Monday, 25 August 2008
Wednesday, 20 August 2008
On Tue, 8/19/08, firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com> wrote:
Subject: another racist organisation run by racists
To: firstname.lastname@example.orgTuesday, August 19, 2008
Obviously facts are of no interest to you, but your reference to the Israeli abandonment of Gaza as "expanding borders" suggests an unusual level of delerium. Similarly, that no Jews may live in Arab countries seems in your mind to weigh nothing against the legal rights of Arabs in Israel. Just too bad that Hitler didn't finish the job, eh?
Philip Carl Salzman
Professor of Anthropology
From: tony greenstein
Tue, 19 Aug 2008
Subject: A racist professor speaks out
One of the things that has often puzzled me is how distinguished professors have aided the most barbarous regimes with their academic sophistry. People like Professor August Hirt, head of the Anatomical Institute at Strasbourg University who was integrally involved in Himmler's medical experiments or Werner Heisenberg or Heidegger. So you can rest assured that you follow in a long, if not particularly distinguished tradition dear professor.
If you believe that Israel 'abandoned' Gaza then it merely proof that there is no bigger fool or charlatan than an academic. Israel specifically retained control, as we have seen, over Gaza's airspace, borders, shoreline etc. Removing guards from inside to outside a prison doesn't constitute freedom in most peoples' understanding of the term.
Likewise the statement that 'no Jews may live in Arab countries.' Let us leave aside the fact that before Zionism lots of Jews lived in Arab countries, one-third of Baghdad up till 1950 was Jewish. Or the fact that Arab countries were places of refuge for people like Maimonedes and refugees from the Inquisition. Indeed having met Jews in both Syria and Lebanon and having an Jewish Moroccan sister-in-law I can only assume that the discipline of Anthropology has, at least at McGill University, dispensed with the requirement for simple verifiable and objective facts.
If you are referring to the United State's protectorate of Saudi Arabia, created by Aramco and fed by Bush, then I wonder if there are any living examples of Jews who wanted to live there and who've been denied that chance?
As to your final flourish regretting the fact that Hitler 'didn't finish the job'. Well apart from the usual hackneyed sub-text, i.e. to oppose Zionism is anti-Semitic, wasn't it the Zionist movement in Hungary which agreed to keep quiet about Auschwitz and allow the deportees to go to what they thought was 'resettlement' in exchange for the train of the Prominents? After all Zionism and anti-Semitism have always agreed about Jews not belonging in the countries of their birth.
It would seem that what you lack in argumentation you make up for in large type.
Subject: Re: A racist professor speaks out: so you do.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
You clearly know nothing about Middle Eastern history, the suffering of the dhimma, and the atrocities that were normal against non-Muslims. Nor have you seemed to notice that all Arab states outside of Arabia were conquest states imposed on Christian and Jewish populations, and that Arabia ethnic cleansed itself. Instead, you exaggerate the flaws of the only successful, multi-religious, multi-racial, democratic country in the region, and neglect to mention all of the other counties of the region, without exception falled, despotic, and brutal, a fact well recognised by the Arabs themselves. The best test is where folks want to be: you don't see Israeli Arabs rushing to live in other Arab countries, but plenty beg Israeli status (as the daughter of the current P.A. negotiator), just as all the claims of East Germany were negated by the flow of human traffic away (when they survived). But then I imagine that you were a great fan of East Germany and its ilk.
As well, you clearly have no idea what "race" means or "racism," other than a bad word that you yell at the good guys.
Philip Carl Salzman
Professor of Anthropology
Thursday August 21st 2008
There is a saying in English. When you're in a hole stop digging.
I notice that you're still writing in large type and so I can only conclude that either you're the academic equivalent of the green ink brigade or, it occured to me, you suffer from the same problem as Hitler. He had to use a magnifying glass to read documents and many of his briefings were therefore specially typed in large print. So which is it - Hitlerian eyesight or green ink?
I am very well aware of Middle East history, which is why your specious nonsense remains exactly that. Nonsense.
I'm well aware of the Dhimmi, the People of the Book, both Christians and Jews. Certainly they suffered from civil disabilities but remember we are talking about a feudal, pre-capitalist society. Notions of equality made about as much sense as nationalism. The whole basis of feudal society was the existence of castes and the separation of social classes (in so far as they existed). But the atrocities you talk about were the exception, not the rule. I'm not aware of an Arab holocaust or Chmielniki or York.
Anyone who did know anything about Arab Jewry would know that some of the most prosperous Jewish communities lived there in harmony with their neighbours. After all there were no separate Arab states until recently. They were part of the Ottoman Empire. There was nothing to prevent Jews in Arab countries, had they so desired, leaving to go to Palestine. Yet until the formation of the modern settler colonial movement known as Zionism this simply didn't happen. Yet if conditions were as you say they were one would have expected thousands of Oriental Jews to either go to Palestine or Europe. Yet the reverse occurred. It was Jewish refugees from Europe who came to Arab lands and so, no matter how many lies and tales that you tell, it is the actions of Jews at the time that speak loudest.
The best example of this was in Vichy Morroco, where there was a large Jewish community of around 200,000. Despite intense Nazi pressure Morroccan Arabs refused to allow the round-up of Jews. No Jews were deported to my knowledge to the concentration camps and the Sultan declared that 'The Jews remain under my protection and I refuse to allow any distinction to be made among my subjects.' The only comparable instance of this in Europe was in Denmark where there were a few thousand Jews.
It is one of the 'triumphs' of Zionism that it made the position of Arab Jews untenable and the case of Iraq, when the Jews proved stubborn, the Zionist emissaries planted bombs outside cafes Jews frequented and the Masuda Shemtov synagogue in order to 'encourage' emigration.
So what you are doing is attempting to rewrite the history of Arab-Jewish relations in much the same way as the ideologues of the Third Reich did in relation to Teutonic mythology. It really doesn't surprise me dear Prof. that your discipline is Anthropology because this false science of human origins was the main vehicle for the spread of scientific racism in Britain through the Royal Anthoropological Society and the Anthropological Society of London. People like James Hunt and Robert Knox who, just like you, used science and false history in order to 'prove' that the reason for colonial occupations was the biological and cultural inferiority of Black people.
And like all good racists you resort to one of the oldest justifications. Israeli Palestinians want to stay in Israel rather than going to another Arab country. But they were born there, why should they move? Should Germans leave and come to the UK because we are all European? This is a nonsense. It is also the old justification for Apartheid - Blacks want to come to South Africa rather than go to one of the many Black African states. Which was true of course, because it was a question of work and standards of living. Some Jews left Palestine before 1939 and returned to Germany but what is one to conclude from that? that Hitler's Germany wasn't so bad after all?
You say that I 'exaggerate the flaws of the only successful, multi-religious, multi-racial, democratic country in the region'. But I have said nothing about Lebanon, despite obvious problems with its confessional structure (inherited from France).
And no. Because I am no lover of Zionism doesn't mean that I was a lover of stalinism or East Germany either. But at least then there was someone to stand up to the United States.
