Jim Crow is alive and well in Israel

{Originally published March 1, 2017 at Al Jazeera}

Jim Crow is alive and well in Israel
Long before Israel erected separate communities, the United States perfected the art of the artificial divide.

by Stanley L Cohen

For years, Israel has sold, and we in the United States have bought, the cheap peel-away sticker that it is the “lone democracy” in the Middle East.

It has a nice, assuring ring to it, sort of like “opportunity” or “peace”, whatever these chants may, in practice, mean. But, like beauty, it remains very much in the eye of the beholder, and like reality, sooner or later the truth surfaces, no matter how well its fiction is packaged.

We in the US are damn good at packaging ourselves, and our charade of equality and justice is second to none. We sell stuff; lots of it. Much of it false. Very much like a willing stepchild, Israel has learned from us that if you say something long enough with vigour, power and money to back it, it begins to take on a surreal life of its own, no matter how much reality puts the lie to its embroidery. Indeed, we are quite accomplished at obfuscation. We know it all too well. We’ve hidden behind the fog of it for so long that, even today, those who remind us that the earth is, in fact, not flat, remain heretics to be scorned. Have we found the weapons of mass destruction yet?

Long before Israel erected separate communities divided by will of law to segregate its Jewish citizens from its almost two million Palestinian Arab ones, the US perfected the art of artificial divide.

With the accuracy of delusion, from coast to coast, could be heard the refrain that race-based segregation was lawful as long as the facilities provided to each race were equal.

For decades, the legal fiction of “separate but equal” was the mantra that state and local governments, throughout the US, held out to justify the artificial, indeed lawful, separation of tens of millions of Americans on the basis of race and nothing more.

Whether in services, facilities, public accommodations, transportation, medical care, employment, voting booths or in schools, black and white were segregated under the cheap shibboleth that artificial isolation of the races insured equality, as long as the conditions of their separation were legally equal.

These laws came to be known simply as Jim Crow.

Enter Jim Crow

Indeed, the idea that race or religious separation was not only preferable, but helpful to one another’s ability to chart their own separate but equal course, became a perverse intellectual exercise which fundamentally did nothing more than exalt the supremacy of one race at the expense of another.

Putting aside, for the moment, the reality that facilities and services offered to African Americans were almost always of lower quality than those available to their counterpart white Americans, eventually the US Supreme Court had had enough. It held that separate could never be equal, even where there was a match in opportunity and facilities.

As noted in the seminal 1954 case of Brown v Board of Education, a school-based challenge to the notion of equal segregation, separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.

In words that eventually took hold first in education, then elsewhere throughout the US, the unanimous court noted:

“Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society … It is the very foundation of good citizenship … Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms …

“Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law; for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to retard the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racially integrated school system.”

These words were penned but six years after Israel was granted statehood by the United Nations. Nevertheless, some 62 years later, Brown’s command remains a linchpin of any meaningful democratic ideal and, yet, evermore elusive in Israel, which takes pride in the falsehood of the same supremacist claptrap rejected long ago.

Separate schools

In Israel, Palestinian schoolchildren account for about 25 percent, or about 480,000 pupils, of the state’s total student population. Palestinian and Jewish students, from elementary to high school, learn in separate institutions.

As noted in Brown v. Board of Education, institutionalised discrimination in the education system impedes the ability of students to develop the skills and awareness to participate on an equal footing, as individuals, in a free society.

In Israel, this is no accident. It is very much the result of a conscious effort to build a permanent educational, social and political advantage of Jews over their Palestinian counterparts.

In 1969, the state passed a law that gave statutory recognition to cultural and educational institutions and defined their aims as the development and fulfilment of Zionist goals in order to promote Jewish culture and education.

In that light, in Israel, Palestinian children receive an education that is inferior in nearly every respect when compared with that for Jewish children.

Palestinian schools receive far less state funding than Jewish ones – three times less, according to official state data from 2004. In Jerusalem, it is half the funding.

