Analysis News

Legal experts cannot erase Israel's history of torture

Since 2001 over 850 complaints of torture have been submitted by Palestinians. Not a single criminal investigation has been opened. 

By Dr. Ishai Menuhin

Whenever Israel signs a treaty, international standards require it to come up with creative bypasses and convoluted legal answers for its actions. At the same, the Israeli government finds it difficult to implement the commitments it has taken upon itself in our name. This is because both the General Security Service (GSS) and the broader Israeli security establishment are interested in violating the human rights of those they interrogate, rather than observe international standards and rules.

On Monday, Israeli representatives presented the state’s position before the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva regarding country’s commitment to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which Israel signed in 1966 and ratified in 1991.

Palestinian organizer tortured in Israeli jail (activestills)

A Palestinian organizer who was tortured in an Israeli jail (Activestills.org)

Representatives from the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) were also present at the meeting. They argued that Israel has failed to meet its commitments, and that no significant change has been seen since the time Israeli representatives stood before the committee, four years ago. Members of PCATI further explained that the Israeli government has not yet enacted a law against torture, despite its stated commitments per the convention, as well that of the Convention Against Torture, to do so. Both the Human Rights Committee and the Committee Against Torture (CAT) have repeatedly recommended that Israel enact such a law, which is required by any country that signs the aforementioned conventions. The Israeli government and the Knesset have refrained from doing so.

Legal experts have authored long and creative replies explaining that although there is no law against torture, it is strictly prohibited by sundry sections of Israeli law. Thus, they argue, there is no need for legislation. They have also refrained from implementing the Turkel Commission’s recommendations to enact any such law.

PCATI members also argued that the refusal of the government and the Knesset to introduce protective mechanisms against torture are completely contrary to Israel’s actions in the treaties it has signed and ratified. These include audiovisual documentation of interrogations of security suspects or mechanisms for unannounced visits to interrogation facilities by independent bodies. Audiovisual documentation...

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The struggle for Mizrahi recognition isn't limited to Israel

If Israeli Jewish society is going to move forward dealing with its own racial tensions, it needs British and world Jewry to do the same. Generations of Mizrahi Jews in the UK no longer understand their own history: they have been taught to weep for Krakow but never for Sanaa.

By Leeor Ohayon

Deep in the heart of North East London, where South Tottenham meets Stamford Hill, sits an Adenese Jewish community. Here, I was born and raised, born into a mixed Yemenite-Moroccan family in the middle of a Mizrahi Jewish bubble. Within that bubble, where Hebrew was sung in heavy guttural pronunciations, where cussing was done in Arabic, and where women ululated at bar mitzvahs and weddings, we lived an existence away from the “Fiddler on the Roof”-style clichés that have come to dictate society’s understanding of Jews.

In my community a large percentage were ’67 refugees. The last Jews of Aden, who in 1967 boarded British ships with nothing but the clothes on their back, forced to flee suddenly in the midst of the turmoil of the British colonial exit. An ancient community, 2,000 years old, uprooted overnight, made its way to North East London to join an already established Adenese Jewish community that traced its roots to the heyday of the British Empire. Yet, despite their historical place in the British Jewish landscape, their presence remains forgotten by the mainstream Anglo-Jewish narrative. Similarly, no one speaks of the Iraqi-Jewish merchants who set up thriving communities in London and British Mumbai, nor of the Egyptian-Jews who arrived with the empire, or the Iranian-Jewish presence.

Attending British Jewish schools my entire life, it did not take long for me to realize that my Judaeo-Berber surname, brown skin and Mizrahi identity were undesirable. Better yet, they weren’t “really Jewish.” That undesirability, that categorization of what is Jewish, is chained to a non-pluralist Eurocentric reality which dictates Jewish history and culture, from Israel to the UK.

Judaism, we are told, is uniform: it is socially Eastern European, linguistically Yiddish, ethnically White. Judaism is never Brown, Arabic or Middle Eastern.  Subsequently, the Mizrahi Jew is whitewashed from the Jewish historical narrative, which in turn has allowed for his erasure from both Western and Arab historical, social and political discourse surrounding the Middle East. The non-Jewish world thus understands Judaism and Israeli society through Eurocentric-Ashkenazi paradigms provided for them by the Ashkenazi experience, which...

