Archive | August 17th, 2014

Reading Salaita in Illinois (part 2) – Cary Nelson, academic freedom’s agent provocateur

NOVANEWS
Cary Nelson with a handful of offensive tweets from Steven Salaita (photo: Don Lavagne)

Cary Nelson with a handful of offensive tweets from Steven Salaita (photo: Don Lavagne)

This is the second of two articles on Cary Nelson’s involvement in the Steven Salaita affair. Part One, in which I examine Nelson’s false claims about Salaita’s tweets, can be found here.

In this second half of my study, I will focus on Nelson’s conflicts of interest when presenting himself as a professional authority on the Salaita case. I will also trace the anti-BDS origins of the current attack against Steven Salaita.

Contents:

The unraveling of Cary Nelson

In order to preempt accusations of bias, Nelson points out that he has often defended the academic freedoms of people whose viewpoints he opposes:

I have defended a number of faculty members over the years who were critical of Israel, who strongly supported Palestinian rights, and I’ve defended them even when they said things that I strongly disagreed with.

But as I explained in my January 2014 article, Nelson has never been completely professional in defending academics who were attacked for being too “pro-Palestinian”—often subjecting them to condescension and backhanded insults while defending them.

Neve Gordon is fortunate to have his academic freedoms violated in Israel, where there are academic freedoms to be violated.

Neve Gordon is fortunate to have his academic freedoms violated in Israel, where there are academic freedoms to be violated.

To provide one additional example, take the case of Israeli professor Neve Gordon, who, after calling for an Israel boycott in the Los Angeles Times in 2009, facedpublic pressure from his university’s administration to resign.

Nelson, at the time the president of the AAUP, wrote an article defending Gordonbut could not resist prefacing his defense by suggesting that Gordon was lucky to be living in Israel, “the one country [in the Middle East] that maintains academic freedom.” The claim was particularly insulting because Gordon’s academic freedom rights were being violated in Israel. Nelson explained that

every discussion of Israeli academic conduct [must] be framed with a reminder of the regional context. Otherwise, inadequately informed audiences can become victims of demagoguery and an exceptionalist fantasy of Israeli monstrosity be promoted.

Such were the contortions exercised by Nelson to shield Israel from criticism when professionalism demanded that he criticize one of its institutions.

Nelson has made no similar qualifications that US academics should be grateful for having their academic freedoms violated in the United States, nor has he done so with any other country.

And though Nelson has defended “pro-Palestinian” professors in the past, I notedthat what professionalism he once maintained has dramatically unraveled in response to the growing popularity of an academic boycott of Israel.

Since then, Nelson has fashioned himself as an expert on the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement and has giving several talks against BDS to Jewish studies and Holocaust studies programs, including:

The AAUP distances itself from its leading voice

The result of Nelson’s unraveling are clear in his new streamlined interpretation of academic freedom that conveniently makes the case against Steven Salaita joining him at UIUC. It has also led to the AAUP distancing itself from its leading public voice.

Soon after Nelson was first quoted on the Salaita affair, AAUP Asscoiate Secretary Anita Levy informed the media that Nelson “does not speak for the association.”AAUP President Rudy Fichtenbaum and Vice President Hank Reichman were compelled to issue an official statement

because Cary Nelson … is quoted as approving the Illinois Chancellor’s action. Professor Nelson is entitled to his opinions … However, we wish to make clear that Professor Nelson’s comments do not reflect an official position of AAUP or of its Committee A [on Academic Freedom].

Contrasting with Nelson’s claims, Fichtenbaum and Reichhman stated that if news reports on the circumstances behind Salaita’s termination were true,

there is good reason to fear that Professor Salaita’s academic freedom and possibly that of the Illinois faculty members who recommended hiring him have been violated.

Meanwhile the Illinois AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure called the UIUC termination as “ a clear violation of Professor Salaita’s academic freedom and an affront to free speech that we enjoy in this country.”

And though Nelson is a member of the national AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which has yet to issue an official statement, individual members have sided with Salaita and in opposition to Nelson’s viewpoint, such asMichael Bérubé. Joan Scott, another Committee A member, signed on to a letterthat “call[ed] upon UIUC in the strongest terms to reverse its decision.” This is in addition to Committee A Chair Hank Reichman’s contribution to the AAUP official statement.

The origins of the anti-Salaita campaign

The question remains, though: Aside from providing the only anti-Salaita commentary for media and a new interpretation of academic feedom, what has been the extent of Cary Nelson’s involvement in the Salaita affair? To begin to address the question, we must look into how the anti-Salaita campaign unfurled.

