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Who Is Funding Canary Mission?

Inside the Doxxing Operation Targeting Anti-Zionist Students and Professors

Americans who give money to Canary Mission are potentially committing a serious crime by acting as agents of a foreign power.

JAMES BAMFORD, THE NATION, DECEMBER 22, 2023
A pro-Palestinian protest of Harvard students and their supporters, ends on the lawn behind Klarman Hall, at Harvard Business School, after starting in the Old Yard by Massachusetts Hall. (Pat Greenhouse / The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

It was a scene reminiscent of the Red Scare days, of grainy black-and-white television images of political witch hunts by the old House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). But rather than hunting for disloyal communist sympathizers, committee members at early December’s hearing before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce were instead hunting for university presidents disloyal to Israel. “Are you now, or have you ever been, an anti-Zionist?” quipped New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg. “You can see the trap.”

What is missing from Congress are hearings into the decades of illegal anti-Palestinian espionage, covert action, and blacklisting of Americans within the United States by the Israeli government and its domestic collaborators—actions far more serious and damaging than campus semantics. As noted in my earlier articles for The Nation, they range from dispatching a secret agent to interfere in a presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump; to launching a covert operation within the US targeting academics and others who support a boycott of Israel; to conducting a massive operation to spy on and “crush” pro-Palestinian students throughout the country; to establishing a secret Israeli-run troll farm across the US to harass anyone critical of Israel; to hiring Americans to secretly spy on American students and report back to Israeli intelligence. And then there is Canary Mission, a massive blacklisting and doxxing operation directed from Israel that targets students and professors critical of Israeli policies, and then launches slanderous charges against them—charges designed to embarrass and humiliate them and damage their future employability. All secretly fundedby wealthy Jewish Americans and Jewish American foundations.

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Following the October 7 Hamas attack and the launch of Israel’s war in Gaza, members of Harvard’s Palestine Solidarity Committee (HPSC) sponsored a letter addressing the conflict. “Today’s events did not occur in a vacuum,” it said. “For the last two decades, millions of Palestinians in Gaza have been forced to live in an open-air prison. Israeli officials promise to ‘open the gates of hell,’ and the massacres in Gaza have already commenced.” The letter was cosigned by 33 other student organizations and published in The Harvard Crimson, the campus newspaper. Almost immediately, Canary Mission created online profiles for members of the Crimson’s editorial board (though a few likely already had one from when the Crimson endorsed divestment), along with profiles of the leaders of the HPSC and other campus clubs that cosigned the letter. The goal of the blacklist was to dox those named, encourage their harassment, and limit their future employment prospects.

“The Mission didn’t stop at creating profiles for student leaders,” notes Owen Ray in the Massachusetts Daily Collegian.

They doxxed anybody even remotely involved in the publication of the letter. One listed student was a member of the Pakistani Students Association, a club which had co-signed the PSC statement. They were indirectly involved at best, but their membership with a cultural club was enough for the Mission to brand them as hateful antisemites.

Another student was a member of the South Asian Law Students Association (SALSA), which also co-signed the controversial letter. They were placed on the website for no reason besides their SALSA membership.

And once on the blacklist, it is nearly impossible to get off. “They’re publishing personal information and holding it over people’s heads,” writes Ray. “It’s political extortion, it’s dystopian and it discourages political discourse.”

Not content with online slander and blacklisting, Canary Mission agents have also been involved in physical intimidation. At George Washington University in 2018, on the eve of a vote on a student-government resolution calling on the university to divest from companies profiting from Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, two powerful men in yellow canary outfits suddenly turned up in the lobby of the building in which the vote was to take place. They then engaged in a strange and frightening dance. Their purpose was to dramatically reinforce Canary Mission flyers that had been posted around campus advising students to vote against the resolution and attacking the student activists. “THERE ARE NO SECRETS. WE WILL KNOW YOUR VOTE AND WILL ACT ACCORDINGLY,” said one threatening Canary Mission message. Abby Brook, a Jewish student at the school who was active in pro-Palestinian groups on campus, found the event “pretty unbelievably terrifying.… These two fully grown, muscular men in these bird costumes, strutting.” On the walk home that night, she said, she was careful to watch her back. In‑your-face intimidation of students is the objective.

Like its campus spy operation, Israel on Campus Coalition, Canary Mission acts as a key intelligence asset for the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, a highly secretive intelligence organization that is largely focused on the United States, and the Shin Bet security service. Not only is it intended to silence anti-Israel dissent; its list of names is also used to prevent those individuals from entering Israel and attempting to visit family, including both Jews and Palestinians, and professors as well as students. Among them was Lara Alqasem, a 22-year-old Palestinian American student who was planning to study in a master’s program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Although she had a valid visa, she was dragged in for interrogation shortly after landing at Tel Aviv’s airport.

     

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During the process, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs sent over a document marked “Sensitive.” It contained a profile from Canary Mission that listed her crime: She had served as a local chapter president of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Florida. Even worse, her chapter had called for a boycott of some Israeli hummus. Afterward, she was placed in detention for weeks pending deportation procedures. But following a protest letter signed by over 300 professors and other academics from the US and around the world “who reject all forms of racial profiling,” an Israeli court granted her appeal to enter the country.

Another victim was Columbia University Law School professor Katherine Franke, who at one time sat on the academic advisory council steering committee for Jewish Voice for Peace. Upon her landing in Tel Aviv, an official at the airport showed her what appeared to be her Canary Mission profile. After being kept in detention for 14 hours, she was deported and informed that she would be permanently banned from the country.

Like all of Israel’s espionage and covert operations in the United States, Canary Mission’s links to Israeli intelligence—and the Mission’s American financiers—are well hidden. But as a result of a slipup on a tax form a few years ago, those links began to be revealed. And in the process was exposed the role played by one of the wealthiest families in California, headed by publicity-shy billionaire Sanford Diller, a major Trump backer who had donated $6 million to a pro-Trump political committee. Diller was also a pro-Israel extremist, supporting a long list of right-wing Islamophobic organizations. They included the American Freedom Law Center, founded by a man who even the Anti-Defamation League said has a “record of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black bigotry,” and Stop Islamization of America, which “has sought to rouse public fears about a vast Islamic conspiracy to destroy American values,” according to the ADL.

For donations to a variety of causes, the Diller family maintains the Helen Diller Family Foundation. But in order to get a tax break, they turn the funds over to a much larger trust, the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, which then channels the Diller family donations. According to The Forward (formerly The Jewish Daily Forward), in 2016 the Diller Foundation donated $100,000 through the Jewish Community Federation to an obscure Israeli nonprofit called Megamot Shalom. Untraceable, off the grid, unheard of, Megamot Shalom was actually the front for Canary Mission.

Confident that their dark donations would never be revealed, other donors around the country poured cash into Megamot Shalom via similar charities, among them the Jewish Community Foundation (JCF) of Los Angeles. There, a contributor, whose name remains legally hidden by the foundation’s rules, donated another quarter of a milliondollars to Canary Mission’s front. The JCF of Los Angeles manages assets of more than $1.3 billion and, like San Francisco’s Jewish Federation, has distributed millions to right-wing pro-occupation groups. Yet at the same time, it turns down donations to human rights groups opposed to the occupation, as foundation board member Lisa Greer discovered. When she attempted to donate $5,000 to IfNotNow, a Jewish group against the occupation, the foundation rejected her contribution. “I’d never heard of this happening before,” she said. “I was beyond shocked. I really did start shaking.”

There was a key reason for so much secrecy. Those Americans who were financially supporting Canary Mission were potentially committing a serious crime, acting as agents of a foreign power. They were financing a clandestine foreign organization with ties to Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, an Israeli intelligence agency—which was using Canary Mission to identify, detain and deport Americans entering the country, like Lara Alqasem and Professor Katherine Franke.

Not content to secretly fund Canary Mission to carry out its spying and intimidation on American college campuses, many of the wealthy donors also wanted generous federal tax breaks for their donations. The problem was that tax breaks are not allowed for donations to foreign charities, just those in the United States, and Megamot Shalom’s being in Israel would rule out the deduction. To solve the problem, years ago a family living in Israel’s illegal settlements came to the United States and set up shop in New York City as a nonprofit “charity,” calling itself the Central Fund of Israel. Therefore, the Diller family, through San Francisco’s Jewish Community Federation, actually “donated” their money to the Central Fund in New York, and in return received a substantial tax rebate. And then the Central Fund simply transferred the money to Megamot Shalom’s bank account in Israel. Under the scheme, billionaires and their foundations got richer while American taxpayers subsidized the blacklisting and terrorizing of their own children in college.

In addition to Canary Mission, the Central Fund also directs millions of donations to a wide range of racist and extremist settler groups. Among them is Lehava, a far-right Jewish supremacist group based in Israel that has staged marches chanting “Death to Arabs.” Last year, a group of 19 rabbis signed a letter to one of the Central Fund’s key supporters, the New York–based Jewish Communal Fund, with assets of more than $2.4 billion, protesting the donations. “Incitement and violence are not legitimate political positions,” they wrote, and requested a meeting. But officials from the Jewish Communal Fund simply rebuffed the rabbis and declined to meet with them.

Nearly invisible, the Central Fund for Israel was hidden in the back room of a fabric company in midtown Manhattan. It has since moved into a back room of J. Mark Interiors on Central Avenue in Cedarhurst, Long Island. The family business is run by Jay Marcus, a gray-haired settler with a kippah on his head and a second home in Efrat, an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank. From the textile company, the Diller family’s $100,000 was wired to the Israeli bank account of Canary Mission’s front organization, Megamot Shalom. Unsurprisingly, the actual physical address for Megamot Shalom appeared to be a run-down abandoned building in Beit Shemesh, a city west of Jerusalem. Near a few broken chairs and a scattering of pigeon droppings—or perhaps those of a canary—was a heavily scuffed powder-blue door from which hung a rusty padlock.

Hidden deep in the shadows, the man behind both Megamot Shalom and Canary Mission was a smiling, pleasant-looking, middle-aged rabbi with receding dark brown hair beneath a black felt fedora, Jonathan Jack Ian Bash. Although he has denied involvement, Bash signed the 2016 financial reports for Megamot Shalom, and two people separately confirmed to The Forward that he was in charge of Canary Mission. Megamot Shalom is what is known in Israel as a “public benefit corporation,” and documents seem to clearly describe its work: to “ensure the national image and strength of the state of Israel via the use of information disseminated by technological means.”

While Bash has long run Canary Mission’s operations, the man with the money pulling the strings appears to be multimillionaire Adam Milstein, a convicted felon and close associate of the late multibillionaire Israel supporter Sheldon Adelson. In 2016, during an investigation by Al Jazeera television, Tony Kleinfeld, an undercover investigator, discussed Milstein with his then “boss,” Eric Gallagher, fundraising director for the Israel Project, a Washington-based pro-Israel media organization. At the time, Gallagher believed that Kleinfeld was a like-minded pro-Israel advocate. Asked about Canary Mission on Kleinfeld’s hidden camera, Gallagher said, “It’s him, it’s him,” to which Kleinfeld asked, “Adam Milstein?” Gallagher replied, “Yeah, I don’t know who he hired to oversee it. Adam Milstein’s the guy who funds it.” Milstein has denied funding the organization, and Gallagher reportedly told Milstein that Al Jazeera had selectively edited his quote to make it appear that he was saying Milstein backed the operation.

But it should not be up to a foreign television program to investigate secret Israeli intelligence and covert operations in the US, along with their clandestine American funders. That is what the FBI is paid to do. And rather than drag university presidents up to Capitol Hill for a replay of the Red Scare/HUAC hearings, it’s time for the White House and Congress to at last rip the cover off Israel’s vast network of spies, collaborators, and funders in this country. Even if it means giving up millions in donations and political support from AIPAC—the key reason Israel remains immune from any investigation.


James Bamford

James Bamford is a best-selling author, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and winner of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. His most recent book is Spyfail: Foreign Spies, Moles, Saboteurs, and the Collapse of America’s Counterintelligence, from which much of the material in this article has been adapted.

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Meet Aida Touma-Sliman, Palestinian Knesset Member

Suspended for Criticizing War on Gaza

  DECEMBER 28, 2023

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GUESTS
  • Aida Touma-Sliman
    Palestinian member of the Knesset suspended last month for criticizing the Israeli military assault on Gaza.

As Israel threatens to continue its assault on Gaza for “many months,” we look at growing Israeli civil opposition to the war. This week, 18-year-old Israeli Tal Mitnick became the first conscientious objector since October 7. We speak with Aida Touma-Sliman, an Palestinian Arab member of the left-wing party Hadash who was suspended from the Knesset last month for criticizing Israel’s assault. She was punished for a social media post she made condemning Israel’s attack on al-Shifa Hospital, and decries the “extreme right-wing government” and its suppression of critical voices in Israel.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: As Israel is threatening to continue its assault on Gaza for “many months,” we begin today’s show looking at resistance to the war inside Israel. On Tuesday, an 18-year-old Israeli teenager named Tal Mitnick was sentenced to 30 days in prison after he refused to enlist in the Israeli army. He spoke out against Israel’s assault on Gaza before his sentencing on Tuesday.

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TAL MITNICK: [translated] I am standing today in Tel HaShomer base, and I am refusing to enlist. I believe that slaughter cannot solve slaughter. The criminal attack on Gaza won’t solve the atrocious slaughter that Hamas executed. Violence won’t solve violence. And that is why I refuse.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Last week, Tal Mitnick spoke to Novara Media about why he decided to become a conscientious objector.

TAL MITNICK: What led me was the realization that it’s not just a couple soldiers that are bad soldiers or that enact a violent occupation on Palestinians, but it’s actually a whole system, system of violence, of pulling people into the army and making them work for the occupation and for oppressing Palestinians. …

A lot of my friends are serving and right now are in military service. And when I tell them my opinions, because I am their friend, they see the humanity in my positions, and they see that my only — I only want further to be good in this place. I want security, and I want peace for everyone. And when people get to know me, when people hear this opinion, they — this opinion is very humanistic and very normal.