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
Below is an excellent article by David Klein on the efforts of one academic to gain Norman Finkelstein an academic position at his own university, California State University. And we also see, in the bastion of 'freedom' how the Zionist lobby and their friends set about preventing Finkelstein obtaining a post. We also learn about the cowardice of administrators of US authorities and how they talk on the one hand about academic freedom, but deny it to anyone who steps outside the artificial boundaries of Democrat v Republican.
Although most of the actors involved are Jewish, what is clear is that those who make the decisions are not. Israel is seen as an extension of the USA in the Middle East and hence any criticism of Israel or the Zionist movement is therefore anti-American, and according to the new definition 'anti-Semitic'. Indeed it is a strange redefinition of 'anti-Semitism' which includes some of the most vicious anti-Semites of the Christian Zionist lobby such as Southern Baptist President, John Hagee for whom Hitler was carrying out god's will. according to the new definition whereby opposition to Israel and Zionism, even by someone who is the child of concentration camp survivors, is automatically 'anti-Semitic'.
Why is Norman Finkelstein Not Allowed to Teach David Klein
When I learned in June 2007 that respected author and political science professor Norman Finkelstein had just been denied tenure at DePaul University, I sent a letter of protest, in concert with hundreds of other academics around the world, to the president of DePaul. I had never met or spoken with Finkelstein, but I knew that he was a leading scholar of the Israel-Palestine conflict. With a Ph.D. from Princeton, he was the author of five books (with a sixth now in progress) published in 46 foreign editions. At DePaul he was a popular instructor, with a loyal student following and teaching evaluations among the highest in the university. He was, and continues to be, a regularly invited speaker to leading universities worldwide.
Recognizing his accomplishments in scholarship and teaching, Finkelstein's colleagues in the Political Science Department had voted overwhelmingly in the Spring of 2007 to award him tenure and promotion. This was followed by a unanimous vote in his favor by the college personnel committee. The subsequent reversal by the DePaul administration was made in the face of enormous outside pressure from the Israel lobby, most especially from Alan Dershowitz of the Harvard Law School (Grossman 2, Menetrez, Holtschneider).
Finkelstein was not denied tenure because of any shortcomings in scholarship or teaching. Noam Chomsky had earlier described Finkelstein's book Beyond Chutzpuh as "a very careful scholarly book" and "the best compendium that now exists of human rights violations in Israel" (Goodman, "Chomsky Accuses"). The late Raul Hilberg, widely recognized as the founder of Holocaust studies, said of Finkelstein, "his place in the whole history of writing history is assured," and praised his "acuity of vision and analytical power." (Goodman, "It Takes").
There can be little doubt that Finkelstein was fired because of his criticisms of Israel's human rights violations against the Palestinian people, and for his fact-based criticisms of the Israel lobby. Raul Hilberg warned at the time, "I have a sinking feeling about the damage this will do to academic freedom" (Grossman). Even the DePaul administration tacitly conceded that his firing was politically motivated when it acknowledged Finkelstein as a "prolific scholar and outstanding teacher'' in a later legal settlement (Finkelstein, "Joint Statement").
An unstated axiom for U.S. universities is that criticism of Israel by untenured faculty members is not allowed. Academic freedom protects critics of the national policies of the U.S., France, England, and every other country in the world, save one: Israel. Norman Finkelstein violated this axiom. Had he not been Jewish he would have been vilified successfully as anti-Semitic, and that slur alone would have isolated him from supporters. As it is, his detractors also smear him as a "Holocaust denier," knowing full well that Finkelstein is the son of two Holocaust survivors, and that the remainder of his family died in the Nazi death camps. His first book includes a dedication "to my beloved parents," ending with, "May I never forget what was done to them" (Finkelstein, The Rise i, "Biography").
Following an exchange of emails, I asked Finkelstein on July 1, 2007 if he had any job prospects. His reply was, "No job prospects. None." So, that same day, I sent an email letter to the president and the provost of my university, California State University, Northridge (CSUN), where I am a math professor. I wrote, not as a mathematician, but as a faculty member of the university in order to make the case for a unique opportunity. I urged them to consider hiring Finkelstein for a university wide faculty position, explaining that his presence would catapult CSUN to the front ranks of universities worldwide, in his areas of research. Such university wide faculty appointments at CSUN had previously been offered, and resulted in extended visits by outside scholars.
The provost, Harry Hellenbrand, wrote back indicating that he was interested and was willing to look into it. Through the summer months of 2007, we held informal meetings and colleagues from several departments sent letters to the provost urging him to bring Finkelstein to CSUN.
Hellenbrand agreed to invite Finkelstein for a series of lectures across a five-day visit. Such a visit, we reasoned, might kindle greater interest among faculty and lead to an appointment. The natural location for Finkelstein was the Political Science Department, and Mehran Kamrava, a Middle East expert, a professor, and a former chair of that department, had already written to the provost and to his own department in support of bringing Finkelstein. Faculty members in other departments related to Finkelstein's areas of expertise also expressed support.
Finkelstein visited CSUN the week of February 11, 2008. In the weeks preceding his arrival, the provost and president were lobbied heavily by Jewish groups, Rabbis, and various individuals to disinvite Finkelstein. He was denounced in the most degrading terms. Shelly Rubin of the Jewish Defense League (JDL) posted a memo to a JDL Blog entitled, "Stinky Finky Coming to LA". In it Finkelstein's email address was provided, and he was described as "a sick, disgusting example of self-hatred" (Rubin). Readers were urged to contact CSUN's president, Jolene Koester, to register their indignation. The Pro-Israel advocacy group, Stand With Us, similarly lobbied the administration against allowing Finkelstein to come, as did the Jewish campus organization, Hillel, and faculty members and students in the Jewish Studies Program at CSUN. A few letters called for the removal of the provost, and some of the letter writers threatened never to make financial donations to CSUN again. Hellenbrand received a small number of death threats from out of state, which he ignored. The chancellor of the 23 campus California State University system also received some letters which he forwarded to the campus.
The provost estimated that he received some 200 letters from members of Los Angeles Jewish organizations demanding that Finkelstein's invitation to give talks on campus be withdrawn. Finkelstein was accused of denying the Holocaust and working for the destruction of Israel. Many of these letters argued that a presentation by Finkelstein was like shouting "fire" in a movie theater, thereby endangering the youth in attendance.
CSUN's campus newspaper, the Daily Sundial, featured an article about Finkelstein in its Tuesday edition, the day of his first talk (Aguilar). The article quoted Beth Cohen, Interim director of the Jewish Studies program at CSUN, with, "Finkelstein's work on the Holocaust is not regarded highly by other scholars in the field," which of course is directly contradicted by the world's leading experts in the field. Similarly, Jody Myers, Professor of Religious Studies and Coordinator of the Jewish Studies Program at CSUN, chided, "We believe our administration should be following its own stated mission and only invite speakers who meet our high level of scholarship and who exercise academic responsibility," adding, "he isn't a responsible scholar."
The provost responded to anti-Finkelstein lobbyists by offering to invite speakers of their choosing. Hoping to diffuse the situation, he did indeed invite many. However, these offers did little to mollify the naysayers because they were not complaining about a lack of opportunity to present their pro-Israel views. They already had many avenues available for that purpose. Rather, their goal was to prevent students and faculty from hearing Finkelstein, since he might be persuasive. And indeed he was. Several faculty members, including colleagues from the natural sciences, told me that they were positively impressed by Finkelstein's soft-spoken, "scientific style," his meticulous attention to facts, and his encouragement to express disagreement during question and answer sessions.
