Ohio

Feminist scholars call on Obama to drop the torture-based charges against Rasmea Odeh

10/23/14

An Open Letter to President Obama and the United States Department of Justice

In 2004 award-winning filmmaker Buthina Canaan Khoury made the documentary Women in Struggle about 4 Palestinian women who were former detainees. In her research and through interviews with the women, she documents the physical, mental and sexual torture women experienced during interrogations that led to forced confessions. Rasmea Odeh was one of those women. According to her testimony, she was brutally coerced into confession and served 10 years in an Israeli prison before her release. She was exiled from her Palestinian homeland and eventually immigrated to the United States from Jordan in 1994 as a legal resident where she tried to put her memories of torture behind her. She later became a naturalized citizen.

Rasmea Odeh

Rasmea Odeh

In the US, Rasmea settled in Chicago where she became the associate director of the Arab American Action Network, a social service and community organization in Chicago. There, she established the Arab Women’s Committee, a grassroots collective that promotes leadership among Arab immigrant women, challenges systems of oppression that impact Arab women’s lives, and secures a positive and safe political, economic, social, and cultural environment for Arab women and their communities. In 2013, the Chicago Cultural Alliance granted Rasmea its Outstanding Community Leader Award in recognition of her devotion of “over 40 years of her life to the empowerment of Arab women.”

Now, Rasmea is being persecuted again for not giving account of her time in jail after her torture 45 years ago on her naturalization application in 2004.

On October 22, 2013, the US Department of Justice arrested Rasmea Odeh at her home in the Chicago Suburbs. The Department of Justice alleges that Odeh failed to disclose on her naturalization application that she had served time in Israeli jail — even though her sentence was based on a confession she made in the midst of 45 days of physical torture while in detention. Rasmea faces up to ten years in US prison, fines up to $250,000, and potential deportation and denaturalization.

The Israeli state avoids any blame for the politically motivated abuse and imprisonment of Rasmea. The criminal charges she faces for alleged immigration fraud in the US are also politically motivated. They are based upon naturalization papers she filed ten years ago in 2004 and sprang from an illegal federal investigation of 23 Palestinian and anti- war activists that violates First Amendment rights. They are also connected to a long history of federal authorities using fear and repression to silence Palestinian American activists and intimidate immigrant women from participating in social justice movements.

Rasmea Odeh has suffered enough already. When the Israeli military arrested her, they also arrested her family members shortly after her arrest and destroyed her family’s home. Odeh’s 1969 conviction in Israel was determined by a court system that systematically abuses Palestinians’ due process rights, has a record of torture and sexual abuse of Palestinian women, men, and children, and convicts Palestinians at a rate of 99.74 percent.

As feminist scholars, we call on the Department of Justice to drop the charges against Rasmea Odeh. We extend our deepest support to Rasmea in the face of injustice. We recognize her as a leader in the international struggle to empower women and end violence against women. We recognize the pain and suffering she endured in Israeli prisons and we honor her for testifying before a United Nations Committee in Geneva as a survivor of sexual torture. We honor her decades of feminist activism on behalf of Arab and Muslim immigrant women living in poverty in Chicago. Rasmea built the Arab Women’s Committee and its base of nearly six hundred Arab immigrant women from scratch when she went door to door as a recent immigrant herself and made phone calls to house-holds with Arabic-speaking names from the white-pages. She developed an infrastructure for disenfranchised Arab immigrant and refugee women to obtain social services and support and she established English as a Second Language courses through which immigrant women perform plays, write their immigration stories, and form deep friendships, sisterhood, and solidarity. Because of Rasmea’s work, immigrant and refugee women who came to the US from countries facing war and political crises–like Iraq, Palestine, Yemen, Syria, and beyond—now have a place to seek support, gain empowerment and community, and call their home.

Rasmea’s story encompasses some of the most urgent feminist struggles of our times– violence against women and the use of sexual violence as a tool of colonization and war; the impact of racism and anti-immigrant policies upon women; the criminalization of women of color; and the use of intimidation to thwart feminist activism.

Rasmea’s trial is set to begin November 4, 2014, in Detroit, Michigan.

We call upon all feminist movements to stand with gender justice and centralize Rasmea Odeh’s struggle within all of our movements.

We call upon President Obama and the United States Department of Justice to drop the charges against Rasmea Odeh.