This underfunding is reflected in many areas; including relatively large class sizes and poor infrastructure and facilities. Many communities have no kindergartens for three and four-year-olds. Some schools lack libraries, counsellors, and recreation facilities. Their students get fewer enrichment and remedial programmes and special education services than do Jewish children.

Palestinian students are also underrepresented in Israel’s universities and higher education institutions.

Recent studies indicate that only 10 percent of Palestinian citizens were attending undergraduate programmes, and 7.3 percent and 4 percent were pursuing masters’ and doctoral degrees respectively.

Palestinian academics account for just about 1.2 percent of all tenured and tenure track positions in Israel’s universities.

Like a full range of public spending policies that privilege the Jewish majority, government support for student tuition fees, subsidised housing and employment opportunities is available only for those who serve in the Israeli army which, as a practical matter, excludes Palestinians.

No less pernicious, for Palestinian citizens of Israel, is their inability to live and work where they choose.

Community segregation

In 1952, the Israeli state authorised the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency to function as quasi-governmental entities in order to further advance the goals of the Zionist vision, to the detriment of minorities including those with Israeli citizenship.

Under the Land Acquisition Law of 1953, the land of 349 Palestinian towns and villages, approximately 1,212 square kilometres, was transferred to the state to be used preferentially for the Jewish majority.

In 1953, the Knesset bestowed governmental authorities on the Jewish National Fund to purchase land exclusively for Jewish use. The state granted financial advantages, including tax relief, to facilitate such purchases.

Today, 12.5 percent of Israeli land is owned by the Fund, which bans the sale or lease of it to non-Jews under the admitted premise that it’s a “danger” for non-Jews to own land in Israel.

In 1960, the state passed a law stipulating that ownership of “Israeli lands”, namely the 93 percent of land under the control of the state and the Fund, cannot be transferred in any manner.

In practice, this means that in some 700 agricultural and community towns throughout Israel, housing applicants are screened by Jewish boards with the ultimate power to accept or reject applications to settle in these locales.

These boards, which include representatives from the World Zionist Organization and the Fund, consider a range of criteria such as “suitability to the community’s social life” and the town’s “social and cultural fabric”.

The admission process all but guarantees that almost all Israeli towns and villages will remain Jewish enclaves, and are but a tease to those Palestinian citizens who desire to live in equality in fully integrated communities.

Is it any wonder then, that today, in Jim Crow Israel, few Palestinian citizens have been found to be suitable for these communities?

By virtue of state control over the racial makeup of municipalities throughout Israel, most Palestinian citizens are limited to residence and employment in the acutely overcrowded Palestinian towns and villages.

In fact, since 1948, the State of Israel has established hundreds of additional Jewish communities, without permitting the construction of any new Palestinian municipality whatsoever. Indeed, of Israel’s total area, just 2.5 percent comes under Palestinian municipal jurisdiction.

Of Israel’s 40 towns with the highest unemployment rates, 36 are Palestinian and the average employed Palestinian citizens of Israel makes just 58.6 percent of what a Jewish Israeli makes. About 53 percent of the impoverished families in Israel are Palestinian.

Inequality from the Israeli Parliament

Over the years, the Knesset has used the veneer of democracy while acting arbitrarily to ensure that demographic and political control remains exclusively in the hands of the state’s Jewish citizenry and parliamentarians.

For example, in an effort to maintain a Jewish demographic majority, the Family Unification Law of 2003 prohibits Palestinian citizens of Israel from reuniting with their spouses who live in the West Bank or Gaza. As a result, more than 150,000 children born of these so-called mixed marriages are denied the most elementary rights and privileges attendant to Israeli citizenship.

In a series of other laws, the Knesset has not only imposed a broad range of limitations on freedom of movement, speech and access to the political system for Palestinian citizens, but imposed ideological boundaries on the platforms of political parties to which they may belong.

