A letter from Gaza appeared on the web dated 24 September 2010. It was from a group of Gaza academics and students and sought to publicize the fact that eight American universities have recently signed agreements with various Israeli universities to offer US students free semester-long programmes in Israel. Among the American universities participating in this venture are Harvard, Columbia and Michigan.
Unspoken strategy of cultural genocide
The Gaza academics and students expressed shock at this turn of events. And so they might, given the fact that they are sitting in an outdoor prison of Israeli making and have seen their educational institutions both starved of resources by an Israeli blockade and literally bombed to rubble by Israeli warplanes. The situation in Gaza is but the worst of a bad situation for all Palestinians, including those in the West Bank and Israel proper. When it comes to education in all of these locales apartheid policies are in place to interfere with Palestinian students and teachers and minimize the educational experience. Actually, this is part of an unspoken strategy of cultural genocide. Such policies are directly or indirectly supported by the Israeli academic institutions to which the participating American universities now want to send their students.
How can these US universities do this? This is certainly a legitimate question in an age when discrimination and racism are, supposedly, no longer socially or politically acceptable. After all Harvard, Columbia, Michigan, etc. are institutions of higher learning housed in a country that prides itself on broad civil rights laws and all of them adhere to social equity rules. Yet here they are climbing into academic bed, so to speak, with a state that practises apartheid against its non-Jewish minority and is attempting to ethnically cleanse the indigenous population of the occupied territories. Well, there are any number of scenarios that might lead them to this sort of hellish arrangement and here I offer only one possibility. It assumes an “Adolf Eichmann context.”
The realm of the bureaucrat
The people in control of American universities (and perhaps all universities) are mostly bureaucrats. Some of them are trained in the specialty field of higher education administration, some are professors who have crossed over to an administrative career line, and some are just folks hired from the general population pool to run sub-departments such as public relations and accounting. They are all trained to pay lip service to various sorts of mission statements and assessment markers; however, their lives are really very insular and their goals narrow and short term. For instance, even at the highest level, say the office of the university president, there are usually but a few major goals, and the main one in this case is to raise money.
Somewhere in the organizational chart is an office of overseas programmes (or some similar title). It is usually a small operation with a director and a secretary. Their job is to set up exchange programmes. What they are looking for are programmes at overseas schools that are roughly similar in quality to the courses their own institution offers. That way the credits can be legitimately transferred back home and stand in for some of their student’s degree requirements. The people who are arranging these exchanges usually know little or nothing of the social or political situation in the overseas institution’s country. And, they are not likely to educate themselves on these subjects beyond some assurance that the place is relatively safe for the students that will be participating in the exchange. It may be hard for those of us who are so focused on Israeli apartheid to accept this, but for most of the folks in these little offices, Israel has about the same cachet as the Czech Republic or maybe Ireland. There is a lot of ignorance at his level.
What else is going on?
Of course, that is not the end of the story. There are other folks out there, most of whom are indirectly associated with the university in question. These people know that there is a war going on against apartheid Israel, and they are not on our side. They want to counter the increasingly effective process of “chipping away at Israel’s legitimacy”. They also have deep pockets and lots of influence. These folks may be big donors to these universities and some of them may well sit on the institution’s board of governors/regents.
When the president or his representative goes out to raise money these donors have what appears to be innocuous conditions for their gifts. So they say to president x or y, “sure we will give you half a million dollars for that new sports complex you so covet, but in return we want you to create this exchange programme with Hebrew and Haifa universities”. The president thinks that this is little enough to ask for such a generous gift, and his friend on the board of governors/regents seconds the motion. A telephone call is made to the director of overseas programmes who is given a contact name and number at the Israeli embassy to get things rolling. And that is how it happens.
What comes next?
Soon enough this arrangement becomes public. You have to figure if they know about it in Gaza, they know about in Cambridge, Ann Arbor and upper Manhattan. Given the times there will probably be some sort of public protest, but the ensuing struggle will not be easy for the following reasons:
a) The university position will almost certainly be that to shun Israel is a violation of academic freedom, free inquiry and the essential non-political status of learning. This sort of argument is age old. The US universities were making it when they were asked to divest from apartheid South Africa and stop research funded by the “Defence” Department during the Vietnam war. One can never lay this argument to rest in any final way because it represents a cherished, if somewhat unreal, ideal.