The Case for Israel and Academic Freedom

William Jacobson giving a talk on “The Case for Israel and Academic Freedom” at Vassar College, May 5, 2014, hosted by the Vassar Conservative Libertarian Union.

The Salaita affair can be traced back to William A. Jacobson, who runs the Tea-Party conservative blog Legal Insurrection. Although the blog has been around for almost six years, it has only recently begun to receive greater recognition among conservative circles, having won the award for “Most Underrated Blog” at the CPAC 2012 Red Carpet Blogger Awards and the National Blogger Club’s “Blogger of the Year” award during CPAC 2014.

Jacobson’s writings had focused primarily on Obamacare and other Tea-Party issues, with occasional reports of the growing BDS menace. He became more active in opposing BDS in late 2013, when the American Studies Association (ASA) voted to endorse the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

At that point, Jacobson became one of the leaders in the organized backlash against the ASA, calling on institutional members to drop their memberships and contacting university administrators to issue public statements against the ASA. The Legal Insurrection website became the primary source for updates on the number of school administrations denouncing the boycott.

Jacobson also filed a spurious complaint with the IRS, alleging that the academic boycott violated the ASA’s tax exempt status.

In late January of this year, Jacobson announced “Phase 2 of the pushback against the anti-Israel academic boycott,” where he explained:

Legal Insurrection tends to take a fairly active approach to issues. We don’t just write about them; we actually pursue them. And we’re going to be pursuing them for the coming months and maybe the coming years.

Around the same time that William Jacobson was becoming more focused on academic boycotts—which was also the time Cary Nelson was becoming unhinged—ASA boycott organizer Steven Salaita was becoming a prominent voice for the academic boycott movement, writing several articles on the subject for Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss.

On July 19 of this year, Jacobson published an article titled, “U. Illinois Prof: Zionists Partly to Blame for Recent Outbursts of Anti-Semitism.” Jacobson’s article claimed that “Twitter has opened a window into the soul of the anti-Israel boycott movement,” and singled out Salaita as “one of the leaders of the anti-Israel academic boycott movement in the United States.”

At the time, Salaita’s alleged offense was in tweeting the following statement:

Jacobson added:

Salaita’s Twitter feed is crudely anti-Israel and has been since long before the recent Gaza conflict. Maybe that will be an issue for a later day.

The Daily Caller article on Salaita featured an anti-Semitic graphic that had no relation to any of Salaita’s tweets.

The Daily Caller article on Salaita featured an anti-Semitic graphic that bore no relation to any of Salaita’s tweets.

Two days later the story was picked up by the conservative website The Daily Caller, under the headline, “University of Illinois Professor Blames Jews For Anti-Semitism,” and carrying the lead:

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has continued its bizarre quest to employ as many disgusting scumbags as possible by acquiring the services of Steven Salaita …

The article referred to Salaita as “a world-class Israel hater on Twitter” and “an obnoxious, obscenity-hurling, black-belt jerk on Twitter.” It also claimed that

Salaita’s Twitter feed has been a parade of foul-mouthed, Israel-bashing tweets for many moons now, observes William A. Jacobson, the Cornell University law professor who runs Legal Insurrection … “This is a sad reflection of what the academic boycott movement actually represents,” Jacobson told The Daily Caller.

The Daily Caller piece also reproduced several other tweets from Salaita’s Twitter timeline. The following day, July 22, the story entered the mainstream when the News-Gazette of East Central Illinois reported that

An incoming University of Illinois professor has drawn the ire of a conservative website after posting angry commentary on Twitter about Israel’s ground invasion of the Gaza Strip in recent days.

This of course leads one to question the state of local news when the fact that a conservative website is upset constitutes a story. Regardless, as reported by theElectronic Intifada, the news report set off alarms for mainstream Jewish organizations. On the same day that the News-Gazette article was published, the Champaign-Urbana Jewish Federation sent an email stating that

By now, many of you have read the article in today’s News-Gazette about the University of Illinois’ recent hiring of Steven Salaita, whose inflammatory comments on social media are drawing attention from both the media and the Jewish community. I would like to take this opportunity to let you all know that leaders in the CU Jewish community take this issue quite seriously and are addressing this matter to the best of our abilities. Several of you have called to express your concern–please know that we are doing what we can, and we will keep you informed every step of the way.