So this is what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to make more teens, make more young people hear this position that there is an alternative to the massacre that is happening right now in Gaza and to the massacre that Hamas committed on October 7th. There is an alternative in peace, of peace and nonviolence.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Tal Mitnick speaking to Ash Sarkar, the British journalist. He has now been sentenced to 30 days in prison for refusing to enlist. Israel is facing growing criticism for stifling antiwar voices.

We’re joined by Aida Touma-Sliman. She’s a Palestinian member of the Knesset from the progressive Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, known as the Hadash party. She was suspended from the Knesset last month for criticizing the Israeli military assault on Gaza. She is joining us now from Akko in northern Israel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Aida Touma-Sliman. If you can start off by talking about the significance of Tal’s resistance, but then go on to talk about the situation in Gaza today and why you were suspended? I mean, you’re an elected leader of the Knesset. Who gets to suspend you?

AIDA TOUMASLIMAN: Well, hi. Thank you for hosting me.

Actually, those who suspended me are the same people who are putting Tal now in prison because he has refused to enlist himself to the army. Those are those who are ruling Israel, this government, very extreme right-wing government, who is refusing to hear any voice, antiwar voice, anybody who is opposing this bloody war. There are massive pressure used by the government in order to silence the voices who refuse to believe that military actions and wars and killing innocent people might get us anywhere or can be a way to solve the problem.

I think it has been already a month since I was suspended by the so-called ethics committee, parliamentarian ethics committee, who punished me for quoting testimonies from physicians from al-Shifa Hospital, which were published in the international media. And for that, I’ve been punished and not allowed to speak out in the Knesset or to participate in the committees for two months — one has passed already.

Of course, this is not democratic. But when you see that the same government, the same Knesset is supporting a war that is killing more than 21,000 people, 70% of them children and women in Gaza, you understand that it’s ridiculous to speak about democracy in such situation, because launching such a war was as if a reaction to Hamas’s attack on the 7th of October, which also we don’t — I don’t see it as in any way legitimized to kidnap civilians, including children, but it, of course, do not legitimize also this crazy war that has been going on in the last more than two months. It’s already 80 — more than 80 days.

So, you can understand that when Tal refused to enlist himself, he is a unique voice in the Israeli society, for a young man to stand up against all the mainstream — and not only mainstream, but kind of consensus. Today the situation in Israel is almost 90% of the society is in consensus of supporting the war. To stand up and to say that he will not take part in this war, he is not willing to be part of this military forces that are attacking, bombing in Gaza, it’s a very brave position to take. It is not easy. I’m sure he will not be embraced or tolerated inside the military prison. But we have to also remember that he is the first one to do it during this war. We hopefully think that there are — might be some young women and men who are finding other ways to avoid enlisting themselves, but at least they are not going publicly about it or turning it to a political issue. But he’s still a unique voice and not the majority voice, for my regret.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, MK Aida, if you could also talk about — you’ve mentioned the fact that, you know, 90% of Israeli society is supporting the war, but there is a minority that is opposed to it. And you’ve mentioned that this number, the number that is critical of the war, has increased in recent weeks. If you could explain where that resistance is most prominent and what you think has led to an increase in this opposition?

AIDA TOUMASLIMAN: Well, from day one, we understood that the forces that — democratic forces, the antiwar, anti-occupation forces that existed before the 7th of October will — with no regard to the shock that happened on the 7th of October, will still continue to believe in peace, will still continue to believe that occupation should be ended and the war should be ended. In the beginning, there were, as I mentioned to you also, a lot of anger and fear of people that avoided having clear activities against this war. Most of the activities were to put pressure to release the kidnapped Israelis in Hamas — at Hamas in Gaza.

But more and more people started to understand that, first of all, even this war, if they thought the war — the Israeli government had persuaded them in the beginning that this war is needed also to release the kidnapped Israelis. Today they understand, especially with the testimonies of the released hostages telling how dangerous it was to stay under the shelling and the bombardment of Israel. So, they understand that this war, first of all, is risking the security of the hostages who are still — 109 people are still in Gaza. And second, they started to understand that what really released part of the hostages was the negotiation and the contacts and the diplomatic path, and not the military path. So, more and more people are understanding that this war is not bringing them anywhere. Of course, 20% of the population in Israel, which is the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel, are against this war. But we need more from the Jewish side also to be against the war.

Lately, we managed to put together a big demonstration in Tel Aviv, which was the first demonstration against the war that was challenging the silencing policy that was led against especially the Palestinian citizens of Israel. You know, we were under a crackdown on — not only on the citizens, the Arab citizens, but also the leadership. If me silenced in the Knesset, there were also former MKs and the head of the High Follow-Up Committee who were arrested just because they were on their way to have a small protest against the war. Many students were dismissed from school, from university. And people were dismissed from their jobs, only because they published something that expressed sympathy to what’s happening to the people in Gaza, to our people in Gaza.

But today, for example, we challenged this silencing policy again, and we had a protest in Nazareth. Despite the warnings of the police and the fact that they wanted to avoid this protest, we insisted, and we had this protest. Tomorrow we will have a big meeting of different groups and organizations, anti-occupation, antiwar. And we are going to establish a big coalition against this war. We are not intending to bend for this silencing policy and terrorizing people who are against the war. We understand very clearly that crimes are committed and civilians are killed and that the amount of destruction is huge. And if the international community choose to be silent, that’s their problem. We are not going to be silent, and we want to stand up against this war.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, MK Aida, there are places where you still see in Israel criticism of the war, including Haaretz and +972 Magazine, journalists who have also appeared from there on our show. In addition, of course, to the concern about the hostages in Israel, now over 150 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza. If you could talk about the impact of that, as people in Israel see the costs to Israeli lives as this war goes on? Is there a sense within Israel of what it is that is being fought for?

AIDA TOUMASLIMAN: Yeah. Well, as I mentioned before, gradually more and more people are understanding that the war is not going to bring any security or any peace for both sides, including and mainly the Israeli side. More and more people understand that they cannot continue forever with this war, because there are implications of that war not only in the meaning of losing lives. There are also injured soldiers. More than 5,000 soldiers have been injured. Some of them will stay handicapped for all of their lives. Families are seeing how their sons, the soldiers, are coming back from war traumatized and need psychological treatment. There are implications on the economy. We are going to face — there’s a raise — just yesterday, there was the poverty report that shows there is a raise in the percentages of people who are dropping down of the poverty line. And we are expecting a very difficult economic year to come because of this war. And people are starting to ask the hard questions: why we need to continue this war if we are going to pay such a high price and still not reach any security?

You have to understand also that people in the north of Israel, near my house, and in the south of Israel are not living in their homes because of this war. Still, we are not saying that this is the most difficult situation. Of course the war is horrific in what’s happening in Gaza. But to make the Israeli society stand up against the war only because of the suffering of the Palestinians, as much as it is moral, I’m afraid it’s not enough to make the people in Israel, especially after the 7th October — it’s not going to make them stand up against the war. But what is happening in the Israeli society, the fact that more than 150 soldiers have been killed, the fact that the families are receiving their sons, their soldiers injured and handicapped, it might be more — sorry — sufficient in convincing the people to go out against the war.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask specifically about the power of the voices of the hostages or their loved ones who are speaking out for them. This is Sharon Kalderon speaking last week, sister-in-law of Ofer Kalderon, who’s being held hostage in Gaza.

SHARON KALDERON: We just want them to sit, all the cabinet, will sit and will find a way to negotiate and to bring our people home. We want them home, but no one is doing nothing right now except fighting. And fighting is not the answer right now. We want our people here, back home with us. And if we fight, we cannot bring them alive. And we don’t want to get bags. We want to get them alive. So this is why we’re here, every day, until we hear from the government that they are sitting, talking.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, this is a powerful voice, the families of the hostages. You have, on Monday, them screaming, shouting in the Knesset as Netanyahu was addressing the Israeli parliament, ”Achshav! Achshav!” — “Now! Now!” — demanding that the hostages be released. Already it’s clear that a number of them, not just the three men who were killed by Israeli soldiers, the young hostages, but a number of others were killed in the Israeli bombing in Gaza. The significance of this voice, and if it’s being amplified by others? Did you expect the hostages to play this kind of role — the hostage families?

AIDA TOUMASLIMAN: Well, of course. I mean, no one can imagine the suffering of people who don’t know what is happening with their family members. If I was in their place, I will also be not quiet, and I will do whatever I can in order to change and to bring them back. So, yes, I think it is expected, although they are showing very high, really, effect — they are very effective in how they organize themselves and how they are very vocal and speaking out and demanding to bring their families.

This is also happening, I think, as a counter to the fact that this government, the Israeli government, is not giving this issue much attention, if you compare it to the other targets or goals that Netanyahu put for this war. And that’s why they’ve felt neglected. That’s why they’ve felt that they don’t have enough backup from the government, and they needed to organize themselves and to be so vocal about the issue.

AMY GOODMAN: Aida Touma-Sliman, we only have less than a minute, but you are a Palestinian journalist, as well as an MK, a member of the parliament. I wanted to get your response to — it’s believed over a hundred journalists and media workers have been killed in Gaza. The headlines today, TV journalist Mohammad Khair al-Din and Ahmed Khair al-Din, the journalist and cameraman, also died in a bombing in Gaza. Your response to the demand, for example, by Al Jazeera for the International Criminal Court to take on the issue of the targeting of journalists?

AIDA TOUMASLIMAN: Well, there are 105 journalists who has been killed since the beginning of this war. If you remember, it started also by other journalists before who were killed, including Shireen Abu Akleh, who was targeted and killed, from Al Jazeera. We have the feeling that the journalists are targeted in order to silence the voices who are coming out from Gaza and exposing the reality of what is happening.

AMY GOODMAN: Because Western journalists are not allowed in by Israel.

AIDA TOUMASLIMAN: Of course, I think that there should be an investigation. Of course, there should be an investigation, and it should be a clear out that there is no possibility to continue to be quiet about this targeting.

AMY GOODMAN: Aida Touma-Sliman, we want to thank you so much for being with us, a member —

AIDA TOUMASLIMAN: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: — of the Israeli Knesset, a MK — that’s a member of the Knesset — Palestinian member, suspended last month for criticizing the Israeli military assault on Gaza, joining us from Akko in northern Israel.


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Simone Zimmerman and Israelism with Mehdi Hasan

Rent Israelism through Jan 1, 2024: https://bit.ly/rentisraelism

About the film
When two young American Jews raised to unconditionally love Israel witness the brutal way Israel treats Palestinians, their lives take sharp left turns. They join a movement of young American Jews battling the old guard to redefine Judaism’s relationship with Israel, revealing a deepening generational divide over modern Jewish identity.

Critics say bill targeting anti-Zionism is new McCarthyism

HR 6578 would build a commission with subpoena authority to force Americans to testify and produce evidence to “investigate the facts and causes of antisemitism in the present day”

Lisa Kwon, Prism, December 12th, 2023

color photograph of an outdoor protest in an urban center. in the middle of the frame, someone waves a large palestinian flag
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES – DECEMBER 11: People gather in front of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations (USUN) building across the street from United Nations Headquarters to protest U.S. veto of U.N. Security Council resolution requesting urgent humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza on Dec. 11, 2023, in New York. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu via Getty Images)

A new bipartisan bill introduced Dec. 4 aims to target critics of Israel. Civil rights groups and organizers worry that House Resolution 6578, also known as Commission to Study Acts of Antisemitism in the United States Act, would usher in a new era of McCarthyism during a pivotal time of resistance and legitimate criticism of the apartheid state of Israel and its violent occupation of Palestinian territories. 

“This should have every American worried that we are going down a road where people are going to be targeted simply for what they believe in,” said Abed Ayoub, the national executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). “We haven’t seen anything like this in the U.S. in our generation. It’s going to have some serious ramifications on this country.” 

HR 6578, which was introduced by Iowa Rep. Mariannette Jane Miller-Meeks, cites the “Hamas deadly invasion of the nation of Israel” on Oct. 7 and a subsequent purported rise of antisemitic activity as substantial reason to build a commission with broad subpoena authority to force Americans to testify and produce “evidence” related to the committee’s mission to “investigate the facts and causes of antisemitism in the present day.” Additionally, any American called to testify or produce evidence cannot decline to do so based on the Fifth Amendment, legally requiring them to self-incriminate before the committee. However, the bill appears to protect people from criminal prosecution on the basis of any self-incriminating testimony if a witness does indeed invoke the Fifth Amendment.

Two of the most vocal supporters of the Commission to Study Acts of Antisemitism in the United States Act are the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). 

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“The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) takes the threat of antisemitism very seriously, and groups like the ADL have watered down this term to apply it to critics of Israel,” said Robert McCaw, the government affairs department director of CAIR. “When we look at this bill that would create a commission with subpoena power to investigate claims of antisemitism, it is alarming to think that the ADL itself could get subpoena power to investigate critics of Israel whom they wrongly claim are antisemitic.” 

The ADL is often cited by political groups as a perpetrator of coordinated attacks on Muslims, Arabs, immigrants, and communities of color. In 1993, the organization was investigated for funding and orchestrating a surveillance operation to collect information on a wide range of individuals and organizations deemed anti-Jewish or hostile to Israel. One of their targets was ADC, which was already in a vulnerable period of rebuilding after three of their offices were bombed or set on fire, killing West Coast Director Alexander Michel Odeh and injuring other staff members. 

With firsthand insight into the illegal and violating ways that ADL stifles social justice movements, Ayoub fears the future of unchecked powers with a bill like the Commission to Study Acts of Antisemitism in the United States Act. 

