The Columbia administration is totally out of touch with academic principles


If I lived a good bit further east, I’d be here this afternoon:

There have been several days of peaceful pro-Palestinian protests at Columbia University and Barnard College, which is not surprising. That’s what students should do; if other students want to rally for Israel, that’s fine, too. Unfortunately, the administration does not understand free speech at all, adopting the right-wing definition that says you are only allowed to freely agree with them.

They turned the police loose on the students. Protest leaders were summarily dismissed from the university, and evicted from housing, given minutes to clear out and get out.

They attempted to shut down the campus radio station. They prohibited students from putting posters on their dorm room doors. They colluded with conservatives to silence any protests.

The students sat on the ground and sang as police in riot gear approached them. Eventually, more than 100 of them would be arrested; their tents, protest signs and Palestinian flags were gathered into trash bags by the police and thrown away. One video showed officers and university maintenance workers destroying food that had been donated to the encampment, making sure it would be inedible. According to student journalists reporting from WKCR, Columbia University’s student radio station, one arrested student protester asked the police to be allowed to go to their dorm to collect medication and was denied; as a result, they went into shock. The arrested students were charged with “trespassing” on the campus that they are charged more than $60,000 a year to attend.

The day before her administration asked the New York police department to storm their campus and arrest their students, Minouche Shafik, the Columbia University president, testified before Congress, saying that she wanted her university to be a safe and welcoming environment for everyone. But Shafik, who was called to testify after missing a hearing last year where the presidents of Penn and Harvard were each grilled on their insufficient hostility to pro-Palestinian students, appeared eager to please the Republican-controlled committee. The Penn and Harvard presidents who had testified each lost their jobs soon thereafter; Shafik clearly entered the hearing room determined to keep her own.

A “safe and welcoming environment,” hah. Shafik and others made a knee-jerk over-reaction to the existence of opinions that their moneyed conservative interests disliked, and suddenly they’re the Gestapo. Students have since occupied one of the lawns at the university with tents and banners flying, and you can guess how the administration is reacting.

In yet another sign of the ongoing division between students and faculty on one side, and administrators on the other, the Barnard and Columbia faculty members of the American Association of University Professors have loudly deplored the actions of the administration.

Joint Statement by the American Association of University Professors,

Barnard and Columbia Chapters

April 19, 2024

The American Association of University Professors has defined two central pillars of higher education in America: academic freedom and shared governance: the freedom to teach and do research without interference from entities external to the profession; and the “inescapable interdependence among governing board, administration, faculty, students.” In the last three days, Columbia University President Shafik and her administration have seriously violated both. We are shocked at her failure to mount any defense of the free inquiry central to the educational mission of a university in a democratic society and at her willingness to appease legislators seeking to interfere in university affairs. She has demonstrated flagrant disregard of shared governance in her acceptance of partisan charges that anti-war demonstrators are violent and antisemitic and in her unilateral and wildly disproportionate punishment of peacefully protesting students.

President Shafik’s testimony before the House Education and Workforce Committee on April 17 has profoundly disturbed us. In the face of slanderous assaults on Columbia faculty and students and of gross interference in academic practices by Congressional inquisitors, President Shafik not only did not object—she capitulated to their demands. Academic freedom was formulated from its very beginning to safeguard faculty from political or other non-academic sources of intrusion. President Shafik, the co-chairs of the Board of Trustees, and the former Dean of the Law School allowed this freedom for Columbia faculty to be publicly shredded. They effectively pledged, on the Congressional record, to end academic freedom at Columbia.

President Shafik’s decision on April 18 to call upon the New York Police Department to arrest over one hundred students for engaging in a peaceful protest is a grotesque violation of norms of shared governance. Section 444 of University Statutes, put in place after the police attacks of 1968, requires “consultation” with the University Senate executive committee before anything so drastic as yesterday’s attack would be permitted. President Shafik’s administration did not consult; they informed the committee of its decision. “The Executive Committee did not approve the presence of NYPD on campus,” said the Executive Committee Chair, adding that the Committee came to their decision “unequivocally.” President Shafik’s decision to invite the NYPD to campus was thus undertaken unilaterally, disregarding the very idea of shared governance.

In Wednesday’s hearing, President Shafik repeatedly claimed that she was inaugurating a new era at Columbia. Her actions thus far suggest that this era will be one of repressed speech, political restrictions on academic inquiry, and punitive discipline against the University’s own students and faculty. As the protesters’ chant rightly states, “Protest is democracy; this is a travesty!” AAUP Barnard and Columbia pledge continued support for our students’ right to protest and to speak freely, and for our colleagues’ right to teach and to write freely within their domains of expertise. We have lost confidence in our president and administration, and we pledge to fight to reclaim our university.

The administration is selling out the university and betraying faculty and students.

