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Thursday, April 17, 2014

[haw-info] HAW Proposes Work on Israel/Palestine and BDS

Dear members and friends of HAW,

Following the American Studies Association's endorsement of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, and the ongoing debate in the Modern Language Association over a resolution to censure Israel's violations of academic freedom, the Steering Committee of HAW began considering what (if any) action we should take.

After an extensive discussion, we agreed that the most appropriate process was for the Steering Committee to vote on whether HAW as an organization should publicly endorse BDS ("a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights" -- BDS movement website, http://www.bdsmovement.net/).

The majority of the SC has voted "yes" on this motion, committing us to begin work. This was not a simple decision; some members spoke strongly in favor of the position taken by historians Linda Gordon, Alice Kessler-Harris, and Elaine Tyler May, that an academic and cultural boycott was counter-productive and would be divisive, and that US activists should focus on US policy, in particular its military support for Israel's illegal occupation.  Others countered that we can, in fact, do both, that the boycott was the call of Palestinian civil society which deserves to be heeded, and that it will have the greatest effect inside Israel, in terms of motivating a turn to real negotiations and an end to the occupation.

We support an academic boycott (of institutions & their funding streams, not of individuals) because most large universities in Israel have been helping the Israeli government to use academic research as a cover for propaganda. Israel's government has pushed ahead aggressively on archaeological excavations that expropriate Muslim holy sites and Palestinian village lands, and much "archaeological research" in East Jerusalem and elsewhere has proceeded with the financial backing of right-wing Israeli foundations, through university conduits. The area around the Western Wall, e.g., has been designated an "Archaeological Park" by the Israeli government, consolidating Israeli ownership of a space that has in the past been shared with Arabs; Hebron has similarly designated nearby Palestinian lands "archaeological sites." The trick is well known and understood by Israelis (see, for instance, http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.567898). We as historians need to counter this falsification of academic research.

What shall we do now?  How should this decision be implemented? Actions in support of the academic and cultural boycott, and more generally against the occupation of Palestinian lands, are an entirely new arena of work for HAW, and we need to recruit a group of members who want to develop a program.   We propose the following steps:

1. Form a working group of people interested in challenging the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and US support for Israel, including work on an academic and cultural boycott;

2.  If you are interested in participating in this group, please send an email to Jeri Fogel (fogelj@mail.montclair.edu) and/or Van Gosse (van.gosse@fandm.edu);

3.  Once HAW's Israel/Palestine Working Group (temporary name) is formed, we will generate an online discussion of its process and goals, and then hold a conference call to discuss more in-depth;

4.  The result will be a plan of work for this and the coming academic year, including possible subgroups.

We welcome your thoughts and queries, and we hope many of you will sign up for the new working group.

Van and Jeri

Thursday, April 10, 2014

[haw-info] HAW Notes 4/10/14: Lemisch book available on-line; Links to recent articles of interest

First, a note: Jesse Lemisch’s long-out-of-print On Active Service in War and Peace: Politics and Ideology in the American Historical Profession (1975)based on a paper he delivered at the 1969 AHA convention, is now available on-line. Here are links to it on the History News Network site and Academia.Edu.

Links to Recent Articles of Interest

By Nicolas J. S. Davies, AlterNet.org, posted April 8
Traces a pattern of US interventions, drawing a parallel with happenings in present-day Venezuela

By Lawrence S. Wittner, Huffington Post, posted April 8
The author is a professor of history emeritus at SUNY Albany. This article concerns the soon-to-be restored Golden Rule and its predecessors.

By Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank Carlucci, Lee Hamilton, Carla A. Hills, Thomas Pickering, and Henry Siegman, Politico, posted April 8
Calls on the Obama administration to resist unreasonable Israeli demands in the current negotiations

By Chris Hedges, Truthout.org, posted April 7
Lengthy review of Hasan Blassim's new book of short stories, which Hedges calls "the most important book to come out of the Iraq War"

By Richard Sale, Truthout.org, posted April 1
On the dynamics of the Syrian civil war, and how they have changed over time

By Richard Baldoz, Truthout.org, posted April 1
On the background of US legislation agreeing to the independence of the Philippines

By David Stockman, "Stockman's Corner" blog, posted March 26
The author was director of the Office of Management and the Budget under President Reagan.