By design, such laws thwart the ability of Palestinians to impact upon a political process which, daily, dictates every phase of their lives, but yet leaves them essentially powerless to bring about any fundamental change in the system itself. These restrictions necessarily deny Palestinian citizens an equal opportunity to play a meaningful role in the political life of Israel, otherwise available to their Jewish counterparts.

Under its most recent attempt to stifle its Palestinian minority, the Knesset proposed legislation that would enable the suspension of elected representatives of the public not because of criminal wrongdoing on their part, or even because of a breach of settled legislative protocol, but simply because their political agenda is objectionable to the Jewish majority.

Under other legislation, Knesset members may strip Palestinian MKs from their elected seats if they voice opposition to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Indeed, recently a Palestinian MK, Haneen Zoabi, was suspended from parliamentary debates for six months when, on the floor of the Knesset, she called Israeli soldiers “murderers” for their role in the Mavi Marmara incident that took the lives of nine pro-Palestinian activists.

On other occasions, the Knesset has imposed severe restrictions on travel by Palestinian MKs, both domestically and abroad.

Currently, there is a law that bans any political party which challenges the existence of Israel as a “Jewish” state or which advocates equal rights for all of its citizens irrespective of ethnicity. Another law empowers the interior minister to revoke citizenship of people who violate “allegiance” to the state.

An elusive pursuit for justice

That Israel has become a land where laws are enacted to obstruct the free exercise of core political rights of its Palestinian citizens is beyond dispute.

Ultimately, in any truly “democratic” society, citizens are able to seek redress for institutional or private injuries through an independent judicial system wed to no result but equal protection and justice for all, no matter the race, creed or religion of those who seek its protection.

It’s hard to imagine a more fundamental or essential arbiter of the rights of all than a judiciary that operates under no obligation but to see that justice be done without consideration of the ethnicity of those who come before it.

Yet, by design, in Israel, the pursuit of justice by Palestinian citizens is an elusive chase indeed; one calculated to perpetuate second-class citizenship very much the way African Americans were long held in the US under the arcane practice of separate but equal.

For example, more than 200 major rulings issued by the Supreme Court of Israel have been translated into English and published on the court’s website along with the original Hebrew decisions. Although the majority of these pronouncements are relevant to Palestinian citizens of Israel, none has been translated into Arabic.

In the history of Israel’s Supreme Court, there have been but two Palestinian male justices.

Currently, all but one of its 15 members is Jewish. No Palestinian woman has ever served on the Israeli Supreme Court. At the district and magistrates court level, Palestinian judges make up less than 5 percent of those who occupy a judicial position, and even fewer who preside over labour courts.

Historically, the Israeli Supreme Court has sided with majoritarian values in what can only be described as a wholesale abdication of its responsibility to see that justice be done for Palestinian and Jew alike.

Thus the Supreme Court has upheld the restrictions of the 1950 Law of Return which permits every Jewish person to immigrate to Israel and obtain citizenship, yet denies the same protection to Palestinians, even those who were born in the area that is now the State of Israel.

Likewise, the Court has upheld the legality of the January 2003 family unification ban that bars a Palestinian citizen from raising a family in Israel with a Palestinian spouse from the Occupied Territories. The controversial law was introduced as an amendment to the 1952 Citizenship Law, which determines citizenship for non-Jews.

In 2014, the Court dismissed a petition by Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel challenging the continued Judaisation of Palestinian-owned land originally confiscated largely from Palestinian refugees inside Israel. According to Adalah, the court’s decision “entrenches racial segregation” and, writes Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large Annie Robbins, “will result in the continued concentration and containment of the Palestinian population in Israel”.

These are but a few of the many decisions of the Supreme Court that have adversely affected Palestinian citizens of Israel on the basis of their second-class status and little else.

The definition of the State of Israel as a Jewish one makes inequality and discrimination against its Palestinian citizens a political goal.

The marriage of “Jewish” and “democratic” ensures discrimination against non-Jewish citizens and necessarily impedes the realisation of full equality for all citizens of Israel.