The provost's introduction to Finkelstein's first of three talks, "Civility and Academic Freedom," excerpted here, directly confronted the arguments for censorship:
"America’s leading anti-Semite, grand wizard of the KKK, leader of Hitler Youth, David Duke. In the minds of many, Norman Finkelstein has become Hitchcock’s Norman Bates. Hysteria and outright manipulation distort his record and thereby divert discussion from his ideas to the bogey that people imagine. People have written me that inviting a speaker like Norman Finkelstein is like throwing a bomb in a darkened theater; it is like exposing the vulnerable young to inexorable evil. I do not think so. A university should be a well lit place where intelligent people interrogate each other sharply but civilly. Such conduct is its own protection, our only protection, really, against evil. Have we reached the point where we fear ideas? ... As for yelling 'fire' suddenly, surely, we all knew in advance that the speaker was coming. As for trapping people in a theater, who has been forced to stay? As for the dark, well, dialogue is enlightenment. So, I turn the question back to you, sitting here. Are you the flash in the night?... If our inability to manage lectures and discussions about controversial issues forces us to leave them to the battling hacks on talk radio and the networks, then the university indeed will become a dark theater, occupied by know-nothings who receive their conclusions, pre-thought and pre-packaged, from elsewhere. We will then concentrate on the ice-capades of the intellect, the unthreatening but elegant analysis of what we already agree to as objective, and the airing of voices that sound like us and say what we would say. We will be the poorer for that, though I am sure much more self-righteously content. Here is a chance to show that we are better than that." (Hellenbrand, Notes)
Members of the JDL attended this talk, contributing much counterpoint to both the speaker and the title of his talk. Three of them sat together in the front row, just a few feet from the speaker. They interrupted the provost's introduction, one of them shouting, "Good one, Harry. The Nazi loves you." They hissed and jeered throughout. They aimed cameras at the audience, panning from left to right focusing their camera lenses on individuals throughout the meeting, so as to document those in attendance as a form of intimidation. They issued a steady stream of vitriol at Finkelstein, including: "You're a sick puppy," "Don't call yourself a Jew," and "Holocaust denier!" Finkelstein responded only to the last of these. During the question and answer period, he shot back, "You have to understand, it's a deeply offensive statement to say that I deny the suffering that my parents endured." The JDL did not spare audience members either. One young woman in attendance, a CSUN student wearing a Palestinian scarf, was ordered, "Go hang yourself with your scarf!"
The provost adeptly diffused the situation by speaking to JDL members individually in the hallway outside the presentation room. In one exchange, a JDL member repeatedly accused Finkelstein of being a "Holocaust denier," and Hellenbrand calmly responded each time, "No, he isn't" until the detractor finally asked, "He's not?"
The talk itself had nothing to do with the Middle East (until the question and answer period), and was well received by most in attendance. Finkelstein discussed the limits to which academic freedom ought to apply in general, taking as a point of reference, the 1940 decision by the New York State Supreme Court to bar the eminent philosopher Bertrand Russell from teaching at the City University of New York, because of his criticisms of religion and advocacy of sexual freedom.
The subsequent talks, "The Coming Breakup of American Zionism" and "A Critique of the Walt-Mearsheimer Thesis" included spirited exchanges, but they were for the most part polite and not disrupted. During the question and answer period for the final lecture, Finkelstein was accused of promoting the destruction of Israel by members of the audience, thereby echoing accusations received by the administration in advance of his arrival. He responded by saying that the opposite was true. He would consider it an enormous tragedy for Israel or any nation to be destroyed. He pointed out, by way of contrast, that opinion polls indicate that a large percentage of young American Jews would not feel a sense of loss over the destruction of Israel, a tendency that Finkelstein found appalling.
Letters of Support
After the February lectures, I again asked the provost to bring Finkelstein for a longer stay. Hellenbrand's response was that this might be a possibility, but to make it happen, he "would have to be asked." So we continued to ask in writing.
Finkelstein's visit generated an outpouring of support, including from students. Scores of CSUN faculty members wrote, including the chairs of the departments of Physics, Chemistry, Journalism, Communication Studies, and Pan African Studies. The entire department of Women's Studies signed a joint letter of support. Individual faculty members from a diversity of departments, ranging from art to engineering, also wrote urging the administration to offer Finkelstein a visiting position.
Several eminent scholars and experts in the field from outside the university were contacted and asked to send letters of recommendation to the president and provost. Brief but illuminating excerpts from some (but not all) of these letters follow. Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor at MIT, wrote:
"I understand that Norman Finkelstein is being considered for a position as a university-wide visiting scholar at CSUN, and am writing in that connection. In brief, I think it would be an outstanding appointment at any university. . . As one indication of my own evaluation, I published a very favorable review of his Image and Reality in the Israel-Palestine Conflict and recommended it as one of the three best books of the year on political and international affairs, in a year-end survey of opinion by the London Guardian. . . In general, his work is recognized to be outstanding in the range of disciplines in which he has published. There is no doubt in my mind that Finkelstein is a person of great intelligence and insight, as well as unusual integrity, and that his work is of remarkably high quality. . . In addition to his books, Finkelstein has produced a series of fine critical and analytic essays on developments in the Middle East, on political theory, and more recently on international law, including reviews of studies by scholars and of court decisions, and important contributions of his own on the politics of the Middle East and international affairs more generally. His work is invariably conducted with scrupulous documentation, careful research, and thoughtful and judicious evaluation and analysis. . . That he will have outstanding success in teaching and direction of research I have no doubt. He is unusually well qualified for the position of visiting scholar. It would be a very strong appointment, in my judgment."
Khaled Abou El Fadl, Professor of Law at UCLA wrote:
"I have read every book that Professor Finkelstein published, and I attended the lectures he delivered at CSUN, and also the lectures he delivered this past year at UCLA. To describe Professor Finkelstein as a towering intellectual figure—masterful, brilliant, meticulously methodical, precise, eloquent, and exceedingly gracious and polite—does not begin to describe him as a writer and lecturer. . .Professor Finkelstein’s entire categorical paradigm is that he honors the memory of the Holocaust to such an extent that he rejects any effort to politicize, or to opportunistically capitalize on its painful memory. Indeed he is explicitly critical of any effort to deny human suffering, or to in any way render human suffering subservient or secondary to any functional political considerations. It is no surprise that Professor Finkelstein’s list of admirers constitutes a virtual hall of scholarly fame; he is very highly regarded not just by the most accomplished intellectuals in the United States but around the world. I cannot possibly emphasize the extent to which the fact that Professor Finkelstein is not occupying a post in an academic institution in the United States is a national embarrassment, and is a fundamental and quintessential breakdown of our scholastic ideals. . . Professor Finkelstein’s presence will not just accrue to the substantial benefit of CSUN, but will also deeply enrich the intellectual environment of Southern California and all its schools."