“If you now have a committee to review antisemitism, and they take action or hold people accountable like taking away your right to remain silent, it’s trying to chip away at the Constitution,” Ayoub said. “They’re beginning with Arabs and Palestinians because we’re the lowest-hanging fruit—no one will defend us, historically—but this is a buildup to strip away the rights of every American.”

The introduction of HR 6578 comes at a critical time as youth-led movements around the liberation of Palestine gain momentum. The recent increase in American student groups rallying and protesting for divestment from deals with Israel has consequently made them recent targets by supporters of the bill, such as ADL.

In a statement to Prism, Maryam Iqbal of the Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine writes, “The ADL has historically spied on anti-apartheid South African activists, is the single largest non-governmental police trainer in the country, demonizes nonviolent tactics by Palestinian activists such as BDS, supports antisemites such as Donald Trump and other right-wing influencers, has advocated for surveillance of Muslim communities in America, validated groups orchestrating online smear campaigns like Canary Mission, attacked the Black Lives Matter movement for support of Palestine, and erases anti-Zionist Jewish groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace.”

The crystalline understanding of ADL’s history among student-led groups has also led to a greater resolve to continue protesting and calling for immediate and total divestment even amid recent university-sanctioned suspensions of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace. 

Similarly, the Palestinian Youth Movement has felt further moved to continue organizing through the increased law enforcement, censorship, and targeting of their communities because of the growing changing public opinion on the Palestinian people’s struggle. 

“Although this moment has clarified that elected officials do not stand for the interests of the people, it has also proven that popular support from the masses are with Palestine,” said Selena, an organizing member of the Los Angeles chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement who asked to withhold her last name due to safety concerns. “If this bill were to be conceived, we will continue to organize through increased law enforcement, surveillance, censorship, and the targeting of our communities, we will continue to develop and disseminate education on the realities of the Zionist occupation and the realities of our liberatory struggle, and we will continue to take to the streets and take action until all of our demands are met because we know that power lies in the streets and not in government offices.”

Much of the fight against HR 6578 is to push back against the pro-Zionist objective of suppression after the events of early October led to a complete siege of Gaza. Since the State of Israel began its genocide of Gazans, violence against Palestinians has increased in the U.S. In October, a white man stabbed a 6-year-old Palestinian boy named Wadea al-Fayoume to death in his home in Chicago and also stabbed and wounded al-Fayoume’s mother. In November, three Palestinian college students were shot by a white man on their way to a Thanksgiving dinner in Burlington, Vermont. As of Dec. 7, CAIR has received a “staggering” 2,171 complaintsof anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian bias over the past two months. The total requests for help and reports of bias represented a 172% increase over a similar two-month period the previous year, legitimizing a need for vocal solidarity with the Muslim and Palestinian populations.

“Far too many people and institutions have spent the past two months weaponizing Islamophobia and anti-Arab bias to both justify the ongoing violence against Palestinians in Gaza and silence supporters of Palestinian human rights here in America,” writes CAIR Research and Advocacy Director Corey Saylor in CAIR’s official press release of the report. 

In addition to the Commission to Study Acts of Antisemitism in the United States Act, on Dec. 5 the House of Representatives passed a resolution to condemn the rise in antisemitism in the U.S. and around the world. With a 311-14 vote, the resolution affirms that the House “clearly and firmly states that anti-Zionism is antisemitism.” 

The recent fervor for government authority on the definition and ramifications of antisemitic activity, backed by the likes of ADL and AIPAC, has galvanized groups like ADC and CAIR to continue fighting the coordinated misunderstanding that equates antisemitism with anti-Zionism. 

“There are people out there willing to sabotage and lie and create falsehoods, misinformation, and misunderstandings in the public simply to fulfill their political objectives even though they know they are wrong,” Ayoub said. “We see that happening here with the constant need to change the definition of antisemitism and move the goalpost to fulfill their political objectives … This is dangerous.”


Related

In the Shadow of the Holocaust, Masha Gessen, The New Yorker, December 9, 2023
How two definitions of antisemitsm differ

In the Shadow of the Holocaust

How the politics of memory in Europe obscures what we see in Israel and Gaza today

 
How two definitions of antisemitsm differ

“In 1948, Hannah Arendt wrote an open letter that began, ‘Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the ‘Freedom Party’ (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy, and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.’… Just three years after the Holocaust, Arendt was comparing a Jewish Israeli party to the Nazi Party, an act that today would be a clear violation of the I.H.R.A.’s definition of antisemitism.”

“For the last seventeen years, Gaza has been a hyperdensely populated, impoverished, walled-in compound where only a small fraction of the population had the right to leave for even a short amount of time—in other words, a ghetto. Not like the Jewish ghetto in Venice or an inner-city ghetto in America but like a Jewish ghetto in an Eastern European country occupied by Nazi Germany. In the two months since Hamas attacked Israel, all Gazans have suffered from the barely interrupted onslaught of Israeli forces. Thousands have died. On average, a child is killed in Gaza every ten minutes. Israeli bombs have struck hospitals, maternity wards, and ambulances. Eight out of ten Gazans are now homeless, moving from one place to another, never able to get to safety.”

The Heinrich Böll Foundation has withdrawn its sponsorship of the Hannah Arendt Prize to the author for this essay.

A blackandwhite photo of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin Germany.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin, photographed in 2013. Photograph by Paolo Pellegrin / Magnum

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Berlin never stops reminding you of what happened there. Several museums examine totalitarianism and the Holocaust; the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe takes up an entire city block. In a sense, though, these larger structures are the least of it. The memorials that sneak up on you—the monument to burned books, which is literally underground, and the thousands of Stolpersteine, or “stumbling stones,” built into sidewalks to commemorate individual Jews, Sinti, Roma, homosexuals, mentally ill people, and others murdered by the Nazis—reveal the pervasiveness of the evils once committed in this place. In early November, when I was walking to a friend’s house in the city, I happened upon the information stand that marks the site of Hitler’s bunker. I had done so many times before. It looks like a neighborhood bulletin board, but it tells the story of the Führer’s final days.

In the late nineteen-nineties and early two-thousands, when many of these memorials were conceived and installed, I visited Berlin often. It was exhilarating to watch memory culture take shape. Here was a country, or at least a city, that was doing what most cultures cannot: looking at its own crimes, its own worst self. But, at some point, the effort began to feel static, glassed in, as though it were an effort not only to remember history but also to insure that only this particular history is remembered—and only in this way. This is true in the physical, visual sense. Many of the memorials use glass: the Reichstag, a building nearly destroyed during the Nazi era and rebuilt half a century later, is now topped by a glass dome; the burned-books memorial lives under glass; glass partitions and glass panes put order to the stunning, once haphazard collection called “Topography of Terror.” As Candice Breitz, a South African Jewish artist who lives in Berlin, told me, “The good intentions that came into play in the nineteen-eighties have, too often, solidified into dogma.”

Among the few spaces where memory representation is not set in apparent permanence are a couple of the galleries in the new building of the Jewish Museum, which was completed in 1999. When I visited in early November, a gallery on the ground floor was showing a video installation called “Rehearsing the Spectacle of Spectres.” The video was set in Kibbutz Be’eri, the community where, on October 7th, Hamas killed more than ninety people—almost one in ten residents—during its attack on Israel, which ultimately claimed more than twelve hundred lives. In the video, Be’eri residents take turns reciting the lines of a poem by one of the community’s members, the poet Anadad Eldan: “. . . from the swamp between the ribs / she surfaced who had submerged in you / and you are constrained not shouting / hunting for the forms that scamper outside.” The video, by the Berlin-based Israeli artists Nir Evron and Omer Krieger, was completed nine years ago. It begins with an aerial view of the area, the Gaza Strip visible, then slowly zooms in on the houses of the kibbutz, some of which looked like bunkers. I am not sure what the artists and the poet had initially meant to convey; now the installation looked like a work of mourning for Be’eri. (Eldan, who is nearly a hundred years old, survived the Hamas attack.)

Down the hallway was one of the spaces that the architect Daniel Libeskind, who designed the museum, called “voids”—shafts of air that pierce the building, symbolizing the absence of Jews in Germany through generations. There, an installation by the Israeli artist Menashe Kadishman, titled “Fallen Leaves,” consists of more than ten thousand rounds of iron with eyes and mouths cut into them, like casts of children’s drawings of screaming faces. When you walk on the faces, they clank, like shackles, or like the bolt handle of a rifle. Kadishman dedicated the work to victims of the Holocaust and other innocent victims of war and violence. I don’t know what Kadishman, who died in 2015, would have said about the current conflict. But, after I walked from the haunting video of Kibbutz Be’eri to the clanking iron faces, I thought of the thousands of residents of Gaza killed in retaliation for the lives of Jews killed by Hamas. Then I thought that, if I were to state this publicly in Germany, I might get in trouble.

View of the Fallen Leaves exhibition room at the Jewish Museum in Berlin. A number of metal face cutouts lie on the ground.
Metal faces fill the floor of the “Fallen Leaves” exhibition room at the Jewish Museum, in Berlin.Photograph from Shutterstock

On November 9th, to mark the eighty-fifth anniversary of Kristallnacht, a Star of David and the phrase “Nie Wieder Ist Jetzt!”—“Never Again Is Now!”—was projected in white and blue on Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. That day, the Bundestag was considering a proposal titled “Fulfilling Historical Responsibility: Protecting Jewish Life in Germany,” which contained more than fifty measures intended to combat antisemitism in Germany, including deporting immigrants who commit antisemitic crimes; stepping up activities directed against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (B.D.S.) movement; supporting Jewish artists “whose work is critical of antisemitism”; implementing a particular definition of antisemitism in funding and policing decisions; and beefing up coöperation between the German and the Israeli armed forces. In earlier remarks, the German Vice-Chancellor, Robert Habeck, who is a member of the Green Party, said that Muslims in Germany should “clearly distance themselves from antisemitism so as not to undermine their own right to tolerance.”

Germany has long regulated the ways in which the Holocaust is remembered and discussed. In 2008, when then Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke before the Knesset, on the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, she emphasized Germany’s special responsibility not only for preserving the memory of the Holocaust as a unique historical atrocity but also for the security of Israel. This, she went on, was part of Germany’s Staatsräson—the reason for the existence of the state. The sentiment has since been repeated in Germany seemingly every time the topic of Israel, Jews, or antisemitism arises, including in Habeck’s remarks. “The phrase ‘Israel’s security is part of Germany’s Staatsräson’ has never been an empty phrase,” he said. “And it must not become one.”

At the same time, an obscure yet strangely consequential debate on what constitutes antisemitism has taken place. In 2016, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (I.H.R.A.), an intergovernmental organization, adopted the following definition: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” This definition was accompanied by eleven examples, which began with the obvious—calling for or justifying the killing of Jews—but also included “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” and “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

This definition had no legal force, but it has had extraordinary influence. Twenty-five E.U. member states and the U.S. State Department have endorsed or adopted the I.H.R.A. definition. In 2019, President Donald Trump signed an executive order providing for the withholding of federal funds from colleges where students are not protected from antisemitism as defined by the I.H.R.A. On December 5th of this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a nonbinding resolution condemning antisemitism as defined by the I.H.R.A.; it was proposed by two Jewish Republican representatives and opposed by several prominent Jewish Democrats, including New York’s Jerry Nadler.

In 2020, a group of academics proposed an alternative definition of antisemitism, which they called the Jerusalem Declaration. It defines antisemitism as “discrimination, prejudice, hostility or violence against Jews as Jews (or Jewish institutions as Jewish)” and provides examples that help distinguish anti-Israel statements and actions from antisemitic ones. But although some of the preëminent scholars of the Holocaust participated in drafting the declaration, it has barely made a dent in the growing influence of the I.H.R.A. definition. In 2021, the European Commission published a handbook “for the practical use” of the I.H.R.A. definition, which recommended, among other things, using the definition in training law-enforcement officers to recognize hate crimes, and creating the position of state attorney, or coördinator or commissioner for antisemitism.

Germany had already implemented this particular recommendation. In 2018, the country created the Office of the Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight Against Antisemitism, a vast bureaucracy that includes commissioners at the state and local level, some of whom work out of prosecutors’ offices or police precincts. Since then, Germany has reported an almost uninterrupted rise in the number of antisemitic incidents: more than two thousand in 2019, more than three thousand in 2021, and, according to one monitoring group, a shocking nine hundred and ninety-four incidents in the month following the Hamas attack. But the statistics mix what Germans call Israelbezogener Antisemitismus—Israel-related antisemitism, such as instances of criticism of Israeli government policies—with violent attacks, such as an attempted shooting at a synagogue, in Halle, in 2019, which killed two bystanders; shots fired at a former rabbi’s house, in Essen, in 2022; and two Molotov cocktails thrown at a Berlin synagogue this fall. The number of incidents involving violence has, in fact, remained relatively steady, and has not increased following the Hamas attack.

There are now dozens of antisemitism commissioners throughout Germany. They have no single job description or legal framework for their work, but much of it appears to consist of publicly shaming those they see as antisemitic, often for “de-singularizing the Holocaust” or for criticizing Israel. Hardly any of these commissioners are Jewish. Indeed, the proportion of Jews among their targets is certainly higher. These have included the German-Israeli sociologist Moshe Zuckermann, who was targeted for supporting the B.D.S. movement, as was the South African Jewish photographer Adam Broomberg.

In 2019, the Bundestag passed a resolution condemning B.D.S. as antisemitic and recommending that state funding be withheld from events and institutions connected to B.D.S. The history of the resolution is telling. A version was originally introduced by the AfD, the radical-right ethnonationalist and Euroskeptic party then relatively new to the German parliament. Mainstream politicians rejected the resolution because it came from the AfD, but, apparently fearful of being seen as failing to fight antisemitism, immediately introduced a similar one of their own. The resolution was unbeatable because it linked B.D.S. to “the most terrible phase of German history.” For the AfD, whose leaders have made openly antisemitic statements and endorsed the revival of Nazi-era nationalist language, the spectre of antisemitism is a perfect, cynically wielded political instrument, both a ticket to the political mainstream and a weapon that can be used against Muslim immigrants.

