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‘I’m reminded of Jackson, MS, closing all public pools rather than integrating them’ — Franke on Barnard’s Banner-gate

Israel/Palestine
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Official Statement Regarding Barnard Administration’s SJP Banner Removal

SJP Banner, Removed by Barnard

More on the astonishing case of the Barnard College administration taking down a pro-Palestinian banner two weeks ago. A great deal has been published about the case, including on our site this morning. Here are three more selections, followed by the entirety of a calm and forceful letter from Katherine Franke, director of the center for gender and sexuality law at Columbia Law School, to the Barnard president over the matter.

First, two members of Students for Justice in Palestine, Shezza Abboushi Dallal and Feride Eralp, wrote in the Columbia Spectator that Barnard had responded reflexively to pro-Israel student’s complaints:

[Hillel’s Seffi] Kogen [who complained to the Barnard administration] and others accuse SJP of attempting to “erase Israel off of the map.” It is important to remember that real “erasure” requires bulldozers, tanks, white phosphorus, reserve armies, and concrete walls that divide communities. We attend a university that is invested in a myriad of companies, from G4S (a private security company), to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Caterpillar, that provide Israel with these tools of erasure…

The fact that Barnard has silenced SJP in this unprecedented way in response to “discomfort” does not bode well for the future of critical thought on this campus.

Two days ago, Barnard president Debora Spar explained her decision to remove the banner:

Because Barnard is a small college, with only a few buildings and one main entrance. Barnard Hall is both the first building you see on entry and, of course, the building that bears our name, along with our official signage and seal. Traditionally, Barnard has allowed student groups to use the spaces on either side of the Barnard banner to promote upcoming events. It was never our intent to use that space to advocate for any political position or opinion. Yet, by Tuesday morning, it had become clear that this banner’s placement on the main building had inadvertently created the appearance of official Barnard endorsement. And once this perception was afoot on our campus and in our community, we felt compelled to remove the banner and to halt the hanging of all banners on this site.

I wish we had had the opportunity to notify the leadership of SJP before the banner’s removal on that Tuesday morning. I wish the issue of endorsement had not arisen so powerfully in the context of an already-heated debate. I feel for students who see our decision as an attack on their views and community. But this is where we find ourselves right now, and from where we must move forward.

Last week, Jerry Haber wrote at Magnes Zionist:

To my fellow Jews I say right now – Palestine never went away and is not going away. Palestine remembered is Palestine forever…

After all, the primary victims of the Zionist movement have been the Palestinians – so if sensitivity is required, then sensitivity for the weaker and more aggrieved party is in order, isn’t it?

Katherine Franke

Katherine Franke

Now here is Katherine Franke’s letter to President Spar, of March 24. I particularly recommend Franke’s relating the incendiary debate over feminism and pornography when she was an undergraduate, and the ways that banners helped her to make up her own mind about those questions.

Dear President Spar:

As a Barnard alumna (’81) and a member of the Columbia/Barnard community I write you to express my disappointment with the way the Barnard administration mishandled objections raised to the hanging of a banner on Barnard Hall by Students for Justice in Palestine. Barnard can, and should, do better than merely shut down one viewpoint that unsettles some members of the Barnard community. Rather, the College missed an opportunity to distinguish itself as a leader in transforming a polarized political standoff into an academically and intellectually rigorous inquiry into the historical and political roots of the competing claims for justice, belonging and identity that structure the strong sentiments surrounding this issue. The decision to censor one viewpoint, by pulling the SJP banner, was a regretful mistake in my view.

As I understand it, students who are members of SJP followed the college’s procedures for obtaining permission to hang a banner from Barnard Hall. After the banner was hung your administration received complaints from some students who indicated that the banner made them feel “uneasy and uncomfortable” and that they feared that the placement of the banner adjacent to the official Barnard College banner indicted that the College endorsed the message conveyed by SJP’s banner (whatever that might be). Ceding to the objections raised by LionPAC and others the banner was removed i) without notifying the SJP students, and ii) for no reason other than that it offended some Barnard students and might convey official endorsement of its message. You subsequently met with the Barnard SJP students and thereafter issued a statement i) apologizing to the SJP students for removing their banner without notifying them of your intention to do so, and ii) indefinitely suspending the right to hang banners from Barnard Hall for all students. You have subsequently described the SJP banner as “incendiary” in nature.

Let me explain why these events and your response disappoint me greatly. First, since my days as a student at Barnard I have treasured the way in which the College has served as a forum, both inside and outside the classroom, for students to explore a wide range of ideas, political perspectives, and conceptions of justice. In the late 1970s and early 1980s when I was an undergraduate student at Barnard, the campus was alive with fierce debate about pornography and disagreement about how to conceptualize the relationship of sexuality to gender-based inequality. The Barnard campus was covered with banners, flyers, posters and other text-based advocacy giving voice to a range of views on these hotly debated questions. These disagreements were at times expressed by labeling one’s opponent “sexist,” “insensitive” or “hateful,” and advocacy often took the form of banners hanging from Barnard Hall. These banners offended the political sentiments of some students while giving voice to the views of others – it would be more than fair to describe this hotly contested political debate as “incendiary.” To be honest, I had no idea what to make of this issue when I was first confronted with it by other Barnard students, but the fierce campus debate helped me formulate my own opinion.

You’ll recall that this campus debate culminated in the Scholar and the Feminist conference of 1981 when then-President Futter confiscated conference materials that some students found offensive. Looking back on this incident I think most would agree that this was a misstep on the part of President Futter, insofar as it undermined important principles of academic freedom and debate.

When I learned of the removal of SJP’s banner from Barnard Hall I could not help but relate this decision to ill-conceived efforts by Barnard administrators in the past to accede to student demands for censorship when they were confronted with ideas that made then uneasy or uncomfortable. Invocation of “discomfort” as a justification for censure or to turn away from new or unsettling ideas actually runs contrary to the fundamental precepts of academic inquiry. Central to our mission as educators is an interrogation of the safety and comfort to be found in settled notions of truth and justice.

