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LSE chills Palestinian students’ speech on ‘intifada’ under pressure from Israel lobby

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This is a dismal story, about the resistance of the western mainstream to an understanding of the occupation of Palestine. It is reminiscent of the Salaita case in Illinois; but it took place at the London School of Economics.

In October, the Palestine Society staged an exhibition in the student union to dramatize the conditions of Palestinians under occupation, so as to explain the wave of stabbing attacks. A report on the exhibit says it emphasized the legal right of Palestinians to resist occupation.

On the stairs leading up to the 1st floor of the Students’ Union, there were several posters depicting the ongoing violence in Occupied Palestine. The first poster shows Palestinian resistance and made the argument the meaning of the word “Intifada” has been manipulated to mean something it is not. It made the point that “Intifada” means a political uprising and that its literal translation is “to shake off”. In this context, it would translate to “shake off the Israeli occupation through a series of political protests.”…

Throughout the duration of the event a video was on replay; it was composed of more than 10 short clips compiled to create a 30 minute-long video. Each clip addressed a different political situation, including the statistic released by ‘Defense for Children International–Palestine’, noting that around 500-700 Palestinian children are arrested, detained, and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system each year.

It seems that the exhibit was somewhat like things we have published about the ongoing attacks in Israel and Palestine, emphasizing Israel’s extrajudicial killings. The Jewish Chronicle in England notes that the exhibit contained images of injured and slain Palestinians.

It displayed a series of graphic images of injured Palestinians without background details or context.

Without the pro-Israel context, they mean! Well pro-Israel students complained, and now the London School of Economics administration has issued a condemnation of the exhibit, on November 30. Ben White reports at Middle East Monitor:

Yet a month later, in a statement published on November 30, LSE declared that the university was “deeply troubled” by the Palestine Society exhibition. Despite emphasising that “the law was not broken”, LSE said that “the apparent celebration, even if unintended, of violence and perpetrators of violence caused significant distress to students who identify with victims of that violence.”

White says that the school administration’s statement was lacking in specifics, and it overrode an investigation by the student union finding no problem with the exhibit. He adds:

For LSE to issue a public reprimand of a student society’s activities, without any law being broken and outside of any formal investigation or disciplinary process, is highly unusual.

The Israeli embassy promptly tweeted out the school’s reprimand, and White reports that the British Israel lobby played a role in the school’s decision:

A key role though seems to have been played by the Board of Deputies of British Jews. On November 19, the Board announced that president Jonathan Arkush, together with representatives of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and LSE Israel Society, had met with LSE Pro-Director Paul Kelly and other senior officials “to raise strong concerns regarding recent activities of the Palestine Society.”

Kelly’s position makes him one of the top administrators at the school. White:

This week, the Board claimed that “following [this] meeting”, LSE wrote to say it was “deeply troubled” by the Palestine Society’s “celebration of violence”….

Arkush bragged on his influence to a Jewish publication: “Following my meeting with senior academic leadership at LSE, the University has stated that it was deeply troubled by an exhibition mounted on campus by the Palestine Society…”

Ben White reports:

The Board of Deputies of British Jews has a long-established track record of advocating for Israel and attacking Palestine solidarity activism. Their recently-elected president, Jonathan Arkush, meanwhile, has a reputation for stifling even mild criticism of Israeli policies.

According to Arkush, claiming to be speaking in the name of British Jews, “we lobby unashamedly for Israel.” This ignores, of course, the activism of groups like Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, and many other individuals.

When Benjamin Netanyahu visited Britain in September, Arkush described protesters as a “howling mob, some of them with their faces covered in keffiyot [sic], in true terrorist style.” A former senior official at the Board slammed Arkush for a “grovelling, sycophantic” speech to the Israeli premier.

The matter is reminiscent of the Steven Salaita case because the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign chancellor, who has since resigned her job partly over the scandal, responded to pro-Israel complaints about Salaita’s Gaza tweets 16 months ago by meeting with donors to the university, then peremptorily firing Salaita. Some of Salaita’s tweets were startling, but they were immediate responses to a massacre of children.

