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June 6, 2014 0

MLA Votes “Not Interested” on Anti-Israel Resolution

After months of tumult and advo­cacy among con­cerned mem­bers, the Mod­ern Lan­guage Asso­ci­a­tion (MLA) announced that a res­o­lu­tion crit­i­cal of Israel had failed in its all-members vote.   While the fail­ure to rat­ify the res­o­lu­tion is a suc­cess for its oppo­nents – led by the ad hoc group MLA Mem­bers for Scholar Rights – the real news of the vote is the over­whelm­ing lack of inter­est by the MLA mem­ber­ship to even engage on this issue.

Fewer than the required thresh­old of 10% of the almost 24,000 MLA mem­ber­ship voted in favor of the res­o­lu­tion, with 1,560 mem­bers vot­ing  in sup­port, and 1,063 mem­bers vot­ing against.

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The deeply flawed res­o­lu­tion crit­i­cized Israel for deny­ing U.S. aca­d­e­mics of Pales­tin­ian ori­gin entry into the West Bank for schol­arly work.  As with other sim­i­lar efforts, it was pro­moted by a small group of highly politi­cized activists, who, in the words of one attendee at the MLA’s annual con­fer­ence in Feb­ru­ary (which included a panel dis­cus­sion in favor of the boy­cott of Israeli aca­d­e­mic insti­tu­tions), were “intent on politi­ciz­ing the event and tak­ing advan­tage of the membership’s gen­eral lack of aware­ness to foist a wholly non-academic issue to the fore­front of the conference.”

The refusal of the vast major­ity of the MLA mem­ber­ship to get engaged on the con­trived issue of Israel obstruct­ing aca­d­e­mic access into the West Bank reflects the gen­eral unwill­ing­ness of mem­bers of other aca­d­e­mic and pro­fes­sional asso­ci­a­tions who have been asked to pick a side on res­o­lu­tions crit­i­cal of Israel or call­ing for boy­cotts of Israeli col­leagues and insti­tu­tions.    Even the Amer­i­can Stud­ies Asso­ci­a­tion (ASA), an orga­ni­za­tion known for its polit­i­cal activism, could only muster about 1/5 of its mem­ber­ship to vote on a (suc­cess­ful) res­o­lu­tion sup­port­ing a boy­cott of Israel aca­d­e­mic insti­tu­tions in Decem­ber 2013.

For anti-Israel activists, every one-sided res­o­lu­tion, every biased panel dis­cus­sion at an esteemed asso­ci­a­tions’ con­fer­ence, is  seen as an oppor­tu­nity to tar per­cep­tions about Israel, even among the many who refrain from get­ting engaged.  The ongo­ing chal­lenge for sup­port­ers of Israel is to effec­tively coun­ter­act the extreme vil­i­fi­ca­tion of Israel pro­moted by vocal indi­vid­u­als within these pro­fes­sional and aca­d­e­mic asso­ci­a­tions, while pos­i­tively shap­ing opin­ions among the unin­formed and largely unin­ter­ested majority.

 

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May 19, 2014 2

Vassar College President To Investigate Anti-Israel Student Group Activity

In response to a series of anti-Semitic posts pub­lished on social media accounts affil­i­ated with Vassar’s Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP) chap­ter, Catharine Hill, the Pres­i­dent of Vas­sar Col­lege, announced that “the col­lege is ini­ti­at­ing a full inves­ti­ga­tion and action on the mat­ter” and that she will be ask­ing the Vas­sar Stu­dent Asso­ci­a­tion (VSA) to review SJP’s pre-organization sta­tus; the group is a “pre­lim­i­nary orga­ni­za­tion” on campus.vassar-sjp

Anti-Semitic and racist mes­sages allegedly dis­sem­i­nated by the Vas­sar chap­ter of SJP included an arti­cle that was reposted from The Occi­den­tal Quar­terly, a racist print pub­li­ca­tion that in its own words, hopes to “defend the racial group that cre­ated and sus­tains our civ­i­liza­tion.” Another post that appeared on Vas­sar SJP’s Tum­blr page was of a car­toon that used offen­sive Holo­caust imagery to con­demn alleged Israeli poli­cies. It depicted a so-called “Holo­caust” in Gaza, with a pile of human skulls topped with a sign that read “Gaza.”

On May 13, a day before Hill’s state­ment, Vas­sar SJP posted a state­ment on its Face­book page claim­ing that, “Up until this point, the social media plat­forms (tum­blr and twit­ter) asso­ci­ated with SJP Vassar’s name have been man­aged by one per­son and the SJP gen­eral body was not involved in deci­sions made about what was being posted.” The group also con­demned hate speech and apol­o­gized for the offen­sive posts.

Con­cern over Vas­sar SJP’s activ­ity first began in Feb­ru­ary when the group orga­nized a protest out­side of an Inter­na­tional Stud­ies class, whose pro­fes­sor co-led a trip to Israel to explore water issues as part of the course. The protest report­edly lasted for at least 30 min­utes, as stu­dents enrolled in the course attempted to enter the classroom. 

