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“Worst Campuses for Jewish Students”: A Laughable List

Jan18

by: Paul Von Blum on January 18th, 2017 | No Comments »

View of Royce HallRecently, the Jewish newspaper, The Algemeiner, released its list of the “40 Worst Campuses for Jewish Students in the United States and Canada.” Included in this list of infamy were such internationally known institutions as Columbia University (#1 for hostility against Jewish students), the University of Chicago, the University of Toronto, McGill University, the University of Washington, Vassar College, New York University, and many others. UCLA, where I have taught for almost four decades, came in at number 6. The Algemiener list is scarcely the only one of its kind. UCLA also makes the cut from the notorious David Horowitz, who is always on guard for any sentiments, especially on college and university campuses, that offend his right-wing agenda.

The rap against UCLA often stems from an unfortunate incident on February 10, 2015. A young Jewish woman student, Rachel Beyda, was nominated for a position on the student Judicial Board. When she appeared before the Student Council, she was questioned about her religion and her ability to serve impartially: “Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community, how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?”

Later, Ms. Beyda was voted in unanimously and the four council members who initially voted against her apologized. This incident was unambiguously anti-Semitic and was roundly condemned throughout the campus community and through the national media. I took every opportunity personally, in class and in private conversations, to condemn the original student council action and the odious questions to Rachel Beyda. As a second generation Holocaust survivor, I am acutely sensitive to all forms of racism and anti-Semitism (and sexism and homophobia) and I always speak out wherever and whenever I encounter them.

But this regrettable incident also needs proper perspective. In various social gatherings for the past two years, I have been asked, even confronted, about the allegedly dangerous atmosphere that Jews face at UCLA. Inevitably, the first example I hear is the story of the Rachel Beyda affair. This incident was a matter of juvenile ignorance rather than evidence of systemic anti-Jewish bias on campus. University students sometimes do dumb things; this was one of the dumber things I have seen in my many years of university teaching.


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Can a Two-State Solution Survive?

Jan18

by: Joel Beinin on January 18th, 2017 | No Comments »

French foreign minister in front of officerFrench Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault hosted the foreign ministers of some 70 countries on January 15 at a Paris conference to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and “re-launch” the peace process. Mr. Ayrault hoped that the meeting would “reaffirm the necessity of having two states.” France supports “a viable and democratic independent Palestinian State, living in peace and security alongside Israel.” Jerusalem would be the capital of both states. The border between them would be based on the ceasefire lines prior to the Arab-Israeli War of June 1967, with mutually agreed modifications and equivalent land swaps.

Since the 1980 Venice Declaration of the European Union (then called the European Economic Community), international opinion has gradually reached near unanimity that something like this is the only viable resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But the French initiative, like many other well-intentioned efforts, produced no concrete results. Indeed, there was no reason to expect it would.

On April 18, 2013, as Secretary of State John Kerry was launching his effort to restart Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, he told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that, “the window for a two-state solution is shutting…I think we have some period of time – a year to year-and-a-half to two years, or it’s over.” If Secretary Kerry’s words have any meaning, the two-state solution has been clinically dead for nearly two years. Nonetheless, international diplomatic activity aimed at keeping it on life support continues zealously.


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What the Women’s March on Washington Symbolizes

Jan18

by: on January 18th, 2017 | No Comments »

(The following was written by a good friend, Michael Johnson, from Austin Texas.  He gave me permission to share this with you. I’m inspired by the way it ends with empowering optimism.)

The March on Saturday symbolizes, to me, the beginning of what promises to be a long and difficult fight and one in which victory is far from certain. I fear defeat will mean the end of our great experiment in human freedom, democracy, and equality. Very probably defeat will signal acceleration beyond return of the global upheaval certain if we don’t sufficiently slow climate change. This March begins a movement. And, to borrow from Joe Biden, it is a “Big Fuckin’ Deal”.

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Neither Jewish nor Democratic

Jan17

by: Shaiya Rothberg on January 17th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

It’s game over for the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in Israel’s Negev region. Government bulldozers may begin crushing the homes of the roughly 500 residents at any time. On the rubble will be built a new town called Hiran, complete with a synagogue and Jewish ritual bath. A group of religious Jews are living nearby, ready to move in.

The violent fate of Umm al-Hiran is a fitting end to 60 years of neglect and discrimination. The village was established in its present location by an official order of the IDF military governor in 1956.  Even though settled in this spot by the state, they were still “unrecognized” and thus denied the basic services necessary for dignified life, such as electricity, water, roads, and sewage. They were also denied building permits so that their homes are “illegal.” The Jews who will replace them will live in “legal” homes with all the necessary services.


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Pedagogies of Silence on MLK Day

Jan15

by: on January 15th, 2017 | No Comments »

One of my oldest memories growing up in Haiti under an authoritarian regime is the sound of the phrase, ou konn ki es mwen ye? Whether uttered in a whisper, loudly, with sustained bravado stretched over every syllable, or with a chuckle, the meaning was clear. For the question was simply, do you know who I am? Honestly, I had no concrete sense what that meant until years later when I became conscious of the small ways I was taught what power is, how it operates, who has it, how it was wielded, who abuses it and who dared to challenge it.