PS. LSE has also lately removed an anti-Zionist commentary from a student group’s human rights blog on the LSE website, saying editorial guidelines were not followed. In it, Sandra Nasr, a lecturer on the Middle East at Notre Dame University in Australia, asserted: “Zionism, the ideological project to secure a Jewish homeland, relies upon notions of separateness, superiority and entitlement”. Gideon Levy said very much the same thing in Westchester in October.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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6 Responses

  1. Krauss on December 5, 2015, 12:56 pm

    This reminds me of Gerry Gable, the Jewish(maternal side) founder of Searchlight, the formerly leading anti-fascist magazine in Britain.

    Gable is all about combating neo-Nazis and fascists – but wants to protect Jewish apartheid at all costs. I don’t think Gable is unique in his hypocrisy.

    Tony Greenstein(a true liberal, who opposes all forms of Apartheid, Jewish or non-Jewish) wrote about it eloquently a few years ago:

    http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2012/06/death-agony-of-searchlight-anti-fascist.html

    We have to understand that bigots like Arkush don’t get elected without broad support even from supposed “liberals” like Gable – who only subscribe to liberalism because it protects them as minorities. Ergo, they do so out of racial/ethnic self-interest in a diaspora, not because they are principled people like you or Tony. The true test is *always* how they respond in situations where they are the majority. In this case, that’s Zionism.

    That’s when the mask falls and you see who they truly are.

    The Gable’s of the world are not alone. We see the same thing in America with Susan Talve or the editor of the supposedly “liberal” the Forward, Jane Eisner, who supports settlements in the West Bank and approves an ethnic cleansing campaign in the same territories as “pragmatic”(her endorsement of the Bennett-inspired annexation of large parts of the WB).

    This is why I always smile when I hear about the supposed Jewish liberalism. Sure, on social issues you can make a case for it. But the democrats have long been ultra-right wing on the super wealthy and even the just mildly wealthy in this country. What was the Clinton presidency if not a long march to the right on every economic issue? Obama has fixed the most pressing problems but the Democratic party remains one which heavily favours the rich.

    In the UK, Labor is much more radical and we see Jews voting 64% or more for the conservatives(via the Jewish Chronicle in their pre-election poll). Same story in France.

    And that’s just on economic issues. If Jews are so liberal, why have we created an Apartheid state in the Middle East? I don’t believe in determinism, political or otherwise. Jews were heavily liberal not long ago, but in the postwar era that has slowly but steadily eroded. Arkush is a logical conclusion of such an evolution.

  2. wondering jew on December 5, 2015, 1:19 pm

    Some of Salaita’s tweets were startling, but they were immediate responses to a massacre of children. – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/12/palestinian-students-pressure#sthash.XEvyiIRF.dpuf

    Salaita wished that all West Bank settlers would go missing. This was not an immediate response to a massacre of children. It was in response to reaction to the kidnapping of the three settler teens.

    • Kris on December 5, 2015, 4:29 pm

      Your link doesn’t work, yonah. This one might: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/08/reading-salaita-illinois-1#tweet3

      Here’s Salaita’s tweet:

      @stevesalaita

      You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing.
      6:59 PM – 19 Jun 2014

      As you no doubt already know, yonah, this tweet was brought up as an add-on during the desperate search for ways to justify the indefensible firing of Salaita.

      From the link:

      At the very least, the appearance of this tweet as a late addenedum to the list of “hateful tweets” prepared by William Jacobson (whom Nelson had been communicating with) suggests that Nelson was not even aware of the tweet until someone pointed it out to him after Salaita’s firing. Thus one might suspect the tweet is being cited as retroactive justification for the firing.

      Once again, Nelson commands only one possible interpretation for this tweet. Whereas before Nelson demanded that Salaita’s tweets be taken literally, here Nelson demands extrapolation: One must read “go missing” as a euphemism for kidnapping and nothing else.