Ten days later, on August 1, UIUC Chancellor Phyllis Wise emailed Saliata to inform him that “We … will not be in a position to appoint you to the faculty.” News of the termination went public when Inside Higher Ed reported on it on Aug. 6. William Jacobson posted the story the same day on Legal Insurrection. Jacobson indicated that he had been “following [Salaita’s Twitter] account for months now” and “thought something was up when he stopped tweeting on August 2”—which indicates how closely Jacobson had been monitoring Salaita’s timeline. Jacobson’s post also included a number of Salaita’s “hateful tweets,” dislayed as screenshots. Some of the “hateful tweets” were simply political tweets with naughty words:

Others had no profanity at all but were still deemed by Jacobson to be “hateful”:

One of the most ridiculous “hateful tweets” was a tweet that Jacobson explained was “trying to stoke racial tension” by drawing connections between the recent water shutoff crisis in Detroit, Michigan, and US financial aid to Israel:

Presumably Jacobson’s implication was that Salaita’s tweet would somehow agitate malleable African Americans in Detroit, who were no doubt existing in a state of total passivity until primed by Salatia’s tweet for “racial tension.”

In fact, the connections between the Detroit water crisis and the oppression of Palestinians were already being made by local organizers in Detroit who—rather than stoking racial tension, were finding ways to bridge racial and ethnic divides in cross-movement solidarity.

Detroit-based organizers Will Copeland and Dawud Walid, at the Detroit rally in solidarity with Gaza, 13 July 2014

Detroit-based organizers Will Copeland and Dawud Walid, at the Detroit rally in solidarity with Gaza, 13 July 2014. Photo from Dawud Walid’s Twitter.

But such concepts are foreign to Legal Insurrection, which, like any good right-wing blog, has a subject tag for the “race card.”

Such examples demonstrate that Jacobson’s list of “hateful tweets” were merely an attempt to frame as “hateful” whatever was available and then hoping a few would make impact.

Nelson’s ties to William Jacobson

On the same day that Jacobson published his list of “hateful tweets,” Electronic Intifada published its first article on the Salaita affair, quoting Nelson as saying that there were “scores of tweets” that were incriminating. “I have screen captures.”

I was drawn to this quote. Nelson did not have a Twitter account, and he did not strike me as someone who had the technical knowledge to do screen captures on his own.

Jacobson had already admitted to “following Salaita’s account for months” and had screen captures of Salaita’s tweets that—based on the number of retweets and follows per tweet—were clearly captured prior to the announcement of Salaita’s firing.

Cary Nelson declined to answer questions from me by phone, so I asked him by email whether he had taken the screenshots of Salaita’s tweets himself. He responded,

No. They were sent to me. I do not know how to do screen captures.

I also asked him if he had been in contact with William Jacobson over Salaita. He simply answered, “Yes.”

In a follow-up email, I asked Nelson if he had received the screenshots from Jacobson. His response:

The screen captures merely gave me a permanent visual record of what I had independently seen on [Salaita]’s tweet page and typed out in my notes. They provided stronger permanent backup evidence for what I was writing about, which is why I wanted them. So it really doesn’t matter who did them.

Although Nelson remained evasive with me, I later learned that he had spoken to Ali Abunimah by phone earlier that day and had already told Abunimah that the screenshots had come from Jacobson.

Nelson’s claim that “it really doesn’t matter who” provided the screenshots was a deflection. The fact that he had received the screenshots from the instigator of the Salaita affair puts his alleged professional impartiality into question, and it raises additional questions about what communications the two had prior to the announcement of Salaita’s termination.

Nelson’s ties to the Israel on Campus Coalition

Another point which Nelson has failed to disclose when he offers a professional assessment of the Salaita affair is his role as a faculty fellow in the Israel on Campus Coaltion.

ICC

The Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) is a coalition of major pro-Israel organizations in the US. With a budget of over a $1 million, it’s goal is “to advocate on behalf of the State of Israel” and “strengthen[] the pro-Israel movement on campus.”

In 2008, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni described the ICC as fighting “an additional front” in Israel’s war: “the front of Israeli hasbara—explaining Israel’s positions” on college campuses. An Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson further explained that the ICC was created because “Jewish organizations in the US have marked Israel’s image in the academic sphere as an issue of extreme strategic importance.”

Faculty fellows are overseen by Sam Edelman, the executive director of the ICC’s Center for Academic Engagement in Washington DC. Edelman also happens to be featured on the Israeli Embassy website as an expert available to speak about “The Arab Israeli Conflict: Warfare on the Campus.”

