Sunday, June 29, 2014

bows and slingshots

arrows fly from bows against canons and Sharp’s rifles and Gatling’s guns
like stones fly from slingshots against armored vehicles and sniper’s armed with telescoped Galils

and sons and brothers die
and sisters and auntie’s weep
and take their place at bow and shot

those who build the technologies of war
to protect the worlds they have made for themselves
burn and bulldoze surviving fields and warehouses and homes
to make room for the buildings of Civilization they desire
war rooms and board rooms and bank vaults
and highways to get them there

but history was there in those fields and warehouses and homes
but they come and make up a new one
a history of their nativity, their native-ity
Born Again
taking over, replanting, inventing

as if democracy belonged to them
as if morality belonged to them
as if honor and goodness belonged to them
as if fine art belonged to them
as if classic music belonged to them
as if language and literacy belonged to them
and olive presses came from Poland

and arrows fly from bows
and stones fly from slingshots
linking Lenape and Palestinian
Mohawk and Palestinian
Chickasaw and Palestinian
Dine and Palestinian
Anishinaabe and Palestinian
Klamath and Palestinian
Ohlone and Palestinian
Kanaka Maoli and Palestinian
Athabascan and Palestinian
Chomorron and Palestinian
Taino and Palestinian


Friday, June 20, 2014

RE: ATTACKS ON RABAB ABDULHADI, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF RACE AND RESISTANCE STUDIES AND DIRECTOR OF THE ARAB AND MUSLIM ETHNICITIES AND DIASPORAS PROGRAM, SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY

+++++ FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE +++++

RE: ATTACKS ON RABAB ABDULHADI, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF RACE AND RESISTANCE STUDIES AND DIRECTOR OF THE ARAB AND MUSLIM ETHNICITIES AND DIASPORAS PROGRAM, SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY

San Francisco, California
Friday, June 20, 2014

The undersigned write in response to the gross misinformation circulating by far-right conservative groups and news forums about the North American Academic and Labor Delegation to Palestine in January 2014 and the San Francisco State University report back in March 2014.

The delegation was organized by Rabab Abdulhadi, Associate Professor of Race and Resistance Studies Department and Director of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Program in the College of Ethnic Studies. It included a total of seven delegates from four universities in the United States and Canada (San Francisco State University, the University of Illinois, the University of Texas, and the University of British Columbia). Over fourteen days, the delegation met with 198 individuals from 89 organizations and visited 21 cities, towns, and refugee camps in both the 48 and West Bank territories (for safety reasons, they were unable to travel to Gaza). The meetings included university officials, former political prisoners, cultural centers, human rights organizations, the Palestinian Parliament, Christian and Muslim leaders, and artists. Three of the delegates provided a report back regarding their experiences to the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University in March 2014 which Ken Monteiro, Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies, several SFSU and neighboring campus faculty and students attended totaling about one-hundred over the three hour event.

The AMCHA Initiative and other far-right organizations and news forums have been engaged in a campaign to discredit the delegation and the scholarship of the delegates, get Abdulhadi fired, censored, and/or legally charged with the misuse of state funds, secure the dissolution or censor of AMED at SFSU, and otherwise censor the delegates in order to disgrace anyone who is critical of Israeli policies and U.S. funding to Israel. The specific accusations of Dr. Abdulhadi have been that she misused state funds and that she (and so the delegation) conspired with terrorists. They have also accused the delegates at the report back of creating a hostile and unsafe place for Jewish students at SFSU.

With regards to the accusation that Dr. Abdulhadi deceptively used “taxpayer dollars” for political and personal purposes under the guise of conducting research, SFSU conducted an investigation of all relevant travel documents and concluded that Dr. Abdulhadi complied with established rules for the use of research funds without fault or violation and that, therefore, the allegations made against her have no merit. With regards to the accusation that Dr. Abdulhadi, and by implication the delegation, conspired with terrorists, SFSU found that Dr. Abdulhadi’s academic research, consistent with the mission of the College of Ethnic Studies and the University, involves communicating with many different people and examining many different controversial issues. The university concluded that the delegation was an expression of academic freedom and refused to condone the censor of it. (As of today, Leslie E. Wong, President of SFSU, has written to the SFSU student paper exonerating Abdulhadi of these two charges.)

Lastly, accusations have been made that the report back created a hostile and unsafe place for Jewish people at SFSU. The person providing the “evidence” of this is not a faculty, staff, or student member of the university. She attended the report back, posed the first question, and identified herself as “Faith.” In response to comments made by two of the delegates regarding Nelson Mandela’s well‑known support of Palestinian rights and identification of Israel as an apartheid regime, “Faith” claimed that there was a youtube record of Mandela accepting an honorary degree from an Israeli university and not merely supporting but showing his love of Israel. Delegates researched this claim and found it not to be true. Mandela received hundreds of honorary degrees from around the world over the course of his lifetime. He accepted an honorary doctorate from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in 1997, but no where in his acceptance speech does he assert a change in his position or the position of the African National Congress regarding Israel’s apartheid. In fact, his speech draws parallels between the Bedouin of the Negev and the experiences of Africans in South Africa.

