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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.

Monday, January 13, 2014

[haw-info] HAW Notes 1/13/14: Links to recent articles of interest

Links to Recent Articles of Interest

By Andrew J. Bacevich, Los Angeles Times, posted January 12
The author teaches history and international relations at Boston University

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment blog, posted January 11
The author teaches political science at Tel Aviv University

By Jim Lobe, Information Clearing House, posted January 10

By Lawrence S. Wittner, History News Network, posted January 7
The author is a professor of history emeritus at SUNY Albany

By Stanley Kutler, History News Network, posted December 30
The author is a professor of history emeritus at the University of Wisconsin

By CNN Political Unit, posted December 30

By Jeremy Kuzmarov, History News Network, posted December 30
The author teaches history at the University of Tulsa; the book, is about Allen and John Foster Dulles

By Thomas S. Harrington, CounterPunch.org, posted December 27

By William J. Astore, History News Network, posted December 18
The author teaches history at Pennsylvania College of Technology

By Andrew J. Bacevich, The American Conservative, posted December 18

Interview with Robert Neer, History News Network, posted December 16
Robert Neer is the author of a newly published history of napalm

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

Thursday, January 09, 2014

[haw-info] Call Senators Today: Advance Diplomacy / Avoid War with Iran

The following message is from Carolyn "Rusti" Eisenberg and Margaret Power for the HAW Steering Committee. Correspondence about it should be sent to Carolyn.Eisenberg@hofstra.edu.

Your Voice Is Urgently Needed! To Advance Diplomacy and Block Dangerous Iran Bill
The Senate is back in session and will soon be considering the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act (S 1881) introduced by Senators Kirk, Menendez and Schumer. The clear purpose of this bill is to undermine the promising diplomatic opening to Iran, undertaken by the Obama Administration.The vast majority of Americans are tired of war and prefer peaceful solutions to problems. But the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Israel's hard-line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are lobbying furiously to prevent these negotiations from succeeding. This joint effort has already produced 47 co--sponsors in the US Senate.
For list of co-sponsors:
 For text of S 1881
All of these Senators need to hear from you, along with your colleagues, friends and relatives. The last thing most of their constituents want is another war in the Middle East.
Call the Capitol toll-free at 855-68-NO-WAR (855-686-6927)
Be sure to speak to both your Senators.
If they are co-sponsors of this destructive legislation, let them know you want them to withdraw their name.
If they are not co-sponsors, let them know you expect a NO vote!
Please forward widely. And let us know of any interesting results.
Carolyn Rusti Eisenberg and Margaret Power for the HAW-SC