The B.D.S. movement, which is inspired by the boycott movement against South African apartheid, seeks to use economic pressure to secure equal rights for Palestinians in Israel, end the occupation, and promote the return of Palestinian refugees. Many people find the B.D.S. movement problematic because it does not affirm the right of the Israeli state to exist—and, indeed, some B.D.S. supporters envision a total undoing of the Zionist project. Still, one could argue that associating a nonviolent boycott movement, whose supporters have explicitly positioned it as an alternative to armed struggle, with the Holocaust is the very definition of Holocaust relativism. But, according to the logic of German memory policy, because B.D.S. is directed against Jews—although many of the movement’s supporters are also Jewish—it is antisemitic. One could also argue that the inherent conflation of Jews with the state of Israel is antisemitic, even that it meets the I.H.R.A. definition of antisemitism. And, given the AfD’s involvement and the pattern of the resolution being used largely against Jews and people of color, one might think that this argument would gain traction. One would be wrong.

The German Basic Law, unlike the U.S. Constitution but like the constitutions of many other European countries, has not been interpreted to provide an absolute guarantee of freedom of speech. It does, however, promise freedom of expression not only in the press but in the arts and sciences, research, and teaching. It’s possible that, if the B.D.S. resolution became law, it would be deemed unconstitutional. But it has not been tested in this way. Part of what has made the resolution peculiarly powerful is the German state’s customary generosity: almost all museums, exhibits, conferences, festivals, and other cultural events receive funding from the federal, state, or local government. “It has created a McCarthyist environment,” Candice Breitz, the artist, told me. “Whenever we want to invite someone, they”—meaning whatever government agency may be funding an event—“Google their name with ‘B.D.S.,’ ‘Israel,’ ‘apartheid.’ ”

A couple of years ago, Breitz, whose art deals with issues of race and identity, and Michael Rothberg, who holds a Holocaust studies chair at the University of California, Los Angeles, tried to organize a symposium on German Holocaust memory, called “We Need to Talk.” After months of preparations, they had their state funding pulled, likely because the program included a panel connecting Auschwitz and the genocide of the Herero and the Nama people carried out between 1904 and 1908 by German colonizers in what is now Namibia. “Some of the techniques of the Shoah were developed then,” Breitz said. “But you are not allowed to speak about German colonialism and the Shoah in the same breath because it is a ‘levelling.’ ”

The insistence on the singularity of the Holocaust and the centrality of Germany’s commitment to reckoning with it are two sides of the same coin: they position the Holocaust as an event that Germans must always remember and mention but don’t have to fear repeating, because it is unlike anything else that’s ever happened or will happen. The German historian Stefanie Schüler-Springorum, who heads the Centre for Research on Antisemitism, in Berlin, has argued that unified Germany turned the reckoning with the Holocaust into its national idea, and as a result “any attempt to advance our understanding of the historical event itself, through comparisons with other German crimes or other genocides, can [be] and is being perceived as an attack on the very foundation of this new nation-state.” Perhaps that’s the meaning of “Never again is now.”

Some of the great Jewish thinkers who survived the Holocaust spent the rest of their lives trying to tell the world that the horror, while uniquely deadly, should not be seen as an aberration. That the Holocaust happened meant that it was possible—and remains possible. The sociologist and philosopher Zygmunt Bauman argued that the massive, systematic, and efficient nature of the Holocaust was a function of modernity—that, although it was by no means predetermined, it fell in line with other inventions of the twentieth century. Theodor Adorno studied what makes people inclined to follow authoritarian leaders and sought a moral principle that would prevent another Auschwitz.

In 1948, Hannah Arendt wrote an open letter that began, “Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the ‘Freedom Party’ (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy, and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.” Just three years after the Holocaust, Arendt was comparing a Jewish Israeli party to the Nazi Party, an act that today would be a clear violation of the I.H.R.A.’s definition of antisemitism. Arendt based her comparison on an attack carried out in part by the Irgun, a paramilitary predecessor of the Freedom Party, on the Arab village of Deir Yassin, which had not been involved in the war and was not a military objective. The attackers “killed most of its inhabitants—240 men, women, and children—and kept a few of them alive to parade as captives through the streets of Jerusalem.”

The occasion for Arendt’s letter was a planned visit to the United States by the party’s leader, Menachem Begin. Albert Einstein, another German Jew who fled the Nazis, added his signature. Thirty years later, Begin became Prime Minister of Israel. Another half century later, in Berlin, the philosopher Susan Neiman, who leads a research institute named for Einstein, spoke at the opening of a conference called “Hijacking Memory: The Holocaust and the New Right.” She suggested that she might face repercussions for challenging the ways in which Germany now wields its memory culture. Neiman is an Israeli citizen and a scholar of memory and morals. One of her books is called “Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil.” In the past couple of years, Neiman said, memory culture had “gone haywire.”

Germany’s anti-B.D.S. resolution, for example, has had a distinct chilling effect on the country’s cultural sphere. The city of Aachen took back a ten-thousand-euro prize it had awarded to the Lebanese-American artist Walid Raad; the city of Dortmund and the jury for the fifteen-thousand-euro Nelly Sachs Prize similarly rescinded the honor that they had bestowed on the British-Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie. The Cameroonian political philosopher Achille Mbembe had his invitation to a major festival questioned after the federal antisemitism commissioner accused him of supporting B.D.S. and “relativizing the Holocaust.” (Mbembe has said that he is not connected with the boycott movement; the festival itself was cancelled because of covid.) The director of Berlin’s Jewish Museum, Peter Schäfer, resigned in 2019 after being accused of supporting B.D.S.—he did not, in fact, support the boycott movement, but the museum had posted a link, on Twitter, to a newspaper article that included criticism of the resolution. The office of Benjamin Netanyahu had also asked Merkel to cut the museum’s funding because, in the Israeli Prime Minister’s opinion, its exhibition on Jerusalem paid too much attention to the city’s Muslims. (Germany’s B.D.S. resolution may be unique in its impact but not in its content: a majority of U.S. states now have laws on the books that equate the boycott with antisemitism and withhold state funding from people and institutions that support it.)

After the “We Need to Talk” symposium was cancelled, Breitz and Rothberg regrouped and came up with a proposal for a symposium called “We Still Need to Talk.” The list of speakers was squeaky clean. A government entity vetted everyone and agreed to fund the gathering. It was scheduled for early December. Then Hamas attacked Israel. “We knew that after that every German politician would see it as extremely risky to be connected with an event that had Palestinian speakers or the word ‘apartheid,’ ” Breitz said. On October 17th, Breitz learned that funding had been pulled. Meanwhile, all over Germany, police were cracking down on demonstrations that call for a ceasefire in Gaza or manifest support for Palestinians. Instead of a symposium, Breitz and several others organized a protest. They called it “We Still Still Still Still Need to Talk.” About an hour into the gathering, police quietly cut through the crowd to confiscate a cardboard poster that read “From the River to the Sea, We Demand Equality.” The person who had brought the poster was a Jewish Israeli woman.

The “Fulfilling Historical Responsibility” proposal has since languished in committee. Still, the performative battle against antisemitism kept ramping up. In November, the planning of Documenta, one of the art world’s most important shows, was thrown into disarray after the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung dug up a petition that a member of the artistic organizing committee, Ranjit Hoskote, had signed in 2019. The petition, written to protest a planned event on Zionism and Hindutva in Hoskote’s home town of Mumbai, denounced Zionism as “a racist ideology calling for a settler-colonial, apartheid state where non-Jews have unequal rights, and in practice, has been premised on the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.” The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on it under the heading “Antisemitism.” Hoskote resigned and the rest of the committee followed suit. A week later, Breitz read in a newspaper that a museum in Saarland had cancelled an exhibit of hers, which had been planned for 2024, “in view of the media coverage about the artist in connection with her controversial statements in the context of Hamas’ war of aggression against the state of Israel.”

This November, I left Berlin to travel to Kyiv, traversing, by train, Poland and then Ukraine. This is as good a place as any to say a few things about my relationship to the Jewish history of these lands. Many American Jews go to Poland to visit what little, if anything, is left of the old Jewish quarters, to eat food reconstructed according to recipes left by long-extinguished families, and to go on tours of Jewish history, Jewish ghettos, and Nazi concentration camps. I am closer to this history. I grew up in the Soviet Union in the nineteen-seventies, in the ever-present shadow of the Holocaust, because only a part of my family had survived it and because Soviet censors suppressed any public mention of it. When, around the age of nine, I learned that some Nazi war criminals were still on the loose, I stopped sleeping. I imagined one of them climbing in through our fifth-floor balcony to snatch me.

During summers, our cousin Anna and her sons would visit from Warsaw. Her parents had decided to kill themselves after the Warsaw Ghetto burned down. Anna’s father threw himself in front of a train. Anna’s mother tied the three-year-old Anna to her waist with a shawl and jumped into a river. They were plucked out of the water by a Polish man, and survived the war by hiding in the countryside. I knew the story, but I wasn’t allowed to mention it. Anna was an adult when she learned that she was a Holocaust survivor, and she waited to tell her own kids, who were around my age. The first time I went to Poland, in the nineteen-nineties, was to research the fate of my great-grandfather, who spent nearly three years in the Białystok Ghetto before being killed in Majdanek.

The Holocaust memory wars in Poland have run in parallel with Germany’s. The ideas being battled out in the two countries are different, but one consistent feature is the involvement of right-wing politicians in conjunction with the state of Israel. As in Germany, the nineteen-nineties and two-thousands saw ambitious memorialization efforts, both national and local, that broke through the silence of the Soviet years. Poles built museums and monuments that commemorated the Jews killed in the Holocaust—which claimed half of its victims in Nazi-occupied Poland—and the Jewish culture that was lost with them. Then the backlash came. It coincided with the rise to power of the right-wing, illiberal Law and Justice Party, in 2015. Poles now wanted a version of history in which they were victims of the Nazi occupation alongside the Jews, whom they tried to protect from the Nazis.

This was not true: instances of Poles risking their lives to save Jews from the Germans, as in the case of my cousin Anna, were exceedingly rare, while the opposite—entire communities or structures of the pre-occupation Polish state, such as the police or city offices, carrying out the mass murder of Jews—was common. But historians who studied the Poles’ role in the Holocaust came under attack. The Polish-born Princeton historian Jan Tomasz Gross was interrogated and threatened with prosecution for writing that Poles killed more Polish Jews than Germans. The Polish authorities hounded him even after he retired. The government squeezed Dariusz Stola, the head of polin, Warsaw’s innovative museum of Polish Jewish history, out of his post. The historians Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking were dragged into court for writing that the mayor of a Polish village had been a collaborator in the Holocaust.

When I wrote about Grabowski and Engleking’s case, I received some of the scariest death threats of my life. (I’ve been sent a lot of death threats; most are forgettable.) One, sent to a work e-mail address, read, “If you keep writing lies about Poland and the Poles, I will deliver these bullets to your body. See the attachment! Five of them in every kneecap, so you won’t walk again. But if you continue to spread your Jewish hatred, I will deliver next 5 bullets in your pussy. The third step you won’t notice. But don’t worry, I’m not visiting you next week or eight weeks, I’ll be back when you forget this e-mail, maybe in 5 years. You’re on my list. . . .” The attachment was a picture of two shiny bullets in the palm of a hand. The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, headed by a government appointee, tweeted a condemnation of my article, as did the account of the World Jewish Congress. A few months later, a speaking invitation to a university fell through because, the university told my speaking agent, it had emerged that I might be an antisemite.

Throughout the Polish Holocaust-memory wars, Israel maintained friendly relations with Poland. In 2018, Netanyahu and the Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, issued a joint statement against “actions aimed at blaming Poland or the Polish nation as a whole for the atrocities committed by the Nazis and their collaborators of different nations.” The statement asserted, falsely, that “structures of the Polish underground state supervised by the Polish government-in-exile created a mechanism of systematic help and support to Jewish people.” Netanyahu was building alliances with the illiberal governments of Central European countries, such as Poland and Hungary, in part to prevent an anti-occupation consensus from solidifying in the European Union. For this, he was willing to lie about the Holocaust.

Each year, tens of thousands of Israeli teen-agers travel to the Auschwitz museum before graduating from high school (though last year the trips were called off over security issues and the Polish government’s growing insistence that Poles’ involvement in the Holocaust be written out of history). It is a powerful, identity-forming trip that comes just a year or two before young Israelis join the military. Noam Chayut, a founder of Breaking the Silence, an anti-occupation advocacy group in Israel, has written of his own high-school trip, which took place in the late nineteen-nineties, “Now, in Poland, as a high-school adolescent, I began to sense belonging, self-love, power and pride, and the desire to contribute, to live and be strong, so strong that no one would ever try to hurt me.”

Chayut took this feeling into the I.D.F., which posted him to the occupied West Bank. One day he was putting up property-confiscation notices. A group of children was playing nearby. Chayut flashed what he considered a kind and non-threatening smile at a little girl. The rest of the children scampered off, but the girl froze, terrified, until she, too, ran away. Later, when Chayut published a book about the transformation this encounter precipitated, he wrote that he wasn’t sure why it was this girl: “After all, there was also the shackled kid in the Jeep and the girl whose family home we had broken into late at night to remove her mother and aunt. And there were plenty of children, hundreds of them, screaming and crying as we rummaged through their rooms and their things. And there was the child from Jenin whose wall we blasted with an explosive charge that blew a hole just a few centimeters from his head. Miraculously, he was uninjured, but I’m sure his hearing and his mind were badly impaired.” But in the eyes of that girl, on that day, Chayut saw a reflection of annihilatory evil, the kind that he had been taught existed, but only between 1933 and 1945, and only where the Nazis ruled. Chayut called his book “The Girl Who Stole My Holocaust.”

