From Monster Dick to monster dicks: Christine Quinn’s evolving position on “balance” at CUNY

by Corey Robin on February 6, 2013

City Council Speaker—and leading mayoral candidate—Christine Quinn is a signatory to that “other” letter about the Brooklyn College BDS panel from the “progressive” government officials and politicians.

In that letter, Quinn and four members of Congress, Bill de Blasio, and many more, call upon my department, political science, to rescind our co-sponsorship of the BDS panel at Brooklyn College because, well, read it for yourself:

We are, however, concerned that  an academic department has decided to formally endorse an event that advocates strongly for one side of a highly-charged issue,  and has rejected legitimate offers from prominent individuals willing to simultaneously present an alternative view.  By excluding alternative positions from an event they are sponsoring, the Political Science Department has actually stifled free speech by preventing honest, open debate.  Brooklyn College must stand firmly against this thwarting of academic freedom.


(Set aside the fact that the department is not excluding anyone since we did not initiate, conceive, organize or plan this event. Also set aside the fact that we did not reject legitimate offers from prominent individuals willing to present alternative views because we were never asked to do so, and even if we had been, we would have been in no position to reject those offers. Because we did not initiate, conceive,…you get the idea.)

No, here’s what’s interesting about Quinn’s signature.

For many years when she was a member of the City Council, Quinn and her office financially supported—to the tune of roughly $4,000 a year—the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) at the CUNY Graduate Center. The money, according to one representative request letter from CLAGS that I have seen (from 2004), was supposed to fund publicity and outreach for CLAGS talks, panels, and events.

Talks like this one (see p. 13 of this newsletter): “Unzipping the Monster Dick: Deconstructing Ableist Penile Representations in Two Ethnic Homoerotic Magazines.”

Or this talk from February of that same year (see p. 12). Well, it had no title, but it was given by one Judith Butler, who will be speaking at the BDS event and whose views on Israel/Palestine and BDS—like her views on gender, free speech, and so much else—have aroused such controversy.

(See p. 22 for Quinn’s name under a list of “foundation and institutional supporters.”)

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s terrific that Christine Quinn used her office and its monies to support talks like those that are sponsored (and not just co-sponsored!) by CLAGS.

I just wonder how she can criticize my department’s co-sponsorship of a panel (to which we donated no money at all)—however one-sided that panel may be (and check out the CLAGS talks in that newsletter; not much balance there!)—when she actually used the city’s money to subsidize and promote talks at CUNY that were sponsored not by student groups but by an official university program and that were equally controversial and “divisive,” that excluded alternative positions, and that advocated strongly for one side of an issue.

Given her own history of supporting, not just with her name but with her office’s dollars, such official CUNY programming, I think she should rescind her name from that letter.

I urge all of you to write or call her office and ask her to do so immediately. Her office phone numbers are (212) 564-7757 and (212) 788-7210; you can email her here.

{ 65 comments }

1

James Schmidt 02.06.13 at 3:27 pm

On the assumption that things will only go from bad to worse, I suppose I should better start blocking out equal time in my course on the Enlightenment for Burke, de Maistre, et al.

2

Manta 02.06.13 at 3:49 pm

I think you are misreading the letter: the term “free speech” in that context clearly means “freedom to agree with the letter writers”, and “academic freedom” is “freedom not to hear arguments with not approved by the letter writers”: thus, there is no reason why she should rescind her name.

3

Earwig 02.06.13 at 3:49 pm

My email:

You have urged The Brooklyn College department of political science to rescind its co-sponsorship of a panel discussion because, in your words, “an academic department has decided to formally endorse an event that advocates strongly for one side of a highly-charged issue, and has rejected legitimate offers from prominent individuals willing to simultaneously present an alternative view.”

To preface my question let me say at the outset that I do not agree that the department has rejected offers to present alternative views — as far as I am aware the department has received no such offers, but more to the point, the panel is not organized or planned by the department.

What I would like to ask is this, when did your view on “endorsing an event that advocates strongly for one side of a highly-charged issue” first change?

For in the past you were very comfortable endorsing (and funding!) the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) at CUNY Graduate Center. That funding supported publicity and outreach for CLAGS talks, panels, and events which, however worthy, were certainly controversial, “highly charged,” and often quite one-sided.

Exactly what “alternative views” were offered to counter the CLAGS talk titled ““Unzipping the Monster Dick: Deconstructing Ableist Penile Representations in Two Ethnic Homoerotic Magazines”?”

To be very clear, I do not write to suggest that the endorsement and financial support of these CLAGS activities was problematic. Instead, it is your current position on the proposed BDS panel that is both problematic and hypocritical.

Academic freedom at Brooklyn College is indeed under attack.

Despite the protestations of the Council members’ letter it is not a department-sponsored BDS panel, but rather this action by some Council members which in fact threatens academic freedom at BC.

I therefore urge you to retract your name and signature from this ill-considered letter.

4

ezra abrams 02.06.13 at 4:10 pm

expecting a politician to be honest seems kinda naive.

For instance, take Senator Elizabeth Warren, newly elected D-MA.
During the campaign, Ms Warren initially was widely seen (by supporters) as floundering; her campaign took off when she attacked her opponent, Sen S Brown, for not being strong on Woman’s issues (1).