Soon after her question “Faith” was called out by a faculty member from UC Berkeley for audio-recording the report back with a device she had hid in her purse. The moderator of the report back asked her if this was true. “Faith” claimed she arrived late and did not hear the announcement about not recording the event without permission, a standard protocol at university forums, including the classroom and public events. She gestured that she was turning off the recording. But AMCHA later posted the full audio recording on youtube and flagged it as evidence of "anti-Semitism" on campus. The recording shows quite clearly that "Faith" was recording the event from the very beginning of the report back, just as the delegates were getting situated, and so most certainly heard the moderator's announcements regarding not recording without permission. The report back provided no instances of "anti-Semitism" though the delegates did, consistent with the United Nations, identify Israel as an apartheid regime engaged in actions of ethnic cleansing, racial discrimination, and displacement that violate Palestinian human rights. No formal complaint of anti-Semitism has been filed by anyone who attended the report back.

The accusations made of Dr. Abdulhadi have been shown to be without merit and to falsely represent the situations they address. They do so in ways intended to incite anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism, discourage support for the Palestinian call for the academic boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, and dismantle programs and resources at universities in Arab and Muslim Studies. In all of this, they seek to censor critics of U.S. and Israeli policies in respect of Palestine and Palestinian human rights. We encourage everyone to review the situation in Palestine for themselves.

We urge SFSU President Wong to issue a public statement reflecting that Dr. Abdulhadi has not misused state funds and affirm that her research activities further the value and mission of AMED, the College of Ethnic Studies. and San Francisco State University.

Signed,

1.        Joanne Barker, San Francisco State University
2.        Paola Bacchetta, University of California, Berkeley
3.        Robert Keith Collins, San Francisco State University
4.        Angela Davis, University of California, Santa Cruz
5.        Gina Dent, University of California, Santa Cruz
6.        Çavlan Erengezgin, University of British Columbia
7.        Jason Ferreira, San Francisco State University
8.        Rasmyah Hammoudeh, B.A., San Francisco State University
9.        Andrew Jolivétte, San Francisco State University
10.     Maryam Kashani, filmmaker (Ph.D., University of Texas, Austin)
11.     J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, Wesleyan University
12.     Felix Salvador Kury, San Francisco State University
13.     Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Syracuse University
14.     John-Carlos Perea, San Francisco State University
15.     Junaid Rana, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
16.     Roberto Rivera, San Francisco State University
17.     Jaime Veve, Labor and Social Rights Activist
18.     Waziyatawin, Ph.D.

CONTACT: Joanne Barker, jmbarker@sfsu.edu

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

UPDATE:

Link here to the statement from the SFSU President regarding the investigation of travel fund support, June 24, 2014.

Link here to the statement from the Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University, June 25, 2014.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Tequila Sovereign stands with Professor Rabab Abdulhadi

Tequila Sovereign stands with Professor Rabab Abdulhadi in the face of the relentless attacks against her by Tammi Rossman-Benjamin and the AMCHA Initiative network. To support Professor Abdulhadi and oppose intimidation on campus, please visit: bit.ly/supportrabab


Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I write to provide a response to the false allegations made against me by the AMCHA Initiative in its latest escalation of the McCarthyist repression campaign to silence discussion of Palestinian rights on campus.

The accusation that I misrepresented the nature and purpose of my January 2014 trip to Palestine and Jordan is false.

The record, including documents which AMCHA cites, demonstrates that my application for travel authorization was transparent and accurate. In five separate documents, I noted that the purpose of the trip was to attend an international conference and to research, network, and collaborate with potential university partners towards a possible memorandum of understanding between San Francisco State University (SFSU) and Palestinian universities.

My stated intention to research and network with scholars in the region and throughout the world is a legitimate and important use of state funding. As Senior Scholar at the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative (AMED), it is part of my job duties to establish educational and research collaboration on Palestine and between Palestinians in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. Research and discussion between actors in the U.S. and Palestine is fundamental to my scholarship. It is one of the reasons why SFSU hired me in the first place. These relationships also create academic opportunities for students and my fellow faculty members at SFSU. I am also committed to nurturing AMED as a site for community engagement and knowledge production toward social justice – another reason why I was recruited for this position.

To my dismay, I was unable to attend the conference in Beirut because of university delays in approving my travel authorization request.