Professor Irene Gendzier of Boston University wrote:
"I write in support of this remarkable scholar and intellectual who is a committed believer in what the university represents and, to judge by his teaching record, is an exceptional teacher... His vilification in recent months for spurious reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of his work, has served to expose the grave limits of academic freedom in the United States, particularly where the study of the Middle East is concerned. . . Prof. Finkelstein is an internationally recognized scholar who has won exceptional acclaim for studies he has published on crucial aspects of modern European as well as Middle Eastern history. I refer to his studies of the Holocaust and Israeli policy in the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict. His work in these areas has been marked by a critical level of erudition, a scrupulous documentation, and a persistent moral integrity. In exposing the exploitation of the Holocaust, and in documenting the origins of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians before, during and after the creation of the state, he has addressed questions of history, memory and responsibility, and above all, of justice. The results form an essential body of knowledge for those seeking to understand the origins and persistence of the Israel-Palestine conflict, a subject of overwhelming importance in the United States and, indeed, in the world today."
Sara Roy, Senior Research Scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University, wrote:
"I, like Norman, am a child of Holocaust survivors engaged in research on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Because of our shared background I feel that I can speak about him from a position others cannot. . . Norman’s scholarship is exceptional both for its brilliance and rigor. In the fields of Middle Eastern studies and political science his work is considered seminal and there is no doubt that both disciplines would be intellectually weaker without it. Norman’s power and value, however, do not emanate only from his scholarship but from his character. His life’s work, shaped largely but not entirely by his experience as a child of survivors has been and continues to be informed by a profound concern with human dignity and the danger of dehumanization. Unlike many in the academy, including some of his most vociferous detractors, Norman has always remained faithful to his principles even when such consistency demanded great personal and professional sacrifice."
Avi Shlaim, Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford wrote:
"Dr Finkelstein’s work straddles political theory, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and American policy towards the Middle East. His work in this field is immensely thorough, original, and penetrating. There are many scholars in the United States working on this area, but Dr Finkelstein stands out as one of the most able, most erudite, and most critical. His articles all display a number of admirable qualities: intellectual vigour, intellectual integrity, a capacity to get to the heart of the matter, and a tendency to subject the conventional wisdom to searching scrutiny... I recommend him very strongly and without any reservations for a tenured position in any American university."
John Trumpbour, Research Director of Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School, wrote:
"Norman Finkelstein has undoubtedly been one of the most provocative thinkers on these sensitive subjects, and he challenges all of us to raise the quality of our work. Even when I have had a different point of view, he has pushed me to be a better intellectual by his relentless pursuit of logic, reason, and evidence. . . As Research Director of a major program at Harvard Law School, I am well aware that Norman Finkelstein has generated hostility from one of HLS’s most famous faculty members, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Alan Dershowitz. And yet, I can testify that Norman Finkelstein conducted himself with great dignity the various times he has spoken at Harvard. He always allows his opponents plenty of opportunity to criticize him. . . Finkelstein’s works have been translated into many languages around the world. I have received my share of communications from overseas scholars who have expressed disappointment with U.S. universities for timidity when it comes to welcoming such a major voice of intellectual engagement and dissent."
During the last week of February 2008, a retired faculty member, inspired by Finkelstein's lectures, offered $30,000 toward an endowed chair at CSUN for Finkelstein. He indicated that he might be willing to offer an even larger figure. The provost declined the email offer on the grounds that university regulations prevented the creation of an endowed chair for any specific individual. Curiously, the administration showed no interest in meeting with this erstwhile donor to discuss alternate ways in which he might contribute toward bringing Finkelstein to CSUN, or even toward more general university projects.
Despite compelling letters of recommendation, and substantial faculty lobbying, we faced a formidable barrier in March. We were told by the administration that because of faculty union regulations, the university could no longer hire any university wide visiting scholars. Instead, all hires would have to originate from academic departments. This broadly anti-intellectual restriction put a freeze on potential future visitors with interdisciplinary interests, and it appeared to undo our effort to bring Finkelstein to CSUN. (The Political Science Department seemed to want to have nothing to do with him. Mehran Kamrava had accepted an academic position in December at another university, and none of the remaining CSUN political science faculty members even attended Finkelstein's talks.)
However, our effort was resuscitated during the final week of April, when the Chair of Journalism asked the provost to bring Finkelstein as a visiting professor to his department. This was a good fit. Finkelstein would make an excellent resource for faculty members interested in the important area of Middle East affairs. He was also more than capable of directing research projects for students, and contributing seminars, lectures, and class visits for a range of courses. To proceed the Journalism Chair was instructed by the provost to make a formal request to his college dean, which he did. He submitted the necessary paperwork, but from May to mid-June, almost nothing happened. Many of us had worked for much of the preceding year to bring Finkelstein to CSUN, and we were anxiously waiting for the formal offer to go out.
The coup de grace came from the campus president, but it came discreetly. The provost informed me on 26 June 2008 that the president had made a policy decision not to award visiting positions, even when they originate within a department. That policy decision put an end to our project. It was a sharp departure from past practice, and an extraordinary bow to the Israel Lobby, as the university had hosted departmental visiting professors in recent years. Anticipating a possible presidential veto, I had sent an email letter previously, on June 19, to President Koester that included this paragraph:
The stifling of academic discussion and criticism of Israel has reached such absurd proportions that the phalanx of orthodoxy is beginning to crack. CSUN has a chance to play a positive role in this regard, and at the same time to catapult itself up to the first rank among universities worldwide in Dr. Finkelstein's areas of expertise. As you know, the CSUN Journalism Department has requested that Dr. Finkelstein be invited to come to CSUN as a visiting professor starting spring semester. Please allow that invitation to move forward. Thank you for reading this.
The following reply on behalf of the president came June 23, also before I learned the final decision:
Dear Dr. Klein:
Thank you for your email below. The President asked me to respond on her behalf.As you know, the President is not directly involved in the hiring of faculty. Such appointments fall under the purview of Academic Affairs. We noticed you have copied both the Provost and the College Dean; I'm sure they appreciate your comments.
Executive Assistant to the President
After learning the president's policy decision not to hire visiting professors, effectively vetoing Finkelstein's appointment, I sent another message on June 27 to the president:
Dear President Koester,
I understand from Provost Hellenbrand that you have just made a policy decision not to hire visiting faculty at CSUN, even if a request to do so originates at the department level. This decision was made just as the administrative process to bring Dr. Finkelstein to CSUN as a visiting scholar was nearing completion. I would like to ask you if I understand correctly that CSUN will, from this point on, not permit the hiring of any visiting faculty to any department. I would also appreciate it if you would confirm that this decision was not a form of censorship on your part to prevent criticisms of Israel's human rights record from our campus. If I misunderstood your policy decision, I apologize. Thank you for clarifying.
Professor of Mathematics
Her reply, dated July 1, 2008 put an end to the exchange.
I understand the Provost has explained to you the university's practices regarding the appointment of visiting professors.
If you have further questions or wish additional clarification, I encourage you to direct your concerns about these practices to the Provost.
President Koester's note above may be compared to the penultimate sentence in the June 8, 2007 letter of denial of tenure and promotion to Norman Finkelstein from Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, President of DePaul University. President Holtschneider wrote (Holtschneider),
"If you wish to discuss this decision, you are free to speak with the Provost, Helumt P. Epp."
