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UMass Amherst chancellor calls on organizers of Palestine event to include pro-Israel side for ‘dialogue’

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That forum on Palestine next Saturday night at UMass just keeps getting wilder all the time– the effort to shut it down, that is.

Aptly titled, “Not Backing Down,” the May 4 forum features Roger Waters, Linda Sarsour, Marc Lamont Hill, Dave Zirin and Sut Jhally speaking about the pressure to shut up about Palestine.

First the ADL wrote to the university chancellor to say the panel would divide students and threaten “Jewish students’ sense of belonging, as well as their sense of safety and security on campus.” But the ADL and others failed to get the university to stop the event, so then 80 rightwing pro-Israel groups called on UMass to strip its name and department sponsors from the panel because the panel could spark “violence” and “hostility” against Jewish students.

Now some students have sued UMass to shut the panel down in the name of Jewish safety. And the university chancellor has bowed somewhat to the pressure and told the panel that yes it has free speech but the sponsors have a “special obligation” to bring in opposing points of view, lest the event turns into an “echo chamber” that “simply affirm[s] preconceived notions.” (Yes, we thought there was apartheid before we went to the event; now we think it’s really apartheid…)

Here’s some of that statement from Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. After the boilerplate about academic freedom and the responsibility of the university to permit the free flow of ideas– and repeated note that a private foundation paid for the event — Subbaswamy bends over backwards to the rightwing opposition to the panel and instructs the organizers to have varying points of view.

Kumble Subbaswamy, chancellor of UMass Amherst

Some faculty members have also observed that with academic freedom comes “special obligations.”

In today’s hyper-polarized environment, we increasingly find ourselves living in our own echo chambers where our opinions are validated by like-minded individuals, and the meaningful exchange of ideas is exceedingly rare. Unless we allow audiences to hear differing points of view, the discussion, instead of being one that opens minds, will simply affirm preconceived notions. I encourage university professors to exercise that special obligation and find meaningful ways of bringing opposing sides together to have deeper dialogues among those who hold differing opinions on the issues of the day.

The phrase “special obligations” originates in the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which, given the lively discussion on campus regarding next week’s event, is worth revisiting. The Principles state that “College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations… Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.”

So Subbaswamy is urging the organizers to include the pro-Israel side in the discussion so there’s a dialogue. There was no such demand when Dennis Ross (American Jews “need to be advocates for Israel” not Palestine) came to campus. Subbaswamy inadvertently confirms the point of the panel: there’s really just one point of view on Israel allowed in official circles. And his stance reminds me of the case five years ago, when Rev. Bruce Shipman lost his chaplaincy at Yale for a three-sentence letter he wrote to the New York Times saying the 2014 massacre in Gaza would foster anti-Semitism. Prestige institutions can’t be associated with pro-Palestinian voices.

Organizer Jeremy Earp, production director of the Media Education Foundation, responds in an email to the repeated claim that the event is one-sided propaganda:

“What’s gotten lost in all these attacks on the event as this one-sided propaganda-fest is that the event itself is an attempt to push back against the overwhelmingly one-sided narrative about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in US media. For years, there’s been rock-solid bipartisan support for Israel in Congress, pro-Israel voices have dominated in mainstream coverage of the conflict, and whenever pro-Palestinian voices have managed to break through and call attention to the occupation they’ve been attacked as anti-Semites and terrorists. The entire point of this event from the start was to create a space outside this one-sided propaganda frame where some pro-Palestinian voices can be heard. And now the demand is for more diversity of opinion. It’s Orwellian.”

As for the the lawsuit intended to shut the UMass event down, it was evidently organized by Americans for Peace and Tolerance, a group linked to Charles Jacobs of Islam-bashing fame, which invoked Jewish religion as a cause for action: “Moses taught us to intervene to help our fellow Jews.”

The Boston Herald wrote up the suit and publicized the group’s claim that the event is an “anti-Semitic rally.”

University of Massachusetts Amherst students outraged that the campus is set to host an event featuring Palestinian activists are hoping a judge boots the event off campus.
A lawyer for the students on Thursday filed an emergency motion against UMass officials in Suffolk Superior Court, asking the court to order UMass Amherst to kick the May 4 forum off the Western Mass. campus…

“These departments are basically sponsoring a hate-fest,” attorney Karen Hurvitz, representing the students, said Thursday evening. “They need to move this rally off campus and not sponsor it in any way… If the Preliminary Injunction is not granted, and the anti-Semitic rally detailed in the Complaint is allowed to take place, Plaintiff students will suffer immediate and irreparable harm,” Hurvitz wrote.