“Brown Is the New Black”

By John Feffer, Foreign Policy in Focus, posted March 26

On the rise of far-right influences in Russia

"A Review of Manufactured Crisis"

By Edward S. Herman, Z Magazine, posted March 26

Review essay on Gareth Porter's new book Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare

By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, posted March 21
Brings together all five parts of the author's detailed  series on the failure of the War on Terror, with special focus on Saudi Arabia

Interview with Russ Bellant, Foreign Policy in Focus, posted March 18

Thanks to Rosalyn Baxandall, Steve Gosch, Larry Wittner, and an anonymous reader for suggesting articles included in the above list. Suggestions can be sent to jimobrien48@gmail.com.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

[haw-info] HAW Notes 3/13/14: Links to recent articles of interest

Links to Recent Articles of Interest

By David Mandel, MRZine, posted March 12

By John Prados, History News Network, posted March 12

By Andrew J. Bacevich, Politico Magazine, posted March 5
The author teaches history and international relations at Boston University.

By "The Editors" (of n + 1 magazine), posted March 5
An in-depth article steeped in history. The website lists the editors as Carla Blumenkranz, Keith Gessen, and Nikil Saval.

By John A. Mazis, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, posted March 5

The author teaches history at Hamline University.

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment blog, posted March 5
The author teaches history at the University of Michigan.

By Nicolas J. S. Davies, AlterNet.org, posted March 4
A broad-brushed, alphabetized listing with descriptions.

By John Dower, History News Network, posted March 4
The author is a professor of history emeritus at MIT.

“Venezuela and Ukraine: A Challenge to the U.S. Left”

By Jan Adams, War Times, posted March 2

By Amnesty International, Amnesty International News, posted February 27

Thanks to Steve Gosch, Mim Jackson, Staughton Lynd, Rox Baxandall, and an anonymous reader for suggesting articles included in the above list. Suggestions can be sent to jimobrien48@gmail.com.

Friday, February 28, 2014

[haw-info] FW: NYT Venezuela: It's (Judy) Miller Time!

At the suggestion of several members of the HAW Steering Committee, we are passing along the following message from Robert Naiman of the organization Just Foreign Policy (naiman@justforeignpolicy.org).

Do remember when the New York Times helped start the disastrous Iraq war by letting its reporter Judy Miller act as a front page mouthpiece for Bush Administration scare stories about Iraq WMD without doing any fact-checking?

Now the Times using the same standard of care with its reporting on protests in Venezuela, with food reporter William Neuman playing the Judy Miller role.

We've been in communication with Times editors about their false reporting on Venezuela. But so far, they're blowing us off, refusing to correct the record - just like they blew off people who complained about Judy Miller's reporting on purported evidence of Iraq WMD.

I've been involved with similar fights with the New York Times several times, and my experience is that pressure is often necessary and that pressure can work. We've gotten the Times to run corrections before by piling on sufficient pressure. 
More than 5000 people have signed our petition to the New York Times at MoveOn since we put it up yesterday. Can you help us make this 10,000, by signing and sharing our petition? You can find the petition here:


When you sign our petition, it's automatically delivered to the New York Times. When you tweet our petition from the MoveOn page, it's automatically tweeted to the New York Times. 

Below find the alert that we sent out yesterday. Thanks for all you do - Robert Naiman


Dear Robert,
In the lead paragraph of a recent article on protests in Venezuela, the New York Times reported:
"The only television station that regularly broadcast voices critical of the government was sold last year, and the new owners have softened its news coverage."

Clearly, the New York Times was telling readers not only that the television station in question isn't as tough on the government as it used to be, but that there are no other television stations in Venezuela that “regularly broadcast voices critical of the government.”

Here’s the thing: ijust ain’t so.

Evidence demonstrating that voices critical of the government are regularly broadcast on Venezuelan television is a matter of public record. The New York Times should run a correction of its false report. Urge New York Times editors to run a correction by signing our petition.

On February 24, Center for Economic and Policy Research Co-director (and Just Foreign Policyboard president) Mark Weisbrot noted [2] that data on television coverage during last year's presidential campaign published by the Carter Center [3] indicated that the two candidates were fairly evenly represented.

