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Yale official barred discussion of Israeli settlements and apartheid at monthly meeting

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Bruce Shipman, who was forced out of his job as an Episcopal chaplain at Yale for a letter he wrote to the New York Times saying that Gaza was helping to foster anti-Semitism, has responded to the controversy with a clear, strong piece in the Hartford Courant declaring that he will not stop talking about Palestinian apartheid and the role of the Israel lobby just because people have pinned a scarlet letter A on him  — anti-Semite. It’s such a strong piece because Shipman is emphatic, combative, and reflective. The issue of Palestinian human rights and AIPAC “must be brought into the light.” He found that Yale was incapable of talking about the issue long before he was forced out– university chaplain Sharon Kugler told him flatly that he must not bring up Israel and Palestine at monthly meetings — and that’s tragic.

And as for being called an anti-Semite, Shipman says he will reflect on possible error, but he is not going to allow McCarthyite tactics to shut him up. And by hitting back at Kugler and a leading Connecticut Jewish official, Jerry Fischer, for offensive irresponsible accusations against him, Shipman has turned the tables.

Some excerpts. First, the importance of the issue and the inability of Yale’s chaplains to discuss it:

I am deeply concerned just now that others will be intimidated by my experience and thus fear raising the issue of the issue of the relationship between the United States and Israel, and the fact that apartheid conditions obtain for Palestinians in the West Bank and far worse in Gaza. Also intimidating is the influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Israel lobby, described in meticulous detail by Connie Bruck in the Sept. 1 issue of The New Yorker. These are issues that demand public discourse without the fear of being labeled with the “A” word.

Where better to address these issues than the campus of a great university? To my dismay, at Yale I found that “that issue” was not to be raised at the monthly meetings of the chaplains. In April, when asked to tell what we had done during spring break, I described my recent visit to the West Bank with a group from Yale Divinity School and the Episcopal Church at Yale. I said that we were deeply troubled by the settlement activity and the policy of separation exemplified by the Wall and the road systems. Chaplain Sharon Kugler rebuked me after the meeting and said that this subject must never again be raised at meetings of the whole.

Shipman is high minded, and it’s great how he merges the lobby and apartheid, as joint issues.

The issue of freedom to speak one’s conscience is on my mind… If the chaplains are to be muzzled and relegated to pastoral care only, that needs to be spelled out. Any chaplain worth his salt will insist that prophetic witness is a part of biblical ministry that must be respected.

These are the issues that concern me just now. Regarding whether or the not the letter is anti-Semitic, I am prepared to learn, and I believe I have learned, why it was so offensive to some. I do object to being labeled and having my character attacked — I mean, those are the methods of Joseph McCarthy. And I insist that “that subject” be brought into the light and that people be allowed to question the United States-Israel relationship and let the world know about what is happening in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as the influence of AIPAC on U.S. policy in the region and toward Iran.

Here is his meditation on his own alleged anti-Semitism:

Is the letter anti-Semitic? A sampling of Yale undergraduates, asked this question by the Yale Daily News, fell everywhere on the graph, from “no, not at all”, to “yes, definitely.” Is it? Those who believe so have not hesitated to brand me with the scarlet “A,” and sadly that includes Jerry Fischer of the Jewish Federation of Eastern Connecticut, whose words I will not dignify by repeating in this essay. Frankly, I am embarrassed for him.

What was Fischer’s embarrassing criticism? It appeared in the Courant:

“I think that it [Shipman’s letter] was a very, very poor choice of words,” Fischer said. “And I think it revealed a belief that he may hold that the Jews really do control everything.”

The statement implied Jews somehow deserve to be hated, Fischer said.

“The idea is that the Jews are a class of people who all think the same, who all have power, and all they have to do is stop doing this and everyone will stop hating them,” Fischer said. “It’s ridiculous.”

More signs of the opening this case represents. Columnist Colin McEnroe writes in the Courant that the barriers to bringing up the subject are arbitrary and punitive. You’re not allowed to step in because

a) one can never read enough so that one feels as well-informed as the people one winds up talking to, and b) even if one did, the odds of getting one’s head cloven in two for what seemed like a semi-reasonable remark are unusually high.