Second, any concern that the presence of the SJP banner affixed to Barnard Hall might convey the College’s endorsement of SJP’s political viewpoints strikes me as incredible at best and pretextual at worst. The banner in question was clearly hand-made and contained the student group’s initials prominently displayed in the bottom right. No reasonable person would draw the conclusion that the banner was anything other than a form of student speech. It defies credulity that after hanging hundreds, or likely thousands, of student banners from Barnard Hall – a public forum used by student organizations for many years – only now has it come to the administration’s attention that there is some risk that the location of these banners might implicate the College’s endorsement of their content. Rather than credible concern about official endorsement of SJP’s message, what motivated objections to the banner’s placement was a demand that the College affirmatively distance itself from SJP’s views by removing the banner. And this is exactly what the College has done – at once censoring SJP-student speech and endorsing the viewpoint of those who were uneasy or uncomfortable with SJP’s viewpoint.

Third, I find it troubling that your apology to the SJP students was only with regard to the absence of notice they were afforded before their previously approved banner was removed from Barnard Hall. By using this controversy as an opportunity to revisit the entire “banner policy” you imply that approval for the SJP banner was improvidently granted. Of course this has communicated to SJP students and others who are sympathetic to their project that their views, indeed their participation in the political and intellectual life of the Barnard student body, are not welcome. The fact that this message has been officially communicated by the College’s president transforms this message into an official policy of disenfranchisement.

Fourth, the decision to revoke for all Barnard students the privilege of placing banners on Barnard buildings as a response to this incident in effect shifts the costs of unpopular speech to the entire student body, thus risking a backlash against the SJP students for “ruining it for everyone.” Of course this kind of overreaction is not unprecedented as a cynical way of nesting an unpopular or illegal decision within a larger policy change (I am reminded of the decision by the city of Jackson, Mississippi to close all of its public pools rather than be forced to racially integrate them).

Lastly, Barnard’s administrative and academic leadership could have seized this incident as an opportunity to learn more, not less, about the history, politics and legacies of injustice that give meaning both to the SJP banner and to the students who found it objectionable. For instance, rather than removing the banner and closing down a forum for student speech, the administration could have, for instance:

– Created a forum for the SJP students to elaborate and explain their choice of image. (Your public statements on the dispute surrounding the removal of the banner suggest that you have adopted a reading of the image consonant with that advanced by LionPAC – however this image, like any image, is available to multiple meanings). At such a forum the SJP students could explain whether they intended the image to represent a denial of the existence of the state of Israel or whether they instead saw it as a representation of historical, pre-British mandate Palestine, or more abstractly as an affirmation of Palestinians’ right to a homeland? How do these notions relate to one another, if at all?

– Stimulated a thoughtful discussion of the image on the SJP banner and interrogated whether it should be overdetermined as necessarily anti-semitic in nature. Related to this would be a careful examination of whether it is legitimate to treat all criticism of the state of Israel and/or all criticism of political Zionism as anti-semitic in nature.

– Treated this student conflict as an occasion for generating a critical discussion of the power of maps as a form of political power implicated in the production of knowledge about people(s), place(s) and notions of belonging and dispossession. Critical geographers on the Barnard and Columbia faculties could have used this image alongside the state of Israel’s refusal to recognize or announce any formal borders as an opportunity to transform an unfortunate conflict into a learning experience for the entire community.

I understand that you plan to convene student leaders after the break to discuss this matter further. I would welcome the opportunity to contribute to those discussions and to explore means by which this unfortunate incident might be transformed into a more principled discussion of uncomfortable ideas that befit and honor the high standards of academic inquiry and freedom for which BarnardCollege is well known.

Sincerely,

Katherine M. Franke

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About Philip Weiss

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44 Responses

  1. ritzl
    ritzl
    March 28, 2014, 1:09 pm

    Should be MS not MI in the title.

    Cheers.

    • philweiss
      philweiss
      March 28, 2014, 1:49 pm

      thanks Ritzl

      • Pamela Olson
        Pamela Olson
        March 30, 2014, 3:08 pm

        “I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality.

        Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”

        ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        March 30, 2014, 3:18 pm

        “Black power is concerned with organising the rage of black people. .. (it) must not be naive about the intentions of white people to yield anything without a struggle and a confrontation with organised power”

        Charles Hamilton

        Palestine’s struggle is no different

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        March 30, 2014, 4:15 pm

        So next up on the timeline agenda: Bring to full sunlight the boil of Jewish Zionism, which thanks to big Jewish Zionist dollars in the US campaign finance system, plus who controls US main media & conservative think tanks, festers across the world to the detriment of US best interests, and humanist best interests.

        Why it’s even finally emerged as a point of discussion due to Sheldon Adelson’s gross use of his tawdry dollars in the US political campaign finance system. It won;t go away. It will become so clear even dumb, ignorant Dick & Jane will awake. Then we will see the usual pattern of world history unfold anew, and the usual pattern of Jewish history as victim too, as if in a vacuum unrelated to what is actually done,

  2. ritzl
    ritzl
    March 28, 2014, 1:19 pm

    Someone here noted that Barnard had a reputation for open-mindedness. If true, and assuming attending Barnard is competitive, that reputation is without doubt a reason many students decide to attend.

    If the Barnard admin diminishes that reputation don’t they diminish the number and/or open-mindedness of the students that apply to the college? Who do they replace them with? Fewer and less open-minded applicants? Seems like a downward spiral into the pit of institutional homogeneity to me. But if that’s what they want for the school, it’s their choice. “We’ve made Barnard just like every other college.” is a hell of a legacy though, and probably wouldn’t be all that appealing on the website.

    • JeffB
      JeffB
      March 28, 2014, 7:29 pm

      @Ritzl —

      Get off it. If BDS is crushed by the administration, 0 happens to the academic standing of Bernard. There are plenty of ways to debate the Israeli / Palestine situation that don’t offended Jewish students. Bernard is 1/3rd Jewish all that stirring the shit is going to accomplish is dividing the student body against a small sect and making it a less pleasant place to study. Bernard is a bad example because it is so Jewish. And debate on Bernard about Israel is going to have to be from an inside not an outside perspective.

