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Ed Webb

On British colonialism, antisemitism, and Palestinian rights | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • Palestine was not lost in the late 1940s, as is commonly believed; it was lost in the late 1930s, as a result of Britain’s savage smashing of Palestinian resistance and support for Jewish paramilitary forces
  • Churchill held Arabs in contempt as racially inferior. His description of Palestinian Arabs as a “dog in a manger” is shocking, but not entirely surprising; racism usually goes hand in hand with colonialism.
  • In British eyes, a Palestinian state was synonymous with a mufti state; accordingly, Britain’s hostility towards Palestinians and Palestinian statehood was a constant factor in its foreign policy from 1947-49.
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  • Britain gave a green light to its client, King Abdullah of Transjordan, to send his British-led little army into Palestine upon expiry of the British mandate, to capture the West Bank - which was intended to be the heartland of the Palestinian state. The winners in the war for Palestine were King Abdullah and the Zionist movement; the losers were Palestinians. Around 750,000 Palestinians, more than half the population, became refugees, and the name Palestine was wiped off the map.
  • When Jordan formally annexed the West Bank in 1950, Britain and Pakistan were the only UN members to recognise it.
  • Against the backdrop of Black Lives Matter, the reassessment of Britain’s colonial past and the drive to decolonise school curricula, some scholars have leapt to the defence of the British Empire. Nigel Biggar, the Regius professor of theology at the University of Oxford, for example, defends the British Empire as a moral force for good. Referencing Cecil Rhodes and the campaign to remove his statue from Oriel College, Biggar conceded that Rhodes was an imperialist, “but British colonialism was not essentially racist, wasn’t essentially exploitative, and wasn’t essentially atrocious”. The British Empire’s record in Palestine, however, is rather difficult to reconcile with the benign view of the learned professor. 
  • Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) is by far the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group in Britain, and its membership includes around 80 percent of Tory members of parliament. Since the May 2015 general election, CFI has sent 24 delegations with more than 180 Conservatives to visit Israel.  The last three leaders of the Conservative Party have been uncritical supporters of the State of Israel. Former Prime Minister David Cameron described himself as a “passionate friend” of Israel and insisted that nothing could break that friendship.
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a slightly more nuanced take on Britain’s record as a colonial power in Palestine. In his 2014 book on Churchill, he described the Balfour Declaration as “bizarre”, “tragically incoherent” and an “exquisite piece of Foreign Office fudgerama”. This was one of the rare examples of sound judgement and historical insight on Johnson’s part. But in 2015, on a trip to Israel as mayor of London, Johnson hailed the Balfour Declaration as “a great thing”. 
  • Arthur Balfour, the foreign secretary in 1917, undertook to uphold the civil and religious rights of the native population of Palestine. A century later, the House of Commons added national rights as well, voting in October 2014 - by 274 votes to 12 - to recognise a Palestinian state. Cameron chose to ignore the non-binding vote
  • The Conservative government’s adoption in 2016 of the IHRA’s non-legally-binding working definition of antisemitism falls squarely within this tradition of partisanship on behalf of Zionism and Israel, and disdain for Palestinians.  The definition states: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
  • The definition does not mention Israel by name, but no fewer than seven out of the 11 “illustrative examples” that follow concern Israel. They include “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour”; “applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation”; “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis”; and “holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel”. 
  • antisemitism was singled out for attention and punishment by a Conservative government that is renowned for its intensely relaxed attitude towards Islamophobia. 
  • Many left-wing Israelis regard Israel as a racist endeavour. B’Tselem, the highly respected Israeli human rights organisation, issued a closely argued position paper in January titled “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid.”
  • Right-wing Israelis continue to hotly deny that Israel is an apartheid state and reject any comparison with apartheid South Africa. But there is no law against calling Israel an apartheid state, and progressive Israelis do so all the time. Comparisons with Nazi Germany are also not proscribed by Israeli law. Such comparisons are less common in Israeli political discourse, but they are occasionally expressed in newspaper editorials and even by politicians. 
  • To achieve consensus on the document within the IHRA, it was necessary to separate the statement from the illustrative examples that followed. Pro-Israel partisans, however, have repeatedly conveyed the false impression that the examples are an integral part of the definition.
  • What the non-legally-binding IHRA document does do, with the help of the examples, is shift the focus from real antisemitism to the perfectly respectable and growing phenomenon of anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionism is sometimes described by pro-Israel stakeholders as “the new antisemitism”. It is essential, however, to distinguish clearly between the two.
  • The 11 examples make a series of unwarranted assumptions about Israel and world Jewry. They assume that all Israelis adhere to the notion of Israel as a Jewish state; that Israel is a “democratic nation”; that Israel is not a racist endeavour; and that all Jews condemn the comparison between Israeli policy and that of the Nazis.
  • the definition’s very vagueness confers a political advantage. It enables Israel’s defenders to weaponise the definition, especially against left-wing opponents, and to portray what in most cases is valid criticism of Israeli behaviour as the vilification and delegitimisation of the State of Israel.
  • Israel is not a democracy. Even within its original borders, it is a flawed democracy at best, because of discrimination at multiple levels against its Palestinian citizens. But in the whole area under its rule, including the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel is an ethnocracy - a political system in which one ethnic group dominates another. 
  • In the Orwellian world of the post-full-adoption Labour Party, many of the members who have been suspended or expelled for the crime of antisemitism were themselves Jewish. Several Jewish Labour Party members have been investigated since 2016, nearly all on the basis of allegations of antisemitism. This made a mockery of the claim of Keir Starmer, who succeeded the allegedly antisemitic Jeremy Corbyn as leader, to be making the Labour Party a safe place for Jews.  
  • In the rush to burnish its pro-Zionist credentials, the Labour Party turned against some of its most progressive Jewish members. Moshe Machover, the veteran Israeli British anti-Zionist, was expelled and then reinstated in 2017 after the Guardian published a letter of protest undersigned by 139 Labour Party members, including eminent Jewish lawyer Geoffrey Bindman, dismissing the insinuation of antisemitism as “personally offensive and politically dangerous”.
  • Anti-Zionism is opposition to the exclusive character of the state of Israel and to Israeli policies, particularly its occupation of the West Bank. Antisemitism relates to Jews anywhere in the world; anti-Zionism relates only to Israel. 
  • In a letter to the Guardian published in November 2020, a group of 122 Palestinian and Arab academics, journalists and intellectuals expressed their concerns about the IHRA definition. Palestinian voices are rarely heard in the national debate on antisemitism and Israel-Palestine.
  • Through ‘examples’ that it provides, the IHRA definition conflates Judaism with Zionism in assuming that all Jews are Zionists, and that the state of Israel in its current reality embodies the self-determination of all Jews. We profoundly disagree with this. The fight against antisemitism should not be turned into a stratagem to delegitimise the fight against the oppression of the Palestinians, the denial of their rights and the continued occupation of their land
  • Another call on universities to resist the government’s attempt to impose the IHRA definition came from an unexpected source: British academics who are also Israeli citizens. I am a member of this group, brought together by outrage at Williamson’s rude and crude intervention. It came as a surprise to discover that there are so many of us but, on the issue of his threat, we were all on the same page, regardless of our diverse academic disciplines, ages, statuses and political affiliations.
  • Our demarche took the form of a long letter sent in the last week of January to all vice chancellors of English universities and many academic senates. Since then, our letter has been signed by an impressive list of 110 supporters, all Israeli academics outside the UK, including many from Israel. We tried to reach a wider public beyond the academy by publishing our letter in the mainstream media. Our request was either rejected or ignored by no less than 12 national newspapers and other media outlets. We were rather surprised and disappointed that not a single national paper saw fit to publish our letter or to report our initiative. But the letter was eventually published by the Jewish leftist online journal, Vashti.
  • In our letter, we said: “Fighting antisemitism in all its forms is an absolute must. Yet the IHRA document is inherently flawed, and in ways that undermine this fight. In addition, it threatens free speech and academic freedom and constitutes an attack both on the Palestinian right to self-determination, and the struggle to democratise Israel.”
  • The Loach affair vividly demonstrates the damage that the IHRA document can do to free speech on campus. The document was used to smear a prominent left-wing critic of Israel and a defender of Palestinian rights, and to try to deny him a platform. The attempt at no-platforming ultimately failed, but it caused totally unwarranted pain to the artist, placed the master of his old college in an extremely awkward position, stirred up a great deal of ill-feeling on both sides of the argument, wasted a great deal of time and energy that could have been put to better use, and, worst of all, in my humble opinion, was completely unnecessary, unjustified and unproductive. All it did was sour the atmosphere around an imaginative cultural event.
  • it must be emphasised that antisemitism is not a fiction, as some people claim. It is a real problem at all levels of our society, including university campuses, and it needs to be confronted robustly wherever it rears its ugly head. Secondly, it would be quite wrong to suggest that Jewish students who protest about antisemitism are inventing or exaggerating their feeling of hurt. Jewish students genuinely feel vulnerable and have a real need for protection by university authorities against any manifestation of bigotry, harassment or discrimination. 
  • the definition is implicitly premised on Jewish exceptionalism - on the notion that Jews are a special case and must be treated as such. This gets in the way of solidarity and cooperation with other groups who are also susceptible to racial prejudice, such as Arabs and Muslims. To be effective, the fight against racism needs to take place across the board and not in isolated corners.
  • Despite its claim to the contrary, Israel does not represent all Jews globally, but only its own citizens, a fifth of whom are Palestinian.
  • British Jews are not collectively responsible for Israel’s conduct, but the IHRA definition implicates them in Israel’s affairs, and encourages them to target anyone they consider to be an enemy of the Jewish state.
  • do we need a definition of antisemitism at all? My own view is that we do not. The very term "antisemitic" is problematic because Arabs are Semites too. I prefer the term "anti-Jewish racism". What we need is a code of conduct to protect all minority groups, including Jews, against discrimination and harassment while protecting freedom of speech for all members of universities. 
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    Opinion of an Israeli academic at Oxford University
Ed Webb