Sincerely,

  1. Sarah Abboud, Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Pennsylvania
  2. Stéphanie Latte Abdallah, Researcher, CNRS (IFPO)
  3. Diya Abdo, Associate Professor, Guilford College
  4. Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, Associate Professor, San Francisco State University
  5. Lila Abu-Lughod, Professor, Columbia University
  6. Fida J. Adely, Associate Professor, Georgetown University
  7. Jocelyn Ajami
  8. Nadje Al-Ali, Professor, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
  9. Dina Al-Kassim, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia, Vancouver
  10. Deborah Al-Najjar, University of Southern California
  11. Lori Allen, Lecturer, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
  12. Paul Amar, Associate Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara
  13. Anjali Arondekar, Associate Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz
  14. Barbara Aswad, Professor Emerita, Wayne State University
  15. Sa’ed Atshan, Postdoctoral Fellow, Brown University
  16. Elsa Auerbach, Professor Emerita, University of Massachusetts Boston
  17. Kathryn Babayan, Associate Professor, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  18. Paola Bacchetta, Associate Professor, University of California, Berkeley
  19. Joanne Barker, Professor, San Francisco State University
  20. Janet Bauer, Associate Professor, Trinity College
  21. Leila Ben-Nasr, Ohio State University
  22. Sherna Berger-Gluck, California State University, Long Beach
  23. Amahl Bishara, Assistant Professor, Tufts University
  24. Elizabeth Bishop, Associate Professor, Texas State University
  25. Jennifer Brier, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
  26. Victoria Brittain, Journalist and Author
  27. M. San Pablo Burns, Associate Professor, University of California, Los Angeles
  28. Louise Cainkar, Associate Professor, Marquette University
  29. Piya Chatterjee, Scripps College
  30. Julia Chinyere Oparah, Professor, Mills College
  31. Andreana Clay, Associate Professor, San Francisco State University
  32. Maria Cotera, Associate Professor, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  33. Ephrosine Daniggelis
  34. Angela Davis, Distinguished Professor Emirita, University of California, Santa Cruz
  35. Lara Deeb, Professor, Scripps College
  36. Christine Taitano DeLisle, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign
  37. Gina Dent, Associate Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz
  38. Lisa Duggan, Professor, New York University
  39. Zillah Eisenstein, Distinguished Feminist Scholar, Ithaca College
  40. Omnia El Shakry, Associate Professor, University of California, Davis
  41. Nada Elia, Independent Scholar
  42. Hoda Elsadda, Professor, Cairo University
  43. Anita Fábos, Associate Professor, Clark University
  44. Roderick Ferguson, Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
  45. Ellen Fleischmann, Professor, University of Dayton
  46. Cynthia Franklin, Professor, University of Hawai’i
  47. Rosa Linda Fregoso, Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz
  48. Nancy Gallagher, Research Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara
  49. Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Professor, Graduate Center, City University of New York
  50. Sherna Berger Gluck, Emerita Faculty, California State University, Long Beach
  51. Layla Azmi Goushey, Assistant Professor, St. Louis Community College
  52. Marame Gueye, Associate Professor, East Carolina University
  53. Elena Gutiérrez, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
  54. Elaine C. Hagopian, Professor Emerita of Sociology, Simmons College
  55. Sondra Hale, Research Professor, University of California, Los Angeles
  56. Hala Halim, Associate Professor, New York University
  57. Najla Hamadeh, Independent Researcher
  58. Michelle Hartman, Associate Professor, McGill University
  59. Nadia Hijab, Author and Human Rights Advocate
  60. Grace Kyungwon Hong, Associate Professor, University of California, Los Angeles
  61. LeAnne Howe, Professor, University of Georgia
  62. Constantine Inglessis
  63. Jacqueline Khayat Inglessis
  64. Joyce Inglessis
  65. Bushra Jabre, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  66. Lynette Jackson, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
  67. Amira Jarmakani, Associate Professor, Georgia State University
  68. Suad Joseph, Distinguish Research Professor University of California, Davis
  69. Mohja Kahf, Professor, University of Arkansas
  70. Ronak Kapadia, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
  71. Kehaulani Kauanui, Associate Professor, Wesleyan University
  72. Laleh Khalili, Professor, School of Oriental and African Studies
  73. Sharon Heijin Lee, Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow, New York University
  74. Pardis Mahdavi, Associate Professor, Pomona College
  75. Lisa Suhair Majaj, Writer and Editor
  76. Jean Said Makdisi, Writer
  77. Harriet Malinowitz, Lecturer, Ithaca College
  78. Rania Masri, Associate Director, American University of Beirut
  79. Victor Mendoza, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  80. Hasna Mikdashi, Arab Women’s Studies and Research, NOUR, Cairo
  81. Maya Mikdashi, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Rutgers University
  82. Minoo Moallem, Professor, University of California, Berkeley
  83. Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Distinguished Professor, Syracuse University
  84. Scott L. Morgensen, Associate Professor, Queen’s University
  85. Norma Claire Moruzzi, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
  86. Susan Muaddi Darraj
  87. Nadine Naber, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
  88. Margo Okazawa-Rey, Professor Emerita, San Francisco State University
  89. Jennifer Olmsted, Professor, Economics, Drew University
  90. Geeta Patel, Associate Professor, University of Virginia
  91. Suvendrini Perera, Professor, Curtin University
  92. Jasbir Puar, Associate Professor, Rutgers University
  93. Michelle Raheja, Associate Professor, University of California, Riverside
  94. Aneil Rallin, Associate Professor, Soka University of America
  95. Barbara Ransby, Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
  96. Robin L. Riley, Assistant Professor, Syracuse University
  97. Eleanor Roffman, Professor Emerita, Lesley University
  98. Judy Rohrer, Assistant Professor, Western Kentucky University
  99. Rachel Rubin, Professor, University of Massachusetts Boston
  100. Rosemary Sayigh, Researcher and Visiting Professor, Center for Arab and Middle East Studies, American University of Beirut.
  101. Susan Schaefer Davis, Independent Scholar
  102. Laurie Schaffner, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
  103. Malini Johar Schueller, Professor, University of Florida
  104. Sarita See, Associate Professor, University of California, Riverside
  105. May Seikaly, Associate Professor, Wayne State University
  106. Sima Shakhsari, Assistant Professor, Wellesley College
  107. Simona Sharoni, Professor, State University of New York, Plattsburgh
  108. Setsu Shigematsu, Associate Professor, University of California, Riverside
  109. Irene Siegel, Assistant Professor, Hofstra University
  110. Andrea Smith, Associate Professor, University of California, Riverside
  111. Samera Sood
  112. Ahdaf Soueif, writer
  113. Rajini Srikanth, Professor, University of Massachusetts Boston
  114. Maria Francesca Stamuli, National Library of Naples
  115. Neferti X. M. Tadiar, Professor, Barnard College
  116. Kim TallBear, Associate Professor, University of Texas, Austin
  117. Sunera Thobani, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia
  118. Miriam Ticktin, Associate Professor, The New School for Social Research
  119. Judith E. Tucker, Professor, History, Georgetown University
  120. Karyn Valerius, Associate Professor, Hofstra University
  121. Sherry Vatter, California State University, Long Beach
  122. Maurice L. Wade, Professor, Trinity College
  123. Lee Ann Wang, Assistant Professor, University of Hawaii
  124. Jessica Winegar, Associate Professor, Northwestern University