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Surviving winter after surviving ISIS: A testimony by a Yazidi refugee

Since the beginning of August, an estimated 350,000 Yazidi internally displaced persons (IDP) have been living in villages, towns and various refugee camps in Iraqi Kurdistan, Syria and Turkey. While most of those who found refuge have taken shelter in local school classrooms, construction sites or under bridges, the IDPs who have been placed in refugee camps were housed in tents, some of which were provided by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Last week, as the first rains hit Iraqi Kurdistan, the Yazidi refugee camps quickly became mud traps. Should refugees not be put in caravans, these camps could potentially become the site of the next disaster to befall the Yazidis. Saad al-Avdal offers a first-hand account from Khanik, one of the largest and most densely populated refugee camps in Iraqi Kurdistan.

By Saad al-Avdal (translated by Idan Barir)

In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful.

I do not know where or how to begin. I simply do not know. Let me start on August 3, 2014, that black and horrific day, when my family, as well as all the Ezidkhan [a general name for all Yezidi people] fell victim to genocide by the gangs of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), to the abduction of women and children and to the ruthless killing of anyone who got in their way. On that day, all of us who escaped their filthy murderous hands, were forced to flee to Mount Sinjar (Shingal) and stay there for a more than a week without the food or water that exceeds the minimum we were able to obtain in order to survive the terrible hunger and thirst.

This was the state of affairs in the particular area on the mountain where I stayed with my family. However, in other parts of the mountain there were people who could not even obtain this bare minimum – a piece of bread and some drinking water. As a result, hundreds, potentially thousands, of children, elderly and sick people died while still on the mountain.

The Yazidi refugee camp, Khanek (photo: Saad al-Avdal)

The Yazidi refugee camp, Khanek (photo: Saad al-Avdal)

So as not to tire you with the horror stories from Mount Sinjar, let me describe the rescue story: on August 9 and 10, a...

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For near identical crimes, an Israeli and a Palestinian’s fate couldn’t be more different

A Palestinian hit-and-run suspect is sent to prison and winds up dead; a Jewish suspected of a similar but deadlier crime in the West Bank is sent home to his family.

By John Brown* (translated by Sol Salbe)

Israeli soldiers arresting a Palestinian man, September 27, 2008. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers arresting a Palestinian man. (Illustrative photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Three months ago, on July 25, Raed al Jabari, a 35-year-old a father of five, was driving on Route 60 through the West Bank. He apparently fell asleep at the wheel (having earlier taken painkillers). Near the Gush Etzion Junction he hit a woman standing on the road. The woman was slightly injured. Immediately afterwards, he veered sharply back onto the road and turned himself in to Israeli authorities. There he explained what is outlined above.

Al Jabari was arrested and taken to the Ofer military prison. He was brought to the military court within the complex, where in light of these facts, the military judge released him on NIS 8,000 bail ($2140), having decided that he was not dangerous and his action wasn’t a deliberate terrorist act. But those were the days of Operation Protective Edge, and under the cover of the fighting in Gaza, the IDF greatly intensified its repressive actions in the West Bank. Without any additional evidence, the Military Advocate-General decided not to release him and Al Jabari became a “security prisoner.”

On September 9, Jabari was transferred to the Eshel Prison in Beersheba — inside the Green Line Israel — in flagrant violation of international law, which prohibits the transfer of prisoners outside of occupied territory. According to eyewitness accounts, he refused to get out of the vehicle, but was beaten and eventually got out. A few hours later the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) announced he had been found hanged in his cell. His family wasn’t informed of the death. Only after the case was reported in the media and rumors began to reach the family did they contacted the IPS, which at first claimed it knew nothing of the matter, and then confirmed the details. Israeli news site Walla! News reported at the time: “the prisoner who committed suicide, a 37-year-old Palestinian from Hebron, was arrested two months ago during Operation Brother’s Keeper on suspicion of...

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How the Israeli media covers massacres: Lessons from 1953

The killing was justified, the terrorists hid among the civilian population, the West is anti-Semitic, and on second thought, perhaps the whole thing never actually happened. From the 1953 Qibya massacre to Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli media is the same media, and the lies the same lies.