I took the train from the Polish border to Kyiv. Nearly thirty-four thousand Jews were shot at Babyn Yar, a giant ravine on the outskirts of the city, in just thirty-six hours in September, 1941. Tens of thousands more people died there before the war was over. This was what is now known as the Holocaust by bullets. Many of the countries in which these massacres took place—the Baltics, Belarus, Ukraine—were re-colonized by the Soviet Union following the Second World War. Dissidents and Jewish cultural activists risked their freedom to maintain a memory of these tragedies, to collect testimony and names, and, where possible, to clean up and protect the sites themselves. After the fall of the Soviet Union, memorialization projects accompanied efforts to join the European Union. “Holocaust recognition is our contemporary European entry ticket,” the historian Tony Judt wrote in his 2005 book, “Postwar.”

In the Rumbula forest, outside of Riga, for example, where some twenty-five thousand Jews were murdered in 1941, a memorial was unveiled in 2002, two years before Latvia was admitted to the E.U. A serious effort to commemorate Babyn Yar coalesced after the 2014 revolution that set Ukraine on an aspirational path to the E.U. By the time Russia invaded Ukraine, in February, 2022, several smaller structures had been completed and ambitious plans for a larger museum complex were in place. With the invasion, construction halted. One week into the full-scale war, a Russian missile hit directly next to the memorial complex, killing at least four people. Since then, some of the people associated with the project have reconstituted themselves as a team of war-crimes investigators.

The Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, has waged an earnest campaign to win Israeli support for Ukraine. In March, 2022, he delivered a speech to the Knesset, in which he didn’t stress his own Jewish heritage but focussed on the inextricable historical connection between Jews and Ukrainians. He drew unambiguous parallels between the Putin regime and the Nazi Party. He even claimed that eighty years ago Ukrainians rescued Jews. (As with Poland, any claim that such aid was widespread is false.) But what worked for the right-wing government of Poland did not work for the pro-Europe President of Ukraine. Israel has not given Ukraine the help it has begged for in its war against Russia, a country that openly supports Hamas and Hezbollah.

Still, both before and after the October 7th attack, the phrase I heard in Ukraine possibly more than any other was “We need to be like Israel.” Politicians, journalists, intellectuals, and ordinary Ukrainians identify with the story Israel tells about itself, that of a tiny but mighty island of democracy standing strong against enemies who surround it. Some Ukrainian left-wing intellectuals have argued that Ukraine, which is fighting an anti-colonial war against an occupying power, should see its reflection in Palestine, not Israel. These voices are marginal and most often belong to young Ukrainians who are studying or have studied abroad. Following the Hamas attack, Zelensky wanted to rush to Israel as a show of support and unity between Israel and Ukraine. Israeli authorities seem to have other ideas—the visit has not happened.

While Ukraine has been unsuccessfully trying to get Israel to acknowledge that Russia’s invasion resembles Nazi Germany’s genocidal aggression, Moscow has built a propaganda universe around portraying Zelensky’s government, the Ukrainian military, and the Ukrainian people as Nazis. The Second World War is the central event of Russia’s historical myth. During Vladimir Putin’s reign, as the last of the people who lived through the war have been dying, commemorative events have turned into carnivals that celebrate Russian victimhood. The U.S.S.R. lost at least twenty-seven million people in that war, a disproportionate number of them Ukrainians. The Soviet Union and Russia have fought in wars almost continuously since 1945, but the word “war” is still synonymous with the Second World War and the word “enemy” is used interchangeably with “fascist” and “Nazi.” This made it that much easier for Putin, in declaring a new war, to brand Ukrainians as Nazis.

Netanyahu has compared the Hamas murders at the music festival to the Holocaust by bullets. This comparison, picked up and recirculated by world leaders, including President Biden, serves to bolster Israel’s case for inflicting collective punishment on the residents of Gaza. Similarly, when Putin says “Nazi” or “fascist,” he means that the Ukrainian government is so dangerous that Russia is justified in carpet-bombing and laying siege to Ukrainian cities and killing Ukrainian civilians. There are significant differences, of course: Russia’s claims that Ukraine attacked it first, and its portrayals of the Ukrainian government as fascist, are false; Hamas, on the other hand, is a tyrannical power that attacked Israel and committed atrocities that we cannot yet fully comprehend. But do these differences matter when the case being made is for killing children?

In the first weeks of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, when its troops were occupying the western suburbs of Kyiv, the director of Kyiv’s museum of the Second World War, Yurii Savchuk, was living at the museum and rethinking the core exhibit. One day after the Ukrainian military drove the Russians out of the Kyiv region, he met with the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, and got permission to start collecting artifacts. Savchuk and his staff went to Bucha, Irpin, and other towns and cities that had just been “deoccupied,” as Ukrainians have taken to saying, and interviewed people who had not yet told their stories. “This was before the exhumations and the reburials,” Savchuk told me. “We saw the true face of war, with all its emotions. The fear, the terror, was in the atmosphere, and we absorbed it with the air.”

In May, 2022, the museum opened a new exhibit, titled “Ukraine – Crucifixion.” It begins with a display of Russian soldiers’ boots, which Savchuk’s team had collected. It’s an odd reversal: both the Auschwitz museum and the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C., have displayed hundreds or thousands of shoes that belonged to victims of the Holocaust. They convey the scale of loss, even as they show only a tiny fraction of it. The display in Kyiv shows the scale of the menace. The boots are arranged on the floor of the museum in the pattern of a five-pointed star, the symbol of the Red Army that has become as sinister in Ukraine as the swastika. In September, Kyiv removed five-pointed stars from a monument to the Second World War in what used to be called Victory Square—it’s been renamed because the very word “Victory” connotes Russia’s celebration in what it still calls the Great Patriotic War. The city also changed the dates on the monument, from “1941-1945”—the years of the war between the Soviet Union and Germany—to “1939-1945.” Correcting memory one monument at a time.

In 1954, an Israeli court heard a libel case involving a Hungarian Jew named Israel Kastner. A decade earlier, when Germany occupied Hungary and belatedly rushed to implement the mass murder of its Jews, Kastner, as a leader of the Jewish community, entered into negotiations with Adolf Eichmann himself. Kastner proposed to buy the lives of Hungary’s Jews with ten thousand trucks. When this failed, he negotiated to save sixteen hundred and eighty-five people by transporting them by chartered train to Switzerland. Hundreds of thousands of other Hungarian Jews were loaded onto trains to death camps. A Hungarian Jewish survivor had publicly accused Kastner of having collaborated with the Germans. Kastner sued for libel and, in effect, found himself on trial. The judge concluded that Kastner had “sold his soul to the devil.”

The charge of collaboration against Kastner rested on the allegation that he had failed to tell people that they were going to their deaths. His accusers argued that, had he warned the deportees, they would have rebelled, not gone to the death camps like sheep to slaughter. The trial has been read as the beginning of a discursive standoff in which the Israeli right argues for preëmptive violence and sees the left as willfully defenseless. By the time of the trial, Kastner was a left-wing politician; his accuser was a right-wing activist.

Seven years later, the judge who had presided over the Kastner libel trial was one of the three judges in the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Here was the devil himself. The prosecution argued that Eichmann represented but one iteration of the eternal threat to the Jews. The trial helped to solidify the narrative that, to prevent annihilation, Jews should be prepared to use force preëmptively. Arendt, reporting on the trial, would have none of this. Her phrase “the banality of evil” elicited perhaps the original accusations, levelled against a Jew, of trivializing the Holocaust. She wasn’t. But she saw that Eichmann was no devil, that perhaps the devil didn’t exist. She had reasoned that there was no such thing as radical evil, that evil was always ordinary even when it was extreme—something “born in the gutter,” as she put it later, something of “utter shallowness.”

Arendt also took issue with the prosecution’s story that Jews were the victims of, as she put it, “a historical principle stretching from Pharaoh to Haman—the victim of a metaphysical principle.” This story, rooted in the Biblical legend of Amalek, a people of the Negev Desert who repeatedly fought the ancient Israelites, holds that every generation of Jews faces its own Amalek. I learned this story as a teen-ager; it was the first Torah lesson I ever received, taught by a rabbi who gathered the kids in a suburb of Rome where Jewish refugees from the Soviet Union lived while waiting for their papers to enter the United States, Canada, or Australia. In this story, as told by the prosecutor in the Eichmann trial, the Holocaust is a predetermined event, part of Jewish history—and only Jewish history. The Jews, in this version, always have a well-justified fear of annihilation. Indeed, they can survive only if they act as though annihilation were imminent.

When I first learned the legend of Amalek, it made perfect sense to me. It described my knowledge of the world; it helped me connect my experience of getting teased and beaten up to my great-grandmother’s admonitions that using household Yiddish expressions in public was dangerous, to the unfathomable injustice of my grandfather and great-grandfather and scores of other relatives being killed before I was born. I was fourteen and lonely. I knew myself and my family to be victims, and the legend of Amalek imbued my sense of victimhood with meaning and a sense of community.

Netanyahu has been brandishing Amalek in the wake of the Hamas attack. The logic of this legend, as he wields it—that Jews occupy a singular place in history and have an exclusive claim on victimhood—has bolstered the anti-antisemitism bureaucracy in Germany and the unholy alliance between Israel and the European far right. But no nation is all victim all the time or all perpetrator all the time. Just as much of Israel’s claim to impunity lies in the Jews’ perpetual victim status, many of the country’s critics have tried to excuse Hamas’s act of terrorism as a predictable response to Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. Conversely, in the eyes of Israel’s supporters, Palestinians in Gaza can’t be victims because Hamas attacked Israel first. The fight over one rightful claim to victimhood runs on forever.

For the last seventeen years, Gaza has been a hyperdensely populated, impoverished, walled-in compound where only a small fraction of the population had the right to leave for even a short amount of time—in other words, a ghetto. Not like the Jewish ghetto in Venice or an inner-city ghetto in America but like a Jewish ghetto in an Eastern European country occupied by Nazi Germany. In the two months since Hamas attacked Israel, all Gazans have suffered from the barely interrupted onslaught of Israeli forces. Thousands have died. On average, a child is killed in Gaza every ten minutes. Israeli bombs have struck hospitals, maternity wards, and ambulances. Eight out of ten Gazans are now homeless, moving from one place to another, never able to get to safety.

The term “open-air prison” seems to have been coined in 2010 by David Cameron, the British Foreign Secretary who was then Prime Minister. Many human-rights organizations that document conditions in Gaza have adopted the description. But as in the Jewish ghettoes of Occupied Europe, there are no prison guards—Gaza is policed not by the occupiers but by a local force. Presumably, the more fitting term “ghetto” would have drawn fire for comparing the predicament of besieged Gazans to that of ghettoized Jews. It also would have given us the language to describe what is happening in Gaza now. The ghetto is being liquidated.

The Nazis claimed that ghettos were necessary to protect non-Jews from diseases spread by Jews. Israel has claimed that the isolation of Gaza, like the wall in the West Bank, is required to protect Israelis from terrorist attacks carried out by Palestinians. The Nazi claim had no basis in reality, while the Israeli claim stems from actual and repeated acts of violence. These are essential differences. Yet both claims propose that an occupying authority can choose to isolate, immiserate—and, now, mortally endanger—an entire population of people in the name of protecting its own.

From the earliest days of Israel’s founding, the comparison of displaced Palestinians to displaced Jews has presented itself, only to be swatted away. In 1948, the year the state was created, an article in the Israeli newspaper Maariv described the dire conditions—“old people so weak they were on the verge of death”; “a boy with two paralyzed legs”; “another boy whose hands were severed”—in which Palestinians, mostly women and children, departed the village of Tantura after Israeli troops occupied it: “One woman carried her child in one arm and with the other hand she held her elderly mother. The latter couldn’t keep up the pace, she yelled and begged her daughter to slow down, but the daughter did not consent. Finally the old lady collapsed onto the road and couldn’t move. The daughter pulled out her hair … lest she not make it on time. And worse than this was the association to Jewish mothers and grandmothers who lagged this way on the roads under the crop of murderers.” The journalist caught himself. “There is obviously no room for such a comparison,” he wrote. “This fate—they brought upon themselves.”

Jews took up arms in 1948 to claim land that was offered to them by a United Nations decision to partition what had been British-controlled Palestine. The Palestinians, supported by surrounding Arab states, did not accept the partition and Israel’s declaration of independence. Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Transjordan invaded the proto-Israeli state, starting what Israel now calls the War of Independence. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled the fighting. Those who did not were driven out of their villages by Israeli forces. Most of them were never able to return. The Palestinians remember 1948 as the Nakba, a word that means “catastrophe” in Arabic, just as Shoah means “catastrophe” in Hebrew. That the comparison is unavoidable has compelled many Israelis to assert that, unlike the Jews, Palestinians brought their catastrophe on themselves.

The day I arrived in Kyiv, someone handed me a thick book. It was the first academic study of Stepan Bandera to be published in Ukraine. Bandera is a Ukrainian hero: he fought against the Soviet regime; dozens of monuments to him have appeared since the collapse of the U.S.S.R. He ended up in Germany after the Second World War, led a partisan movement from exile, and died after being poisoned by a K.G.B. agent, in 1959. Bandera was also a committed fascist, an ideologue who wanted to build a totalitarian regime. These facts are detailed in the book, which has sold about twelve hundred copies. (Many bookstores have refused to carry it.) Russia makes gleeful use of Ukraine’s Bandera cult as evidence that Ukraine is a Nazi state. Ukrainians mostly respond by whitewashing Bandera’s legacy. It is ever so hard for people to wrap their minds around the idea that someone could have been the enemy of your enemy and yet not a benevolent force. A victim and also a perpetrator. Or vice versa. ♦

An earlier version of this article incorrectly described what Jan Tomasz Gross wrote. It also misstated when Anna’s parents decided to kill themselves and Anna’s age at the time of those events.