“It’s the most appalling thing I’ve ever seen,” said Nadia Abu El-Haj, an anthropology professor who was on the school’s lawn when the police entered. “The students were extraordinary. Chanting. Crying. It felt like a total violation of everything an academic institution is supposed to be.” She said the arrests were political theater aimed at appeasing Congress without concern that students were collateral damage.

“Palestine was always going to be the issue that broke this university,” said Ry Spada, 24, a history major who is Jewish and was part of the pro-Palestinian protest Thursday night, identifying as non-Zionist. “This year and this topic.”

James Applegate, an astronomy professor who is part of the executive committee of the Columbia University Senate, said he is more concerned about what happened on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, the ongoing loss of academic freedom and the culture on campus than he is about police making peaceful arrests of student protesters.

I don’t even understand that last comment. Students are being arrested, dismissed, and evicted — it’s important to stand on principle, but these are young people who are being actively harmed. I stand with the students and a liberated Palestine. This isn’t stopping, and shame on any college professor who supports the tyranny of Columbia University and Barnard College.

Comments

  1. raven says

    Protest leaders were summarily dismissed from the university, and evicted from housing, given minutes to clear out and get out.

    What is lacking here is due process.

    Normally, in most places most of the time, you are charged with an offense and given the opportunity for a hearing in front of the relevant committee or department.

    Summarily dismissal is arbitrary and dictatorial.

    Since Columbia is private, this might be legal.
    OTOH, the students are paying for their education at Columbia. That means they have a contract, implied or formal of some sort.

  2. kome says

    The professors who support Columbia’s and Barnard’s actions have no shame. The shame is on the more populous subgroup of professors who are not going to get involved, who will continue to sit on the sidelines – maybe they’ll tut-tut quietly and behind closed doors, but that’s the extent to which they’ll acknowledge what’s going on. The real shame is reserved for the hundreds of faculty who are not there to be scientists, historians, philosophers, art scholars, or engineers, but career-oriented institutionalists whose existence enables the university administration to do whatever the hell they want to students.

  3. Matt G says

    I’m sure our “free speech absolutist” friends will be along any minute now to decry this censorious behavior by Columbia. Any minute now….

  4. Doc Bill says

    Welcome to Vietnam.

    Kent State massacre, 4 dead, 9 wounded. May, 1970

    A year later, antiwar protests organized across the nation. Thousands arrested.

    Does Columbia even have a History Department?

  5. asclepias says

    Doc Bill @ 4–Kent State was the first thing that leapt to mind for me, as well. What happened in October was horrible, but the response has been overkill. I see some parallels here.

  6. Erp says

    It does have have a history department including specialists in modern Middle East such as Rashid Khalidi. Also specialists in Modern American History such as Mark Carnes (currently teaching US History 1940-1975.
    Edward Said was professor of literature at Columbia until his death in 2003.

  7. says

    Kent State proved that university administrators were wealthy, out of touch, ivory tower aholes. What we are seeing today is not as bloody (yet) but reinforces their disconnect from real-world student academia and resultant activism. See also: USC cowardly, deceitful cancellation of the pro-palestinian valedictorian. They are hiding their bigotry behind the lie ‘we are concerned about protest we can’t (don’t want to bother to) control’. Ilhan Omar criticised columbia univ. and they immediately arrested and suspended her daughter.
    Univ. admin. bs is an epidemic. Yes, I feel strongly about this, I was in the middle of it.

    And, in texass:
    https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2024/4/20/2236147/-Layoffs-and-upheaval-at-Texas-universities-spur-fear-as-lawmakers-continue-DEI-crackdown?pm_campaign=front_page&pm_source=top_news_slot_7&pm_medium=web
    As administrators scramble to comply with new limits on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, students and faculty worry more tumult is coming.
    In his first public comments since the University of Texas at Austin laid off around 50 employees that used to work in diversity, equity and inclusion programs, President Jay Hartzell tried to explain the fragility of the moment.
    Like universities across the state, UT-Austin has scrambled to comply with Senate Bill 17, the new state law banning DEI offices, programs, and training at public universities. After closing a multicultural center and ending a scholarship for undocumented students, Hartzell believed the flagship university was in compliance when the ban went into effect in January.
    But Hartzell now felt the initial changes would not be enough to placate Republican legislators, who have put higher education under a microscope, he said on a Zoom call with faculty on Monday.

  8. robro says

    History repeats itself? In 1968 there were a series of protests over the Vietnam War and segregation at Columbia University. Those demonstrations were the environment for the1970 film, Getting Straight with Eliot Gould playing a Vietnam War vet returning to grad school. As I recall there is footage in the film of the actual demonstrations and I seem to recall one scene with a Vietnam Veteran Against the War recruiter who may have been the actual John Kerry.

    Per Wikipedia: “The Columbia protests erupted over the spring of that year after students discovered links between the university and the institutional apparatus supporting the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War, as well as their concern over an allegedly segregated gymnasium to be constructed in the nearby Morningside Park. The protests resulted in the student occupation of many university buildings and the eventual violent removal of protesters by the New York City Police Department.”