Israel has become better at this “subtle” nuanced sale of an imaginary narrative than we in the US ever dared dream.

What, however, the “Jewish” state has not yet come to grips with, is that eventually myths about equal opportunity and justice for some 20 percent of its population prove specious and that, ultimately, time swallows all such fallacy, whether by operation of law or, tragically, all too often, through violence.

Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book

Originally published in Counterpunch September 30, 2016

 

Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
by STANLEY L. COHEN

You have a 17-year-old daughter… let’s call her Rachel, or perhaps Nadia… raised in a home where dialogue, debate and disagreement have been served as so much a mainstay of the family dinner every night for years. On holidays, it just meant longer and louder arguments with more folks to piss off. Yet, nothing made you prouder. She had flourished in a “safe-zone” where her view and voice did not take a back seat to any others simply because she was young, female or provocative in her thought. It doesn’t get any better than this.

One day the search for the right college begins. Sure, the distance from home and physical layout is important and her personal safety paramount, but that’s just the start. You’ve got this list of grand, impressive, perhaps historical, universities to check out with reputations for not just academic achievement but with a well settled commitment to free speech and thought; a safe zone… safe from outside intimidation that seeks to limit or suppress how she grows… not just as a student but more important, a human being.

University is intended to be a melting pot, a grand experiment of sorts, to unite the diverse not in “acceptable” uniform thought but in the notion that ideas must be free and robust to be healthy… all ideas… the good, the bad, the uncomfortable. Yet, today, all across the United States it seems that purity of thought has become synonymous with the idea of a sound “healthy” education. It’s not by accident that free speech and association is under attack from coast to coast in ways unseen since the academic purges that targeted largely “radical” Jews of the 50’s brought to us by a guy named McCarthy. He too had this notion that good thought must necessarily adhere to a checklist of sanitized ideas. That safe speech and association demanded a line of logic dictated by the powerful and pervasive.

American Bred Academic Repression

The McCarthy era was not the first in this country where petty political or academic demagogues sought to impose their view upon craven institutions of learning to win votes or curry favor with powerful benefactors. In 1832, a member of the University of Virginia’s student Jefferson Society publicly declared his support for the emancipation of slaves, which led the faculty to declare, “there should be no oration on any distracting question of state or national policy, nor on any point of theological dispute.” He was driven from the school. In 1833, the Board of Trustees of Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati banned an antislavery society formed by students and some of the faculty, declaring that”education must be completed before the young were dismissed for their views.” In 1856, after professor Benjamin Sherwood Hedrick at the University of North Carolina favored the Republican Party, the North Carolina Standard called the party “incompatible with our honor and safety as a people,” and faculty repudiated his views. After being burned in effigy by students, Hedrick was fired after refusing to resign or change his anti-slavery views.

By 1917, America had entered the Great War, and the suppression of academic freedom quickly reached extraordinary levels not to be seen again on college campuses until the recent attack on the BDS  Movement.

At that time the New Republic reported more than 20 cases of professors fired because of their refusal to support the war; no doubt many more belief-triggered firings went unreported. In a University of Michigan “War Aims” course, students were warned about “the wild excesses of the revolutionists,” [pgs 165-166] being told that “a surprising number” of them were Jews.

World War I fear-mongering about radicals and seditious speech made repression in academia predictable in years to come, leaving the university community an “atmosphere… charged with fear.” In 1915 a controversial leftist economist named Scott Nearing was fired from various teaching positions because of controversial classroom views which challenged child labor and religious and social orthodoxy that went so far as to advocate “ the ruthless redistribution of property.”

In the 1920s, a journalism professor at Ohio State was fired for treating a coal strike favorably, and pacifist leader John Nevin Sayre was barred from speaking at the University of Oklahoma [pg.166]. A 1920 survey by the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, [pgs. 166-167] “Freedom of Discussion in American Colleges” found that “an increasing number of schools were (1) prohibiting outside affiliations for political groups, (2) placing increasing restrictions on speakers, and (3) censoring the faculty’s right to express liberal opinions.” Sound familiar?