      But on most campuses where the Jewish presence isn’t so high if BDS were successful and the next issue of US News and World Report’s college guide or Yale’s college guide says “continuing ethnic tension make XYZ an unpleasant place for Jewish students” that doesn’t help the college. It would be devastating to the college. Colleges don’t want that. Most colleges are going to treat BDS’s message the same way they would treat a message like “I hate niggers” because the likely outcome of BDS success on campus is pretty close to what white pride’s success on campus would be. Colleges don’t see exposing students to hate as opening people’s minds. BDS doesn’t want to be classified with the “I hate niggers” then it needs to be more polite.

      You can’t call Israel evil. You can disagree with specific policies.
      You can’t call Zionism evil. You can disagree with particular strategies.
      You can’t call Israelis evil. You can call for mild appropriate social interventions.
      etc, etc, etc… And in the end those restrictions actually BDS have more content not less. Because it forces them to start addressing policy in a meaningful way and talking about the conflict from a perspective of respect. Respect is one of the most basic ingredients for academic dialogue.

      It’s BDS’ choice which way they want to go. So far they’ve picked “I hate niggers” because it gets them lots and lots of attention because it really pisses Jews off.

      • ritzl
        ritzl
        March 29, 2014, 11:31 am

        Wow. Criticism of Israel and/or advocating for justice in Palestine is the same as “I hate niggers.” Jeff B? Maybe to a VERY small subset of even Jews.

        That’s just crazy talk. I’m pretty sure you just made my point.

        I also think that, as you have done before here, you’re trying to speak for all Jews, as opposed to the small subset/”sect” that you actually represent.

        And if some college guide printed “hostile environment to Jews” without some reason attached (e.g. because of ongoing, flagrant advocacy for justice in Palestine), that would be pure libel.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        March 29, 2014, 12:41 pm

        @Ritzl

        Wow. Criticism of Israel and/or advocating for justice in Palestine is the same as “I hate niggers.” Jeff B? Maybe to a VERY small subset of even Jews.

        I didn’t say that. I said rude, derogatory and hateful comments towards Israel are the same thing. Criticism is perfectly acceptable. Criticism isn’t what’s being discussed here. There is a huge difference between calling for a annihilation of a country and calling for reform of a few laws. The sign is explicitly annihilationist just being vague about the means.

        As for it being crazy talk. What do you think is happening? Those signs go up people get offended and complain. It is time to start dealing with the reality that when you present messages in ways designed to offend and intimidate people respond by being offended and intimidated.

        And if some college guide printed “hostile environment to Jews” without some reason attached (e.g. because of ongoing, flagrant advocacy for justice in Palestine), that would be pure libel.

        Liber requires an intent to deceive. So that’s just false. If they printed hostile environment for Jews because Jews complained in interviews and said it was a hostile environment, far from being libel that would be exactly what they do in every other area. They way they know that college X is good for sport Y is because the people who do sport Y mention how good it is. They way they know College G is bad for activity H is because students say that.

        It is pretty simple. You don’t get to decide what blacks find offensive. You don’t get to decide what hispanics find offensive. You don’t get to decide what gays (unless you are one) find offensive…. And you don’t get to decide what Jews find offensive. Jews get to decide that.

        BDS is not the first, second… or even fiftieth group that wants to promote messages that offend a minority that exist on America’s college campuses. They all have some good reason why their particular cause shouldn’t require decorum and politeness. The people who are critiquing policy do so in such a way so as to win people over to their cause as a way to build coalitions for a particular policy outcome. Hate groups construct their messages in such a way so that moderates are forced to pick one side or the other and thus create deep permanent divisions.

        Institutions of higher learning have no reason to support hate groups. And you thinking it is a good cause doesn’t change anything. Once they see ethnic tension rather than a policy discussion they are going to push for the message to be less confrontational.

        If the same message can be phrased in a way that is offensive or inoffensive and the offensive is deliberately chosen then the intent was to offend. Administrators aren’t stupid they can make obvious judgement calls.

      • ritzl
        ritzl
        March 29, 2014, 1:54 pm

        @JeffB- I’m getting sucked in, so I’ll keep this short… I kinda agree that oppressed groups should get to decide what’s offensive, as long as everything isn’t offensive. I think that’s what you do here, and SWU does in the broader context. This Barnard administrative action subscribes to the notion that everything on this issue is offensive. Instead of discussing it, openly, they just quietly banned a contentious banner.

        Sensitivity isn’t a binary concept. So likewise, YOU, don’t get to decide what’s offensive or hostile to Palestinians, even if it conflicts with your own narrow interests. This banner was obviously reflecting a legitimate PoV – that Palestinians seek justice. That makes you uncomfortable, so be it. But raising what the Barnard SJP did to such a level to even entertain the use of “I hate niggers.” as a comparison just exemplifies the wrongness of what Barnard did, and why. Maybe you don’t see that. Maybe others will.

      • Hostage
        Hostage
        March 29, 2014, 7:00 pm

        There is a huge difference between calling for a annihilation of a country and calling for reform of a few laws.

        What a blabbering idiot. The agreements between the political parties and fundamentalist Jewish religious groups that have governed Israel for 65 years have always prevented the adoption of a democratic constitution based upon equality of peoples and led to the adoption of a full-blown two-tiered legal system in which non-Jews are systematically discriminated against by the state of Israel. The current coalition agreement requires the parties to adopt a Basic Law declaring Israel as a Jewish Nation state in which only Jews, including the diaspora, have the right of self-determination and other indigenous groups do not. We are talking about eliminating a xenophobic, racist, culture that is thoroughly entrenched in the municipal laws.

      • American
        American
        March 29, 2014, 12:35 pm

        @ jeffb

        If Jewish Pro Israel students are offended in this fight, too bad —-they chose the wrong side.
        And as we have seen, “politeness’ doesnt work on Zionist, it only encourages more of their pilpul blather.
        And we can call Zionist and Israel whatever we want.
        How you going to stop us? Hummm..?
        Have our government make laws against free speech?
        Go ahead, keep trying that.

      • eljay
        eljay
        March 29, 2014, 3:54 pm

        e·vil: profoundly immoral and malevolent.

        >> You can’t call Israel evil.

        Perhaps not, but you can quite correctly call it oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist.

        >> You can’t call Zionism evil.

        Sure you can. Zionism is a thoroughly supremacist ideology. Supremacism is immoral and malevolent. Supremacism is evil. Zionism is evil.

        >> You can’t call Israelis evil.

