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November 5, 2010

Why do UNM Zionists want to “protect” Jewish students from a message of equality, justice and peace?

Several developments to report in the over-the-top Zionist campaign to prevent me being heard at the University of New Mexico on Nov 7.

The Zionists of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico (JFNM) and Hillel at the University of New Mexico (UNM) are apparently embarrassed by the exposure of their backdoor campaign to have two academic departments cancel their sponsorship of my upcoming talk at the University of New Mexico on 7 November.<!–more–>

The campaign of vilification and defamation has included a statement by JNMF director Sam Sokolove published in the Albuquerque Journal likening me to the Ku Klux Klan.

In the latest demarche, Sara Koplik, director of UNM Hillel and one the organizers of this defamation campaign has written a letter to “Hillel Students” reproduced below. In her letter, Koplik expresses annoyance that her and Sokolove’s initial letter to department heads vilifying me and calling on the departments not to support my appearance became public, but she goes on to attack me further by claiming that “Ali Abunimah calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.” You would think from her hyperbole that it is me, and not Israel, that possesses hundreds of undeclared nuclear warheads, or that it is me, and not Israel that constantly invades, occupies and threatens its neighbors and holds millions of people under a brutal military occupation without any basic civil or political rights. Nevertheless, Dr. Koplik goes on to claim that it is her “job to help make UNM a place where Jewish students do not feel under siege.” Apparently my presence on campus constitutes such a siege!

Surely Dr. Koplik should be more concerned about hundreds of thousands of children and students in Gaza who are literally under Israeli siege, and urge Hillel Students to help expose, break and end this siege in keeping with the Jewish values of justice that Hillel professes.

Of course I can only guess at Dr. Koplik’s motives in continuing with this campaign of personal vilification and defamation against me, I wonder if her real fear is that students under her tutelage may come to my event, find out that I am a human and not a monster, that what I actually call for is not the “destruction of Israel” but its transformation into a democracy which guarantees strict equal rights for all its citizens including its Palestinian and Israeli Jewish citizens — equality under the law just like we have in the United States. This is the unbearable threat to the Zionist narrative that must be stopped. Here is Koplik’s letter.

Dear Hillel Students,

You may have noticed an article in the Daily Lobo last week or one in the Albuquerque Journal yesterday which talks about Hillel’s opposition to departmental sponsorship of a talk by Ali Abunimah on Sunday.

Ali Abunimah is the founder of the Electronic Intifada and a representative of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.  Along with the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation, I expressed private concerns to Prof. Alex Lubin of American Studies and Prof. Les Field of the Peace Studies Program.

Unfortunately, Prof. Lubin did not respond to us directly, but rather sent out our letter to the BDS list serve, the Stop $30 Billion list serve, and to Ali Abunimah, who printed our letter on his blog.

This turned a private matter into a public one, and now much of Albuquerque knows about this controversy.  Please allow me to explain our perspective.

1. We are not opposed to Ali Abunimah speaking at the University of New Mexico.

2. We are not opposed to any student group sponsoring this talk.

3. We are opposed to departmental sponsorship of this talk, as we believe that Ali Abunimah calls for the destruction of the State of Israel, and thus, it is not appropriate for a department in a public university to condone such language.

As Hillel director, it is my job to ensure that Jewish students have a home on campus – no matter what their political persuasion or feeling about Israel.  All Jews are welcome to every event. However, it is also my job to help make UNM a place where Jewish students do not feel under siege.  This is why I am concerned about Ali Abunimah.  I do not believe that hatred towards the State of Israel, and the policies of boycott, divestment and sanctions will bring about a peaceful future for Israelis and for Palestinians. Next Friday, November 12th, we will have an opportunity to talk about these issues after Shabbat services and dinner.  If you have any concerns, questions, or thoughts on the matter, I hope you can attend.

All the best,

Sara Koplik

In another development, Professor Les Field, Director of the UNM Peace Studies Program, had also written to UNM Hillel Members (letter below) stating, “In light of the unfortunate misunderstandings that have so far characterized the upcoming lecture by Ali Abunimah this coming Sunday, I would like to extend my formal invitation to the members of Hillel.” He adds, “There are also many Jewish people, like myself, in this country and in Europe who are trying to reach out across the sharp differences of opinion about the present and future of Israel-Palestine conflict.  It is crucial to hear a wide variety of ideas at this point.”