Academic Freedom and the Israel Lobby
Academic freedom, as an abstract principle, is universally applauded by university administrators. Any American university president, with occasion to talk about it, will exalt Galileo and decry Pope Urban VIII for sentencing the astronomer to house arrest. Yet, presidents and their subordinates slide easily to the other side of the fence when confronted with the closely analogous cases involving Norman Finkelstein, and other scholars critical of U.S. Middle East policy.
Finkelstein is only one of many targets of academic censorship, and the presidents of DePaul University and CSUN are far from alone in heeding the ideological directives of the Israel lobby. A high mark in subservience was achieved by Fr. Dennis Dease, President of the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota, when he withdrew an invitation to Archbishop Desmond Tutu to speak at his university. The episode was reported in a series of articles starting in October 2007 (Snyders, Jaschik, Shellman, Furst).
In April 2007, members of the Justice and Peace Studies program at St. Thomas succeeded in booking the Nobel laureate for a campus speaking engagement for the following spring. But the Zionist Organization of America opposed the invitation, and Julie Swiler, a spokeswoman for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, informed the university that, "In a 2002 speech in Boston, [Tutu] made some comments that were especially hurtful" (Snyders).
In that speech Tutu criticized Israel for human rights violations against Palestinians. After consultation with members of the Jewish community, President Dease announced that Tutu would not be allowed to speak on campus. Following the president's decision, the chair of the Justice and Peace Studies program, Cris Toffolo, sent Tutu a letter informing him of the administration's decision and expressing disagreement with it. When they also received a copy, St. Thomas administrators removed her as chair of the program.
Dease was denounced by faculty and students within the university, and became the focus of international criticism. A National Book Award-winning poet, Lucille Clifton, canceled her visit to St. Thomas in protest. Even more alarming, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, sent a letter to Dease in which he wrote,
"While Archbishop Tutu is not a friend of Israel, we do not believe he is an anti-Semite. As you rightly point out in your letter, his words have often stung the Jewish community. However, while he may at times have crossed the line, we believe that he should have been permitted to speak on your campus."
Contradictory directives from leading Jewish organizations put President Dease in an awkward position. He reversed his decision and re-invited Tutu to St. Thomas. However, Tutu made acceptance of the offer conditional on Toffolo's reinstatement as chair of the Justice and Peace Studies program. But while the world-renowned peace activist, Desmond Tutu, may have been too prominent a target, Toffolo was not. The administration did not reinstate her as chair, and true to his word, Tutu declined the second invitation.
Although Toffolo was already tenured and was not stripped of her rank of associate professor, her treatment by St. Thomas, to some degree, parallels DePaul University's treatment of Mehrene Larudee. Larudee was 19 days shy of becoming the director of DePaul's program in international studies when she learned she had been denied tenure, despite unanimous decisions in her favor by faculty committees and her dean. Her firing in 2007 was widely perceived as retribution for her public support of Norman Finkelstein.
Harvard University has also disinvited speakers for their criticisms of Israel. J. Lorand Matory, a professor of anthropology and of African and African-American studies at Harvard describes three such incidents. In 2002,
"Harvard’s Department of English invited Tom Paulin – Oxford professor and one of the finest living British poets – to speak, but promptly disinvited him after then-University President Lawrence H. Summers expressed disapproval of Paulin’s criticisms of Israel. Though the Department later voted to reverse the disinvitation, Paulin has never come to campus."
Also disinvited was Norman Finkelstein in 2005, who was previously invited to speak at the campus bookstore. Then in 2007, Rutgers biologist Robert L. Trivers was invited to speak in honor of his receipt of the prestigious Crafoord Prize in biosciences from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. But just hours before his scheduled speech, the invitation was abruptly rescinded. His erstwhile campus host said that he was ordered to do so by someone he would not name. Also according to Trivers, Jeffrey Epstein later admitted ordering the cancellation and said that he had done so under pressure from Dershowitz. Epstein, a legal client of Dershowitz, had donated the funds used to establish [the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics] which, according to other sources, depends for its future effectiveness on further funding from him" (Matory). Thus, at Harvard (and elsewhere) free speech by critics of Israel is for sale, and campus administrators protect it up to the level of its cash value.
Even faculty members who meticulously avoid publicity are not immune from attack if their scholarship deviates from a Zionist-approved agenda. A case in point is the ordeal of Nadia Abu El-Haj, an anthropologist at Barnard College. Hundreds of alumni funneled their potential for monetary donations into the service of censorship, demanding in 2007 that the assistant professor not receive tenure. Nearly 2000 people signed a petition to the campus president demanding her expulsion. Dr. Abu El-Haj was guilty of writing a book entitled, "Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society," that "looked at the role of archeology in what was essentially a political project: the Biblical validation for Jewish claims in what is now Israel" (Kramer 50). She was eventually awarded tenure, but not before receiving hate mail in bulk, being the target of denunciations, and enduring mischaracterizations of her statements and beliefs. As with Finkelstein, the principal (but baseless) argument was that tenure should be denied on account of low quality of scholarship. The actual ideological motivations would have been less effective on account of the need of university administrators to at least pantomime support for the academic freedom for their professors. In this rare instance, the presidents of Barnard and Columbia deserve mild praise for not caving in to the mob.
Noam Chomsky informed me by email of this example of intimidation:
"In the 1980s I was invited to a major US university for a week of lectures on philosophy, and of course added many other talks and meetings, in those days mostly on Central America. A tenured professor (who taught part time at Tel Aviv) invited me to give a talk on the Middle East. The next day I got a call from campus police asking if I would agree to have uniformed police with me the entire time I was on campus. I refused, but was accompanied by undercover armed police the whole time – walking from the faculty club to a phil seminar, for example. After I left there was a huge campaign of vilification, and an effort to remove tenure from the prof who invited me."
Tenure protected that professor, but it did not protect Sami Al-Arian, an associate professor of computer science at the University of South Florida. He was suspended by the campus president after Fox TV's Bill O'Reilly accused him of having terrorist connections, two weeks after the 9/11 attack, and eventually fired. In a December 19, 2001 statement by University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft, posted on the university web site, the president followed rhetorical norms when she wrote (Genshaft),
"Academic freedom is revered at USF . . . we respect the right of faculty to express their personal views on controversial subjects, with the understanding that it must be clear they are speaking for themselves and not for the University. In this case, I have recognized my great responsibility to fully consider both the welfare of the University Community and Dr. Al-Arian's rights of expression."
Moving past the fanfare, the point of the memorandum was this: "I have instructed our Office of Academic Affairs to notify Dr. Al-Arian of the University's intent to terminate his employment." No proof of guilt of anything, real or imagined, was offered, and academic freedom was tossed out the window.
Two years later in 2003, the Bush administration filed 17 trumped up charges against Al-Arian. Then after years of imprisonment, and in spite of the government's best legal efforts, he was fully acquitted of eight of the charges, and the jury deadlocked on the rest, voting for acquittal by 10 to 2. The verdict was a major defeat for the Bush administration, but Al-Arian's brutal treatment by his university and especially the government can only be regarded as a successful assault on First Amendment rights for Middle East activists and scholars.
By way of contrast, university administrations see no problem in retaining professors like John Yoo, Henry Kissinger, and many others who in a more just world might be tried for war crimes, or even crimes against humanity. In such cases the principle of academic freedom is steadfastly upheld by campus presidents.