Palestinian students battle militarization of Hebrew University - 0 views

  • A recent video clip about the Nakba and the militarization of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, put together by a left-wing student group, has led to a furious backlash by right-wing groups and politicians who claim the clip incites to violence against soldiers. One Knesset member has called for a criminal investigation, while other actors demanded that the student chapter of the socialist Hadash party, which created and published the video, be shut down.
  • makes several claims about the militarization of Hebrew University, including that many soldiers attend the university; that Palestinian students are being removed from campus dorms; and that Israeli snipers are stationed on the roofs of university buildings in order to take shots at protesters in neighboring Issawiya
  • a controversial army intelligence training program at the university that was launched last year, which grooms undergraduates for an extended stint in the IDF’s intelligence unit, and which has seen a sharp rise in the number of uniformed, armed students attending classes on campus.
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  • According to Hamad, the university administration has not made a serious effort to consider why Arab students, as well as some Jewish students, are fearful when they see uniforms and weapons on campus. “I think they don’t understand, they see soldiers as protectors and not a threat,”
  • Yassin rejects the suggestion that showing soldiers’ faces encourages attacks against them. “There was no call to harm soldiers,” he says, adding that Hadash “fights for the good of both peoples, for the Palestinian people but also for human rights in Israel that have been trampled by a militaristic discourse.”
  • the allocation of space for soldiers’ quarters has added “hundreds of soldiers to campus” as well as additional police, and that this has created the sense that the university is involved in “the repression of the Palestinian people, especially in light of [the campus’] location next to Issawiya.”
  • A lecturer at Hebrew University who asked to remain anonymous said that the number of armed soldiers on campus has increased since the army intelligence training program began last year. They further noted that some student accommodation had been cleared for the benefit of the program. Palestinians make up a relatively high proportion of dorm residents, meaning that they have been disproportionately affected by the assigning of student housing to soldiers.
Ed Webb

The problems with an increasingly dominant definition of anti-Semitism (opinion) - 0 views

  • The problem, of course, is that when a state’s actions and its government’s policies cannot be critiqued, then the pursuit of knowledge and academic freedom are threatened. If successful, Israel’s use of the anti-Semitism charge to silence serious and well-grounded criticism could very well become the template for other countries, including the United States government, and powerful corporations to mobilize different kinds of hate-speech accusations to protect rights-abusive behavior.
  • the examples marginalize the kinds of anti-Jewish attacks in recent years -- from Pittsburgh to Halle, Germany -- that have resulted in mass casualties or the broader rise of fascism in the United States with its deeply ingrained anti-Semitism, as evidenced by the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol.
  • not surprising that concern about the IHRA definition has been growing. Professional associations, such as the British Society for Middle East Studies, student groups and more than 100 Palestinian and Arab academics and intellectuals have argued that the IHRA definition is being used to stifle not just criticism of Israel but also, and more widely, support for Palestinian rights. Roughly 200 international scholars working in anti-Semitism studies and related fields -- including Jewish, Holocaust, Israel, Palestine and Middle East studies -- just drafted the Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism, a new definition that responds to the IHRA one and is inspired by the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the 1969 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Their aim is twofold: 1) to strengthen the fight against anti-Semitism by clarifying what it is and how it is manifested and 2) to protect a space for an open debate about the vexed question of the future of Israel/Palestine. Meanwhile, 40 Jewish organizations including the fastest growing -- and explicitly anti-Zionist -- Jewish organization in the United States, Jewish Voice for Peace, have “unequivocally opposed” the IHRA definition, precisely because its focus on Israel gives the definition a “strong potential for misuse.”
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  • the fact that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance drafted the definition creates an immediate association with the Holocaust. That makes it exceedingly difficult to question the definition’s accuracy or motives.
  • Considering that most universities have robust guidelines that prohibit racist or anti-Semitic utterances, the adoption of the IHRA definition does not add substantive content that might help reduce hate speech on campuses. Moreover, antiracist working groups within universities that we have spoken to are all vehemently against adopting the IHRA definition. Even the primary author of the definition himself, Kenneth Stern, has declared that “right-wing Jews are weaponizing it,” nowhere more so than on college campuses. As he put it, the widespread use of the definition on campuses “will harm not only pro-Palestinian advocates but also Jewish students and faculty, and the academy itself.”
  • all of Israel’s governments, from 1948 until the present, have equated Israel with the Jewish people. The equation is based, however, on an empirical fallacy, since more than half of the worldwide Jewish population does not live in Israel, more than 20 percent of the country’s citizens are not Jews, and an additional five million stateless Palestinians live within the area that Israel controls
  • authorities have charged people who have criticized Israel with being anti-Semitic at several institutions in the United States where local jurisdictions have adopted the IHRA definition. There are currently ongoing investigations at Rutgers University, Duke University and the University of North Carolina, with another pending investigation at New York University. These attacks appear to be the harbinger of things to come. They are destructive not only for academic freedom but also for antiracist struggles on campuses.
  • institutionalized Jewish life in the diaspora has, for over half a century, focused on supporting Israel. Thus, the IHRA definition serves the purposes of mainstream Jewish organizations quite well, especially when it comes to policing speech in the media and in cultural spheres as well as on college campuses
  • while the IHRA document casts the definition as legally “nonbinding,” and therefore not capable of stifling free speech and academic freedom, it is packaged as especially relevant for law enforcement agencies and for “training police officials.” The impact of the document is thus clear: its “nonbinding” designation frames the definition as benign and distracts us from how it is being used to surveil and even criminalize critical speech about Israel.
  • it allows conservative and even moderate political forces to discipline, silence and marginalize progressive voices against racism, poverty, the climate crisis, war and predatory capitalism. Palestinians have managed to globalize their struggle for self-determination, and progressives of different stripes has championed their cause over the years. Yet now if Black Lives Matter, climate, Indigenous or feminist activists voice support for the Palestinian cause while criticizing Israel, they can be branded anti-Semitic, which can, in effect, delegitimize the other progressive issues such activists support.
  • “The official stance of Hillel against any collaboration with anti-Zionist or BDS-supporting (which is considered anti-Semitic according to the IHRA) groups on or off campus prevents Jewish students from working with other social and racial justice and interfaith groups, including progressive Jewish groups. We can't work to unite against white supremacy or engage with Black-Palestinian solidarity groups because these groups support BDS, even though many Jewish students support BDS as well.”
  • it also allows Israel to create alliances with anti-Semites
  • this kind of devil's bargain will not end up benefiting Jews, particularly those in the diaspora. Only the most honest and robust debate about Israel and Zionism, on campus as well as more broadly, will ensure Jewish students and the wider Jewish community are truly protected from anti-Semitism and can participate most fully in the struggles for social, racial, economic and climate justice that have finally been foregrounded today.
Ed Webb

