Update April 21-24, 2017
Juan Cole Programs

April 21, 2017
WORT 89.9 FM
A Public Affair: Juan Cole On The Middle East
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Listen to the program

Professor Juan Cole will be Esty Dinur’s guest on A Public Affair, WORT’s daily hour-long talk program, for a wide-ranging discussion of issues, wars and prospects in the Middle East.

April 24, 2017
“Paganism and Muslim Peace-Building in the Mecca Period”
206 Ingraham Hall
UW-Madison [Map]
12:00 to 1:00 pm

UW Middle East Studies Program presents Juan Cole (Professor of History at the University of Michigan) speaking on “Paganism and Muslim Peace-Building in the Mecca Period (610-622): What does the Qur’an Say?”

Later Muslim accounts posit an essential enmity between Muslims and pagans in the Hejaz, leading to the wars of the 620s. These Umayyad and Abbasid accounts have influenced the interpretations of contemporary scholars. A close examination of Qur’anic texts from the Meccan period, however, reveals a consistent and strongly held option for peace. It will be argued that the sanctuary status of Mecca as a holy city made this experiment in peace theology possible.

April 24, 2017
“ISIL/Daesh and the Fate of Iraq in the Age of Trump”
Elvehjem Building L150
7:00 pm [Map]

In his second talk of the Day, Juan Cole will address the future of Iraq with a focus on the policies and approaches the new Trump administration may take in combating ISIL.

For more info please contact: Névine El Nossery, Director of the Middle East Studies Program, elnossery at wisc.edu


Juan Ricardo Cole is a public intellectual, prominent blogger and essayist, and the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He writes Informed Comment, Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion, which includes “The Map: The Story of Palestinian Nationhood Thwarted”. In 1973, Juan gifted his extensive comic book collection to Northwestern University; Stan Lee of Marvel Comics attended the opening.

April 26, 2017
Film Benefit for Open Doors for Refugees

Barrymore Theater
Atwood Avenue, Madison
7:00 pm [Map]
Discussion following the film

Open Doors For Refugees presents Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary Feature
FIRE AT SEA, Gianfranco Rosi’s award-winning documentary about the heavy toll of the migrant crisis, and the price of freedom.

This fundraising event is sponsored by Open Doors for Refugees, a growing community volunteer organization advocating for, welcoming and helping settle refugees in the greater Madison area. See facebook.com/OpenDoorsForRefugees.

Fire at Sea was an Academy Award® nominee for Best Documentary Feature and the first nonfiction film to ever win the top prize at the Berlin International Film Festival. The film takes place in Lampedusa, a remote Mediterranean island that has become a major entry point for refugees into Europe. It jolts the audience into a new understanding of what is happening in the region, the heavy toll, and the price.

Please contact: OpenDoorsEvents [at] gmail.com

April 22, 2017
Peace Contingent in the Madison Climate March


Saturday, April 22
1 pm Lisa Link Peace Park, 452 State St, Madison
2 pm State Capitol Building

Join the Peace Contingent
in the Madison Climate March

Please join with MRSCP and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in a Peace Contingent as part of Madison’s Climate March. We will assemble at 1 pm at Lisa Link Park for a “Solidarity Hour” and then march up State Street to join the main rally, which begins at 2 pm at the State Capitol Building. Wear your kuffiyehs and come help us carry our banners!

U.N. Report: Israel Imposes ‘Apartheid Regime’ on Palestinians

Reuters, Newsweek, 3/15/17

A U.N. agency published a report on Wednesday accusing Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” of racial discrimination on the Palestinian people, and said it was the first time a U.N. body had clearly made the charge.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman likened the report, which was published by the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), to Der Sturmer—a Nazi propaganda publication that was strongly anti-Semitic.

The report concluded “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.” The accusation – often directed at Israel by its critics – is fiercely rejected by Israel.

U.N. Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf said the report was the “first of its type” from a U.N. body that “clearly and frankly concludes that Israel is a racist state that has established an apartheid system that persecutes the Palestinian people”.

ESCWA comprises 18 Arab states in Western Asia and aims to support economic and social development in member states, according to its website. The report was prepared at the request of member states, Khalaf said.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York that the report was published without any prior consultation with the U.N. secretariat.