What accounts for the lack of courage and principle by those who preside over the academy, when it comes to the Middle East? Clearly, it is the influence of the Israel Lobby, a small but powerful rightwing group that purports to speak for all Jews, and yet persecutes those Jews who dare to criticize the policies of Israel.
The crackdown on dissent, obediently carried out by American university presidents exposes "the grave limits of academic freedom in the United States," as Professor Gendzier put it. And it is not merely individual professors like Norman Finkelstein who pay the price for censorship. The quality and stature of U.S. universities, as a whole, is compromised by the political Lysenkoism that muzzles critics of Israel. Perhaps lowering the stature of American universities through censorship, and the consequent upending of the lives of heretical scholars, is a price that university presidents are willing to pay in order to appease the Lobby, but there may be other unintended consequences to the stifling of debate about Israel.
The Lobby succeeds in stifling criticisms of Israel by labeling critics as anti-Semites. In the case of Jewish critics, the labels include "self-hating Jew," "Holocaust denier," and worse. According to this propaganda, Jews who raise serious criticisms of Israel for the mistreatment of Palestinians, Jews such as Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky, Sara Roy, and many others, are, in short, "Bad Jews." It is left to the "Good Jews" to neutralize such criticisms of Israel by tarring critics with these labels, thereby ending their employment, blocking speaking engagements, or generally attempting to destroy their credibility with the public – and with university presidents. In this taxonomy, it is the "Good Jews" who claim to speak for Jews collectively.
The Israel-Palestine conflict is fundamentally about land. Throughout its history, the land area of Israel has expanded, while the land area for Palestinians has contracted. If Israeli expansionism in pursuit of a Greater Israel is ultimately to succeed, it will be necessary to impose negative growth on the Palestinian population over an extended period of time, either through exodus or gradual genocide. Consistent with this purpose, Israel has inflicted misery through humiliation, the wholesale use of torture, demolition of homes, deprivation of water, power, and food, and through direct assassinations and indiscriminate attacks.
It is no longer possible to hide the darker side of Israeli policy, and mainstream voices have expressed concerns. John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, and Stephan Walt of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government raised doubts about the value of the U.S.-Israel alliance in their book, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy." Former President and Nobel laureate, Jimmy Carter, pressed forward moral questions about Israel's behavior in his book, "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid." Predictably, all three authors were denounced by the Israel Lobby, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to marginalize all of Israel's critics.
As the realities of the Israel-Palestine conflict enter public discourse with increasing weight, what will be the perception toward Jews by the rest of the population? If the Israel Lobby's "Good Jews" continue to represent all Jews, and "Good Jews" defend Israel's every action, all the while working to suspend academic freedom in universities, what ultimately will be the consequences?
A far more enlightened path would be for universities to permit open discourse about the Middle East. Excluding Norman Finkelstein, and others like him, from America's universities is misguided in the extreme.
Acknowledgments. I thank Khaled Abou El Fadl, Noam Chomsky, Irene Gendzier, Harry Hellenbrand, Sara Roy, Avi Shlaim, and John Trumpbour for permission to use the quoted material attributed to them. I am also indebted to Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Irene Gendzier, Sara Roy, and John Trumpbour for helpful comments and suggestions; to Laila Al-Arian for information about her father; and to Edie Pistolesi and others unnamed for critical readings and corrections. Finally, I would like to thank Edward Carvalho for his help in finding and organizing approrpriate citations.
Abou, El Fadl, Khaled. Letter to President Jolene Koester, 26 Feb. 2008.
Abu El-Haj, Nadia. Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2001.
Aguilar, Mercedes. "Visiting lecturer causes stir in Jewish studies program" Daily Sundial California State University, Northridge. 12 Feb. 2007: 1
Carter, Jimmy. Palestine: Peace not Apartheid. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006.
Chomsky, Noam. Letter to President Jolene Koester and Provost Harry Hellenbrand, 21 Feb. 2008. _____. "permission to quote" E-mail to David Klein. 22 July 2008.
Finkelstein, Norman G. Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. Berkeley: U of California P, 2005
"Biography." Official Web site of Norman G. Finkelstein. 2008. 01 Aug. 2008
"Civility and Academic Freedom." California State University, Northridge, CA. 12 Feb. 2008.
"The Coming Breakup of American Zionism." California State University, Northridge, CA. 13 Feb. 2008
"A Critique of the Walt-Mearsheimer Thesis." California State University, Northridge, CA. 14 Feb. 2008
Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict. London and New York: Verso, 1995
"Joint statement of Norman Finkelstein and DePaul University on their tenure controversy and its resolution" Official Web Site of Norman G. Finkelstein. 5 Sept.
The Rise and Fall of Palestine: A Personal Account of the Intifada Years. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P: 1996.
Foxman, Abraham H. “ADL Troubled By Implications Of Cancellation Of Tutu Speech” adl.org. 10 Oct. 2007. <http://www.adl.org/PresRele/Education_01/5146_01.htm>.
Furst, Randy. “Tutu-St. Thomas dustup isn’t over.” StarTribune.com. 22 Oct. 2007. 01 Aug. 2008 <http://www.startribune.com/local/ 11606896.html>.
Gendzier, Irene. Letter to President Jolene Koester and Provost Harry Hellenbrand, 23 Feb. 2008.
Genshaft, Judy. "Statement of University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft." Office of Media Relations’ USF News & Online Guide
Goodman, Amy. "'It Takes an Enormous Amount of Courage to Speak the Truth When No One Else is Out There'—World-Renowned Holocaust, Israel Scholars Defend DePaul Professor Norman Finkelstein as He Fights for Tenure." DemocracyNow.org. 9 May 2007
Grossman, Ron. "Controversial professor denied tenure at DePaul" Chicago Tribune10 June 2007. Metro Section 2.
Hellenbrand, Harry. "Introductory Remarks for Norman G. Finkelstein's 'Civility and Academic Freedom'." California State University , Northridge, CA. 12 Feb. 2008.
Holtschneider, Dennis. Letter denying tenure and promotion to Norman Finkelstein, 8 June 2007. Copy posted on Official Website of Norman G. Finkelstein at:
Jaschik, Scott. “Desmond Tutu, Persona Non Grata.” Inside Higher Ed.com. 4 Oct. 2007 <http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2007/10/04/tutu>.
Klein, David. "Re: Letter to Holtschneider on denial of tenure to Finkelstein:" E-mail to Norman G. Finkelstein. 1 July 2007.
_____. "suggestion: institute professor" E-mail to Jolene Koester. 1 July 2007.
_____. "Norman Finkelstein" E-mail to Jolene Koester. 19 June 2008.
_____. "visiting professor positions and Norman Finkelstein" E-mail to Jolene Koester. 27 June 2008. Koester, Jolene. "Re: visiting professor positions and Norman Finkelstein:" E-mail to David Klein. 1 July 2008.
Kramer, Jane. "The Petition: Israel, Palestine, and a tenure battle at Barnard" The New Yorker 14 Apr. 2008: 50–59.
Matory, Lorand J. "What Do Critics of Israel Have to Fear?" 5 June 2008 The Harvard Crimson
Mearsheimer, John J. and Stephen M. Walt. The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007.