University blasts in Pakistan and the future of Islam - Yahoo! News - 0 views

  • Mark LeVine
  • When the Taliban attacked the International Islamic University in Pakistan this week, many were shocked that militants were targeting an Islamic school. In fact, the double suicide bombers were going after a university that is at the forefront of changing the way Islamic and Western knowledge are brought together in the Muslim world.
  • when I delivered my second lecture on globalization early on a Saturday morning, the room was filled with students, more women than men (upward of half the student body at the University are women), who grilled me about the assumptions underlying my research and methodologies. Would that most of my students back home were as interested in what I was teaching as were they.
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  • The University was carving out a much-needed space in Muslim intellectual, and through it political, life through its bringing Muslim and Western traditions into dialogue. Yet it was receiving, and continues to receive far less attention from scholars, commentators, or policymakers than the fully American-style universities being opened across the Persian Gulf.
  • the singular focus of KAUST on hard sciences is ultimately myopic and will likely produce little in the way of the larger societal change in Saudi Arabia predicted by the new university's boosters. Such changes come only with a robust public sphere where citizens who are educated broadly and humanistically are equipped with the social knowledge and skills to challenge the dominant political and social-religious discourses. Building such an active Pakistani citizenry was and – I imagine despite the bombing – remains a major goal of the IIU. Sadly, it's just such a goal that probably made it a "legitimate" target for the Taliban, for whom a healthy public sphere populated by educated citizens willing and able to challenge, potentially democratize, and clean up their government would pose at least as big threat to its position in the country as the army they are now fighting in the country's northwest.
Ed Webb

UCSC International Students Increasingly Vulnerable Amid Wildcat Strike | MERIP - 0 views

  • Since February 10, graduate student teaching assistants (TAs) have been engaged in a wildcat strike—a strike unauthorized by their labor union—to press for a cost of living adjustment (COLA) to their salaries. UCSC students and faculty suffer from one of the most expensive and tight housing markets in the country. The graduate student workers, along with faculty and undergraduate students, are sending an urgent message to the administration: the cost of living in Santa Cruz has become unbearable.
  • continue to congregate on the lush green lawn at the base of campus daily at 7:30am. Supporters provide free food and water, legal and medical support and play English, Spanish and Arabic music around the clock. Their actions, such as teach-ins and guest lectures, are bringing together diverse groups from across campus and highlighting shared grievances among students, faculty and staff at the university. As of this moment, graduate students at UC Santa Barbara voted to go on a full teaching strike on February 27, while students at UC Davis voted to begin withholding Winter quarter grades on the same day to demand a COLA and in solidarity with UCSC.
  • While all graduate student TAs are facing a precarious situation, international students are particularly vulnerable. In a February 7 email from the UCSC office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), international students were “reminded [of] the conditions of their immigration status.” The letter stated that while participation in the strike is not a violation of the students’ immigration status, “any actions that result in student discipline or arrest may have immigration consequences, both on your current status and on possible future immigration applications you may make in the United States.”
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  • Since visa holders are not allowed to seek employment off campus or take on more than a 50 percent work load on campus, they cannot offset the high cost of housing with additional work as other students do in desperation. The international students find the administration responsible for making the “implicit threat of deportation [the ISSS email] a reality by threatening to revoke Spring 2020 work appointments for striking graduate students.” Terminating employment would disproportionately impact international graduate students, who would lose their tuition waiver and thus be forced to give up full-time enrollment at the university, which would then invalidate their visas. 
  • for international TAs, losing their legal immigration status is “a real and terrifying consequence,” one that is affecting their choice to strike. Indeed, due to heavy police presence at the strike, some international students were advised by their professors not to participate in the rallies, for fear of arrest or the collection of evidence against them that could eventually lead to their deportation or other immigration consequences.
  • Obstacles to obtaining visas disproportionately affect students and scholars from the Middle East. The Middle East Studies Association’s (MESA) Task Force on Civil and Human Rights currently runs a research project dedicated specifically to documenting widespread cases of “visa cancellations, border denials, and deportations of students and faculty from the Middle East.” The project was prompted by the denial of entry to 13 Iranian students with valid visas at US airports since August 2019. Morteza Behrooz, an Iranian student who just completed his PhD in computer science at UCSC, says that even now as a permanent resident, he still feels at risk traveling to and from the United States. Iranian students are often issued single-entry visas, “which leaves them particularly vulnerable to unfair policies” and unable to visit their families for years on end, as Morteza experienced when he first joined UCSC.
  • With widespread uncertainty about immigration laws and practices under the Trump presidency, the university administration’s response to the strike puts international students at additional risk. While the punitive measures facing the striking TAs are presented by the administration as uniform and general, certain students are nonetheless subjected to more discipline than others due to their non-citizen status.
  • The difficulties and ambiguities of the visa process risk having an adverse impact on the diversity of US academic institutions and curricula by deterring international students and discouraging exchanges and research. The field of Middle East Studies is also currently facing threats of defunding and interference by the Department of Education, such as the department’s inquiry into the federally-funded Middle East consortium between Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill due to purported anti-Israel bias. At UCSC, which inaugurated a long-awaited and celebrated Center for the Middle East and North Africa days before the strike, the university administration’s perceived pressure on its international students leaves students and scholars coming from the Middle East uneasy.
  • “I feel totally crippled when it comes to my participation in political life as a student here,” he explains. “Even though I was supportive of the TA strike, I felt scared to participate in the rally with other students. I know that getting arrested for whatever reason is not an option for me and will jeopardize my stay. This is oppressive. It means that I cannot freely express myself politically.”
Ed Webb

Crusaders No More: What Arab Christians and Muslims Think ...... | News & Reporting | C... - 0 views

  • One month before Evangel, Valparaiso University, a Lutheran institution in Indiana, announced in February it was dropping its own Crusaders nickname. Last month, the school rechristened its sports teams the Beacons.
  • “As a Muslim, I was embarrassed to come to Valpo because the school’s mascot was a Crusader, even though my mom and older siblings went here before me,”
  • It is somewhat of a trend among Christian institutions, however. Wheaton College dropped its Crusaders nickname in 2000, followed by the University of the Incarnate Word in 2004, Northwest Christian (now Bushnell) University in 2008, Eastern Nazarene College in 2009, and Alvernia University and Northwest Nazarene University in 2017.
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  • about a dozen colleges still use it, including the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts
  • contemporaneous Muslims, Christians, and Jews all referred to the Middle Ages conflict as “the Wars of the Franks.” It was not until about the 18th century, Mikhail said, that Muslim polemicists began translating the conflict as “the Wars of the Cross-bearers.” But today, this is the term that has universal usage in Arabic.
  • most Middle Eastern Christians stood with the Muslims against the Crusaders.
  • “Christians and Muslims both have a lot of work to do in terms of revising elements of their religious language that poison everyday relations,” Accad said. “We have to create new symbols.”
  • I would never call myself a Crusader
Ed Webb