I asked Nelson whether his association with an organization that attempts to regulate campus criticism of Israel would be a conflict of interest worth disclosing when speaking about the Salaita case, which is ostensibly about tweets critical of Israel. He responded:

I have been an elected leader of the national AAUP for 20 years. I am coauthor of 5 of its Redbook statements—based on the new edition. I have written widely on AAUP’s academic freedom policies. Before commenting on Salaita’s case I spoke with other long-term AAUP leaders and staff—by which I mean people with more than 30 years of experience with the organization. I did not ask ICC for advice. There has been plenty of ICC and other organizational list serve conversation about Salaita, but it didn’t begin until AFTER the news about the Chancellor’s decision broke in the news.

Yet no long-term AAUP leader or staff has publicly supported Nelson’s comments on the Salaita case and in fact have publicly distanced themselves from Nelson.

Moreover, whether Nelson asked the ICC for advice does not change the fact that his affiliation and participation with the ICC poses a conflict of interest. An affiliation does not have to be one of receiving orders.

Nelson’s ties to the Third Narrative

In a subsequent unsolicited email to me, Nelson tried to emphasize his involvement in an organization called the Third Narrative over his ICC affiliation:

By the way, I am Co-Chair of the Academic Advisory Council of The Third Narrative, whereas I am simply one of more than 30 ICC fellows. As you know the Third Narrative seeks a middle way that honors the rights and needs of both Palestinians and Israelis, promoting empathy for both sides. I also remain on the AAUP Executive Committee. It is notable that you prefer to cite my ICC affiliation, rather than my leadership role in TTN.

The final sentence, in which he found it “notable that you prefer to cite my ICC affiliation, rather than my leadership role in TTN,” appeared to accuse me of attempting to discredit him for his involvement in the ICC. This suggests that Nelson knew his ICC affiliation was a liability to his authority on the Salaita case.

Yet Nelson emailed me this message on the same day that he spoke to Ali Abunimah, telling Abunimah that he was unaware of anything controversial about the ICC.

The reason I did not consider citing The Third Narrative (TTN) was simply because, unlike the ICC, it is a very new organization with little presence outside of its website and the occasional press release.

Although ostensibly described as taking a middle ground between “two competing narratives on the Middle East—Israeli and Palestinian,” TTN was launched a year ago and designed to “counter anti-Israel bias on the far left.” Thus TTN is geared primarily toward attacking the pro-BDS left and rarely critiques the pro-Israeli right. TTN even distributes a booklet called “Progressive Answers To The Far Left’s Critiques of Israel.”

This is a common anti-BDS tactic that I discuss elsewhere, where the goal is to drive “a wedge between progressive values and the BDS movement,” in the words of a guidebook from the Israel Action Network (another organization that Nelson has worked with).

TTN’s Academic Advisory Council (herein AAC), for which Nelson serves as co-chair, was only founded in March of this year. The council professes support for academic freedom and opposition to academic boycotts, although the stance is not totally clear.

Claire Potter, who is listed as an AAC member, had previously opposed academic boycotts but eventually voted in support of the ASA boycott initiative. She has also expressed preliminary support for Salaita.

Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

Moreover, one must wonder what Cary Nelson would make of his fellow AAC founding member Eric Alterman, whose tweets against his political opponents are particularly nasty, referring to BDS supporters as “dipshits,” Mondoweissreaders as “Mondoweiss dipshits,” opponents on Twitter as “self-identif[ied] dipshits,” and Phil Weiss as someone Alterman knew when his beat was his dick.”

Is Nelson concerned with Alterman’s own “repeated profanity, with a high degree of anger,” as he is with Salaita’s?

Ultimately, The Third Narrative is an insignificant organization whose strong anti-BDS stance nevertheless compounds the conflict of interest for Nelson.

Conclusion

In a comment left on the Electronic Intifada, Nelson defended the Legal Insurrection website as

an extremely useful and responsible source of factual information about the struggle against the movement to boycott Israeli universities … It also provides political commentary, but in a far more rational style than a number of sites speaking for the opposition.

It is ironic that Nelson, whose main nemesis in the battle for academic freedom was formerly David Horowitz, was now praising a website that has called for David Horowitz to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for exposing “the ugly truth behind the anti-Israel campus movement.”

And just as David Horowitz was a former radical turned hard-right polemicist, Nelson seems to be following the path, at least when it comes to Palestine/Israel.

An immediate consequence of this turn is that any media seeking to quote Nelson should disclose his conflicts of interest and his partisan affiliations. But more importantly, an attempt to cast Nelson’s voice as an authority on the Salaita affair for the sake of balance is misleading.

