In the summer of 2009, an academic conference co-sponsored by York University and Queen’s University proceeded without incident at the Glendon College Campus in Toronto, Ontario. Leading up to the event, however, York officials anticipated demonstrations and campaigns aimed at halting graduate contributions to the university.
One expects academic events to be intellectually stimulating, but rarely is a gathering of scholars in Canada cause for investigation by high-ranking government officials. In this case, the conference touched upon the new third rail of political and academic conversation in the country.
Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace was the theme of one conference sponsored as part of York University’s fiftieth anniversary celebration (U50). What the conference proposed to accomplish was a critical reading of Israel’s history, with the aim of working towards viable political resolutions to more than fifty years of occupation and war. Very quickly, the conference became an international target of lobby groups that aimed to have the event stopped.
The Conservative government’s decision to intervene and put pressure on the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to review its funding of the conference set a dangerous precedent. This controversy is the topic of No Debate: The Israel Lobby and Free Speech at Canadian Universities, by Jon Thompson, a retired professor at the University of New Brunswick.
No Debate provides an exceptional account of how the Israel lobby and its supporters in the government attempted to silence free speech. As Thompson’s book reveals, this was an unprecedented assault on academic freedom and the first incident of political intervention into the academic funding agency since its establishment in 1978. No Debate is based on a report of an investigation commissioned by the Canadian Association of University Teachers that looked into attempts by the government to withdraw SSHRC’s financial support for the conference.
Within weeks of York announcing its U50 schedule, Zionist organizations like B’Nai Brith, the Jewish Defense League, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and the Canadian Jewish Congress pushed to have York withdraw its sponsorship. The conference was denounced in the press through op-ed pieces and full-page advertisements in leading Canadian papers. Senior York administrators, including President Mamdouh Shoukri, received a deluge of emails and phone calls. Through public records and freedom of information requests, Thompson catalogues the sea of correspondence between York officials, scholars and lobby groups that played a role in this sad affair.
As early as 4 October, 2008, the Jewish Defense League threatened to bring pressure on York to cancel the conference. The JDL also appealed to the federal government by making an argument that the conference presented ideas that were “contrary to official government policy” in Canada.
Despite groundless accusations against the conference organizers and keynote speakers, several York administrators met representatives from Israel lobby groups. What came from these meetings, Thompson shows, was particularly shameful. David DeWitt, then an associate vice-president at the university, suggested that the conference organizers swap the majority of the confirmed speakers for other, “worthy” contributors recommended by the very groups who sought to stop the event altogether.
DeWitt went so far as to say that the speakers were “tarnished by ideology and polemic.” That was an interesting charge, considering that DeWitt considered himself an “academic colleague” of Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, an individual who set out to publicly smear the names of conference speakers and organizers.
Spokespeople for the Israel lobby groups, and even scholars at York, accused conference speakers, such as The Electronic Intifada’s co-founder Ali Abunimah, of not possessing adequate credentials to participate in an academic debate. Even Jewish Israelis, like David Kretzmer of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who is a well-known human rights advocate and legal scholar, were targeted as being ideologically biased.
Ironically, this same chorus of opponents called for invitations to be extended to the likes of Liberal member of Parliament Bob Rae and former Liberal government minister Irvin Cotler to speak instead — neither of whom, to be sure, could be considered academic experts in this particular field, nor could they be expected to provide a sober and unbiased account of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
Not a Jewish lobby
What No Debate offers is a comprehensive and historically grounded examination of academic freedom in theory and in practice. Thompson’s book also charts the rise of the Israel lobby and the threat this coalition poses to open discussion and academic freedom in the United States and, increasingly, Canada.
The author is clear that this is not a Jewish lobby, but a coterie of religious and secular groups that seek to undermine and silence any debate about Israel’s colonial history. Working in concert with a Conservative government that has, according to Thompson, been “eroding Canadian democracy in a variety of ways since 2006,” the Israel lobby is particularly dangerous to the fabric of free, scholarly inquiry and public debate.
In the case of the conference jointly sponsored by York and Queen’s, however, the lobby was not successful in its goals. In fact, the Canadian government’s attempt to force SSHRC’s hand was met with stiff, nation-wide resistance. Thompson concludes that the agency did not bend to the government’s wishes and its call for a second peer review.
No Debate is an important book for many reasons. For activists and scholars that stand in solidarity with Palestinian human rights to those who believe that academic freedoms everywhere need to be defended and expanded, Thompson’s book provides a politically potent and engaging read.