By John Brown

At 9:30 p.m. on the night of October 14, 1953, soldiers from Israel’s Paratroopers Unit as well as Commando Unit 101 fired mortars at the West Bank villages (then under Jordanian control) of Qibya and Ni’lin. Following the barrage, over 130 soldiers swarmed Qibya, laying down land mines on the outskirts of the village in order to prevent Jordanian troops from accessing it. Israeli forces then destroyed 45 homes and killed 69 people, most of them in cold blood by throwing grenades, including those who attempted to flee for their lives. Many were killed under the rubble of their own homes. Approximately two thirds of those killed were women and children. The soldiers received the following order from then-commander Ariel Sharon: “The intention: Attack and conquer the village of Qibya, with maximum damage to humans and property.” The massacre took place in the wake of the murder of three Israelis in the Israeli town Yehud.

Israeli newspapers quoted Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion when reporting that the massacre was committed by “settlers living on the border, some of them lived through Nazi concentration camps, while others are immigrants from Muslim countries, where the tradition of revenge is strong… and their patience ran out. No one will be more sorry than the Israeli government should it turn out that innocent blood was spilled in the revenge attack. The Israeli government vehemently rejects the outlandish and fantastical versions of the story, which claim that Israeli soldiers took part in the operation against Qibya. We examined the issue, and found that not a single military unit was missing from its base on the night of the attack on Qibya.” The Davar daily added that Ben-Gurion’s speech was delivered “from the heart of every Israeli” and that “Arab states are granting refuge to Nazi criminals.” Ben-Gurion would later repeat that very same lie in the Knesset.

Inhabitants of Qibya coming back in their village after its attack by israeli forces, October 1953. (photo:

Inhabitants of Qibya coming back in their village after its attack by...

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At Open Hillel conference, Jews demand their spot at the communal table

By demanding their voices be heard, Open Hillel students are making dissent within the Jewish community impossible to deny.

By Sarah Anne Minkin

Hillel is the Jewish home for college students. With more than 550 Hillels worldwide, mainly in North America, it is one of the primary sites where young Jews express, explore, and cultivate their Jewishness. So a few years ago when Hillel International, the parent organization, imposed strict guidelines around engagement with Israel, many students were upset to find themselves facing formal prohibitions.

After years of struggles within Hillels over who was in the “big tent” of Jewish community, the guidelines were supposed to clarify the boundaries of what was acceptable within the Jewish community. They prohibit hosting or cosponsoring an event with any organization or person who support BDS or commit Natan Sharansky’s “3 D’s” – demonizing, delegitimizing, or applying a double standard to the state of Israel.

Participants in the Open Hillel Conference, Harvard University. (photo: Gili Getz)

Participants in the Open Hillel Conference, Harvard University. (photo: Gili Getz)

The guidelines epitomize the marginalization and exclusion of dissent from within the confines of formal Jewish community on college campuses. Just look at the attempt to establish a JVP chapter at Brandeis, for instance, or the Breaking the Silence controversies at Penn and other places, or the brouhaha over Jews and Palestinians wanting to co-host former Knesset Chairman Avraham Burg at Harvard.

Frustrated students responded by getting organized. In 2013, under the “Open Hillel” banner, students launched a campaign and petition calling on Hillel to cancel its guidelines. Starting at Harvard, the effort caught on; Swarthmore Hillel declared themselves Open in December 2013, followed by Vassar in February 2014 (timeline here).

Open Hillel held its inaugural conference on October 11-13, gathering more than 350 people, mostly students and young alumni, representing a range of backgrounds, interests, and connections to Israel/Palestine. Some arrived as committed BDS-ers planning campaigns on their campuses. Some oppose BDS and align with J Street. Others arrived without a firm position.

The point of Open Hillel is to flex the muscles of inquiry and analysis rather than constrict debate. This aim will lead some to political action and others to inquire more. But in an age in which conversation is preemptively sterilized –...

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Israel’s High Court chooses occupation over international law

In at least two major decisions, Israel’s top court has shown it is prepared to uphold grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention amounting to war crimes, and to give its implicit endorsement to unlawful discrimination.

By Gerard Horton

Sitting as the High Court of Justice, Israel’s Supreme Court has heard thousands of petitions submitted on behalf of Palestinians living under military occupation since 1967. This gives rise to an unusual situation whereby the highest civilian court in Israel permits individuals, who could be considered as enemy aliens, to submit petitions challenging the actions of Israel’s military in occupied territory.

Some use this as evidence to argue that adequate domestic remedies are available to Palestinians, which in turn creates the impression that no international judicial scrutiny or intervention is warranted. The strength of this argument needs to be assessed with reference to  a number of the Court’s decisions.