In fact, Nelson’s opinions constitute a singular opinion not reflected within the AAUP or with any other known authority. The fact is there has been no credible authority at all taking a professional stance in support of the UIUC administration and against Salaita.

We must also note that no individual or organization has actually come forward to take responsibility for waging the campaign against Salaita that has resulted in his termination.

This should tell us something about both the campaign against Salaita and the credibility of Cary Nelson.

I would like to conclude by offering the final words to Steve Salaita, who has been unable to comment on his case. In offering him the final words, we must first revisit the initial tweet that Salaita’s detractors employed to defame him:

Salaita has actually written at length on the topic of this tweet.

Cary Nelson claims that the “main context for [Salaita’s] tweets … are his published writings, both in print and on line.” In this case I agree, and we can find meaning for this tweet from the following two passages of Salaita’s book Israel’s Dead Soul, which I reproduce at length to deny detractors another opportunity to misrepresent.

Since Cary Nelson holds tweets in such high regard, perhaps we should think of this as a book to supplement a tweet:

There has not been enough close reading of the rhetorical and discursive features of the conflation of anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel. We must think about the conditions in which Israel supposedly inspires anti-Semitism. The conflation in question is framed mainly by the popular construction of Israel as a state coterminous with an ethnic group. Most of Israel’s supporters are adamant that Israel is a state for all Jews, and thus an entity that cannot be detached from ethnicity. This condition is common to most nation-states, but in the case of Israel the juxtaposition of national belonging and ethnic background is explicit juridically and rhetorically. It is not Israel’s enemies but its advocates who juxtapose Israeli citizenship and Jewish identity. In other words, if it is true that Israel evokes anti-Semitism, then according to their own logic it is primarily the fault of Israel’s most passionate supporters.

It is not my goal to assign the blame for the existence of anti-Semitism to anybody. Racism, a category in which anti-Semitism belongs, is a complex phenomenon, dynamic and multivalent. The blame for racism ultimately rests in the existence of injustice from which individuals or groups benefit economically, psychologically, or politically. Individuals, governments, and corporations also play a prominent role in its survival. I want to be clear that I am not blaming anti-Semitism on Jews, then. I am, however, making the crucial distinction between the existence of anti-Semitism as a historical affliction and the ardent defense of Israel as necessarily Jewish and how that sort of discourse facilitates its dissemination. More important, that sort of discourse places a type of onus on Israel that its supporters would surely consider unsavory, which is to act as an emissary for Jews throughout the world. In defending Israel’s eternal and inherent Jewish nature, its supporters have no choice but to reinforce that onus. This defense isn’t so much a Faustian bargain as it is a starkly utilitarian choice that has far-reaching consequences for the many people whose lives are affected by Israel’s comportment and identity. [pp. 15–16]

If Israel is the embodiment of Jewish culture, then it is being entrusted with a sort of authority that no nation-state can execute favorably. Herein lies the main problem of conjoining culture and national character. Hillel and other Jewish civic organizations render themselves distinctly responsible for Israel’s violence by proclaiming themselves guardians of the state’s consciousness. Moreover, they perform a nonconsensual appropriation of all Jewish people into the service of state policies that render the culture indefensible along with the state policies that are said to arise from the culture. It is never a good idea, even through the trope of strategic essentialism, to link an ethnic group to a military apparatus. Such a move automatically justifies discourses—in this case anti-Semitic ones—that should never be justifiable. [p. 23]

[Special thanks to Isaiah Silver for some useful leads.]

10 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Marshall says:

    Wait, so what you’re saying is that someone who presented himself as an academic-freedom-defending former President of the AAUP was actually fronting for a radical right Zionist blogger, and that in concert they induced a major university to strip a professor of his job? Why I never would have guessed that’s how this story would end.

  2. snowdrift says:

    Very good two part article! Phan Nguyen, you’ve become a master at dismantling the talking points. No stone left unturned. It’s often long but always worth it!

  3. ritzl says:

    It’s sad that it takes two extraordinarily well written articles to deconstruct a couple of baseless and malicious accusations that were enough to promptly get a good man fired.

  4. X Patriot says:

    “At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised?”

    I hope Mr. Salaita doesn’t rule out standup comedy if things don’t work out otherwise.

  5. Phan Nguyen,
    These two articles made for riveting reading and were meticulous in research illuminating…thanks for your hard work.

  6. Antidote says:

    @X Patriot

    Comedy?