In the 1930s, liberal professors were under fire in various parts of the United States for a wide range of political stands deemed offensive to conservative university administrators and trustees… much of them race related. Academic careers were ruined because of “unsound” positions on race relations that violated social norms such as holding teas that included both white and “colored” people and supported granting scholarships to “negro” graduate students.

McCarthy and earlier academic repression destroyed lives and reputations; more important, as a nation, indeed as a people, these purges set us back, dramatically, creating a poisoned environment that forced free thinkers to choose between their beliefs and safety and cost our young dearly as they struggled to become the leadership of generations to come. If, however, there was a common thread among earlier academic tyranny and politically correct academic dogma it was generally homegrown and imposed. Today’s purity of thought is different. It finds impetus and funding not in the halls of town meetings or domestic politics but in the global view of Israel, a foreign autocracy which seeks to control the narrative and dialogue of our transcendent young in our own country.

Israel’s Influence Today On US Academics

For Israel it’s not enough to invade our lecture halls at prestigious schools such as De Paul, the University of Illinois, Oberlin, CUNY or Columbia to drive“controversial” pro-Palestinian academics of the likes of Finkelstein, Salaita, Karega, Schulman, Massad and Dabashi from college lecterns; or to strong-arm a university such as Berkley to suspend a course that presents a view of settler colonialism at odds with the Zionist narrative. Indeed, now through well funded pro Zionist proxies Israel seeks to fundamentally redesign those same halls to promote and suit its own geopolitical needs and interests

Recently, from coast to coast, well funded organizations such as the Amcha Initiative and the Canary Mission have labored to intimidate university administrators and faculty in an effort to punish what they call anti-Semitism in the classroom. In the name of acceptable academic freedom, these groups promote an Israeli view of free speech, one where diversity of thought is under constant attack in the class rooms and the streets in an effort to silence Palestinian dissidents and their supporters by one means or another.

The Israeli History of Academic Freedom

The idea that Israel is indifferent to core principles of free speech and association, and fears an open exchange of ideas, is a debate without disagreement. Any conversation about how it views the importance of academic freedom and the state’s right to control unfettered access to information must, of course, begin with its well documented, indeed unparalleled, history of targeted, often deadly, assaults upon institutions of learning and their students throughout the Occupied Territories.

Israel’s brutal onslaught upon the academic infrastructure of Gaza in 2014 is well known It’s too recent to forget that in some 50 days of round the clock bombing it completely destroyed 26 primary and secondary schools and damaged another 122, including 75 UNRWA schools. Of Gaza’s 407 kindergartens 133 were damaged and 11 totally destroyed. Four universities sustained significant damage and loss of life among their staff and student populations. In one deliberate attack upon the north Gaza branch of Al Quds Open University, 22 students were killed. Although the exact number of students who were injured or lost their life during the summer of 2014 is unknown, 490 Palestinian children were killed and 3000 wounded. It is believed that 9 academic and administrative staff of higher education institutions were killed and 21 injured, and 421 college students killed with 1,128 injured.

In an earlier attack on Gaza’s educational infrastructure in 2009, Israel destroyed 18 schools and damaged 280 out of 641 others, including 14 of its 15 higher education institutions.

Make no mistake about it, Israel views Palestinian education not as a fundamental right but a political impediment, preferring isolated, if not silenced, generations of students to young women and men with the academic ability and experience to challenge it in the market place of ideas at home and abroad.

Thus, between 1988 and 1992 Israel closed, yes closed, all Palestinian higher education institutions during the 1st Intifada, preventing any students and teachers from attending classes, using libraries or obtaining clinical experience. Although now once again open, institutions of higher education in the occupied West Bank function under a reign of academic intimidation… at times sheer terror… that moves well beyond the border of criminal. As so much the norm, Israel raids universities throughout the West Bank. Among others, Birzeit University, the Arab American University, Polytechnic University and Al Quds University in East Jerusalem have been frequently targeted by the Israeli military which has attacked and arrested students, destroyed university property and equipment and seized student organization materials.