Here is Sut Jhally, UMass communications chair and organizer of the event, responding via email to charges of anti-Semtism:

All of this is classic propaganda: do everything you can to re-frame the discussion, then control that frame by attacking and trying to silence anybody who dares to have a different perspective….

The strategy is to link Israel to Jews so that the two become interchangeable. That way, if you dare to criticize what Israel is doing, you automatically get labelled an anti-Semite or a self-hating Jew. It’s a brilliant strategy because it means there’s no way to criticize Israeli government policy without being labeled a bigot. The danger, of course, is that it waters down the meaning of anti-Semitism and conceals the dangers of how anti-Semitism actually operates in the real world.”

Some of Hurvitz’s other opinions, from the “Times of Israel”: “Palestine is not a nationality.” There is no occupation.

Israel’s undeniable right to establish homes in the West Bank… Israel is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people and has been continuously for over 3,000 years as evidenced not only in hundreds of references throughout the Bible but also in countless archeological relics…

Oh and the Boston Herald has an editorial condemning the event and the school, but not saying it should be shut down.

Leaders at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst continue to show their rigid, radical-left principles, even when called out on them.

Here is Jeremy Earp on the hate-fest charge:

“It’s pretty ironic that the lead lawyer on this lawsuit has branded our event a ‘hate fest’ when for weeks now the people on this panel have been targeted and attacked with the most hate-filled smears imaginable. In the most casual of ways, a succession of local and national groups have branded these people anti-Semites and terrorist-sympathizers who pose a grave threat to the emotional well-being of UMass students. What these guardians of emotional well-being haven’t mentioned, of course, is that this panel discussion is about exactly the kinds of hateful smears and attacks these groups have been using for years to discredit and vilify anyone who dares to criticize Israeli policy and speak up for Palestinian rights. The goal with all these bad-faith protests clearly isn’t to protect UMass students from hatred or to make the campus safe for civil discussion and debate. It’s to shut down discussion and debate about the billions of dollars of aid the United States gives to Israel despite its increasingly authoritarian policies and its violations of Palestinian human rights.”


Philip Weiss

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

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17 Responses

  1. bcg on April 26, 2019, 12:55 pm

    Re the topic of trying to shut down the discussion, this just happened:

    A federal court in Texas issued a ruling on Thursday afternoon preliminarily enjoining enforcement of Texas’ law banning contractors from boycotting Israel. The court ruled that the law plainly violates the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment. Following similar decisions by federal courts in Kansas and Arizona, the ruling becomes the third judicial finding – out of three who have evaluated the constitutionality of such laws – to conclude that they are unconstitutional attacks on the free speech rights of Americans.

    • MHughes976 on April 26, 2019, 4:14 pm

      So Jason Hill needs to invite a Palestinian spokesperson to share his next lecture series?

    • Misterioso on April 27, 2019, 10:32 am

      @beg, et. al.

      It is abundantly clear that the Zionist camp is increasingly running scared and for good reason.

      To wit:

      “Poll finds only 41% of Americans view Israeli government favorably”

      “Despite consistently pro-Israel U.S. media coverage, a new Pew poll found that most Americans view the Israeli government unfavorably. According to the poll, ‘Fewer than half (41%) have a favorable view of the Israeli government; a larger share (51%) views the government unfavorably.’

      “In addition, the poll found that about five times more Americans feel that Trump is favoring the Israelis too much than believe he is favoring Palestinians too much.

      “According to the survey, Americans 65 and older ‘are the only age group in which a majority (57%) have a favorable view of the government. Among the youngest adults (those younger than 30), just 27% view Israel’s government favorably.’

      “The poll found that among Republicans, Evangelical Protestants (which include all races) are more likely than non-evangelicals to express a favorable opinion of Israel’s government.

      “In recent years, however, support among evangelical Christians has been slipping.

      “A journalist reporting in 2012 about the ‘the largest gathering of young evangelical leaders in America’ stated: ‘In dozens of random conversations, I noted that Millennials … expressed solidarity with the Palestinians and annoyance with Israel. This is a seismic shift in the American church and a serious threat to Israel’s one traditional area of support.’

      “The recent poll did not measure Jewish views (Pew says that the sampling size was too small to evaluate that demographic). However, a 2013 Pew survey on Jewish Americans showed strong Jewish connection to Israel, combined with criticism of the Israel government.

      “According to the poll, ‘Emotional attachment to Israel has not waned discernibly among American Jews in the past decade,’ with 69% (and 76% of religious) of Jewish Americans feeling attached to Israel.