Andrew Stevens is co-host of Rank and File Radio, a weekly program about labor and unions in Canada that airs on CFRC 101.9FM. Andrew interviewed No Debate author Jon Thompson about the book in February. Archives of the program can be found at www.cfrc.ca and www.radio4all.net.
- Apartheid conference goes ahead in Paris despite university ban (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Paris university pulls plug on “Israeli apartheid” talk (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Zionist group fails to disrupt Ilan Pappe’s tour at California state universities (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- NGO Monitor declares terminology used by Israel’s Danny Ayalon to be “anti-Semitic” (alethonews.wordpress.com)
In a recent Taki’s Magazine piece aptly entitled “The Not-so-Great Dictator,” Kathy Shaidle observes:
As for Baron Cohen: Before the Academy relented and let him to go to the Oscars in dictator drag after all, he put out an unfunny video denouncing the “Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Zionists.” It was supposed to be another example of the comedian’s fearless “guerrilla” humor. No one tells daredevil satirist Sacha Baron Cohen what to do—except maybe Paramount Pictures, whose logo is ever-so-faintly visible in the lower right corner of every frame.
Does this mean—gasp!—that Baron Cohen, Paramount, and the Academy cooked up the whole “controversy” from the beginning to publicize a movie that the star wasn’t “allowed” to publicize?
Why, it almost sounds like a conspiracy.
It reminds me of Jeff Gates’ observation in the must-watch “The Hate Mongers Among Us” about the “controversy” surrounding Michael Moore’s 2004 film on the motives for the war on Iraq:
Fahrenheit 911 was produced by Miramax, a Disney subsidiary. Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein loudly claimed that Disney reneged on its promise to distribute Moore’s film. Disney chief executive Michael Eisner objected—just as loudly.
The high profile sparing between these two Hollywood titans dragged on for months in mainstream media. By the time the film was released, the interest generated by this “dispute” ensured that Moore’s film opened on a record number of screens for a “documentary.”
At virtually no cost, that public relations ploy helped ensure an international audience for a film that discredited not only the U.S. but also the office of the president. In its practical effect, the Moore film helped ensure there was virtually no mention of how key Zionist goals were advanced by this war—in plain sight.
As Michael Caine might say, not a lot of people know that Michael Moore’s agent is Ari Emanuel. Ariel “Ari” Zev Emanuel is the brother of former Israel Defense Forces volunteer Rahm Israel Emanuel and son of Dr. Benjamin M. Emanuel, a former member of the terrorist Irgun organization who famously commented on Obama’s appointment of his son as White House Chief of Staff, “Obviously he’ll influence the president to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn’t he? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to be mopping floors at the White House.”
The son of an Israeli mother, Sacha Baron Cohen first acted with the Habonim Dror Jewish Labour Zionist youth movement and took part in Machon L’Madrichei Chutz La’Aretz (“Institute for Youth Leaders from Abroad”), an Israeli programme founded by the World Zionist Organization “to train a cadre of Zionist youth leaders who would go back to their home countries and work in the Jewish community to pass on Zionist values and promote immigration to Israel.”
Update: Ari Emanuel is also Sacha Baron Cohen’s agent.
2 international activists were assaulted late this morning by extreme Zionist setters in Al Khalil (Hebron). A female activist was assaulted by a male settler, after being punched in the face and having her camera stolen by this male settler.
Today’s attack comes following weeks of warning and aggression towards photojournalists and activists with cameras by Israeli military and police, which have stated to internationals that Israeli law forbids the photography of their operations, or rather, their breach of international law and human rights.
Activists have received these warnings for weeks now, and today’s attack comes parallel to the deliberate targeting by Israeli military of journalists and activists with cameras, by shooting tear gas canisters and bullets directly at them at most West Bank demonstrations.
About a month ago, Reporters without Borders published this statement regarding these warnings and threats.
While today’s attack is an escalation against internationals in the region, and while it is evident that the Israeli military and illegal settlers are collaborating in attacking Palestinians and internationals, International Solidarity Movement will not desist from bringing proof of Israeli aggression through pictures, videos, and our continued reporting.
We thank the international solidarity community for its continued support in the face of Israeli Zionism, colonialism, discrimination, and militarization of Palestine.