So you point out for the one-thousandth time that there is an inherent contradiction when you take this position relative to Israeli universities just because they do not promote these academic ideals. They are destroyers of free thought and free inquiry as far as Palestinian rights (and particularly the right of education) are concerned. And so if the ideal of a non-political status for learning exists anywhere in the real world, it ain’t in Israel. The whole Zionist academic setup has been criticized by international as well as Israeli human rights organizations for these anti-educational activities. Finally, you try to tell the university decision makers that there is precedent for universities taking a stand against apartheid practices. At this point you notice that they have, figuratively, clicked on their iPods and are no longer listening.
b) Next you go to the professors of the institution and try to explain the same thing. That is when you come to the stomach wrenching realization that most of them do not care. Most academics are as specialized as the bureaucrats, and live their lives in just as insular a world. They know a lot about their sub-field and very little beyond it. They are dedicated to their families and their local communities and are, on the whole, decent people, but they are not interested, nor are they going to hit the street, for oppressed people far away. This is particularly true when their local news sources have been systematically libeling those people for 60-plus years. They too will hide behind the idea of academic freedom.
It should be noted that this is not quite the same thing as Julien Benda’s “treason of the intellectuals”. There is very little spouting of national chauvinism or the racism of Islamophobia (except for the Zionists professors among them). No, it is just co-optation into the system. It is just natural localism – I really just want to live my life and work in my laboratory or library cubicle, etc. I am reluctant to get too annoyed at my fellow academics for this attitude, because theirs is the immemorial stance of all ordinary folks everywhere.
c) So that leaves the students, and here there is a much better chance to gather a crowd and take a stand. There is always a socially conscious group among the youth who are willing to fight for a good cause and risk defying the powers that be. This is because they have yet to become ensconced in the system, bogged down with career, family, mortgage and the like. In other words, some of them have not yet shrunk into an insular world of very local interests and goals. Those are the people who will protest, if anyone will, at the ivy towers of Harvard, Columbia, Michigan and the five other schools which have willed their own corruption.
What are the odds of victory?
Whether anyone will listen to the protesters depends on how many there are, how loud they protest and how far they are willing to go with it. Are they willing to go into the dormitories and spread the word? Are they willing to picket not only the ordinary centres of power on campus, but also the admissions office when prospective students come to visit, or demonstrate on home-coming day and at all the football games? Are they willing to hunt for donors who might say they will not give if their institution partners with Israel? Are they willing to occupy the president’s office and thereby risk arrest? Are they willing to keep all of this up for weeks on end? It might take all of these sorts of activities to even have a chance at winning this contest.
Even so, the odds are not good. Essentially, you have to create such a cost to the institution in trouble and bad publicity that it outweighs that donor’s half a million dollars and/or the anger of the fellow on the board/regents. If in the end you do not win, you have to understand that it is not wholly a defeat. After all, you have certainly raised consciousness. In other words, you have set the stage for the next battle and made that one a little easier to win. So you have to have the energy to fight again and again. It is a scenario wherein youth is a definite plus.
There is another way in which mounting a serious protest at any of these schools must constitute a victory. That is the fact that such a protest will demonstrate to the academics and students in Gaza and the rest of Palestine that the world has not abandoned them, that they have allies and their struggle is now a worldwide one. In the short run, that might be the most important victory of all.
Here is a quote from the American academic Richard Hofstadter: “A university’s essential character is that of being a centre of free inquiry and criticism – a thing not to be sacrificed for anything else.” If this so (and all the leaders of the institutions involved in these exchanges will undoubtedly agree), then why are these eight universities sending their students off to Israeli schools that cooperate with state policies that deny just these sacrosanct pursuits to persecuted Palestinians? Why are they sending their students to a country that seeks to silence, at all levels of society, any free inquiry and criticism of its racist and oppressive national ideology? Why are they cooperating with institutions that have state-dictated policies (for instance, admissions policies) that would be illegal in the United States? Do they condone such behaviours? If they go through with these exchange programmes, then the answer is, for all intents and purposes, yes, they do. Essentially, they now lend themselves to the destruction of the very educational virtues they claim to cherish.
Lawrence Davidson is professor of history at West Chester University. He is the author of numerous books, including Islamic Fundamentalism and America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood.
This past week, U.S. President Barak Obama announced a plan to displace 11 percent of U.S. oil consumption with biofuels by 2022, offering $786 million in subsidies to energy corporations for new refineries in an ethanol industry that is far from being economically viable.
Under the new Obama plan the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will require fuel refiners and importers to guarantee that a percentage of their fuel is from renewable sources. The percentage will increase each year until the country is using 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022.