Weisbrot also noted that there are plenty of examples in the recent coverage of Venevisión, the biggest broadcast television station, where “voices critical of the government” have been “regularly broadcast.” In particular, there was an interview on Venevisión news with Tomás Guanipa, leader of the opposition Primero Justicia (Justice First) party and a representative in the National Assembly, who defended the protests. [4]

Weisbrot also noted that Globovisión, the station that the Times report complained had “softened its news coverage,” recently broadcast a long interview with opposition leader María Corina Machado in which she argued that the opposition has the right to overthrow the democratically elected government. [5]

Given the current situation in Venezuela, falsely claiming that mass media are closed to critics of the government is a dangerous mistake, similar to reporting that "we know that Iran is building a nuclear weapon." The false claim about Venezuela emboldens the fraction of the opposition—and its supporters abroad—that is advocating the use of violence to oppose the government.

Urge the New York Times to fulfill its responsibility to publish a correction to its false report.

Thanks for all you do to help hold the New York Times to account,

Robert Naiman, Chelsea Mozen, and Megan Iorio
Just Foreign Policy

1. "Protests Swell in Venezuela as Places to Rally Disappear," William Neuman, New York Times, February 20, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/21/world/americas/protests-swell-in-venezuela-as-places-to-rally-disappear.html
2. "Does Venezuelan Television Provide Coverage That Opposes the Government?" Mark Weisbrot, Center for Economic and Policy Research, February 24, 2014,http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/the-americas-blog/does-venezuelan-television-provide-coverage-that-opposes-the-government
3. "Carter Center Issues Report on Venezuela Election," July 3, 2013http://www.cartercenter.org/news/pr/venezuela-070313.html 
4. “Entrevista Venevisión: Tomás Guanipa, secretario general de Primero Justicia,” Venevisión, February 20, 2014, http://www.noticierovenevision.net/politica/2014/febrero/20/89967=entrevista-venevision-tomas-guanipa,-secretario-general-de-primero-justicia

5. “María Corina Machado: El pueblo ha salido a la calle a expresar su derecho a la justicia,” Globovisión, February 17, 2014, http://globovision.com/articulo/maria-corina-machado-ofrecera-detalles-sobre-convocatoria-para-este-martes

Thursday, February 27, 2014

[haw-info] Calling All Vets of Vietnam, Afghanistan & Iraq: Your Stories are Wanted

Greetings. The United States government has initiated a program to "celebrate" the war in Vietnam. This program is expected to last several years (although not as long as the war itself lasted).
A number of us who were in Vietnam at the time, or who protested the war in a serious way at home, or who now oppose similar wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, have formed a network to respond to the government's program. Needless to say, Kill Anything That Moves by Nick Turse will be a major resource in this work.
Nobody knows the truth as well as those who were combatants in the jungles of Vietnam or the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq. We propose to collect stories that vets have not been able to tell and put them on the network's website: http://www.vietnamfulldisclosure.org/
If you are interested, e-mail Carl Mirra at mirrac@optonline.net, or Staughton Lynd at salynd@aol.com, or Jeri Fogel at fogelj@mail.montclair.edu . One of us was in the Marines and after a long struggle was classified as a Conscientious Objector and discharged. Another received an Undesirable Discharge from the United States Army, later changed to Honorable.
If you'd like to chat about things like whether you need to give your name along with your story (you don't), tell us in your e-mail what your phone number is and when you would like us to call.

Carl Mirra, Staughton Lynd, Jeri Fogel, and the Steering Committee of Historians Against War
Note: You are receiving this email because you signed a Historians Against the War statement (see http://www.historiansagainstwar.org/) or asked to be including in HAW's informational mailings. If you no longer wish to receive these occasional messages about HAW's work, send an email to haw-info-request@stopthewars.org?subject=unsubscribe.
haw-info mailing list

Thursday, February 20, 2014

[haw-info] HAW Notes 2/20/14: Links to recent articles of interest

Links to Recent Articles of Interest

By Nick Turse, TomDispatch.com, posted February 18
On the Defense Department's website purporting to give a history of the Vietnam War

By Patrick Cockburn, Common Dreams.org, posted February 17
A short essay on the past year's demonstrations in Egypt, Turkey, Thailand, and Ukraine

By Robert Parry, Consortium News, posted February 16
On private-channel maneuvers to sabotage a Vietnam peace agreement before the 1968 US election

By Stephen F. Cohen, The Nation, March 3 issue

By Jon Wiener, The Nation blog, posted February 14
The author teaches history at the University of California, Irvine.