Soon, Sen Warren will have a chance to stand up for both womans issues and torture: she can vote NO on the nomination for SecDef of the extreme antichoice zealot Sen C Hagel, and she can vote NO on the nomination for DCIA of the Bush/Obama pro torture advocate J Brennan

1) during the second debate, Ms Warren came up with a line that went something like “Senator Brown, you had exactly one chance to vote for a woman for the SCOTUS [sotomyor] and you voted no; you had one chance to vote for…”
during the campaign, this attack on S Brown’s record was seen as highly effective, and a turning point in the warren campaign; at least, that is how I, a liberal dem from boston, percieved things at the time

5

Manta 02.06.13 at 4:15 pm

How does Hagel position on abortion have anything to do with his new job?

6

Ben Alpers 02.06.13 at 4:29 pm

@ 4 Manta:

In fact, the availability of abortions in military hospitals has been an issue of considerable controversy in recent years, but I agree that ezra abrams’s comment is pretty thin hypocrisy gruel.

7

Barry 02.06.13 at 4:30 pm

“I just wonder how she can criticize my department’s co-sponsorship of a panel (to which we donated no money at all)—however one-sided that panel may be (and check out the CLAGS talks in that newsletter; not much balance there!)—when she actually used the city’s money to subsidize and promote talks at CUNY that were sponsored not by student groups but by an official university program and that were equally controversial and “divisive,” that excluded alternative positions, and that advocated strongly for one side of an issue.”

Israel and shut up! is why.

8

adam.smith 02.06.13 at 4:52 pm

@3 ezra abrams -
TNC and Greenwald have written about the “naivite” swat down quite a bit. I can’t find the original posts, but this graph in TNC’s recent post on Mamet is a good summary:
“Perhaps I should not be surprised that Newsweek printed this piece. But I will not retreat into cynicism. I will not allow myself to be unsurprised by the amoral use of words. “
http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/01/david-mamet-and-the-irrelevance-of-the-actual-meaning-of-words/272675/

(and political-science-me wants to add that publicly perceived “turning points” or “key moments” in campaigns are hardly every such a thing).

9

Andrew F. 02.06.13 at 5:32 pm

(Set aside the fact that the department is not excluding anyone since we did not initiate, conceive, organize or plan this event. Also set aside the fact that we did not reject legitimate offers from prominent individuals willing to present alternative views because we were never asked to do so, and even if we had been, we would have been in no position to reject those offers. Because we did not initiate, conceive,…you get the idea.)

(to which we donated no money at all)

So, the Political Science Department:

(1) Has no control or influence over who speaks, or what is spoken by the speakers, at the event;
(2) Contributes no money or resources to the event; and
(3) Is given no information concerning the application of other speakers to talk at the event.

So what is the purpose of sponsorship here? How does sponsorship further that purpose? Is it given to any group that wishes to give a talk on campus about any issue deemed to have importance? Are there standards involved in deciding whether to extend sponsorship? If so, what are they?

It’s hard, at least for me, to see whether the accusation of hypocrisy holds true without knowing the answers to these questions.

10

Kaveh 02.06.13 at 6:09 pm

Manta @4 How does Hagel position on abortion have anything to do with his new job?

Golly gee Manta, I wonder?

11

David A. Guberman 02.06.13 at 6:42 pm

In a letter to the editor that the New York Times did not publish, I agreed with the paper’s defense of academic freedom at Brooklyn College, while noting the paper’s error in suggesting that the BDS movement’s aim is merely, as the editorial put it, ““to force Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories.” In the world of Omar Barghouti and the BDS campaign, I wrote, there is no Israeli territory.

I still would defend the college and your department against efforts to punish either for sponsoring the panel. But Brad DeLong’s comment on the affair persuades me that, even at this late date, the department should withdraw its sponsorship (while allowing the panel to go forward on its own).

Responding to an article by Katha Pollitt, DeLong writes:

I, by contrast, think there is something wrong with Brooklyn College’s political science department hosting this panel. I think so for two reasons. My first reason is the topic: “Judith Butler & Omar Barghouti – BDS Movement against Israel :: Thursday, February 7, 2013 – 6:30pm”. Note: it is not a panel “for Palestine” or “for Palestinian rights” or “for justice in the Middle East” or “against the current policies of the Israeli government”. it is a panel “against Israel”. That seems to me to be anti-semitic in intent as well as effect.

My second reason is the purpose of the BDS movement itself. It is not speech that leads to actions and decisions that then can be assessed and corrected by more and different speech. It is speech that leads to actions and decisions that shut down future speech–one purpose of BDS is to stop Israelis from speaking on American college campuses. Panels that are speech-against-speech need to be held to a much higher standard of fairness and balance than do panels that are simply part of the normal rough-and-tumble give-and-take.

Thus I think the Brooklyn College political science department ought to withdraw it sponsorship.

12

Manta 02.06.13 at 6:55 pm

Kaveh, is it a subtle way of saying “not much” (as Ben Halpers said esplicitely #5)?

Because from what I’ve read Hagel positions on topics that are actually relevant to his job are quite good (from Wikipedia, describing the *opposition* to Hagel):
“Some of Hagel’s policy positions became the subject of heated debate in the Senate, including support of defense cuts, opposition to preemptive action against Iran, and support of talks with Hamas and Hezbollah. [...] Opponents also complained of Hagel’s 2011 call to have the Pentagon “pared down”, saying that “[t]he Defense Department, I think in many ways, has been bloated.”” and “Some critics have charged that Hagel is a weak supporter of Israel”.

