing the debate in terms of "metafilter does X badly" really feel like a continued push against the borders of allowable opinion. It's hard to imagine that it's an accident that religion, politics and race are being so wilfully conflated here, as it can be so easily leveraged against criticism.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:53 AM on February 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


What I find amusing is that those who want to boycott Israel ask British universities to boycott Israeli academics, but here we are to boycott Israel goods and speak under the idea of Academic Freedom...
Frankly, I don't give a hoot that so and so is a Jew who is against Zionism or Israel. After all, hanging out in Washington Sq Park is not the same as having rockets tossed at you.
As for "antisemitism" charges etc., here I would tread lightly. One of the most prestigious organs of the Left, The New York Rev of Books--I have subscribed since they first opened--every other week has an article denouncing Israel policies and they carefully make sure to get a Jewish writer to to the article, though, as I once noted to its editor, they have yet to get an Arab writer in the West Bank or Gaza to badmouth Hamas or Arab policies.

But, finally, I dislike boycotts but suspect this will not do much to change anything or any minds, so let it take place...and then offer a counter offering.
posted by Postroad at 9:25 AM on February 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


...and further to that, characterizing criticisms of the Israeli state as being anti-semitic, demanding that opponents of it tread carefully and qualify every statement, or framing the debate in terms of "metafilter does X badly" really feel like a continued push against the borders of allowable opinion. It's hard to imagine that it's an accident that religion, politics and race are being so wilfully conflated here, as it can be so easily leveraged against criticism.

I think it is fundamentally a question about whether or not you support Israel's right to exist or not. It's also funny how it can sometimes seem like the folks who want to boycott Israel never delve too deeply into the kind of shit that Hamas does, or Hezbollah. It's always a binary Palestinians Vs. Israel narrative, when what it should be is looking at how the Palestinians are fucked over by everybody.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:43 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hate these arguments like the plague, but a few relevant points:

1) The political science department at Brooklyn College has been pretty clear about offering to sponsor literally any event ever.

2) For everyone having issues with people protesting this event - are the people who support boycotting people who support Israel seriously having a problem with people boycotting people who support not-Israel? How is it really that different?
posted by corb at 12:07 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Entering into any agreement to boycott Israel is a violation of US law punishable by significant fines and 5 years in prison. Even reporting on the status of your business dealings with Israel or Israeli companies that appear on blacklists can be a violation of the law.

This is really, really alarming. Thanks for drawing attention to it. Googling around to find out how this is at all constitutional, I stumbled across this guide put together by the National Lawyers Guide about the anti-boycott law's impact on BDS campaigns, in case other folks are interested in this topic.
posted by likeatoaster at 12:44 PM on February 4, 2013


I know I'm going to make some people swallow their tongues on this, but:

1) According to that law, it would seem that all BDS actions are indeed illegal.

2) As a libertarian, I think that law is absolutely bullshit. Have people been fighting it?
posted by corb at 1:49 PM on February 4, 2013


Green Greenwald has posted an exhaustive analysis of the controversy...

Only his friends get to call him "Green."
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:33 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Brooklyn College President Karen Gould has released another statement, reaffirming their commitment to academic freedom.

As an institution of higher education, it is incumbent upon us to uphold the tenets of academic freedom and allow our students and faculty to engage in dialogue and debate on topics they may choose, even those with which members of our campus and broader community may vehemently disagree. As your president, I consistently have demonstrated my commitment to these principles so that our college community may consider complex issues and points of view across the political and cultural spectrum.
posted by mek at 2:37 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


The boycott issue may be moot, because the Export Administration Act of 1979 lapsed more than a decade ago. Its provisions have been renewed by Executive Orders since then, and I don't think this odd state of affairs has been tested in court. In any event it's hardly likely to affect an event like this because:
  1. The act only forbade boycotts "fostered or imposed by a foreign country";
  2. It only forbade actions taken pursuant to an agreement with, a requirement of, or a request from or on behalf of the boycotting country - private action is entirely legal;
  3. I don't think it gives any private cause of action that would allow anyone to be sued by, e.g., an Israeli academic who has been excluded from a lecture.
The historical background for these provisions was the Arab oil embargo of the United States due to its support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War. This was followed by the Iranian Revolution, which made high oil prices go even higher; this is when the Arab rulers first became ridiculously rich and foreign businesses were tremblingly eager to sell their products to the new lords of this world.

