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A group of Harvard students is demanding that the school divest from Israel’s occupation

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A newly-formed student group at Harvard University is demanding that the school reveal its financial ties to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and divest from it entirely.

Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine (HOOP) posted a mission statement on Medium earlier this month in which they declared themselves to be “a campaign centered around the actualization of Palestinian liberation.” Last week, the group hosted a kickoff event that featured Brown University student organizers Yara Doumani and Anchita Dasgupta, Harvard Divinity School fellow Rami Younis, and professor/political activist Cornel West. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti also made remarks via Skype.

“We believe that Palestinian rights are part of justices for indigenous people across the world, for black people, for women, and for LGBT communities, for progressive choice, against discrimination, against racism of all the types,” said Barghouti at the event, “We are proud to be part of this progressive way around the world.”

The establishment of HOOP comes soon after the creation of another pro-Palestine organization on campus, Harvard Jewish Coalition for Peace. That group defines itself as “anti-Zionist” and its first event was called “The Jewish Case for BDS.” “We build on a long history of Jewish anti-Zionism which teaches us that Jewish safety or liberation will never come at the expense of other people’s lives and land, and are committed to following the leadership of Palestinians in supporting the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement on and off Harvard’s campus,” reads a statement from the group.

Pro-Palestine campus groups have faced increasing attacks in recent years. According to Palestine Legal’s annual year-in-review report, the legal organization responded to 247 incidents of suppression in 2019. 74% of those incidents Seventy-four percent of incidents targeted students and scholars across 61 different schools.

Michael Arria

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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4 Responses

  1. Misterioso on February 25, 2020, 8:53 am

    Kudos to HOOP and the Harvard Jewish Coalition for Peace!!!

    https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2020/2/21/hoop-inaugural-event-bds-founder/

    “Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine Holds Inaugural Event, Invites BDS Founder”

    The Harvard Crimson, Feb. 21, 2020, By Juliet E. Isselbacher and Amanda Y. Su, Crimson Staff Writers.

    “A new student group demanded the University disclose and divest its investments in companies tied to Israel’s presence in Palestine during the organization’s Thursday launch event.

    “The group — Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine — is pursuing ‘a campaign centered around the actualization of Palestinian liberation,’ according to a mission statement posted to Medium.

    “Drawing more than 200 attendees, the Thursday evening launch event featured a panel of guest speakers, including two student organizers from Brown University — Yara Doumani and Anchita Dasgupta — Harvard professor Cornel R. West ’74, and Harvard Divinity School fellow Rami Younis.

    “Omar Barghouti — a founder of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement — also spoke to event attendees via Skype.

    “BDS is an international movement seeking to ‘end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law,’ according to its website.

    “During the event, Barghouti criticized Harvard for being ‘complicit’ in supporting the state of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians.

    “’Stopping complicity in Israel’s crimes is not heroic. It’s not charitable,’ he said. ‘We’re not asking Harvard to drop everything and stand with the Palestinians. We’re just asking them to stop aiding our oppressors.’

    “University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain did not respond to a request for comment on the allegation that Harvard is ‘complicit’ in human rights abuses in Palestine. The extent of Harvard’s ties to Israel and companies that operate in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is unknown.

    “Panelists also discussed how different human rights causes are interconnected and said they believe mutual support across movements is important.

    “’We believe that Palestinian rights are part of justices for indigenous people across the world, for black people, for women, and for LGBT communities, for progressive choice, against discrimination, against racism of all the types,” Barghouti said. ‘We are proud to be part of this progressive way around the world.’

    “West said he believes intersectional advocacy also necessarily entails advocating against anti-Semitism.

    “’We want to be consistent,’ he said. ‘We make sure we are in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters — when they’re trashed, when they’re dehumanized, when they’re degraded.’

    “The HOOP kickoff event came a day after the first meeting of Harvard Jewish Coalition for Peace, a new student group that bills itself as an ‘anti-Zionist Jewish organization.’

    “The Harvard Jewish Coalition for Peace, Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign, and Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard have endorsed HOOP’s mission, according to statements on their respective Facebook pages.

    “West said he was encouraged to see current Harvard students pressuring the University to align its investments with their priorities.

    “’We got similar things going on with fossil fuel. Beautiful. Some of the things going on with prison investment. Beautiful. Now Harvard has to disinvest — should disinvest — in terms of its complicity with the Israeli occupation of Palestine,’ he added.

    “Barghouti said the BDS movement’s mission is to condemn oppression, not oppressors.

    “’You want to take out the oppression from the oppressor. You don’t want to take the humanity out of him or her,’ Barghouti said. ‘We’re fighting complicity and oppression. We’re not fighting any identity. We’re not against any group of people.'”

    —Staff writer Juliet E. Isselbacher can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @julietissel.