But enough thread-derailing.

13

William Berry 02.06.13 at 7:02 pm

I am hopeful that the efforts of Dershowitz, Quinn, and the other signers of the letter have been defanged by this strong statement from Mayor Bloomberg:

“Well look, I couldn’t disagree more violently with BDS as they call it, Boycott Divestment and Sanctions. As you know I’m a big supporter of Israel, as big a one as you can find in the city, but I could also not agree more strongly with an academic department’s right to sponsor a forum on any topic that they choose. I mean, if you want to go to a university where the government decides what kind of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea.

The last thing that we need is for members of our City Council or State Legislature to be micromanaging the kinds of programs that our public universities run, and base funding decisions on the political views of professors. I can’t think of anything that would be more destructive to a university and its students.

You know, the freedom to discuss ideas, including ideas that people find repugnant, lies really at the heart of the university system, and take that away and higher education in this country would certainly die.”

14

Kaveh 02.06.13 at 7:28 pm

Manta, I was being sarcastic! :)

This is very good news, and it’s interesting that it’s happening at just about the same time that Unilever moved a factory out of the Ariel settlement and into Israel proper.

15

Colin Danby 02.06.13 at 8:09 pm

Um, I support you and I wrote an e-mail of thanks to the Brooklyn College President and and I’m glad you won! And I’ll agree with the logic of this and I note your disclaimer “To be clear…”

Nonetheless I’m not sure I would be 100% happy this e-mail if I were part of CLAGS. Or at the least I might check with them before running them up the flagpole in this way.

16

adam.smith 02.07.13 at 12:23 am

“Nonetheless I’m not sure I would be 100% happy this e-mail if I were part of CLAGS. Or at the least I might check with them before running them up the flagpole in this way.”

second that. The “let’s pick out the most ridiculous sounding title from a catalog and ‘let it speak for itself’ without any context” tactic is what Republicans/reactionaries do to arts/humanities funding. Yes, like Colin I realize that, as supposed to said reactionaries you don’t actually want to cut those programs. But the similarity in rhetoric feels more than just a little icky.

17

EB 02.07.13 at 12:33 am

@Andrew F. 5:342 PM: Exactly. Why does this forum, which is appropriate for a student organization to present, need sponsorship by the Political Science Department? Faculty who want to go on record as supporting the BPS should do so as individuals, not as a faculty.

18

js. 02.07.13 at 2:02 am

“BDS Movement against Israel” … Note: it is not a panel “for Palestine” or “for Palestinian rights” or “for justice in the Middle East” or “against the current policies of the Israeli government”. it is a panel “against Israel”.

Brad DeLong is either being disingenuous (likely!) or he’s a bit dumb (unlikely). BDS is a movement to boycott, divest from, and push for sanctions against the state of Israel. If you have a movement that’s calling for boycotts, divestments, etc., you need to clearly specify your target. This is esp. important in this case, to avoid (real or feigned) misunderstandings that this is somehow a campaign directed against Jewish people or something (a misunderstanding displayed on one of these very threads by at least commenter, I now forget who. Also, I don’t think it was feigned in this case.)

So: the panel is not “against Israel”. The BDS movement is targeted at Israel. Hence the title.

19

Corey Robin 02.07.13 at 2:12 am

Colin and Adam at 15 and 16: The email was supplied to me by the former executive director of CLAGS, who understood perfectly well the hypocrisy and cowardice of Christine Quinn. And in fact, it was the executive director who pointed me to the title of that talk, precisely to make the point that when Quinn wasn’t running for mayor and looking to pander to the Jewish vote, she was willing to do the right and brave thing of supporting heterodox speech.

20

GiT 02.07.13 at 6:45 am

“it is a panel “against Israel”. That seems to me to be anti-semitic in intent as well as effect.”

Apparently DeLong is somewhat confused. Someone should let him know that “Israel” refers to a state, not a person.

21

David A. Guberman 02.07.13 at 6:38 pm

js. wrote:

If you have a movement that’s calling for boycotts, divestments, etc., you need to clearly specify your target.

Yes. And I take Brad DeLong’s point, here, to be that the BDS campaign’s target is not, pace The New York Times, Israel’s deplorable and tragic policies vis-a-vis the Palestinian territories, that is, the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and Gaza, and the Palestinians themselves, but rather Israel itself.

GiT wrote:

Apparently DeLong is somewhat confused. Someone should let him know that “Israel” refers to a state, not a person.

Surely, “Israel” as a state refers to the collective life built up by the state’s citizens, a collective life with which the B.D.S. movement seeks to do away.

22

Steve LaBonne 02.07.13 at 6:51 pm

David, I’m anti-Israel. I’m also, in much the same sense, anti-US; I believe that the world would be a better place without the political entity so named (if there were some way for my state to secede and join Canada, I’d be 110% for it.) So sue me. People like you don’t get to define some positions as out of bounds.

23

rf 02.07.13 at 7:22 pm

David you’re claiming something (the aims of BDS – and specifically this panel) with no evidence to back it up bar BradDeLongs interpretation of the panels title. And anyway, even if the discussion was specifically over Israel’s right to exist, why would it be reasonable to shut it down?

