Campus Speech Under Siege

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Image courtesy of Eric Risberg / Associated Press

Keeping campuses safe for free speech

Saree Makdisi, Los Angeles Times*
October 25, 2016


“These sorts of attacks on academic freedom, in which Israel’s defenders have played a disproportionate role, are all too common on campuses across the country, with devastating results. They have led to the intimidation of students, the silencing or firing of faculty and the cancellation of classes.”


Last week, my email inbox and Twitter feeds were flooded with hateful messages impugning my integrity. The source of this invective was a shadowy organization called Canary Mission, which maintains what it hopes will function as a blacklist of professors and students it accuses of “promoting hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on college campuses.” My public criticism of Israel’s policies of military occupation and apartheid — its unequal treatment of Palestinians — has earned me a spot on the list, there being no distinction, apparently, between criticism of the policies of a foreign power and “hatred” of an entire ethnic group.

Were I a more junior professor, or untenured — or a student — the charges it levels, although they are untrue, could be damaging. And that is the point: In language only recently excised from its website, Canary Mission makes explicit its intention “to ensure that today’s radicals are not tomorrow’s employees.” Daniel Pipes — a prominent member of what the Center for American Progress calls “the Islamophobia misinformation experts” — writes approvingly of the project: Students should understand that “attacking” Israel “can damage … future careers.”

[Continue reading here . . . ]

* Saree Makdisi is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at UCLA.

Gaza Blockade Enters its 10th Year

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Image courtesy of UNRWA

By Bo Schack, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza
October 21, 2016


“I have survived the past three wars, but that is not the problem. In this place, wars come and go. The bigger struggle is not to lose hope. The only way I can do that is to retreat, and create my own world, and become oblivious.”
— Ali, age 36, waiter in Gaza City


Ali was born in Gaza and for almost ten years has been living under a tight blockade on air, land and sea, entering its tenth year in June 2016. The blockade keeps him and the rest of the 1.8 million people of Gaza isolated and locked into a tiny 365 square kilometers-enclave — the Gaza Strip has one of the highest population densities in the world — tormented by extreme poverty and dilapidated by repeated conflicts.

Chronic fuel and electricity shortages, with power cuts between 18 and 22 hours per day, extreme water pollution  — 95 per cent of the Gaza groundwater is undrinkable — and devastated infrastructure, as a dire reminder of repeated cycles of armed violence, are the daily reality. Gaza’s people are denied a human standard of living. This was not always the case: before the imposition of restrictions on movements of people and goods, the Gaza Strip was a relatively developed society with a productive base and a thriving economy.

Blockade and occupation have reversed this process, accelerated by repeated Israeli military operations and widespread destruction, and today Gaza is subject to what the UN calls de-development. Located at the Mediterranean Sea between Egypt and Israel, Gaza could be famous for its palm trees, fruits and white beaches. Instead, it is known for a sewage and hygiene crisis titled by the Time magazine a “ticking global-health time bomb.

[Continue reading here . . . ]

Diocesan Convention — Thank You!

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The Rev. John-Otto Liljenstolpe and Mary Segall

Thank you to all the volunteers who made this year’s convention a huge success!

For those of you who couldn’t make it this weekend, among the many offerings, the Bishop’s Committee prepared a book of essays on Israel, Palestine, and the Conflict. We will be publishing the individual essays over the coming weeks, but if you would like to download the entire book, you may do so here: You Can’t Say We Didn’t Know: Some Perspectives on Israel, Palestine, and the Conflict.

Yours in Peace,

— The Bishop’s Committee

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Randolph Urmston, Chairman, The Bishop’s Committee

Let There Be Light

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Image courtesy of Anne-Marie O’Connor, for The Washington Post

20 minutes from modern Jerusalem, a Palestinian village is stranded in the past

Anne-Marie O’Connor, The Washington Post
JUBBET ADH DHIB, West Bank
October 22, 2016


“The village is one of 241 Palestinian communities in the Israeli-controlled West Bank — a zone known as Area C — that lack services because ‘Israel practically bans Palestinian construction’ while helping Jewish settlements grow, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.”


Let there be light.

That is a plea of residents of this Palestinian village who have waited nearly three decades for electricity while well-lit Israeli settlements sprang up around them. Now they are pinning their hopes on a new local women’s committee that is determined to get them on the grid.

Just a 20-minute drive from bustling modern Jerusalem, on the side of a mountain whose name means “Paradise,” Jubbet adh Dhib is like a step back in time.

Without refrigeration, food goes bad. Elderly Palestinians fall down in the dark. Children can’t study at night. With no WiFi and limited television, villagers feel cut off from the world.

“Our children don’t have a good childhood,” said Fadia al-Wahsh, the leader of the women’s committee.

“They see kids everywhere, with iPads and Internet” in more prosperous Palestinian communities, she said. “My son says, ‘Why do you make me live here?’ ”

A few hundred yards from Jubbet adh Dhib are the bright lights of Sde Bar, a small Israeli settlement and a neighborhood of the larger settlement of Nokdim, where Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman lives. But the villagers have no access to the schools, cafes, art galleries, garbage collection, tennis courts and public pools at these or other settlements just minutes away.