Call It Genocide, Pay the Price

Palestine_flag_4.jpegMarchers carry Palestinian flags during a May Day celebration in Kreuzberg, Germany, 2017. (Montecruz Foto, CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

Private colleges and employers can, and do, ignore the right to speak freely.

BILL LUEDERS, THE PROGRESSIVE, NOVEMBER 30, 2023

A common misapprehension about the First Amendment is that it protects the right to free speech for U.S. citizens. It doesn’t. 

What the First Amendment actually does is bar the government from “abridging the freedom of speech.” But, as scarcely needs to be said, the government is not in charge of everything, and the rules by which it must abide have no power to constrain the censorial impulses of others. Private entities, including private universities, can still deny others the ability to say what is deemed in the passions of the moment to be the wrong thing.

Just ask Rabea Eghbariah. 

The Palestinian human rights attorney at the Haifa-based Adalah legal center and doctoral candidate at Harvard Law School had an article he wrote for the prestigious Harvard Law Review spiked in November after it had gone through several edits, been fact-checked, copy edited, and approved for publication. 

This decision was made by a majority vote of the publication’s board after several days of debate and nearly six hours of discussion at an emergency meeting on November 18. Eghbariah received an email from the law review’s president, Apsara Iyer, who claimed: “While this decision may reflect several factors specific to individual editors, it was not based on your identity or viewpoint.”

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But the publication’s online editor, Tascha Shahriari-Parsa, explained it differently. “The discussion did not involve any substantive or technical aspects of your piece,” he told Eghbariah via email. “Rather, the discussion revolved around concerns about editors who might oppose or be offended by the piece, as well as concerns that the piece might provoke a reaction from members of the public who might in turn harass, dox, or otherwise attempt to intimidate our editors, staff, and HLR leadership.”

Eghbariah’s 2,100-word essay, which was subsequently published by The Nation, argued that the state of Israel’s devastating assault on Gaza in the wake of Hamas’s savage October 7 attack fell within “the legal framework” of genocide. “It is much easier,” he writes, “to consider genocide in the past tense rather than contend with it in the present. Legal scholars tend to sharpen their pens after the smell of death has dissipated and moral clarity is no longer urgent.” 

The word “smell” in this last sentence links to an article describing how the stench of dead bodies is currently palpable in Gaza. The piece goes on to say, with links backing up each contention:

“Israel continues to blatantly violate international law: dropping white phosphorus from the sky, dispersing death in all directions, shedding blood, shelling neighborhoods, striking schools, hospitals, and universities, bombing churches and mosques, wiping out families, and ethnically cleansing an entire region in [a] both callous and systemic manner. What do you call this?”


Eghbariah, in his essay, cites a report, issued by the Center for Constitutional Rights early in the Israeli onslaught that would only get much worse, that found “a plausible and credible case that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinian population in Gaza.” He quotes Raz Segal, a historian of the Holocaust and a genocide studies expert, who calls what’s happening “a textbook case of Genocide unfolding in front of our eyes.” Segal notes that a sizable number of international scholars, a group of seven United Nations Special Rapporteurs, and thirty-six U.N. experts have used the G-word to describe what is happening.

Aslı Bâli, a Yale Law School professor and expert on international and human rights law who reviewed Eghbariah’s essay, told The Intercept it was an “excellent piece of legal scholarship” and “exactly the kind of work that good international legal scholarship should do.”

The Harvard Law Review, having invited Eghbariah’s analysis and accepted it on its merits, should not have shut the door on publication because, on second thought, it might make some people angry. 

None of this ends the need for discussion over what Israel is doing or how to respond to it. None of it means Eghbariah’s essay is perfectly reasoned and beyond dispute. (I, for one, think his assertion that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch “are no longer to be trusted” because of their responses to this crisis is way overblown and void of substantiation.) 

But any fair analysis must conclude that Eghbariah has raised an issue that merits consideration, not suppression. The Harvard Law Review, having invited Eghbariah’s analysis and accepted it on its merits, should not have shut the door on publication because, on second thought, it might make some people angry. 

“This is discrimination,” wrote Eghbariah, in one of his responses to the editors who put the kibosh on his piece, which would have been the first published piece written by a Palestinian scholar in the law review’s history. “Let’s not dance around it. This is outright censorship. It is dangerous and alarming.”

He was not the only one who found it so. A group of twenty-five Harvard Law Review editors sounded an alarm about the decision, which they pegged as unprecedented.

“At a time when the Law Review was facing a public intimidation and harassment campaign, the journal’s leadership intervened to stop publication,” they wrote in a statement. “The body of editors—none of whom are Palestinian—voted to sustain that decision. We are unaware of any other solicited piece that has been revoked by the Law Review in this way.”

The “public intimidation and harassment” mentioned in this statement refers to the massive blowback that Harvard received in response to an open letter from pro-Palestinian campus groups holding Israel “entirely responsible for all the unfolding violence.” Former Harvard president (and also former U.S. Treasury Secretary) Larry Summers blasted the failure of university leaders to condemn this expression. This prompted Harvard’s current president, Claudine Gay, to condemn Hamas in no uncertain terms while rejecting calls to punish the students, saying the university “embraces a commitment to free expression.”

If only that were so. 


While Eghbariah saw his essay published in The Nation and defended by scholars, others have paid a steep price for being purportedly too harsh in their assessment of Israel’s response to the savage October 7 attack that claimed 1,200 lives—a response that, to date, has resulted in the deaths of some 15,000 Palestians, including 6,150 children and 4,000 women.

Actress Melissa Barrera was booted from the upcoming film Scream 7 for posting statements on Instagram using the terms “genocide and ethnic cleansing” to describe Israel’s actions. “Gaza,” she wrote, “is currently being treated like a concentration camp.”

The film’s production company said in a statement: “We have zero tolerance for antisemitism or the incitement of hate in any form, including false references to genocide, ethnic cleansing, Holocaust distortion or anything that flagrantly crosses the line into hate speech.”

Barrera quickly clarified that she condemns antisemitism and Islamophobia and “hate and prejudice of any kind against any group of people,” to no avail. 

Actress Susan Sarandon, meanwhile, was dropped by the United Talent Agency after a November 17 appearance at a pro-Palestinian rally in New York City, where she said, according to press accounts, “There are a lot of people afraid of being Jewish at this time, and are getting a taste of what it feels like to be a Muslim in this country, so often subjected to violence.” She also said, at the same rally: “There’s a terrible thing that’s happened where antisemitism has been confused with speaking up against Israel. I am against antisemitism. I am against Islamophobia.”

These decisions to punish speech, however questionable, are being made by private companies engaged in enterprises whose entire purpose is to make money. A university like Harvard, and a publication like the Harvard Law Review, at one time headed by Barack Obama, ought to have a greater fidelity to the defense of speech.

For the same reason that the protections of the First Amendment clearly serve the public interest in allowing a flow of ideas free from government interference, a private university like Harvard should recognize the importance of allowing even unpopular opinions to be heard.

Instead, universities are at the forefront of efforts to crack down on anti-Israel expression. In recent weeks, Columbia University and Brandeis University have both suspended the campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, claiming these groups have violated campus policies and posed a safety risk. Palestine Legal, a group that defends the free speech rights of Palestine advocates, reportedly responded to nearly 200 reports of “suppression of Palestinian rights advocacy” in just the first eleven days following the October 7 attack, “many involving harassment and censorship attempts by university administrations and rightwing organizations.”

As the campus free-speech group FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) has framed the issue: “Private universities are not directly bound by the First Amendment, which limits only government action. However, the vast majority of private universities have traditionally viewed themselves—and sold themselves—as bastions of free thought and expression. Accordingly, private colleges and universities should be held to the standard that they themselves establish. If a private college advertises itself as a place where free speech is esteemed and protected—as most of them do—then it should be held to the same standard as a public institution.”

For the same reason that the protections of the First Amendment clearly serve the public interest in allowing a flow of ideas free from government interference, a private university like Harvard should recognize the importance of allowing even unpopular opinions to be heard. In this instance, it failed miserably.

Bill Lueders, former editor and now editor-at-large of The Progressive, is a writer in Madison, Wisconsin.
READ MORE BY BILL LUEDERS

The Harvard Law Review Refused to Run This Piece About Genocide in Gaza

The piece was nearing publication when the journal decided against publishing it. You can read the article here.

RABEA EGHBARIAH, THE NATION, NOVEMBER 21, 2023

Harvard Crimson students protests for Palestine during the game as the Harvard Crimson take on the Yale Bulldogs on November 18, 2023 at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field in New Haven, CT
Harvard students protest for Palestine during the Yale-Harvard football game at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, CT November 18, 2023. (Williams Paul / Icon Sportswire via AP)

On Saturday, the board of the Harvard Law Review voted not to publish “The Ongoing Nakba: Towards a Legal Framework for Palestine,” a piece by Rabea Eghbariah, a human rights attorney completing his doctoral studies at Harvard Law School. The vote followed what an editor at the law reviewdescribed in an e-mail to Eghbariah as “an unprecedented decision” by the leadership of the Harvard Law Review to prevent the piece’s publication.

Eghbariah told The Nation that the piece, which was intended for the HLR Blog, had been solicited by two of the journal’s online editors. It would have been the first piece written by a Palestinian scholar for the law review. The piece went through several rounds of edits, but before it was set to be published, the president stepped in. “The discussion did not involve any substantive or technical aspects of your piece,” online editor Tascha Shahriari-Parsa, wrote Eghbariah in an e-mail shared with The Nation. “Rather, the discussion revolved around concerns about editors who might oppose or be offended by the piece, as well as concerns that the piece might provoke a reaction from members of the public who might in turn harass, dox, or otherwise attempt to intimidate our editors, staff, and HLR leadership.”

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On Saturday, following several days of debate and a nearly six-hour meeting, the Harvard Law Review’s full editorial body came together to vote on whether to publish the article. Sixty-three percent voted against publication. In an e-mail to Egbariah, HLR President Apsara Iyer wrote, “While this decision may reflect several factors specific to individual editors, it was not based on your identity or viewpoint.”

In a statement that was shared with The Nation, a group of 25 HLR editors expressed their concerns about the decision. “At a time when the Law Review was facing a public intimidation and harassment campaign, the journal’s leadership intervened to stop publication,” they wrote. “The body of editors—none of whom are Palestinian—voted to sustain that decision. We are unaware of any other solicited piece that has been revoked by the Law Review in this way. “

When asked for comment, the leadership of the Harvard Law Review referred The Nation to a message posted on the journal’s website. “Like every academic journal, the Harvard Law Review has rigorous editorial processes governing how it solicits, evaluates, and determines when and whether to publish a piece…” the note began. ”Last week, the full body met and deliberated over whether to publish a particular Blog piece that had been solicited by two editors. A substantial majority voted not to proceed with publication.”

Today, The Nation is sharing the piece that the Harvard Law Review refused to run.


Genocide is a crime. It is a legal framework. It is unfolding in Gaza. And yet, the inertia of legal academia, especially in the United States, has been chilling. Clearly, it is much easier to dissect the case law rather than navigate the reality of death. It is much easier to consider genocide in the past tense rather than contend with it in the present. Legal scholars tend to sharpen their pens after the smell of death has dissipated and moral clarity is no longer urgent.

Some may claim that the invocation of genocide, especiallyin Gaza, is fraught. But does one have to wait for a genocide to be successfully completed to name it? This logic contributes to the politics of denial. When it comes to Gaza, there is a sense of moral hypocrisy that undergirds Western epistemological approaches, one which mutes the ability to name the violence inflicted upon Palestinians. But naming injustice is crucial to claiming justice. If the international community takes its crimes seriously, then the discussion about the unfolding genocide in Gaza is not a matter of mere semantics.

The UN Genocide Convention defines the crime of genocide as certain acts “committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.” These acts include “killing members of a protected group” or “causing serious bodily or mental harm” or “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

Numerous statements made by top Israeli politicians affirmtheir intentions. There is a forming consensus among leading scholars in the field of genocide studies that “these statements could easily be construed as indicating a genocidal intent,” as Omer Bartov, an authority in the field, writes. More importantly, genocide is the material reality of Palestinians in Gaza: an entrapped, displaced, starved, water-deprived population of 2.3 million facing massive bombardments and a carnage in one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Over 11,000 people have already been killed. That is one person out of every 200 people in Gaza. Tens of thousands are injured, and over 45% of homes in Gaza have been destroyed. The United Nations Secretary General said that Gaza is becoming a “graveyard for children,” but a cessation of the carnage—a ceasefire—remains elusive. Israel continues to blatantly violate international law: dropping white phosphorus from the sky, dispersing death in all directions, shedding blood, shelling neighborhoods, striking schools, hospitals, and universities, bombing churches and mosques, wiping out families, and ethnically cleansing an entire region in both callous and systemic manner. What do you call this?

The Center for Constitutional Rights issued a thorough, 44-page, factual and legal analysis, asserting that “there is a plausible and credible case that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinian population in Gaza.” Raz Segal, a historian of the Holocaust and genocide studies, calls the situation in Gaza “a textbook case of Genocide unfolding in front of our eyes.” The inaugural chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, notes that “Just the blockade of Gaza—just that—could be genocide under Article 2(c) of the Genocide Convention, meaning they are creating conditions to destroy a group.” A group of over 800 academics and practitioners, including leading scholars in the fields of international law and genocide studies, warn of “a serious risk of genocide being committed in the Gaza Strip.” A group of seven UN Special Rapporteurs has alerted to the “risk of genocide against the Palestinian people” and reiterated that they “remain convinced that the Palestinian people are at grave risk of genocide.” Thirty-six UN experts now call the situation in Gaza “a genocide in the making.” How many other authorities should I cite? How many hyperlinks are enough?

And yet, leading law schools and legal scholars in the United States still fashion their silence as impartiality and their denial as nuance. Is genocide really the crime of all crimes if it is committed by Western allies against non-Western people?