“It’s another opportunity for producers to profit” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says, but the fact that the plan is being marketed as such might suggest cause for caution in an industry that exists almost wholly due to federal mandates.
“Our economy is at the mercy of foreign oil producers, and everybody feels that when it hits us at the pump,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in support of the new plan. In fact though, recent events in the oil markets reveal that it was market activity rather than suppliers that caused the oil price bubble. Just as with real estate, there never was a lag in supply and prices were boosted by speculative trading with some shipments exchanging hands dozens of times while en route to their destinations. Hedge funds gambled with highly leveraged portfolios of oil futures in a bubble market fed by alarmist fears of ever compounding rates of growth in oil demand balanced against projected future oil production data that didn’t recognize unconventional oil.
The reality is that energy producers, whose economies are reliant on exports for as much as 95% of their income, are much more at the mercy of the demand-side driven market. Entire national government budgets are funded by nothing else but oil receipts. Energy production and supply is an industry that is characterized by interdependence between importer and exporter, this is why Europe and China are engaging in long term supply contracts that offer stability for all involved.
Left unaddressed by the Obama team is the harsh reality of globalized commodity markets which will see basic food prices sustain price rises that result in starvation for hundreds of thousands or as many as tens of millions of the world’s poorest, often landless, populations. It takes 232 kilos of maize to fill a standard gas tank with fuel. In this case, supply and demand are actually at work affecting market prices and economic choices such as which type of use land is put to.
Hilaire Avril of Inter Press Service writes:
Responding to European hunger for biofuel, many African countries have expanded single-crop farming surfaces. But only large businesses have the resources and capital to reach the critical size that allows for economies of scale which make the venture profitable.
Smallholders, which in countries like Benin account for the majority of land use, and up to 80 percent of employment opportunities, do not benefit from the biofuel windfall. In addition, land, water and other limited resources are being diverted from scarce food-producing crops.
Several international institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, have acknowledged in recent years that the increasing demand for biofuel crops has catastrophic social, economic and nutritional impacts on developing countries and their already tense food resources.
In Senegal, which was affected by food riots a year ago, up to 200,000 hectares (10 percent of the country’s arable lands) might be set aside for jatropha crops for biofuels.
Second and third generation biofuels are supposed to limit environmental and social impacts because of either the use of non food-producing crops or biomass such as algae and fungus.
“That’s a sham,” insists Ambroise Mazal of the Catholic Committee against Hunger and for Development, “because second generation fuels made from non-edible crops still take up arable lands and the research is far from developing sustainable biomass in laboratories.”
Why did Obama choose to exceed both the Bush and E.U. mandates? Even the Congressional Budget Office has reported that ethanol mandates drive food prices higher. While Obama’s connections with corporate agriculture are well documented and widely reported, less discussed is the Israel lobby’s interest in “energy independence”. It seems that as in so many other crucial areas of U.S. policy, the Israel lobby has been influencing the energy agenda as well. Nancy Pelosi perceives a need (for America?) to “achieve independence from Middle East oil.” Even though imports from Middle East sources account for only a small percentage of U.S. oil imports. One wonders just what scenario of hers results in a cessation of oil exports from the Middle East, Israeli aggression on Iran perhaps?
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a 2007 AIPAC conference:
“With innovation, we broaden our horizons, and expand our vision, in order to create a better world. That is why House Democrats have introduced our Innovation Agenda: A Commitment to Competitiveness to Keep America Number One. I know this is an area where the United States and Israel can work together.
“At the end of February, the House passed legislation to foster joint projects between the United States and key allies such as Israel, which offer the promise of using the best new innovation to improve security for all of us.
“In energy policy, the United States and Israel have another opportunity to combine our best innovative ideas. The U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Act would help fund joint ventures between United States and Israeli businesses and academic institutions for the development and commercialization of alternative renewable energy sources.
“American and Israeli ingenuity can be put to work to achieve energy independence from Middle East oil. A sustained investment in research and development is crucial to creating cutting-edge technologies to develop these clean, sustainable alternatives and capitalize on vast renewable natural resources, including solar energy and wind power.