Menetrez, Frank. "Dershowitz v. Finkelstein: Who’s Right and Who’s Wrong?" Counterpunch.org. 30 Apr. 2007
Reynaldo, Randy. "Re: Norman Finkelstein"E-mail to David Klein. 23 June 2008.
Roy, Sara. Letter to President Jolene Koester and Provost Harry Hellenbrand, 28 Feb. 2008.
Rubin, Shelley. "Stinky Finky Coming to LA" Geeklog: The Official Jewish Defense League Blog. 7 Feb. 2007.
Shellman, Jeff. "Oct. 10: About-face: Tutu gets St. Thomas invite" StarTribune.com [Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN] 22 Oct. 2007 <>; "Desmond Tutu rejects St. Thomas' invitation" StarTribune.com [Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN] 27 Mar. 2007
Shlaim, Avi. Letter to President Jolene Koester and Provost Harry Hellenbrand, 25 Feb. 2008. Snyders, Matt. "Banning Desmond Tutu." Citypages.com. 3 Oct. 2007 01 Aug. 2008
Trumpbour, John. Letter to President Jolene Koester and Provost Harry Hellenbrand, 28 Feb. 2008.
Sunday, 17 August 2008
We all knew it - but now even the Israeli Police/Army admit they turn a blind eye to settler violence
Friday, 15 August 2008
These governments might also be deluding themselves into thinking that the often harsh repression meted out by the PA to its own people, long tormented by Israel, would be conducive to promoting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
But the west is wrong on both accounts.
Today, much of the western "financial aid" provided to the Ramallah-based regime is being utilized to consolidate a police- state structure, actually a police state without a state since the Israeli occupation army continues to tightly control all parts of the occupied territories, including the vicinity of Mahmoud Abbas’s own headquarters.
According to reliable sources, more than one third of the PA budget, which is based on "donations" from western and oil-rich Arab donors, goes to the security agencies which operate with virtually no legal or moral restrictions.
In comparison, less than one percent of the budget goes to agriculture in both Gaza and the West Bank. This is the sector upon which more than 50% of Palestinians depend for their livelihood.
We all know that the Raison d’être behind the very existence of the PA security apparatus is to repress Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation.
Otherwise, Israel wouldn’t have allowed the US and other countries to bankroll, train, and arm these "Palestinian forces."
Today, the way these so-called forces function seriously undermines the rule of law, civil liberties and human rights in the occupied territories.
They are arresting, maltreating and torturing innocent people. They are imprisoning journalists who are carrying out their duties as journalists. They are closing down and vandalizing social, cultural, academic and other institutions in utter violation of the rule of law.
In short, there is a reign of terror being fostered all over the West Bank under the pretext of "fighting Hamas."
The PA claims its heavy-handed tactics are necessary to prevent Hamas from carrying out a coup in the West Bank.
This claim, however, is ridiculous and mendacious. The reason is that in order for Hamas to be able to carry out a "coup" in the West Bank, it would have to be militarily stronger than both Israel and the PA combined, which is a far-fetched prospect, to say the least.
In truth, the real reason behind the reign of repression and flagrant human rights violations in the West Bank is an overwhelming desire for revenge for the ousting by Hamas of Fatah militias from Gaza more than a year ago.
A few weeks ago, the PA arrested three journalists in the West Bank on manifestly frivolous charges such as "endangering national security" and "creating divisions within the people."
These journalists, including Awadh Rajoub, a correspondent for the Arabic service of the al-Jazeera.net, are still languishing in PA lockups and jails.
Rajoub’s relatives said he was likely to be prosecuted by a military tribunal.!! Yes, a military trial of an innocent Palestinian journalist by an authority that has no authority or sovereignty, and whose very survival and existence depend nearly completely on the good-will of Israel, the Palestinian people’s ultimate tormentor and oppressor.
Moreover, dozens of community leaders, religious officials, elected mayors, as well as college students are being jailed and probably tortured by security interrogators.
A few weeks ago, a visitor to the local government hospital in Hebron intimated to this writer that he saw a badly-beaten young man tied with iron chains to his hospital bed, with three armed security guards posted at the entrance to his room.
Last week, PA crack policemen beat savagely two teachers who were tutoring high-school students at the Anwar Academic Center in Dura, 10 miles south West of Hebron. The two teachers were identified as Naim Talahmeh and Salem al Hureibat.
Earlier this month, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said he ordered the security agencies to release all political prisoners rounded up following recent Gaza events.
However, two weeks have passed and 95 per cent of the political detainees are still languishing in PA lockups and jails.
Indeed, PA security forces continue to arrest innocent people and close down businesses and charities on a daily basis without any regard for the rule of law.
In recent days, the PA security forces even began arresting lawyers defending illegally-held detainees. Human rights sources in the West Bank have reported that Advocates Muhammed Farrah from Hebron and Fadel Bushnaq from the northern West Bank are languishing in PA jails.
The reign of repression being carried out by the PA against its own people can’t be justified by whatever unacceptable conduct by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, including the unlawful arrest of political figures affiliated with Fatah.
Persecuting people perceived as Hamas supporters as a reprisal for the arrest by Hamas of Fatah activists, or vice versa, is an unethical act fitting gagsters and street thugs.
To be sure, Hamas has released the vast bulk of Fatah’s political leaders, including Zakaria al Agha, the group’s most prominent leader in the strip. So why is the Fatah-dominated PA continuing to violate the human rights and civil liberties of the Palestinian people?
The West is wrong in thinking that beating and tormenting Palestinians by the PA will produce security for Israel.
The PA had carried out a lot of repression of its own people during the so-called Oslo era (1994-2000).
That ugly episode of repression, we all remember, eventually produced two things: The al Aqsa Intifada and Hamas’s electoral victory in 2006
It is therefore very likely that the Western-sponsored repression by the PA of the very people it claims to serve and whose interests it claims to be protecting and safeguarding will boomerang on both the West and its increasingly ruthless child.
The West is thus advised to create a clear linkage between its financial aid to the PA and its human rights records. That would be compatible with its declared ideals and policies, and would also serve the interest of peace in Palestine.
In the final analysis, the last thing the Palestinians need is another tormentor augmenting Israel’s genocidal terror against our people.
August 14, 2008 By Khalid Amayreh in Ramallah
Thursday, 14 August 2008
For three years, the official documents of the Prime Minister's Office have referred to Upper Nazareth as "code No. 20," a designation for ethnically mixed cities. This definition is not meant to say that together, Nazareth and Upper Nazareth constitute a mixed city. Rather, it describes a situation whereby Upper Nazareth and its approximately 50,000 residents has become a Jewish-Arab locale.
This is not really what David Ben-Gurion had in mind when he decided in the late 1950s to establish the Jewish city above Arab Nazareth. Since then, the number of Arab residents in Upper Nazareth has been steadily rising. Much of the younger Jewish population has decided to relocate to rural communities or to the expanding neighboring kibbutzim.
Not long ago, Upper Nazareth civic leaders were incensed to discover a full-page ad in the local daily, Yediot Hagalil, for the Sharbat contracting company based in Afula. The ad read: "Good morning! This month we're offering special deals for residents of Upper Nazareth." No wonder residents of Upper Nazareth felt like refugees to whom a neighboring city was offering sanctuary.
