This is Michael Arria, U.S. correspondent at Mondoweiss, punching in for the first installment of The Shift. This newsletter will cover the battle over Palestine within the United States. I welcome your thoughts, comments, ideas, and tips. Feel free to send them to [email protected]
Where’d the Campus Free Speech Brigade Go?
Every year, Palestine Legal puts out a report documenting attempts to censor the movement for Palestinian rights in the United States. The data for 2019 was recently released and the stats regarding college campuses are particularly awful: of the 247 incidents of suppression that the organization responded to in 2019, 74% of them involved students or faculty. Unfortunately, the situation is set to become even more dire in 2020 in the wake of Trump’s December executive order. Federal agencies like the Department of Education are now relying on a broad definition of antisemitism when conducting civil rights investigations. Palestine Legal Senior staff attorney Meera Shah recently told the Chronicle of Higher Education that the executive order, “makes crystal clear that it will be used to justify censorship and attempt to silence advocacy of Palestinian rights in violation of the Constitutional protections guaranteeing free speech.”
One of these battles is currently being fought at a Georgia school, although this one doesn’t involve faculty or students. The Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund are suing Georgia Southern University on behalf of Abby Martin. Martin released her film Gaza Fights for Freedom in August, but was scheduled to participate in a media conference at the school. However, as a result of the state’s anti-BDS law, she was informed that (in order to attend the conference) she’d have to sign an oath promising to not boycott Israel. She refused and the event was ultimately nixed. “My right to speak at a media conference at a public university was conditioned on my pledge to never participate in my constitutional right to engage in peaceful political action,” she said at a press conference, “Situations of oppression, racism, and violations of international law that are funded by my tax dollars is something that I care very deeply about.”
AIPAC and the Democrats
Which Democratic candidates are attending the annual AIPAC conference in March? A coalition of four progressive organizations (MoveOn, Indivisible, Working Families Party, and IfNotNow) are pressuring the presidential hopefuls to #SkipAIPAC. Warren told an activist she wasn’t going, but it didn’t offer an explanation. Bernie said probably not, but that he’d tell the attendees things they didn’t want to hear if he did. Biden said he’s going, but that he’ll get them to change their mind on things. Mayor Pete said he hasn’t looked at his schedule. It’s safe to say that this will remain a hot topic in the coming weeks.
Speaking of AIPAC, they recently yanked and apologized for a number of Facebook ads. The ads targeted lawmakers who have advocated for Palestinian rights like Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and Rep. Betty McCollum by…implying that they’re worse than ISIS. “It’s critical that we protect our Israeli allies especially as they face threats from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah ISIS and — maybe more sinister — right here in the U.S. Congress,” read one of the ads.
The City Council of Cambridge, Massachusetts just unanimously passed a policy order declaring its solidarity with the people of Palestine. The resolution was offered to help welcome a local art exhibit by Charlotte Moore and Eileen Caves entitled The Olive Trees are Weeping: Visions of Occupied Palestine through Fiber Art and Photographs’
“As a Cambridge resident, I am very happy that this resolution received unanimous support from the city council,” activist Nancy Murray told me, “The council’s expression of solidarity with the Palestinian people is especially timely, given the recent unveiling of President Trump’s so-called ‘peace plan’ that gives Israel everything its extreme right-wing regime wants, trashes international law, and consigns Palestinians to a brutal apartheid reality without end.”
The resolution was initiated by a new council member, Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler. “I’m glad we passed the policy order to spotlight the “Olive Trees are Weeping” exhibit of fiber art and photographs, which highlights the hardships and resilience of the Palestinian people, at the Cambridge Public Library,” he told me, “ It was a chance to recognize the artists and stand in solidarity with the people of occupied Palestine, and it was good to see it passed unanimously by the City Council.”
Odds & Ends
NoName said she regrets playing Israel: “Worst thing I did in my career was perform Israel,” tweeted the Chicago rapper, “I’ve talked about this before but it’s been on my heart recently. I needed money and got caught in the rhetoric of ‘music is healing, use your voice to spread love’ Still embarrassed by this level of ignorance. Free 🇵🇸”
Noname has since deleted the tweet, but she’s received praise from the BDS movement for her courage.
Activists are demanding that Microsoft cut ties with an occupation-connected facial recognition company.
Major League Baseball has pulled its advertising of Roger Waters concerts over the musician’s BDS support.
The progressive Jewish organization IfNotNow is calling on the University of Chicago to reveal whether its 8.5 billion endowment funds the occupation in any capacity.
Andrew Yang accidentally said he supported the Right of Return, then he walked it back. He ended up dropping out of the presidential race a short time later.