Inside the Pro-Israel Information War - 0 views

  • a rare public glimpse of how Israel and its American allies harness Israel’s influential tech sector and tech diaspora to run cover for the Jewish state as it endures scrutiny over the humanitarian impact of its invasion of Gaza.
  • reveal the degree to which, in the tech-oriented hasbara world, the lines between government, the private sector, and the nonprofit world are blurry at best. And the tactics that these wealthy individuals, advocates, and groups use -- hounding Israel critics on social media; firing pro-Palestine employees and canceling speaking engagements; smearing Palestinian journalists; and attempting to ship military-grade equipment to the IDF -- are often heavy-handed and controversial.
  • The final group consists of those who are "reflexively pro-Israel, kind of ‘Israel, right or wrong.’" Members of this group "are not actually very knowledgeable," so they needed to be equipped with the right facts to make them "more effective in advocating for Israel,” Fisher said.
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  • Members of the hasbara-oriented tech world WhatsApp group have eagerly taken up the call to shape public opinion as part of a bid to win what’s been described as the “second battlefield” and “the information war.”
  • The group, which also includes individuals affiliated with the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), has tirelessly worked to fire employees and punish activists for expressing pro-Palestinian views. It has also engaged in a successful push to cancel events held by prominent Palestinian voices, including an Arizona State University talk featuring Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat who is the only Palestinian-American in Congress. The group has also circulated circulated a push poll suggesting Rep. Tlaib should resign from Congress and provided an automatic means of thanking Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., for voting for her censure.
  • J-Ventures has also veered into an unusual kind of philanthropy: shipments of military supplies. The group has attempted to provide tactical gear to Israel’s equivalent of the U.S. Navy SEALs, known as Shayetet-13, and donated to a foundation dedicated to supporting the IDF’s undercover “Duvdevan” unit, which is known for infiltrating Palestinian populations. Many of the shipments intended for the IDF were held up at U.S. airports over customs issues.
  • Israel would soon lose international support as its military response in Gaza kills more Palestinian civilians, noted Schwarzbad, who stressed the need to refocus attention on Israeli civilian deaths. “Try to use names and ages whenever you can,” she said. Don’t refer to statistics of the dead, use stories. “Say something like, 'Noah, age 26, was celebrating with her friends at a music festival on the holiest day of the week, Shabbat. Imagine if your daughter was at Coachella.’”
  • The Israel-based venture capitalist outlined three categories of people for whom outreach, rather than attacks, is the best strategy. The first group is what he dubbed “the impressionables,” who are "typically young people, they reflexively support the weak, oppose the oppressor," but "are not really knowledgeable." For this category of people, the goal is not to "convince them of anything," but to "show them that it's much more complicated than it seems." Seeding doubt, he said, would make certain audiences think twice before attending a protest. "So it's really about creating some kind of confusion,” Fisher continued, “but really, just to make it clear to them that it's really a lot more complicated."
  • Fisher repeatedly noted the need to offer accurate and nuanced information to rebut critics of Israel's actions. Yet at times, he offered his own misinformation, such as his claim that "anti-Israel" human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch "didn't condemn the October 7th massacre."
  • One participant even suggested that they appeal to the university’s “woke” aversion to exposing students to uncomfortable ideas.   The participant drafted a sample letter claiming that Tlaib’s appearance threatened ASU’s “commitment to a safe and inclusive environment.” The following day, ASU officially canceled the Tlaib event, citing “procedural issues.”
  • efforts to discredit HRW stem directly from its outspoken criticism of Israel’s record in the occupied territories and its military conduct. An HRW report released the same day as Fisher’s remarks cited the World Health Organization’s conclusion that the IDF had killed roughly one child in Gaza every 10 minutes since the outbreak of violence in October.
  • members of the J-Ventures group chat also internally circulated a petition for Netflix to remove the award-winning Jordanian film ‘Farha,’ claiming that its portrayal of the actions of IDF soldiers during the 1948 displacement of Palestinians constituted “blood libel,” while another said the film was based “antisemitism and lies.”
  • Last year, the Israeli government revoked funding for a theater in Jaffa for screening the film, while government figures called for other repercussions to Netflix for streaming it.
  • One member noted that despite the controversy over a scene in the film in which Israeli soldiers execute a Palestinian family, Israeli historians have documented that “such actions have indeed happened.” The critique was rejected by other members of the group, who said the film constituted “incitement” against Jews.
  • a variety of automated attempts to remove pro-Palestinian content on social media
  • Over the last two months, dozens of individuals have been fired for expressing opinions related to the war in Gaza and Israel. Most have been dismissed for expressing pro-Palestinian views, including a writer for PhillyVoice, the editor of ArtForum, an apprentice at German publishing giant Axel Springer, and Michael Eisen, the editor-in-chief of eLife, a prominent science journal. Eisen’s offense was a tweet sharing a satirical article from The Onion seen as sympathetic to the plight of Palestinians in Gaza.
  • The WhatsApp chats provide a rare look at the organizing efforts behind the broad push to fire critics of Israel and suppress public events featuring critics of the Israeli government. The scope is surprisingly broad, ranging from investigating the funding sources of student organizations such as Model Arab League, to monitoring an organizing toolkit of a Palestine Solidarity Working Group – “They are verrrry well organized”, one member exclaimed – to working directly with high-level tech executives to fire pro-Palestinian employees.
  • "President Biden seems incapable of using the one policy tool that may actually produce a change in Israel's actions that might limit civilian deaths, which would be to condition military aid that the United States provides to Israel,” Clifton added. He partially attributed the inability of the U.S. government to rein in Israel’s war actions to the “lobbying and advocacy efforts underway.”
  • Lior Netzer, a business consultant based in Massachusetts, and a member of the J-Ventures WhatsApp group, requested help pressuring the University of Vermont to cancel a lecture with Mohammed El-Kurd, a Palestinian writer for The Nation magazine. Netzer shared a sample script that alleged that El-Kurd had engaged in anti-Semitic speech in the past.The effort also appeared to be successful. Shortly after the letter-writing campaign, UVM canceled the talk, citing safety concerns.
  • The WhatsApp group maintained a special focus on elite universities and white-collar professional positions. Group members not only circulated multiple petitions to fire professors and blacklist students from working at major law firms for allegedly engaging in extremist rhetoric, but a J-Ventures spreadsheet lists specific task force teams to "get professors removed who teach falcehoods [sic] to their students." The list includes academics at Cornell University, the University of California, Davis, and NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus, among others.
  • Many of the messages in the group focused on ways in which to shape student life at Stanford University, including support for pro-Israel activists. The attempted interventions into campus life at times hinged on the absurd. Shortly after comedian Amy Schumer posted a now-deleted satirical cartoon lampooning pro-Palestinian protesters as supporters of rape and beheadings, Epstein, the operating partner at Bessemer Ventures Partners and member of the J-Ventures WhatsApp group, asked, “How can we get this political cartoon published in the Stanford Daily?"
  • The influence extended beyond the business and tech world and into politics. The J-Ventures team includes advocates with the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying organization, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, better known as AIPAC. Officials in the J-Ventures group include investor David Wagonfeld, whose biography states he is “leading AIPAC Silicon Valley;” Tartakovsky, listed as “AIPAC Political Chair;” Adam Milstein, a real estate executive and major AIPAC donor; and AIPAC-affiliated activists Drs. Kathy Fields and Garry Rayant. Kenneth Baer, a former White House advisor to President Barack Obama and communications counsel to the Anti-Defamation League, is also an active member of the group.
  • Other fundraising efforts from J-Ventures included an emergency fund to provide direct support for IDF units, including the naval commando unit Shayetet-13. The leaked planning document also uncovers attempts to supply the mostly female Caracal Battalion with grenade pouches and to donate M16 rifle scope mounts, “FN MAG” machine gun carrier vests, and drones to unnamed IDF units. According to the planning document, customs enforcement barriers have stranded many of the packages destined for the IDF in Montana and Colorado.
  • the morning after being reached for comment, Hermoni warned the WhatsApp group against cooperating with our inquiries. “Two journalists … are trying to have an anti semi[tic] portrait of our activity to support Israel and reaching out to members,” he wrote. “Please ignore them and do not cooperate.” he advised. Shortly thereafter, we were kicked out of the group
  • Victory on the “media battlefield,” Hoffman concluded, “eases pressure on IDF to go quicker, to wrap up” and “goes a long way to deciding how much time Israel has to complete an operation.”
Ed Webb

Path to Success for One Palestinian Hacker: Publicly Owning Mark Zuckerberg | Threat Le... - 0 views