24

rf 02.07.13 at 7:32 pm

Things not to be discussed on university panels (1) state legitimacy (2) use of sanctions (3) secessionist movements (4) even the two state solution itself ..this list goes on, literally, forever

25

js. 02.07.13 at 9:14 pm

And I take Brad DeLong’s point, here, to be that the BDS campaign’s target is not, pace The New York Times, Israel’s deplorable and tragic policies vis-a-vis the Palestinian territories

You know, it’s really a rather elementary point that you cannot divest from or call for sanctions against policies, however tragic and deplorable these policies may be. I’m not sure why BDL and you are having such a hard time understanding this.

26

Mao Cheng Ji 02.07.13 at 9:51 pm

“Surely, “Israel” as a state refers to the collective life built up by the state’s citizens, a collective life with which the B.D.S. movement seeks to do away.”

Perhaps the movement is concerned about the collective (and individual) life of the native population of that place.5 million of them have to live in refugee camps for 60+ years, just so some Europeans could have an ethnic reunion, and organize everybody’s collective lives along the ethnic lines. Not cool, man. This is the 21st century, ethnic enclaves are not enforced by armies anymore.

27

David A. Guberman 02.07.13 at 10:19 pm

Steve LaBonne wrote:

David, I’m anti-Israel. I’m also, in much the same sense, anti-US; I believe that the world would be a better place without the political entity so named (if there were some way for my state to secede and join Canada, I’d be 110% for it.) So sue me. People like you don’t get to define some positions as out of bounds.

1. Steve, perhaps you didn’t read my original comment (#11). There, I said that I had written The New York Times in agreement with its defense of academic freedom at Brooklyn College. I also wrote that the panel should go forward (albeit without sponsorship from the political science department). It should be clear, therefore, that, if the boundaries under consideration relate to what may be discussed who may discuss, I was not trying “to define some positions as out of bounds.”

2. In contrast, as I pointed out, the BDS movement does try to define as “out of bounds” positions that diverge from its version of being anti-Israel, including Palestinians, but especially Israeli academics, who have the temerity to support a “two states for two peoples” peace settlement between Israel and Palestine.

3. Are you anti-Israel and anti-U.S. in the sense that you want, even seek, to do away with them? Or, is it that you are against various policies that their governments pursue? The BDS movement is anti-Israel in the former sense.

28

David A. Guberman 02.07.13 at 10:39 pm

rf wrote:

David you’re claiming something (the aims of BDS – and specifically this panel) with no evidence to back it up bar BradDeLongs interpretation of the panels title. And anyway, even if the discussion was specifically over Israel’s right to exist, why would it be reasonable to shut it down?

First, I made a claim about the BDS campaign, not the panel (although Omar Barghouti’s participation in the panel is suggestive).

Second, it is disingenuous or ignorant for BDS supporters to deny that the campaign aims to do away with Israel. The demand for a “right of return” to Israel within the pre-1967 borders entails the doing away with Israel. Norman Finkelstein, no friend of the State of Israel, has made this point quite convincingly.

Third, far from suggesting the discussion should be “shut down,” my original comment both supported the editorial in The New York Times defending Brooklyn College’s academic freedom to host the panel and, while supporting a decision by the political science department to withdraw its sponsorship, added “while allowing the panel to go forward on its own.”

29

David A. Guberman 02.07.13 at 10:48 pm

js. wrote:

And I take Brad DeLong’s point, here, to be that the BDS campaign’s target is not, pace The New York Times, Israel’s deplorable and tragic policies vis-a-vis the Palestinian territories

You know, it’s really a rather elementary point that you cannot divest from or call for sanctions against policies, however tragic and deplorable these policies may be. I’m not sure why BDL and you are having such a hard time understanding this.

You misunderstand me, and BDL, too, I expect.

The New York Times wrote that the BDS campaign was an effort “to force Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories.” In fact, as I noted, it is a campaign to end Israel.

Let me explain the difference. One could call for a boycott of Israeli products, or just products from the Palestinian Territories, as part of an effort to end the occupation. The objective being realized, the boycott would end. This kind of campaign may be “anti-Israel” in the sense that it acts against a major, and indefensible, Israeli policy, but it clearly is not against the State of Israel as such.

Alternatively, one could call for a boycott of Israeli products as part of an effort to achieve goals that include an objective, let’s say realization of a Palestinian “right of return” to Israel within its pre-Occupation borders, that entails doing away with the State of Israel. This, and boycotting Israeli products is only a small part, is what the BDS campaign is about.

I’m not sure why you’re having such a hard time understanding this.

30

Steve LaBonne 02.07.13 at 10:53 pm

Yes, I would quite seriously advocate breaking the US into smaller and less dangerous political units if there were a non-fantasy possibility of doing so. Same with China for that matter- states that large and powerful are inherently dangerous. The world would be better off without them. For somewhat different reasons the world would also be better off without a neocolonial regional empire (one whose identity as an ethnically exclusive state is inherently illiberal) like Israel. As with the US and China, its objective circumstances are such that its policies can only be more or less harmful but never actually good. The difference is that the IS and China aren’t going anywhere but the same is not necessarily true of Israel, which may not even need the help of the divestment movement to destroy itself if it persists in its current folly.