  9. michaelvieths says

    Is there really such a thing as a peaceful arrest? How peaceful can it be when it’s under threat of violence?

  10. jacksprocket says

    Reminds me of Adrian Mitchell’s poem, back from the sixties:

    Already our government has enforced the four freedoms:
    Freedom to speak if you have nothing to say.
    Freedom from fear if you stay in your shelter.
    Freedom from want if you do what we want
    And freedom from freedom.

  11. Doc Bill says

    @14 mv

    In Houston it’s resisting arrest, getting shot or both.

    Back a few years in 2011 a bunch of students at UC Davis protested major hikes in tuition to cover a reduction in funding by California. It was during the Occupy X movement, and this was Occupy UC Davis. A few tents were pitched in the quad. Chancellor Linda Katehi ordered the tents removed for “safety concerns.” Spoiler alert: she lied. Police goons in full riot gear were unleashed, students were beaten, dragged and pepper sprayed with an infamous photo of a Jackbooted Cop blasting students sitting on a sidewalk with a firehose of orange pepper spray. (Google “pepper spray cop” images)

    What I have found disturbing about recent events at Colombia is that suspended students were given 15 minutes to clear their stuff out of their dorm rooms, then locked out of the University. What are the chances they get a tuition and housing rebate? I think we know the answer.

  12. Alan G. Humphrey says

    michaelvieths @ 14
    Yes, there is such a thing as a peaceful arrest. Examples of which are when Donald John “Don Snoreleone” Trump surrendered himself for each of his four felony indictments along with all of his codefendants’ similar arrests. But, the inherent threat of violence when the police show up in riot gear, then the actual violence displayed in the destruction of private property by the police, absolutely make the Columbia arrests violent. The many tiered U.S. justice system at work.

  13. says

    @12 Giliell wrote: In Germany, Jewish scholars like Nancy Fraser are currently uninvited and banned from being guest lecturers in German universities by the descendants of the Nazi regime

    I reply: sadly the flip side of that coin in Germany and elsewhere is:
    http://www.nytimesDcom › 2023 › 11 › 10 › world › europe › germany-pro-palestinian-protests.html
    Germany Restricts Pro-Palestinian Protests Amid Israel-Hamas War – The …
    Nov 10, 2023Germany’s Stifling of Pro-Palestinian Voices Pits Historical Guilt Against Free Speech. … In France, a court dismissed a blanket ban on pro-Palestinian demonstrations, but they can still be …

    And, of course I needn’t repeat all the above about how this country is an academic disaster, too. Welcome to the failed experiment that is human society. Most of it has been festering in violence and hatred for centuries.

  14. Artor says

    I feel like being opposed to ongoing genocide is a pretty minimal ask in a supposedly civilized nation. How hard can it be to say that killing thousands of innocent women and children is wrong, no matter who is doing the killing? It boggles my mind that anyone but the basest Nazi-adjacent pond scum would object to that concept, and yet…

  15. says

    How times have changed. Decades ago the uni I worked at decide to introduce parking fees. This lead to boycotts and protests by students and staff culminating in a student occupation of the Vice-Chancellors office which lasted three months. University security were called to remove them but there is a time worn tradition in the union movement not to cross a picket line. Security being good union members declined to remove the students. Next the police were called so students then blocked the roads preventing the police from accessing the building with their vehicles. Confronted by a throng of protesting students the police withdrew. The administration eventually won by suspending and prosecuting students. The students then resorted to supplying fake copies of parking stickers but that too was prosecuted. Finally the admin introduced ticket machines. These of course were subject to periodic late night sabotage so they wouldn’t accept cash or issue tickets. The administration didn’t care they just fined people who couldn’t pay because the machines were broken. Bastardy it seems always wins.

  16. Matt G says

    Artor@19- This is the timeline in which genocide is a controversial topic in America, apparently.

  17. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 22

    Just the genocides that our government—cough cough regardless of which party that’s been in power cough—are funding and supporting.

  18. jrkrideau says

    James Applegate, an astronomy professor who is part of the executive committee of the Columbia University Senate, said he is more concerned about what happened on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, the ongoing loss of academic freedom and the culture on campus than he is about police making peaceful arrests of student protesters.

    This seem clear enough to me. The actions he is talking about are real threats to freedom. Those actions seem to have motivated the President to go nuts in repressing dissent.

    A few students being peacefully arrested is nothing really.
    The arrested students will likely be held for a few hours and told to not do anything again. Their civil rights have likely been violated but it’s not going to do any real harm.

    Of course I don’t live in the USA but in Canada it would be no big deal.

    The frightening thing is that the President of one of the most prestigious universities in the USA can be intimidated into taking the actions that she has.