- International Solidarity Movement volunteers encounter settler attack and sexual harassment in Hebron (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Settler Violence: Broken Glass on Shuhada Street (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- The massacre of 1929 and the War of Narratives (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Demanding justice for Yousef, a quiet boy killed by Israeli settlers (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Extremist settlers hurl concrete blocks at Hebron’s Old Market (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Exposing the “No Harm” Mantra
The myth that Fukushima radiation levels were too low to harm humans persists, a year after the meltdown. A March 2, 2012 New York Times article quoted Vanderbilt University professor John Boice: “there’s no opportunity for conducting epidemiological studies that have any chance for success – the doses are just too low.” Wolfgang Weiss of the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation also recently said doses observed in screening of Japanese people “are very low.”
Views like these are political, not scientific, virtually identical to what the nuclear industry cheerleaders claim. Nuclear Energy Institute spokesperson Tony Pietrangelo issued a statement in June that “no health effects are expected among the Japanese people as a result of the events at Fukushima.”
In their haste to choke off all consideration of harm from Fukushima radiation, nuclear plant owners and their willing dupes in the scientific community built a castle against invaders – those open-minded researchers who would first conduct objective research BEFORE rushing to judgment. The pro-nuclear chants of “no harm” and “no studies needed” are intended to be permanent, as part of damage control created by a dangerous technology that has produced yet another catastrophe.
But just one year after Fukushima, the “no harm” mantra is now being crowded by evidence – evidence to the contrary.
First, estimates of releases have soared. The first reports issued by the Japanese government stated that emissions equaled 10% of 1986 Chernobyl emissions. A few weeks later, they doubled that estimate to 20%. By October 2011, an article in the journal Nature estimated Fukushima emissions to be more than double that of Chernobyl. How anyone, let alone scientists, could call Fukushima doses “too low” to cause harm in the face of this evidence is astounding.
Where did the radioactive particles and gases go? Officials from national meteorological agencies in countries like France and Austria followed the plume, and made colorful maps available on the internet. Within six days of the meltdowns, the plume had reached the U.S., and within 18 days, it had circled the Northern Hemisphere.
How much radiation entered the U.S. environment? A July 2011 journal article by officials at Pacific Northwest National Lab in eastern Washington State measured airborne radioactive Xenon-133 up to 40,000 times greater than normal in the weeks following the fallout. Xenon-133 is a gas that travels rapidly and does not enter the body, but signals that other, more dangerous types of radioactive chemicals will follow.
A February 2012 journal article by the U.S. Geological Survey looked at radioactive Iodine-131 that entered soil from rainfall, and found levels hundreds of times above normal in places like Portland OR, Fresno CA, and Denver CO. The same places also had the highest levels of Cesium-134 and Cesium-137 in the U.S. While elevated radiation levels were found in all parts of the country, it appears that the West Coast and Rocky Mountain states received the greatest amounts of Fukushima fallout.
Radiation in rainfall guarantees that humans will ingest a poisonous mix of chemicals. The rain enters reservoirs of drinking water, pastures where milk-giving cows graze, the soil of produce farms, and other sources of food and water.
Finally, how many people were harmed by Fukushima in the short term? Official studies have chipped away at the oft-repeated claim that nobody died from Fukushima. Last month brought the news that 573 deaths in the area near the stricken reactors were certified by coroners as related to the nuclear crisis, with dozens more deaths to be reviewed. Another survey showed that births near Fukushima declined 25% in the three months following the meltdowns. One physician speculated that many women chose to deliver away from Fukushima, but an increase in stillbirths remains as a potential factor. In British Columbia, the number of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome deaths was 10 in the first three months after Fukushima, up from just one a year before.
On December 19, 2011, we announced the publication of the first peer-reviewed scientific journal article examining potential health risks after Fukushima. In the 14 week period March 20 – June 25, 2011, there was an increase in deaths reported to the CDC by 122 U.S. cities. If final statistics (not available until late 2014) confirm this trend, about 14,000 “excess” deaths occurred among Americans in this period.
We made no statement that only Fukushima fallout caused these patterns. But we found some red flags: infants had the greatest excess (infants are most susceptible to radiation), and a similar increase occurred in the U.S. in the months following Chernobyl. Our study reinforced Fukushima health hazard concerns, and we hope to spur others to engage in research on both short-term and long-term effects.
For years, the assumption that low-dose radiation doesn’t harm people has been used, only to fall flat on its face every time. X-rays to abdomens of pregnant women, exposure to atom bomb fallout, and exposures to nuclear weapons workers were all once presumed to be harmless due to low dose levels – until scientific studies proved otherwise. Officials have dropped their assumptions on theses types of exposures, but continue to claim that Fukushima was harmless.