        You’re right, “Israelis” are not evil. Some Israelis, however, are undoubtedly evil.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        March 30, 2014, 6:13 am

        @Eljay

        Perhaps not, but you can quite correctly call it oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist.

        That’s a great example of what I mean. There was a fun article about what to do about an Israeli strip club 240 feet under water that’s become an undersea scuba diving resort. That doesn’t sound like an oppressive society. And in the real world, that’s what Israel looks like. The oppressive nonsense comes from focusing on those areas where there is an ongoing rebellion against the government. Life isn’t great in USA prisons either, that doesn’t make the USA “oppressive” rather it has an overly large and overly harsh prison system. Blanket condemnation like oppressive is simply false and easily proven false by just examining all the non oppressive aspects of the society.

        As for the rest it comes from pretending the imaginary country of Palestine exists. The colonialism except for the West Bank is over. Same with expansionism.

        As for supremacism I’ll hit that below.

        Sure you can. Zionism is a thoroughly supremacist ideology. Supremacism is immoral and malevolent. Supremacism is evil. Zionism is evil.

        We’ve been through this before. Zionism is just the belief that Israel should exist. It is no more evil than asserting that France should exist or Russia should exist.

        You usually reply that all people living in the territory of France are eligible to become French… And I’d point to Israel’s history to show that they have worked hard, maybe not hard enough but hard, to try and make that sort of arrangement a reality in Israel. The Sephardic and Mizrahi are successfully integrated. The huge wave of Russians are being integrated and I’d mention including Russian Christians which disproves immediately your theory about Israel for Jews only. Things were going well with the Israeli Arabs until the 1st intifada started to radicalize them.

        To just blanketly pretend that all that hasn’t happened is simply dishonest and rightfully gets characterized as dishonest. A supremacist state does not work as hard as Israel has and meet with as much success as Israel has in breaking down ethnic barriers and raising standards of living for minorities.

      • eljay
        eljay
        March 31, 2014, 8:03 am

        >> There was a fun article about what to do about an Israeli strip club 240 feet under water that’s become an undersea scuba diving resort. That doesn’t sound like an oppressive society.

        Does this Israeli strip club end Israel’s occupation of Palestine, repatriate Palestinian refugees and grant equal rights to all Jewish and non-Jewish citizens of Israel? Didn’t think so.

        >> Life isn’t great in USA prisons either …

        The discussion is about the oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist “Jewish State” of Israel, not about its prison system.

        >> As for the rest it comes from pretending the imaginary country of Palestine exists. The colonialism except for the West Bank is over. Same with expansionism.

        It’s not over as long as Israel continues to colonize land outside of its / Partition borders.

        >> Zionism is just the belief that Israel should exist.

        Zionism is the belief that a supremacist “Jewish State” named Israel should exist.

    • JeffB
      JeffB
      March 29, 2014, 3:00 pm

      @Ritzl

      JffB- I’m getting sucked in, so I’ll keep this short… I kinda agree that oppressed groups should get to decide what’s offensive, as long as everything isn’t offensive. I think that’s what you do here, and SWU does in the broader context.

      I won’t defend SWU I agree they attack both policy criticism and incitement as incitement. I think they’ve draw the line too broadly. Jews/Zionists haven’t been careful in trying to draw a clear line on anti-Semitism when it comes to Israel and as a result I think anti-Israeli activists consider these claims part of the territory. What’s happening lately is they aren’t coming from SWU… but as they are penetrating campuses they are coming from average Jews with no history of involvement in Zionist organizations. There is some “boy who cried wolf” to all this. But honestly my feeling is 90% of it is that BDS activists want to offend while at the same time expect that they won’t get treated like a hate group when they do.

      Critiquing Israel is going to require sensitivity, fairness and nuance. The same way that say with abortion screaming baby-killer and throwing fetus at people is offensive even though obviously this was a policy critique and not solely an anti-women movement. There is no none offensive way to demonize.

      This Barnard administrative action subscribes to the notion that everything on this issue is offensive. Instead of discussing it, openly, they just quietly banned a contentious banner.

      Nonesense. There have been plenty of discussions on Israel / Palestine before. So we know that’s not true.

      Sensitivity isn’t a binary concept. So likewise, YOU, don’t get to decide what’s offensive or hostile to Palestinians, even if it conflicts with your own narrow interests. This banner was obviously reflecting a legitimate PoV – that Palestinians seek justice. That makes you uncomfortable, so be it.

      There is no “so be it”. That’s the point. Things like everyone being able to put up banners was dependent on notions of courtesy within a shared community. In a culture without courtesy or community the norms have to change. You cannot both seek to offend and live under the same rules that existed among the polite. So instead of “so be it” the question has to become “is there anyway to rephrase this banner such that it ceases to be offensive”. And there the answer is obviously yes.

      But there isn’t a desire to do that. The unwillingness to go through that process is what gets BDS treated like a hate group. It is not just the content.

      But raising what the Barnard SJP did to such a level to even entertain the use of “I hate niggers.” as a comparison just exemplifies the wrongness of what Barnard did, and why. Maybe you don’t see that. Maybe others will.

      Maybe they will. I don’t see that. I think you should consider the possibility that having been part of BDS for a while you have become completely desensitized to ferocious anti-Jewish language and as a result you can’t see the comparison. Someone who had a picture just like yours that implied “the only good africa would be one with no niggers” would be a considered an extremists even by the standards of most hardcore white racists. Now I understand the sign didn’t explicitly call for genocide but it certainly implies it. Replace “stand for justice” with “stand for a binational state with full equality for Palestinians and Jews” get rid of the green… and suddenly you hare having a policy discussion.

      • seanmcbride
        seanmcbride
        March 29, 2014, 3:33 pm

        JeffB,

        Critiquing Israel is going to require sensitivity, fairness and nuance.

        How much sensitivity, fairness and nuance have pro-Israel activists shown towards those who disagree with Israeli policies and Zionist ideology? How many verbal Molotov cocktails do they throw on a daily basis? Who is most responsible for the deterioration of civil dialogue on Israeli issues?

        Browse the comments at leading Israeli and pro-Israel websites and publications to get a handle on this problem.