The second thing is a problem. Even though I don’t understand the Palestinian question, I think I do understand that useful conversations are impeded by the number of ideas regarded as so far out of bounds that they might cost you your job or reputation, if you voiced them in relative innocence.

Shipman’s witness is helping to end this prohibition. He understands that the method of his blacklisting is itself part of the problem, so he is going to talk about it. Great.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-06.

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17 Responses

  1. just on September 20, 2014, 11:14 am

    “Any chaplain worth his salt will insist that prophetic witness is a part of biblical ministry that must be respected.”

    Amen. The wind is beneath this good man’s wings.

    • Pippilin on September 23, 2014, 11:56 am

      To paraphrase the bible, ” A prophet is without honor in his own country.” How many Zionists would criticize Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was executed by Germany for his preaching on the wrongs of Nazism?

  2. Shmuel on September 20, 2014, 11:44 am

    Chaplain Sharon Kugler rebuked me after the meeting and said that this subject must never again be raised at meetings of the whole.

    Apart from justice in the Holy Land (to most of the Yale chaplains), are there any other subjects that “must never be raised”?

    • oldgeezer on September 20, 2014, 2:00 pm

      Too bad she lacked the courage to raise the issue in public. Failing to do may result in many other attendees doing so at a future time. Hardly the wisdom, or courage, required of leadership.

      I’m being facetious of course. She didn’t bring up the prohibition at the meeting as she knew, or was afrad, that it would be unacceptable to the majority of right minded individuals. No topic should be off limits I would think.

      zionists and it’s defenders have to work behind the scenes as they have no defensible position for their crimes, barbarity and machinations to keep same covered up.

    • pabelmont on September 20, 2014, 2:08 pm

      Shmuel: You ask, I guess about Yale and/or its chaplaincy, “Are there any other questions that must not be raised? Excellent questions, both.

      But the questions should be broader in two ways. First, as to mechanisms for intimidation, mechanisms for censorship, we must ask (about ANY discussion-medium, any forum, which is shut down in part) WHAT IS THE MECHANISM OF CENSORSHIP? And second, what OTHER FORA are shut down?

      Are NPR, NYT, generally the American MSM shut down on various topics? Which topics? which fora? Can (and do) they talk about TOPIC#1: the power of big-money on politics? on media? on universities? on public schools? Is CONGRESS ITSELF shut-down?

      And note: censorship on Israel/Palestine is just one slice of the presumed censorship more broadly of “politics”.

    • Stephen Shenfield on September 20, 2014, 2:53 pm

      Well, I’m sure that the subject of subjects that must never be raised must never be raised.

  3. Citizen on September 20, 2014, 11:46 am

    Fischer’s weak logic conflates both what he desires and fears. Interesting Zionist “logic.”

  4. HarryLaw on September 20, 2014, 11:57 am

    Chaplain Shipman is right to invoke the scourge McCarthyism, Let us not assassinate this chaplain further. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

  5. annie on September 20, 2014, 2:04 pm

    I don’t understand the Palestinian question, I think I do understand that useful conversations are impeded by the number of ideas regarded as so far out of bounds that they might cost you your job or reputation

    this reminds me of an accusation by gene yesterday regarding a criticism of OU rabbi Leshaw by just who said the rabbi seemed “far more concerned with possible damage to Israel’s image than for the actual victims”

    in response gene wrote this was “an old canard that Jews are morally inferior and only care about themselves. – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/09/the-rabbi-shitshow#comment-710766

    by these same standards, it seems like almost any criticism made against any individual jewish person could be twisted around (the way fischer twisted “I think it revealed a belief that he may hold that the Jews really do control everything” [my italics]) to appear similar to some accusation made anytime in the past and therefore used to render the individual criticism null and void because somewhere in the last few thousand years, a similar accusation was untrue. and therefor the entire topic be rendered “out of bounds” due to ‘anti semitic canard’ or part of a ‘trope’.