By Hyder Iftikhar Abassi, Aljazeera, posted February 12
On the experiences of three human rights advocates in Yemen and Pakistan

By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, posted February 12
The Intercept is the new on-line publication started by Glenn Greenwald along with Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill.

By Mark Danner, TomDispatch.com, posted February 11
From the New York Review of Books, the first part of an essay based on Cheney's memoirs

By Trita Parsi, Huffington Post, posted February 8
On three defeats suffered by the American Israeli Public Affairs Council in the past year

By William Blum, CounterPunch.org, posted February 7
Argues that President Kennedy would have continued the Vietnam War

Thanks for Steve Gosch, Rosalyn Baxandall, Mim Jackson, Chad Pearson, and an anonymous reader for suggesting articles included in the above list. Suggestions can be sent to jimobrien48@gmail.com.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

The ASA Shifts the Spotlight on Israel and its Neighbors

[The following post is in response to "Debating the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel." Please post responses at https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=36687254&postID=7993621286101952169.]

Paul Croce
The ASA boycott should remind liberals that Israeli political and military actions have been doing the work of conservative ideologies.

  The American Studies Association’s academic boycott of Israel, for “policies that violate [the] human rights” of Palestinians, will have little tangible political significance.  The tremendous reaction to the bold words of a relatively small academic organization is based on a topic central to the concerns of American studies, the clashing political cultures of the US. 
  But the role of American politics in this issue is not immediately clear in the arguments opposing the ASA’s action, which are expressly based on the proper role of an academic organization in relation to political events.  Most critics insist that this organization for the study of United States culture is stepping outside its specialized purview and that the boycott will intrude on proper academic discourse. 
  Critics of the boycott have shown dismay for the singling out of just one nation for boycott, but make no mention of the very large, steadfast American support for Israel whose military has dealt with Palestinians aggressively, most baldly with support of settlements that displace Palestinians. 
  This dynamic is a reminder of the situation in American universities in the mid-1960s.  Higher education was a sector of society as segregated as most American workplaces, and many university activities involved government contracts, often for military work; however, university administrators were largely neutral on the emerging movement for Civil Rights, and mostly indifferent to American military involvements, especially in Vietnam.  Many students with some faculty support asked for a broadening of education to include discussion of race relations and war and peace; most administrators largely rejected these calls arguing that they lay beyond the proper bounds of academic inquiry, labeling them “outside issues,” or even subversive. 
  As in the 1960s, the current debate over the boycott hinges on questions about what constitutes legitimate academic inquiry, with topics at a scholarly remove from politics, or with immersion in such debates? 
   The ASA has repeatedly opted for cultural involvement.  I first learned American Studies from William McLoughlin, a productive scholar in religious and Native American history, and a constant agitator for social justice; he had a poster in his office with a quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Action to the scholar is secondary, but essential.” 
  Although an “obscure academic organization” to contemporary readers of National Review, the American Studies Association included members who were vocal critics of Senator Joseph McCarthy and active supporters of Civil Rights in the 1950s and 1960s.  The ASA has continued to be an agent for insisting that intellectuals keep attuned to cultural trends that shape power relations.
  While the recent boycott is in keeping with the organization’s activist history and character, many are also questioning the wisdom of this particular political step, when many nations harbor human rights abuses.  This is a legitimate concern, although it has generally been argued as part of support for militarist power policies with impatience for any objection to such abuses.  
  The ASA declared its focus on Israel because of “the unparalleled military and financial ties between the U.S. and Israel.”  This organization for the study of American culture is pointing to that special relationship, so often assumed or ignored; and it joins a growing minority of scholars and advocates seeking to shift the rhetorical agenda by encouraging debate about Israeli policies and about the US role in support of them.
  The critics of the boycott raise important concerns since boycotts can hamper the free flow of ideas, and the boycott is directed at universities, which are indeed engaged in much cutting-edge scientific research, often with humanitarian benefits.  The ASA addresses this by directing its boycott not at individuals but at institutions that are party to policies undercutting human rights—a Sisyphus task, and further reminder of the limited power of the ASA. 
  The ASA president Curtis Marez has been ridiculed for sounding frivolous when he defended the boycott by saying, “We have to start somewhere,” as if it were an action of feckless meandering.  However, given the prevalent American attitudes about the Middle East, this may actually be the organization’s trump card for its daring to challenge the longstanding inertia about a seemingly impossible situation. 
  The current mainstream US narrative is that the situation in Israel and its environs is a mess, and the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular are untrustworthy.  Add to this, for a significant minority of Americans, Islam is an illegitimate religion, and many even believe that it will fall sway in an epochal battle that will bring the victory, not of Jews, but of Christians.  In fact, a higher percentage of American white evangelicals than of American Jews support Israeli claims to Palestinian land. 