[Continue reading here . . . ]

World Food Programme in Palestine

World Food Programme Country Brief, State of Palestine
September 2016

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© WFP/Eman Mohammed

The Numbers:

  • 1.6 million food-insecure Palestinians in need of food assistance
  • 745,000 non-refugees in need of food assistance
  • 65,000 internally displaced persons (IDP’s) in Gaza following the 2014 war

Decades of occupation coupled with severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods have undermined the living conditions and reduced access to livelihoods for Palestinians. Food insecurity is mostly due to a lack of economic access: food prices are mainly driven by Israel and out of reach for many poor households — the GDP per capita in Palestine (USD 4,700) is six times less than that of Israel (USD 30,000).

The impact of the 2014 conflict in Gaza continues to be devastating to the Palestinian people and economy. Against this backdrop, more than 27 percent of the population — or 1.6 million people — suffers from food insecurity. In Gaza, one in two is food insecure, and one in three is severely affected.

As poor and vulnerable Palestinians spend more than half of their income on food, WFP’s assistance is critical to meet their food needs. This prevents further deteriorations in food security and livelihood status, and prevents negative coping mechanisms. WFP targets 600,000 of the most vulnerable, food insecure non-refugees in Palestine who have been affected by the ongoing conflict and occupation, a fiscal crisis and a steady decline in living standards. WFP has been present in Palestine since 1991.

[Read more here . . . ]

[Download the country brief here. . . ]


Palestinian Minister Condemns Suppression on U.S. Campuses

Education Minister Condemns Undermining Palestinian Narrative at U.S. Universities

By Dorgham Abusalim, Palestine Square
October 19, 2016


“In recent years, the suppression of Palestine solidarity voices on American campuses has become alarmingly widespread, triggering protests and calls for the protection of academic freedom. ‘The crackdown is a nation-wide phenomenon,’ according to Palestine Legal, an organization dedicated to protecting the First Amendment rights of Palestine solidarity activists.”


In an interview with Palestine Square last week, Palestinian Education Minister, Dr. Sabri Saidam, condemned tactics by US academic institutions “undermining the Palestinian narrative or paying lip service to the occupation.” The minister was in Washington, D.C., at the head of a delegation of 19 Palestinian university representatives to take part in a recently established U.S.-Palestinian Higher Education Dialogue, organized by the State Department and the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem. “This initiative is a result of longstanding cooperation between Palestinian and American academic institutions,” Saidam explained.

In recent years, the suppression of Palestine solidarity voices on American campuses has become alarmingly widespread, triggering protests and calls for the protection of academic freedom. A recent case involved the suspension of a student-led course on Palestine at the University of California Berkeley. “The crackdown is a nationwide phenomenon,” according to Palestine Legal, an organization dedicated to protecting the First Amendment rights of Palestine solidarity activists. According to their latest records, from January 1, 2014, through June 30, 2016, there were 563 incidents of censorship, punishment, or other burdening of advocacy for Palestinian rights across the US, 85% of which targeted students or scholars.

[Continue reading here . . . ]

American Weapons Are Blocking Peace

Obama’s $38 billion weapons deal is the nail in the coffin for a two-state solution

By Sandy Tolan, The Nation
October 18, 2016


“The military alliance between the United States and Israel has long been at odds with the stated intentions of successive administrations in Washington to foster peace in the Holy Land. One White House after another has preferred the “solution” of having it both ways: supporting a two-state solution while richly rewarding, with lethal weaponry, an incorrigible client state that was working as fast as it could to undermine just such a solution.”


Washington has finally thrown in the towel on its long, tortured efforts to establish peace between Israel and the Palestinians. You won’t find any acknowledgement of this in the official record. Formally, the United States still supports a two-state solution to the conflict. But the Obama administration’s recent 10-year, $38 billion pledge to renew Israel’s arsenal of weaponry, while still ostensibly pursuing “peace,” makes clear just how bankrupt that policy is.

For two decades, Israeli leaders and their neoconservative backers in this country, hell-bent on building and expanding settlements on Palestinian land, have worked to undermine America’s stated efforts—and paid no price. Now, with that record weapons package, the United States has made it all too clear that they won’t have to. Ever.

[Continue reading here . . . ]

Sarah Robinson Deported

By Sarah Robinson
October 19, 2016

[Sarah Robinson is a volunteer with the World Council of Churches who has written about Israel-Palestine since 2012. On October 17, she was refused entry and deported from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.]


Labelled as a security threat is an indication of just how scared the Israelis are that the truth about the occupation is shared. I am one person with a blog following of several hundred people, Facebook friends, and 300 Twitter followers and yet I was deemed a security threat. As my friend commented: “I think you can be proud that an oppressive regime sees you (without any weapons) as a security threat to their ability to continue practicing their repression.”