Over the last four years Al Quds University in particular has been a favorite target of marauding Israeli soldiers which have raided its main campus on some three dozen occasions. During these attacks more than 2000 students have been injured, and 12,000 evacuated as soldiers discharged thousands of tear gas canisters and rounds of ammunition. Several hundred students have been seized for “investigation” with many detained without formal charges. To this day some remain isolated under military custody. In the school year of 2013-2014 alone, more than 600 lectures were canceled at Al Quds, with a thousand students withdrawing from active enrollment too traumatized to continue with classes.

Even where Palestinian education has been permitted to proceed without physical assault, Israeli censorship of Palestinian schools is ever present… sanitizing references, symbols and history from texts, sparing no grades including kindergarten, in a readily transparent effort to rewrite a long, well documented and illustrious past. Years ago Israel began the formal process of cleansing written Palestinian history of signposts it considers contrary to acceptable, controlled education or which it believes pose a “threat” to its unitary supremacist view of the world.

For example, among other things, the logo of the Palestinian Authority has been removed from book covers and all pictures of Palestinian flags removed from textbooks, even in the coloring books for six-year olds. All mention of the Nakba (catastrophe of 1948) and the right of return has been expunged as if a mere figment of the imagination of millions of Palestinians. Poems, songs and stories about the beauty of Palestinian landscapes and villages, the resistance of the first and second Intifadas and Israeli checkpoints have been deleted from all texts, video and audio representations. All mention of Jerusalem as Al Quds has been sanitized along with any note of Israel as an occupation force of the Palestinian capital. The one million plus Palestinians living inside Israel “proper” have been stripped of their identity and go unmentioned as Palestinians anywhere in Israeli controlled education. In middle school textbooks almost an entire history book has been redacted leaving blank pages for students to gaze at, chapters once rich with detail about events from the Balfour declaration of 1917 through the Nakba, as if they too were little more than provocative historical fiction.

Israel’s Attack On Free Speech And Academic Freedom For Jews

In all fairness to Israel, its drive to control the narrative of 68 years of its Occupation and Apartheid has not been limited at all to just Palestinian educational circles.

In March 2011, the Israeli Knesset passed the so-called Nakba law authorizing the Finance Minister to reduce state funding to an institution if it engages in an “activity that is contrary to the principles of the state.” Although ambiguous in its reach, the law did specifically include those that reject “the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” and or commemorate Israeli independence as a day of mourning.

Recently Israel’s Education Ministry has disqualified a novel that describes a love story between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man from use by high schools around the country. Among the reasons stated for the banning of “Borderlife” is the need to safeguard “the identity and the heritage of students in every sector,” and the belief that “intimate relations between Jews and non-Jews threatens the separate identity.”

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the strongest art museum in the country, recently canceled an exhibition of works by the Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei which was also going to feature portraits of thousands of Palestinian refugees and refugee camps by Israeli photographer Miki Kratsman.

Inside universities, Jewish students and faculty often police the academic environments acting as so much the monitors of “dissident” professors. To avoid public vilification, job loss, imprisonment, or worse, educators have been known to redact information that might be used to otherwise punish external political groups and activists that oppose government policies. More than once academic purity has driven some of Israel’s most respected Jewish scholars from prominent teaching positions. Thus famed Professor and author Ilan Pappe who supports the academic boycott of Israel was himself boycotted at Haifa University. After receiving several death threats and condemnation by the Knesset, he moved his work to the University of Exeter in 2008. Professor Ariella Azoulay of Bar-Ilan University was denied tenure because of her “controversial” political associations. And in what can only be described as an effort to silence political dissent and opposition from an entire department at Ben Gurion University, the Council for Higher Education moved, albeit unsuccessfully, to close its politics and government department because it had faculty accused of being left-wing.