Their nascent economic power led them to attempt to interfere with foreign businesses on a larger scale: their anti-Jewish boycott (which later became anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli) had been in place since well before the creation of Israel, but now they tried to impose it on companies doing business with them. For instance, Toyota was told that if they sold cars to Israel, they couldn't sell cars to any Arab countries. Toyota complied. So did lots of other companies, leaving the USA in a bind: their own manufacturers were prohibited from discriminating against Jews; they would suffer domestically if they boycotted Israeli businesses; and it was bad policy to allow foreign countries to interfere with USAn firms. What if they started selectively refusing to supply USAn firms with oil, or told their customers to withhold raw material (e.g., plastic) from USAn manufacturers?

The USA declined to be the Arab League's bitch and passed the Export Administration Act, thereby ensuring that their companies could compete on a level playing field, without some Saudi princeling running his grubby fingers through their files looking for Jewish names. Some companies (e.g., Pepsi) chose to pay the fines rather than be excluded from the Arab market, but from what I understand the boycott became less effective over time. This probably started in the 1980s, but it accelerated after the USA gave Saddam the green light to invade Kuwait selflessly rescued Kuwait from Saddam in 1991. On the other hand, it's still in place and people like Judith Butler for the best possible motives would like you to comply with it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:23 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Judith Butler does not support an unconditional boycott of Israel. Her support of BDS is rather narrow and highly qualified, as others have already pointed out. She's actually a great choice to question Barghouti on this for that reason - probably the best possible choice for a real and interesting discussion to occur. Which is one reason this whole controversy is so stupid.
posted by mek at 4:41 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's strange, but after listening to the Q&A session that Landes linked to I find myself much more sympathetic to Judith Butler. She puts up with the most appallingly tendentious questioners and, not having time to address every question that was put, she chose to shoot down a conspiracy theorist rather than talk about something more pleasing to her audience.

I still think she's wrong about Hamas and Hezbollah, though.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:17 PM on February 4, 2013


Joe, if I'm not misunderstanding the website and this helpfully terrifying 2010 booklet, the Executive extension of the Export Administration Act via the International Emergency Economic Powers Act that empowers the anti-boycott regulations also underpins restrictions on exporting technologies associated with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, so my suspicion is that the powers of the BIS, including anti-boycott regulations, will be a legislative high priority.
As well, according to the scary glossy booklet (pp 51-54), since 2002 no fewer than seven companies have paid a quarter-million in civil and a half-million in criminal penalties arising from violation of the anti-boycott provisions. So I am not sure whether there's anything to be tested in court. I am totally not a lawyer, though.
posted by gingerest at 9:21 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Most exporters wouldn't appeal civil penalties of a relatively low amount, so that's no indication that the antiboycott provisions would survive a court challenge. The only company in that section to receive a criminal penalty was Maine Biological Labs, but that wasn't for compliance with the anti-Israel boycott. I've been trying to find a full account of the case, but this is the best I've come up with:

"August 2005 [...] Vaccine manufacturer Maine Biological Labs is fined $500,000 for smuggling a chicken flu virus into the US. In 1998 the Maine biotechnology company illegally imported the virus from Saudi Arabia so that it could develop a vaccine for a disease-plagued poultry farm in that country. The company then used falsified documents to send 8000 bottles of the newly-created vaccine back to Saudi Arabia."

The civil penalty for the antiboycott violations was $20,000, which was probably equivalent to some small fraction of their legal bill. The presentation in that booklet is more than somewhat misleading, but I suppose they don't actually say that the criminal penalties were because of breaching the antiboycott provisions. They just imply it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:09 PM on February 4, 2013


Sorry, just to be clear to anyone who doesn't want to go trolling through the pdf: the seven companies paid a TOTAL of a quarter mil etc., not each. MBL got the worst of it but they got nailed under both anti-boycott and illegal materials export.