  19. Erp says

    I feel like being opposed to ongoing genocide is a pretty minimal ask in a supposedly civilized nation. How hard can it be to say that killing thousands of innocent women and children is wrong, no matter who is doing the killing? It boggles my mind that anyone but the basest Nazi-adjacent pond scum would object to that concept, and yet…

    Because that isn’t the narrative many people are reading/hearing. The Palestinians make useful scapegoats.
    Note there is likely some guilt on Germany’s part for their actions in the 1930s and 1940s. They do not want to be guilty of antisemitism again. Add in that almost any criticism of Israel’s actions towards the Palestinians is often equated with antisemitism and Germany is very quiet. Also add in that much criticism will be vocally supported by real antisemites who will look for anything to blame on “the Jews” (ignoring that quite a few Jews are criticizing the Israeli government). Germany likely won’t criticize Israeli policy unless some combo of the US, UK, or France does so first.

  20. ardipithecus says

    @25 jrkrideau

    “The frightening thing is that the President of one of the most prestigious universities in the USA can be intimidated into taking the actions that she has.”

    More likely this is the action she wanted to take in the first place but lacked the guts until congress gave her the go ahead.

  21. Hex says

    Speaking of Kent State (one of my alma maters), Kyle Rittenhouse was invited to speak there last week by Turning Point USA. A dude most famous for murdering protesters, was allowed to speak at a university most famous for having protesters murdered. University administrators are some of the biggest, most mealymouthed pieces of shit on the planet. Anyone of them that refuses to stand up against fascism and genocide can go fuck themselves.

  22. rietpluim says

    Israel is the greatest evil alive today but their supporters are pretty nasty too. Shame on the Columbia administration.

  23. numerobis says

    rietpluim: Israel is in tough competition with a bunch of other nations for the top evil spot.

    What I find “interesting” is the number of people who support Russia and oppose Israel, or vice versa. They’re both involved in genocide by their neighbor but exactly one is good and exactly one is bad, they just debate which is which.

  24. awomanofnoimportance says

    I have the same opinion of what is going on in Gaza as everyone else here — it’s ethnic cleansing and it needs to stop. It’s not even accomplishing the goal of eradicating Hamas since Hamas’s leadership is mostly holed up in Qatar.

    That said, following October 7, I don’t know that Israel has any really good options. So long as Hamas exists, terrorist attacks will continue. Hamas has made it clear that it will not be satisfied with anything less than the total destruction of Israel. Destroying Gaza isn’t the solution, but is there any really good solution at all?

  25. raven says

    That said, following October 7, I don’t know that Israel has any really good options.

    The October 7, 2023 Hamas attack was mostly a massive Israel failure. Huge incompetence.
    The Israeli government and the IDF had multiple warnings of the attack for months before up until the day that it happened.
    They even had a copy of the written plan of the Hamas attack.
    They ignored them all.

    Haaretz November 20, 2023

    The Women Soldiers Who Warned of a Pending Hamas Attack – and Were Ignored

    Over the past year, the Israel Defense Forces’ spotters situated on the Gaza border, all women, warned that something unusual was happening. Those who survived the October 7 massacre are convinced that if it had been men sounding the alarm, things would look different today

    Haaretz is an Israeli newspaper.

    The IDF response to the breakout and attack was late and uncoordinated. That is why the death toll was so high.
    They didn’t have enough IDF forces in the area or any sort of plan for what to do if there was a breakout.
    Probably some of the Israeli dead were killed by the first responders who were just Israelis with rifles.

    Gaza is the world’s largest open air prison and Hamas is the prison gang who ended up on top.
    One thing the Israeli’s could do if they are going to run a prison is guard it better.
    It is going to take a lot of resources to guard a prison that large but it has to be done.

    The other thing that Israel could do is turn Gaza into something a lot less like a prison.

  26. awomanofnoimportance says

    Raven, I don’t disagree with you and the Israelis have now fired their intelligence chief. That said, October 7 did in fact happen, and I don’t see that Israel can simply not respond. If you were the prime minister of Israel, how would you have responded?

  27. robro says

    awomanofnoimportance @ #32 — “…is there any really good solution at all?” I certainly don’t know the answer to that, but I think it starts with peace, recognizing the humanity of all people regardless of their ethnic identity, and all people recognizing that this “them vs us” dynamic is how the powers that be control and manipulate us.

  28. raven says

    If you were the prime minister of Israel, how would you have responded?

    That is too hypothetical.

    If I was prime minister of Israel, I wouldn’t have ignored multiple warnings of a prison outbreak, which can be expected periodically.
    The Intelligence chief resigning is just a fall guy. All levels of the Israeli government and the IDF all dropped the ball and ignored what was going to happen.

    .1. Israel may have had to respond but they didn’t have to just randomly kill 34,000 Gaza civilians, most of whom are women and children.
    The is just revenge killing and they are now ahead by 28 to 1 in revenge killings.
    They also leveled the place by dropping thousands of large bombs everywhere.

    They haven’t even killed all that many Hamas fighters.
    They look like everyone else and hide and run a lot, that guerrilla war tactic.

    A more measured and targeted response would have worked better.
    Israel had the sympathy of the world on October 7th and threw it away.