  Within this cacophony, according to the mainstream narrative, Israel represents our team in the region, with its harsh measures fulfilling American interests.  This narrative is often presented as both a moral defense of Jews, and as a practical necessity for sustaining American power in this sector of the globe.  With its lack of attention to the Palestinians, the path also suggests a bleak future for Israeli Jews in tense relations with the other Semites in their midst.  As fear and anger stokes both sides, lack of hope will push peace out of reach, with cycles of displacement followed by terrorism, and large military reprisals spurring more frantic violence, and on and on.  The move to boycott, which emerged in response to Palestinian requests for support, is a welcome turn to nonviolence that should be applauded by all sides—except, of course, for those who find Arab terror useful for maintaining fear and justifying robust military policies.
  The current mainstream narrative generally includes stories of Israel’s democratic qualities and its contributions to science and culture, and finds outrage in cutting off any support, with fear that a boycott may be only the first step.  And indeed, Israel is one of the most Western nations in the region; its Jewish majority is more “like us” in the “Judeo-Christian” US than most Arabs and Muslims who live in majority Third World conditions, and who in their frustration have often turned to tragic and hopeless violence against Israel and the US, even as many of the Arab militants gain support from fellow Arabs grown wealthy from Western oil purchases. 
  But what the mainstream narrative generally does not acknowledge is the massive displacement of Palestinians from their homes, the settlement of half a million Israelis into territory where Palestinians had lived, military control of much of their population, and their loss of civil rights, even with construction of a containment wall (there is graffiti on one portion of the wall saying “Ich bin ein Berliner,” recalling John Kennedy’s defiance of the Berlin Wall in 1963). 
  Harry Truman himself feared, even as he became a hero to Jews for overseeing the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, that the “underdogs” would become the “top dogs,” as John Judis points out in his Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origin of the Arab/Israeli Conflict.  Jews have clearly suffered a tragic and brutal history, a history that encouraged Truman and countless Americans, rightly, to sympathize with their plight, and to support an independent Jewish state as a kind of insurance policy against any future oppression. 
  Now, the contemporary state of Israel is a regional superpower supported by the world’s superpower, and the premium on that insurance policy is coming due with a society in constant fear and unending military actions.    
  What’s your narrative?  There are abundant facts and interpretations on either side: you can emphasize the victimhood of Jews or of Palestinians, or the history of aggressions by Israel or by Arab terrorists.  We can choose to choose the facts that support one side, or we can try to listen to the diverse parts of the whole complexity surrounding Israel and the Palestinians.  Awareness of the whole picture is fostering a groundswell with the ASA joining a few other academic groups, many American Jews, and even some American evangelicals for an international movement to direct forceful non-violence against policies that impose military power against an ethnic group.  Feeling the economic pinch, even some Israeli business leaders have called for more peaceful policies. 
  Are Israelis and Americans willing to risk the moral hazard of maintaining millions of Arabs in stateless subordination, the social hazard of living in constant fear of reprisal terrorism, and the economic hazard of large militaries—funded by the US budget with 40 cents of debt for every dollar spent—to keep this structure afloat? 
  Criticism of these policies is by no means an endorsement of terrorism or of arguments against Israel’s legitimacy.  In fact, the kinds of policies that could emerge from such loyal criticism would be a tactical maneuver deflating support for terror and strengthening the state of Israel—not to mention improving the quality of life for its residents (who are themselves one quarter non-Jewish). 
  The ASA has made an attempt to shine some light on the minority narrative in American discussions.  The fact that the majority narrative and longstanding unquestioning support for Israel are not sustainable does not mean that other suggestions will be perfect or even that any solution is readily apparent; but what is apparent is that certain actions will make the volatile situation worse, especially Arab terrorism and military-enforced Israeli settlements in disputed territories, both of which inflame tempers and make any steps toward peace less likely.  Terrorism is the total war of the powerless, and military crackdowns are the terrorism of the powerful; in fact, when Israel was in formation, many beleaguered Jews resorted to terrorism. 
  I am reminded of a bathroom flood in my office building a few years ago.  With water gushing out of the WC and into the hallway, I waded in, looking for the source of the flow and held my hand on a part that would stop it.  It did.  And someone said: that is hardly a solution.  True.  And I hereby declare the limits to my plumbing skills.  But until a more thorough solution could emerge, the choice of where to place my hand stopped a bad situation from getting worse.  The ASA placed its rather small hand on a hemorrhaging tragedy; there are many opportunities for keeping the situation from getting worse, starting with personal connections, trade among the residents, and the movement for non-violent pressure against militant policies. 
  It would be a tragedy if criticism of the ASA about the proper role for an academic organization would distract from the main purpose of the boycott: to shed light on the way that Israeli policies toward Palestinians have become a chapter in the contemporary American culture war between neo-conservative support of aggressive military strength by contrast with progressive hopes to scale back military action and spending in favor of diplomatic solutions.  Within this American polarization, ironically, the boycott has prompted some academic progressives to affiliate with Israel’s military measures for dealing with a population within its dominion. 
  The American Studies Association has not artificially intruded into a Middle East topic; it has offered a reminder that Israeli political and military actions have been doing the work of conservative ideologies, but in liberal disguise.   
Paul Croce is Professor of History and Chair of the American Studies Program
Stetson University, DeLand, FL, USA 