    whereas, if this same kind of argument were made against anyone else, it’s rarely heard – those accusations have been made before therefore the criticism is out of bounds. it’s just an excuse not to deal with an issue. i can think of so many pushbacks where this applies, for instance calling someone an israeli firster. are we all to be programed regarding what we can and cannot say by abe foxman stand ins policing our speech? it appears so.

    re shipman, the absurdity of claiming he ‘may believe jews control everything’ as a viable counter argument is so irresponsible it should be roundly denounced. but instead, people often become reluctant because they too will be accused. it flips the argument and diverts it to contemplation of jews as victims. in some cases i think this is calculated, but once enough people are conditioned or brainwashed into accepting this kind of ‘logic’ it’s self perpetuating, no calculation required.

    my response to gene in that conversation: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/09/the-rabbi-shitshow#comment-710766

    • just on September 20, 2014, 6:11 pm

      Agreed Annie.

      Thank you for your superb response to Gene on the other thread as well.

      • just on September 20, 2014, 6:47 pm

        Actually, I think it was Eli who made the assertion quoted above.

  6. NickJOCW on September 20, 2014, 11:09 pm

    What they should all be discussing, surely, is the validity of his comment rather than his right to make it.

  7. Paul Larudee on September 22, 2014, 6:31 am

    The purpose of a university is to open minds to all points of view. The purpose of a great university is to assure that only the correct points of view prevail. Thus, if a view like Shipman’s is to be permitted, it should be in the context of denouncing and forbidding it, so as to maintain uniformity of viewpoint and approval of major donors, as Kegler has done.

    • piotr on September 22, 2014, 9:43 pm

      Moderation is important in all things. Opening minds? Only with care, it is so easy to overdo it.

  8. Rusty Pipes on September 22, 2014, 1:47 pm

    Just to be clear, a head chaplain or Dean of the Chapel is rarely a tenured position. Even where they teach a few courses, they are usually part of the administration, not faculty. In some places, they even serve “at the pleasure of the President.” Apparently, the president of the University leaned on the chaplain hard regarding Shipman’s NYT letter. I’m not sure which other orgs are part of the chaplains’ monthly meeting — but if one of them was Chabad, which was one of the first to complain about the letter, it would be no surprise if they told the chaplain that they were unhappy by Shipman’s depiction of the occupation. The Chabad – settler connection is rarely made clear on campuses.

  9. michelle on September 23, 2014, 10:01 am

    .
    Israel is/has been holding the Palestine people hostage
    America is/has been holding the Palestine people hostage
    The United Kingdom is/has been holding the Palestine people hostage
    Egypt is/has been holding the Palestine people hostage
    .
    as long as Israel (and Egypt) collect a ransom this will never end
    .
    G-d Bless
    .

  10. Pixel on October 4, 2014, 8:42 pm

    .
    “Ministry is…” by Gordon B. McKeeman

    Ministry is a quality of relationship between and among human beings
    that beckons forth hidden possibilities.

    It is inviting people into deeper, more constant,
    more reverent relationship
    with the world and with one another.

    Ministry is carrying forward
    a long heritage of hope and liberation
    that has dignified and informed others
    in their terrors and torments, in their grief and pain,
    knowing that those feelings are our feelings, too.

    Ministry is celebrating the triumphs of the human spirit,
    the miracles of birth and life, the wonders of devotion and sacrifice.

    It is witnessing to life-enhancing values,
    speaking truth to power,
    standing for human dignity and equity, for compassion and for aspiration.

    Ministry is believing in life in the presence of death,
    struggling for human responsibility
    against principalities and powers in institutions
    and structures that ignore humaneness and become instruments of death.

    It is all of these and much much more than all of them,
    present in the wordless, the unspoken, the ineffable.

    It is speaking and living the highest we know,
    and living with the knowledge
    that it is never as deep, as wide, or as high as we wish.

    Whenever there is a meeting that summons us to our better selves,

    Wherever
    Our lostness is found
    Our fragments are united
    Or our wounds begin healing
    Our spines stiffen
    And our muscles grow strong for the task

    There is ministry.

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