    .2. None of this gets at the root cause, which is ethnic cleaning by Israel that started in 1948 with the establishment of Israel.
    Most of the population of Gaza are refugees from that era or their descendants.

    If no one in the world has any good ideas, I’m not going to do any better than them.

  29. numerobis says

    rietpluim: fuck you too, it’s a beautiful day! I take it this is how you greet people where you’re from?

    I personally rather dislike genocide and would prefer it never happened, no matter who the targets are. Sadly there’s a number of countries engaging in them right now; Israel being one, Russia another, Sudan’s civil war has one group really excited to get back to murdering Darfur (same group that previously was doing that), Myanmar is a bit distracted from the genocide it had been doing because it sparked a civil war that the government seems to be losing. Oh yeah, China and the Uyghurs, though they’re more into torture and brainwashing than straight-up murder. I’m certain I’m missing many more cases.

    What’s singular about Israel isn’t the evil, which is sadly pretty common, rather it’s the Western support for it.

  30. numerobis says

    raven:

    randomly kill 34,000 Gaza civilians

    I’m pretty sure that’s a steep undercount, too. There’s way too much chaos and destruction for them to be able to find every corpse. Particularly in the North of Gaza they haven’t had access in a couple months.

  31. says

    awomanofnoimportance: If I was in charge of Israel, then: a) I would not have done anything to fund, prop up or “legitimize” Hamas in the first place, as the Likudniks have been doing, and openly admitting, for years now; and b) I would have listened to all the multiple warnings I’d have been hearing from Egyptian, US and IDF sources, and actually prepared for the upcoming attack.

  32. says

    Numerobis #30

    It’s the result of people opposing tribes and not actions. Mass-murder isn’t bad, the wrong people doing it is. So all the tankies , purity-leftists and closet-MAGAs shed ample crocodile tears over the plight of the Palestenians while high-fiving each other over every atrocity commited by the putin, because he’s “sticking it to the West”. In truth they couldn’t care less about either, they Palestinians just are the footstool du jour to climb on and sagely preach from above to all the “centrist” peons and their “conventional morality”.

    If Israel was a Russia/China-aligned country, you’d find them make the same gormless arguments about the Palestinians as they’re now making about he Ukrainians, dig up any past misdeed by the PLO or Hamas and make excuses for anything done by the likes of Begin or Sharon.

    Eff them.

  33. awomanofnoimportance says

    Raging Bee, I agree that would have been an excellent thing to do to prevent it from happening. But it did happen, and my question is what should then have been done.

    Suppose it’s October 8, you’re Israel, and the attack just happened. What do you think should have been the proper response at that point?

  34. says

    @41: Go after Hamas leaders when/where we know they’re at, NOT indiscriminately bombing already-immiserated populations. Use special-ops teams and “precision(ish)” drone strikes instead of carpet-bombing and punitive pogroms carelessly dressed up as “self-defense.”

  35. Hex says

    Gotta love these questions that are like “but imagine you’re the leader of a country that’s been engaging in ethnic cleansing since its foundation, you’d have no other choice!”

    I’ll entertain you and say that if I ever somehow magically found myself in such a position, and I indeed was “myself” and not a completely different person with completely different values (because I have no idea how any one without such could just “happen” to find themselves in such a position), I’d put a bullet in my own goddamn head before signing off on genocide

  36. Hex says

    Like, do you all here even understand why Hamas is even a thing? I swear so many posts read like people have an understanding of the conflict as “oh these are just two completely equal independent countries and they hate each other solely based on religion”. What happened on October 7 is a loooot closer to the Nat Turner rebellion than a country invading another for imperialist reasons. It just goes to show how many of you are perfectly fine with state-sanctioned violence, apartheid, economic sanctions, forced poverty and displacement of millions but heaven forbid anyone use physical violence in response! Speaking as someone who is trans in a country that is currently trying to conduct its own genocide against us, some of you just don’t fucking get it, and it doesn’t fill me with much hope that myself and my own family and community will survive if this is how so many people (especially those in power) react to the most obvious, publicized fucking genocide in recent memory, coming in after 70 years of ongoing ethic cleansing that most people straight up ignored until this made it impossible for them to.

  37. awomanofnoimportance says

    Ethnic cleansing since its foundation my ass. In 1948 Palestine was partitioned so that both groups would their own land. The Palestinians immediately went to war because it was unacceptable to them to have any Jewish state. If anything, it was the Palestinians who wanted to ethnically cleanse the area of Jews. Many Palestinians still do want to ethnically cleanse the area of all Jews; any Jews living there at all is unacceptable to them. Hamas flat out says so.

    Israel has shown itself far more willing to live with Arabs than Arabs have with Jews. And after four wars in 30 years, and seventy years of terrorist attacks, if you were Israel you might just decide your security trumps world opinion too.