A tour of the city's neighborhoods shows that dozens of "For Sale" signs are hung on apartment buildings and single-family homes. The sellers are all Jewish, the buyers mostly Arab. The Jews talk about this situation using terms such as "occupation" or "takeover." The Arabs - that is, the ones willing to talk - respond by claiming their natural right to pay good money to return to their lands, which were appropriated to allow for Upper Nazareth's construction.
"The lands of Upper Nazareth belong to the Arabs," states Salim Khouri, a veteran resident and former city council member. "Let the racists leave, not us. They'll give up first."
"I wasn't a racist until the problem started to affect me personally," says Ilya Rosenfeld, who immigrated to Israel 18 years ago. Rosenfeld worked in the Prime Minister's Bureau during Ariel Sharon's tenure, dealing with Russian affairs, and is now running for a seat on the city council. "The Jewish city I came to is up for sale," he continues. "It bothers me that on my street, you no longer hear Hebrew and Russian, just Arabic."
The look of entire streets changed when the new Arab residents knocked down 50-year-old houses and built beautiful villas instead. The Jewish neighbors feel as though the Arabs razed monuments of Jewish culture - not ugly buildings. On streets filled with offices and businesses, signs for Arab lawyers, doctors and realtors have sprouted up. All the signs are written in Russian, too: Not only are half of Upper Nazareth's residents new immigrants from the Commonwealth of Independent States, but many of the local Arabs also speak Russian, which they learned while studying in the CIS.
Several rabbis have mobilized to halt the Jewish residents' flight. They pay a visit to the Jewish sellers and, quoting from religious sources, persuade them not to sell their homes to Arabs. The Arab contractors working in Upper Nazareth have taken this issue into account. Rosenfeld says he once worked with an Arab contractor, who offered a contract to buyers with an escape clause allowing for the deal to be canceled if a Jew does not want to live next to an Arab who buys an apartment in the same building.
In a normal setting, the demographic changes in Upper Nazareth could be seen as part of a familiar socioeconomic process, a kind of gentrification. The Arab buyers are ready to pay as much as $500,000-600,000 for very nice villas. They do not look into the city's employment possibilities or its schools; they already have them someplace else. The Jews are leaving to improve their living standard in nearby communities, while the Arabs are moving out of crowded Nazareth, and upgrading their lives in spacious homes, away from the polluted downtown area.
But in Israeli reality, there is nothing normal about this story, especially not three months ahead of municipal elections in the very city where Yisrael Beiteinu won most votes during the last elections. Even the question of the exact number of Upper Nazareth's Arab residents has political ramifications. "No more than 10 percent," say associates of the current mayor (who has been in office for 32 years), Menachem Ariav. "More than 20 percent," says Shimon Gapso, head of the Uri Ir (literally, "Wake up, city") movement, who is running for mayor. He is considering setting up a fund to purchase Jewish homes for sale to prevent them from being purchased by Arab buyers willing to pay outrageous sums. Gapso also proposes renaming Upper Nazareth, to differentiate it from Nazareth and strengthen its Zionist association.
"When I arrived 13 years ago in my neighborhood of single-family homes," he adds, "there was one Arab family there; today 35 percent of the population is Arab. My father abandoned both property and status when he left Tunis, so his children would grow up in the Jewish state, not in a mixed city."
Gapso says a delegation of Arab residents arrived at his campaign headquarters not long ago. They asked him to set up two churches and two mosques, and also demanded two sections of the local cemetery. "I asked whether they had just disembarked Noah's ark, since they wanted everything to be in pairs," he relates. "They explained that there was a better chance of my agreeing to half of their demands. I told them that there are some things I am willing to discuss, and there are things that will never be. They then told me they would approach another candidate. I am all for a democratic Upper Nazareth, but first of all a Jewish one."
"The problem is not the Arabs, but the Jews," says Ronen Plut, the Likud's mayoral candidate, who also approaches Arab voters. "The fact that lots of Arabs are moving here is proof that they're looking for quality of life. The problem is that Jews are abandoning the city. The Likud and I personally have researched the matter extensively. The lack of good job opportunities, such as in high-tech, for example, is the main reason why Jews are leaving the city. I intend to make a supreme effort to bring science-based factories to the city."
Plut enjoys the explicit support of Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu as well as that of Ze'ev Hartman, who heads the Ihud Ironi (Municipal Unity) movement, which is running for a seat on the city council and can be defined as having racist overtones. Hartman's support for Plut is a double-edged sword: On one hand, Hartman is bringing him support, while on the other, he is damaging Plut's image. On Tuesday, one of Plut's election posters was pasted on Hartman's house.
The whole city is covered with signs stating "We are all with Plut," but the candidate is not happy. After talking with Hartman, he came back with this answer: "It's a provocation. Hartman did not hang up any of my signs. Maybe it was Gapso's people who put on the show. In any case, the posters disappeared within a short time."
Rosenfeld, who belongs to Gapso's list, rejects this claim: "Where would we have gotten those giant canvas banners from?"
To prove his claim that the government is neglecting Upper Nazareth, Mayor Ariav made another futile attempt, in our presence, to talk with the Prime Minister's Bureau. But this conversation also failed to yield any results. "The PMO's director general told me in advance that he has no answer [regarding the matter of Jews leaving the city]," complains Ariav, who has yet to announce whether he will run for a ninth term in office.
Two police officers came to Ariav's office this week to discuss the city's security problems, among them Arab youths who come from neighboring areas and harass teenage girls and young women.
"These aren't our Arabs," stresses Ariav. "The Arab population here is mostly made up of doctors, lawyers and engineers. I'm careful of how I choose my words. I have already been accused of racism because I voice concern about the city's Jewish character. So I'm trying to deal with the issue in a different way. I approached all the government ministries and begged them to invest here, to invest in the surrounding Arab settlements so they won't come here. But there is no one to talk to, and we're too small a place to merit a national response for this area."
There is a reason for Ariav to say "this area." While he is only referring to Upper Nazareth, a similar process is under way in Ma'alot, Carmiel, Acre and Tivon. "Northern Israel is being abandoned," Ariav concludes.
As we left the city, Nazareth's church bells echoed in the center of Upper Nazareth. "This is another problem," sighed a city leader. "One-third of the immigrants here are not Jewish and these bells are constantly reminding them of who they are."
This is additional proof of the complex nature of an area that could have benefited from the magic bestowed by its heterogeneity, but instead is groaning under its burden.
There are not many cars on the road, anyway. Donkey carts are common.
Every so often, the smell of sewage fills the air. Lack of treatment facilities means that much of it is dumped raw into the Mediterranean.
The hospital has three ventilators; only one is working. Israel won't let in spare parts for the others.
Because of lack of equipment and qualified personnel, there is no radiotherapy and limited chemotherapy in Gaza.
For street after street, barely any building is untouched. Makeshift shacks of corrugated metal and cloth sheets are now homes for those who have lost their housing.
My sister and her husband are Orthodox Jews living near Tel Aviv. They are outraged at Israel's behaviour, especially the restrictions on sick patients needing to leave Gaza. My brother-in-law, a former chair of family medicine at Tel Aviv University and a specialist in medical ethics, has complained publicly about this.