AMCHA alleges that I used the conference of the Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR) at the American University of Beirut as a false pretext to secure funding. In fact, I was forced to withdraw from participation in the conference due to university-imposed delays. Because SFSU and CSU delayed funding approval for my travel to areas which CSU to countries that the State Department define as “high-risk,”1 I was not able to confirm my attendance to conference organizers by their deadline. Delays in approval from SFSU/CSU occurred despite extensive efforts on my part to expedite the approval process. This fact is well known and has been confirmed by university administrators.2

Meeting with diverse and controversial figures in Palestine furthered the educational purpose of the trip.

AMCHA puts forward as evidence of wrongdoing that I “neglected to inform” the university of planned meetings with Leila Khaled and Shaikh Raed Salah. However, I was under no obligation to inform the university of each and every person with whom I met. Certainly, the 2014 North American Academic and Labor Delegation to Palestine that I organized and led3 met with Palestinian leaders and many others4 as we publicly shared on websites5, and during our report back to on and off campus AMED communities.6 Furthermore, there is no law or university regulation that prohibits meeting and speaking with figures seen as “controversial” in US media and dominant discourses. Such activity is clearly protected under the First Amendment and is a necessary part of gathering and sharing information. Such encounters are the very lifeblood of academia, journalism, and other fields of knowledge production and are also protected by academic freedom.

Additionally, as and Dean Monteiro, College of Ethnic Studies, asserted in his May 28 report, SFSU would not and cannot censor a scholar’s communications with controversial figures. In any case, there could be no reason to censor such meetings because interfacing with diverse figures falls squarely within the educational nature of the trip. I deliberately planned the trip to facilitate transparent discussion with Palestinians from all factions to better inform our scholarly understanding and analysis of the situation in Palestine. This is an essential aspect of my pedagogical practice as well as that of my colleagues who participated in the delegation. Critical analysis can only be developed from exposure to diverse viewpoints.

The 2014 North American Academic and Labor Delegation to Palestine spent 14 days meeting with 198 individuals from 89 organizations, and visited 21cities, towns and refugee camps. We met with Palestinians from all walks of life: business people, social workers, legal experts, political prisoners, religious leaders7, artists and cultural workers, feminist, trade unionists, LGBTQ youth groups, and members of the Palestinian Legislative Council from different political parties with a range of views regarding Palestinian anti-occupation liberation strategies, including BDS. The purpose of these meetings was to familiarize participants with the broadest spectrum of Palestinian sectors, politics, schools of thought, cultural production, socio-economic analyses and social movements.

AMCHA’s intentionally misleading focus on our meetings with Sheikh Raed Salah and Leila Khaled is aimed at insinuating that I support terrorism. In fact, these meetings are further proof of the wide spectrum of the people I interviewed: while Salah is a respected leader of the Islamic Movement among Palestinians in Israel, Khaled is a member of the Political Bureau of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a member group of the PLO. We also met with other Palestinians involved with political parties and groups who represent critical constituencies of Palestinian politics, including centrist, leftist, and Islamist political tendencies (Fatah, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, FIDA, Palestinian People’s Party, and Hamas in the West Bank and Israeli Communist Party, Abna el Balad, Tajamou, and Balad). Regardless of whether AMCHA likes it, these individuals are major figures in Palestine with substantial followings among the Palestinian people. A scholarly research would be incomplete if it ignored them and political analysis would miss the point by dismissing them.

The accusation that I support terrorism is both false and extremely dangerous in a post-9/11 climate that criminalizes advocacy and casts suspicion on even the most tenuous of associations with groups and individuals described as terrorists. AMCHA’s racist attack is nothing but political bullying intended to stifle and criminalize any and all discussions of Palestine or Palestinians in order to shield Israel from accountability for its continued violations of Palestinian rights.

AMCHA has predictably focused a huge amount of attention on our meeting with Leila Khaled, in an attempt to demonize the delegation and to damage my reputation. So let me clarify the purpose of meeting with Khaled. Khaled is a Palestinian feminist icon. She is therefore relevant to my research and pedagogy, both of which aim to revise Palestinian women’s studies by critiquing conventional wisdom within the feminist canon. In my courses, I aim to provide a counter narrative to the orientalist depictions of Palestinian, and other Arab and Muslim, women as weak and docile – and men as bloodthirsty and misogynist. To this end, I screen several films including “Leila Khaled: Hijacker?” and open these classes to the public.