  • It was August 14, and Shreateh had just reached halfway around the world to pull off a prank that would make him the most famous hacker in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. He’d discovered a Facebook bug that would allow him to post to another user’s wall even if he wasn’t on the user’s friends list. Demonstrating the bug on Zuckerberg was a last resort: He first reported the vulnerability to Facebook’s bug bounty program, which usually pays $500 for discoveries like his. But Facebook dismissed his report out of hand, and to this day refuses to pay the bounty for the security hole, which it has now fixed. Where Facebook failed, though, techies from across the world stepped in to fix, crowdfunding a $13,000 reward for Shreateh. Now that money, and Shreateh’s notoriety, is about to launch the former construction worker into a new life. He’s using the funds to buy a new laptop and launch a cybersecurity service where websites will be able to request “ethical hacking” to identify their vulnerabilities. And he’s started a six-month contract with a nearby university to find bugs as part of their information security unit. He hacks and reports flaws on other universities’ sites in his free time.
  • The West Bank is no easy place to be a hacker, or to do anything in the technology sphere. The occupied region depends on Israel for electricity, water and telecommunications, including the sluggish Internet that crawls into the South Hebron Hills. Shreateh has a well and three water tanks on his roof because Yatta only receives several days of running water every few months. Blackouts are common, and the town often goes without electricity for whole days in the winter. Partly to blame is a complex system established by the Oslo accords that splits the West Bank into three zones under different combinations of Palestinian and Israeli control. “It’s like Swiss cheese,” says George Khadder, a tech entrepreneur who worked in Silicon Valley for 13 years. He sketches how Zones A, B and C weave in, out and around each other, with chunks of Israeli settlement territory in between. “The West Bank is like an archipelago, in terms of contiguity and services. This is absolutely a problem.” This access gap is clear on the drive from Jerusalem to Yatta, which requires passing through a military checkpoint that bars Shreateh from entering Israel. The road to Yatta passes several Israeli settlements, sprawling over hilltops with their separate telecom systems, brightly lit streets and green, well-watered lawns. “The dogs in Israel drink more water than Palestinians,” the taxi driver laughs.
  • Shreateh has his own website and 44,156 followers on Facebook, many of whom spam him with questions about hacking into their boyfriends’ profiles or raising their exam grades online. Shreateh ignores them. “I am an ethical hacker,” he says. “I don’t damage or destroy.” That makes him different from some other Palestinian hackers. The same month as Shreateh’s Facebook prank, hacktivists hijacked Google’s Palestine domain, redirecting it to a page with a Rihanna background song and written message: “uncle google we say hi from palestine to remember you that the country in google map not called israel. its called Palestine” This month, another group called KDMS hacked the websites of security companies AVG and Avira, among other companies, redirecting to a site displaying the Palestinian flag, a graphic of Palestinian land loss, and a similar message: “we want to tell you that there is a land called Palestine on the earth,” it read in part. “this land has been stolen by Zionist.’
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  • As for Israeli hackers, he sees them as inferior, babied by the privilege of living without occupation. “Israeli hackers all come from university classes. They have companies and courses to teach them,” Shreateh scoffs. “Palestinian hackers come from Google search and YouTube videos. We all learned on our own.”
Ed Webb