31

rf 02.07.13 at 11:05 pm

Nonsense. Your first post was almost solely a copy and paste of DeLongs position, and DeLongs argument was (1) the framing of the panel (‘against Israel’) was anti semitic (2) BDS seeks to shut down Israeli speech on US campuses.
You’re now arguing something completely different, what the right of return would do to Israel. That’s a different argument, and a legitimate one, but you’re being disingenuous by conflating the hypothetical result of the return of the 48 refugees (which isn’t going to happen) with the rhetoric of ‘Israel’s right to exist’ and anti Semitism.

32

Salient 02.07.13 at 11:06 pm

Mao and js. and Steve and others fighting the good fight here

For the record: David A. Guberman has chosen to be patently, intentionally, willfully dishonest here, and shouldn’t be granted any further respect or attention without an abundance of caution and skepticism. We have no reason to believe he will attempt to behave with any dignity, decency, or self-respect.

In 2005, Palestinian civil society issued a call for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights

It’s awfully tempting to file this under Holy Crap This Is Not Harrrrrd, but c’mon, just blithely calling David buffoonishly incapable of simply comprehending simple points is irresponsibly offering far too much credit and deference. People who intend to sincerely valuate and diligently earn a reputation for honesty have the decency to plainly acknowledge that ‘Israeli Apartheid’ is not synonymous with ‘Israel.’ It’s pretty straightforward. It’s not a question of interpretative subtlety. David has demonstrated no such sense of decency. He’s just flat out lying, he knows it, he disrespects everyone here enough to go ahead with it, and he’s doing so aggressively in an attempt to provoke Steve and others for godonlyknows what reason. (Whereas I am diligently trying to unequivocally earn the Most Adverbs In A Paragraph award, because without some kind of side gimmick this kind of reply gets depressingly tiring.)

David A. Guberman: liar-provocateur. I guess there are worse things to be. But I almost wonder whether the person posting here as “David A. Guberman” is actually a name-stealing troll or sockpuppet intending to besmirch the reputation of the person by that name. Can a person really genuinely be this determinedly self-defeating, in a forum of their choosing no less?

[Live by the sword, die by the sword, I guess? Better to get it all out there in a blurt than maneuver around for two dozen comments, I guess. Thoughts on better ways to effectively engage with and disempower a liar-provocateur, once they've decided to commit and go full-tilt like David did?]

33

rf 02.07.13 at 11:08 pm

As an addendum, I don’t know the procedures surrounding departments sponsoring debates, how common it is for them to withdraw/refuse support, the politics of it so on and so forth so I don’t really have an opinion on that – and I misread you as saying the debate itself should be pulled, so apologies there

34

Salient 02.07.13 at 11:14 pm

…I was feeling really crappy about leaving yet another wholly negative and sort of oppressively pushy comment, and really hesitant about maybe having made way too snap a judgment again, until I saw “I’m not sure why you’re having such a hard time understanding this”

XD XD XD XD XD is sort of teh only possible response to that. or LOLOLOL if you prefer. LOLLERCOASTER is kind of endearing too. it’s the kind of thing that makes you stop capitalizing and punctuating your sentences

35

LFC 02.07.13 at 11:18 pm

Re the exchanges betw. David Guberman and others:

I did not know that BDS is calling for “a right of return.” Whether one agrees or not that this would mean the “end of Israel,” it seems highly unlikely (or more like impossible) that any Israeli govt will agree to “a right of return.” Hence calling for it is sort of pointless. On the other hand, calling for an end to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is not pointless, as that is something which, in some form, will have to be part of any eventual two-state peace agreement, should such an agreement ever be reached (and also, of course, it’s something many Israelis support).

Most people seem to think BDS is directed at ending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank (and its control of access to Gaza). If BDS has other aims, it manages to keep them somewhat less well-publicized. But I have not read the BDS official literature and statements.

36

Steve LaBonne 02.07.13 at 11:21 pm

I don’t give him credit of any kind. I am merely establishing that ruling certain kinds of changes to the established order as non-discussible simply isn’t going to fly. I am under no delusion that finding a peaceful and humane way to wind down the State of Israel would be easy or quick, but unlike the “peace process” at least the idea isn’t just an unfunny joke.

37

LFC 02.07.13 at 11:27 pm

Re “until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights”: this is, although vague, probably enough to indicate that D. Guberman’s claim that BDS aims to “end Israel” is a bit of hyperbole. Esp. since there are different views of what that phrase means, including I’m sure within the BDS mvt. itself.

38

LFC 02.07.13 at 11:31 pm

Re SLB:
“winding down the State of Israel,” as in ending the state of Israel, is (1) undesirable and (2) not going to happen. OTOH ending the occupation of the West Bank is desirable and could happen.

39

Hélène Gélinas 02.08.13 at 12:04 am

LFC @35

I hope I’m not going to be snapped at (wow RF and Salient!) for saying this, but the BDS campaign does in fact call for a general “right of return”, as can be readily ascertained on its web site. This is one reason (there are others) why I will not join the campaign even though I have been actively supporting Palestinian causes for two decades. Norman Finkelstein, another longtime supporter of Palestinian statehood, was vilified for discussing this in a notorious video (readily available on Youtube). It’s one thing to apply political pressure for a just cause; it is quite another to be misinformed about what that pressure is intended to achieve.