Meetings with Palestinian political prisoners were also directly related to my pedagogy, scholarship and advocacy at AMED. For example, I recently initiated and co-organized a major teach-in, “From Pelican Bay and Guantanamo to Palestine: Prisons, Repression, and Resistance” in May 2013 at SFSU that aimed at linking Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strikes with two other struggles that were simultaneously taking place at Pelican Bay in California and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.8

Meetings with diverse figures in Palestine also inform the diversity of AMED programing and its connections with other social movements – indeed, I should note that AMED programing addresses many issues, including Palestine.9The purpose of such programing is to contextualize the study of Palestine as well as the study of Arab and Muslim communities within other social justice struggles and affirm our principle of the indivisibility of justice.10

Collaboration with Palestinian Universities advances SFSU Global Mission and Ethnic Studies’ Mission of validating knowledge production of marginalized communities

During our visit we met with representatives of An-Najah and Birzeit universities, toward developing the MOU and other collaborative relationships between SFSU and Palestinian universities. AMCHA has particularly sought to also attack Palestinian universities, describing them as “well-known for their virulent antisemitism and support of terror”in order to prevent communication and collaboration between the U.S. and Palestinian academies. In fact, An Najah and Birzeit Univeristies are highly respected prominent universities in the Arab world and contrary to AMCHA’s insinuation, are not listed as “terrorist organizations” by the US State Department. Our future collaboration with Palestinian universities will allow expand SFSU’s plans to become a global university especially in the Arab region in which it has no collaborative agreement. Such an achievement would fulfill the mission of the College of Ethnic Studies to connect with communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America as well as to validate the experiences and support the empowerment of marginalized and oppressed communities.

As well, we put in praxis our commitment to the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel11 by meeting with individual faculty members from Hebrew University and Ben Gurion University while boycotting the Israeli institutions of higher education, to invite them to participate in a symposium for the World Congress of Middle East Studies.12 And I met with alQaws for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society to discuss the invitation they extended to me to teach in their summer school13.

The March 6 report-back event also furthered the educational purpose of the trip.

I also wish to respond to allegations AMCHA made in separate letters dated March 5 and March 26, 2014, that the March 6 public forum threatened the safety of Jewish students. Here are the facts. I co-organized this event with my colleague Joanne Barker, Professor of American Indian Studies to share the trip with the SFSU community. The event was a model of open, exciting and timely public discussion on current events with urgent human rights and political implications and furthered the educational purpose of facilitating discussion about diverse Palestinian viewpoints.14 I fail to see how discussing the Palestinians struggle for justice creates a hostile campus climate for Jewish students.

Indeed, the event addressed our first hand experiences from the trip and included criticism of Israeli state policy and Palestinian conditions under occupation. Criticism of the Israeli state and our commitment to the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, issued by Palestinian Civil Society in 2005 that was advertised in our flyer is not anti-Semitic or threatening to Jewish students and it is not harassment that creates a hostile environment. It is political analysis and protected expression. The Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (DOE) has also recognized this distinction. In 2013, the DOE dismissed three complaints filed by AMCHA and others, which falsely alleged that criticism of Israel creates a hostile environment for Jewish students.15According to the Department of Education:

In the university environment, exposure to such robust and discordant expressions, even when personally offensive and hurtful, is a circumstance that a reasonable student in higher education may experience. In this context, the events that the complainants described do not constitute actionable harassment.

The standing room only audience included students of diverse backgrounds and from programs across the university, engaged in a healthy and vibrant discussion over the issues speakers raised. To facilitate discussion, all participants were able to raise their questions openly and respectfully. We addressed several questions and dissenting opinions in a collegial and respectful manner aimed at fostering critical thinking.

Finally, AMCHA makes much of the fact that the report-back event is described in “political” terms. The fact is that all scholarship has an agenda. It is the mission and core value of ethnic studies to put forward the legitimacy of ideas produced by the marginalized to challenge the status quo. My scholarship and pedagogy fits with the mission and raison d’etre of ethnic studies in general and the College of Ethnic Studies in particular – and by extension SFSU – which recognizes and validates the lived experiences of marginalized communities whose narratives are usually devalued by the status quo. The fact that I returned from my trip with a political analysis of what I saw, and that I shared that analysis with the campus community, does not diminish from the scholarly value of my fieldwork or research. It is, rather, its very purpose.

The false allegations are part of a concerted intimidation campaign to limit academic freedom and suppress viewpoints critical of the Israeli state.

AMCHA’s call to investigate and punish my activities is aimed at suppressing the scholarship and speech of those who honestly discuss Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights and express critical viewpoints, including our commitment to justice in and for Palestine as part of justice for all peoples. AMCHA and similar organizations16 frequently attack criticism of Israeli policies as anti-Semitic.17 These groups are committed to defending and promoting Israeli policies by stifling criticism of Israel in the U.S. through the misuse of legal instruments, and accusations that conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Many groups have written about the serious consequences of this McCarthyist repression campaign on academic freedom and First Amendment rights.18 Repeatedly, the accusations made by AMCHA and similar organizations have proven to be baseless, as they are in this case.