Our Oligarch - 0 views

  • Abramovich is perhaps the most visible of the “oligarchs” surrounding Putin, who are widely perceived as extensions of the Russian president and keepers of a vast fortune that is effectively under the Kremlin’s control. Much of this wealth was extracted from Russia’s enormous energy and mineral resources, and is now stashed in secret bank accounts in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, in empty mansions and condos from London to Manhattan to Miami, and in yachts and private jets on the French Riviera.
  • as much as 60% of Russia’s GDP is offshore
  • The reserved, gray-bearded Abramovich is notoriously litigious toward critics who seek to detail his close ties to Putin. Last year, he successfully sued the British journalist Catherine Belton, who claimed in her 2020 book Putin’s People that the Russian president dictated Abramovich’s major purchases, including his decision to buy Chelsea. He also extracted an apology from a British newspaper for calling him a “bag carrier” for the Russian president.
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  • Abramovich—who, like many of the most prominent Russian oligarchs, is Jewish—has for years been a prolific donor to Jewish philanthropies. He has given half a billion dollars to Jewish charities over the past two decades, sending money linked to Putin’s kleptocratic regime circulating through Jewish institutions worldwide
  • Among other things, he has profoundly influenced Jewish life on three continents, developing deep financial ties with major communal institutions. He is partly responsible for the preeminent role played by Chabad in the religious life of post-Soviet Russia, for the growth of major Jewish museums from Russia to Israel, for a raft of anti-antisemitism programming involving leading American and British Jewish organizations, and for the expansion of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem
  • the Jewish world is forced to reckon with its long embrace of Abramovich, and with the moral costs of accepting his money
  • Certain Soviet Jews of Abramovich’s generation found themselves at the forefront of an emerging market economy. Concentrated in white collar professions but systematically excluded from desirable posts and from the top ranks of the Communist Party, they were unusually prepared—and, perhaps, motivated—to find legal and semi-legal points of entry into the tightly-regulated commerce between the Soviet Union and the West. This helps explain why, as the historian Yuri Slezkine writes in The Jewish Century, six of the seven top oligarchs of 1990s Russia (Petr Aven, Boris Berezovsky, Mikhail Fridman, Vladimir Gusinsky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and Alexander Smolensky) were ethnic Jews.
  • Boris Yeltsin soon initiated the firesale privatization of state-controlled industries at the urging of Washington and the IMF—a reckless transition from a command economy to a capitalist one that drove millions of Russians into poverty
  • the Yeltsin administration implemented its infamous loans-for-shares program, selling off key state industries in rigged auctions to Russia’s new business elite for a fraction of their real value in order to stabilize the state’s finances in the short term. Berezovsky and Abramovich gained ownership stakes in Sibneft, one of the world’s largest energy companies, and became instant billionaires.
  • In 1996, the handful of leading oligarchs pooled their financial resources—and directed their media companies’ coverage—to reelect the deeply unpopular Yeltsin over his Communist challenger, Gennady Zyuganov, whose platform of re-nationalizing industries terrified both the Russian and Western business classes
  • Fearing that it was unsustainable for a small group of mostly Jewish billionaires to prop up an ailing, visibly alcoholic president—especially after the ruble collapsed in 1998, dragging down a generation’s living standards and initiating a hunt for scapegoats—Berezovsky spearheaded an effort the following year to replace Yeltsin with a young, healthy, disciplined, and then-obscure former KGB officer named Vladimir Putin. It was a decision he would come to regret.
  • wealth so easily acquired could just as easily be taken away. In 2001, Putin hounded Berezovsky and Gusinsky—whose TV networks had criticized the president’s mishandling of a naval disaster—with criminal indictments for tax fraud, forcing them to sell their media and energy holdings at a fraction of their true cost. As a result, Abramovich, who had never challenged Putin, acquired control of Sibneft, while Berezovsky fled to the United Kingdom and Gusinsky departed for Spain and then Israel. Abramovich again came out ahead in 2003, when the oligarch Khodorkovsky was sent to a Siberian prison on tax charges after criticizing Putin for corruption, leaving his assets in the energy sector to be redistributed among those on good terms with the president.
  • “I don’t think there is a percent of independence in Abramovich,” said Roman Borisovich, a Luxembourg-based Russian banker turned anti-corruption activist who once encountered Abramovich through Berezovsky in the 1990s. “For Abramovich to stay alive, he had to turn against his master [Berezovsky], which is what he did, and he has served Putin handsomely ever since.”
  • Whereas in the Yeltsin era, the term identified a system dominated by truly independent tycoons, “Putin’s top priority when he came to power was to break that system, replacing it with a system of concentrated power in which men who are inaccurately referred to as oligarchs now have only as much access to wealth as Putin allows them to have,”
  • Even as he built up his credibility with Putin, he joined many of his fellow oligarchs in stashing his billions in Western financial institutions, which proved eager to assist. “Elites in the post-Soviet space are constantly looking to move their assets and wealth into rule-of-law jurisdictions, which generally means Western countries like the US or UK,”
  • In 2008, Berezovsky sued his former protege over his confiscated Sibneft shares; then, in 2012, seven months after a judge rejected all of his claims, Berezovsky died in his London home in an apparent suicide. Some former associates believe he might have been murdered
  • In 2017, BuzzFeed reported that US spy agencies suspect Russian involvement in as many as 14 mysterious deaths in Britain over the previous decade, including Berezovsky’s. In the wake of the 2018 poisoning of the defected double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, British intelligence services became increasingly wary of wealthy expats with close ties to the Kremlin. Diplomatic strain stymied Abramovich’s effort to acquire a Tier 1 British visa, which would have enabled him to stay in the country for 40 months.
  • “No one forced the British or American real estate industries to toss their doors open to as much illicit wealth as they could find, or the state of Delaware to craft the world’s greatest anonymous shell company services,” said Michel. “Western policymakers crafted all of the policies that these oligarchs are now taking advantage of.”
  • Abramovich also safeguarded a significant part of his fortune in the US, especially during his third marriage to the Russian American socialite and fashion designer Dasha Zhukova. Even after their 2018 divorce, Abramovich began the process of converting three adjacent townhouses on Manhattan’s Upper East Side into what will eventually become the largest home in the city, an “urban castle” valued at $180 million—making him one of the many wealthy Russians sheltering assets in New York’s booming and conveniently opaque real estate sector. (The mansion is intended for Zhukova and their two young children; Abramovich also has five children from his second marriage based primarily in the UK.) He also owns at least two homes in Aspen, Colorado, a gathering place of the global elite.
  • the oligarchs are now credibly threatened with exile from the West. Countries like France and Germany have already begun confiscating yachts owned by select Russian officials. And although the UK is still struggling to come up with a legal basis for following suit, leading politicians like Labour Leader Keir Starmer are urging direct sanctions against Abramovich. “Abramovich’s reputation has finally collapsed, along with the other supposedly apolitical oligarchs,” Michel said four days after Russia invaded Ukraine. “There’s no recovery from this. This is a titanic shift in terms of how these oligarchs can operate.”
  • Israel has been more hesitant to hold him to account.
  • In 2018, Abramovich acquired Israeli citizenship through the law of return, immediately becoming the second-wealthiest Israeli, behind Miriam Adelson. As a new Israeli citizen, he joined several dozen Russian Jewish oligarchs who have sought citizenship or residency in the Jewish state—a group that includes Fridman, Gusinsky, and the late Berezovsky. Since 2015, Abramovich has owned and sometimes lived in the 19th-century Varsano hotel in Tel Aviv’s trendy Neve Tzedek neighborhood, and in 2020 he purchased a mansion in Herzliya for $65 million—the most expensive real estate deal in the country’s history
  • As an Israeli passport holder, Abramovich is eligible to visit the UK for six months at a time and is exempt from paying taxes in Israel on his overseas income for the first decade of his residency
  • Given his increasingly precarious geopolitical position, Jewishness has become Abramovich’s identity of last resort—and Jewish philanthropic giving has provided him with an air of legitimacy not only in Israel but throughout the Jewish world. Abramovich and his fellow oligarchs “need to spend some money to launder their reputations,” said Borisovich, the anti-corruption activist. “They cannot be seen as Putin’s agents of influence; they need to be seen as independent businessmen. So if they can exploit Jewish philanthropy or give money to Oxford or the Tate Gallery, that’s the cost of doing business.”
  • A 2017 article in Politico, which identified Abramovich and Leviev as “Chabad’s biggest patrons worldwide,” also referred to Lazar as “Putin’s rabbi.” Lazar has often run interference for the Russian president—for instance, by defending his initial crackdown on oligarchs like Gusinsky as not motivated by antisemitism, or by praising Russia as safe for Jews under his governance. (The researcher noted that Putin has also cultivated prominent loyalists in other Russian religious communities, including the Orthodox Church and Islam.)
  • Abramovich also significantly funded the construction of the $50 million Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, which opened in 2012 (and to which Putin pledged to donate a month of his presidential salary). In a 2016 article in The Forward, the scholar Olga Gershenson suggested that the museum’s narrative bordered on propaganda, framing Jews as “a model Russian minority” and “glorifying and mourning . . . without raising more controversial and relevant questions that would require the viewer to come to terms with a nation’s difficult past.”
  • “It concentrates on the Soviet victory over the Nazis, and then it ends by saying that Jews in Putin’s Russia are all good and content.”
  • “Say No to Antisemitism” has brought together Chelsea players and management with many top Jewish groups; the currents heads of the ADL, the WJC, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and the Holocaust Educational Trust, among others, are all listed on its steering committee. The campaign is at least in part intended to address the antisemitism of some Chelsea fans, who have been known to shout “Yid!” and hiss in imitation of gas chambers when taunting fans of the rival club Tottenham, which has a historically Jewish fan base that proudly refers to itself as “the Yid Army.” Last November, Israeli President Isaac Herzog described the campaign as “a shining example of how sports can be a force for good and tolerance.”
  • Abramovich is also one of the primary benefactors of a Holocaust museum that opened in Porto last May. As of last year, Abramovich is a newly minted citizen of Portugal (and by extension, the European Union), which offers such recognition to anyone who can prove Sephardic ancestry dating back before the Portuguese expulsion of Jews in 1496.
  • Berel Rosenberg, a representative of the museum, denied that Abramovich had given the Porto Jewish community any money besides a €250 fee for Sephardic certification; regarding reports to the contrary, he alleged that “lies were published by antisemites and corrupt journalists.” However, Porto’s Jewish community does acknowledge that Abramovich has donated money to projects honoring the legacy of Portuguese Sephardic Jews in Hamburg, and he has been identified as an honorary member of Chabad Portugal and B’nai B’rith International Portugal due to his philanthropic activities in the country.
  • Abramovich has made a $30 million donation for a nanotechnology research center at Tel Aviv University; funded a football-focused “leadership training program” for Arab and Jewish children; and supported KKL-JNF’s tree-planting campaign in the southern Negev, which is dedicated to Lithuanian victims of the Holocaust—and which has drawn opposition from local Bedouin communities who view it as a land grab.
  • he has kept his support for Israeli settlements well-hidden
  • Abramovich has used front companies registered in the British Virgin Islands to donate more than $100 million to a right-wing Israeli organization called the Ir David Foundation, commonly known as Elad, which has worked since the 1980s to move Jewish settlers into occupied East Jerusalem. Elad also controls an archeological park and major tourist site called City of David, which it has leveraged in its efforts to “Judaize” the area, including by seizing Palestinian homes in the surrounding neighborhood of Silwan and digging under some to make them uninhabitable.
  • “In order for settlers to take over Palestinian homes, they need a lot of money,” said Hagit Ofran, co-director of the Settlement Watch project at the Israeli organization Peace Now, “both to take advantage of poor Palestinians for the actual purchases, and then for the long and expensive legal struggle that follows, and that can bankrupt Palestinian families. The money is crucial.” Of Abramovich’s support for Elad, she added, “That’s a lot from one source; I assume that if you give such a big donation, you know what it is for.”
  • Just two days before Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, it was reported that Abramovich is donating tens of millions of dollars to Yad Vashem, the global Holocaust remembrance center in Jerusalem
  • Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan joined the heads of multiple Israeli charitable organizations in urging the US not to sanction Abramovich. The letter was also signed by Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau and representatives of Sheba Medical Center, Tel Aviv University, and Elad
  • Oleg Deripaska and Mikhail Fridman, were already calling for peace negotiations just three days after the invasion. (Fridman and Deripaska are also major Jewish philanthropists, as are other Russian oligarchs including Petr Aven, Yuri Milner, and Viktor Vekselberg. All of them now face global scrutiny.)
  • Even before he announced he would be setting up a charity to help victims in Ukraine, members of Abramovich’s family were quick to distance themselves from the war: A contemporary art museum in Moscow co-founded by Abramovich and Zhukova has announced that it will halt all new exhibitions in protest of the war. Abramovich’s 27-year-old daughter Sofia, who lives in London, posted a message on her popular Instagram account that read, “The biggest and most successful lie of the Kremlin’s propaganda is that most Russians stand with Putin.”
  • Abramovich and others have spent more than two decades loyally serving and profiting off Putin’s corrupt and violent regime—one that has been accused of murdering and jailing journalists and political dissidents and of committing war crimes from Chechnya to Syria. And for much of that time, Jewish institutions worldwide have been more than happy to take money from Abramovich and his peers
  • longstanding philanthropic ties may affect the Jewish communal world’s willingness to hold Russia accountable for its violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty
  • “I think the view of much of Jewish philanthropic leadership, right and left, conservative and liberal, has been the bottom line: If the purposes for which the philanthropy is given are positive, humane, holy, and seen to strengthen both the Jewish community and the whole of society, then to sit and analyze whether the donor was exploitive or not, and whether this was kosher or not, would be hugely diverting, amazingly complicated, and divisive.”
  • Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, acknowledged the difficulty of making ethical calls about donors, but argued that the attempt is still necessary. “In philanthropy, nearly all money is tainted, either because it was acquired by exploiting workers, by harming the environment, by selling harmful products, or by taking advantage of systems that benefit the wealthy to the detriment of others. That said, we can’t throw up our hands and say that we can either take no money or all money; there have to be red lines,” she said.
  • Berman, the scholar of Jewish philanthropy, agrees. “It is tempting to say all money is fungible, so where it came from does not or cannot matter,” she said. “But no matter how much we might want to launder the money, wash it clean of its past and its connections to systems of power, the very act of doing so is an erasure, an act of historical revisionism. Even worse, it can actually participate in bolstering harmful systems of power, often by deterring institutions reliant on that money from holding a person or system to account.”
Ed Webb