As the stu­dents tried to make their way into the class­room, the pro­test­ers called on them to drop the class because of the orga­nized trip to Israel. They also handed out fly­ers, which apart from call­ing for Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paigns against Israel, also claimed that “The sim­ple act of enter­ing and mov­ing within the state of Israel is a free­dom denied to over 5 mil­lion Pales­tin­ian refugees who were eth­ni­cally cleansed from their homes…The indige­nous peo­ple of Pales­tine do NOT want you to come.” 

Hill’s state­ment is an impor­tant step toward ensur­ing that Jew­ish and pro-Israel stu­dents on cam­pus are made to feel com­fort­able and that bla­tant anti-Semitism and hos­tile rhetoric will not be tol­er­ated on campus.

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May 12, 2014 0

Pro-“Resistance” Conference In Beirut Draws American Activists

A recent con­fer­ence held in Beirut to dis­cuss issues related to Pales­tin­ian polit­i­cal pris­on­ers fea­tured the par­tic­i­pa­tion of mem­bers of sev­eral Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ist groups, as well as the atten­dance of at least three Amer­i­can activists.Arab-International Forum of the Solidarity Organizations Supporting Freedom Prisoners in the Prisons of the Zionist Occupation

For­mer U.S. Attor­ney Gen­eral Ram­sey Clark, a founder of the Inter­na­tional Action Cen­ter (IAC), report­edly brought an Amer­i­can del­e­ga­tion to the con­fer­ence, billed in the Arab media as “The Arab-International Forum of the Sol­i­dar­ity Orga­ni­za­tions Sup­port­ing Free­dom Pris­on­ers in the Pris­ons of the Zion­ist Occu­pa­tion.” The Amer­i­can activists were joined by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Pop­u­lar Front for the Lib­er­a­tion of Pales­tine (PFLP) and Pales­tin­ian Islamic Jihad, as well as ambas­sadors from sev­eral coun­tries, includ­ing Syria, Venezuela, Iran, Yemen, Morocco, and Sudan.

The con­fer­ence took place at the Com­modore Hotel in Beirut on April 30. Maher al-Taher, the Polit­i­cal Sec­re­tary of the PFLP, spoke at the open­ing cer­e­mony of the con­fer­ence and deliv­ered greet­ings from the PFLP’s Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Ahmad Sa’adat who is cur­rently serv­ing a 30 year sen­tence in an Israeli prison for his role in lead­ing the PFLP. In his remarks, Al-Taher said, “Sa’adat’s mes­sage is to end the nego­ti­a­tions entirely; they have failed and this has been proven repeat­edly. We must develop a new strat­egy on the basis of Pales­tin­ian resistance.”

Char­lotte Kates, a long­time activist with Al-Awda and a coor­di­na­tor for the North Amer­i­can Net­work for the Stead­fast Sup­port of Pris­on­ers, also spoke at the con­fer­ence. Accord­ing to a news arti­cle about the con­fer­ence in The Ambas­sador, a daily Lebanese Arabic-language news­pa­per, she said: “We remain in sup­port of the cause, which the pris­on­ers have been killed and fought for…and top­ping it is the Right of Return and the lib­er­a­tion of their coun­try from the occupation…We are in sol­i­dar­ity with the pris­on­ers and in sol­i­dar­ity with the Pales­tin­ian cause, and we declare and stand by the side of the Pales­tin­ian and Arab resistance.”

Accord­ing to a news arti­cle about the con­fer­ence from Al Watan Voice, a daily Pales­tin­ian Arabic-language news­pa­per, other notable atten­dees of the con­fer­ence were Issa Qaraqe, the Pales­tin­ian Min­is­ter of Pris­on­ers’ Affairs and Fadwa Bargh­outi, the wife of impris­oned Fatah leader Mar­warn Bargh­outi. Dur­ing her address, Bargh­outi report­edly said, “We are here to revive the issue of the pris­on­ers and to expose the crimes of the Israeli occu­pa­tion in inter­na­tional forums.”

This is not the first time a con­fer­ence held in Beirut fea­tur­ing Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ist groups has attracted West­ern­ers. In Jan­u­ary 2009 and 2010, sim­i­lar con­fer­ences were held in Beirut, which Clark and other Amer­i­can activists attended as well.

News reports indi­cate that this year’s con­fer­ence con­cluded with a series of pro­posed action steps, includ­ing an affir­ma­tion by par­tic­i­pants “that the Resis­tance option in all its forms is the short­est way to lib­er­ate the pris­on­ers from Israeli jails.” A sec­ond action step from the con­fer­ence report­edly called for Boy­cott, Divest­ment, and Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paigns against “all for­eign com­pa­nies and states that pro­vide logis­tic, secu­rity, or admin­is­tra­tive sup­port” to Israel on issues related to deten­tion of pris­on­ers in Israeli jails.

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