01_14_israeli_01Israeli Arab boys stand on the rubble of houses demolished by Israeli bulldozers in the northern Israeli city of Qalansuwa January 11. (Ammar Awad/Reuters)

“The report as it stands does not reflect the views of the secretary-general (Antonio Guterres),” said Dujarric, adding that the report itself notes that it reflects the views of the authors.

The United States, an ally of Israel, said it was outraged by the report.

“The United Nations secretariat was right to distance itself from this report, but it must go further and withdraw the report altogether,” the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said in a statement.

The Israeli ministry spokesman, Emmanuel Nahshon‏, commenting on Twitter, also noted the report had not been endorsed by the U.N. secretary-general.

“The attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East by creating a false analogy is despicable and constitutes a blatant lie,” Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon said in a statement.

The report said it had established on the “basis of scholarly inquiry and overwhelming evidence, that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid.”

“However, only a ruling by an international tribunal in that sense would make such an assessment truly authoritative,” it added.

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Unlearning apartheid apologism: A Jewish response to Israeli Apartheid Week

Stop conflating anti-Zionism and criticism of the State of Israel with anti-Semitism

Article ImageRya Inman / Spectator

Sophie Edelhart, Eliza Moss-Horwitz, Jack Snyder, Columbia Daily Spectator, March 5, 2017

Nearly two years ago, the three of us arrived on this campus as Jewish teens inoculated with an intense fear of the Israeli/Palestinian debate. We had been told for years in day school and summer camp that we would be provoked by anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric—presented to us as synonymous—and warned that we would be made to feel ashamed of our Jewish identities.

 What we actually found ourselves confronting when we arrived at Columbia, however, was the way our education and socialization in the mainstream Jewish world hadn’t prepared us for the conversations about Israel/Palestine happening on college campuses. We had been lied to and deceived by our teachers, parents, camp counselors, role models, and community leaders. We came to realize just how much the Jewish community has yet to reckon with the violence and dispossession that American Jews are complicit in perpetuating.

 When we first came to this campus, we felt that Israeli Apartheid Week was an affront to our very existence as Jewish students, because we had been taught to conflate criticism towards Israeli apartheid—the practices of systemic discrimination and state violence against Palestinians—with criticisms of Jewish identity. What we hadn’t learned from our combined 26 years of Jewish day school, countless hours spent in Hebrew school and synagogue, and years of Jewish summer camp, was that Judaism could flourish without the need for ethnonationalism—the supremacy of Jewish ethnic identity in the State of Israel—or racist apartheid policies. We hadn’t learned that that those policies were being enacted in our name and in the name of all Jewish people. 

We had been lied to, but more than that, we had been raised in a community that failed to face the anti-democratic reality of the State of Israel. Rather than being taught to pursue justice for all—Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and non-Jews—we had been told to defend Israel at all costs. Some of us who grew up in liberal Zionist communities had been taught a watered-down version of this: that we should care for others, for the Palestinians, and that we could criticize Israel’s racist policies so long as that criticism didn’t threaten the ethnoracial makeup of our Jewish-majority state. 

Retrospectively, it’s hard to justify why we fell for this narrative—how we could somehow stand against racism while defending a state’s ideology that privileged us as Jews above all others. It makes sense, though, because, to quote a recent monologue from the Israeli television show “Good Night with Assaf Hare,” “It doesn’t take much to sedate the satiated side of the apartheid.”

What we really needed as we were growing up was a community that confronted Israeli occupation, dispossession, and violence. We needed a community that could shout with their loudest voices against apartheid policies, racist immigration laws, and human rights violations. We needed a community that taught its children that particularistic ethnonationalism and Jewish exceptionalism have no place in Judaism, a religion that acknowledges its own liberation as inherently linked to the liberation of others. 

We needed our community to stop conflating anti-Zionism and criticism of the State of Israel with anti-Semitism and to recognize that one can criticize Israel as a geopolitical player without criticizing the Jewish people at large. This conflation only served to drive us further into our chauvinistic shells of violent nationalism and obscured the very real and increasing threat of genuine anti-Semitism on the rise.