There was a forum on BDS in The Nation last year (with Barghouti and others), that may interest CTers: http://www.thenation.com/blog/167708/opinionnation-forum-boycott-divestment-sanctions-bds

Finally, it would be nice if someone would record tonight’s discussion at Brooklyn College and provide a link. Anyone?

40

rf 02.08.13 at 12:18 am

I actually agree with you on that Hélène. So no snapping my end : )

41

rf 02.08.13 at 12:21 am

Not that I want the above to imply I dont fully support David getting called out, fwiw

42

rf 02.08.13 at 12:31 am

“Finally, it would be nice if someone would record tonight’s discussion at Brooklyn College and provide a link. Anyone?”

Here’s Butler’s speech if you’re interested

http://www.thenation.com/article/172752/judith-butlers-remarks-brooklyn-college-bds#

43

novakant 02.08.13 at 12:34 am

Well, I’m with Chomsky on this (and not only this):

Noam Chomsky, the 2011 Sydney Peace Prize recipient and a prominent activist for Palestinian human rights, has stated that he supports the “boycott and divestment of firms that are carrying out operations in the occupied territories” [63] but that anything that targets Israel alone can be attacked as antisemitism and “unfortunately this is with justice”.[64] According to Chomsky, the current BDS movement’s “hypocrisy rises to heaven”. He stated that the BDS campaign harms the “whole movement. It harms the Palestinians and it is a gift to the Israeli hardliners and their American supporters”, because the BDS’s “hypocrisy is so transparent… why not boycott the United States?.. Israeli crimes [are] a fragment of US crimes, which are much worse”.

He also argued that the Palestinian people don’t support boycotting Israel and that the BDS movement is run by “one man NGOs” who falsely claim to represent the Palestinian people.[64][65] In the same interview, he also criticized BDS founder Omar Barghouti for advocating a full boycott of Israel, despite having studied at Tel Aviv University. Chomsky officially supports a more focused boycott of firms who are directly participating in the occupation of the West Bank, rather than a wholesale boycott of everything Israeli.

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Hélène Gélinas 02.08.13 at 1:06 am

RF @42

Thanks for the Nation link.

A quick read and a (too?) quick response: Butler wants to have her cake and eat it too. (And she probably have lots of company.) The issue of a “right of return”, unless it is watered down considerably (there were reports that Palestinian negotiators were ready to concede as much), is a dealbreaker for Israel. And the only possible (peaceful) resolution of the conflict entails some variation on “two states for two peoples”. She wants to pick and choose which elements of the BDS campaign to support and she has every right to do so. But Barghouti (and the three officials planks of the BDS “call”) is aiming at a “single state” solution in which “Israel” simply ceases to exist.

I’d like to see if either Butler or Barghouti get to address this difference tonight.

45

Gabriel Brahm 02.08.13 at 1:10 am

Congratulations! You have just successfully defended this, http://www.fathomjournal.org/reviews-culture/parting-ways/

46

Gabriel Brahm 02.08.13 at 1:11 am

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js. 02.08.13 at 2:51 am

RE: David A. Guberman, Hélène Gélinas, et al:

You all must surely know that basically every single Palestinian rights group and movement has the “right to return” as part of their platform. As per the most mainstream peace proposals and frameworks, going back at least to Oslo, the right to return is one of the three key issues that needs to be resolved as part of any “final status” agreement. So, yeah, BDS has the right to return as part of its platform. If this is what it makes it impossible for you to support BDS, you’re going to have trouble supporting a whole lot of things other than BDS.

Of course, I get that this is just a stand-in for the question of whether it’s to be a one-state or two-state solution. On which, I’d simply suggest that you check out some Said.

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js. 02.08.13 at 2:56 am

49

LFC 02.08.13 at 3:15 am

I’ve read the text of Butler’s remarks (following the link given by rf – thanks). The speech is very eloquent and some of it I agree with. However, the weakest part, IMO, is her discussion of the two-state vs. one-state solution, and here my reaction is somewhat similar to H. Gélinas @44.

Butler doubts whether an independent Palestinian state in a two-state scenario will be genuinely independent or viable (though she doesn’t use the latter word) if a million Israeli settlers remain on the West Bank. But one of the main points of a peace agreement would presumably be that Israel would agree to dismantle the vast majority of settlements and repatriate the vast majority of settlers, by force if necessary. That was what Israel did in Gaza some eight years ago, and Israel would have to do it again, ISTM, on the West Bank, however difficult it might be.

The alternative, which Butler implies that she favors (though she doesn’t say this explicitly) is one Jewish-Palestinian state in which Jews are no longer a majority of the population. I might favor this in the abstract but it’s not politically possible any more, I don’t think. I say “any more” because decades ago it might have been. But too much has happened, too much bitterness has developed as a result of decades of war, occupation, repression, and mutual violence, for this to work now, or so it seems to me. And one last thing: Israel should stop discriminating, in education, housing, etc. against its Palestinian and Arab citizens, which is not only wrong but, from a political standpoint, stupid. On that issue Butler is right.

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LFC 02.08.13 at 3:22 am

(posted 49 before seeing js’s)

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Kaveh 02.08.13 at 4:29 am

re ‘You don’t know what the goals of BDS really are’, people act as if BDS is some kind of mysterious alien device that Palestinians are trying to activate and only they know what it will do (a weird logic which is ample evidence of the racism behind so much anti-Palestinian speech, but that’s a whole other issue). A boycott is not an organism, it’s a choice that people make, to vocally refrain from buying certain things, and it wouldn’t make a whit of difference if the current main proponents of ‘the BDS movement’ are only ever going to be satisfied with a 1 person 1 vote democracy from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, if the millions of other people who would need to support BDS for it to work don’t share the same goal.