        One thing is for certain: civil dialogue has had no effect in slowing down the drive of the Israeli government to expand Jewish settlements in pursuit of realizing the dream of building Greater Israel while enforcing apartheid policies in the occupied territories.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        March 30, 2014, 5:11 am

        @Sean

        How much sensitivity, fairness and nuance have pro-Israel activists shown towards those who disagree with Israeli policies and Zionist ideology?

        Those are two different issues. On disagree with Israeli policies quite a bit. For example Israel used to have pretty strict banking laws that American / International Financial Lobbies didn’t like. The people objecting to these laws were never accused of anti-Semitism in their objections to these Israeli law because they had a clear consistent policy of objecting equally if not more so to other countries with similar laws. Similarly Israel has very liberal abortion laws that international pro-life groups object to. They don’t get accused of anti-Semitism because they have a clear constant policy of objecting to similar laws in other countries just as strongly.

        Now going on to the issue of human rights. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have published a variety of reports and have gotten everything but “harsh but fair” to “blatant anti-Semitism and double standard”. Reading report by report, shows nuance. HRW BTW is an example of a positive role model. They are a very harsh critic of Israel. But they have also worked hard to not issue criticism that the American Jewish left dismisses as unfair. They draw the line specifically to not lose American Jews, which proves that it is possible.

        As far as objecting to Zionism. There is definitely distinctions being made. Haredi anti-Zionism is treated quite differently than Soviet anti-Zionism (which what I’d group BDS as) than secular Jewish anti-Zionism than Arab anti-Zionism.

        Let’s take an example. The American Council for Judaism argues that Judaism is just a religion not a nation. It fought against Zionism and then after Israel was founded against merging Zionism directly into Jewish religious practice (i.e. having JNF fundraisers in synagogues). Many of its officers have served with distinction in Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative synagogues (though mainly reform). They are treated with honor and respect in the American Jewish community. The only time this group got heavily attacked was 1967, and when they did they reformed.

        The objective facts show nuance.

        How many verbal Molotov cocktails do they [Zionist organizations] throw on a daily basis?

        Tons. No question this is two sided. But again this is the typical non violence asymmetry. Judaism is not going to be marked as a hate group while BDS can be. Judaism was being suppressed on campuses during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They’ve already won there right to acceptance. Using hateful rhetoric towards Jews (and the euphemism Zionist doesn’t change anything) will play badly.

        Who is most responsible for the deterioration of civil dialogue on Israeli issues?

        Unquestionably anti-Zionists. The deterioration of civility started with Syrian pan-Arab nationalist movement and spread from there. The discussion of Zionism vs. anti-Zionism from 1850-1920 was very civil. Then people start getting killed and it slowly starts getting less civil. The next step in loss of civility was Soviet anti-Zionism and rallying 3rd world nations via. their support for anti-colonialism. That was really the point where you had western demonization of Zionism rather than western opposition.

        One thing is for certain: civil dialogue has had no effect in slowing down the drive of the Israeli government to expand Jewish settlements in pursuit of realizing the dream of building Greater Israel while enforcing apartheid policies in the occupied territories.

        Neither has uncivil dialogue. Zionism is racism, UN 3379 when the United Nations made anti-Semitism international law was on the books ’75-91. How much did that help? Israel has always faced ferocious hateful comments that’s not unusual for Israel. It is unusual for this generation of American Jews. If your point is that a hate campaign against American Jews on USA campuses might influence their attitudes towards Zionism:

        a) I think you are right it would influence them. It is likely to make them strongly pro-Zionist in reaction. As I’ve said before if BDS spreads, that’s going to be a great recruiting tool for the AIPAC of 2040.

        b) That’s going to generate a huge backlash. If that is the goal you don’t get to pretend that BDS is innocuous and you all are innocent victims trying to preach a simple political message….

        BDS in the USA has no ability to stop greater Israel for years to come. To effect change in USA policy BDS would need to grow to at least 50m USA supporters (and maybe quite a bit larger that that). Being civil or uncivil to American Jews will have 0 impact on Israeli policy. What it might have impact on is how quickly you hit that 50m number.

  3. hophmi
    hophmi
    March 28, 2014, 1:53 pm

    No Israel on that flag. You point it out when Zionist organizations use flag with no delineation showing Gaza and the West Bank; you should point out the lack of delineation here.

    • Hostage
      Hostage
      March 28, 2014, 9:11 pm

      You point it out when Zionist organizations use flag with no delineation showing Gaza and the West Bank; you should point out the lack of delineation here.

      Because Israel is not a region, and unlike the Mandated State of Palestine shown above, many Zionists include parts of Palestine on their maps of Israel that were never a part of biblical or modern-day Israel.

  4. seafoid
    seafoid
    March 28, 2014, 2:00 pm

    It would be great if you could post a bit on what actually happened in the US from 64 to 68 – LBJ’s worries about losing the Dems in the South (like Obama and Jewish money), all the hypocrisy, the slow breakdown of consensus, how the white racists shot themselves in the feet, the loss of control of the narrative, the reactionary fightback, the popular disgust, the assassinations…..

    It wasn’t all beer and skittles and decided. It was fought. And Palestine is the same.

    Jews ask cynically where the Palestinian MLK is. The MLK of myth didn’t exist when the game was in the balance either.

  5. Les
    Les
    March 28, 2014, 3:52 pm

    I think the Israel Lobby came to very real power when LBJ twice called back rescue efforts to aid the survivors of Israel’s attack on the USS Liberty.

  6. pabelmont
    pabelmont
    March 28, 2014, 6:35 pm

    I may have missed somewhat but it seems that the banner was taken down [1] because powerful people demanded it be taken down, [2] because the same powerful people said it made some Barnard students feel uncomfortable (but doesn’t politics always make someone uncomfortable?; and [3] after the Hillel party assert meanings and messages which they asserted to be manifest in the banner [destruction of Israel, I think] , which they also (or preeminently) found unpalatable — i.e., they objected not to the banner so much as to certain meanings and messages (not facially present on the banner) which they asserted were inseparable from the banner — and which they also asserted were impermissible.

    Since when does a university allow dissenters to speak for their opponents and then to demand the chastisement of those opponents not for what they did or said but for what it was claimed was implicit in what the did or said.