Israel's Supreme Court sits as the High Court of Justice, April 1, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills)

Israel’s Supreme Court sits as the High Court of Justice, April 1, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills)

In 2010, the Court was petitioned in the case of Yesh Din v Minister of Defense on behalf of Palestinian prisoners from the West Bank who were transferred and detained inside Israel. The transfer and detention of Palestinian prisoners outside the West Bank is permitted under Israeli law (Regulation 6 of the Emergency Regulations) but prohibited under international law (Articles 49 and 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention).

In upholding an earlier decision (the Sejadia case), the Court held that where primary Israeli legislation and international law directly contradict each other, domestic Israeli law prevails, making the transfer lawful. However, basic international legal principles establish that no state may invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty obligation (Article 27 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties reflecting customary law). Accordingly, provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention prevail over Israeli domestic law where the two are in conflict, making the transfer and detention of prisoners outside the West Bank illegal. Be that as it may, approximately 90 percent of Palestinian prisoners continue to be transferred and detained inside Israel.

In 2014, the Court was petitioned in the case of the Ministry...

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A siege of inertia: Israel's non-policy on Gaza

One government inherits the siege from another, the prime minister admits it’s more harmful than helpful, the cabinet never formulates or even discusses a policy, and one minister goes as far as admitting that the only driving force behind Israel’s Gaza policy is inertia.

By Itamar Sha’altiel

Israeli soldiers inspect their tanks on the Gaza border during Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers inspect their tanks on the Gaza border during Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. (Photo by Activestills.org)

There is something tempting about trying to connect all the dots, which show that every decision made by successive Israeli governments have just been part of one giant, logical process. It doesn’t matter whether the final outcome is cold and cruel — at least we can find solace knowing that all the pain and injustice is part of a rational calculus. A few days ago it was Haggai Matar who tried to connect the dots. His conclusion: Operation Protective Edge was intended to cause unbelievable destruction in Gaza, which will cause the Palestinians to deal with reconstruction for years, thus prolonging the occupation.

I think Matar is wrong, and that the truth is worse and more complex than he wants to believe. If we connect all the dots of Israeli policy, we do not get a secret plan, but rather a picture of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon attempting to think; there is no rational calculus behind all the injustice and pain, only coincidence and covering one’s ass.

A few days ago, at a conference put on by the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), Likud’s Dan Meridor told an anecdote from the previous government (Hebrew). Meridor, who was then the deputy prime minister, asked at a 2010 cabinet meeting why there was a blockade on Gaza. “Inertia,” answered Ehud Barak, who was then the defense minister, and everyone continued about their business. This took place during a meeting in which members of the government discussed how to prepare for the flotilla that was approaching the shores of Gaza. Meridor did not describe what happened after Barak answered him, but seeing as the blockade did not end, it seems like “inertia” was a a satisfactory answer.

The blockade was not lifted even after the flotilla, despite the fact that it was inherited by...

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Why the IDF cannot be trusted to investigate itself

The occupation is violence: costly to the occupied, cheap for the occupiers. Only a credible, independent and effective inquiry into IDF actions can begin to make that violence costly to its perpetrators.

By Hagai El-Ad (translated by Keren T Rubinstein)

Recently it was announced that the IDF had already begun looking into 99 incidents that took place during Operation Defensive Shield. Of these, a criminal inquiry was initiated in five cases, while seven other cases have already been closed. Seemingly, this is commendable news. Alas, experience proves otherwise.

Time after time, official and quite ceremonious promises to establish the truth after attacks on the Gaza Strip have proven to be mere well-staged appearance. From one “inquiry” to the next, the structural flaws remain: no inquiry into the political echelon’s responsibility, while the very same army authorities – those who approve the use of military force – lead the inquiries against rank and file soldiers. In other words, those who gave the legal seal of approval before and during the military offensive are then put in charge of retrospectively “investigating” themselves. These are inquiries conducted with no transparency, while those who initiated them frame them as a “legal Iron Dome,” to quote Justice Minister MK Tzipi Livni.

A tent sits among the rubble in a destroyed section of the Shujayea neighborood, which was heavily attacked during the latest Israeli offensive, Gaza City, September 4, 2014. During the seven-week Israeli military offensive, 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

A tent sits among the rubble in a destroyed section of the Shujayea neighborood, which was heavily attacked during the latest Israeli offensive, Gaza City, September 4, 2014. During the seven-week Israeli military offensive, 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

There is sufficient evidence to conclude that such “mock inquiries” will never genuinely deal with what happened this summer in Gaza.