This is the most important question that Palestine continues to pose to the international legal order. Palestine brings to legal analysis an unmasking force: It unveils and reminds us of the ongoing colonial condition that underpins Western legal institutions. In Palestine, there are two categories: mournable civilians and savage human-animals. Palestine helps us rediscover that these categories remain racialized along colonial lines in the 21st century: the first is reserved for Israelis, the latter for Palestinians. As Isaac Herzog, Israel’s supposed liberal President, asserts: “It’s an entire nation out there that is responsible. This rhetoric about civilians not aware, not involved, it’s absolutely not true.”

Palestinians simply cannot be innocent. They are innately guilty; potential “terrorists” to be “neutralized” or, at best, “human shields” obliterated as “collateral damage”. There is no number of Palestinian bodies that can move Western governments and institutions to “unequivocally condemn” Israel, let alone act in the present tense. When contrasted with Jewish-Israeli life—the ultimate victims of European genocidal ideologies—Palestinians stand no chance at humanization. Palestinians are rendered the contemporary “savages” of the international legal order, and Palestine becomes the frontier where the West redraws its discourse of civility and strips its domination in the most material way. Palestine is where genocide can be performed as a fight of “the civilized world” against the “enemies of civilization itself.” Indeed, a fight between the “children of light” versus the “children of darkness.”

The genocidal war waged against the people of Gaza since Hamas’s excruciating October 7th attacks against Israelis—attacks which amount to war crimes—has been the deadliest manifestation of Israeli colonial policies against Palestinians in decades. Some have long ago analyzed Israeli policies in Palestine through the lens of genocide. While the term genocide may have its own limitations to describe the Palestinian past, the Palestinian present was clearly preceded by a “politicide”: the extermination of the Palestinian body politic in Palestine, namely, the systematic eradication of the Palestinian ability to maintain an organized political community as a group.

This process of erasure has spanned over a hundred yearsthrough a combination of massacres, ethnic cleansing, dispossession, and the fragmentation of the remaining Palestinians into distinctive legal tiers with diverging material interests. Despite the partial success of this politicide—and the continued prevention of a political body that represents all Palestinians—the Palestinian political identity has endured. Across the besieged Gaza Strip, the occupied West Bank, Jerusalem, Israel’s 1948 territories, refugee camps, and diasporic communities, Palestinian nationalism lives.

     

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What do we call this condition? How do we name this collective existence under a system of forced fragmentation and cruel domination? The human rights community has largely adopted a combination of occupation and apartheid to understand the situation in Palestine. Apartheid is a crime. It is a legal framework. It is committed in Palestine. And even though there is a consensus among the human rights community that Israel is perpetrating apartheid, the refusal of Western governments to come to terms with this material reality of Palestinians is revealing.

Once again, Palestine brings a special uncovering force to the discourse. It reveals how otherwise credible institutions, such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, are no longer to be trusted. It shows how facts become disputable in a Trumpist fashion by liberals such as President Biden. Palestine allows us to see the line that bifurcates the binaries (e.g. trusted/untrusted) as much as it underscores the collapse of dichotomies (e.g. democrat/republican or fact/claim). It is in this liminal space that Palestine exists and continues to defy the distinction itself. It is the exception that reveals the rule and the subtext that is, in fact, the text: Palestine is the most vivid manifestation of the colonial condition upheld in the 21st century.

What do you call this ongoing colonial condition? Just as the Holocaust introduced the term “Genocide” into the global and legal consciousness, the South African experience brought “Apartheid” into the global and legal lexicon. It is due to the work and sacrifice of far too many lives that genocide and apartheid have globalized, transcending these historical calamities. These terms became legal frameworks, crimes enshrined in international law, with the hope that their recognition will prevent their repetition. But in the process of abstraction, globalization, and readaptation, something was lost. Is it the affinity between the particular experience and the universalized abstraction of the crime that makes Palestine resistant to existing definitions?

Scholars have increasingly turned to settler-colonialism as the lens through which we assess Palestine. Settler-colonialism is a structure of erasure where the settler displaces and replaces the native. And while settler-colonialism, genocide, and apartheid are clearly not mutually exclusive, their ability to capture the material reality of Palestinians remains elusive. South Africa is a particular case of settler-colonialism. So are Israel, the United States, Australia, Canada, Algeria, and more. The framework of settler colonialism is both useful and insufficient. It does not provide meaningful ways to understand the nuance between these different historical processes and does not necessitate a particular outcome. Some settler colonial cases have been incredibly normalized at the expense of a completed genocide. Others have led to radically different end solutions. Palestine both fulfills and defies the settler-colonial condition.

We must consider Palestine through the iterations of Palestinians. If the Holocaust is the paradigmatic case for the crime of genocide and South Africa for that of apartheid, then the crime against the Palestinian people must be called the Nakba.

The term Nakba, meaning “Catastrophe,” is often used to refer to the making of the State of Israel in Palestine, a process that entailed the ethnic cleansing of over 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and destroying 531 Palestinian villages between 1947 to 1949. But the Nakba has never ceased; it is a structure not an event. Put shortly, the Nakba is ongoing.

In its most abstract form, the Nakba is a structure that serves to erase the group dynamic: the attempt to incapacitate the Palestinians from exercising their political will as a group. It is the continuous collusion of states and systems to exclude the Palestinians from materializing their right to self-determination. In its most material form, the Nakba is each Palestinian killed or injured, each Palestinian imprisoned or otherwise subjugated, and each Palestinian dispossessed or exiled.

The Nakba is both the material reality and the epistemic framework to understand the crimes committed against the Palestinian people. And these crimes—encapsulated in the framework of Nakba—are the result of the political ideology of Zionism, an ideology that originated in late nineteenth century Europe in response to the notions of nationalism, colonialism, and antisemitism.

As Edward Said reminds us, Zionism must be assessed from the standpoint of its victims, not its beneficiaries. Zionism can be simultaneously understood as a national movement for some Jews and a colonial project for Palestinians. The making of Israel in Palestine took the form of consolidating Jewish national life at the expense of shattering a Palestinian one. For those displaced, misplaced, bombed, and dispossessed, Zionism is never a story of Jewish emancipation; it is a story of Palestinian subjugation.

What is distinctive about the Nakba is that it has extended through the turn of the 21st century and evolved into a sophisticated system of domination that has fragmented and reorganized Palestinians into different legal categories, with each category subject to a distinctive type of violence. Fragmentation thus became the legal technology underlying the ongoing Nakba. The Nakba has encompassed both apartheid and genocidal violence in a way that makes it fulfill these legal definitions at various points in time while still evading their particular historical frames.

Palestinians have named and theorized the Nakba even in the face of persecution, erasure, and denial. This work has to continue in the legal domain. Gaza has reminded us that the Nakba is now. There are recurring threats by Israeli politicians and other public figures to commit the crime of the Nakba, again. If Israeli politicians are admitting the Nakba in order to perpetuate it, the time has come for the world to also reckon with the Palestinian experience. The Nakba must globalize for it to end.

We must imagine that one day there will be a recognized crime of committing a Nakba, and a disapprobation of Zionism as an ideology based on racial elimination. The road to get there remains long and challenging, but we do not have the privilege to relinquish any legal tools available to name the crimes against the Palestinian people in the present and attempt to stop them. The denial of the genocide in Gaza is rooted in the denial of the Nakba. And both must end, now.

Rabea Eghbariah

Rabea Eghbariah is a human rights attorney completing his doctoral studies at Harvard Law School.

Israeli History Teacher Arrested for Posts Opposing Killing of Palestinians

 


On November 9, Israeli police arrested Jerusalem history and civics teacher Meir Baruchin after he posted a message on Facebook about his opposition to the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians. Police seized his phone and two laptops before interrogating him on suspicion of committing an act of treason and intending to disrupt public order. After being in jail for four days, Baruchin was freed but lost his job as a teacher and is still facing charges. “These days Israeli citizens who are showing the slightest sentiment for the people of Gaza, opposing killing of innocent civilians, they are being politically persecuted, they go through public shaming, they lose their jobs, they are being put in jail,” says Baruchin, who says if he had been Palestinian, he would have faced more violence.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

We turn now to look at how the Israeli government is cracking down on Israeli citizens who criticize their government’s bombardment of Gaza. We’re joined now by Meir Baruchin, a history and civics teacher from Jerusalem who was recently jailed for four days in solitary confinement after he posted a message on Facebook about his opposition to the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians, especially women and children.

On November 9th, Israeli police ransacked his house and arrested him. They also seized his phone and two laptops. Police interrogated him on suspicion of committing an act of treason and intending to disrupt public order. He was then jailed for four days and labeled a high-risk detainee. Baruchin has since been freed, but he has lost his job as a teacher and is still facing charges. Despite this, Meir Baruchin has refused to stay silent and is joining us now from Jerusalem.

Meir, welcome to Democracy Now! It was hard for us to get in touch with you over the last few days because your electronic devices, like your phone, were taken. Can you talk about exactly what happened to you? What did you post? And then, how did the Israeli police come to ransack your house?

MEIR BARUCHIN: First of all, thanks for having me.

When I got to the first interrogation, the interrogators presented 14 posts, most of them before October 7th. There were posts from four years ago, from two years ago. Only one or two posts were after October 7th.

What I’m trying to do in my Facebook posts is this. For most Israelis, Palestinians are really vague images. They have no names, no faces, no family, no hope, no plans. And I’m trying to give them names and faces, introduce them to Israelis, so more Israelis would be able to see Palestinians as human beings. So, that’s what I do in my Facebook. The police didn’t like it, so they arrested me.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And when you were arrested, what was the substance of the interrogation against you during that time? And how were you treated?

MEIR BARUCHIN: On November 9th, I got a call from the police to come over for interrogation on sedition. I called my lawyer, and he said that in order to interrogate an Israeli citizen for sedition, they need an approval from the general attorney. The police did ask for approval but was rejected, so they decided to interrogate me for intention to commit an act of treason and disrupt public order.

The minute I walked into the police station, they shackled my hands and legs, and they showed me a warrant to search my house. Five detectives took me to my house and ransacked the place. Then I was taken back to the police station for the first interrogation, that lasted four hours. After that, I was taken to the jailhouse. Like you said, I was categorized high-risk detainee, separated from everyone. I wasn’t allowed to bring anything with me, a book or something. I spent there four days. In order not to go crazy, I exercised every hour and a half, two hours.

On Sunday evening, November 12th, they took me for a second interrogation. And their technique was — it wasn’t really asking questions. It was more of a rhetoric. When you install the answer inside the question, you don’t really let the other person choose his own answer. For example, they said something like, “As someone who justifies and legitimizes the rapes by Hamas people on October 7th, don’t you think that…” — you know, that was their technique. Also in my second interrogation, at a certain moment they said that my Facebook posts are just like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Now, I’m history teacher, so I asked them, “Did you ever read The Protocols of the Elders of Zion?” There was no comment.

I was taken back to the jailhouse. And on November 13th, I was released by the judge, and still they kept me in the jailhouse for another three-and-a-half hours.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what has been the response of fellow teachers in Israel and of the press to your arrest and detention?

MEIR BARUCHIN: Most of mainstream media embrace the statement of the police spokesman who accused me as justifying and legitimizing the rapes committed by Hamas people on October 7th.

As for my colleague teachers, hundreds of them are telling me, “Meir, I am fully behind you, but I have children to support,” “Meir, I’m with you, but I’m paying a mortgage,” “Meir, I’m with you, but my daughter is getting married,” “Meir, I’m with you, but we just started to redecorate the house.” They are afraid to speak up. They are afraid to lose their jobs. They see very clearly that these days Israeli citizens who are showing some — the slightest sentiment for the people of Gaza, opposing killing of innocent civilians, they are being politically persecuted, they go through public shaming, they lose their jobs, they are being put in jail. So they are afraid.

AMY GOODMAN: Last week, Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, published an editorialheadlined “Arresting Arabs and Left-wingers: How Israel Intends to Crack Down on Domestic Dissent Over Gaza War.” In it, Haaretz wrote about your case, saying, quote, “Make no mistake: Baruchin was used as a political tool to send a political message. The motive for his arrest was deterrence — silencing any criticism or any hint of protest against Israeli policy. Baruchin paid a personal price.” So, Meir, if you can talk about the fact that you were fired from your job? You have four children, right? And also, how unusual is your arrest and being put in solitary confinement, both for Israeli Jews and for Palestinians?

MEIR BARUCHIN: Well, first, I must admit that the fact that I’m Jewish played a key role in my arrest. Had I been Palestinian, it was completely different. There would have been much more violence from the police officers and also in the jailhouse by the wardens.

I think it’s a clear message for not only to the teachers, but to all Israeli citizens. One of the newspaper men from Yedioth Ahronoth, Ben-Dror Yemini, he called me a “soldier in the service of terrorist propaganda,” in those specific words. Other newspaper — other journalists also embraced the police statement without getting my response or without even trying to challenge the police statement.

AMY GOODMAN: They took your phone and also your computer?

MEIR BARUCHIN: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you gotten it back?

MEIR BARUCHIN: They took my phone. They took two laptops. No, no, not yet. My lawyer is working on it. But the case is still not closed. I’m still facing charges. Also, the Ministry of Education suspended my license, so I cannot go back and teach anywhere in the country.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you tell your kids? We just have 30 seconds, Meir.

MEIR BARUCHIN: My kids are proud of me, and that’s the most important thing.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you so much for being with us. Meir Baruchin is an Israeli history and civics high school teacher who was jailed for four days, held in solitary confinement, after criticizing the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians. His case is still open. He could still go to trial. He’s speaking to us from Jerusalem.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.
 