Elsewhere the freedom of expression of largely Jewish students has been impaired. In one case, Haifa University, with the support of the student union, prohibited a group of students from holding a demonstration to mark the first anniversary of Operation Cast Lead. In a similar case, it prohibited a demonstration against events surrounding the flotilla from Turkey to the Gaza Strip. In a third instance, the NRG-Maariv website alleged that Tel Aviv University prevented a reporter from a regional radio station in “Judea and Samaria” from covering a conference on the subject of the Nakba.

Students at a number of Israeli universities report that often they cannot receive authorization for activities such as campus demonstrations, lecturers, setting up a stall, or distributing leaflets. And, on those rare occasions when they do, approval is often withdrawn at the last moment, without any meaningful explanation. Not rare at all, student organizers of demonstrations or teach-ins are summonsed to a disciplinary committee.

Academic Freedom And Free Speech In The US

This is not Israel. I want Rachel and Nadia to stumble, perhaps even fall, as they ready themselves to assume the mantle of leadership in this world. Orthodoxy simply means more of the same broken path. I want them to be free to exchange provoking rough-and-tumble ideas with Robert and Tarik. At times, it will go smoothly, at others it will make them cringe with the pain that can, indeed must, devolve into tense, uncomfortable debate. It’s what’s called the marketplace of competing ideas. There is nothing wrong or unhealthy with yelling or even crying over belief. It’s one of those universal bridges which for time immemorial has transcended the narrow limitations of national boundaries and oaths.

Today’s free speech debate between Zionists that seek to control the argument and those that struggle to resist its corrupting narrow view of our world is not new. Tension between the powerful and those that dare to challenge their stretch is here as old as the Republic itself. Though each generation has confronted different demons in different ways, at day’s end, it has always come back to the notion of free and robust speech as the best vehicle for knowledge and change. Ironically one of the most eloquent explanations of the First Amendment’s critical role in the search for truth was penned by none other than a Zionist, Justice Louis Brandeis in his concurring opinion in Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357, 375 (Brandeis, J., concurring). Justice Brandeis’ words bear repeating:

“Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties; and that in its government the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary. They valued liberty both as an end and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty. They believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that without free speech and assembly discussion would be futile; that with them, discussion affords ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious doctrine; that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty; and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government. They recognized the risks to which all human institutions are subject. But they knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies; and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones. Believing in the power of reason as applied through public discussion, they eschewed silence coerced by law – the argument of force in its worst form. Recognizing the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and assembly should be guaranteed.” Id. at 375-76

We Are Truly Legion…The Appeal Continues

(Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, the goal set for funds to assist Nour in her educational endeavors, attending Portland State University, has fallen short. Stanley has requested that we re-blog this appeal with a link to the new funding page set up in hopes of obtaining the remaining needed funds. Please forward this appeal to friends & associates, RT on Twitter, post on FaceBook and any other social media and, obviously, contribute any amount you possibly can.  Nour is a very deserving young person struggling to get ahead under the worst of conditions.  

Unable to meet a January departure from Gaza, PSU agreed to hold her place until March.  We are hoping to meet the remainder of her goal by January 15, 2016 which will afford her time to arrange exit from Gaza and flight to Portland.  

The NEW funding link is  https://www.generosity.com/education-fundraising/nour-s-educational-fund-at-psu-part-2

In advance, please accept Stanley’s, and our, sincerest appreciation for whatever help you offer.) …MDP & Marion, Editors

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We Are Truly Legion

I don’t know personally Nour AlGhussein but I do know her sister, writer Walaa AlGhussein, pretty well and for a long time. They are among the five children- four girls and one boy born to Fatma and Khalid AlGhussein in Gaza. The AlGuhssein children are our future- all our futures. From what I know, they are very smart, independent, giving and passionate about making a meaningful difference in the lives of their family, Nation and world. And while so many others among us have seemingly given up, surrendered to events which some unfortunately they cannot impact, let alone change for the better, the children of Fatma and Khalid have refused to go silently unto the night. Though young and in the early stages of their life’s journey- its a travel of purpose, pride and accomplishment despite the great deprivation and danger that their family — indeed, all families in Gaza — faces every day. To be Palestinian and young is not easy.