    And what about that banner? “Stand for Justice” is hard to argue with. I doubt the Hillel party would admit to being against Justice. (They probably think the replacement of Palestine with Israel IS Justice!) And it said “Stand with Palestine”, and the Hillel party (or some Hillel members, but not all if Hillel happens to be “open”) have every right not to agree to that. And it displayed a green figure, which could be interpreted as a map, but which was unlabeled. It did not say “Israel” or “Palestine” on this figure. And yet this was interpreted by some Hillel folks as “erasing Israel” from the map.

    Some famous jurist once said that the proper response to bad language was better language. All the Hillel party needed do was hang a similar banner saying “Stand for Justice — Stand for Israel” (with a blue map of ??)(always a puzzle, that!) somewhere.

    But no! Down with free speech in Murka, the land that big money (power) rules.

    • JeffB
      JeffB
      March 28, 2014, 7:11 pm

      @pabelmont

      Since when does a university allow dissenters to speak for their opponents and then to demand the chastisement of those opponents not for what they did or said but for what it was claimed was implicit in what the did or said.

      Most times when they are dealing with ethnic tension or sexism. That’s the norm. When students post “white pride” symbols on campus they didn’t usually say anything negative about blacks. When students post highly sexist images like nudie calendars in public place they aren’t explicitly saying anything negative about women in general. Colleges do not want ethnic tension. BDS wants ethnic tension on campus, that’s why they go out of their way to offend Jews.

      You can easily have outright race riots based on “I can say things that imply any hateful message I want providing I don’t say it explicitly”. It is a ridiculous standard of civility. We don’t even use that standard in criminal trials. Plenty of people are doing time for making statements that implied their approval of criminal acts without them having actual explicitly given approval. When Joseph C. Massino asked Vincent Basciano if “he’s clipped Randy yet?” he didn’t directly say anything, he just asked a question. But the implication that he was ordering the murder of Randolph Pizzolo: was clear to Basciano, clear to the FBI and clear to the jury. Human communication works based on a shared culture with lots of implications, on the most basic level that’s how pronouns work.

      Barnard does not want banners up there that are likely to cause ethnic tension. Same way they wouldn’t want banners up on any controversial cause showing symbols for that cause and saying “stand for justice”. This is civility not free speech. That sort of prominent placement is for banners for all the community about things they can all get behind. Like a film festival or an exciting speaker. Using it for a divisive political cause is abusing a shared community resource. The rules that apply to peaceful communities stop applying once the peace collapses.

      • kma
        kma
        March 29, 2014, 3:41 pm

        all this talk of ‘civility’ and ‘politeness’ at an elite institution reminds me of the British colonizing Asian countries while sitting down to tea with the local kings. yes, there is a proper way to carry out ethnic cleansings and apartheid, and you will learn which side of the plate the spoon goes on at Barnard.
        JeffB is a dinosaur.

      • Eva Smagacz
        Eva Smagacz
        March 29, 2014, 4:21 pm

        Powerful arguments.

        Pity they do not inflame your sense of justice when Palestinians in particular, Arabs in general and Islam in its entirely are slated as terrorists, barbarians and bloodthirsty fiends.

        Then, with a shoe on the other foot so to speak, ethnic tension, this delicate flower of Jewish sensibilities, is somehow in a rude health and you are not so upset.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        March 30, 2014, 5:16 am

        @Eva Smagacz

        Pity they do not inflame your sense of justice when Palestinians in particular, Arabs in general and Islam in its entirely are slated as terrorists, barbarians and bloodthirsty fiends. Then, with a shoe on the other foot so to speak, ethnic tension, this delicate flower of Jewish sensibilities, is somehow in a rude health and you are not so upset.

        And how would you know that? Because all Zionists are anti-muslim? Well as a matter of fact not only have I objected I’ve actual done stuff about it on a few occasions. So maybe you might want to consider that you have a bit of an anti-Semitism problem assuming that about me.

        I do not now nor have I ever considered the Palestinians fiends.

      • amigo
        amigo
        March 31, 2014, 8:26 am

        “I do not now nor have I ever considered the Palestinians fiends.”jeffb

        Spell check —-“I do not now nor have I ever considered the Palestinians friends.”

        Given some of the diatribe you post one could hardly see you other than an Arab Hater.Your a Zionist–it follows that you are a racist and a bigot.

        Why, because Zionism is racism.

      • kma
        kma
        March 29, 2014, 5:10 pm

        p.s. JeffB’s argument sounds to me like “if you are gay, don’t make waves at a christian college”. yeah, we all know that!
        however, his argument that the college will lose standing among promising young students is crap because if it really does establish itself as a haven for zionism, who the hell cares? they can have the Oral Roberts crowd, too! they can be civil and polite around sexual identity AND zionism, but meanwhile, our “one-state” nation here in the US has many good schools that outnumber the christian/zionist/jewish stick-to-the-JeffB-neanderthal-white-man-is-king diktat.

        and believe me, this is really pertinent in my family at the moment! Northeastern, NO, Berkeley, NO, Barnard NEVER, but watch out for the next generation because they are coming to universities everywhere.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        March 30, 2014, 5:52 am

        @kma —

        and believe me, this is really pertinent in my family at the moment! Northeastern, NO, Berkeley, NO, Barnard NEVER, but watch out for the next generation because they are coming to universities everywhere.

        In schools without Jews BDS type opinions go unopposed, quickly organize and win. But they aren’t very effective for changing opinion. BDS merges in with other minority issues rather seamlessly. Of course a BDS movement is going to find easy support in those sorts of environments.

        BDS likes to use the South Africa analogy so let’s use that. There was never a debate in the black community what America’s policy should be towards South Africa. The whole “BDS vs. constructive engagement” argument didn’t happen among blacks because there weren’t 2 sides with blacks. The same thing will happen with Israel most likely if BDS grows that large. OTOH blacks while often voicing strong support of anti-colonial movements don’t generally do much about them. Yes except for Pentecostal hispanics Jews in those colleges lose and lose fast. Most of those colleges are public and don’t have endowments or have piddling ones. There are exceptions like Howard University at $460m. I’m not sure divestment of all the colleges in the USA would even matter to Israel but I’m positive that all the minority colleges are a blip on a blip.