New Israeli Law on the “Consumption of Terrorist Publications”

7amleh has published a position paper on a new Israeli law “Prohibiting the Consumption of Terrorist Publications.” The paper aims to analyze the Israeli law from a human rights perspective and examine its repercussions on the ground. The activation of this new law, especially at a time when the country is exposed to ongoing crises and grave humanitarian violations, will amplify the pattern of criminalization. This is especially relevant during times when many are seeking a variety of news sources with no other ulterior motive but staying informed. The law is expected to have far-reaching implications for freedoms and rights as well as contribute towards fear and intimidation.

Read Full Position Paper

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Appalling: Columbia University suspends JVP and SJP student chapters

Columbia
 

JVP is appalled at Columbia University’s decision to suspend JVP and SJP student chapters for the semester.

This is an appalling act of censorship and intimidation by the administration. The University is spuriously claiming that these groups violated university policy when calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, where over 11,000 civilians have lost their lives, including at least 4,500 children. 

The students in these groups are acting with moral clarity. They are protesting war and trying to save lives by calling for a ceasefire. By suspending Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine, Columbia has made a statement that Palestinians, students who support Palestinian rights, and Jewish students who reject the state of Israel’s actions in their name, are unwelcome on campus. 

Instead of supporting students’ rights to speak and to mobilize on campus, Columbia has chosen to prioritize suppressing speech on Israel and organizing to end the ongoing genocide and worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

As the largest progressive anti-Zionist Jewish organization in the world, counting hundreds of thousands of members and supporters, including Columbia and Barnard students, staff and faculty, JVP condemns the Columbia administration’s unjust suppression of speech and advocacy for Palestinian liberation.

SJP and JVP at Columbia are groups of Palestinian, Jewish, and allied students mobilizing together for a just future of freedom and equality for all.

SJP is the central mobilizing space and political home for many Palestinian students on campus. For many Jewish students, JVP has become a Jewish home after being unable to express their full selves as Jews who care about human rights for Palestinians within the narrow boundaries of legacy Jewish organizations on and off campus. 

SJP and JVP student organizers, at Columbia and around the country, are facing increased silencing and intimidation campaigns. The Columbia administration is falsely claiming that these groups’ call for a ceasefire and principled organizing include “threatening rhetoric and intimidation.” This is a thinly veiled effort to silence these students amidst an overwhelming campaign to shut down progressive student organizing. 

The University’s censorship of political speech and action is particularly concerning when countless American academics, religious leaders, and activists have supported the call for a ceasefire, including tens of thousands of Jews.

We are guided by Jewish values that promote aiding, supporting, and fighting for the rights and dignity of all peoples.

We demand the immediate reinstatement of JVP and SJP chapters at Columbia.

 

James Zogby: Silencing Debate

October 30, 2023
Dr. James J. Zogby ©
President
Arab American Institute

In recent years, US pro-Israel groups have been pursuing a multi-pronged strategy designed to stifle discourse about Israeli policy and Palestinian rights. They have done so because for the past three decades there has been an erosion of support for Israel, coupled with growing support for Palestinians.

Back in the bad old days of the 1970s, pro-Israel groups ruled the roost. Individuals and groups who supported Palestinian rights were excluded from political coalitions, fired from their positions, blocked from speaking at university events, and had their contributions returned by political candidates. Members of Congress who dared to speak out were smeared and targeted for defeat.  

Attitudes began to change with the first intifada, and then later with the Madrid peace process that culminated in the Oslo Accords. The power of intimidation lost steam and an open discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict began.  

The next three decades witnessed ups and downs (mostly the latter) in the peace process—and the debate over Israeli/Palestinian issues continued. The increasingly aggressive and brutal behaviors by and greater scrutiny of Israeli government policies resulted in a steady shift in US public opinion. Today, majorities in both parties support tying US aid to Israel to its human rights violations, and by a significant margin Democrats now have a more favorable view of Palestinians than they do of Israelis.  

This change has been reflected in an increasing number of supporters of Palestinian rights running for Congress and winning. It has also emboldened students—including Arab Americans, Black Americans, Asian Americans, Muslims, and a significant number of young progressive Jews, who cannot reconcile their faith’s values with Israel’s dehumanization and oppression of Palestinians—to engage in pro-Palestinian actions on college campuses. This shift in opinion has created a crisis for the hardline pro-Israel groups, resulting in a renewed effort to silence critics of Israel.  

Reactions to the current round of violence has exposed the depth of the divisions in attitudes toward Palestine/Israel, while adding impetus to pro-Israel groups’ efforts to silence debate. Given the widespread public outrage at Hamas’ actions, these groups saw an opportunity to accelerate their repressive agenda.   

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The tactics undertaken have included the following: the expanded use of well-funded political committees to smear and defeat progressive candidates who are critical of Israeli policies; passing legislation or securing executive orders penalizing supporters of the effort to boycott, divest, or sanction Israel over its violations of Palestinian rights, and expanding the definition of antisemitism to include legitimate criticism of Israeli policies; pressuring major corporations, law firms, and universities to accept this expanded definition of antisemitism and have their employees commit to adherence to this policy; and targeting and smearing individuals and groups that have been critical of Israel or supportive of Palestinian rights.  

Within days of the Hamas attacks, colleges and universities and organizations and major corporations were pressed to denounce the attacks and to refer to them as antisemitic. Many did. Those who hesitated were denounced. As the days wore on and it became clear how many Palestinian civilians were dying from Israeli strikes throughout Gaza, some universities or organizations sought to issue more balanced statements expressing concern for both Israeli and Palestinian civilians. They were also denounced as antisemitic by pro-Israel groups for making “false comparisons.” 

When campus student groups called out repressive Israeli policies in Gaza both before and after the Hamas assaults, pro-Israel groups painted the students as pro-Hamas and advocates for terror. In some instances, the student groups were threatened with having their charters revoked and being forced to disband. And in a few well-publicized cases, law students who were identified as participating in pro-Palestinian actions were notified that job offers they had received from prominent law firms were being rescinded. There has also been activity in Congress to pass resolutions expanding the definition of antisemitism to include legitimate criticism of Israel, despite the well-founded concern that this constitutes a violation of free speech. 

There are two social forces at work here, each pulling and pushing in opposite directions. On the one hand, there is the ongoing fracturing of the US body politic’s attitudes toward Israel/Palestine.  On the other side, there is the widespread public horror over the behavior of Hamas that is being seen by some pro-Israel groups as an opportunity to advance their agenda to silence the emerging debate over Palestinian rights. 

Three weeks after the Hamas attacks, the state of play appears to be that the initial revulsion has been somewhat offset by shock as the toll of the devastation wrought by Israel’s massive retaliation against Gaza continues to grow.  

While Hamas’ massacres did not advance the cause of Palestinians’ supporters (nor has the careless and offensive language used by some of the pro-Palestinian student groups), neither has Israel’s unrelenting bombing of Gaza served the cause of stifling debate sought by Israel’s supporters.  

Despite the huge investment in resources and political capital by the pro-Israel groups, and the number of people who have been and will continue to be harmed by their assault on free speech, they will lose. They may continue, for a time, to intimidate members of Congress and silence some debate, but changes in public opinion will continue. In fact, the very heavy-handed tactics used by the pro-Israel groups are already creating discomfort with their approach to silencing debate and defending the indefensible. 


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Arab American Institute. The Arab American Institute is a non-profit, nonpartisan national leadership organization that does not endorse candidates.

Note: To discuss this column with me, please register here for my next ‘Coffee And A Column’ event Wednesday via Zoom.

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James Zogby
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‘McCarthyite backlash’ to criticism of Israel

Senate suppression of pro-Palestinian voices

October 27, 2023American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) expresses deep concern over the recent Senate resolutions condemning antisemitism led by U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen, Marsha Blackburn, Jacky Rosen, James Lankford, and Josh Hawley. While we unequivocally condemn all forms of hatred, including antisemitism, the language and framing of these resolutions present a dangerously one-sided narrative that risks stifling critical discourse about Israel’s actions and policies. We are concerned that the one-sided approach contributes to fueling Islamophobia and Palestinephobia. 

We are alarmed that the resolutions do not delineate between antisemitism and the legitimate right to criticize the actions of the Israeli government. In doing so, these resolutions would not only further enable the suppression of pro-Palestinian voices in academic institutions but will contribute to a climate of fear and self-censorship among students and faculty at a time when Israel is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity every day in Palestine. 

In particular, the call to “investigate pro-Palestinian student groups’ potential ties to Hamas” serves to demonize peaceful activists and student organizations that strive for justice and human rights for Palestinians. This not only impacts freedom of speech but also exposes these individuals to undue scrutiny, intimidation, and, potentially, legal repercussions.

We urge Congress to consider the broader impact of these resolutions. Suppressing critical voices under the guise of combating antisemitism creates a chilling atmosphere that stands in opposition to the values of freedom, equality, and justice that the United States claims to uphold. 

In light of the preceding, we call on academic institutions to safeguard freedom of speech and protect the right to engage in peaceful activism without fear of reprisal or intimidation. We also call on U.S. media to be responsible in its coverage, present the facts as they are, without manipulation or falsification, and foster an environment that allows for nuanced debate and discussion on Israel-Palestine issues without labeling critical voices as antisemitic. 

We believe that dialogue and critique are crucial elements of any democratic society. AMP remains committed to fighting all forms of discrimination while advocating for the right to critique governmental policies and actions, including those of Israel.

Signed,
American Muslims for Palestine (AMP)

 
American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) is a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to engaging & educating Americans on Palestinian rights and the Israeli occupation. AMP is a premier national organization in the Palestine solidarity movement.

American Muslims for Palestine
6404 Seven Corners Place Ste N | Falls Church, Virginia 22044
703.534.3032 | info@ampalestine.org

Follow AMP on Social Media


 

Report: Blinken Urged Qatar to Censor Al Jazeera on Gaza

The outlet has been a crucial source of on-the-ground reporting from Gaza.

 
Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives for a press conference in Tel Aviv, on October 17, 2023, after an overnight meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (JACQUELYN MARTIN, POOL, AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)

In a meeting on Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a group of U.S. Jewish community leaders that he has urged the Qatari government to suppress coverage of Gaza from major Middle East outlet Al Jazeera, according to an Axios report.

Three people who attended the meeting told Axios that Blinken said that he has asked the Qatari prime minister to “turn down the volume on Al Jazeera’s coverage because it is full of anti-Israel incitement.” He told them that he brought this up as an example of how the Qatari government could reconsider its relationship with Hamas, the attendees said, though Blinken didn’t specify which coverage he specifically took issue with.

According to Axios, Blinken appeared to be talking about suppressing coverage from Al Jazeera Arabic, rather than Al Jazeera English.

The outlet has been a critical source of information amid Israel’s genocide in Gaza and throughout much of the decades-long Isareli occupation and apartheid, featuring reports from journalists on the ground in Palestine even as journalists in Gaza are at risk of being shelled and killed by Israeli forces.

The Al Jazeera Media Network is funded by the Qatari government but says that it maintains editorial independence.

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RELATED STORY


Blinken’s request to suppress Al Jazeera comes after Israel approved emergency regulations last week that could pave the way for shuttering the outlet, which Israeli officials have deemed “enemy propaganda.”

Israel has long sought to shut down Al Jazeera, one of the few international media companies with a physical presence in both Israel and Gaza. In 2017, Israel announced plans to close Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem office and stop the outlet’s broadcasts, due to what officials called “incitement.” In 2022, Israeli forces shot and killed Palestinian Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh; after months of denying that Israeli forces killed her, the Israeli military ultimately admitted that it was “highly possible” that it was responsible for her death.

Free press advocates have said that banning Al Jazeera is a dangerous move, and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) urged Israel to reconsider.

“We are deeply concerned by Israeli officials’ threats to censor media coverage of the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict, using vague accusations of harming national morale,” Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa program coordinator for CPJ, said in a statement. “CPJ urges Israel not to ban Al-Jazeera and to allow journalists to do their jobs. A plurality of media voices is essential in order to hold power to account, especially in times of war.”

Like everyone else in Gaza, journalists on the ground are in danger of losing their lives. Due to the Israeli siege on the region, Gazan journalists have had to resort to desperate measures to broadcast their reports; with no internet or electricity, and with some journalists’ offices bombed, press experts and journalists have raised concerns that there could be a media blackout in Palestine, which could serve to sow doubt regarding the extent of Gazans’ suffering and Israel’s genocide.

On the same day that news broke about Blinken’s comments, an Al Jazeera journalist learned that an Israeli air raid had killed his entire family. Wael Dahdouh, bureau chief for Al Jazeera Arabic in Gaza, was on-air when he learned the news. He then went to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in central Gaza — the only hospital still functioning in the area — to find that his wife, son and daughter were dead. His grandson was declared dead two hours later.

“If those cameras stop rolling, the world will not know what’s happening here,” Wajeeh Abu Zarifeh, a Gazan journalist whose office was bombed and destroyed during the first week of Israel’s current attacks, told Wired. “If we lose the electricity, if we lose the internet, we will stop. This is what Israel wants, to do everything in the dark.”

Blinken’s support for censorship of Al Jazeera’s Gaza coverage comes as he and other Biden administration officials have been stoking the war and seeking to increase U.S. aid to Israel, including weapons, as it carries out ethnic cleansing in Gaza. So far, at least 24 journalists have been killed in the war, according to CPJ, including one Lebanese reporter, three Israelis, and 20 Palestinians, all of whom were killed by Israeli air and missile strikes.

This story has been edited to include the news of the killing of an Al Jazeera journalist’s family on Wednesday.


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Podcast with Jeff Halper & Huwaida Arraf censored

 

J.G. Michael, Producer and Host of Parallax Views, reports that his recent podcast with Jeff & Huwaida has been flagged as “spam” and “hatespeech” on FaceBook.  Michael says, “Both of you called for a one, democratic state solution. Nothing hateful. Neither of you made for expulsion of Jewish people from that land, but rather a call for Palestinians and Jews to be able to live together as equals. Again, neither of you said anything hateful. You both called for an end to violence and bloodshed. I’m devastated by this along with everything else happening.”