So that language is all about settling, and that doesn't close the door to later challenge? (I am just so unnerved by the cheery tone of menace in the website, and the title "Don't Let This Happen to YOU".)
posted by gingerest at 10:17 PM on February 4, 2013


Aha. Here's the story. So basically Maine Biological Labs was a corporate train wreck that did everything wrong you can think of, from deliberately mislabelling vaccines to forging paperwork, and they were busted for smuggling a virus into the USA so they could produce a vaccine from it. The investigation this prompted led to a whole lot of criminal charges for many scarily irresponsible and illegal acts on their part as well as the $20,000 civil fine for breaching the anti boycott provisions and $100,000 for other export violations.

Gingerest: IANAL but yes, that's my understanding. There are lots of penalties (including many for breaches of the anti-boycott provisions) on their website, but I don't know how many actually went to court. Not many, I suspect. If I were an importer/exporter, I'd be very happy indeed to pay a few tens of thousands instead of potentially paying a whole lot more in legal fees, coming under increased scrutiny, or perhaps even being blacklisted.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:41 PM on February 4, 2013


Six Israeli security chiefs stun the world
Six former heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secretive internal security service, have spoken out as a group for the first time and are making stunning revelations.
The men who were responsible for keeping Israel safe from terrorists now say they are afraid for Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state.
Israeli film director Dror Moreh managed to get them all to sit down for his new documentary: “The Gatekeepers.” It is the story of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories, as told by the people at the crossroads of some of the most crucial moments in the security history of the country.
“If there is someone who understands the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s those guys,” the director told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
Against the backdrop of the currently frozen peace process, all six argue – to varying degrees – that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is bad for the state of Israel.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:47 AM on February 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Since the blurb kind of understates this: these guys are not peaceniks by any stretch. These are men who think that protecting Israel's security justifies all kinds of horrors. They are in favor of and in fact ordered assassinations and probably torture. But they are against the Israeli presence in the Palestinian territories because it is bad for Israel.

(They must be some kind of antisemites. . . .)
posted by grobstein at 12:06 PM on February 5, 2013


Six former heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secretive internal security service, have spoken out as a group for the first time [...]

The first time since 2003. Here's what Ayalon said back then:
If the State of Israel would get up tomorrow morning and get out of Gaza, and seriously begin dismantling illegal settlements, then I believe, from my years of familiarity with our future partners, that the Palestinians would come to the table.
I think we know how well that worked out. Seriously, would you pay attention to a group of ex-spooks giving advice about US politics? And why would the fact that they allegedly engaged in "assassinations and probably torture" make them more credible, rather than demonstrating that they have really bad ideas?
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:32 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


"US politics" is an overly broad term. But speaking for myself, if I were in charge of arranging guest speakers for a college's political-science department...? If given the opportunity, yes, I would definitely book a group of former intelligence officers to speak on a panel.

...which was the topic of the FPP, so I figured maybe that was relevant.
posted by cribcage at 11:43 PM on February 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Seriously, would you pay attention to a group of ex-spooks giving advice about US politics? And why would the fact that they allegedly engaged in "assassinations and probably torture" make them more credible, rather than demonstrating that they have really bad ideas?

This is a bizarre thing to say.

As cribcage remarks, topic matters. If a bunch of ex-spooks are coming up to argue for less intelligence oversight, more foreign covert ops, and larger black budgets, then no I am not that interested in their advice. In this context, their history as spies and dirty tricksters makes them less credible. But if they come up to argue for the opposite -- more oversight, less black ops -- then their history actually makes them more credible. They are offering what is known in the law as "admissions against interest."

When generals come out against war, we don't say, "You can't trust that general, after all, he's fought wars before!" Instead, we respect that they are both speaking from special expertise, and speaking against their institutional interests.

Similarly, in this context, the history of the former Shin Bet heads as people who feel few ethical scruples when defending Israel's security makes them more credible when they say, hey, the settlements are bad for Israel's security. It means they're not saying it because they don't care about Israel, they're not saying it because they're anti-Semites, they're not saying it because they are head-in-the-cloud idealists who aren't willing to face up to what's required for Israel's security. It makes them immune to the usual misdirections that get deployed against critics of Israel, including in this thread. So in that respect, it enhances their credibility.