This ongoing reality, of violence that exacts a high price for its victims but that costs very little to its perpetrators, has far reaching implications: it is the mechanism at the heart of the occupation.

Without the use...

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Why won't Israel sign the Arms Trade Treaty?

Twenty years after its inception, the Arms Trade Treaty finally looks like it is going to be enshrined in international law. But despite supporting its passage, Israel refuses to sign it.

By Idan Itzhaky

A critical moment for human rights took place last week: the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) became a reality. This is a historical treaty, that like many other historical treaties, makes something that is patently obvious illegal by international law: the sale of weapons, which could be used to commit genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of human rights. Thus, the treaty will serve to significantly limit these serious violations.

But what may seem so obvious is not so simple at all. The idea was floated around in the offices of Amnesty International in 1993 between the organization, legal experts from Cambridge and Nobel Peace Prize winners. Since then, many hours of work have been put into the idea.

The experts weren’t alone in the struggle. Millions of activists across the world, including in Israel, put pressure on their governments and worked tirelessly against attempts that sought to empty the treaty of meaning, remove important clauses and, in essence, block any real enforcement. Here in Israel, hundreds of refugees from Darfur protested in front of the Russian Embassy against Russia’s transfer of arms to the Sudanese government, which are still being used to commit widespread human rights violations.

An Israeli soldier holds a drone. (IDF CC BY-NC 2.0)

An Israeli soldier holds a drone. (IDF CC BY-NC 2.0)

The campaign reached its peak last week after its 50th signatory pushed it past the threshold necessary for approval.

The treaty seeks to change a hypocritical reality, in which states openly decry horrifying human rights violations across the world, while surreptitiously allowing tremendous amounts of weapons to make it to those same places, thus fanning the flames while aiding and abetting the murder of thousands. It is not surprising to discover that more than 85% of cases of killings documented by Amnesty International were due to firearms, and that use of firearms were the cause of more than 60% of the most grave human rights violations documented.

Read: Profiting off war: A look into the world of Israeli arms dealing

The lack of oversight is exploited by arms dealers – including both private companies...

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Does a strengthened Hezbollah make Israel safer?

The catastrophic outcomes of another Israeli-Hezbollah conflict  for both sides is likely deterring escalation into all-out war. 

By Aaron Magid

Since the Gaza war ended, Israeli media quickly shifted its focus to the next conflict – with Hezbollah. Channel 2 aired an extensive interview with a senior Israeli military officer under the headline “The 3rd Lebanon War” detailing the immense costs such a clash would incur, as if another conflict with Hezbollah is a pre-determined fact.  Referring to the threat, longtime Israeli journalist Ben Caspit warned, “not since the War of Independence has the sovereignty of the Jewish State been in such peril.”

Ironically though, Hezbollah’s increased strength significantly reduces the chances of another war between the two parties.  Even during the clandestine battle between Israel and Hezbollah on Syrian territory which has led to losses on both sides, each leader realizes the outcome of a full-scale war would be unbearably catastrophic. This has caused both sides to scale back their responses and created a formidable mutual deterrence between the adversaries.

In multiple briefings with local press following the Gaza war, senior military officials have warned about Hezbollah’s strength. Hezbollah possesses approximately 100,000 rockets, 10-times the number in Hamas’s arsenal. In contrast to previous battles fought in Lebanon, the Israeli military believes that Hezbollah is now prepared t o send well-trained fighters across the border to conquer an Israeli town. The far more intense conflict could even last up-to four months, cautioned the senior Israeli officer. Any Israeli government understands that these nightmare scenarios must be avoided.

Daniel Sobelman, Research Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, notes that Hezbollah’s ability to provoke such fear is especially impressive given that Hezbollah is a non-state actor and much weaker militarily than Israel. Nonetheless, in a “calculated way,” Nasrallah has managed to establish a “fierce military deterrence vis-à-vis Israel,” Sobelman explains.

