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Israel wages war on universities because it’s lost control of the narrative — Hedges

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Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges’s recent article on TruthdigIsrael’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 schoolLinda 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. 

 

annie
About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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25 Responses

  1. Citizen
    Citizen
    March 19, 2014, 4:00 pm
  2. Citizen
    Citizen
    March 19, 2014, 4:01 pm

    Anybody, the banality of evil?

  3. American
    American
    March 19, 2014, 5:00 pm

    I like Hedges but he needs to keep I-First subject narrower…….not wander off into the wonderful free to be you and me liberal-dom vr mean white right wingers.
    Keep it simple stupid…and not making this a left vr right issue —is the best approach.

  4. Krauss
    Krauss
    March 19, 2014, 5:09 pm

    While Hedges writes more or less what I agree with, I was surprised by how weak his column was. He is usually much more direct and forceful. I’m guessing he is nervous of talking about the issue without going deep into the weeds of the financiers of the Israel lobby(the Seth Klarman’s etc) and thus expose himself to attacks of anti-Semitism.

    Still, as he writes, this will happen regardless.

    As for the war on campus, money can never win you any fight over the long term.
    And it speaks volumes about where we are, that Israel’s lobbies are now using raw money and nothing else to try to destroy the opposition. They are the enemies of free speech.

  5. dbroncos
    dbroncos
    March 19, 2014, 7:10 pm

    @Krauss

    “And it speaks volumes about where we are, that Israel’s lobbies are now using raw money and nothing else to try to destroy the opposition.”

    I agree. I doubt if “Jewish voters”, frequently used as a euphemism for Zionist money, are as keen on Israel as the pundits make them out to be. Zionist millionaires and billionaires are running the Zionism show almost single handedly.

    • seafoid
      seafoid
      March 20, 2014, 5:36 am

      Zionism is an odious ideology.
      If it were used against rather than for the benefit of Jews they would be screaming anti-Semitism.

      One of the most disturbing aspects of Zionist cruelty towards the Palestinians is the system of informers they use.

      http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2014/mar/10/omar-decency-without-hope/

      ” On the level closest to the surface, the film shows us one of the main pillars of the occupation—the deep penetration of Palestinian society by an army of informers and secret agents who provide the information necessary for near-total control. The institutional methods and mechanisms behind this system have been honed by Israel for decades; two excellent recent books by Hillel Cohen, a historian and Arabist at the Hebrew University, describe the early history of these efforts, beginning already in the British Mandate: Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration With Zionism, 1917–1948 (2008) and Good Arabs: The Israeli Security Agencies and the Israeli Arabs, 1948–1967 (2010). For decades, well-trained Israeli handlers have mastered an evolving and highly effective repertoire of psychological devices and various forms of blackmail that serve first to “turn” their captives into informers, and then to manipulate them. Life under the Occupation, with its Kafkaesque requirement of bureaucratic permits for almost anything a person might want or need to do (movement from place to place, medical treatment, visits to parents or other relatives, building an outhouse, and so on) makes any Palestinian potentially vulnerable to blackmail. That, in fact, is the meaning, also the teleology, of full control. The Israelis have not invented these methods, but they have proven to be very skilled, and unscrupulous, in using them.
      Among them, needless to say, is the devilish threat to harm or even destroy a loved one, a girlfriend or wife, as we see in this film. ”

      Tikkun Olam is simply impossible in Israel. They have to be cruel, they have to destroy their own moral parameters, in order to run the system they have. And beyond that what is the point ?

      • sparrow
        sparrow
        March 20, 2014, 11:47 am

        Arabist?

      • annie
        annie
        March 20, 2014, 1:35 pm

        it’s possible to be an israeli arabist. interesting analysis about zionism/ equality vs control.

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        March 20, 2014, 4:27 pm

        That’s a very interesting video, Annie. Ultimately it’s about the failure of Zionism. Shows up the massive gulf between how things are done in the States and in Israel in terms of integration.
        They never integrated the Palestinians.

        Now it’s too late.

  6. dbroncos
    dbroncos
    March 19, 2014, 7:30 pm

    Thanks for this, Annie

    “…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.”

    This contempt for anyone who’s not part of the priviledged white power structure is plain to see on Fox News, the white man’s narcissistic mirror. I’m talking about priveledged whites who don’t want to share their money or their power and who thought the sky was falling when Obama was elected President. It’s despicable and I agree with Hedges that these same priviledged whites, who see the rest of America as their footstool, also promote the bigotry against Palestinians in the American consciousness.