        The schools for which divestment could even possible matter:

        Harvard $30.7b
        Yale $19.2b
        Princeton $17.4b
        Standford $17b
        MIT $10.1b
        etc… have lots of Jews. And you are back to the battle that exists today.

        ___

        An interesting possibility symbolically are schools with very low Jewish populations lots of conservatives but largish endowments. Here you run into Christian Zionism and frankly a true shortage of anti-colonialist sentiment. Catholic schools are an exception and
        Notre Dame $6.4b
        is an obvious example where I suspect BDS might win. OK … some battlefields favor the enemy. That’s the case in all wars.

        But in general I don’t see how your numbers add up. Do the math on college divestment for yourself and think this through. Tell me how you see this playing out. The “christian/zionist/jewish stick-to-the-JeffB-neanderthal-white-man-is-king” schools are where the battle is because that’s where the battle for divestment matters.

  7. DaveS
    DaveS
    March 28, 2014, 7:58 pm

    What a great letter from Katherine Franke. Very thorough and comprehensive and impossible to rebut.

  8. bilal a
    bilal a
    March 28, 2014, 10:28 pm

    FYI to MW/ Ali A Electronic Intifada , sexual zionism : regarding Haverford talk on Palestine .https://twitter.com/AliAbunimah/status/449712448556113920

    1. Chair of Board of Trustees , famous 9/11 survivor Howard W. Lutnick,[CEO Cantor Fitzgerald], is a partner with Sands Corp in gaming (Adelson): Cantor Gaming is the exclusive provider of mobile gaming and In-Running wagering solutions to ..Las Vegas Sands Corp…

    2. Islamic Studies political science courses are taught by an Israeli intelligence IDF veteran who speaks arabic (west bank interrogations ,Mossad ?):
    http://www.haverford.edu/faculty/bmendels

    Haverford Quakers alumni talk (Mossad ? expert on ‘Jihad’)

  9. lysias
    lysias
    March 28, 2014, 10:51 pm

    Virginia Gildersleeve, long-time Dean of Barnard College, would not approve of this:

    Some historians consider Gildersleeve to have been “the most influential leader” of the Christian “anti-Zionist lobby” of her era.[7] Gildersleeve wrote that “after (her) retirement from the Deanship at Barnard, (she) devoted (her)self mainly to the Middle East,”[8] describing herself as “struggling ardently against” the creation and, later, the continued existence of the Jewish State.[9] She blamed her failure to prevent the creation of the State of Israel on “the Zionist control of the media of communication.” [10]
    Gildersleeve repeatedly testified before congressional committees and lobbied members of Congress and President Harry Truman to deny American political, military, and financial support to Israel.[7]
    Gildersleeve was a trustee of the American University of Beirut and a leading figure in the Christian opposition to Israel’s statehood in 1948. She helped found and chaired the Committee for Justice and Peace in the Holy Land, which merged into the American Friends of the Middle East.[11] According to historian Robert Moats Miller, of the University of North Carolina, the group was funded by the Central Intelligence Agency and ARAMCO.[12] Miller states that Gildersleeve’s “sympathies were indeed overwhelmingly with the Arabs.” [12]

  10. Kay24
    Kay24
    March 28, 2014, 11:55 pm

    All it takes is one Jewish student (maybe hasbara trained to do so), to walk up to the authorities, and cry that it is anti semitic, or that his/her feelings have been totally hurt, and affects his/her delicate sensitivities, and that darn banner will immediately come down, whether it is in schools, colleges, and even government buildings.
    All it takes is someone in authority asking, how such a banner insults or hurts a religion, or it’s people, to make some sense in these meaningless argument of anti-semitism, when it is totally inapplicable, but used often and inappropriately by the apologists of the occupation.
    Any nation, that has a record of practicing apartheid policies, and is a world known violated of human rights, truly deserves more banners, bringing focus to it’s crimes.
    Personally I would like to see more posters of “the shrinking map of Palestine” displayed in more places, it is startling to see the crime of land grabs and occupation.
    It opens many American minds.

  11. JeffB
    JeffB
    March 30, 2014, 6:58 am

    @Hostage

    have always prevented the adoption of a democratic constitution based upon equality of peoples and led to the adoption of a full-blown two-tiered legal system in which non-Jews are systematically discriminated against by the state of Israel.

    David Ben-Gurion didn’t like the idea of a constitution because he saw it as a neo-liberal type of document which intrenched class interests…. right out of Marx’s Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of the State. It had nothing to do with Palestinians which at that point were under military rule.

    Under the Harari Proposal there is a standing committee in the Knesset who drafts basic laws and evolves the state towards a constitution the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. In particular in 1992 the Basic Law on Human Dignity which contains all the Human Rights clauses you are talking about what passed into law and upheld by the courts.

    But at this point Israel has a de-facto constitution and I’d be willing to call it a de-jure constitution. What’s missing is Israelis just saying they are done.

    ISRAEL’S CONSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK

    Declaration of Independence (1948)
    Legislation of Constitutional Import
    2.1 Law of Return (1950) (as amended)
    2.2 World Zionist Organization — Jewish Agency (Status) Law
    (Covenant Between State of Israel and World Zionist
    Organization/Jewish Agency for Israel) (1952, amended 1971)
    Basic Laws
    3.1 The Knesset (1958)
    3.2 Israel Lands (1960)
    3.3 The President of the State (1964)
    3.4 The Government (1968)
    3.5 The State Economy (1975)
    3.6 Israel Defense Forces (1976)
    3.7 Jerusalem, Capital of Israel (1980)
    3.8 The Judicature Law (1984)
    3.9 The State Comptroller (1988)
    3.10 Human Dignity and Freedom (1992)
    3.11 Freedom of Occupation (1992)

    • Hostage
      Hostage
      March 30, 2014, 11:15 am

      David Ben-Gurion didn’t like the idea of a constitution because he saw it as a neo-liberal type of document which intrenched class interests…. right out of Marx’s Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of the State.