The Politics of Image: The Bedouins of South Sinai - 1 views

  • For a foreign power to successfully occupy, control and integrate the Bedouins into the new state-system entailed the disruption all of the above; from the nomadic lifestyle and lack of social stratification, to ourfi laws, loyalty to the tribe, and the notion of collective identity
  • turning Egypt into a modern nation-state. To that end, he had to first re-organize Egyptian society, streamline the economy, train a bureaucracy to effectively run a centralized government, and build a modern military. “His first task was to secure a revenue stream for Egypt. To accomplish this, (he) ‘nationalized’ all the Egyptian soil, thereby officially owning all the production of the land.”13 As a result, all tribal or communal rights to landownership were not legally recognized. With the disenfranchisement of land came the disenfranchisement of image. In order to exert control over Sinai, the government restricted movement, imposed taxes and demanded payment for camping and grazing. It also started to co-opt certain individuals from various tribes, and favor some tribes over others, which in turn disrupted the Bedouin hierarchy based on sex, age and seniority.14
  • Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916. The agreement divided the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire outside the Arabian Peninsula into areas of British and French control or influence. As a roaming people whose livelihood depended on seasonal movement from one pasture to another, cementing the border left them with no choice but to become sedentary. This severance from “fundamental elements in their economic, commercial and social universe,”15 exposed the Bedouin to a whole new level of poverty
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  • the role of “The Sheikh” was invented, as mediator between the government and the inland population. Unlike the wise and elderly tribal sheikhs who were appointed through tribal consensus, these “sheikhs” were co-opted by the government. They did not protect the independence of the tribes, they did not arbitrate disputes, and they had little power in local affairs. Still the power of these sheikhs for hire was “exalted, since it was through them that decrees of government were transmitted to the tribesmen.”17 Although they were viewed as “agents of the occupier,” the Bedouins were left with no choice but to turn to them in issues pertaining to their economic and political lives
  • Prior to 1952, “Egypt had the largest consumer market for hashish in the Middle East. Turkey, Lebanon and Syria were the largest regional producers of the drug.”20 The smuggling route ran through the more accessible desert areas of the Middle East, crossing the TransJordanian Plateau, the Negev, and the North Sinai to Egypt. With the ousting of King Farouk in 1952, Abdel Nasser started to fortify the North of Sinai to prepare for nationalizing the Suez Canal. As a result, the smuggling route had to move to the mountainous and inaccessible South Sinai. Thus, the South Sinai “smuggler” came into being, and made use not only of his unemployment, but his nomadic prowess and knowledge of his cavernous terrain. The logic was, if the state treated them as outsiders, then they might as well exist outside the law. After all, smuggling was more lucrative than any grazing or menial government job could ever be
  • the smuggling business continued even after the Israeli occupation of the Sinai Peninsula in 1967. “Assuming that the Egyptian border guards would be given a cut of the drugs as a bribe, they chose to allow the smugglers to continue operating the drug traffic to Egypt, on the logic that drug use by Egyptian soldiers could only benefit Israel.”21 However, when the Eilat-Sharm road opened in 1972, the Israelis feared that the inexpensive drug might find its way into their own lucrative drug scene, and effectively ended all activity
  • Whereas the Egyptian administration distributed a sadaga, meaning charity, through their hired sheikhs, the Israelis personally distributed basic food staples from the American charitable organization CARE to the heads of every family.25 They also organized visits to villages in Israel, built a total of eleven clinics, offered formal vocational courses in Dahab and Sharm El Sheikh, employed half the Bedouin population in the oil fields, and in military and civilian construction, and at the request of the sheikhs, built them a total of thirteen schools in South Sinai alone. The Bedouins, who had expected to be dealt with impersonally, were quite amused with the new perks. Still, while most embraced change, they never let their guard down. In other words, there were no illusions of loyalty. Israel was still seen as an “occupying power.”
  • the Israelis also created “The Exotic Bedouin.”
  • One way for the Bedouins to mark their territory was to come up with an image that would help define and differentiate them. As a result, the “Muslim Bedouin” was born. The issue of self-definition became an urgent one when relations with outsiders ceased to be conducted through sheikhs and Bedouins came into increasing contact with the West. They felt that all Westerners, whether tourists or soldiers, Israelis or Europeans, Jews or Christians, invaded their privacy and threatened their traditions and customs.28 For example, in keeping with the Sinai image as an exotic, all-natural paradise, the tourists sunbathed in the nude, a practice that Bedouins took great offense to. When they expressed their dismay and requested that the behavior of tourists be regulated, Israeli authorities responded by explaining that they wanted nothing to do with the issue. Seeing that the “Bedouins were not permitted by either Israeli or Egyptian law to impose their own laws on non-Bedouins.. the problem could not be resolved.”29 In response, the Bedouins encouraged an Islamic revival of a very paradoxical nature. They still worked in tourism and came into contact with tourists everyday, but all the money made was “purified” by lavish expenditure on mosques and shrines of Saints and excessive manifestations of religious zeal. “‘We are Muslims,’ (they said) ‘they are the Jews.’”30
  • While the Bedouins were trying to disassociate themselves from the West, Egyptian policy was heading in the other direction. To complicate matters even more, “state-supported Muslim institutions, such as Al-Azhar University, invested this official policy with an Islamic sanction.”31 Result was an institutional type of Islam, one that was mainly constructed to fight the remnants of Nasser’s socialist regime. In this context, it was hard for the Muslim Bedouin to demonstrate loyalty merely by waving the flag of religion. The fact that Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel did not help bridge the gap either. Were the Bedouins to be viewed as fellow Egyptian returning from exile or were they treacherous collaborators?32 More importantly, which of these images was more beneficial to the state?
  • “The Villain” was born; an all-encompassing figure who stood for many ills all at once. He was uncivilized, lawless, treacherous, and dangerous. The most important thing for the state was to cater to the economic interests of Cairo’s elite in the Sinai, from the military and the industrialists, to the members of political parties and ministers. This goal could only be achieved through a label that would blunt Bedouin capacity to organize, gain sympathy, and attract media attention. In 1980, “Law 104, providing for state ownership of desert land and thus making the whole Sinai government property was changed to permit private ownership.”33 The law had some devastating effects on the Bedouins. Their land claims were not legally recognized, and they were subsequently displaced “with no government compensation.”34 In their place, the land was repopulated with peasants to solve the unemployment problem in the urban center. The once virgin coast became littered with grotesque infrastructure that paid no heed to damaging the natural balance of the environment; thousands of them were framed and sent to prison after the terrorist attacks on Sharm El Sheikh and Dahab in 2004 and 2005
  • a 20 million pound wall was built in Sharm El Sheikh to isolate the “dangerous” Bedouin from the tourist “paradise” beyond
  • every Bedouin stereotype out there has been readily absorbed and exploited by the Bedouins themselves
  • All what is left of Bedouin life is its cultural identity, and they hold on to that dearly. “The Bedouin is not Egyptian,” a young man in a white cotton head dress said, “The Sinai is not Egyptian or Israeli. It is Bedouin.” This is all that is left. In the age of state-systems, modernization and globalization, the world is becoming increasingly hegemonic and indigenous cultures are losing the battle. The world might like to think that it is without borders, but say that to a Bedouin and wait for a response.
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    Some flaws here, but worth a read/some thought.
Ed Webb