At the recent AIPAC conference the program featured Mr. Andy Karsner Former Assistant Secretary of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Mr. Jonathan Baron Founder and Principal, Baron Communications LLC giving a report titled:
The majority of the world’s oil sits beneath the sands of unstable nations and under the control of hostile authoritarian leaders. Is there still an American appetite for energy independence? If so, what will it take to achieve, and can such a move secure our nation? [emphasis mine]
Are biofuels really a sensible way for the U.S. to address the “hostility” of Middle Eastern leaders or would it be more in America’s interests to remedy the cause of anger? The biofuels “energy independence” policy offers a grim view of a future so warlike that America’s trade relations with entire, economically significant, regions are shut off. Is this Obama’s “forward looking” vision?
Articles written by Atheo:
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September 26, 2010 Posted by aletho | "Hope and Change", Author: Atheo, Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Supremacism, Social Darwinism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | Africa, Biofuel, Energy, Human rights, Israel, Middle East, Nancy Pelosi, Obama, Tom Vilsack, United States | 4 Comments
Join the Palestine Solidarity Project as we prepare to replant the Saffa valley, destroyed by settlers in 2009 and currently under threat of annexation by the Israeli military. Saffa is a Palestinian agricultural community at the edge of the illegal Bat Ayn settlement, and Saffa farmers are frequently subject to settler violence and harassment. A series of settler attacks in the summer of 2009 left several Palestinian farmers wounded and much of the land destroyed.
Settlers have destroyed nearly all of the trees in the Saffa valley, depriving many farmers of their primary source of income. To make matters worse, the Israeli military has recently begun claiming that the land is “state land,” indicating their intention to annex the valley to the illegal Bat Ayn settlement. All of the farmers have documents proving their ownership of the land. In 2009 the army began issuing a series of “closed military zone” orders denying the farmers access to their land, and attempts to reach the land have been violently suppressed.
For over a year the Palestine Solidarity Project has organized delegations of internationals and Israelis to accompany the farmers to their land, in order to deter settler violence and military harassment. In January 2010 the Palestine Solidarity Project organized the replanting of over two thousand trees in Saffa, to replace the ones destroyed by settlers and to deter further annexation. We are hoping to plant another three thousand trees this winter on land intended for annexation by the settlement. WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT!
We are calling all people of conscious to join the farmers of Saffa as they prepare their land for planting. The presence of large groups, including Israelis and internationals, helps deter settler and military violence, and will hopefully prevent imminent annexation. We will be working in the land Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays from 9 am until noon starting October 3. To get involved contact our volunteer coordinator, Maria Lewis, at (972) 59-708-6407.
All of the trees (and tools) are paid for by the generosity people like you! The Palestine Solidarity Project is in need of donations to make our goals in Saffa a reality. Donate online at http://palestinesolidarityproject.org/donate/.
HEBRON — Israeli forces assaulted and detained Associated Press photojournalist Nasser Shiyouki on Saturday as he covered the weekly anti-wall protest in Beit Ummar near Hebron, witnesses said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said Shiyouki physically confronted forces and refused to adhere to soldiers’ requests to step back. She said the photographer was briefly detained, and that a report was filed with Israeli police, who would investigate the incident.
Clashes erupted between protestors and Israeli soldiers after dozens of Palestinian, Israeli and international activists rallied near Karmi Zur, an illegal Israeli settlement built on land confiscated from Beit Ummar and neighboring town Halhul. Demonstrators raised Palestinian flags and chanted anti-wall and anti-occupation slogans.
Locals said several protesters suffered from tear gas inhalation at the rally, while others were physically attacked by soldiers and sustained bruises.
The army spokeswoman said soldiers used riot dispersal mechanisms after demonstrators threw rocks at forces.
The weekly rally is organized by the national committee against the wall and the Palestine Solidarity Project.
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From the Archives
A war of words and concepts!
By Khalil Nakhleh • January 28, 2010
Numerous books and articles have been written, guided by the main thesis that the reason for the prolonged and intractable conflict between Israel and Palestine, and which is constantly at an impasse, is that there are two “contested” histories (of Jews and Arabs in Palestine!), and two “contested” narratives. And one is directed to read and internalize that “contested”, in this sense, means that both narratives are equally valid and with equal legitimacy, and that all alternative reading and interpretation of it, and all attempts to question it are “subjective”, “very personal”, “emotive”, “irrational”, “not credible”, “unreliable”, and “removed from history” … This is, in my view, a total and utter nonsense.
Such an approach ignores actual historical developments and ignores origins of real versus mythical historical developments, and de-legitimizes the continued Palestinian presence in the land of historical Palestine.
Before the onslaught of the Zionist colonial attack on Palestine in the 19th century, there were no claims recorded that the history of Palestine was a “contested history”. … continue
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