    Humorous scenes from the “Good War”:

    “Representative Francis Walter of Pennsylvania presented the President with an odd gift during the visit–a letter opener made from the forearmofa Jap soldier killed in the Pacific.
    “This is the sort of gift I like to get,” the President said, as it was placed on his desk.
    Representative Walter apologized f o r presenting such a small tart of the Jap’s anatomy. But the President interrupted him.
    There’ll be plenty more such gifts”, he said.
    The President did not touch the letter opener with his fin- gers, however. He probed it with a metal letter opener of his own, and called Assistant President Jimmy Byrnes and White Rouse Assistant, Jim Barnes to look at it.”

    link to dspace.wrlc.org

    link to blogs.reuters.com

  7. Oscar says:

    Spectacular. Required reading for the UI/CP Board of Trustees.

    Phan, you’re a phenomenal debunker,

  8. piotr says:

    LAWRENCE, Kan. — LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The chancellor of the University of Kansas announced Thursday that a journalism professor suspended over a tweet that angrily targeted the National Rifle Association after the Navy Yard shootings will not return to his classroom in 2013.

    Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little issued a press release stating that David Guth, who was placed on administrative leave Sept. 20, would not teach the rest of this semester but would be assigned to other duties. It also said he would take a planned sabbatical in the spring. Teaching assignments for the fall of 2014 are not yet set.

    Guth posted the tweet after the September shootings killed 13 people in Washington, D.C. It said, “The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you.”

    Guth issued a statement Thursday evening apologizing for his tweet that “caused a great deal of pain for many people. […]

    However, the legislators of the State of Kansas threaten Kansas University with
    However, conservative legislators have called for the university to terminate [tenured] Guth and have suggested they would vote against any university spending measure in 2014 if he remained on the faculty.”

    There is a difference between two lobbies, NRA is not that powerful in Illinois or New York. Nelson undermines AAUP that defends professors in a host of similar situations.

  9. Pixel says:

    Phan,

    Read your post(s) – Part 2, yesterday. I couldn’t comment then because I didn’t have the words to express how extraordinary it is. I’m utterly speechless and I doubt that’s going to change so, here I am, offering my rather inarticulate yet very grateful cudos.

    Just phenomenal!

Posted in USAComments Off on Reading Salaita in Illinois (part 2) – Cary Nelson, academic freedom’s agent provocateur

Gaza Holocaust: Nazi Crimes in Khuza’a

NOVANEWS

Accounts of Israeli war crimes in Khuza’a, Gaza pile up

Israeli soldiers check their weapons on the southern border with the Gaza Strip. (Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

Israeli soldiers check their weapons on the southern border with the Gaza Strip. (Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly asked the U.S. for help in combatting charges of war crimes committed over the last month in Gaza. He will definitely need it.

In recent days, well-documented accounts of war crimes have poured out of the Gaza Strip from journalists and human rights advocates. Some of these stories will likely be followed up on by the United Nations team that has been tasked with investigating war crimes in the Gaza Strip.

Many of these accounts have focused on Khuza’a, a village near Khan Younis that was the site of intensive Israeli bombardment in late July. Khuza’a is near Gaza’s border with Israel, and Israeli forces battled Palestinian fighters there. By many accounts from Palestinians and journalists, the village suffered from indiscriminate shelling and firing, leading to the deaths of many Palestinian civilians. There are also reports that Israeli soldiers shot unarmed civilians at point-blank range. (Mondoweiss printed accounts from Palestinians on the apparent massacre in Khuza’a herehere and here.)

Daily Beast’s reporter Jesse Rosenfeld was among the first to document with his own eyes what look like blatant war crimes in the village. On August 1, he published a harrowing account of a mass execution in the village. What was left in the village, Rosenfeld wrote, is “rubble, bombed-out buildings and the all-encompassing, sickening smell of death.” Rosenfeld broke the story of how there were at least six rotting, dead bodies piled together in a small home. He’s careful not to assign blame, but he does report that “the house is filled with casings from the bullets used in assault rifles. They are marked on the bottom as ‘IMI’ (Israel Military Industries).”

Human Rights Watch added their own report three days later. The human rights organization said that Israeli soldiers shot and killed civilians who were fleeing Khuza’a, which is a blatant violation of international law. On July 23, for instance, Israeli soldiers ordered about 100 Palestinians to leave a residence they had gathered in for shelter. When Shahid al-Najjar left the residence, he was shot in the jaw by an Israeli soldier. Then, Human Rights Watch reported, soldiers detained all of the males over the age of 15. They brought some of the detainees into Israel for interrogation. The Israeli forces let some of them go, but fired on one unarmed group while they were walking to Khan Younis, killing one Palestinian and wounding two others.