I wholly endorse Professor Field’s invitation. Last night at Stanford I stood for two hours and took unmoderated questions from an audience including many strong supporters of Israel. Instead of scaremongering and making outrageous claims about me, why doesn’t Dr. Koplik urge Hillel students to attend my event? I will, as I did at Stanford answer all their questions and concerns, and I am ready to stand for as long as it takes. Here is Professor Field’s letter:

Dear UNM Hillel members:

In light of the unfortunate misunderstandings that have so far characterized the upcoming lecture by Ali Abunimah this coming Sunday, I would like to extend my formal invitation to the members of Hillel.

I hope that you and other members of Hillel will attend the Abumimah event, and hear him out. You would be very welcomed.

Positions similar to his have been enunciated in different ways by a significant number of people in Israel, including academics, activists and politicians. There are also many Jewish people, like myself, in this country and in Europe who are trying to reach out across the sharp differences of opinion about the present and future of Israel-Palestine conflict.  It is crucial to hear a wide variety of ideas at this point.

Thirty years ago Israel’s official position was that a two-state solution was not only impossible but that the Palestinian people did not really exist. Talking to the PLO was seen as an endorsement of terrorism, and those who advocated talks with Yasir Arafat were called anti-Semites. The history of this conflict shows us that dialogue even with those whose ideas we currently find unacceptable is crucial and can eventually prove productive.


Les Field

Les W. Field Professor of Anthropology

Director, UNM Peace Studies Program

Department of Anthropology MSC01-1040

University of New Mexico(Albuquerque, NM 87131

Also, the Albuquerque Journal has published an op-ed  (Palestinian’s Message Not Anti-Semitic or Divisive) responding to the Jewish Federation and Hillel’s defamation campaign, authored by Danya Mustafa, UNM Coalition for Peace and Justice in the Middle East (CPJME) co-President, Margaret Leicester CPJME co-founder, and Rich Forer an Albuquerque community activist. An excerpt:

Federation and Hillel authors write: “Abunimah is a representative of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a global movement intent on destroying Israel and her credibility in the world… according to the Anti-Defamation League, ‘BDS is about the three ‘D’s: Demonization, Delegitimization, and applying a Double Standard.’ This movement is disinterested in peace, the exchange of ideas or legitimate dialogue…. This is all anti-Semitism in its clearest, most noxious form.”

Who is guilty of the three D’s? Not once has Hillel or the Jewish Federation engaged the Coalition for Peace and Justice in the Middle East in public dialogue about this issue. Instead, their supporters write nasty letters to the editor and on Internet blogs attacking campus and community members critical of Israeli policies. They employ character assassination and ad hominem attacks to stifle dialogue and constructive debate.

In contrast, the coalition is bringing Ali Abunimah to our campus in order to unite all sides of the Israel-Palestine issue through dialogue about peaceful resolutions to this ongoing conflict. BDS is not about demonizing, delegitimizing and applying a double standard nor is it a strategy intended to punish the Jewish or Israeli people.

They end with this rallying cry:

The Coalition for Peace and Justice in the Middle East and its many sponsors will unambiguously communicate to every single person in the room that denouncing Israel’s inhumane policies is not a crime, nor is it anti-Semitic. We will take this opportunity to educate and raise awareness on the UNM campus and in the larger Albuquerque community about the Israel-Palestine issue and the BDS campaign. Abunimah personally invites Jewish Federation and Hillel members to attend his talk on Sunday and “to ask me any questions they want.” Join in the dialogue!

See Also:


The real Yitzhak Rabin

Nov 04, 2010 01:14 pm | Alex Kane

Today marks the fifteenth anniversary of when former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing Israeli extremist for Rabin’s signing of the Oslo Accords with Yasir Arafat. With the anniversary comes the obligatory mourning of Rabin as a “man of peace,” as the Israeli leader who, had he survived, might have been the one who brought lasting peace to Israel and Palestine.

While that’s the conventional wisdom of Rabin, it’s based on a total erasure of his sordid role in the Israeli military establishment as well as a fundamental misreading of what the Oslo accords were intended to do. The only way that wisdom holds is if you shut out Palestinian views of Rabin, which is what happens in U.S. media and political discourse.