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

[haw-info] HAW Notes 2/5/14: Boycott discussion; links to recent articles of interest

To members and friends of Historians Against the War,

Last week we sent a message from Van Gosse, on behalf of the HAW Steering Committee. It  passed along two conflicting views (one by Linda Gordon, Alice Kessler-Harris, and Elaine Tyler May and one by Vijay Prashad) concerning boycotts of Israeli institutions as a method of supporting Palestinian rights. The message invited comments, including opinions about whether HAW should take a position on the subject, and if so, what the position should be. Comments are still solicited, either on the HAW Blog or on HAW's Facebook page. Both sites provide the original message with the articles by Gordon et al. and Prashad.

Links to Recent Articles of Interest

By Nicolas J. S. Davies, AlterNet.org, posted February 3
Highlights the increase in terrorist incidents from 208 in 2003 to 5,000 or more every year since 2005

By Peter Beinart, National Journal, posted February 3
Argues that conservative policies, including overseas interventions, have undermined the bundle of beliefs called American exceptionalism,

By Jim Lobe, LobeLog, posted January 31
Primarily on the failure of the lobbying effort for a Congressional resolution aimed at sabotaging negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Calls and emails to Congressional offices ran heavily against the resolution.

By Greg Grandin, TomDispatch.com, posted January 26
The author teaches history at New York University.

By Stephen Zunes, National Catholic Reporter, posted January 25
Traces the current conflicts largely to US policies during the occupation

By Eric Schlosser, The New Yorker, posted January 23
January marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Kubrick film.

Thanks to a reader who wants to remain anonymous for suggesting one of the articles included in the above list. Thanks also to Rosalyn Baxandall, Steve Gosch, Mim Jackson, and Rusti Eisenberg for their helpful suggestions for many of these lists. Suggestions can be sent to jimobrien48@gmail.com.