  2. Misterioso on February 25, 2020, 10:09 am

    More words of wisdom from Professor Lawrence Davidson:

    “Tales of Student Torment—An Analysis” (25 February 2020) by Professor Lawrence Davidson

    Part I— Being “Jewish” on U.S. Campuses

    For those readers who have been with me for a while, you might remember the mysterious fact that I am on the e-mail list of the American Jewish Committee (AJC). The AJC is one of the principal Zionist advocacy organizations in the United States. There is some advantage to this odd situation because it serves to alert me to the often misleading positions the organization takes.

    Recently, I got an e-mail (I was unable to establish a link to this message) from Seffi Kogen, the “AJC Global Director of Young Leadership.” He asked the question, “What is it like being Jewish on [a U.S.] Campus?” Based on what appears to be a small sample (“a group of Jewish students at a prestigious American university”), Kogen comes to the conclusion that all is not well. The students’ answers to this question were “disturbing.”

    From this apparently small sample, Kogen feels ready to generalize the following “reality”:

    — Jewish “students who are pro-Israel … have been treated with open contempt and even harassment.” Please note that “being Jewish on Campus” has now morphed into Jewish “students who are pro-Israel.”

    — “They have been tormented and intimidated.”

    — “They have been bullied during anti-Israel boycott and divestment campaigns on campuses across the country.”

    Well, that is a big leap on several accounts. Is this a random sample of Jewish students or a select group chosen because they are Zionists? How many are in the sample? Is there any reason to assume that this group is representative of “Jewish students on campus” nationwide? Also, you don’t have to be Jewish to be pro-Israel, and conversely it is the case that not all Jewish students are pro-Israel. Yet Kogen seems to be mixing up the different groups: Jewish students in general and Jewish student supporters of Israel. What he certainly seems to be doing is committing a logical fallacy known as “hasty generalization” or “arguing from small numbers.”

    Having asserted a logical fallacy as the basis of campus “reality,” Mr. Kogen tells us that all members of the AJC should financially support the organization’s continuing effort to, among other things, “bring university presidents and student affairs officers to Israel to learn the truth about this country that means so much to all of us.” This in turn will supposedly motivate them to be hostile to students who support Palestinian rights and the boycott of Israel.

    Part II—Just Who Is Intimidating Whom?

    Later, we will take up some student-related truths that guests of the AJC in Israel are unlikely to learn, but right now let’s stay with Mr. Kogen’s stateside assertions.

    What Kogen conveniently omits is that pro-Israel students, often aided by foreign students who are Israeli army veterans, are themselves acting in an intimidating, harassing and bullying ways. For instance, members of the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at the University of California Irvine assert that they “were subjected to days of racial and sexual slurs in what they believe was an attempt to provoke a reaction.”

    Then there is the fact that pro-Israel college administrators, with or without all-expenses-paid trips to Israel, and often backed by officials of U.S. state and federal governments, also harass and intimidate student and faculty supporters of Palestine. Palestine Legal, an organization of American lawyers who defend the First Amendment rights of those who support the Palestinian cause, reports the following: “In blatant disregard of the First Amendment, government actors have increasingly had a direct hand in censoring Palestine advocacy. This censorship originates at all levels of government … [and includes] administrators at public universities, and both Democratic and Republican state governors. These actions have also empowered anti-Palestinian groups.”

    The truth is that pro-Israel lobbies like the AJC are attempting to shut down the free speech rights of groups supporting Palestinian rights and the boycott of Israel. Their supporters on campus are active, aggressive, and in fact more un-American (their efforts are blatantly unconstitutional) than those who support oppressed and discriminated against Palestinians. It is the latter, and not the former, who stand up for human and civil rights and international law.

    As pro-Palestinian advocacy has increased both on and off American college campuses, there have, as noted above, been occasional confrontations. Some have turned “disrespectful.” However, apart from the anti-constitutional effort to outlaw the historically legitimate tactic of boycott, and the propaganda effort to cast those critical of Israel as “anti-Semites”—all of which the AJC supports—most of these confrontations seemed spontaneous. But that is not what Mr. Kogen would have us believe. He is suggesting that there is some sort of premeditated effort to “torment” and “harass” Jewish students who support Israel. Yet, you have to understand, he is, in part, paid to generate a picture of renewed hostility to Jews while suggesting that most Jews are Zionists like himself. That certainly seems to be a consequence of his job.

    Part III—Campus Scene in Israel and the Occupied Territories

    While we are on the topic of “what it is like to be a Jew on Campus” in the U.S., I thought it would be appropriate to examine what it is like to be a Palestinian on campus in Israel and its Occupied Territories. Here are some examples which in fact typify the treatment of Palestinians:

    —Birzeit University is the premier Palestinian institution of higher learning on the Occupied West Bank. Students attending Birzeit are subject to arrest by Israel’s occupying army at any time, and “in the last months of 2019, the Israeli occupation has launched one of its most aggressive arrest campaigns against Palestinian students in recent years.” Statistics kept by the Palestinian prisoners’ rights organization Addameer indicate that “some 250 Palestinian university students are currently imprisoned by Israel.” And what are these university students guilty of? The Israelis claim that they are members of “armed Hamas cells” on campus, but evidence that is not manufactured by the Israelis themselves is sparse. The real “crime” is that these students are standing up and protesting their own oppression.