This most recent set of false allegations echoes previous attempts to attack legitimate use of state resources for critical analysis of Palestine/Israel, including criticism from Jewish faculty. Examples abound including David Klein, David Lloyd, Lisa Duggan, David Shorter, Paola Bacchetta, Persis Karim, Hatem Bazian, Gabi Piterberg, Lisa Rofel, and visiting Israeli professor Ilan Pappe. The idea that state funding can or should be restricted for the study of a political conflict because those on one side of the conflict wish to suppress the critiques of the other is anathema to the most essential values of the academy.

Baseless accusations of anti-Semitism and support for terrorism have had devastating impacts on me and other members of the university community. Students and faculty have been consumed by defending our right to speak freely. These smear campaigns can affect our future and career opportunities and subject us to unwarranted government scrutiny of our speech activities.

These attacks are deliberately intended to isolate me and AMED, to drive a wedge between AMED and the College of Ethnic Studies on one hand and the University President on the other, and to undermine our work at a time when we are beginning to see the fruits of our intensive efforts over the past few years. We have already received the approval of a Minor at the College level and will be submitting it for university-wide vetting and approval in the fall. We have also achieved a record approval of 24 new courses, and secured the GE approval of 15 courses in several areas.19 I hope to stay focused on building AMED’s successes towards our academic mission, and expect the continued support of SFSU.

In light of the false accusations, and the serious interests at stake, I have asked SFSU/CSU to promptly conclude there has been no misuse of funds or any other wrong doing on my part. I also urged SFSU to publicly clarify that my activities further the value and mission of AMED, College of Ethnic Studies and San Francisco State University.

I am therefore asking you to join me in urging Dr. Les Wong, President of San Francisco State University, to publicly clarify that there have been no wrong doing on my part and to ask him to further clarify that my activities advance and are consistent with the values and mission of AMED, the College of Ethnic Studies and San Francisco State University. Please also ask President Wong to continue to defend free speech and academic freedom at SFSU.

To take action to support me, please go to bit.ly/supportrabab

Thank you for your support,

Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, PhD

Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies/Race and Resistance Studies

Senior Scholar, Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative

College of Ethnic Studies

San Francisco State University


1 Note, however, that while Palestine, Jordan, and Lebanon, to cite a few Arab countries, are defined as “high risk”, Israel is not.

2 In his May 28th report to SFSU President, Dr. Ken Monteiro, Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies, wrote:
Though confident in what we had originally authorized, I reviewed Dr. Abdulhadi’s travel claim and it is correct and appropriate. We hired Dr. Abdulhadi explicitly for her work in Palestine and with Palestinians in the Diaspora including, but not limited to, the USA. Her travel involved meetings and discussions with people who are related to her research. Her past, current and in preparation publications evidence publicly that her travel is the basis for her scholarship, scholarship that is internationally regarded.
No others mentioned in the email were supported by the College for their travel.
The reference to Dr. Abdulhadi indicating “Unfortunately my name was dropped from the Beirut conference” was a polite indication that because our process takes so long to confirm travel to areas like Lebanon and Palestine, the conference planners had to drop her participation because she was not able to confirm before their deadline. This was no fault of hers. It is just an operating fact based on our need for due diligence regarding travel to high risk areas as defined by our State Department. I would note that Israel is not a high risk area, though almost all nations surrounding it are and the portion of Israel designated as Palestine also is, which may be part of the unclarity in the attached email.
Regarding with whom Dr. Abdulhadi did or did not meet, the College of Ethnic Studies does not censor any of our scholars, nor does the college condone such censorship. Our scholars should and do communicate with Palestinians, Israelis or any others relevant to their research without obstruction from the College.
3 See Joanne Barker’s blog and her reports on the delegation’s activitieshttp://tequilasovereign.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-occupation-notebooks.html

4 For example, this entry by Joanne Barker details a segment of Palestinians with whom we met http://tequilasovereign.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-occupation-notebooks-entry-13.html. AMCHA, however, sticking to its smear campaigning, has selectively focused on two Palestinian leaders to whip up anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism.

5http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=665437; http://araborganizing.org/event/palestinian-delegation-report-back-and-discussion/

6http://ethnicstudies.sfsu.edu/content/news-events

7 Including Father Jamal Khader who was one of the main spokesmen for the visit of Pope Francis to Palestinehttp://popefrancisholyland2014.lpj.org/blog/2014/05/14/fr-jamal-khader-preparations-continue-to-welcome-pope-francis-in-palestine/

8 See, http://crg.berkeley.edu/content/pelican-bay-guantanamo-palestine.This teach-in was co-organized with groups in the U.S., and featured a keynote speaker from Addameer, a prisoner’s support organization in Palestinehttp://www.addameer.org/. It was not coordinated with any other foreign organization.