    • annie
      annie
      March 20, 2014, 11:39 am

      you’re welcome dbroncos, but it’s hedges we can thank. the whole article is really good but that was the part that jumped out at me.

      interestingly, i was reminded of this passage when reading some links richb linked to over in the evangelical thread here: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/03/palestinians-evangelical-christian.html/comment-page-1#comment-650053

      following all these links is very interesting , because i have not been keeping up with this ’emerging church’ movement. but the nyt link in particular, which is from 2004 is about a conservative group “advancing a plan to split the church along liberal and orthodox lines.”

      financing from a handful of conservative donors, including the Scaife family foundations, the Bradley and Olin Foundations and Howard and Roberta Ahmanson’s Fieldstead & Company, the 23-year-old institute is now playing a pivotal role in the biggest battle over the future of American Protestantism since churches split over slavery ……The institute has brought together previously disconnected conservative groups within each denomination to share resources and tactics, including forcing heresy trials of gay clergy members….
      ….
      Although the institute has an annual budget of just less than $1 million and a staff of fewer than a dozen, liberals and conservatives alike say it is having an outsized effect on the dynamics of American politics by counteracting the liberal influence of the mainline Protestant churches. Together, the Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopal churches have 12.5 million members, and for decades they and other mainline denominations have provided theological backbone and foot soldiers for liberal causes like abortion rights, racial and economic equality, the nuclear freeze, environmentalism and anti-war movements.

      the article goes on to say they raise funds around issues like gays, abortion/(anti)feminist/conservative social issues. they claim the church ‘elite’ (leaders) are more liberal that those in the pews and they want them out, or they will split the church. but the donors don’t really care about these issues.

      James Piereson, executive director of the Olin Foundation, said it saw the institute as a Protestant counterpart to the conservative magazine Commentary for Jews or Father Neuhaus’s journal First Things for Catholics. ”If no one commented on and criticized the churches’ political activities, it would appear that this was an unobjectionable religious position that was being brought to bear instead of a controversial position,” he said, adding that ”the sexuality issues and the liturgical issues in the churches have never been of great interest to us.”

      so they are there to change the politics thru keeping the church conservative. and they want to marginalize support for gays, feminists, liberals. this is from 2004 and they never mention israel. but what kind of politics are those donors interested in? and what does that have in common with the same tactics being used to marginalize and disenfranchise the less privileged that hedges references?

      i posit they don’t want the evangelical church straying to far over to the liberal side in their religious doctrine because it spills into their politics. especially when they ask themselves, what would jesus do.

  7. BrianEsker
    BrianEsker
    March 19, 2014, 9:20 pm

    This is so stupid. Hedges is such an ivory tower knucklehead. ** ISRAEL **wasn’t calling any shots on those campuses that gave BDS the bum’s rush. It was always disgruntled local management who have just plain had enough fraud, bullying and nonsense from hormonal drama queens and princes.

  8. seafoid
    seafoid
    March 20, 2014, 2:35 am

    Israel has lost control of the narrative. The world has moved on from apartheid and wars in the Middle East. Big deal if they are Jewish – they are morally wrong.

  9. just
    just
    March 20, 2014, 5:55 am

    Another attempt to ‘reclaim’ the narrative:

    “The American Jewish Congress has bestowed its annual lifetime achievement award on Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    The former U.S. first lady and secretary of state spoke at the group’s gala Wednesday night in New York City.

    Clinton emphasized the longstanding relationship between the United States and Israel and spoke about the negotiations process with Iran.

    She says the coming months will be “crucial” for the region in the attempts to negotiate a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians and in efforts to make sure Iran doesn’t develop nuclear weapons. ”

    http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/1.580849

    Harry Truman was also a recipient “back in the day”………..

    • MRW
      MRW
      March 20, 2014, 11:01 am

      The ole ‘give ’em an award’ trick: justifies the organization and its issue.

    • lysias
      lysias
      March 20, 2014, 12:09 pm

      Washington Post: Hillary Clinton says she is ‘personally skeptical’ about an Iran nuclear deal:

      NEW YORK — Hillary Rodham Clinton cast doubt on the interim nuclear agreement with Iran, saying in a muscular policy speech here Wednesday night that she is “personally skeptical” that Iran’s leaders will follow through on a comprehensive agreement to end their march toward nuclear weapons.

      Still, the former secretary of state and potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate told a pro-Israel audience in New York that she stands behind the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran, and she commended the work of her successor, John F. Kerry.