For more information, visit: Facebook page, Drop the charges against Rasmea now.

 

 

The rabbi’s fridge

10/22/14

Danielle Leshaw, the Hillel rabbi at Ohio University, has an active and entertaining twitter feed. She just tweeted the photo above of her refrigerator, stating:

It’s on the fridge. Next to the other sacred ideas. Tel Aviv. J STREET. Queerness. Art. My daughter. Coffee shops.

The sacred object in question is the “Free Palestine” accessory — yarmulke? — that a friend gave her. Leshaw commented:

Thank you, Keelan (sp?) I knew I’d get one eventually. Now, how do we do it?

Free Palestine accessory, maybe a yarmulke

Free Palestine accessory, maybe a yarmulke

I welcome Leshaw into the movement to free Palestine and suggest the avenue that so many Palestinians urge on us: boycott divestment and sanctions, or BDS. But Leshaw is determined to oppose BDS hammer and tongs. During the Open Hillel conference, she tweeted:

C’mon TELL US WHY BDS DOESN’T WORK ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES. you can do it.

It’s a measure of the rabbi’s largeness of spirit that she tweeted out the Open Hillel conference even as she works for the procrustean atherosclerotic neanderthal Hillel organization that sets limits on free speech. Though I do think it’s a joke to call J Street a “sacred idea.” It’s a Beltway political organization run by a guy in his 50s who has done his utmost not to represent the views of his rank-and-file, to the extent that he has one.

By the way, as for the controversy that catapulted Leshaw into the spotlight, made her the rabbi at the “shitshow,” to use her deathless phrase: that was school senate president Megan Marzec’s “blood bucket” challenge for Gaza that the rabbi found so un-sacred. There are signs of healing on the Athens, Ohio, campus. Marzec was embraced over the weekend by the head of a Jewish fraternity on campus who affirmed that she is not anti-Semitic. As if she required that hecksher. Others continue to push for Marzec’s resignation. And in a piece today in the student paper, there was this disturbing statement.

“What I’m more interested in is the objective reality of ‘are people safe?’ ” [Tyler] Barton [of the Athens Committee for Palestine] said. “For example, what Megan Marzec experienced after the video was published. How many students have ever been called in to Cutler Hall to talk to the police and the Department of Homeland Security? … How many people are concerned about doing this panel or coming to this event because they’re afraid?”

Cutler Hall houses the senior administrative offices, including president and provost. UPDATE: Marzec informs me that she spoke to the police because of the many threats she had gotten.

Megan Marzec

Megan Marzec

 

 

Who Is Jeffrey Fowle? American Tourist Released By North Korea

10/21/14

Jeffrey Fowle, one of three Americans detained by the North Korean government, was released on Tuesday and is on his way home to Ohio, according to the U.S. State Department. Fowle, a 56-year-old city service worker from Miamisburg, Ohio, was arrested and held by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea for five months after he left a Bible behind in the country that has little to no toleration for missionary activity.

A Coal Worker's Life—With a Lot Less Coal

10/16/14
Image
The John Amos coal-fired power plant is seen behind a home in Poca, West Virginia, on May 18, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)

King Coal Highway is the portion of U.S. Route 52 that gets drivers from Williamson to Bluefield, West Virginia. It's also a reminder of a mining industry that has supported the state's middle class for generations—an era of prosperity that is quickly winding down.

As Chico Harlan reported for the Washington Post's Storyline blog earlier this year, over 10,000 miners in southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky have been laid off since 2012. Many of the coal reserves are harder to mine after years of easy extraction. And Environmental Protection Agency regulations, both existing and proposed, make an industry comeback unlikely.

The state sued the EPA in August, claiming that the federal agency can't put limits on carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants under the Clean Air Act. In June, the EPA proposed new emissions guidelines that would create state-specific goals to lower rates of CO2 emissions.

With many small towns along the West Virginia portion of U.S. 52 struggling, local politicians are trying to come up with answers. Early Thursday, West Virginia Senate President, Jeff Kessler (D), announced the creation of a new task force that will look into creating new kinds of employment in the region while preserving what's left of the mining industry that so many still depend on.

Photographer Robert Galbraith recently shared his trip along King Coal highway over at Reuters' Wider Image blog. Through his shots, we see a typical day in the life of a coal worker.