9 To name a few examples of many, AMED sponsored the following programs on a variety of social justice struggles: “Colonialism, Orientalism, and Islamophobia: Queer Arab and Muslim Communities Speak out!”; lectures with Israeli and Jewish anti-occupation scholars and activists; Arab Revolutions’ Teach-Ins including “Libyan Uprising: A Teach-In” and Egyptian Revolution Teach-In; and Women’s Herstory Month programming.

10 See program of the annual meeting of the American Studies Association, “Palestine and the Indivisibility of Justice? Situating Palestine within American Studies” http://asa.press.jhu.edu/program10/saturday.html. Also see Palestine and the Indivisibility of Justice, the 4th annual celebration of the Palestinian Cultural Mural honoring the late Professor Edward Said http://www.indybay.org/uploads/2011/10/27/palestinian_mural_event.pdf

11http://www.pacbi.org/. The Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, PACBI, clearly calls for boycotting Israeli academic institutions because of their role in perpetuating the occupation of Palestinian lands and the denial of Palestinian rights but does not prohibit collaboration with individual Israeli scholars especially those who refuse to let the Israeli government speak in their names.

12 See WOCMES program, “Palestine: Solidarity and Resistance: A Symposium”.

13 See alQaws Sexual Politics in the Colonial Context of Palestine Summer Schoolhttp://sexualityschool.wordpress.com/about-2/

14 Videos of the event will be available soon through SFSU DIVAhttps://diva.sfsu.edu/collections/coes/#browse-collections.

15 The decisions are available at,http://ccrjustice.org/newsroom/press-releases/victory-student-free-speech%2C-department-of-education-dismisses-complaints. They held, “In the university environment, exposure to such robust and discordant expressions [such as criticism of Israel], even when personally offensive and hurtful, is a circumstance that a reasonable student in higher education may experience. In this context, the events that the complainants described do not constitute actionable harassment.”

16 Co-signers to AMCHA’s previous letters include Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Stand With Us, and Zionist Organization of America.

17See Letter from National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area to University of California President Napolitano and California State University Chancellor White concerning Amcha Tactics to Silence Speech, February 21, 2014,also available at, http://palestinelegalsupport.org/2014/02/21/rights-groups-write-to-uc-csu-trustees-about-amcha-tactics-to-silence-speech-on-palestinian-rights/.

18 For example, California Scholars for Academic Freedom who wrote to President Wong on March 14, 2014 ,http://cascholars4academicfreedom.wordpress.com/tag/amcha-initiative/ the National Lawyers Guild in the letter cited above, the University of California Committee on Academic Freedom who expressed concern about efforts to suppress speech on Israel/Palestine (attached), and the Center for Constitutional Rights (see generally, www.Palestinelegalsupport.org, citing numerous examples of repression of speech on campus throughout the U.S.)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hypocrisy, Thy Name is Chutzpah

On March 6, 2014, three of those of us who participated on the January 2014 Academic and Labor Delegation to Palestine provided a report back at our academic institution about our experiences.

The report back was moderated by the Chair of American Indian Studies who began by laying out the protocols that were to be followed for the report back and discussion. The protocols adhered to standard academic guidelines for respecting intellectual property and freedom of speech but as well indigenous protocols regarding respect. These guidelines included not recording the event without the permission of the delegates. Two student journalists with the student paper on campus were present and requested and were provided with permission to record. The delegates also filmed the report back to document the event.

After the report back, the first question/comment was offered by a woman who later identified herself as “Faith.” In response to comments made by two of the delegates regarding Nelson Mandela’s well-known support of Palestinian rights and identification of Israel as an apartheid regime, “Faith” claimed that there was a youtube record of Mandela accepting an honorary degree from an Israeli university and not merely supporting but showing his love of Israel.

We subsequently researched this claim and found it not to be true. Mandela received hundreds of honorary degrees from around the world over the course of his lifetime. He accepted an honorary doctorate from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in 1997, but no where in his acceptance speech does he assert a change in his position or the position of the African National Congress regarding Israel’s apartheid. In fact, his speech draws parallels between the Bedouin of the Negev and the experiences of Africans in South Africa.

After her remarks and the delegates responses about Mandela, “Faith” was called out by a woman faculty member from UC Berkeley for audio recording the report back with a device she had hid in her purse. The moderator asked her if this was true. “Faith” claimed she arrived late and did not hear any announcement about not recording without permission. She gestured to turning off the recording.