    —The aim of these arrests is to break the morale of Palestinian students and make politics a subject to be avoided. “Speaking from his campus office, Sameeh Hammoudeh, [a Birzeit] university professor, said the present context has had a stifling impact on politics: there is fear, he said, ‘in the heart of the students’, inspired by a real threat of torture and abuse.”

    — Moving from the Occupied Territories to Israel proper we find that “Palestinians in Israel are discriminated against systematically—and this is especially true in Israeli academia.” Israeli Arab High School students “attend [ethnically segregated] schools with poor budgets, and are taught content that does not prepare them for the PET, the Psychometric Entrance Test, an exam for securing places in universities.”

    —Those Israeli Palestinians who do make it to an Israeli institution of higher learning face an environment of estrangement and tension. As a Palestinian student at Haifa University observed, “you can’t escape the feeling of alienation when you are an Arab student in the Israeli universities. On the one hand, you are in an academic environment, but on the other hand you are surrounded with guns. It has reached a point where it’s difficult to see the contradiction. It has become the norm—uniformed soldiers carrying automatic weapons are part of the academic landscape.”

    This is a part of Seffi Kogen’s “truth about this country that means so much to all of us.” Yet we can be sure that it is a truth not mentioned to the “university presidents and student affairs officers” he invites on the AJC junkets.

    Part IV—Conclusion

    It would seem that Seffi Kogen and the AJC are guilty of both hypocrisy and misdirection: hypocrisy because the Zionists, both here and in Israel, are much more active at harassing their opponents than are Palestinians and their supporters (who in the U.S., by the way, are often Jewish); and misdirection (i.e., Jewish pro-Israel students on U.S. campuses are being “tormented”) because they now attribute to their opponents the unethical tactics they themselves practice.

    Kogen and the AJC are also guilty of purposeful confusion of two different groups: Jews in general and Zionists. While these categories can overlap, they are not inclusive. An increasing number of Jews are opposed to Zionist ideology and the racism and oppression it has engendered. And, an increasing number of Zionists are not Jewish, but rather, among others, U.S. Christian fundamentalists as well as non-Jewish immigrants coming to Israel (which in 2018 reached 54 percent of the total).

    So, as is usual with hotly debated topics, one has to be careful to analyze the arguments and watch out for disinformation. Of course, the side that has lots of money, lots of well-organized cadres, and help from agents of the government has a significant advantage in pressing their message—be it accurate or not. But, when it comes to the Zionist state, this propaganda machine has not been able to keep up with Israeli villainy. According to the United Nations, the “nation that means so much to all” is so consistently in violation of human and civil rights that of all the resolutions citing such criminal behavior issued by the UN, over 40 percent name Israel as the offender. Such a wretched record speaks louder than Mr. Kogen’s words.


    Lawrence Davidson
    [email protected]

    Blog: http://www.tothepointanalyses.com

    • jon s on February 26, 2020, 8:37 am

      In the paragraph on Israeli high schools someone added “ethnically segregated” in parentheses. Thus creating the impression that Jewish and Arab kids can’t attend the same schools , and bringing to mind the Jim Crow south or apartheid era South Africa.

  3. just on February 25, 2020, 12:10 pm

    Thank you, HOOP! Your inaugural event must have been so very exciting. It just goes to show that higher education can be a boon to human rights.

    In other supremacist and thieving news:

    “Netanyahu announces new settlements days before Israeli election

    Plan for 3,500 homes in West Bank is seen as barrier to any future Palestinian state …

    … To rally his base, Netanyahu made similar expansionist pledges before both votes. In April, he said he would annex all current settlements, and in September, he promised to go further, by claiming sovereignty over a third of the entire West Bank.

    The US presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama both objected to the E1 plan. In 2012, Israel resurrected the idea as a retaliatory measure to the UN recognition of Palestine. That move was halted following a diplomatic crisis in which the UK, France, Sweden, Spain and Denmark summoned the respective Israeli ambassadors to their countries.

    It is unclear if there will be a similar response this time. Donald Trump’s administration has backed many of Israel’s claims to the Palestinian territories. While the UK government has repeated that settlements are illegal, it has also praised Trump’s intentions for the region.

    Senior Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi said Netanyahu’s plans for settlements in and around Jerusalem “leave no room for doubt about Israel’s agenda for permanent occupation”.

    She went on to accuse many world governments of choosing to “cower away from the Trump administration” while issuing only “hollow statements” of opposition to the Israeli occupation. “It is time to call out this hypocrisy and double standard.” ”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/25/netanyahu-announces-new-settlements-days-before-israeli-election

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