But perhaps the most disturbing documentation of war crimes was published by the Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights. (The Electronic Intifada’s Rania Khalek covered the report here.) In Euro-Mid’s August 10th release, the group relayed Palestinian accounts of being used as human shields–a particularly important charge given that Israeli officials have repeatedly accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields with no evidence.

Ramadan Muhammad Qadeeh said that on July 25th, Israeli soldiers raided his home in the village. They killed his 65-year-old father at point-blank range after he tried to tell the soldiers they were just civilians. Then, Qadeeh said, “they ordered us to take off our clothes and tied our hands up. They took us to one of the rooms and used us as shields, making us stand at the windows as if we were looking outside…I was at one window and three children from my family at another. The soldiers then began firing around us.” There are many detailed accounts of how Israel has used Palestinian civilians as human shields during past military operations in Gaza.

The Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer also reported on apparent war crimes in Khuza’a for the Middle East EyeOmer wrote on how the Qudeh family was sheltering in their home on July 25 when an Israeli army-operated bulldozer crashed into the home and then soldiers entered the residence. 64-year-old Mohammed Tawfiq Qudeh went to talk with the soldiers while waving a white flag. But as witnesses told Omer, an Israeli soldier shot and killed him.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, GazaComments Off on Gaza Holocaust: Nazi Crimes in Khuza’a

My plea to the people of Israel: Liberate yourselves by liberating Palestine

    NOVANEWS

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, in an exclusive article for Haaretz, calls for a global boycott of Israel and urges Israelis and Palestinians to look beyond their leaders for a sustainable solution to the crisis in the Holy Land.

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.610687

By Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

The past weeks have witnessed unprecedented action by members of civil society across the world against the injustice of Israel’s disproportionately brutal response to the firing of missiles from Palestine.

If you add together all the people who gathered over the past weekend to demand justice in Israel and Palestine – in Cape Town, Washington, D.C., New York, New Delhi, London, Dublin and Sydney, and all the other cities – this was arguably the largest active outcry by citizens around a single cause ever in the history of the world.

A quarter of a century ago, I participated in some well-attended demonstrations against apartheid. I never imagined we’d see demonstrations of that size again, but last Saturday’s turnout in Cape Town was as big if not bigger. Participants included young and old, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, blacks, whites, reds and greens … as one would expect from a vibrant, tolerant, multicultural nation.

I asked the crowd to chant with me: “We are opposed to the injustice of the illegal occupation of Palestine. We are opposed to the indiscriminate killing in Gaza. We are opposed to the indignity meted out to Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks. We are opposed to violence perpetrated by all parties. But we are not opposed to Jews.”

Earlier in the week, I called for the suspension of Israel from the International Union of Architects, which was meeting in South Africa.

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I appealed to Israeli sisters and brothers present at the conference to actively disassociate themselves and their profession from the design and construction of infrastructure related to perpetuating injustice, including the separation barrier, the security terminals and checkpoints, and the settlements built on occupied Palestinian land.

“I implore you to take this message home: Please turn the tide against violence and hatred by joining the nonviolent movement for justice for all people of the region,” I said.

Over the past few weeks, more than 1.6 million people across the world have signed onto this movement by joining an Avaaz campaign calling on corporations profiting from the Israeli occupation and/or implicated in the abuse and repression of Palestinians to pull out. The campaign specifically targets Dutch pension fund ABP; Barclays Bank; security systems supplier G4S; French transport company Veolia; computer company Hewlett-Packard; and bulldozer supplier Caterpillar.

Last month, 17 EU governments urged their citizens to avoid doing business in or investing in illegal Israeli settlements.

We have also recently witnessed the withdrawal by Dutch pension fund PGGM of tens of millions of euros from Israeli banks; the divestment from G4S by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and the U.S. Presbyterian Church divested an estimated $21 million from HP, Motorola Solutions and Caterpillar.

It is a movement that is gathering pace.

Violence begets violence and hatred, that only begets more violence and hatred.

We South Africans know about violence and hatred. We understand the pain of being the polecat of the world; when it seems nobody understands or is even willing to listen to our perspective. It is where we come from.

We also know the benefits that dialogue between our leaders eventually brought us; when organizations labeled “terrorist” were unbanned and their leaders, including Nelson Mandela, were released from imprisonment, banishment and exile.