      But if “‘go missing’ refers to kidnapping,” why didn’t Salaita just write “kidnap”? After all, he prefaced his statement with the warning that it was “unrefined” and described the settlers with the expletive “fucking.” Why then, after all the build-up, would he resort to a euphemism?

      Moreover, if Salaita had actually wished for the West Bank settlers to be kidnapped, would Nelson find it any worse than a wish for settlers to “drop dead” or “go jump off a cliff”?

      By demonstrating the unlikelihood of Nelson’s reading, have I conclusively established Salaita’s intent? No, but neither does Nelson—an English professor—who imposes only one possible interpetation, which, even if correct, does not approach anywhere near a death threat or praise for anti-Semitism.
      – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/08/reading-salaita-illinois-1#tweet3

      • Stephen Shenfield on December 6, 2015, 5:28 pm

        I interpret “go missing” to mean “disappear through a singularity in the spacetime continuum into a parallel universe.” Who can object to that?

  3. John Douglas on December 5, 2015, 8:51 pm

    I’m confused. Isn’t the whole point of the occupation: the demolitions, the destruction of villages, the massacre of Gazans, the settler shootings of Palestinians, the burning of olive groves, the harassing checkpoints, the incarceration of children, the torture of prisoners and all the rest, an organized campaign to make the Palestinian people “go missing”? Salaita wishes it on settlers. Israel does it to Palestinians. And Salaita’s the bad guy?

  4. JLewisDickerson on December 5, 2015, 11:00 pm

    RE:“The Board of Deputies of British Jews has a long-established track record of advocating for Israel and attacking Palestine solidarity activism. Their recently-elected president, Jonathan Arkush, meanwhile, has a reputation for stifling even mild criticism of Israeli policies.” ~ Ben White

    SEE: “Board of Deputies Treasurer Laurence Brass Resigns to Speak Out on Israel” | by Tony Greenstein | azvsas.blogspot.com | 20 February 2015

    Shocked by What he Saw on the West Bank

    The Board of Deputies of British Jews has an appalling record on most issues. In the 1930’s it told Jews to keep their heads down and stay indoors as Sir Oswald Moseley and his British Union of Fascists strutted through the East End. At the Battle of Cable Street, when Moseley and the BUF were prevented from marching, the Jewish population, in alliance with ordinary trade unionists, Catholic dockers and the unemployed, ignored them as 100,000 people defied the Metropolitan Police’s defence of the anti-Semitic BUF. Today the Met opposes ‘anti-Semitism’ as part of its attacks on Muslims.

    The Board of Deputies also has an appalling record when it comes to Israel. It sees, hears and speaks no evil. It defends Israel right or wrong and attacks all critics as ‘anti-Semites’. It is therefore doubly surprising that a senior officer of the Board, Laurence Brass, has spoken out against human rights abuses on the West Bank and settler attacks and now resigned. According to reports in Ha’aretz he received a standing ovation.

    Naturally he has been criticised by people like Gerald Steinberg of the McCarthyist organisation NGO Monitor, which is dedicated to supporting all attacks on Palestinian civilians. Steinberg, a fascist Professor, would have made an excellent PR advisor to a certain Adolf Hitler. Eric Moonman, who was a failed right-wing Labour MP, was another to criticise Brass for having the temerity to object to settler attacks on Palestinians.

    Laurence Brass is an asylum judge and certainly no anti-Zionist. He is a supporter of Yachad, which is the equivalent of J-Street in the US, which describes itself as pro-Israel and pro-Peace, i.e. a 2 State organisation which sees Israel as losing the propaganda war. Nonetheless Brass’s resignation is a significant step, not least in his criticism of the Board of Deputies’s silencing of all criticism of Israel.

    The Board of Deputies today opposes what it terms ‘anti-Semitism’ i.e. criticism of Israel, and loses no opportunity to identify British Jews with Israeli attacks on Palestinians, which is the main motor for anti-Semitic attacks such as we have seen in France and Denmark.

    SOURCE – http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2015/02/board-of-deputies-treasurer-laurence.html

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