      “At the same time, however, the poll found: ‘Many American Jews express reservations about Israel’s approach to the peace process. Just 38% say the Israeli government is making a sincere effort to establish peace with the Palestinians.’

      “The Pew poll was conducted April 1-15, 2019 among 10,523 American adults.”

  2. strangefriend on April 26, 2019, 6:08 pm

    “Some of Hurvitz’s other opinions, from the “Times of Israel”: “Palestine is not a nationality.” There is no occupation.

    Israel’s undeniable right to establish homes in the West Bank… Israel is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people and has been continuously for over 3,000 years as evidenced not only in hundreds of references throughout the Bible but also in countless archeological relics…”

    Uh, this is the first you mention her in this article. Is this a screw up?

    • Peter in SF on April 27, 2019, 3:09 am

      Uh, this is the first you mention her in this article. Is this a screw up?

      If it was, Phil corrected it: “attorney Karen Hurvitz, representing the students

      She writes in the linked Times of Israel article that ““Palestinians” are Arabs who moved to what is now Israel mostly in the 20th century.
      Sounds like Nakba denial to me.

      Reading her article, you can tell that she’s not particularly intelligent. She writes about “1964, when the PLO was formed“, and then literally in the next sentence she refers to “an area that the PLO first began calling the “West Bank” in 1950“.

    • MHughes976 on April 27, 2019, 4:57 am

      Karen Hurvitz is mentioned here in the italicised quote from the Boston Herald about ‘an anti-Semitic rally’ before we get round to her ‘other opinions’, which might indeed scandalise us had we not heard it all before quite often.

      • jon s on April 29, 2019, 5:09 pm

        In one line you doubt the existence of David and Solomon, and in the next paragraph you say that their United Kingdom lasted only 75-80 years. You ought to make up your mind.
        The United Kingdom of David and Solomon is indeed the subject of a fascinating debate among professional historians and archaeologists. Just a few days ago there was another round in the debate, in light of recent excavations at Tel Lakhish. In any case there is no question as to the existence of the successor kingdoms, the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah (or Judea). Israel existed for around 200 years, until it was destroyed by the Assyrians in 720 BCE. Judah lasted until 586 BCE, when the First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. All of which is a bit more than a blip.
        As to the Hasmonean Kingdom, it maintained an alliance with Rome, but was independent.

    • Misterioso on April 27, 2019, 9:16 am

      “Israel’s undeniable right to establish homes in the West Bank… Israel is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people and has been continuously for over 3,000 years as evidenced not only in hundreds of references throughout the Bible but also in countless archeological relics…”

      Utter long since debunked nonsense!!

      As determined conclusively by recent in depth DNA analysis, today’s Palestinians and their ancestors, have lived continuously between the River and the Sea for about 15,000 years. **

      The Jebusite/Canaanites were ancestors of today’s Palestinians and it was they who founded Jerusalem around 3000 BCE. Originally known as Jebus, the first recorded reference to it as “Rushalimum” or “Urussalim,” site of the sacred Foundation Rock, appears in Egyptian Execration Texts of the nineteenth century BCE, nearly 800 years before it is alleged King David was born. Its name “seems to have incorporated the name of the Syrian god Shalem [the Canaanite God of Dusk], who was identified with the setting sun or the evening star…and] can probably be translated as ‘Shalem has founded’.” (Karen Armstrong, Jerusalem, One City, Three Faiths; Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1996, pp. 6-7)

      No credible archaeological evidence, or more importantly, writings of contemporaneous civilizations, have been found that prove Solomon or David actually existed. (Nor has any real evidence been discovered to confirm that the Jewish exodus from Egypt ever occurred.)

      It is estimated that the Hebrews did not invade until circa 1184 BCE and their resulting United Kingdom of Israel, which never controlled the coast from Jaffa to Gaza, lasted only about 75 – 80 years, less than a blip in the history of Canaan and Palestine. Even the Hasmonean Dynasty under the Maccabees lasted only about 70 years (circa 140 – 70 BCE) and it was under Roman tutelage.