    None of which justifies what is happening in Gaza, though I’m sure some here will accuse me of being an apologist for it. But the Arabs could have had their own prosperous state by now if they had focused their energy on building their own state rather than trying to drive Israel into the sea. Maybe someday their will care more about their own prosperity than they do about trying to destroy Israel.

  38. awomanofnoimportance says

    In the meantime, I agree that the US needs to stop supporting what Israel is doing in Gaza and should condition any further aid on stopping the genocide.

  39. numerobis says

    Ethnic cleansing since its foundation my ass. In 1948 Palestine was partitioned so that both groups would their own land…

    Normally “my ass” gets followed up by a refutation, not a confirmation of the claim.

    Israel was founded in 1949, a year after the ethnic cleansing plan that one side rejected because they didn’t want to be ethnically cleansed.

  40. Hex says

    “Ethnic cleansing since its foundation my ass.”
    “In 1948 Palestine was partitioned…”
    lmao, just lmao. Followed by racist drivel against Palestinians, outlandish claims equating ethnicities to the states they are (usually forced) to live under, no consideration of power imbalances, no consideration of how imperialism from other states helped create and shape the conflict… just simplistic “Palestineans bad, all their fault!” Way to prove my point.

  41. numerobis says

    Fixing @48 (and @47), the proper dates are 1947 for the partition plan and 1948 for the founding of the state of Israel. Odd that we got the post numbers right but the dates wrong ;)

  42. awomanofnoimportance says

    If you think “Palestinians bad, all their fault” is an accurate statement of my position then your reading comprehension is even worse than I had already believed. And tossing off a claim of racism after I’ve carefully gone out of my way to say that what Israel is doing is unacceptable, well, we have a name for that logical fallacy.

    And you’d have oh-so-much more in the way of credibility if you would acknowledge that Hamas bears responsibility for launching the terrorist attacks on October 7. None of anything that’s happened since then would have happened without those attacks. If memory serves, in his very first posting on the subject PZ led off by condemning the terrorist attacks by Hamas; he at least is an honest broker, unlike some commenters here.

  43. Hex says

    For starters, “But the Arabs could have had their own prosperous state by now if they had focused their energy on building their own state rather than trying to drive Israel into the sea.” is a really fucking racist thing to say for the same reasons that racists say shit “Black people could have prosperous communities if only they…”
    As is “Israel has shown itself far more willing to live with Arabs than Arabs have with Jews” (astonishingly racist against Arabs and also displaying absolute ignorance of the history of the region).

    And what the fuck does acknowledging Hamas is responsible for the attacks on Oct 7 have to do with anything? Sure, I’ll acknowledge they did. I also acknowledge that Nat Turner’s rebellion killed white people indiscriminately. I also acknowledge the abhorrent ongoing conditions caused by racist and imperialist oppression that directly led to those rebellions. You say that nothing since then would have happened without those attacks, but conveniently stop there without acknowledging that those attacks wouldn’t have happened without 70 fucking years of ethnic cleansing.

    Why the fuck is this discussion even happening here? If you said the same things about Black people that you’ve said about Arab people I imagine you’d have been banned already. Yet here and all over on other sites apparently this shit is still largely considered “acceptable debate” (I want to be clear am not singling out PZ here or saying he doesn’t have other stuff he’s doing to moderate comments—these comments are fairly new but there are other blogs here that have let this shit and even worse slide in the comments as well and this is a huge double-standard I’ve seen internet-wide).

    Let me spell things out: To place blanket attributes on people based on ethnicity and equate them with particular governments is fucking racist, full stop (this goes both ways too—Jewish people for example are constantly equated with the Israel government and if they protest they are labeled antisemetic because they are against genocide and ethnostate apartheids [this is something I rarely see mentioned in news articles about the student protests, that a big chunk of students protesting the Palestinean genocide ARE Jewish. Every rally I’ve been to, there have been sizable Jewish groups and organizers protesting alongside]). Demanding people denounce Hamas before they are “allowed” to be taken seriously on if Palestineans should be subjected to collective punishment and genocide is fucked up and racist. Saying claims of racism is unfounded because you agree that Israel is committing a genocide… well that one’s not so much racist as it is a fucking awful defense.

    I’m out of wind at this point. Am just so fucking sick of seeing this shit slide, and I refuse to be polite about it.

  44. says

    @51
    Picking on the creative summary at the end of 49 and ignoring the point previous (such as nothing about power imbalances) isn’t honest. Their whole comment was the accurate statement. Fleshed out at 52. Your willingness to include the whole of Palestinians in things they aren’t responsible for is grotesque.

  45. says

    Nothing a single terrorist organization does matters to the in-progress genocide. Even If Isreal stopped now I wouldn’t say the attempt wasn’t being made.

    This will stain Isreal’s reputation deservedly. I’ll continue to treat individuals as individuals but the holocaust is where I learned that genocide is a process.