During the height of the Gaza war, the IDF presented the Security Cabinet with the estimated costs of a full-scale invasion: hundreds of soldiers killed, tens of billion of shekels lost and gruesome battles in the heart of Gaza City. After this frightening briefing, even Israel’s most hawkish minister Naphtali Bennett rejected a complete re-occupation of Gaza. If Israeli ministers shied away from a battle with the weaker Hamas, one can only imagine the Israeli government’s caution before engaging in a war with Hezbollah, which could inflict horrific...

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‘Open Hillel’ seeks to redefine U.S. Jewish debate on Israel-Palestine

A student-led movement is seeking to ‘open’ a prominent U.S. Jewish campus group to a broader range of voices, and it’s gaining ground. This weekend, Open Hillel will seek to model an inclusive Jewish community that embraces marginalized voices. 

By Naomi Dann

“What’s wrong with conflict?” A professor once challenged me, a student of peace and justice studies and non-confrontational by nature. “Points of tension and moments of debate are productive, we learn from them.”

This weekend, a student movement known as Open Hillel will host a historic conference that promises vibrant debate and plenty of conflict over the relationship between the American Jewish community and the State of Israel. The tensions produced by uncensored conversations about the Israel-Palestine conflict promise to offer a moment of growth for our community.

Hillel International, the umbrella organization that houses Jewish life on American college campuses, imposes a set of guidelines delimiting the parameters of the conversation about the State of Israel within its community. Those redlines prohibit Hillel chapters from hosting or partnering with organizations or individuals that support the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel, as well as those who “demonize” or “delegitimize” the State of Israel. These red lines and blanket characterizations have been used to silence debate and exclude prominent scholars, leaders, activists and organizations from mainstream Jewish life in American universities and institutions.

In the last year, the student-led movement to open Hillel to voices that dissent from the institutional American Jewish community’s unquestioning support for Israel has gained ground. In December 2013, the Hillel at Swarthmore College publicly declared that it would no longer abide by Hillel’s guidelines. In February 2014, I led a deliberative and democratic community process within the Hillel-affiliated Jewish community at Vassar College to publicly assert that our community would welcome a full diversity of political views, criticism and debate.

Building on the energy of students who have felt silenced on campus, the movement will host its first conference in Boston this weekend to model an open and inclusive Jewish community that allows space for the kind of dissent and disagreement around Israel that characterizes Jewish life in every other realm.

Bringing together a politically diverse group of hundreds of students, activists, scholars and Jewish community leaders, the conference will provide a space for spirited debate and engagement with difficult moral and political...

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A professor's freedom to tweet: The Steven Salaita affair

A Palestinian American professor’s withering tweets against Israel’s offensive in Gaza cost him his job. If his freedom of speech isn’t protected, it could be me or you next.

By Shachar Pinsker

In 2013, the American-Indian Studies Program at The University of Illinois decided to hire Steven Salaita, who then held a tenured position at Virginia Tech University. The university’s administration approved the appointment via a standard procedure that seemed to go smoothly. So in 2014, Salaita resigned from Virginia Tech, sold his house and moved with his family to Urbana-Champagne. But then, something very unlikely happened.

On August 1, Salaita received an email from Phyllis Wise, the U of I chancellor, informing him that his job offer had been rescinded. Wise wrote that the position was subject to approval by the university’s Board of Trustees, but in his case, the appointment would not even be submitted to the Board.  “We believe that an affirmative Board vote approving your appointment is unlikely,” Wise wrote. “We therefore will not be in a position to appoint you to the faculty.”

This was a very unusual decision, because Board approval is typically no more than a formality. However, that changed when Salaita, an American citizen of Palestinian decent, expressed his rage against Israel in a series of tweets about the war in Gaza in July, which he posted on his Twitter account. (The New York Times published a report with a selection of those tweets so you get an idea). Until the summer of 2014, nobody at U of I questioned Salaita’s scholarship on Native American and Palestinian issues (his scholarship and publications are strongly tied to his political activism).

However, after an exposé on Salaita in The Daily Caller, an extreme right-wing electronic newspaper, as well as a charge of anti-Semitism from The Simon Wiesenthal Center  Campus Outreach program, there was major concern about his tweets and political positions. There seems also to be a trove of documents showing that the university administration turned against Salaita due to pressure from rich donors, whose interest is apparently well represented by the Board. “Having been a multiple six figure donor to Illinois over the years, I know our support is ending as we vehemently disagree with the approach this individual espouses,” wrote one U of I business school graduate, for example.

Wise’s decision attracted much attention and...

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+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

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