      Jewish missionaries converted many pagan peoples to their faith in the Middle East, including Palestine, as well as Africa, Asia and Europe, especially during the two centuries preceding Christianity. Also, the Zionist claim that descendants of those Jews allegedly expelled from Palestine by the Romans have lived apart throughout the world for nearly two millennia and not intermingled with people outside of their religion is absurd. To quote Polish born David Ben-Gurion (real name, David Gruen): “‘race’ does not unite Jewry since the ancient people dissipated after so much dispersion.” (Philippe de Saint Robert, Le Jeu de la France en Mediteranee ,1970, p.182)

      Renowned historian/anthropologist and “Holy Land” specialist, Professor Ilene Beatty: “When we speak of ‘Palestinians’ or of the ‘Arab population [of Palestine]‘, we must bear in mind their Canaanite origin. This is important because their legal right to the country stems… from the fact that the Canaanites were first, which gives them priority; their descendants have continued to live there, which gives them continuity; and (except for the 800,000 dispossessed refugees [of 1948 along with the further hundreds of thousands expelled before and after the war Israel launched on 5 June 1967]) they are still living there, which gives them present possession. Thus we see that on purely statistical grounds they have a proven legal right to their own land.” (“Arab and Jew in the Land of Canaan,” 1957)

      Front. Genet., 21 June 2017 |

      “The Origins of Ashkenaz, Ashkenazic Jews, and Yiddish”

      “Recent genetic samples from bones found in Palestine dating to the Epipaleolithic (20000-10500 BCE) showed remarkable resemblance to modern day Palestinians.”

      “The non-Levantine origin of AJs [Ashkenazi Jews] is further supported by an ancient DNA analysis of six Natufians and a Levantine Neolithic (Lazaridis et al., 2016), some of the most likely Judaean progenitors (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2002; Frendo, 2004). In a principle component analysis (PCA), the ancient Levantines clustered predominantly with modern-day Palestinians and Bedouins and marginally overlapped with Arabian Jews, whereas AJs clustered away from Levantine individuals and adjacent to Neolithic Anatolians and Late Neolithic and Bronze Age Europeans.”

      “Overall, the combined results are in a strong agreement with the predictions of the Irano-Turko-Slavic hypothesis (Table 1) and rule out an ancient Levantine origin for AJs, which is predominant among modern-day Levantine populations (e.g., Bedouins and Palestinians). This is not surprising since Jews differed in cultural practices and norms (Sand, 2011) and tended to adopt local customs (Falk, 2006). Very little Palestinian Jewish culture survived outside of Palestine (Sand, 2009). For example, the folklore and folkways of the Jews in northern Europe is distinctly pre-Christian German (Patai, 1983) and Slavic in origin, which disappeared among the latter (Wexler, 1993, 2012).”

      • jon s on April 29, 2019, 1:52 pm

        Josephus routinely refers to the country as “Judea”. In “The Jewish War” there are 74 references (I counted) to Judea . He mentions “Palaestina” once , in reference to to the southern coastal plain, land of the Philistines. In “Antiquities of the Jews” ” Palaestina ” appears 11 times and in “Against Appion” 3 times, all in the same context.

        “Palestine” does not appear in the Bible, or the Mishnah or in the Christian New Testament. To the best of my knowledge “Palestini” appears in a Jewish source , “Midrash Bereisheet Rabbah” (Midrash on Genesis) , written between the 4th and 6th century CE.

        As to the Emperor Hadrian , the point is that the province had been named “Judea”, until Hadrian erased that name, as part of the anti Jewish policies he pursued in the wake of the Bar Kokhva revolt.

      • annie on April 29, 2019, 2:03 pm

        i could care less how often Josephus references judea. misterioso made a point:

        recent in depth DNA analysis, today’s Palestinians and their ancestors, have lived continuously between the River and the Sea for about 15,000 years

        does that mean anything to you? they have no rights.

      • pgtl10 on April 29, 2019, 2:55 pm

        jon s,

        Was the United States mentioned in ancient times?

      • jon s on April 29, 2019, 4:42 pm

        Well, I could care less (as you put it) about “in depth DNA analysis” (from a study which has been debunked , by the way…).
        I suppose that the Palestinians are descended from the various populations that have lived here over the centuries, together with migrations, conquerors, conversions, etc. There were Cannanites, and then the Egyptians were here, the Philistines and the Hebrews . Then came the Assyrians, the Babylonians and the Persians. And the Greeks and Romans. And the Arabs,Mongols, Crusaders and Turks. I apologize to anyone I may have left out.
        What about the British people? There were Picts and Celts, Angles and Saxons and Jutes. Romans and Vikings and Normans. All of these groups contributed to the gene pool.
        So,too, are the Jews descended from various populations.
        I’m not a racist, I’m not interested in notions of “racial purity” and “bloodlines.

        Palestinian rights are important today, right now, regardless of “DNA analysis”. I firmly support Palestinian rights, without denying Jewish rights.

        No, the United States was not mentioned in ancient times. Exactly my point.

    • Misterioso on April 27, 2019, 11:17 am

      @strangefriend, et. al.

      Apropos Hurvitz’s bizarre assertion: “Palestine is not a nationality.”