Salient hit the nail on the head, calling out Mr. Guberman for dishonesty.

LFC @49, I think you point to a real, serious dilemma that will need to be dealt with, but one that I think it isn’t actually that important from our standpoint, as people on the sidelines. Israelis and Palestinians will need to work this out for themselves. We might be surprised how willing Israelis are to have Palestinians as fellow citizens, or (more likely?) how willing Palestinians are to give up on too many refugees returning to Israel. The really urgent need is to address the severe imbalance of power, so that Palestinians are actually in a position to negotiate.

52

Salient 02.08.13 at 7:03 am

I’m sorry. ok no more snapping from me, it didn’t exactly achieve anything. (evolving position on balance!)

The issue of a “right of return” … is a dealbreaker for Israel

I confess this statement just does not make any sense to me at all. This confusion on my part is entirely because Israel is not the name of a person, or a committee.

Would it be correct to read this as meaning, more specifically, it’s a dealbreaker for currently-elected Israel state authorities maintaining their current priorities? That would make sense to me, but then, the whole point of BDS would be to change those priorities, because those priorities are perhaps bullshit, and perhaps mutable.

Or is the statement, more like, it is impossible for the state of Israel to continue to exist as a vaguely democratic state? Like, there will be no government of Israel? There will be no state known as Israel recognized as legitimate by the international community? Its administrative functions will collapse? Because, I mean. Really? That would be the kind of statement. acgh, nevermind.

So, like, literally what does the four word phrase “a dealbreaker for Israel” mean? Please do not break my brain. Israel is not a person’s name. A lot of … I don’t know. A lot of confusion is arising from basically using Israel as the name of a person. Conflation, I guess. Personification? Plenty of times it’s unambiguous to use a country’s name in this way, to personify a state. People know what that sort of thing means, in a lot of contexts. But not all of them. It’s like the whole problem here, in communicating back and forth.

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Mao Cheng Ji 02.08.13 at 7:34 am

“The really urgent need is to address the severe imbalance of power, so that Palestinians are actually in a position to negotiate.”

The right of return and 1967 borders are already adjudicated issues. Long time ago. Resolution 194 is 64 years old. The word ‘negotiations’ here doesn’t describe something like haggling for a price of a chicken. It describes negotiations with a hostage-taker. If there is no power, then there is nothing to negotiate about; it becomes a matter of enforcing the law.

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rf 02.08.13 at 1:06 pm

“But one of the main points of a peace agreement would presumably be that Israel would agree to dismantle the vast majority of settlements and repatriate the vast majority of settlers, by force if necessary. That was what Israel did in Gaza some eight years ago, and Israel would have to do it again, ISTM, on the West Bank, however difficult it might be.”

Most of the main settlements are basically large suburbs at this stage so would be incorporated into Israel (with land swaps with Palestine) rather than the settlers repatriated by force. Those deeper in Palestine (the argumenent goes) would be repatriated, or allowed to live under Palestinian rule. But the West Bank isn’t Gaza, so for strategic, political and historical reasons I personally don’t see it happening.
And that’s if you believe the Israeli’s want it to happen. Time will tell vis a vis Oslo etc who ‘is to blame’ for the current situation, but we’ve already seen when the Israeli archives have been opened (whether on 48 or Avi Raz’s new book on 67) that the official Israeli narrative has often been bulls**t. I think we see what any Palestinian state is going to look like in the short/medium term, and that’s pretty much what it looks like now.
Imo, l/t changes in demographics in Israel/Palestine, in US security strategy, in neighbouring countries more responsive to their citizens, and in a new generation – both among the public and policy makers (especially in the US) – less sympathetic to Israel will probably force a compromise on them. Or a cataclysmic war. Who knows.
And the one’s most to blame will be Israel’s strongest ‘supporters’, who have all but opted out of any rational discussion on this

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LFC 02.08.13 at 3:20 pm

Mao Cheng Ji @53

The right of return and 1967 borders are already adjudicated issues. Long time ago. Resolution 194 is 64 years old.

Yup (although I haven’t looked up Res 194 I’ll take your word for it. The more frequent reference is to, e.g., Res 242, I believe). But it doesn’t make a bit of difference in practice. Because the situation, as you well know, is one in which Israel is not going to sit down tomorrow and say “let us have a settlement on the basis of Resolutions XYZ. Period. Problem solved.” That is why the question of negotiations and power imbalance is important, as Kaveh said.

From what I’ve read (and I don’t follow this that closely), the PA govt and esp. the current prime minister on the West Bank have made some strides in the direction of constructing the internal infrastructure of statehood, for lack of a better phrase, and sometimes the Israelis have co-operated and helped them w this (though there have been many ups and downs). Part of what makes the whole problem so difficult, obviously, is the internal divisions in both the Israeli and Palestinian ‘camps’.