Following in her older sister Walaa’s very large and capable footsteps, this past summer, Nour attended Portland State University as part of an exchange program of sorts with young women and men from all over the world, largely impoverished communities at that, to attend universities in various countries outside their own. To accomplish this was no small task in its own and fraught with a large degree of uncertainty and at times, danger, given the circumstances in the communities from which they come.

For many of these young students, its the first and only time they’ve been able to escape the daily stress and strain that can be living a life not just in poor communities but, as in the case of Nour, a deadly war zone under constant siege that has cost the lives, health and well-being of many hundreds of thousands of her community for no reason other than they are Palestinian and civilians- easy and vulnerable targets. And while some of the world just does not give a shit- we do !!

For those of you who have watched in horror the crimes of Israel or who have followed this blog or my work over the years, there is no need for me to repeat here the nightmare that is the occupation, genocide, ethnic cleansing and collective punishment that never takes a rest in Palestine, especially in Gaza, at the hands of Israel under the watchful and approving eyes of the West and their system of regional surrogate states. Despite this nightmare, or maybe because of it, lots of young Palestinians have pursued knowledge and, often against impossible odds, formal education with a passion and determined reach that is second to none, including those of us who may have come from privileged societies or backgrounds.

Nour spent this past summer at Portland State University a peaceful supportive community of the young and not so young where she flourished as a student, representative of Palestine and just being a “kid,” among many others. While in school she  graduated from PSU’s Middle East Partnership Initiative Student Leader’s program. In addition, Nour recieved further recognition for her work at PSU by receiving its prestigious ‘International Student Award’ for her overall accomplishments during the summer. Predictably, Nour made many new friends from all over the world and was for the first time in her young and difficult life able to read when she wanted, walk where she wanted and just hangout with whomever she wanted untouched by anything but her own desires, drive and intellectual appetite. For one all-too brief period at PSU, unlike the constant deprivation and isolation that is Gaza, in Portland Nour was able to pursue her dreams solely on the basis of her own vision of who she is and what she wants for herself, her family and her Nation.

At summer’s end, Nour returned to Gaza, where the duck of bombs, frequent wail of sirens and the struggle to survive has once again become a constant roar in her life- its just the way things are there no matter how warm, wonderful and wise you may otherwise be in a land under incessant attack of one sort or another by one of the most deadly killing machines in the world. To be Palestinian is to be targeted, every day. However, to be young and Palestinian, does not mean that you stop dreaming or working to may your dreams become reality.

Before returning to Gaza, Nour applied for and was accepted by Portland State University as a full-time student beginning this January. To do so is, however, not an easy, inexpensive or emotionally comfortable experience. To leave your family behind in the life and death struggle that is Gaza not knowing what the future holds for them, or for you, is just not like it was or is now for many of the rest of us. Typically, when we’ve gone off to school, often its been a climb into the family car to travel some short hours away from the love and the safety that has been our home to go to a campus knowing that those we love and need are just a simple call or vacation away. To be Palestinian and thousands of miles from your home which is often without electricity, running water or phone service is never an easy or painless journey.

Nour needs our help. She is fiercely proud, determined and driven to succeed. And when she does, mark it up as another victory for our community- one which struggles to take control of the world that is ours and to change its contours in warm, peaceful and humane ways that embrace people of all race, religion, politics, gender and choice and does so without the dictate or confines of anthems, borders or flags.

Please contribute what you can to:- PLEASE USE LINK AT TOP

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/nour-s-educational-fund-at-psu–2#/

Help Nour to realize her dreams and ours.

Up the Rebels.