      You should stop trying to bullshit your way through life and seek professional help for those delusions you’re having. I purchased Netanel Lorch’s “Major Knesset Debates” series when it first came out in the early 1990s and quote it here quite often. It reflects the obstacle to adopting a constitution was the situation reflected from the very beginning in the Status Quo Agreement with The World Organization of Agudath Israel. I’ve also cited Hannah Arendt’s comments during the Eichmann trial about Jewish officials who would admit outside the court room that they would rather not have a written constitution where unequal rights for non-Jews would have to be spelled-out. That was in the 1960s, but nothing has changed since then. See for example MKs debate protection of ‘equality’ in future constitution: Religious MKs reject inclusion of ensurance of equality, saying it would contradict Judaism. http://www.haaretz.com/news/mks-debate-protection-of-equality-in-future-constitution-1.234565

      So don’t blame Marx, blame Moses.

      In particular in 1992 the Basic Law on Human Dignity which contains all the Human Rights clauses you are talking about what passed into law and upheld by the courts.

      Please stop trying to pass off that piece of deliberate dissimulation as a bill of rights: 1) It doesn’t even contain or mention the term “equality” or equal rights; 2) it contains a loophole in article 8 that allows new laws to be adopted befitting the values of the Jewish state that discriminate against non-Jews; 3) Article 10 grandfathered all of the pre-existing discriminatory statutes, like the ones on Citizenship and the Law of Return. http://www.knesset.gov.il/laws/special/eng/basic3_eng.htm

      There isn’t any doubt among legal scholars, like Prof. Nahum Rakover, former Deputy Attorney-General in Jewish Law Department of Israel Ministry of Justice and former Advisor to the Knesset on Jewish Law; and Prof. Yoram Dinstein, former President, Rector and Dean of Law at Tel Aviv University, that the Knesset can overrule a Supreme Court decision regarding the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. See:
      *Rakover:“Modern Applications of Jewish Law,” 1992, and “Jewish Law and Israeli Law: On the Process of Integration”, 1998;
      *Dinstein, “Israel Yearbook on Human Rights, Volume 25; Volume 1995”, pages 210-212.

      For example, Dinstein noted that the so-called “Womens Equal Rights Law” of 1951 specifically excluded marriage and divorce laws from its guarantees of “equality”. He says the exclusion of equality for women in the Framework Law laid the ground rules for the subsequent subordination of equality to religious values in the entire Israeli legal system. Every subsequent attempt to adopt a bill of rights has foundered on that point, i.e. deference to Judaism and religious institutions over the principle of equality. Dinstein says the Basic Law: Human Rights and Dignity Law was adopted to avoid the difficulty of giving priority to equality; that unlike the right to an occupation, the principles of human dignity and liberty are not expressly entrenched and can be reversed by ordinary legislation. Furthermore, he notes that the Basic Law will not even override existing statutory or judge made laws or any law befitting the values of the Jewish state.

      • seanmcbride
        seanmcbride
        March 30, 2014, 12:17 pm

        Hostage,

        So don’t blame Marx, blame Moses.

        Are you arguing that many Zionist beliefs and policies are grounded in ancient and contemporary Judaism?

      • Hostage
        Hostage
        March 30, 2014, 2:25 pm

        Are you arguing that many Zionist beliefs and policies are grounded in ancient and contemporary Judaism?

        No, the members of the Israeli Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee have said that. They are responsible for drafting the fundamental laws of state, including the constitution. I’ve just been discussing the various third party-verifiable sources, like the Haaretz article “MKs debate protection of ‘equality’ in future constitution”, that others can check to see what they’ve had to say for themselves. Believe me, Karl Marx is NOT the reason Israel has been unable to adopt a written constitution for the last 65 years.

      • Hostage
        Hostage
        March 30, 2014, 2:42 pm

        P.S. Hannah Arendt noted that the reasons that most secular Jews in Israel are not in favor of intermarriage has nothing to do with respect for the faith. Similarly, Ian Lustick describes the arrangement with the religious parties as Tammany Hall-style corrupt politics:

        In 1948 Agudat Yisrael and the Mizrahi movement (which became the National Religious Party)struck a bargain with the dominant Labor Zionist party, Mapai, according to which the question of the official status of religion would be deferred by dispensing with a written constitution; Orthodox rabbis would control marriage, divorce, and adoption; the state would honor the Sabbath; and kosher food would be served in state institutions. In return for commitments to preserve this religious “status quo,” and even though Agudat Yisrael continued to oppose Zionism on ideological grounds and refused to join the World Zionist Organization, the religious parties agreed to join with secular parties in governing coalitions.

        The majority of religious Zionists maintained this politically pragmatic attitude until 1967. To be sure, more than 200 Israeli rabbis signed a declaration published before the first parliamentary elections in 1949 characterizing the establishment of the state as atchalta degeula (the beginning of the redemption). But after the first flush of excitement, life settled down to politics as usual, Tammany Hall-style, for the leaders of the religious parties, both Zionist and non-Zionist.

        — For the Land and the Lord: Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, page 28 http://books.google.com/books?id=dD-1Nm6NTHQC&lpg=PA28&ots=XWTahRwcXL&pg=PA28#v=onepage&q&f=false

      • American
        American
        March 30, 2014, 2:41 pm

        ‘So don’t blame Marx, blame Moses’ ..Hostage

        In my ‘ non expert’ look at some beliefs/things in Judaism I see things that could reinforce Zionism. Jews argue over the good and bad ‘interpretation’ of those beliefs, rules, tales , ect. but still they are there to be interpreted into racism by zionism .

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      March 30, 2014, 3:57 pm

      How does your outline of Israeli rule of law reflect the 50 plus Israeli laws that discriminate against non-jews living in Israel as citizens, not to mention those living in the OT?

      • Hostage
        Hostage
        March 30, 2014, 5:37 pm

        How does your outline of Israeli rule of law reflect the 50 plus Israeli laws that discriminate against non-jews living in Israel as citizens, not to mention those living in the OT?

        The founding charter of Ahdut Ha’avodah in 1919 was incompatible with Marxism, because it demanded the establishment of “a Jewish Socialist Republic in all of Palestine”, and “the transfer of Palestine’s land, water, and natural resources to the people of Israel as their eternal possession.” In other words, Ben Gurion’s own party platform was based upon entrenching Jewish class interests.

    • seafoid
      seafoid
      March 30, 2014, 3:59 pm

      “neo-liberal type of document which intrenched class interests…”

      the ultimate class based system- Zionist socialism, which completely excluded the Palestinians left behind post 48

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