Ali Abunimah on Gaza, His New Book The Battle for Justice in Palestine, and Censorship
Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah is the author of the new book The Battle for Justice in Palestine. He discusses with hosts the recent news of what’s happening in Gaza and the resistance around the world, including on campus and in the United States. Ali was scheduled to speak at the Evanston Public Library in early August. The library later sent an email telling him he wouldn’t be allowed to speak without an Israeli speaker to “ensure balance.” Neighbors for Peace, an organization of antiwar activists based in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, who initially brought Abunimah to speak, suspected the library’s director was pressured to censor the event. The event was canceled the following day and after some activism and demonstration, the presentation was rescheduled. Ali spoke about his recent book The Battle for Justice in Palestine; the event was packed. Last year at Brooklyn College a similar controversy erupted when Palestinian BDS advocate Omar Barghouti and University of California Berkeley philosopher and BDS supporter Judith Butler were scheduled to speak.
- The situation has gotten considerably worse in Gaza over the past year because of the coup in Egypt.
- The current regime in Egypt is very closely aligned with Israel. They’ve made it just impossible for 1.8 million people to live in Gaza.
- The demands from Palestinian civil society is lift the siege, open the crossing, allow farmers to farm, allow fishermen to fish, allow factories to function, allow travelers to travel, students to go to their universities, patients to reach their hospitals, allow medicine to come in, allow books to come in.
- You mentioned my book The Battle for Justice in Palestine. Well, there’s no way to get that book into Gaza.
- It’s also a siege on human contact, culture, education and nourishment. They killed now more than 2,000 people in Gaza which is 1 out of every 1,000 residents in Gaza.
- Entire families have been wiped out, nobody feels safe. This massacre Israel thought would break people’s will and get them to accept and go back under siege.
- But Israel won’t lift the siege; it’s a matter of pride for them, it’s a matter of colonial control.
- The most frightening statement about where Israel is going was made more than 10 years ago. I wrote about this recently in an article called “The Gaza Massacre is the Price of Living in a Jewish State.”
- At that time you were hearing the fantasy about Gaza becoming the new Singapore on the Mediterranean. The Israelis were saying to themselves that Gaza was going to become a giant holding pen for human beings who are not Jewish.
- If we’re going to wait for the US government to do the right thing or the UN to get its act together, then we’re doomed.
- Despite the multiple levels of complicity by this government in this country, and governments in Europe and the Arab world, something is happening.
- We’re not starting from zero–we have a really important and sustained Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement.
- They’re firing artillery, mortar shells that are designed to be indiscriminate, into populated areas of Gaza with the intended consequence of causing widespread destruction.
- We have to go after the weapons manufacturers, we have to after the people who approve these sales from around the world, and it’s because of public pressure that the UK announced last week that they will suspend arms exports to Israel if significant hostilities resume.
- Well, now they have resumed, let’s see what they do.
- Look what’s happening just this week. An Israeli cargo ship was prevented from unloading for 4 days in Oakland because solidarity activists and unionized port workers have been working together to prevent that.
- Israel can only maintain its dominance over Palestinians through brute force and use of violence against Palestinians there, and through attempts to suppress debate, suppress political action on behalf of Palestinians in the United States and around the world.
- Mainstream media is more closed to Palestinian voices than what I’ve seen in 20 years. I used to get on CNN, I used to get on MSNBC.
- The librarian let me know that the event was canceled until they could get a pro-Israel speaker.
- There was such an uproar, it was amazing. They did a U-turn pretty quickly.
- As Israel and its apologists lose control of the narrative, lose control of the politics in this country, there is a more blatant resort to outright repression such as what is going on now at the University of Illinois and other institutions around the country.
- In that chapter I cite an organization called the David Project, which is a Zionist group that’s been working for ten years attacking and targeting professors.
Guest – Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian-American journalist who has been described as “the leading American proponent of a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” A resident of Chicago who contributes regularly to such publications as the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, he has also served as the Vice-President on the Board of Directors of the Arab American Action Network, is a fellow at the Palestine Center, and is co-founder of the Electronic Intifada.
Top Legal Scholars Decry Chilling Effect of Dehiring Professor Steven Salaita
The University of Illinois has rescinded a job offer to the professor who wrote controversial social media posts about the war in Gaza. Professor Steven Salaita was essentially dehired from the American Indian Studies program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign because of his statements on social media criticizing Israel’s conduct of military operations in Gaza. This has raised serious concerns under established principles of academic freedom. Those principles are enshrined in Illinois law, in the U.S. Constitution, and in the written principles of the American Association of University Professors. Recently, scholars from law schools at Columbia, Cornell, Berkeley, Georgetown, and other universities have come out with a very strong letter condemning the decision of the University of Illinois to dehire Steven Salaita. Read letter here.
- Professor Salaita was made a tenured offer of appointment at the University of Illinois in their American Indian studies program last year. He accepted it and negotiated the terms of the offer. Then, during the most recent assault on Gaza, he was active on Twitter expressing his views on the Middle East and colonialism.
- The University of Illinois came under a tremendous amount of pressure to revoke the offer of employment to Professor Salaita.
- The offer wasn’t finalized; there’s usually a rubber stamp process where the department and the head of the university have to take appointment to the Board of Trustees.