Friday, January 31, 2014

[haw-info] Debating the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

Dear HAW members and friends, 
On behalf of the Steering Committee, I am sending you two recent articles, presenting different perspectives on the movement to support an academic and cultural boycott of Israel.  The first is a December 31 editorial in The Chronicle of Higher Education by three historians, Linda Gordon, Alice Kessler-Harris, and Elaine Tyler May, arguing that an academic boycott is not the best way to pressure Israel to change its policies. The second is a January 24 Washington Post op-ed by Vijay Prashad, a historian and a leader of the US Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI). Several Steering Committee members have also recommended an article by Robin Kelley upholding the ASA resolution, so that is added as a weblink at the bottom.
We take this action in light of the furor over the endorsement of the boycott by the American Studies Association, and another resolution now before the members of the Modern Language Association, criticizing violations of academic freedom by the Israeli government.  The Steering Committee believes that HAW members and friends should debate whether HAW should take a position on the boycott and if so, what position it should take. Before we come to a decision, however, all voices should be heard. We invite comments either in response to this post on our blog at http://blog.historiansagainstwar.org/ or on our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/2216182861/.
We look forward to hearing your thoughts,
Van Gosse, for the Steering Committee 
1)  "Don't Cut Off Debate With Israeli Institutions--Enrich It Instead"
By Linda Gordon, Alice Kessler-Harris, and Elaine Tyler May
December 31, 2013, The Chronicle of Higher Education
The recent decisions of two learned societies to support a boycott of Israeli academic institutions represents understandable frustration with Israeli government policy of appropriating Palestinian land and resources and violating human rights ("Scholars Debate Significance of American Studies Assn.'s Vote to Boycott Israel," The Chronicle, December 16).
We doubt that we need to detail these policies applied to land occupied by Israel -sponsoring tens of thousands of settlers on Palestinian lands; withdrawing water resources; bulldozing Palestinian homes, orchards, and farms; arbitrary closures of Palestinian universities; building roads for the exclusive use of Israeli settlers while subjecting Palestinians to roadblocks that keep them waiting for hours and make traveling among Palestinian towns a protracted and ever-changing frustration. These policies not only victimize Palestinians, they also cause Israel to become less open, more militarized, and less committed to the historical values of democratic diversity of which we as Jews are so proud.
Many Israelis, including scholars and writers, have protested these policies. We know and applaud the many progressive projects in Israel that attempt to create the bases on which Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, and Palestinians in occupied territories could jointly create a peaceful future. We fear that the movement to boycott Israeli academic institutions, in the unlikely event that it were to become successful, would cut off the exchanges that might strengthen these progressive developments.
Instead of cutting off debate, we should be enriching it, strengthening engagement with Palestinian academics by promoting greater possibilities for scholarly exchanges, funding collaborative projects with Palestinian academics, developing initiatives that bring Palestinian scholars to our conferences and seminars. We should encourage Israeli, Palestinian, and U.S. students and teachers to study and work together, and encourage joint projects of inquiry. We did this, more or less successfully, with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and we are doing it with China now.
We also believe that a better focus of protest by American scholars would be the U.S. policy of unquestioning support of Israel. The Congressional Research Service's most recent summary (from April 2013) shows that the United States has given Israel a cumulative total of $118-billion, mostly in military aid, and that Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. aid since World War II, although it is neither among the most needy countries nor the least stable. The 2013 budget asked for $3.1-billion. Private investment in Israel is also substantial. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, as of 2008 foreign investors accounted for roughly two-thirds of Israeli private equity-venture capital.
We would call on those concerned for the future of a democratic Israel to concentrate on what our own country does in supporting Israeli policy toward Palestinians and their lands. Several American Jewish organizations aim to do this, but our politicians are still far too subservient to the money and threats from lobbyists who support Israeli policy. Concerned scholars need to support these organizations and ratchet up the pressure on the American government to change its policies of blind support for Israeli policies that make it ever harder for Palestinians to move toward a positive future.
2)  "Understanding the Boycott of Israel's Universities"
By Vijay Prashad
January 24, 2014, Washington Post
The growing movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israeli universities has struck a chord in Israel. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said recently that the boycott campaign, which drew new attention when it was joined last month by the American Studies Association (ASA) , " is moving and advancing uniformly and exponentially." If Israel does not respond, Livni said, it will turn itself into " a lone settlement in the world."
Livni meant that criticism of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands should be taken seriously. Finance Minister Yair Lapid concurred, writing, "The world seems to be losing patience with us. . . . If we don't make progress with the Palestinians, we will lose the support of the world and our legitimacy."
The boycott movement is a caution to Israel that it must be less obdurate in its relations with the Palestinians — a position far removed from the toxic response to the ASA within the United States, where many groups long have opposed any discussion of the reality of Israel's occupation. In 2010, the collegiate group Hillel informed its members that its branches were not permitted to invite speakers who "support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel."
After Swarthmore College's Hillel club decided to allow open discussion on various matters — including on inviting critics of Israel to campus, the national president of Hillel, Eric Fingerhut, reiterated that " 'anti-Zionists' will not be permitted to speak using the Hillel name or under the Hillel roof, under any circumstances." Swarthmore students plan to defy these guidelines. Their action is a piece of the changed climate among young people, many of whom want a serious debate on the occupation.
The boycott developed in 2005, when 171 civil society organizations in Palestine called on the international community to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Among other tactics, these organizations called for the boycott of Israeli institutions that colluded with the occupation, including Hebrew University, which illegally built parts of its campus in the occupied territories. Supporters were asked to raise awareness of Palestinians' lack of academic freedom, not only in the occupied territories but also within Israel's 1948 boundaries. Within the Israeli academy, there has been little care for this lack of freedom: In 2008, a petition on behalf of Palestinian academics was sent to 9,000 Israeli academics; only 407 signed it. One reason Western academics have invested in the movement is to offer our fellowship with Palestinian academics whose voices have been drowned out.
The overreaction to the ASA resolution stems from a simple truth: The movement is having a major impact in the West. This impact comes, as Peter Beinart wrote last fall, because the movement is ­fueled by "interactions with Palestinians living under Israeli control. American Jewish leaders don't understand the power of such interactions because they rarely have them themselves." Such interactions, seldom reported in the media, include Palestinian civil society activists on tour in the United States, International Solidarity Movement activists and religious groups in the West Bank and Gaza, conversations at international gatherings such as the World Social Forum and discussions among Palestinian and Western musicians on the difficulty Palestinians face in their everyday lives.
U.S. academics are not in the lead here. Matters are far more developed in Europe, where faculties have fought to divest and boycott Israel and where the European Union is moving toward labeling products from illegal Israeli settlements. But U.S. academics recognize a special mission: Israeli institutions that benefit from the occupation do so with impunity granted by U.S. financial, military and diplomatic support. If the United States underwrites the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lives, then U.S. scholars have a responsibility to call that support to account. That is why the ASA acted. I, for one, am glad it did.
3) "Defending Zionism Under the Cloak of Academic Freedom"
Robin D. G. Kelley, January 4, 2014

