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March 14, 2014

On anti-Semitism, BDS, Palestine and justice

essay by Antony Loewenstein in New Matilda is here:

As the BDS cam­paign starts to gain trac­tion, ac­cu­sa­tions of anti-semi­tism should be treated gravely – whether from pro-Pales­tine ad­vo­cates or Is­rael’s de­fend­ers, writes Antony Loewen­stein

The charges of racism were se­ri­ous. Uni­ver­sity ori­en­ta­tion weeks, re­ported Ru­pert Mur­doch’s news­pa­per, The Aus­tralian, in early March, “have been marred by a se­ries of al­leged anti-se­mitic in­ci­dents”.

So­cial­ist Al­ter­na­tive stood ac­cused, ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian Union of Jew­ish Stu­dents, of ex­press­ing hate­ful com­ments to­wards Jew­ish stu­dents, prais­ing Hamas and call­ing for “death to the Zion­ist en­tity” at the Aus­tralian Na­tional Uni­ver­sity and the Uni­ver­sity of New South Wales.

The re­li­a­bil­ity of the al­le­ga­tions of anti-semi­tism has not yet been as­sessed but, if they are found to be true, those re­spon­si­ble must be op­posed. A spokesper­son from So­cial­ist Al­ter­na­tive tells me that his or­gan­i­sa­tion cat­e­gor­i­cally de­nies all of the al­le­ga­tions.

Fed­eral Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Christo­pher Pyne, a man who never misses an op­por­tu­nity to fight a cul­ture war he can’t win, ac­cused back­ers of the boy­cott, di­vest­ment and sanc­tions (BDS) move­ment against Is­rael of mak­ing anti-semi­tism “a fash­ion­abil­ity among highly ig­no­rant sec­tions of the far Left”. He wanted uni­ver­si­ties to “step in and take a very firm line” against racism on cam­pus. “Free speech does not ex­tend to ugly threats and phys­i­cal ha­rass­ment,” he ar­gued.

It’s time to call this co-or­di­nated cam­paign of the local Zion­ist lobby and the Mur­doch press for what it is; a cheap­en­ing of real anti-semi­tism and a clear at­tempt to brand all crit­ics of Is­rael as Jew haters. It’s a tac­tic im­ported from Amer­ica and Eu­rope, ar­tic­u­lated from Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu down, that aims to neuter op­po­nents of the Jew­ish state’s bru­tal, mil­i­tary oc­cu­pa­tion as de­luded and anti-se­mitic.

The rhetoric is in­creas­ing as BDS scores im­pres­sive wins glob­ally — count­less Eu­ro­pean firms are chang­ing their busi­ness prac­tices to­wards Is­rael in re­ject­ing the oc­cu­pa­tion — and has en­tered the main­stream as a le­git­i­mate tool to op­pose Is­raeli poli­cies.

Is­rael sup­port­ers have long be­lieved that bet­ter PR will solve its prob­lems, as if, for ex­am­ple, there’s any way to pos­i­tively spin dozens of Is­raeli teens an­nounc­ing their re­fusal to serve in the IDF due to its dele­te­ri­ous ef­fect on Is­raeli so­ci­ety and Pales­tin­ian lives.

It’s a small but deeply coura­geous step in a so­ci­ety that still idolises a human rights abus­ing army (Amnesty’s new re­port de­tails count­less ex­am­ples of the IDF killing Pales­tin­ian civil­ians in cold blood).

None of these pro­found shifts should es­cape the de­bate in Aus­tralian, where the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment re­fuses to con­demn il­le­gal Is­raeli colonies in the West Bank.

The es­tab­lish­ment Zion­ist lobby has tried for decades, with a de­gree of suc­cess, to in­su­late the Jew­ish com­mu­nity from the re­al­i­ties of oc­cu­py­ing Pales­tine.

The ad­vent of the in­ter­net and so­cial media, along with a more crit­i­cal young pop­u­la­tion who won’t be eas­ily bul­lied into sup­port for Is­rael be­cause of the Holo­caust, are chang­ing the land­scape. Hence the need to use old, tired tac­tics. Par­rot­ing Ne­tanyahu’s fear-mon­ger­ing over Iran and Arabs is in­creas­ingly treated world­wide with the con­tempt it de­serves.

The old men who run the Jew­ish com­mu­nity may catch on one day that it isn’t enough to run an hack­neyed style en­e­mies list against op­po­nents; count­less jour­nal­ists and ed­i­tors will tell you of the bul­ly­ing calls, let­ters and emails em­ployed by the Zion­ist com­mu­nity against crit­i­cal cov­er­age. It only some­times now works.

It’s a fail­ing style even called out by The Aus­tralian’s Mid­dle East cor­re­spon­dent John Lyons in a re­cent, ro­bust de­fence of his stun­ning ABC TV 4 Cor­ners story on Pales­tine, ac­cus­ing dis­tant, self-ap­pointed Zion­ist lead­ers of being lit­tle more than blind de­fend­ers of Is­raeli gov­ern­ment pol­icy. Pun­dits take note: when­ever quot­ing such peo­ple re­mem­ber to whom they pledge par­tial al­le­giance and ask about their fund­ing sources.

Any form of racism must be com­pletely con­demned, whether it’s di­rected at Jews, Mus­lims, Chris­tians or other mi­nori­ties. But the way in which a state and com­mu­nity deals with racism is a more press­ing the ques­tion. After years of falsely ac­cus­ing crit­ics of Is­rael of anti-semi­tism — Syd­ney Uni­ver­sity’s Jake Lynch is the lat­est per­son to face the pre­dictable and costly wrath of an Is­raeli-gov­ern­ment en­dorsed legal case against his eth­i­cally jus­ti­fied back­ing of BDS — the or­gan­ised Zion­ist es­tab­lish­ment lacks cred­i­bil­ity in cry­ing about op­pos­ing racism, when it so fla­grantly en­cour­ages de­mon­i­sa­tion of Is­rael’s crit­ics along racial lines.