Coal miners Rodney Blankenship (L), Roger Vanatter (C), and an unidentified colleague prepare for the start of their afternoon shift in the locker room of a coal mine near Gilbert, West Virginia, on May 22, 2014. Blankenship, 53, a coal miner for 30 years, said, "You go in there, hope to have good productivity on your shift, and get out safely." (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
Coal miners enter a coal mine for the start of an afternoon shift near Gilbert, West Virginia, on May 22, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
Coal miner Mike Hawks, 53, stands in an underground tunnel at a coal processing facility near Gilbert, West Virginia, on May 22, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
Coal is stacked at the base of loaders along the Ohio River in Ceredo, West Virginia, on May 18, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
A view of the Tug river running through downtown Iaeger, West Virginia, on May 20, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
A vacant building is shown covered in vegetation along U.S. Route 52 near Gilbert, West Virginia, on May 21, 2014. The highway, known locally as "The King Coal Highway," runs through West Virginia's traditional coal mining belt. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
A car is parked outside of the "Hard Times Tavern" in Fort Gay, West Virginia, on May 19, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
A statue of Marilyn Monroe is shown outside the now-closed Happy Days Diner in Gilbert, West Virginia, on May 20, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
Coal trains sit idle in front of a home in Iaeger, West Virginia, on May 20, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
A man rides a bicycle past vacant storefronts in Gilbert, West Virginia, on May 22, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
Unemployed coal miners Todd Hatfield (L) and Dave Houck talk at Hatfield's bar and restaurant in Gilbert, West Virginia, on May 22, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
A replica of the Statue of Liberty is shown in downtown Matewan, West Virginia, on May 19, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)








A Coal Worker's Life—With a Lot Less Coal

10/16/14
Image
The John Amos coal-fired power plant is seen behind a home in Poca, West Virginia, on May 18, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)

King Coal Highway is the portion of U.S. Route 52 that gets drivers from Williamson to Bluefield, West Virginia. It's also a reminder of a mining industry that has supported the state's middle class for generations—an era of prosperity that is quickly winding down.

As Chico Harlan reported for the Washington Post's Storyline blog earlier this year, over 10,000 miners in southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky have been laid off since 2012. Many of the coal reserves are harder to mine after years of easy extraction. And Environmental Protection Agency regulations, both existing and proposed, make an industry comeback unlikely.

The state sued the EPA in August, claiming that the federal agency can't put limits on carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants under the Clean Air Act. In June, the EPA proposed new emissions guidelines that would create state-specific goals to lower rates of CO2 emissions.

With many small towns along the West Virginia portion of U.S. 52 struggling, local politicians are trying to come up with answers. Early Thursday, West Virginia Senate President, Jeff Kessler (D), announced the creation of a new task force that will look into creating new kinds of employment in the region while preserving what's left of the mining industry that so many still depend on.

Photographer Robert Galbraith recently shared his trip along King Coal highway over at Reuters' Wider Image blog. Through his shots, we see a typical day in the life of a coal worker.

Coal miners Rodney Blankenship (L), Roger Vanatter (C), and an unidentified colleague prepare for the start of their afternoon shift in the locker room of a coal mine near Gilbert, West Virginia, on May 22, 2014. Blankenship, 53, a coal miner for 30 years, said, "You go in there, hope to have good productivity on your shift, and get out safely." (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
Coal miners enter a coal mine for the start of an afternoon shift near Gilbert, West Virginia, on May 22, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
Coal miner Mike Hawks, 53, stands in an underground tunnel at a coal processing facility near Gilbert, West Virginia, on May 22, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
Coal is stacked at the base of loaders along the Ohio River in Ceredo, West Virginia, on May 18, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
A view of the Tug river running through downtown Iaeger, West Virginia, on May 20, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
A vacant building is shown covered in vegetation along U.S. Route 52 near Gilbert, West Virginia, on May 21, 2014. The highway, known locally as "The King Coal Highway," runs through West Virginia's traditional coal mining belt. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
A car is parked outside of the "Hard Times Tavern" in Fort Gay, West Virginia, on May 19, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
A statue of Marilyn Monroe is shown outside the now-closed Happy Days Diner in Gilbert, West Virginia, on May 20, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
Coal trains sit idle in front of a home in Iaeger, West Virginia, on May 20, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
A man rides a bicycle past vacant storefronts in Gilbert, West Virginia, on May 22, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
Unemployed coal miners Todd Hatfield (L) and Dave Houck talk at Hatfield's bar and restaurant in Gilbert, West Virginia, on May 22, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
A replica of the Statue of Liberty is shown in downtown Matewan, West Virginia, on May 19, 2014. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)








The Taliban's Twitter misstep?

10/15/14

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Terrorists and jihadis have embraced social media using the Wild West of the Internet to exhibit bravado and spread their messages of hate. The bad guys have learned how to turn Twitter into a tool of terror. And Twitter is fighting back.

One analyst who monitors such accounts, J.M. Berger, tweeted last month that Twitter suspended 400 accounts linked to ISIS in just seven hours. But social media can also sometimes be a counterterrorism weapon.

Just recently, Afghan Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid, might have made the CIA's job a little easier. Mujahid's Twitter profile says he is in Kabul, but he posted tweets that showed his location, and as many media outlets reported, those tweets showed him to be in neighboring Pakistan, where many believe leaders of his group are in hiding.

He quickly claimed to be the victim of an "enemy forgery," turned off the location feature and showed that it is possible to spoof your location by sending a tweet that made it look like he was in Brian, Ohio, population 8,000.

While it is possible he was hacked, we think the book "Twitter for Dummies" might better explain what happened.


