Chris Hedges’s recent article on Truthdig, Israel’s War on American Universities, documents Israel’s attempts to shut down political discourse on American campuses. He denounces billionaires, politicians, and alums willing to run roughshod over our First Amendment rights and chastises academics who’ve failed to protect students rights.
Then Hedges takes it to another level; he ties the silencing of Palestinian narrative and SJP chapters across the country with a “wider campaign by right-wing operatives”; legislation (pdf) that passed in Arizona putting an end to ethnic studies courses in classrooms across the state:
This assault will not end with groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine. The refusal to hear the cries of the Palestinian people, especially those 1.5 million—60 percent of them children—who are trapped by the Israeli military in Gaza, is part of the wider campaign by right-wing operatives like Lynne Cheney and billionaires such as the Koch brothers to stamp out all programs and academic disciplines that give voice to the marginalized, especially those who are not privileged and white. Latinos, African-Americans, feminists, those in queer and gender studies also feel this pressure. Under a bill signed by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, books by leading Chicano authors have been banned from public schools in Tucson and elsewhere in Arizona on the ground that such ethnic studies promote “resentment toward a race or people.” It is language similar to what former Ambassador Oren has used to justify his call for criminal prosecutions of BDS activists—that they are advancing “bigotry.” The neoconservatism that grips Israel has its toxic counterpart within American culture. And if other marginalized groups within the university remain silent while Palestine solidarity activists are persecuted on campuses, there will be fewer allies when these right-wing forces come for them. And come they will.
The Arizona legislation, still being challenged in the courts, makes it illegal for students to learn about their heritage in school. Linda Martín Alcoff, a professor of philosophy at Hunter College and City University of New York, broke down the truth behind the legislation in a New York Times Op-ed 2 years back: “In Arizona, Censoring Questions About Race.”
What’s happening to ethnic studies in Arizona schools and the silencing of discussion about Palestine on college campuses turn out to have a lot in common. Alcoff:
Their real concern, as stated in the bill, was about “solidarity” and “resentment.” They are scared of a curriculum that might foment an anti-white sentiment among impoverished populations of Mexican and Central American kids. One might think they are worried about misplaced political targets, as the Black Panthers were when they rewrote their Ten Point Program to replace “whites” with “capitalists.” But the Arizona legislature is not concerned with misnamed targets but with having any targets at all. Tom Horne was incensed when students walked out of an assembly in 2006, protesting English-only policies and calling out Republicans for having anti-Latino racism. He does not want politically active Latinos in his state. He wants them to shut up and keep mowing the lawns….
The concept of “anti-white” is interesting. … Recent polls show that the gap between whites and non-whites who believe that racism continues to be an important problem in United States society has dropped significantly, at least in the younger generation. So perhaps it will not be only Chicano children who demand change, but their white allies as well. That is the sort of solidarity the Arizona Republicans may be most worried about.
I’m reminded of parallel construction, a law enforcement process of “building a parallel – or separate – evidentiary basis” for fighting crime intended to conceal the origins of the investigation.
Hedges closes with this next prescient passage:
Israel has for decades been able to frame the discussion about the Palestinians. But its control of the narrative is coming to an end. As Israel loses ground it will viciously and irrationally attack all truth tellers, even if they are American students, and especially if they are Jews. There will come a day, and that day will come sooner than Israel and its paid lackeys expect, when the whole edifice will crumble, when even students at Hillel will no longer have the stomach to defend the continuous dispossession and random murder of Palestinians. Israel, by ruthlessly silencing others, now risks silencing itself.