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At MLA, boycott opponents paper chairs

Israel/Palestine
on 23 Comments

Editor: The Modern Language Association is meeting in Chicago this week and today the conference featured a panel with several supporters of academic boycott of Israel, notably Omar Barghouti. Our friend Liz Shulman is at the MLA convention and took these fotos of some of the anti-boycott literature being passed out at the panel, or set on chairs.

This document was also on some chairs

This document was also on some chairs

Omar Barghouti piece, on chairs

Omar Barghouti piece, on chairs

Piece about suicide bombing

Piece about suicide bombing

Piece alleging anti-semitism

Piece alleging anti-semitism

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Piece featuring Omar Barghouti's photo

Piece featuring Omar Barghouti’s photo

Liz Shulman
About Liz Shulman

Liz Shulman is a teacher in Chicago

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23 Responses

  1. just
    just
    January 9, 2014, 6:46 pm

    Another strong and heady scent of desperation in the form of printed hasbara.

    Do they really think that they are ‘reaching out’ to uneducated rubes? Lemmeseehere– this might just backfire! Thank you Liz– all the best to all of you.

  2. Edward Q
    Edward Q
    January 9, 2014, 8:52 pm

    The Palestinians are caricatured by a few sound bites selected by some Zionists. Couldn’t these people at least come up with an argument? The ASA thoroughly examined this issue. I hope the MLA does the same.

  3. annie
    annie
    January 9, 2014, 9:11 pm

    they are cite the nyt citing http://www.palwatch.org/

    they must really be desperate.

  4. Krauss
    Krauss
    January 9, 2014, 9:20 pm

    Let’s talk about Avigdor Lieberman’s ethnic cleansing plan, Bibi’s insistance that non-Jews are a “demographic threat” and Bennett’s bragging about how many Arabs he has killed and how “normal” this is. Would these same Zionists support a Palestinian leader who bragged about killing Jews? I don’t think so. Will they condemn Bennett? I don’t see that. Bennett even gets invited on CNN and to the Saban forum where he gets softball questions.

    Finally, about that grand mufti.
    What about the hundreds of state-appointed rabbis who have supported Jim Crow legislation as well as a few of them writing a book which advocated killing non-Jewish babies in certain circumstances and how it was “ethical” and “moral” to do so in such occurances.

    Netanyahu didn’t move an inch.

    And then there’s the whole question of occupation, which of course the flyers refused to talk about.

  5. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870
    January 9, 2014, 10:28 pm

    RE: “At MLA, boycott opponents paper chairs”

    MY COMMENT: The literature pictured (excepting the first one in b&w) are far too slick. They look like something produced by a high-priced PR firm that is more accustomed to representing tobacco companies. I don’t think members of Modern Language Association will fall for that kind of glitzy “messaging”. In fact, I suspect they are more likely to be repulsed by it.

    • ToivoS
      ToivoS
      January 10, 2014, 12:48 am

      Dickerson, I tend to agree. I happen to know a few people active in MLA politics. I often find their politics infuriating but one thing is that they are not naive. This kind of cheap propaganda will not have much affect. It might be designed to try to frighten them into submission, but there is no way they will find it convincing. I suspect, that insulting their intelligence in this way will more likely result in their over coming natural caution and result in stronger support for the BDS motion.

      We will see soon.

      • Peter in SF
        Peter in SF
        January 10, 2014, 5:16 am

        “MLA CARES ABOUT WORDS.”
        “MLA BELIEVES IN THE POWER OF LANGUAGE.”
        “MLA KNOWS THAT WORDS MATTER.”
        “MLA BELIEVES WORDS HAVE POWER.”

        These sound like slogans devised by some PR agency that thinks it knows how to ingratiate itself with the MLA. Maybe someone can show evidence to prove me wrong, but I suspect that MLA members themselves don’t talk like this to other MLA members when they have internal debates over contentious issues.

  6. Daniel Rich
    Daniel Rich
    January 9, 2014, 11:04 pm

    They forgot this one: “Get Out!” – The Palestinian Population

  7. puppies
    puppies
    January 10, 2014, 3:06 am

    And how smart is it to reveal how derelict one’s arguments are before the panel meets?

  8. Tzombo
    Tzombo
    January 10, 2014, 3:30 am

    Words matter, but actions never seem to…

  9. Brewer
    Brewer
    January 10, 2014, 5:57 am

    “MLA CARES ABOUT WORDS.”
    “MLA BELIEVES IN THE POWER OF LANGUAGE.”
    “MLA KNOWS THAT WORDS MATTER.”
    “MLA BELIEVES WORDS HAVE POWER.”