I find it hard to believe you don't understand that, or couldn't understand it if you took a moment to think about what people are saying instead of mechanically generating facile counterarguments.
posted by grobstein at 10:00 AM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


As for the Brooklyn College thing, the subject of this post, it looks like the politicians are changing their mind and backing down from their demands that the political science department vet its lectures with them. Several City Council members have withdrawn their support from an alarmist letter they signed.

Mayor Bloomberg, who had not spoken out on the "controversy," issued the following statement (via):
Well look, I couldn’t disagree more violently with BDS as they call it, Boycott Divestment and Sanctions. As you know I’m a big supporter of Israel, as big a one as you can find in the city, but I could also not agree more strongly with an academic department’s right to sponsor a forum on any topic that they choose. I mean, if you want to go to a university where the government decides what kind of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea.

The last thing that we need is for members of our City Council or State Legislature to be micromanaging the kinds of programs that our public universities run, and base funding decisions on the political views of professors. I can’t think of anything that would be more destructive to a university and its students.

You know, the freedom to discuss ideas, including ideas that people find repugnant, lies really at the heart of the university system, and take that away and higher education in this country would certainly die.

This is a city that loves and protects freedom—academic freedom, religious religious freedom, sexual freedom, cultural freedom, political freedom. We are the freest city in the world, and that’s why we’re the greatest city in the world.
posted by grobstein at 10:21 AM on February 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


That from Bloomberg? What's the catch?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:29 AM on February 6, 2013


That from Bloomberg? What's the catch?

He's clearly a communist.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:32 AM on February 6, 2013


Is this statement really surprising from Bloomberg?
posted by grobstein at 10:48 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


something something smoking something creeping socialism something
posted by flabdablet at 6:28 PM on February 6, 2013


Is this statement really surprising from Bloomberg?

Not surprising if you know Bloomberg. Surprising if you think wealthy figures of authority are evil by definition.
posted by gertzedek at 7:11 PM on February 6, 2013


I'm not a New Yorker, or even an East Coaster, but as an outsider it seems that while Blomberg has plenty of warts, so to speak, this statement doesn't surprise mein the least.
posted by edgeways at 7:21 PM on February 6, 2013


It's offtopic, but about The Gatekeepers, the movie mentioned above - it's really worth watching.
posted by gertzedek at 9:01 PM on February 6, 2013


Butler's remarks on BDS, published in The Nation
posted by Greg Nog at 9:41 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yet another objection, sometimes uttered by the same people who made the first, is that BDS does qualify as a viewpoint, but as such, ought to be presented only in a context in which the opposing viewpoint can be heard as well. There was yet a qualification to this last position, namely, that no one can have a conversation on this issue in the US that does not include a certain Harvard professor, but that spectacular argument was so self-inflationary and self-indicting, that I could only respond with astonishment.
Bam!
posted by flabdablet at 2:27 AM on February 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was a comment earlier in the thread that "Butler may be a lot of things, but she's not a philosopher." After reading her remarks, I'd agree, as she makes most philosophers look like idiots.
posted by mek at 12:36 PM on February 10, 2013


Mek: Seriously? What part of her talk impressed you?
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:46 PM on February 10, 2013


Can't speak for mek, but I was personally in full agreement with her concluding remarks:
One could be for the BDS movement as the only credible non-violent mode of resisting the injustices committed by the state of Israel without falling into the football lingo of being “pro” Palestine and “anti” Israel. This language is reductive, if not embarrassing. One might reasonably and passionately be concerned for all the inhabitants of that land, and simply maintain that the future for any peaceful, democratic solution for that region will become thinkable through the dismantling of the occupation, through enacting the equal rights of Palestinian minorities and finding just and plausible ways for the rights of refugees to be honored. If one holds out for these three aims in political life, then one is not simply living within the logic of the “pro” and the “anti”, but trying to fathom the conditions for a “we”, a plural existence grounded in equality ... what will be just for the Jews will also be just for the Palestinians, and for all the other people living there, since justice, when just, fails to discriminate, and we savor that failure.
Further, it seems to me that anybody who chooses to misread this position as in some way "anti-Israel" is clearly suffering a pretty severe case of recto-cranial insertion.
posted by flabdablet at 4:31 PM on February 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


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