Obama Ebola Cabinet Meeting: President Cancels Campaign Stops To Discuss Outbreak

10/15/14

Hours after a second health care worker was diagnosed with Ebola, U.S. President Barack Obama canceled campaign stops in New Jersey and Connecticut Wednesday to meet with his Cabinet on the growing Ebola outbreak. Obama administration officials are expected during the meeting to coordinate the government's response to Ebola after news broke that the second health care worker flew on a commercial flight from Ohio to Texas this week.

Academia, the ‘battleground’ in the Palestinian solidarity movement

10/9/14

On September 23 2014, Palestinian solidarity activists took part in the International Day of Action on College Campuses, calling for students and faculty around the world to pressure their academic institutions to support justice, human rights, and freedom for the Palestinian people.

The International Day of Action officially stated as its demands:

  • No to Academic Complicity with Israeli Occupation
  • No to Study Abroad Programs in Israel
  • No Investments in Apartheid and Occupation Supporting Companies
  • No to University Presidents’ Visits to Israel
  • No Campus Police Training or Cooperation with Israeli Security
  • No Joint Research or Conferences with Israeli Institutions
  • No Cooperation with Hasbara Networks on College Campuses
  • No to Targeting Faculty for Speaking Against Israeli Crimes
  • No to Administrative Limits on Free Speech Rights of Palestine Activists
  • No to University Coordination and Strategizing with the ADL, JCRC, AJC, Stand With US, ZOA, Israeli Consulate to Limit Students Pro-Palestine Constitutionally Protected Activities.

The call was spearheaded by Hatem Bazian, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. A large rally was held at this school, with over 300 attendees.

At the demonstration, Bazian stated that “this international day of solidarity is to highlight the BDS” (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement. Muslim Student Association activist Unis Barakat echoed the call, and explained that activists had gathered “to peacefully demand that Israeli universities and the Israeli state give academic freedom toall individuals” and recognize “the Palestinian people’s basic human rights.”

A die-in at UC Berkley (Photo: Facebook)

A die-in at UC Berkley
(Photo: Facebook)

The rally concluded with a die-in. Later that evening, Bazian joined several other California professors for a teach-in.

Many university Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters tabled and held demonstrations on their campuses to raise awareness and to educate fellow students about Israel’s brutal occupation and oppression of Palestinians.

Stanford University SJP’s memorial to children killed in Gaza in Operation Protective Edge (Photo: Facebook)

Stanford University SJP’s memorial to children killed in Gaza in Operation Protective Edge (Photo: Facebook)

Stanford SJP activists chalked the center of their campus with the names and ages of Palestinian children killed in Gaza in Operation Protective Edge.

Similar demonstrations and events were held around the country.

Student organizing was by no means unencumbered, nonetheless. The day of action entered the spotlight in mid September when a leaked email showed that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was pressuring universities to crackdown on Palestinian solidarity activists. The ADL demonized the organization American Muslims for Palestine in particular, who helped organize the International Day of Action, falsely accusing it of attacking “Jewish communal organizations.” The chancellor of University of California, Davis was later publicly criticized for circulating the dishonest email with administrators.

Not soon after, the executive director of Jewish fraternity Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) sent a letter to 1,000s of members, defending “our strong historic ties to the State of Israel” and implying Palestinian solidarity activists were planning on engaging in “intimidation and acts of violence.” Leading Palestinian journalist Ali Abunimah condemned the message as an attempt “to stoke tensions between Jewish and other students in an effort to discredit criticism of Israel following the recent massacre in Gaza.” (Abunimah also noted the irony that such a directive would come from ZBT, a fraternity with “a long history of internal violence” andwhose members steadfastly defended Israel in the summer of 2014, when the country killed over 1,500 Palestinian civilians, including approximately 500 children.)

Oberlin Students for a Free Palestine

Flags arranged by  Oberlin Students for a Free Palestine

Flags arranged by Oberlin Students for a Free Palestine

Perhaps the highlight of student actions took place at Oberlin College, a small liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio. There, the organization Oberlin Students for a Free Palestine held a “2,133 black flags, 2,133 Palestinians dead, do not be silent” action, in which activists created an enormous installation, planting a small black flag for every Palestinian killed in Israel’s most recent massacre in Gaza, Operation Protective Edge.

In front of the 2,133 flags students hung a banner reading

These black flags honor the 2,133 Palestinians murdered by the Israeli Defense Forces over the 51 days of Operation Protective Edge. Israel receives more military assistance from the United States than any other country in the world at an annual rate of $3.1 billion dollars. Our tax dollars, and likely our tuition, funded this genocide.

This is not a vigil. This is a call to action. It is a recognition of our complicity in these acts of violence. It is a refusal to be silent.

The activists asked onlookers to sign their online petition, demanding an administrative response to an Oberlin student divestment resolution.

The flags remained up until the morning of the 27th.

I contacted Oberlin SFP to inquire how the college and community responded to their action. They were pleased with how well the action went. They reported seeing a lot of support from the student body. On the evening of the 24th, approximately 60 people, representing a variety of student and local organizations, gathered to read statements of solidarity with Palestine. Many of these connected the struggle for justice in Palestine to those other oppressed peoples around the world, particularly those in Ferguson, MI—a parallel numerous Palestinian organizations have made since the murder of Michael Brown on 9 August 2014.

Not everyone was happy with their demonstration, however. SFP members noted “a lot of disapproval,” particularly with the fact that the demonstration also marked the beginning of Rosh Hashanah. “We hold that this action was in accordance with the larger International Day of Action of September 23,” they insisted, adding “despite the provocative timing also assert that the mourning of Palestinian deaths and recognizing our own complicity in this violence should not be mutually exclusive from celebrating Rosh Hashanah.”