Mohammad Khatami, a Former President, Criticizes Iran's Government - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • opposition leaders — much like their hard-line foes — are girding supporters for a long-term battle to be waged as much through ideas and quiet social organizing as through the public protests that followed Iran’s disputed presidential election on June 12. Both Mr. Khatami and members of the group he addressed, the Islamic Society of University Professors, expressed deep concerns about threats to academic freedom in the coming school year. On Saturday, after days of calls by conservatives to purge Iran’s universities of professors and curriculums deemed “un-Islamic,” the government announced the start of a high-level investigation on how the humanities are taught.
  • a “soft war” against internal enemies. Anyone in the field of culture must now recognize important distinctions between “friends and enemies,” “attack and defense” and “explanation and propaganda,”
  • He warned that the West, with its sophisticated media outlets, is better equipped for soft war than Iran.
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  • like his conservative counterparts, Mr. Moussavi also spoke of the need to deepen his movement with a “social approach, not only a political approach.” And he suggested that the opposition movement, despite its apparent weakness in the face of arrests, trials and intimidation, had won substantial moral victories.“Despite the regretful, bitter developments of recent days,” Mr. Moussavi wrote, “people now have timeless convictions that are miles more important than the election of one man.”
Ed Webb

Syria Comment » Archives » "Bush White House Wanted to Destroy the Syrian Sta... - 0 views

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anonymous

FreedomHouse Report on Saudi Arabia - 0 views

  • The Basic Law of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not guarantee gender equality.
  • A vigorous progressive movement,
  • Due to an enforced
  • ...25 more annotations...
  • nd women in public, the opportunities for women's employment remain limited
  • n men a
  • separation betwee
  • e that work in these fields will become more widely available to women in the future. Higher education, in fact, is one area in
  • performed men in terms of PhD degrees earned.
  • which women have significantly out-
  • Article 8
  • consultation, and equality in accordance with Shari'a, or Islamic law. However, Shari'a in Saudi Arabia does not offer equality to women, particularly regarding family law. Instead, women are considered legal minors under the control of their mahram (closest male relative) and are subject to legal restrictions on their personal behavior that do not apply to men.
  • In 2004 a royal decree affirmed the principle of equality between men and women in all matters relating to Saudi nationality,[5] but women remain unable
  • to pass their Saudi citizenship automatically to their noncitizen spouses and children.
  • Saudi Arabia ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 2000, with reservations stating that the kingdom is under no obligation to observe terms of the treaty that contradict Islamic law.
  • 8 report was critical of Saudi Arabia's compliance with the convention and called for Saudi Arabia "to enact a gender equality law."
  • committee's 200
  • In 2007 and 2008, renewed pressure mounted to allow women to drive, and an ad hoc Comm
  • ittee for Women's Right to Drive organized a petition addressed to the king.[19] In January 2008, days after Saudi Arabia faced criticism by the CEDAW committee for restricting "virtually every aspect of a woman's life,"[20] the government announced that a royal decree allowing women to drive would be issued "at the end of the year."[21] In March, the Consultative Council recommended that women be allowed to drive during the daylight hours of weekdays if they get permission from their guardians, undergo drivers' education, wear modest dress, and carry a cell phone. To allay concerns about women's safety, the council added the imposition of a sentence and a fine on any male in another car talking to or sexually harassing a female driver.
  • As of October 2009 these goals had not been implemented, but government approval for the idea of women's driving is a milestone for the kingdom.
  • At the end of 2007, the long–standing bans on women checking into hotels alone and renting apartments for themselves were lifted by royal decree, and a women-only hotel opened in 2008 in Riyadh
  • Government efforts to support women's legal right to work are in reality ambiguous, giving comfort to those who believe that women should stay at ho
  • me as well as to those who demand the right to pursue economic independence.
  • t. Statistics on women's economic activity vary somewhat depending on the source. According to the Ministry of Economy and Planning, women constituted only 5.4 percent of the total Saudi workforce in 2005
  • Two such obstacles
  • mixing the sexes in the workplace and the requirement that a woman's guardian give permission for her to work.
  • women have recently been appointed to elite ministry posts, university deanships, and directorships in quasi-governmental civic organizations
  • The opening of a women's department in the law faculty at King Saud University in Riyadh raises the possibility of appointments to judgeships for women in the future
  • The Internet has played a major role in political activism in Saudi Arabia by helping to bring human rights abuses to international attention.
Jim Franklin

Al Jazeera English - Middle East - Mystery over missing Iran scientist - 0 views

  • Washington has denied any involvement
  • Amiri, who is said to be a researcher at Tehran's Malek Ashtar University, disappeared after he went on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in June.
  • His family in Tehran said he was closely questioned by Saudi police at the airport and later called his wife from Medina, in Saudi Arabia, before apparently vanishing.
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  • Iranian officials have not publicly identified him as a nuclear scientist, referring to him only as an Iranian citizen.
  • Iran's foreign minister, on Wednesday accused the US of involvement in Amiri's disappearance.
  • "We have found documents that prove US interference in the disappearance of the Iranian pilgrim Shahram Amiri in Saudi Arabia,"
  • Meir Javedanfar, an Iran analyst based in Tel Aviv, said the most likely scenario was that Amiri had defected.
  • it is possible he is what some people call a 'walk-in'
  • we can't rule out that he perhaps walked in himself with the information in order to give himself up and work with the Americans."
  • Turkish, Arabic and Israeli media suggested he defected to the West, but his family has dismissed that.
  • Javedanfar also said Amiri's disappearance in Saudi Arabia would be of particular concern to Tehran.
  • "They scored a victory in the Lebanese elections where Hezbollah [which is backed by Iran] lost, and now we see the Saudi king in Damascus. The Iranian press see that as an effort by Riyadh to reduce Iran's hand.
  • "If you put all these together, I think the Iranian government is particularly worried that this happened on Saudi soil."
  • Malek Ashtar University, where Amiri reportedly worked, is involved in the implementation of "special national research projects" and has faculties in aerospace, electrical engineering and other topics, according to the university's website.
  • Amiri disappeared more than three months before the disclosure of a second uranium enrichment facility that Iran has been building near the city of Qom.
  • The underground plant was kept secret until Iran disclosed its existence last month.
  • Diplomats say it did so only after learning that Western intelligence agencies had discovered the site.
Ed Webb

Fears over education's gender gap - The National Newspaper - 1 views

  • Emirati boys are posting lower examination scores and dropping out of high school at a much greater rate than Emirati girls, newly released research shows.It also found that among pupils who complete secondary schooling, many fewer boys go on to a university education.
  • although 70 per cent of Emirati girls enrol at university after high school, the figure for boys is only 27 per cent.
  • The drop-out rates are highest in Grade 10, the first non-compulsory year of school, when many boys abandon their education to pursue jobs in the public sector.
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  • “By no means does this study imply that girls have an outstanding quality of education either,” she said. “I would say that neither boys nor girls are receiving the best education that they could in government schools.”
  • Dr Ridge recommended that the Ministry of Education should look at improving the quality of its expatriate teaching force, getting more Emirati men to become teachers, and making schools more attractive to pupils.
  • The Armed Forces and police were a “very attractive” career choice for some because they required minimal education
  • Emiratis make up only one per cent of the UAE’s private sector workforce. The public workforce is 85 per cent Emirati.
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