Simply dismissing needed research on Fukushima health consequences because doses are “too low” is irresponsible, and contradictory to many scientific studies. There will most certainly be a fight over Fukushima health studies, much like there was after Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. However, we hope that the dialogue will be open minded and will use evidence over assumptions, rather than just scoffing at what may well turn out to be the worst nuclear disaster in history.
Joseph Mangano is an epidemiologist and Executive Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project.
Janette Sherman is an internist and toxicologist.
- 14,000 U.s. Deaths Tied to Fukushima Reactor Disaster Fallout (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Contrary to inaccurate and biased US media reports, Iran is in fact in full compliance of its obligations under the IAEA’s Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Even the latest IAEA report cannot deny this fact, but the US media, in a misleading effort, insists on reporting only those areas that the IAEA has put on its wish list for Iran to fulfill which is commonly referred to as Possible Military Dimensions or PMD. The wish-list is not a requirement under Iran’s current Comprehensive Safeguard Agreement (CSA). Iran’s existing CSA protects her inalienable right to carry out any and all research related to nuclear technology, as long as bomb grade nuclear material is not involved, and there is not a single evidence of this violation.
Notwithstanding Iran’s full compliance, the IAEA now wants more intrusive inspections beyond Iran’s CSA. These intrusive inspections are commonly referred to as the Additional Protocols (AP) On the surface of it, the request for AP seems reasonable as it will allow inspectors to go anywhere they wish, to talk to anyone they deem appropriate, and have all the information about future plans for nuclear facilities even before construction has begun. But the request is highly suspect as this demand is not extended to all NPT member countries, once again, demonstrating double-standards.
If in fact, the goal was confidence building and applicable to all NPT nations as opposed to making such a demand with threats, it would have been worthy of consideration by the Iranian government, as well as all other NPT member states. Regrettably, this is not the case: cyber-attacks, assassination of nuclear scientists, and draconian sanctions that directly impact millions of Iranians have been the norm for dealing with Iran’s nuclear debacle.
It is not prudent for the leadership in Iran to accept AP while President Obama continues with his belligerent accusation of Iran being a nuclear threat for the world when in fact the intelligence community in the US reaffirmed last week the 2007 assessment that Iran is not working on nuclear weapons. Mr. Obama’s suggestion while addressing AIPAC that Iran is planning to “wipe out Israel off the map,” is another canard that is not supported by facts. In reality, Iran should be complaining against the daily threats of attack by Israel and US. If peaceful enrichment of uranium under the watchful eyes of the IAEA cameras and inspectors is considered a threat to world peace, then Iran’s agreement with the IAEA and her inalienable rights is completely ignored by nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT.
Accepting AP is tantamount to providing information about non-nuclear military sensitive sites that will be added to the target list of those countries that are threatening Iran with military strikes. Also, this will jeopardize the lives of tens of scientists and engineers that the IAEA wants to talk to as part of their new demands. Iran’s relaxed and naïve approach to protecting the scientists has cost the lives of 5 nuclear experts so far, and the AP may exasperate this situation.
To be clear, no American administration, current or future, will have the courage to accept Iran’s peaceful enrichment activity, even if the work is done under the watchful eyes of the IAEA cameras and inspector’s regular visits. The reason is that the government of Israel and their cronies in US Congress, the main stream media, and numerous pro-Israel think tanks around DC will vehemently oppose such a bold, but justified decision. Judging from the Israeli leaders’ recent statements, their main reason to go to war with Iran is not that Iran has a nuclear bomb, but the fear that Iran’s advances in technology may embolden Iran and her allies in resisting Israeli aggression.
This fear mongering has served Israel very well. Not only has it resulted in US and her allies putting in place the toughest sanctions ever on any country, impacting millions of Iranians, but it has covered up the disastrous Palestinian settlement issue. The Prime Minister of Israel should be commended for his skills in steering global concern and discussions away from the plight of the Palestinians to the saber rattling against her arch enemy, Iran. Unfortunately, the Palestinian issue is a time bomb that will surface regardless of Israel’s intentions to strike Iran. One of the side effects of this immoral and illegal preemptive war is that the Middle East problems will get worse before getting better, with many unintended consequences.
The only way forward for Iran and the US is for these two countries to find ways of dialing down the rhetorical statements by both sides. In order to reach this goal, the advice of Ambassador Dobbins and others is the key. That is, there should be many bilateral meetings without the participation of any of the other P5 members, in order to identify common grounds where further negotiations can be initiated.