Thursday, January 23, 2014

[haw-info] HAW Notes 1/23/14: Iran negotiations; Links to recent articles of interest

To members and friends of Historians Against the War,

Historians Against the War strongly supports a diplomatic solution to the question of Iran's nuclear weapons capability. And we remain deeply concerned about the efforts by AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and some members of Congress to sabotage this promising round of talks.
We expect there to be continuing efforts in both the House and Senate to pass bills that are expressly designed to preclude an agreement between Iran and the United States and its international partners. And we are keeping in touch with national organizations that are actively promoting peaceful solutions. If you wish to be kept to date on important news and initiatives, please send an email to Carolyn.Eisenberg@hofstra.edu .

Links to Recent Articles of Interest

By Juan Cole, TruthDig.com, posted January 22
The author teaches history at the University of Michigan.

By Abba A. Solomon and Norman Solomon, WarIsACrime.org, posted January 21

By Lawrence S. Wittner, History News Network, posted January 20
The author is a professor of history emeritus at SUNY Albany.

By Alfred McCoy, TomDispatch.com, posted January 19
The author teaches history at the University of Wisconsin. This article puts the NSA's surveillance policies in historical perspective.

"The Imperator" [on Ariel Sharon]
By Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom, posted January 18

By Nick Turse, TomDispatch.com, posted January 16

By Julian Borger, The Guardian, posted January 15
This article provides much historical background.

By David Corn, Mother Jones, posted January 14

By Mark LeVine, Aljazeera, posted January 14
The author teaches history at the University of California, Irvine.

By Patrick Cockburn, London Review of Books, posted January 9
A historical take on the last few years in the Middle East

Thanks to Steve Gosch, Rosalyn Baxandall, Mim Jackson, and Carolyn "Rusti" Eisenberg for suggesting articles included in the above list. Suggestions can be sent to jimobrien48@gmail.com.