According to SFP members, the Zionist presence at Oberlin is much more of a liberal variety, as is increasingly common for today’s generation. A student told me that many Jewish students at Oberlin are in fact uncomfortable with more hardline Zionist organizations, namely Hillel, and “feel unwelcome in their spaces.” The Oberlin Hillel Facebook page has not been active in two years.

J Street U Oberlin did criticize SFP, writing on Facebook that it was “saddened by the polarization within our community and want to offer a productive path forward based on establishing conditions for a sustainable, real peace.” SFP members rejected such accusations, and lamented that J Street members “often try to conflate our messages while erasing the very obvious power dynamics that exist between Israel and Palestine.”

Oberlin SFP’s International Day of Action demonstration is just one part of its ongoing BDS campaign. A member told me that their “ultimate goal is to continue to push for true economic divestment from six corporations profiting from the occupation: Caterpillar, Veolia, G4S, SodaStream, Elbit Systems, and Hewlett-Packard.” The Oberlin Student Senate already passed a divestment resolution in May 2013, “but since then neither the administration nor the Board of Trustees have expressed any interest in moving forward.” The activist added, “Thus, while we wanted this action to be about mourning the tremendous loss of life, we are also firm in our insistence that this is not a vigil—it is a call to action.” SJP released a press release condemning the administration for being “unresponsive” and “demanding that the college divest from companies profiting from and perpetuating the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”

The Oberlin administration has yet to respond to the action or to the calls for accountability, and SFP members admitted that do not find it likely that it will.

University Crackdown on Palestinian Solidarity Activists

Oberlin Students for a Free Palestine did not encounter any trouble from their administration, as they registered the installation with Oberlin’s security and facilities departments beforehand. Other university administrations, however, have not been so kind.

In one of the more publicized recent controversies, in March 2014, Northeastern University banned its SJP branch, in what many characterized as a draconian act of censorship. Student activists had engaged in a harmless mock eviction action, distributing what were clearly fake notices in order to educate students about just one of the many fears Palestinians face on a daily basis—the very real possibility of an Israeli government official arriving to tell you that the home your family has lived in for generations is, without any kind of trial or due process, now going to be demolished.

Northeastern SJP member Max Geller stated that his “school was accusing us of an act of criminality for simply [an] act of leafleting,” and that “NYPD-style tactics were used against students” for handing out pieces of paper. The administration asked the Northeastern University Police Department to conduct an investigation. The authorities immediately went after any Arab and Muslim students involved. Two students were threatened with expulsion—both of whom happened to be women of color. Neither was an officer in the organization, just rank-and-file members.

Journalist Max Blumenthal uncovered big money and powerful leaders of Zionist organizations with close ties to the university. Geller bemoaned that Northeastern was “more interested in appeasing outside astroturfed Zionist groups than in fostering an environment where the vigorous exchange of ideas can take place.”

Fortunately, after “Weeks of protests, picket lines, petitions, phone calls, and emails,” the student organization was reinstated. ACLU attorney Sarah Wunsch called the branch’s reinstatement “a victory for freedom of expression, which is a crucial aspect to any quality university.” Staff attorney with Palestine Solidarity Legal Support and co-operating counsel with the Center for Constitutional Rights Radhika Sainath remarked that “What happened to SJP at Northeastern is just one part of the larger assault on speech supporting Palestinian rights in this country. There is no ‘Palestine Exception’ to free speech rights and the First Amendment.”

Crackdowns of this kind are by no means limited to the US. In Israel itself, students are suffering huge consequences for criticizing their government. In the wake of Operation Protective Edge, Israeli scholar Amir Hetsroni wrote in Haaretz of “the undeniable attempts by academic management to prevent students and faculty from speaking their minds and punishing those who protest against the war.” He details extreme policies of Israeli universities, enumerating incidents in which students were were punished, fined, and even arrested simply for speaking their mind.

Before the massacre in Gaza, Hetsroni explains, he opposed the academic boycott of Israel. But when he saw the role Israeli universities played in stifling opposition, his position quickly shifted. “A college that prohibits students from taking part in political protest is not an academic institute. A university that vetoes its faculty’s right to publish non-Zionist (not to say anti-Zionist) scholarship is not a university. In such cases an academic boycott might be an acceptable response,” he confessed.

Academia as a Locus of the Palestinian Solidarity Movement

The International Day of Action for Palestine was organized by a scholar, to take place on college campuses. Many of the leading figures of the Palestine solidarity movement, and the organizers of the BDS movement, are scholars. Academe is, in many ways, today a locus of the struggle against Israeli apartheid—just as it was for the struggle against apartheid in South Africa in the quite recent past.

In April 2004, numerous Palestinian scholars and intellectuals organized the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). The organization maintains that “all Israeli academic institutions, unless proven otherwise, are complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and denial of basic Palestinian rights.” In its guidelines for the international academic boycott of Israel, PACBI writes:

Academic institutions are a key part of the ideological and institutional scaffolding of Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid against the Palestinian people. Since its founding, the Israeli academy has cast its lot with the hegemonic political-military establishment in Israel, and notwithstanding the efforts of a handful of principled academics, the Israeli academy is profoundly implicated in supporting and perpetuating Israel’s systematic denial of Palestinian rights.

This is the reason institutions are cracking down so harshly on student activism. Much of the ground gained in the BDS movement has been in Academia, led by the PACBI. Israel’s own desperate attempts to manipulate public opinion demonstrate how much it fears the power of the BDS movement to end its decades-long process of colonization.