  46. awomanofnoimportance says

    First of all, my reference to the Palestinians was not a reference to the Palestinian people, but to official Palestinian government policy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Europeans refer to “the Americans” over the years when what they really mean is American foreign policy, and its the same manner of speech. But I guess if you’re determined to see racism whenever someone disagrees with you, that’s what you’ll find. So, going forward, if I say “the Palestinians” I’m referring to the policy of their government and not individual Palestinians themselves.

    Second, criticism, even harsh criticism, does not equal racism; if it did, your criticism of Israel could equally as well be dismissed as anti-Semitism (which, for reasons you explain in your second last paragraph, it is not) Rather than actually engage my arguments, it’s simply an intellectually lazy way for you to win the argument by emotional appeal. Even if I actually were racist, that doesn’t say whether a particular argument is a valid argument, so it’s a form of ad hominem.

    Third, there is plenty of land in the Middle East for both Jew and Arab, and the idea that having a state for one is ethnic cleansing of the other is pure nonsense. Do some Arabs feel ethnically cleansed by the mere presence of Israel? Possibly. But historically, whenever there has been a wave of immigration anywhere, the natives have almost always made the claim that they were being replaced. Go back and read what the WASP press in the United States said about Irish immigration in the 1800s — they’re going to take over, they’re going to destroy our culture, they’re going to replace us. Same with Chinese immigration. Same with the current wave of immigration along our southern border. It’s the same crap. And I’m frankly appalled that progressives aren’t calling out Hamas for its own racism in refusing to live in peace with their Israeli neighbors.

    And as far as it being “their” fault, money that the West sends to Gaza for humanitarian purposes — education, medical care, food — inevitably ends up being spent on weapons to try to destroy Israel. We’ve seen that time and time again. We send money to rebuild their economy, they spend it on weapons. We send money for education, they use it to build tunnels from which to launch terror attacks. I suspect the average Palestinian would be willing to live in peace with Israel, but their leadership is bent on war. If instead of launch four ruinous and unsuccessful wars between 1948 and 1973 they had made peace, the Palestinians would be a whole lot better off than they are now, and probably not so much under an Israeli boot. But, if you are the prime minister of Israel, and all you get from Gaza is terror and attacks, well, what would you do instead?

    And of course there is blame on the Israeli side too; I don’t in fact believe that it’s all the Palestinians’ fault. I do think that I am not their enemy for telling the truth. And their Western enablers really need to push them to agree to a peaceful solution. Peace takes two.

  47. numerobis says

    awomanofnoimportance: hey, move out of your home. I’ve got a partition plan here and we completely non-racistly need your ethnicity to be elsewhere.

  48. says

    …if you were Israel you might just decide your security trumps world opinion too.

    The Beginyahu/Likud regime aren’t doing any of this for Israel’s security, they’re doing this for THEIR OWN political security — which includes propping up Hamas in order to de-legitimize more moderate Palestinian leaders and give themselves the enemy they need to justify ongoing genocide against Palestinians.

    None of which justifies what is happening in Gaza…

    Then why did you mention it?

    Israel has shown itself far more willing to live with Arabs than Arabs have with Jews.

    That’s not really saying much.

  49. says

    Also, let’s dispense with this “if you were Israel” crap. I’m not Israeli, I’m American, and MY number-one priority is AMERICA’s role and interests in this bloody hot mess. And you know something? America’s involvement in this hot mess — in particular, America’s unquestioning support of Israel no matter what they do — is doing America more harm than good. And I think the best thing America can do for itself is simply to stop taking any side in this deranged ongoing unwinnable war, and stop supporting Israel with anything other than normal diplomatic and trade relations. No more military assistance, no more vetoing bland no-brainer resolutions calling for cease-fire or less nasty treatment of Palestinians, and SURE AS HELL no helping Israel to attack Iran or otherwise widen an already costly and divisive war.

  50. raven says

    Israel has shown itself far more willing to live with Arabs than Arabs have with Jews.

    That is historically not even remotely true.

    Almost half of all Jews in Israel are Jews from Arab countries, called Mizrahi
    They even look different from the European Ashkenazi.
    In fact, to my eyes they look like…Arabs.
    Not too surprising really, Jews and Middle Eastern Arab peoples are closely related genetically and by language as…Semites.

    Following the First Arab–Israeli War, over 850,000 Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews were expelled or evacuated from Arab and Muslim-majority countries between 1948 and the early 1980s. A 2018 statistic found that 45% of Jewish Israelis identified as either Mizrahi or Sephardic.

    Mizrahi Jews – Wikipedia
    Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Mizrahi_Jews

    So where were these Mizrahi Jews hiding for the last 2,000 years?
    And how come they all speak Arabic?
    They weren’t hiding.
    They were living in the Arab speaking countries.
    The Arabs weren’t the ones who thought up the Holocaust or the final solution.

    https://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/JVP-Jews-of-the-middle-east-fact-sheet.pdf

    History from Jewishvoicesforpeace:

    Prior to World War I, much of the Middle East was under
    Ottoman control, and Jews lived as Ottoman subjects with
    dhimmi status (people of the book). Under the Ottoman
    system, ethnic and religious groups had their own leadership
    and some autonomy over community affairs; they were
    protected through jizya, a poll tax. Depending on where in
    the region, violence against Jews was not a usual occurrence.