They have a morally com­pro­mised voice by being oc­cu­pa­tion back­ers them­selves. How dare they claim to cry over an al­leged rise in real anti-semi­tism (mostly on­line) while at the same time shed­ding croc­o­dile tears against the grow­ing BDS move­ment? Per­haps they should learn some hu­mil­ity and recog­nise what their beloved state has be­come known for glob­ally: re­press­ing Pales­tini­ans.

Po­lit­i­cally, the Ab­bott gov­ern­ment has pledged to re­move sec­tion 18C of the Racial Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act in an at­tempt, in their words, to in­crease free speech (a po­si­tion loudly backed by The Aus­tralian).

Fed­eral At­tor­ney George Bran­dis said on ABC TV’s Q&A this week, de­fend­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­posed changes that are op­posed by the Jew­ish com­mu­nity and many other eth­nic groups, that the cur­rent draft­ing in sec­tion 18C re­stricts the rights of all peo­ples to speak and be of­fen­sive. Now that there are signs that Bran­dis may be back-track­ing on a com­plete re­peal of the sec­tion, it’s re­ally only the Mur­doch press that bangs on about “free speech” while deny­ing the same rights to many of its crit­ics.

De­spite all this, I’ve ar­gued else­where, in op­po­si­tion to many on the Left who be­lieve the leg­is­la­tion should re­main un­changed, that al­though all speech has lim­its, a ro­bust democ­racy should legally tol­er­ate in­sults over race. But the vast bulk of “dis­cus­sion” over 18C has been at a desul­tory level.

Take the re­cent Aus­tralian Jew­ish News ar­ti­cle by Fer­gal Davis, a se­nior lec­turer in law at the Uni­ver­sity of NSW. He backed main­tain­ing the cur­rent 18C leg­is­la­tion and then wist­fully ar­gued that the Ab­bott gov­ern­ment could be the cham­pi­ons of human rights be­cause “we must con­vince Aus­tralians that human rights are not ‘left wing’; they are at the heart of the fair go.” Nice sen­ti­ments, but ut­terly re­moved from re­al­ity. Davis ig­nores the new gov­ern­ment’s shock­ing treat­ment of asy­lum seek­ers and re­fusal to se­ri­ously con­demn abuses at the UN by al­lies Sri Lanka, Is­rael and Egypt.

The real ques­tions for the Mur­doch press, Zion­ist es­tab­lish­ment, Ab­bott min­is­ters and other sup­posed de­fend­ers of open speech are as fol­lows: will you fol­low the path of many politi­cians in the US, both De­mo­c­rat and Re­pub­li­can, who are in­creas­ingly try­ing to crim­i­nalise civil­ian back­ing for BDS? How se­ri­ous is your com­mit­ment to free speech? How will­ing are you to preach tol­er­ance and ac­cep­tance while be­liev­ing that cer­tain is­sues, such as le­git­i­mate crit­i­cisms of Is­rael (de­fined by whom will al­ways be the ques­tion?) are be­yond the pale and anti-se­mitic?

Away from the huff­ing and puff­ing of self-de­scribed friends of Is­rael lies the real lim­its of in­su­lat­ing Is­rael from crit­i­cism. Try­ing to stop BDS, through the courts, laws, par­lia­ment or defam­a­tory at­tacks, will change noth­ing on the ground for Pales­tini­ans, and count­less peo­ple around the world now know it. Is­rael and its dwin­dling band of Zion­ist back­ers in Aus­tralia and world­wide are des­per­ately hang­ing onto 20th cen­tury tac­tics to fight mod­ern op­po­si­tion to a racially based state.

source

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A War on Campus? Northeastern University Suspends Students for Justice in Palestine Chapter

Mock-eviction-notice-Syjil-Ashraf-Targum

The Northeastern University chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine has become the latest student group to face reprimand for organizing around the Palestinian cause. Northeastern has suspended the group until 2015, barring it from meeting on campus and stripping it of any university funding. The move comes just weeks after student activists distributed mock eviction notices across the campus during Israeli Apartheid Week. The notices were intended to resemble those used by Israel to notify Palestinians of pending demolitions or seizures of their homes. We speak to Northeastern Students for Justice in Palestine member Max Geller and Ali Abunimah, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of the new book, “The Battle for Justice in Palestine.” His new book includes a chapter titled “The War on Campus.”

Transcript

          This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The Northeastern University chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine has become the latest student group to face reprimand for organizing around Palestinian issues. Northeastern University has just suspended the group until 2015, barring it from meeting on campus and stripping it of any university funding. The moves comes just weeks after student activists distributed mock eviction notices across the campus during Israeli Apartheid Week. The mock notices were intended to resemble ones used by Israel to notify Palestinians of pending home demolitions or property seizures.

AMY GOODMAN: Northeastern University accused the student group of disregarding university policies over an extended period of time. Michael Armini, Northeastern’s senior vice president of external affairs, said, quote, “The issue here is not one of free speech or the exchange of disparate ideas. Instead, it is about holding every member of our community to the same standards, and addressing SJP’s non-compliance with longstanding policies to which all student organizations at Northeastern are required to adhere.”

We’re joined now by two guests. Max Geller is with us, Northeastern University School of Law student and a member of Students for Justice in Palestine. And Ali Abunimah is with us in studio, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, author of a brand new book, The Battle for Justice in Palestine. His new book includes a chapter headlined “The War on Campus.” read on and see the video here

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