      To state the obvious, she is unintentionally correct. For millennia “Palestine” has referred to the lands between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. “Palestinian,” however was and is a nationality, i.e., the native inhabitants of “Palestine.”

      The region between the Jordan River and the Med. Sea was referred to as “Palestine” by the Greek historian Herodotus (“the father of history”) during the 5th century BCE.

      100 years later, in the mid-4th Century BCE, Aristotle referred to Palestine while discussing the Dead Sea in his Meteorology. “Again if, as is fabled, there is a lake in Palestine….”

      Jewish historian Josephus’s (c.37-100 CE) The Jewish War, Antiquities of the Jews contains many references to both “Palestine” and “Palestinians.”

      Also, for the record:
      Contemporaries of Jesus also routinely referred to Palestine as “Palestine.” In the first decade of the 1st Century, the Roman poet Ovid mentioned Palestine in both his famed mythological poem “Metamorphoses” and his erotic elegy “The Art of Love.” He also wrote of “the waters of Palestine” in his calendrical poem “Fasti.” Around the same time, Tibullus, another Latin poet, wrote of “the crowded cities of Palestine” in the section “Messalla’s Triumph” in his poem “Delia.”

      The Zionist claim that the Roman emperor Hadrian officially changed the name of the region to “Syria Palaestina” or simply “Palestine,” in 135 CE is contradicted by the fact that by then, the terms “Syrian Palestine” and “Palestine” had already been in use for over 600 years.

      When the Muslim Arabs arrived in Palestine led by Caliph Omar in 638 CE, they retained the administrative organization of the territory of Palestine as it had been under the Romans and later, the Byzantines. They referred to the territory as Filastin – no “P” in Arabic.

      To quote the opening sentence of the section entitled “Filastin” that appears in the book “Dictionary of the Lands,” written by geographer Yaqut ibn Abdullah al-Hamawi in 1225: “Filastin: It is the last one of the regions of Syria in the direction of Egypt. Its most famous cities are Ashkelon, Ramle, Gaza, Arsuf, Caesaria, Nablus, Jericho, Jaffa and Beit Guvrin.”

      By about 1300 CE there were virtually no Jews in Palestine, which was a recognized geographical concept using coinage with “Filistin” written on them. There were diaries of Palestinian travelers who said they missed “Palestine” and a distinctive Palestinian dialect of Arabic had evolved. From 1300 on, the vast majority of people who lived in Palestine were Christians and Muslims.

      In 1603, Shakespeare wrote in his play Othello: “Emilia: I know a lady in Venice would have walked barefoot to Palestine for a touch of his nether lip.” (Act IV, Scene iii.)

      In 1863, The Religious Tract Society of London published its “Pictorial Journey Through the Holy Land; or Scenes of Palestine.” In this work Beersheba is described as the southern limit of Palestine. Beersheba lies south-east of Gaza on the northern edge of the Negev desert. Palestine is described as “south of Lebanon.”

      European tourist books of the nineteenth century refer to “Palestine,” as did Theodor Herzl in his correspondence and the 1917 Balfour Declaration as well as the 1922 Class A League of Nations British Mandate.

      To quote the (Winston) Churchill Memorandum (1 July 1922) regarding the British League of Nations Class A Mandate: “[T]he status of all citizens of in the eyes of the law shall be Palestinian, and it has never been intended that they, or any section of them, should possess any other juridical status.”

  3. RoHa on April 27, 2019, 3:48 am

    “in the name of Jewish safety. ”

    I thought Zionism was supposed to turn Jews into tough guys who didn’t need protection.

  4. RoHa on April 27, 2019, 3:52 am

    “Palestine is not a nationality.”

    How does this justify ethnic cleansing?

    “Israel is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people”

    What does this mean?

    ” and has been continuously for over 3,000 years”

    But for over a thousand of those years, most Jews have lived outside the territory. Does this make a difference? If not, why is the continuity important?

    • pgtl10 on April 29, 2019, 2:57 pm

      To add to your questions:

      What about the continuity of other groups that lived in the same area at the time? Funny how Zionists never bring that up.

  5. Avigail on April 27, 2019, 10:53 am

    I am so fed-up with this. There are no ‘two-sides’ and there is no ‘debate’ when it comes to settler-colonialism and apartheid. Was the pro-South African apartheid side called on to explain the merits of their position in anti-apartheid events? Settler-colonialism is a crime against humanity and it’s the crime we must focus on, not on who happens to be committing it. Where there is an imbalance of power and abuse of power, there are no two-sides, only one: that of the victim.

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