We know that when our leaders began to speak to each other, the rationale for the violence that had wracked our society dissipated and disappeared. Acts of terrorism perpetrated after the talks began – such as attacks on a church and a pub – were almost universally condemned, and the party held responsible snubbed at the ballot box.

The exhilaration that followed our voting together for the first time was not the preserve of black South Africans alone. The real triumph of our peaceful settlement was that all felt included. And later, when we unveiled a constitution so tolerant, compassionate and inclusive that it would make God proud, we all felt liberated.

Of course, it helped that we had a cadre of extraordinary leaders.

But what ultimately forced these leaders together around the negotiating table was the cocktail of persuasive, nonviolent tools that had been developed to isolate South Africa, economically, academically, culturally and psychologically.

At a certain point – the tipping point – the then-government realized that the cost of attempting to preserve apartheid outweighed the benefits.

The withdrawal of trade with South Africa by multinational corporations with a conscience in the 1980s was ultimately one of the key levers that brought the apartheid state – bloodlessly – to its knees. Those corporations understood that by contributing to South Africa’s economy, they were contributing to the retention of an unjust status quo.

Those who continue to do business with Israel, who contribute to a sense of “normalcy” in Israeli society, are doing the people of Israel and Palestine a disservice. They are contributing to the perpetuation of a profoundly unjust status quo.

Those who contribute to Israel’s temporary isolation are saying that Israelis and Palestinians are equally entitled to dignity and peace.

Ultimately, events in Gaza over the past month or so are going to test who believes in the worth of human beings.

It is becoming more and more clear that politicians and diplomats are failing to come up with answers, and that responsibility for brokering a sustainable solution to the crisis in the Holy Land rests with civil society and the people of Israel and Palestine themselves.

Besides the recent devastation of Gaza, decent human beings everywhere – including many in Israel – are profoundly disturbed by the daily violations of human dignity and freedom of movement Palestinians are subjected to at checkpoints and roadblocks. And Israel’s policies of illegal occupation and the construction of buffer-zone settlements on occupied land compound the difficulty of achieving an agreementsettlement in the future that is acceptable for all.

The State of Israel is behaving as if there is no tomorrow. Its people will not live the peaceful and secure lives they crave – and are entitled to – as long as their leaders perpetuate conditions that sustain the conflict.

I have condemned those in Palestine responsible for firing missiles and rockets at Israel. They are fanning the flames of hatred. I am opposed to all manifestations of violence.

But we must be very clear that the people of Palestine have every right to struggle for their dignity and freedom. It is a struggle that has the support of many around the world.

No human-made problems are intractable when humans put their heads together with the earnest desire to overcome them. No peace is impossible when people are determined to achieve it.

Peace requires the people of Israel and Palestine to recognize the human being in themselves and each other; to understand their interdependence.

Missiles, bombs and crude invective are not part of the solution. There is no military solution.

The solution is more likely to come from that nonviolent toolbox we developed in South Africa in the 1980s, to persuade the government of the necessity of altering its policies.

The reason these tools – boycott, sanctions and divestment – ultimately proved effective was because they had a critical mass of support, both inside and outside the country. The kind of support we have witnessed across the world in recent weeks, in respect of Palestine.

My plea to the people of Israel is to see beyond the moment, to see beyond the anger at feeling perpetually under siege, to see a world in which Israel and Palestine can coexist – a world in which mutual dignity and respect reign.

It requires a mind-set shift. A mind-set shift that recognizes that attempting to perpetuate the current status quo is to damn future generations to violence and insecurity. A mind-set shift that stops regarding legitimate criticism of a state’s policies as an attack on Judaism. A mind-set shift that begins at home and ripples out across communities and nations and regions – to the Diaspora scattered across the world we share. The only world we share.

People united in pursuit of a righteous cause are unstoppable. God does not interfere in the affairs of people, hoping we will grow and learn through resolving our difficulties and differences ourselves. But God is not asleep. The Jewish scriptures tell us that God is biased on the side of the weak, the dispossessed, the widow, the orphan, the alien who set slaves free on an exodus to a Promised Land. It was the prophet Amos who said we should let righteousness flow like a river.

Goodness prevails in the end. The pursuit of freedom for the people of Palestine from humiliation and persecution by the policies of Israel is a righteous cause. It is a cause that the people of Israel should support.

Nelson Mandela famously said that South Africans would not feel free until Palestinians were free.

He might have added that the liberation of Palestine will liberate Israel, too.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, Africa, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on My plea to the people of Israel: Liberate yourselves by liberating Palestine


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