I left Johannesburg on Sunday evening, 16 October, and flew to Istanbul, Turkey. The check-in process was smooth and I was asked no security related questions. I had a six-hour stopover in Istanbul which was also uneventful. I checked-in to the flight to Tel Aviv, Israel and although there was extra security and scrutiny there were no problems. I landed in Tel Aviv at 13:20 on Monday afternoon.

I waited patiently in line at the customs desks for my turn to be processed. A sullen lady called me to the desk, took my passport, and began typing away on her computer. She asked me the normal customs and immigration questions. How long did I plan to stay in Israel? What was the purpose of my visit? Had I been there before? I answered carefully and truthfully. She then asked me what my father’s name was and my grandfather’s name which I provided. Staring at her computer screen she called a gentleman to the desk and handed him my passport. He requested I follow him. He took me to a room in the customs area where several other people were sitting. I waited in the room for about 45 minutes when another lady, not older than 25, called me into her office. Like the first lady, she was tapping away furiously on her computer and didn’t really look at me but rather the screen in front of her. She began asking me questions similar to that of the previous lady. The interrogation lasted for about 45 minutes.

[Continue reading here . . . ]

Most Palestinians Blame Britain

For the Israeli Occupation, Poll Finds

By Ruth Eglash, The Washington Post
October 18, 2016


“Yes, 100 years have passed since the notorious Balfour Declaration, by which Britain gave, without any right, authority or consent from anyone, the land of Palestine to another people. That declaration paved the road for the Nakba of the Palestinian people and their dispossession and displacement from their land.”


At last month’s gathering of the U.N. General Assembly, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas placed the responsibility for the 50-year-long Israeli occupation of his people squarely on the shoulders of the British.

“Yes, 100 years have passed since the notorious Balfour Declaration, by which Britain gave, without any right, authority or consent from anyone, the land of Palestine to another people,” he said. That declaration, Abbas said, “paved the road for the Nakba of the Palestinian people and their dispossession and displacement from their land.” Nakba, or the catastrophe, is the term used by the Palestinians in reference to the 1948 war.

Abbas was referring to a letter from November 1917 sent by the British foreign secretary at the time, Arthur James Balfour, to Walter Rothschild, a British Jewish community leader, stating that the British government will support the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

A poll released this week by the Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies at An-Najah National University in Nablus of Palestinian attitudes to peace and their own leadership showed that the majority of Palestinians agree with Abbas.

Among the questions asked of 1,362 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank ages 18 and older was whether they “support or reject the call from President Mahmoud Abbas on Britain to accept the historical, legal, political, material and moral responsibilities relating to the consequences of Belfour Declaration including offering an apology to the Palestinian people for the catastrophes and injustice committed against them?”

The majority, 75 percent, said they did. When asked whether they consider Britain responsible for the catastrophes that befell the Palestinian people, 79 percent said yes.

[Continue reading here . . . ]

B’Tselem’s Hard Hitting Testimony Lost in the Telling by N.Y. Times

Muzzling Israeli Dissent in the N.Y. Times

By Barbara Erickson, TimesWarp.org
October 18, 2016


“The heart of the address is missing: El-Ad’s devastating deconstruction of the Israeli justice system as ‘a legal guise for organized state violence,’ the daily indignities and suffering under Israeli military rule, the demolitions of homes, theft of land and water and the impunity surrounding trigger happy security forces.”


Israeli rights advocate Hagai El-Ad spoke eloquently last week before the United Nations Security Council, appealing to the world body for action on the brutal occupation of Palestine, but according to The New York Times little of what this courageous activist said was fit to print: The real news was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s outraged response.

Thus we find a story on the speech appearing two days after the event under the headline “Settlement Debate Flares Again in Israel’s Quarrel With Rights Group.” The article by Isabel Kershner has much to say about Israeli government criticism of the human rights group B’Tselem, which documents and publicizes Israeli abuses in the West Bank and Gaza.

She says as little as possible, however, about El-Ad’s actual comments. Of his 2,000 word speech she quotes no more than two dozen: “Anything short of decisive action will achieve nothing but ushering in the second half of the first century of the occupation…[Living under occupation] mostly means invisible, bureaucratic, daily violence.”

The heart of the address is missing: El-Ad’s devastating deconstruction of the Israeli justice system as “a legal guise for organized state violence,” the daily indignities and suffering under Israeli military rule, the demolitions of homes, theft of land and water and the impunity surrounding trigger happy security forces.

His words become lost in the framing of this story, glossed over in the tit for tat between attackers and defenders of B’Tselem. Other media reports, however—in Israel and the United States—give readers more substantial excerpts from his address, and they also provide links to the actual speech, something the Times conveniently omits.

The Times also fails to say that amidst the turmoil over B’Tselem’s UN appearance, the U.S. State Department declared its gratitude to the organization for providing information on “fundamental issues that occur on the ground.” Times readers, however, are denied these same benefits.

[Continue reading here . . . ]

[Read the full text of the B’Tselem address here, along with video clips shown to the Security Council.]