    From the cradle I have believed the mantra:
    “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me”.

    I keep coming back to this.
    As I get deeper into this fight, the conviction in me grows that the Talmudist, Zionist stalwart, for want of a just cause, has declared war on words to justify real damage, real slaughter and real dispossession.

    Words are just words.

    Ask anyone who has had a gun put in his face and been told he doesn’t live here anymore.

  10. The Hasbara Buster
    The Hasbara Buster
    January 10, 2014, 6:50 am

    I don’t see these unidentified boycott opponents’ point. The Mufti’s claims about suicide bombing and Jew-killing are truly hateful, but he was not a speaker at the event, nor is he endorsed by BDS supporters. As for Barghouti’s statements, I don’t see how they can be construed as an objectionable use of language. Zionism is an ideology of racial discrimination that needs to be done away with, and Barghouti says exactly that in an eloquent way. He talks about the death of a stance, not of people. Nothing to object to.

    On the other hand, we have state-appointed and -paid Israeli rabbis stating that Gentiles were born to serve Jews, or that it is permissible to kill babies in war, or that Jews shouldn’t rent out houses to non-Jews. But these statements seem to somehow have escaped the boycott opponents’ commendable concern for words.

  11. Whizdom
    Whizdom
    January 10, 2014, 7:32 am

    Isn’t this incitement?

  12. Talkback
    Talkback
    January 10, 2014, 8:17 am

    I care about words, too: Mitzvot Hagenocide Batorah

  13. NickJOCW
    NickJOCW
    January 10, 2014, 8:19 am

    Remarkable how good they are at shooting their feet. By the bye, I have taken to sporting a keffiyeh when out and about as a gesture of solidarity and it’s a highly effective conversation starter. Had I one of these Twitter things I might try to encourage it.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      January 10, 2014, 10:06 am

      @ NickJOCW
      Hi. Just curious, where do you live where you go around sporting a keffiyeh?

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        January 10, 2014, 10:29 am

        Here’s how to wear it traditionally: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJqNH1rMO_M
        There’s a website on style that says white boys shouldn’t wear those things as such wearers unwittingly broadcast anti-semitism because it’s a Palestinian symbol.

  14. pabelmont
    pabelmont
    January 10, 2014, 9:37 am

    First: Words Matter: Are the quotes correct or made up? Just asking.

    Second: Could MondoWeiss gin up — in a hurry! — a comprehensive (tho short notice) LIST of interferences with ACTUAL academic freedom IN THE USA by Zionist pressures?

    The Hillels come to mind.

    The interferences with TENURE for pro-Palestine academics (Finkelstein and, I am sure but forget, many others) sometimes denials by ADMIN despite support by FACULTY? The failures to act: failures of universities adn law schools to have conferences and symposia on Israel/Palestine, on the law and settlements and occupation.

    Limits on academic freedom INSIDE Israel?

    • pabelmont
      pabelmont
      January 10, 2014, 9:41 am

      I recall a big well-attended symposium at a NYC law school a few years ago (1998?) to celebrate 50 years of HUMAN RIGHTS in international law. The UDHR was praised. Many treaties and conventions were praised, as being beneficial and WORKING. Wow!

      The Fourth Geneva Convention was not mentioned, presumably because its FAILURE w.r.t. Israel would be too hard to tackle in public by New York legal academics.

  15. brenda
    brenda
    January 11, 2014, 1:03 pm

    As Liz observed, they do not listen, and there is something frightening in that — as well as frightened. A few days ahead of the convention the Chicago Tribune ran a piece and interview with one of the organizers of the panel. He answered the question very succinctly and clearly: why were pro-Israel observers not invited or welcome at the presentation? Answer: because the organizers have already made up their minds on the question of the Palestine occupation/Israel culpability, there was nothing to debate on the issue, the panel presentation was convened to explore whether or not a boycott would be the appropriate response to the problem. And yet, all these expensively produced brochures! It’s like trying to raise the dead.

    Phil, Annie, I hope you are being sensible in your BDS activities. There’s a lot of strong irrational emotion out there. Don’t try to change anyone’s mind, it can’t be done. Don’t feel it’s all up to us because the Europeans are already doing the heavy lifting on sanctions. Look both ways before crossing the street, etc, etc, etc. And thanks for doing it.