Later, along with an inflammatory statement issued to university officials and state representatives, AMCHA (an organization funded by several other Zionist groups in the United States) posted the audio recording on youtube and flagged the report back as evidence of "anti-Semitism" on campus. The recording shows quite clearly that "Faith" was recording the event from the very beginning of the report back, just as the delegates and moderator were getting situated, and so she most certainly heard the moderator's announcements regarding not recording without permission. The report back provided no instances of "anti-Semitism" though the delegates did, consistent with the United Nations, identify Israel as an apartheid regime engaged in actions of ethnic cleansing, racial discrimination, and displacement that violate Palestinian human rights.

Ideology

Several times since January, AMCHA has issued statements to university and state elected officials decrying the delegation and delegates as pro-terrorist and anti-Semitic, advocating for violence against Israel and Jewish faculty and students on campus.

It is incredibly difficult not to get pulled into a war over the facts in the context of these accusations. Because it is not a war over the facts, it is a war within ideology.

If they can manage to drag you into what will become a ceaseless argument over the facts (you said this, you've done this, etc.), then they have succeeded in changing the terms of the debate. Dragging you into a mode of defense that you can never win.

Because in a war of ideology, it does not really matter what you say, they are going to twist and turn everything you say into something else to make their own argument. Because they are most definitely not interested in debate, discussion, or "peace talks," they are interested in maintaining and expanding the status quo in Israel.

Target, Misfire

Several times since we returned from the delegation, AMCHA and other Zionists have attacked Palestinian colleagues and the program in Arab and Muslim Diaspora Studies on campus. The majority of these attacks, which actually date back recently to the fall, have only once identified me by name or department affiliation (and then only in an attachment of a letter they asked their constituents to sign and mail-in).

Of course, AMCHA and other Zionists do not want to go after "the Indian." What they want is to convince indigenous peoples in the United States that Israel is indigenous to Palestine. They want indigenous peoples here to stand in solidarity with them over there.

What they do not want, what they absolutely cannot afford to happen, is to have indigenous peoples in the United States (or really anywhere) identifying with Palestinians. Nothing betrays more clearly the ideologies and discourses on which Israel as a state is based than having Israel's claims on indigeneity challenged by indigenous peoples in the United States (or anywhere else).

So, of course, AMCHA and other Zionists continue to contort themselves into all kinds of positions over the purpose, funding, and result of the delegation without going after "the Indian." Anything to draw attention away from indigenous alliances, from indigeneity as the grounds on which internationally recognized human rights to governance and territories are based, here and there.


Update: June 2, 2014

Due to the gross misinformation circulating in the Zionist press about the delegation, it is important to note that I did not apply for or receive any funds from the university for travels or other expenses related to the delegation. It is also important to say that the 14-day delegation met with 198 individuals from 89 organizations and visited 21 cities, towns, and refugee camps including university officials, human rights organizations, the Palestinian Parliament, Christian and Muslim leaders, and artists.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Occupation Notebooks: Entry 15: From Nablus to Amman

The last day of our delegation was Thursday, January 23. We spent the morning taking an historical tour with Saed of the Old City of Nablus, the afternoon in Jericho, and the evening crossing the border into Jordan.

The Old City of Nablus


One of the most powerful characters of the old city are the written oral histories (pictured above) and memorials done to honor martyrs (pictured below) .



The memorials predominately represent deaths during the Second Intifada, when Israel indiscriminately bombed the city and responded to stone throwing and public demonstrations with gunfire and snipers.

The memorial pictured above (in full and in detail) is one of the few with women included. These women mostly died in their homes protecting their children and elders. In one instance, a family of eight -- including children and grandparents -- were literally buried alive by a personnel carrier, which ignored their and their neighbor's screams on their behalf.

Jericho Historical Sites

In Jericho, we went to the Mount of Temptation and Hisham's Palace.

I suppose the thing I found the most interesting and disturbing about Jericho was the juxtaposition of Israel's invented history of itself as an ancient holy land and state with the rampant commercialization of that history and statehood as altogether modern and progressive--as all things not Arab, which it works hard to represent as barbaric and uncivil. Tourists from all over the world run around Jericho collecting Kodak moment family shots and souvenirs, normalizing not only the occupation but the historical narratives about Israel and racist stereotypes of Arabs that uphold it.

Border Crossing

In the evening, a fellow delegate and I made our way across the border. Unsurprisingly, but exasperatingly, we had a terrible time getting through the border and to our respective hotels in Amman.

On the Palestinian side, before you get to the Israeli border control, we were made to wait for almost an hour on a bus before being allowed to cross through. Then we were directed to go through a metal detector while our bags were scanned. I got held back at the metal detector. They threatened a strip search. Apparently they thought I was wearing the latest in Terrorist Bra fashion and wanted to take a look. I threw a fit and they backed off but only after giving me a lot of grief. (The other five who were stopped were all women).