    Middle Eastern Jews were generally indifferent or opposed to
    secular Zionism coming from Europe (Zvi Ben Dror, Invisible
    Exile: Iraqi Jews in Exile: 149). Some Middle Eastern rabbis
    thought Zionism would endanger their communities. (Simon
    in Jews of the Middle East and North Africa, 2003:168)

    The conflict between the Arabs and Jews is a relatively recent phenomenon.
    A lot of it deriving from European influences at that.

    It got a boost when the Nazis and their French Vichy allies took over North Africa.
    It got another huge boost when the Israeli Jews drove most of the Palestinian population out of Palestine in 1948.
    Cycles of revenge are called cycles for a reason. They keep happening.

  51. Prax says

    @awomanofnoimportance #41,

    Suppose it’s October 8, you’re Israel, and the attack just happened. What do you think should have been the proper response at that point?

    Well, if Israel was serious about a one-state solution, it could treat the attack as an insurrection by domestic terrorists. The response would involve moving Gaza’s non-combatants (those who were willing, at least) into safer areas within Israel itself, providing them with shelter, food, water, clothes, medical care and education, and fast-tracking them toward Israeli citizenship. This would make it easier to isolate and neutralize those militants who continued their attacks.

    And if Israel was serious about a two-state solution, it could simply establish a walled transportation corridor between Gaza and the West Bank, pull out all settlers from both areas, seal all border crossings, collapse all tunnels, and shoot anyone attempting to cross the border for any reason.

    I’m not suggesting that either of these responses would be optimal, but they are entirely within Israel’s power and Hamas couldn’t really do anything to stop them. Of course, Israel will never actually support a one-state solution because then the Palestinians would have some measure of political influence over their jailers, and it will never actually support a two-state solution because it would have to give up on more land grabs, stop stealing Palestine’s water, and find a replacement for cheap Palestinian labor.

    #45,

    Ethnic cleansing since its foundation my ass. In 1948 Palestine was partitioned so that both groups would their own land.

    Yes, that’s what “ethnic cleansing” means. If your people are forced to move so that they can fit inside a planned partition, then congratulations, they’ve been cleansed.

    The Palestinians immediately went to war because it was unacceptable to them to have any Jewish state. If anything, it was the Palestinians who wanted to ethnically cleanse the area of Jews.

    You do understand the difference between opposing the establishment of a Jewish state on your ancestral land, and opposing the existence of Jewish people there? Palestine has housed a significant Jewish minority for millennia, and no one’s tried to throw them out since the Romans.

    Israel has shown itself far more willing to live with Arabs than Arabs have with Jews.

    Horseshit. Morocco and Tunisia both have communities of Jewish citizens. Also, the two and a half million Arab citizens of Israel seem to be able to refrain from murdering their wealthier Jewish neighbors.

    Sephardic Jews lived under Arab rule for about 1200 years, and generally found it much easier than living under European Christian regimes. Most modern Arab countries have virtually no remaining Jewish population, but–with the exception of Egypt–that’s because they voluntarily emigrated to Israel, Europe or the Americas, not because they were expelled. (Which does not mean that Jews in those countries had easy lives or freedom from persecution, of course. It’s just that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is significantly worse.)

    The number one factor that makes it hard for Jews to live in Muslim countries now is the reputation and behavior of Israel. It’s kind of hard to keep the goodwill of your neighbors when the state that claims to represent your faith is a global pariah.

    But the Arabs could have had their own prosperous state by now if they had focused their energy on building their own state rather than trying to drive Israel into the sea.

    They can’t build their own state. An independent state governs its own borders, controls its own imports and exports, and maintains its own military. Palestinians have no power to do any of that. You’re asking an imprisoned and exploited population to somehow construct a peaceful, safe and prosperous nation inside their prison. That’s not realistic.

  52. raven says

    Ethnic cleansing since its foundation my ass. In 1948 Palestine was partitioned so that both groups would their own land.

    Cthulhu this is wrong and stupid.
    You are just Making Stuff Up.

    Wikipedia: 1948 Palestine war

    During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, around 10,000 Jews were forced to evacuate their homes in Palestine or Israel,,
    and
    During the 1947–48 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine and the 1948 Arab–Israeli War that followed, around 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled.[23] In 1951, the UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine estimated that the number of Palestinian refugees displaced from Israel was 711,000.

    The Partition was very one sided and determined by which army won. Which was the Israeli Jewish side.

    So 10,000 Jews had to flee their homes.
    And, 710,000 Palestinians had to flee their homes.
    Quite a difference here.

    In other words, this wasn’t an equal Partition based on population demographic history.
    It was ethnic cleaning by military violence and the threat of violence.

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