      • amigo
        amigo
        March 20, 2014, 2:00 pm

        Lysias, you mean ,Hilary (just got off the phone with aipac) Clinton.

        “Still, the former secretary of state and potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate told a pro-Israel audience in New York that she stands behind the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran, and she commended the work of her successor, John F. Kerry.”Clinton

        Translation !!, she will not jump ship until a teenie weenie crack appears in the negotiation process.

  10. American
    American
    March 20, 2014, 9:36 am

    Re reading Hedges again reminds me why I am moving further and further away from the Extreme Liberals and their race and ethnic baiting in the Liberals vr Conservatives fight.
    It is not the job of the US public education system to teach ethnics about their ethnic and heritage, not the job of the education system to teach gays about gayness. Their ‘personal’ ethnic heritage and gay issues they can get on their own and from other places.
    The job of public education is to give a general and ‘neutural’ education, period.

    Leaving aside whatever ‘motives’ Hedges wants to assign to this …”Their real concern, as stated in the bill, was about “solidarity” and “resentment.”….. I agree that reinforcing every ethnic’s ethnic in the education system does exactly what its done—-separate the population into ethnic camps in the US and destroyed “solidarity’ in the US and created special interest divisive politics.

    • Ecru
      Ecru
      March 21, 2014, 2:42 pm

      @ American

      The job of public education is to give a general and ‘neutural’ education, period.

      I think the problem with that American (and I do have some sympathy with your view here) is what constitutes a “neutral” education? Many would say, and with some justification given the history, that all “neutral” amounts to is the education of white privilege (oh gods I’m starting to sound like a sociologist! THE HORROR!!). By it’s nature that alienates chunks of the student population which is self defeating. However if what is perceived as too much time is given over to other perspectives you risk a backlash from the majority population which also leads to alienation from education.

      Maybe our education systems should be more holistic and encourage not only critical thinking but also independent research and assessment of source materials.

      Whatever the answer is – the problem is definitely a thorny one.

      • American
        American
        March 22, 2014, 2:59 pm

        Ecru says:

        March 21, 2014 at 2:42 pm

        @ American

        The job of public education is to give a general and ‘neutural’ education, period.

        I think the problem with that American (and I do have some sympathy with your view here) is what constitutes a “neutral” education? Many would say, and with some justification given the history, that all “neutral” amounts to is the education of white privilege.>>>>>>

        Well as someone who is really not for white or any other kind of privilege I will also say that I and many others are now fed up to the gills with the ‘white privilege’ claim.

        Let me illustrate this—–> At a speech Kerry was making to students last week on Foreign Affairs a student in the audience asked him———–“What is the US going to do about how Russia treats gays?’

        That was her me-ism, narcissist , single issue question about US foreign policy.

  11. Walker
    Walker
    March 20, 2014, 10:23 am

    Hedges was the NY Times Middle East Bureau Chief for four years.

    If he really wanted to affect the narrative he could do so very simply and powerfully by doing one thing. Publish his own insider’s view of the Times’ coverage of I/P news. The Times has had a powerful pro-Israel slant for decades, and Hedges must have much personal experience of how that worked in practice. He should cite names and dates.

    Certainly he would face personal and perhaps legal risk in doing that. Nobody has the standing to require that of him. But if he wants to make a difference, that’s what he should do.

  12. adele
    adele
    March 20, 2014, 12:20 pm

    Walker,
    Hedges has spoken widely on this topic in the many interviews and lectures he has given. He does not mince his words when it comes to this topic, he calls out the journalists as careerists for pandering to the status quo. If you recall, Hedges was basically put on warning by the NYT after he gave a University graduation commencement address in which he was overtly and severely critical of the US govt’s war on Iraq. There are many many examples of this, just google or youtube and you will find it.

    • Walker
      Walker
      March 20, 2014, 3:50 pm

      adele,

      I believe that in his four years a bureau chief, Hedges must have seen or been involved in many specific cases where the Times rewrote or spiked stories to favor Israel. Those are the revelations that would be really helpful. Not just the media but everyone has avoided discussing the nitty-gritty of the pro-Israel hegemony in the media.

  13. Lucius
    Lucius
    March 23, 2014, 8:11 pm

    “Lost Control of the Narrative”? It’s Flat Out Ridiculous that a FOREIGN COUNTRY is permitted to spread propaganda on american universities with impunity. Would, say Russia, be allowed such activity? Certainly not so overtly. Israel needs to take this kind of political action back to Nazi Germany where it belongs.

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