- The chancellor of the university, Phyllis Wise, informed Professor Salaita that she would not be bringing his appointment to the Board of Trustees and was unwilling to finalize his appointment.
- He had already resigned his position at Virgina Tech and was getting ready to move. He’s a well-known scholar, not only of American Indian Studies but of colonialism more generally, and has connected up the struggle for sovereignty and analysis of genocide and occupation in the United States to the struggles that the Palestinians have suffered in the Middle East.
- He certainly didn’t depart from views he expressed before but I think, in the heat of the moment of this recent assault on Gaza, the university basically buckled and withdrew the offer, and he’s now without a job and an income.
- It’s because of his speech on the issue of war crimes that may have been committed by Israel in the assault on Gaza.
- His tweets have been rather even across the board I think in terms of criticizing the critics of Israel when they’ve overstepped but also criticizing Israel itself.
- He’s a fiery guy with strong opinions and rigorous academic critiques of colonialism and colonial violence.
- I thought it would be useful to add constitutional and legal analysis of the problem, situated historically in threats to free speech on campus. I drafted a letter for Constitutional law professors, not in which they would agree to boycott universities, more offering a constitutional analysis of retaliation against unpopular speech.
- The law in this area has been made by faculty and sometimes students.
- I brought it back to Urbana-Champaign and their own history of threats to free speech both during the McCarthy period when bills were introduced in Springfield to punish or purge people who had what they called back then “Communist sympathies” when working in public universities. In 1960, there was a professor in the biology department at Urbana-Champaign that had written and spoken about human sexuality and premarital sex, and had actually endorsed premarital sex.
- There are a couple of principles that are at stake here. One has to do with the state punishing any citizen for speaking on an unpopular topic and particularly punishing for the viewpoint they take.
- There’s another faculty member at the University of Illinois, Kerry Nelson, who has been a rather enthusiastic advocate of Israel’s right to attack Gaza. He said things that are quite inflammatory; he’s not been fired. He’s not been punished for the positions he’s taken on the Middle East.
- Viewpoint discrimination, that’s the first point. The second point is academic freedom. Universities are the primary bastion of protection of academic freedom, a domain where we protect the pursuit of unpopular ideas, controversial ideas, of ideas that might even be frightening.
- That is the commitment that we make as part of the academic endeavor. The point of that concept of academic freedom is that we don’t want to have a kind of orthodoxy or an official version of the truth.
- Dr. Wise comes out of a somewhat corporate background. She, I think, is the poster woman if you will for the kind of executive that is now leading universities and thinks of universities as a business.
- The presidents are making an economic calculation, that they can pay off someone like Salaita and satisfy their donors.
- We can’t just agree to do nothing, which is what a boycott is. In a way it’s the easiest thing to do.
- I would say I have a lot of faith in students.
Guest – Katherine Franke, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law; Director, Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia University. She was awarded a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship, and is among the nation’s leading scholars in the area of feminism, sexuality and race. In addition to her scholarly writing on sexual harassment, gender equality, sexual rights, and racial history, she writes regularly for a more popular audience on the Gender and Sexuality Law Blog. Franke is also on the Executive Committee for Columbia’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender, the Center for Palestine Studies, and teaches at a medium security women’s prison in Manhattan. Her legal career began as a civil rights lawyer, first specializing in HIV discrimination cases and then race and sex cases more generally. In the last 25 years she has authored briefs in cases addressing HIV discrimination, forced sterilization, same-sex sexual harassment, gender stereotyping, and transgender discrimination in the Supreme Court and other lower courts.
History of Police Brutality and the Militarization of Local Law Enforcement
In the days since the uproar over the police shooting and killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, state and local law enforcement have been cycling through different approaches to demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri. They rolled out armored vehicles, while police in riot gear deployed tear gas, stun grenades and shotguns. Another decision permitted the Missouri State Highway Patrol to march with protestors. The National Guard was also ordered in. We examine the history and consequences of militarizing local law enforcement with Baruch College Civil Rights Professor Clarence Taylor.
- We can’t talk about a post civil rights era. These issues are still with us today.
- It’s the people on the ground, who have gone through this, that are fed up.
- It’s not just arguing for a black face in a high place.
- There is no requirement of the police of Ferguson to live in that community.
- Having black officers would change the nature of the investigation.
- This is something that’s been argued going back in the 1930s and the 1940s when people were organizing against police brutality.
- We should not take our eyes off the racial component of this.
- Police brutality would still go on without the militarization of the police.
- You throw all these new toys at the police department and once you have a big enough hammer, everything looks like a nail.
- Diversifying police departments is very, very important and emphasizing more community policing.
Guest – Professor Clarence Taylor. His research is in modern civil rights, black power movements and African-American religion. He’s the author of many books, and is the co-editor of Civil Rights Since 1787: A Reader in the Black Struggle. He’s currently writing a history of police brutality in New York City from the 1930s to the 1960s. In 1991, Clarence received his PhD in American history and began teaching at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. He reworked his dissertation into a book, The Black Churches of Brooklyn from the 19th Century to the Civil Rights Era, which was published by Columbia University Press in 1994. In 1996, Clarence became a member of the history department and the African-New World Studies Program at Florida International University.