    • annie
      annie
      January 11, 2014, 8:37 pm

      A few days ahead of the convention the Chicago Tribune ran a piece and interview with one of the organizers of the panel. He answered the question very succinctly and clearly: why were pro-Israel observers not invited or welcome at the presentation? Answer: because the organizers have already made up their minds on the question of the Palestine occupation/Israel culpability, there was nothing to debate on the issue, the panel presentation was convened to explore whether or not a boycott would be the appropriate response to the problem.

      do you know which chicago tribune article that was brenda? because all i could find was this op ed by the director of chicago AJC and another past ACJ president: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-boycott-universities-accademics-israel-perspec–20140101,0,4323271.story?dssReturn&z=10603

      and while it doesn’t contain an interview with one of the organizers of the panel, it does provide a quote from another article.

      In fact, presiding officer Samer M. Ali informed The Chronicle of Higher Education that Israel’s guilt is not open to doubt but rather, “(t)he question that panelists will be debating is not whether Israel is violating the rights of Palestinians, but what to do about it.”

      curious, i looked for The Chronicle of Higher Education article: http://chronicle.com/article/Membership-of-American-Studies/143645/

      Some academics who are undecided about academic boycotts say they wish there were more opportunities to discuss the pros and cons. Samer M. Ali, an associate professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Texas at Austin, organized the MLA panel for that reason.

      “I wanted to organically, from the ground up, promote discussion and dialogue,” he said, noting that, with 30,000 members, the MLA is much larger than the American Studies Association.

      Yet the way the panel discussion has been framed might well cause controversy. As Mr. Ali noted, the question that panelists will be debating is not whether Israel is violating the rights of Palestinians, but what to do about it.

      “If people want to come and debate occupation, I think it will be a waste of their time, because that’s not what the round table is about,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is balance out a broader public discourse in America,” one that currently supports Israel’s policies.

      iow, while accurate, the statement (the question that panelists will be debating is not whether Israel is violating the rights of Palestinians, but what to do about it), was not a quote of Samer M. Ali and should not have had quotes around it ascribing the words to him, but to the AJC op ed writers.

      and you’ll also note, it was not in response to a question “why were pro-Israel observers not invited or welcome at the presentation?”

      and as alex points out http://mondoweiss.net/2014/01/establishment-including-advocates.html Samer Ali, a scholar who is critical of the occupation but not supportive of academic boycotts, so his words about “”If people want to come and debate occupation, I think it will be a waste of their time, because that’s not what the round table is about,”” shouldn’t be interpreted as a criticism by Ali of the panel. after 8 years (of bds) some people have just moved on (thank goodness!). if someone had wanted to organize a panel to debate the occupation (and there are scholars who don’t even think it is an occupation!) they should have just done it themselves like everyone else, on time.

      Ali did write:

      “As for the absence of critics, I don’t think it’s a flaw,” he said. “It’s actually a healthy norm at the convention: All MLA sessions are organized by small groups of members, who typically share and explore a particular approach to an academic question, especially new approaches and schools of thought.”

      btw, they missed the deadline for their own panel discussion which was last april. and as we discussed in another thread, i think (as i recall), as a matter of policy, last spring some pro israel factions were not entering into dialogue w/people who supported bds. the red line thing, a version of which they discuss in this recent JCC panel discussion. http://video.forward.com/video/Our-Relations-with-Israel (re: jonathan tobin from commentary)

      just thought i’d set the record straight.. and you’re very welcome, no need to thank us, and thanks for your activism.

  16. brenda
    brenda
    January 11, 2014, 9:53 pm

    hi Annie

    Sorry I don’t have the link for you. I know the AJC op-ed you referred to, I read that also. The Trib also did a straight news piece on the convention and it wasn’t Samer Ali who was quoted, it was someone else. The Chronicle of Higher Ed also gave good coverage, they had a couple of pieces on the convention, the second one was better. I got into a huge fight with a hasbera in the commentary (does that count as activism :>)

    Annie, there is a need to give thanks to those who got out in front with BDS. It takes a lot of bravery to stand against such a strong societal push coming the other way. It reminds me of the early Vietnam war protests, early on were very divisive and bitter.

    • annie
      annie
      January 11, 2014, 9:59 pm

      I got into a huge fight with a hasbera in the commentary (does that count as activism :>)

      absolutely, the internet is a battle zone and we’re warriors ;)

      there is a need to give thanks to those who got out in front with BDS.

      when i think back to those days, it did seem like an insurmountable goal almost. by a bunch of rag tag activists. it’s amazing what’s been accomplished. i feel lucky to be apart of it, we’re all witnessing history. it’s just overwhelming and exciting. really, it makes me cry thinking about it sometimes. and of course i am extremely grateful for those on the front line.

      peace.

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