On the issue of how outside parties might, if they were so inclined, put some pressure on both sides to reach agreement, see this post of last November by Phil Arena:
http://themonkeycage.org/blog/2012/11/23/subsidizing-peace/

(That post drew a thread of 24 comments, including a couple by me, so I’m not necessarily endorsing the post, to the extent I remember it, just passing it on fyi.)

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rf 02.09.13 at 3:20 am

Arena’s post is interesting (though haven’t read the article yet), but his concern appears to be with ‘stopping the fighting’ between the two sides, rather than coming to a long term, ‘sustainable’ resolution. But to a large extent the fighting has stopped, and in part through these tactics (aid, access, security forces training with the PA). I’m sure Hamas will cut, and in a lot of ways are, the same deal, but it doesn’t actually resolve anything. (I know Arena states this explicitly)
I’m not sure he’s right on the Egypt/Israel ‘40 year peace’ either (IIRC Sadat was looking for greater US concentration on the region in 73 and a general easing of tension with Israel.) I should read the paper though.
In a lot of ways this has similarities to the drone program, big beautiful visions on tactics and strategy, head up their ass on policy. (That’s not a reflection on Arena, who’s really good.) Anyway I’m tired and this has become incoherent so I’ll leave it there..

57

rf 02.09.13 at 3:22 am

We need a Gladwellian hypothesis on the Holy land!

58

rf 02.09.13 at 3:44 am

At this stage the United States could probably help bring to life a small, semi sovereign aid dependent state where security is outsourced to local Israeli/US trained paramilitaries. But this doesn’t tend to turn out well. Why keep looking for different ways to do the same thing?

59

LFC 02.09.13 at 3:32 pm

rf @56, 58

(1) I don’t want to get into the Arena post right now b.c I don’t remember the details of it that well and I haven’t re-read it.

(2) a small, semi-sovereign aid-dependent state where security is outsourced to local Israeli/US trained paramilitaries. But this doesn’t tend to turn out well.

“small” — any independent Palestinian state is going to be small. Israel is small, Jordan is small, Luxembourg is very small. Etc.

“semi sovereign” — I don’t know quite what this means. You may be, I’m assuming, getting at the distinction that is sometimes made btw empirical and juridical sovereignty. In terms of the latter, all generally recognized sovereign states are equally sovereign. An independent Palestinian state, recognized as such by the UN and most countries, would be just as sovereign in international law as any other sovereign state. It would be, for a while at least, a somewhat weak state, aid-dependent, but so are quite a few other countries.

“this doesn’t tend to turn out well” — the question is relative, i.e., compared to what. It is inaccurate to say that the fighting has pretty much stopped. As you will recall, Israel has bombed and wreaked destruction in Gaza twice in very recent years: once in Dec.2008-Jan.2009 here and again in Nov. 2012, here, both operations justified as responses to Hamas firing rockets into Israel. This can’t be characterized as a stable, peaceful situation. The West Bank has not seen the same major Israeli ops recently, but the situation there remains fragile and unsatisfactory as a long-term thing. If Hamas and the PA were to reach an agreement betw themselves, and if they and the Israelis then reached a two-state settlement, that wd be a big improvement over the current situation, no matter how weak and aid-dependent the new Palestinian state might be. It would be a fully independent, sovereign state under intl law with full membership in the UN and other intl organizations. As such it could persuasively claim to have fulfilled the aspirations of most Palestinians for an independent state. Security in such a state wd presumably not to have to be outsourced to paramilitaries since of the state’s first acts would be to set up a natl armed forces into which the various existing paramilitaries would be incorporated.

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LFC 02.09.13 at 3:34 pm

correction: “one of the state’s first acts…”

61

William Burns 02.09.13 at 3:41 pm

LFC,

A consistent Israeli demand is that any Palestinian state be demilitarized, so “national armed forces” are probably not in the cards.

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rf 02.09.13 at 6:00 pm

LFC
That was a little hyperbolic, sorry. The state will be dependent on Israel. Little to no control over large parts of its territory, no independent military (security forces trained by US/Israel to take over jobs done by Israeli security services) probably not economically viable, no real control over borders, political elite dependant on aid to survive, political discourse allowed so long as it’s not overtly hostile to Israel. It might be ‘better’ than the alternative, that’s not for me to judge, but that doesn’t mean we should dress up the reality of what Israel’s aspiration for a Palestinian state looks like.

re on-going violence, sure there are rockets coming from Gaza, but the violence (both ways) is mostly ‘controlled’. (Which isn’t to belittle the devastation for those who have to suffer it – but it isn’t an insurgency or any real threat to 98% of Israeli’s. It’s ‘limited violence’ waged by both sides for political purposes which could probably be ended with minimal commitment by both sides.

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LFC 02.09.13 at 6:50 pm

Wm Burns
A consistent Israeli demand is that any Palestinian state be demilitarized, so “national armed forces” are probably not in the cards.

You’re right. I forgot about that. (It’s actually not a demand that makes a whole lot of sense, imo, but that’s a separate issue.)

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ezra abrams 02.09.13 at 9:30 pm

@4,5
you don’t see how abortion is relevant to being sec def ?
honestly ?
you are an active duty service woman, risking your life every day, and you get raped, and you have to pay for an abortion out of your pocket, and find a non DoD facility to do it in,
and you don’t think the views of the SecDef are relevant ?????

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kharris 02.12.13 at 5:22 pm

“…her office and its monies…”

It’s “money” dear, just “money”.

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