Former President Bill Clinton’s Op-Ed in today’s New York Times is emblematic of the narrative about Rabin in the United States. Clinton says Rabin had a “vision for freedom, tolerance, cooperation, security and peace”; that had he lived, “I am confident a new era of enduring partnership and economic prosperity would have emerged”; and that the “the cause for which Yitzhak Rabin gave his life” was “building a shared future in which our common humanity is more important than our interesting differences.”

The reality of Rabin is that he was a key player in the expulsion of tens of thousands of Palestinians during the 1947-49 war that led to Israel’s founding, which Palestinians refer to as al-Nakba, or the Catastrophe. During the First Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, Rabin infamously gave orders to “break the bones” of Palestinians participating in the uprising against the then-twenty year old Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. And the Oslo accords were never really about peace; it was a successful attempt to “subcontract” the occupation out to the newly formed Palestinian Authority, as Israeli professor Neve Gordon puts it in his excellent book Israel’s Occupation.

In The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Ilan Pappe writes:

Israel’s ‘peace’ axioms were re-articulated during the days of Yitzhak Rabin, the same Yitzhak Rabin who, as a young officer, had taken an active part in the 1948 cleansing but who had now been elected as prime minister on a platform that promised the resumption of the peace effort. Rabin’s death – he was assassinated by one of his own people on 4 November 1995 came too soon for anyone to assess how much he had really changed from his 1948 days: as recently as 1987, as minister of defence, he had ordered his troops to break the bones of Palestinians who confronted his tanks with stones in the first Intifada; he had deported hundreds of Palestinians as prime minister prior to the Oslo Agreement, and he had pushed for the 1994 Oslo B agreement that effectively caged the Palestinians in the West Bank into several Bantustans.

Ha’aretz columnist Amira Hass gave voice to what Palestinians think of Rabin in this article:

Before the handshake on the White House lawn, before the Nobel Prize and before the murder, when Palestinians were asked about Rabin, this is what they remember: One thinks of his hands, scarred by soldiers’ beatings; another remembers a friend who flitted between life and death in the hospital for 12 days, after he was beaten by soldiers who caught him drawing a slogan on a wall during a curfew. Yet another remembers the Al-Amari refugee camp; during the first intifada, all its young men were hopping on crutches or were in casts because they had thrown stones at soldiers, who in turn chased after them and carried out Rabin’s order.

As for the goals of the Oslo accords, here’s what Gordon writes:

The Oslo process was, to a large extent, the result of Israel’s failure to crush the intifada, and Israel’s major goal in the process was to find a way of managing the Palestinian population while continuing to hold on to their land. As Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, and several others pointed out from the outset, Oslo was not an instrument of decolonization but rather a framework that changed the means of Israel’s control in order to perpetuate the occupation. It constituted a move from direct military rule over the Palestinians in the OT to a more indirect or neocolonial form of domination.

And what has the creation of the Palestinian Authority, perhaps the most lasting legacy of the tenure of Rabin, brought to the Palestinian people? Collaboration with Israel and repression of dissent.

Let’s save the lauding of Rabin as a “man of peace” for someone who is really working towards peace and justice in Israel and Palestine.

This post originally appeared on Alex Kane’s blog. Follow him on Twitter here, and donate here to help send him to Israel/Palestine.

Gilad Atzmon’s Video Address for The One Democratic State Conference

“Building on the Madrid, Boston, and Haifa conferences, a select group of activists from a variety of backgrounds convened last weekend in Dallas, Texas in order to implement an international project – to pass a declaration which professes the need for creating a single democratic state in what is now occupied Palestine….

Speakers included:
Dr.Mazin Qumsiyeh, Palestinian author and expert on Palestinian refugee rights, who spoke to us via video from occupied Palestine.
Lenni Brenner, Jewish anti-Zionist author of Zionism in the Age of the Dictators.
Gilad Atzmon, Israeli-born British jazz musician and anti-Zionist political activist and writer, who spoke to us from Britain.
Paul Hershfield, co-founding member of the Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid, Southern California. Richard Falk, professor of international law at Princeton University.
Virginia Tilley, professor of political science, author of The One-State Solution: A Breakthrough for Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Deadlock, who spoke to us from South Africa.


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