Israel pays students (and handsomely, at that) to spread government propaganda online. In recent years, as the momentum and strength of the BDS movement increases, Israel has even gone so far as to pressure foreign governments to crush Palestinian solidarity activism.

The recent firing, on incredibly suspect grounds, of Palestinian-American professor Steven Salaita for the “crime” of criticizing Israel is a more palpable and personal manifestation of this encroaching attack. In the words of Tithi Bhattacharya and Bill V. Mullen, the firing of Salaita “shows where Zionism meets neoliberalism at US universities.”

It is not mere happenstance that so much of this struggle has taken place in academia. Academe, of course, is where policies are researched and created that will later be implemented to capture the “hearts and minds” of citizens. Yet, even more simply, Israel deliberately decided to make the Academy an important center of struggle. During the Second Intifada, head of Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky visited a slew of North American colleges. Upon returning to Israel, he “said to [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon—the most important battleground for the future of the Jewish people is campuses.”

Sharansky’s rhetoric about college campuses—as with so much of the rhetoric in the hyper-militarized life of far-, far-right Israel—is extremely militaristic in character. He speaks of a “war” on campus, and insists “that one battle would finish and immediately the other would start on the campuses.”

Israel is well-prepared for this “war.” The Times of Israel boasts that, at “the height of this summer’s Gaza conflict [read: one-sided massacre], JAFI had already begun training its 2014 cohort of 66 campus Israel Fellows, which are based out of Hillel Houses on 111 campuses throughout North America (some fellows have a presence on multiple campuses).” All of these 66 fellows “have completed army service … and sign on for up to two years on campuses where they aim to ‘empower student leadership and create Israel-engaged campuses.’” And the JAFI’s propaganda campaign on US college campuses doesn’t just adopt the rhetoric of militarism; it openly adopts the Israeli military’s tactics. The Times of Israel practically gloats:

Using this summer’s massive call-up of IDF reserves as a model, JAFI began to conscript its “reservists” and, with emergency funding from Jewish Federations of North America, pressed 20 former Israel Fellows back into its ranks. The reservists themselves are happy to serve and have taken off between two weeks and a month from their “civilian lives” to return to campuses in North America.

Bending toward Justice

In spite of the ferocity of the clampdown on dissent, and in spite of the prodigious political capital of the Zionist establishment, the truth of Israel’s crimes in Palestine has been increasingly difficult for the average American to ignore. The victory of Northeastern SJP, the calls for divestment by student activists at schools like Oberlin College, and the immense push-back against the attack on Salaita’s academic freedom all show that the Palestinian solidarity movement is really taking off in the US. To call the US Academy the “battleground” for Palestinian liberation is of course hyperbolic—and even downright insulting, considering the actual live battleground the Palestinian people live in, and their valiant and multifarious forms of resistance against oppression. At the end of the day, the struggle in the US is only one of solidarity with the Palestinians as they themselves fight to liberate themselves. Yet the fact that Americans, the citizens of the superpower whose economic and political support has allowed Israel to continue its egregious crimes with complete impunity for so many years, are now questioning their country’s relationship with Israel is an exceedingly important step in this long haul.

In April 2013, the Association for Asian American Studies voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Months later, in December, the American Studies Association and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association did as well. Similar boycotts of Israeli academic institutions have been declared by prominent organizations in the UK, Australia, South Africa, and many more countries around the world.

In May 2013, Stephen Hawking, a scientist with celebrity status in the scholarly world, joined the academic boycott of Israel. Renowned philosopher Judith Butler, herself an anti-Zionist of Jewish descent, has also become a leading figure in the BDS movement. Of her support for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions, she explains

I have no problem collaborating with Israeli scholars and artists as long as we do not participate in any Israeli institution or have Israeli state monies support our collaborative work. The reason, of course, is that the academic and cultural boycott seeks to put pressure on all those cultural institutions that have failed to oppose the occupation and struggle for equal rights and the rights of the dispossessed, all those cultural institutions that think it is not their place to criticize their government for these practices, all of them that understand themselves to be above or beyond this intractable political condition. In this sense, they do contribute to an unacceptable status quo.

Butler’s distinguishing individual Israeli scholars (and artists) from Israeli institutions is incredibly important. It is an aspect often overlooked and ignored by critics of the BDS movement. The PACBI has been very careful to honor this distinction. The BDS movement is “Anchored in precepts of international law and universal human rights,” it explains, and rejects “boycotts of individuals based on their identity (such as citizenship, race, gender, or religion) or opinion.” The only circumstances in which it advocates boycotting in individuals is when they are “representing the state of Israel or a complicit Israeli institution (such as a dean, rector, or president), or is commissioned/recruited to participate in Israel’s efforts to ‘rebrand’ itself. … Mere affiliation of Israeli scholars to an Israeli academic institution is therefore not grounds for applying the boycott.”

Today, distinguished Israeli scholars such as Ilan Pappé, Shlomo Sand, Neve Gordon, Oren Yiftachel, Anat Biletzki, and more have supported academic and cultural boycotts of their own state. Their calls for justice, in fact, have been some of the most vociferous. People from all walks of life, around the world, are calling for human rights and dignity for the Palestinians, and the university has served as the rallying point for these calls.

In his canonical August 1967 speech “Where Do We Go From Here?” Martin Luther King, Jr. paraphrased 19th-century American abolitionist Theodore Parker, proclaiming “The arc of the Moral Universe is long, but it bends toward Justice!”