We deserved an upbringing that didn’t hide from its complicity in Israeli apartheid, that didn’t rely on ethnonationalism as the answer to Jewish communal suffering, and that didn’t tie our very existence as Jews to a political ideology rooted in ideas of national exclusivity. But we can’t change our childhoods and our years of socialization in Jewish communities, so we must look to our campus as a place to learn, unlearn, and grow. 

Because of this, when we came to campus, we cringed at the word “apartheid” when it was used to describe Israel; we shied away from political debates surrounding Israel and Palestine. This year during Israeli Apartheid Week, we saw our fellow Jewish students do the same. We heard countless excuses for why students don’t engage, for why they don’t support Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, and for why they disagree with the rhetoric of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, causing them to turn their backs on campus discourse surrounding Palestinian liberation. 

We, as Jewish students of Columbia, Barnard, and Jewish Theological Seminary, must be better than this. Our history is one that is rooted in dispossession, fear, loss, and diaspora. We are Jews with lasting generational trauma. We must confront this and reckon with it; we must work with those facing similar traumas of dispossession, similar fears, similar losses, and similar diaspora today.

It makes sense why Jewish students on this campus see Israeli Apartheid Week as an affront to their Jewish identities. However, it is not because JVP, SJP, or even the BDS movement wish to delegitimize Jewish existence or peoplehood. Rather, it is due to the fact that for years the Jewish community has chosen to cover its eyes and plug its ears, screaming “I can’t hear you” at any mention of human rights violations, apartheid, state violence, expulsion, or ethnic cleansing, and has chosen to label the people who do make those claims as anti-Semites and self-hating Jews. Not only is this wrong, it dangerously conflates the violent policies of the Zionist state with a meaningful Jewish existence in the diaspora. 

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Activists pull out of Chicago LGBTQ conference over Israel pinkwashing

Jimmy Johnson, THE ELECTRONIC INTIFADA, 22 January 2016

An image posted on A Wider Bridge’s Facebook page highlights the organization’s mission of promoting Israel.

Black Lives Matter Chicago has added its voice to protests over the National LGBTQ Task Force’s inclusion of an Israel lobby group in its Creating Change conference in Chicago this weekend.

Tarab-NYC, an LGBTQ and gender nonconforming group organizing in Middle Eastern and North African communities, launched the #cancelpinkwashing campaign in response to the inclusion of A Wider Bridge.

A Wider Bridge describes itself as a “pro-Israel organization that builds bridges between Israelis and LGBTQ North Americans and allies.”

Among its major donors is the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, which has taken a lead in efforts to combat the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

The #cancelpinkwashing campaign’s Facebook page notes that A Wider Bridge partners with the Israeli consulate and the right-wing Israel advocacy organization StandWithUs to put on pinkwashing events which aim to “normalize the occupation of Palestinian land by distracting from the violent, inhumane actions of the Israeli settler state.”

Pinkwashing is a public relations strategy that deploys Israel’s supposed enlightenment toward LGBTQ issues to deflect criticism from its human rights abuses and war crimes and as a means to build up support for Israel among Western liberals and progressives.

On Tuesday, Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, reversed an earlier decision to exclude A Wider Bridge, citing a need for “constructive dialogue.”

On Friday evening, Jewish Voice for Peace Chicago and the Coalition for a Just Peace in Israel-Palestine will host “a Queer, anti-Zionist Shabbat that resists the pinkwashing of Israeli oppression taking place at Creating Change.”

“Divest from violence”

In an online statement, Black Lives Matter Chicago says it endorses Tarab-NYC’s demand that the National LGBTQ Task Force “divest from the violence, ignorance and false ‘inclusion’ of settler-colonial pinkwashing in the name of a ‘wider’ bridge.”

“As They/We all struggle to achieve healing, safety and autonomy in our own lives, families and communities, let us commit to mobilize ourselves and honor the self-determined struggles of Palestine so as to divest from the violence of the occupation,” the statement concludes. “Black and Palestinian Lives depend on it.”

Shortly after that statement was released, the Chicago organization Brown People for Black Power cancelled its scheduled workshop at Creating Change.

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