We then made our way through the passport check but had to wait over an hour for the bus that takes you from Israel to Jordan. By then our luggage was no where to be found so the bus driver, after telling us he expected a tip, took us to some holding cell where we found our luggage and only then to the Jordan side. We eventually got through but by then it was so late that we were the last ones around. Luckily I tipped the driver well so he called us cabs.

I figured it took us about four hours to get through borders, which are about a five minute drive apart. I can't imagine how horrible it is for Palestinian people to go through this and much worse every single time they travel. It is an apparatus of state power meant to communicate your lack of value as a human while "nickeling and diming" you into financial despair.


Update: June 2, 2014

Due to the gross misinformation circulating in the Zionist press about the delegation, it is important to note that I did not apply for or receive any funds from the university for travels or other expenses related to the delegation. It is also important to say that the 14-day delegation met with 198 individuals from 89 organizations and visited 21 cities, towns, and refugee camps including university officials, human rights organizations, the Palestinian Parliament, Christian and Muslim leaders, and artists.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Occupation Notebooks: Entry 14: Nablus

On Wednesday (January 22) and the morning of Thursday (January 23), we were in Nablus.

An-Najah University


Wednesday morning, we met at An-Najah University (ANU) with several key administrators and faculty. Our discussion took on two main issues.

The first was the possibility of establishing working relationships between our institutions in the US and ANU, for study abroad, faculty exchange, and summer institutes. We addressed some of the logistical challenges and outlined an organizing plan for moving forward.

The second was the real history of Israeli suppression of Palestinian human rights to education.

In 1997, the ANU established the UNESCO Chair on Human Rights and Democracy as a research center in coordination with the UNESCO Chair Program. The chair oversees a number of projects, including research on local and global human rights issues, documentation of human rights abuses of ANU students, training and conferences, a film festival, legal advocacy, and the Right to Education Campaign.

ANU faculty shared with us the history of the work they have done at tracking Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights to education. These violations have included restricting student (and faculty) travel to and from campus, physical harassment and violence, detention, arrest, and censure (see their reports for more details).

Women and Labor


Our next meeting was with several women labor rights leaders and activists. Due to time constraints, the meeting focused on our introductions of ourselves and our work to one another.

We heard about the many projects that the women are involved in, including organized address to salaries, work conditions, health and child care as well as gender and sexual violence and harassment. Labor under occupation is difficult at best, given how restricted travel is, exasperated by the limited access to health resources in the territories and the ongoing issues of environmental contamination from sewage and other waste dumped into their neighborhoods.

The Balata Refugee Camp


Some statistics:

  • Registered Refugee Population: 21,903
  • Special hardship cases: 699 families.
  • Number of damaged shelters that have been affected due to the IDF incursions in the West Bank since the beginning of the Intifada till March 2004: 81 in which 74 shelters were assisted.
  • Number of families receiving emergency food rations: 2906


Our next set of meetings was at the Balata Refugee Camp. We walked briefly through the camp and then met with the director of counseling at the Yafa Cultural Center. Afterwards, we met with a recently released political prisoner whose community leaders and family were hosting a reception at the sports center.

This was a difficult set of meetings. Again, we heard about the severity of force used by Israel against refugee camps--with constant policing, raids, detentions, arrests--that combine with a poor economic situation to contribute to rampant drug problems, crime, and depression. I liked that those we met with refused to put their story or the situation they confront into some happy-ending Hollywood archetype. The situation is bad; they need allies in the U.S. who are willing to say so.

Tanweer Center


Our last meeting of the day was with some of the staff and volunteers at Tanweer Center, which works at building political solidarity among and between Palestinian groups (in collaboration with the International Solidarity Movement).

Our discussion addressed the real need of Palestinian coalition, but was frustrated by a former attorney with ISM in London.

She reminded me of so many academics (and) activists in the U.S. whose "good intentions" in working with indigenous peoples are fraught with the righteousness of telling them what they ought to be doing, even what their goals and objectives ought to be, without having to live with the consequences of either.

At one point, the woman said "these refugees ought to just pack up and move home. It's not like Israel can stop all 30,000 of them." Ok. No. They probably couldn't in the moment. But given Israel's history of violence against Palestinians, why would you make such a suggestion, putting everyone in a line of fire? It is just that sort of irresponsible and pretentious political solidarity our delegation intended to question.

References

Alice Rothchild, "In Balata, the occupation is not just of body, but of mind" (June 21, 2013).


Update: June 2, 2014

Due to the gross misinformation circulating in the Zionist press about the delegation, it is important to note that I did not apply for or receive any funds from the university for travels or other expenses related to the delegation. It is also important to say that the 14-day delegation met with 198 individuals from 89 organizations and visited 21 cities, towns, and refugee camps including university officials, human rights organizations, the Palestinian Parliament, Christian and Muslim leaders, and artists.