The “war” for hearts and minds, as Sharansky fancies it, is indeed being waged on the “battleground” of the US university campus. But, despite the enormous and formidable forces rising against them, those seeking justice and freedom for the Palestinian people are winning. The arc of the Moral Universe is indeed slowly, and painfully, but surely, bending toward Justice.

The 10 Best Music Videos That Spread the Putin-Love

10/8/14
"All the single Putins!" Image edited by Kevin Rothrock.

“All the single Putins!” Image edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, turned 62 yesterday. Public opinion polls assure us that the people of Russia are quite fond of their head of state, despite the checkered reputation Putin enjoys abroad, especially in the West. The country's mounting economic problems don't seem to bother most Russians, either. The proof, it seems, is in the music.

Yesterday, in a mix of satire and homage, news media around the world covered the spectacle surrounding Putin's most recent birthday. But the party has been going on for years already. If “Russia under Putin” were a human being, she'd be an adolescent now, pushing fourteen. Throughout this time, the Internet has been a treasure trove of artistic expression of Russian citizens’ feelings about their president.

Expressing themselves in song comes naturally to most Russians, so it's no wonder that music about Putin abounds on the Internet. While some of the songs are critical or offensive in nature (slamming Putin for corruption, abuse of power, and greed), many others laud “VVP” (the president's initials) for his manliness, bravery, and no-nonsense je ne sais quoi.

RuNet Echo looks back at the 10 best examples of foot-tapping, hip-thrusting Putin-love to have appeared online. A “cult of personality” never sounded so good.

1. Who Could Be The President? (2006)


This laid-back reggae track gives us a brilliant mashup of Putin's real words, excerpted from a public speech (and taken wildly out of context, of course!). The song treats listeners to a Putin not shy about extolling his own virtues. “Who could be the president? Who could be me? Because nobody wants to do the dirty work. Because nobody wants to be caught in the Kremlin. We need strong authorities—strong presidential authority. Who could be president? Me!”

2. Go Hard Like Vladimir Putin (2014)


An amazing monochrome rap video praising Putin's hard-hitting, no-compromising side. We don't really know what AMG (aka Jason Lewis), a rapper from Ohio, and the Russian President have in common, or why AMG looks up to VVP. But it's an instant hit.

3. One Like Putin (2002)


This one is a classic. A sexy techno anthem to the machismo that is the president. The ladies in the video say they're done with their boyfriends (so disappointing!) and the only man they could ever settle for is someone like Putin. This is one of the longest-running Putin tracks of all time, and it's still as good as it was the first time we heard it.

4. Putin Can Do Anything (2013)


A cute cartoon accompanied by a riff on a Russian children's song (the original is “Daddy Can Do Anything”). (Yes, we know.) Putin emerges as an all-around talented man: he can go to space, play the piano, climb mountains, breakdance, pilot an airplane—there's really nothing he can't do. Bonus feature: a super-sad, but hilarious, Yanukovych character. Also, the choir at the end. It's worth watching all the way. We promise.

5. Putin Super DJ (2008)


Sorry, Mr. Jackson, but when Mr. Putin, the new super DJ in town, gets behind the turntable, we're gonna dance 'til morning. He's a superstar! “We all dream of being like him,” sings Andrey Gubin, who used to be a legitimate pop singer in Russia. Yeah, it's sad to watch the stars fade, but the track is still kind of catchy!

6. Go Forth, Vladimir Putin! (2012)


A more traditional song with an accordion, balalaikas, and back-up choir, not to mention the obligatory mentions of Russian villages, love, and bad weather. No matter how dark the sky, singer Vladimir Slepak rasps, we shall overcome all our problems, as long as we're moving forward with Putin at the helm. History in the making!

7. VVP (2012)


This one is secretly our favorite. Tadjik singer Tolibdjon Kurbankhanov praises Putin in a very earnest, but monotonous techno-number, set to a series of depressing, unspectacular shots of Russian cities in the winter. (This is the icy, dilapidated paradise you've come to know and love, foreigners.) “VVP, he saved the country, he elevated Russia!” The rest of the text is more poor rhymes and broken rhythms. It's so bad it's almost too good, and Kurbankhanov tries so hard. Bonus: Balalaika solo!

8. Stir It Up, Muddle It Up (2012)


Another example of brilliant sampling skills. This track mixes up soundbites from Putin, Medvedev, and other officials, as well as quotes from popular culture with a catchy refrain. The gist is, Putin has got to be president, and we will do anything we can—stir up trouble and muddy the waters—to keep Vova (Putin) in power. This almost sounds like satire, but not quite. Also, Putin wears a crown, because why not.

9. The Song of Putin (2010)


This one has a more raw, garageband sound, but it still works. Some rapping, some distorted guitars, and more praise for Putin. The authors walk us through VVP's epic biography, from his early years to his ascent to power. The guitar riffs are nice, and the refrain is to die for: “Bro, don't sweat it! Everything's gonna be ace!”

10. Vova Is Rocking It (2010)


This hilarious cartoon music video is built on the classic R&B canon: the soloist, the hip-swinging backup girls, and the harmonies. Dress Code, the band behind the song, presents Putin as an epic hero, who is more awesome than James Bond, Superman, or Harry Potter, and saving the day is basically his day job. (We won't ask what he gets up to at night.) Nothing but respect for the man who is our Luke Skywalker and our Terminator, rolled into one.