There was an ongoing joke among some adults when presidential election results were announced which favored the dictator several millions to one. Who was foolish enough to cast that singular oppositional vote? Everyone knew these numbers were a sham. Some openly voiced their contempt and paid a severe price; many creatively subverted as others remained totally quiet. Daily survival, we knew, depended upon when and how one traded their most precious commodity: silence. It had use, sign, and exchange values that could be accrued.

I was shy, and more often than not, dutiful. The fear I embodied was visible as I bowed my head in the presence of grownups. There were codes by which we all lived knowing the difference between responses that were appropriate and the ones that were not. Some words, once spoken out loud, were not only directives that provided no guarantees of whom would not disappear, or get food to eat, but could also be evidence of troublemaking that no one wish would visit their home.

In the aftermath of migration to this country (also founded on dissent), I began to relish in expressing my freedom to speak. Out. Loud. Part of it surely was teenage rebellion, another was my education — indoctrination by an English as a Second Language curriculum that sold us the American Dream. I bought it and was lucky enough to have also learned this dream, as the great poet Langston Hughes wrote, had been deferred for many — including Black minorities whose ancestors came to occupy this hemisphere by way of slavery. The system, as it were, was stacked against us. As the unstoppable human rights activist, Ella Josephine Baker so rightfully put it, “we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it happens.” I use to imagine I was old enough to join the March on Washington wondering what it would have felt like to be there standing somewhere in that big crowd listening to Mahalia Jackson and being inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech.

I often say I have a difficult relationship with silence because I grew up under a dictatorship. So, I never took it for granted that as unequal as we may be in the eyes of others and especially the law, ancestors and elders fought and died for us to have our rights, even though we are still treated unjustly when we use them. Since protest is as American as apple pie, it was in this American spirit that we continue to exercise that right. As fraught as life has been in this system, it remained distinguishable from living under a ruler that demanded total allegiance and loyalty. Though it wasn’t structurally possible for everyone, one could still strive towards individuation and achieve it. As long as we understood “we have as much freedom as we are willing to pay for” according to McArthur genius, choreographer Bill T. Jones. Indeed, the possibilities of participation, at least existed. For democracy, as the old saying goes, is not a spectator sport. It took work. Civic engagement is more than a marker of citizenship, it is manifestation of a sense of duty to self, community, and country.

When the Black-ish episode clip about the recent presidential elections started to circulate days ago, I began to remember how I learned my fears of silence. I grew up in a time and in a country where girls and women were supposed to be quiet. As I meditate on the meaning of MLK today, in this country that I now call my own, I can admit I speak out precisely because silence is a structure of power that I refuse to recreate. I am reminded of his wise words, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Given our history, we must consciously resist impulses that threaten to further incarcerate us in states of negation.

 

 

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Working for Change in a New Era – How?

Jan15

by: on January 15th, 2017 | No Comments »

At an anti-Trump rally in Baltimore, MD, Nov 10, 2016.

We are only days away from the inauguration of a president for the United States of America that probably most of the people of the world believe is a disaster for humanity. Those of us living in the United States who are frightened of what his reign might bring are thinking long and hard about what we could possibly do in this new climate.

This disquiet has been showing up time and again on both the free calls I host: the Fearless Heart Teleseminar and the Facing Privilege calls. On one recent call, someone asked a very pointed question: if I had the opportunity, somehow, to speak with Donald Trump for 30 minutes, what would I say to him?

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Carrie Fisher: A Woman of Many Parts

Jan14

by: on January 14th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

On December 27, 2016, Carrie Fisher died days after suffering a heart attack on an airplane flying from London to Los Angeles. She was sixty and known primarily for her role as Princess Leia and later General Leia Organa in the “Star Wars” movies. However, it is important to note that Carrie Fisher was much more than her portrayal of one fictional character. She was much more than a child of celebrities – Debbie Reynold and Eddie Fisher – living her life and, in the end, dying her death in the light of her mother’s star. (Debbie Reynolds died the day after Carrie Fisher.)
She was a woman of many parts, and she was more than the sum of those various parts.

In her one woman show – “Wishful Drinking” – she describes her birth. The hospital personnel were star struck with her movie star mother and her crooner father. They paid little attention to her.

She says: “When I arrived, I was virtually unattended.” She says she has been seeking attention from that moment. But Carrie Fisher was more than a Hollywood child seeking attention.

She started acting as a teenager with a role in the movie “Shampoo.” At age 19, she landed the role of Princess Leia in the movie “Star Wars.” These movies became cult classics, and people relate to Princess Leia as a brave warrior princess general, mother of a Jedi knight who has been seduced by the dark side of the Force, but even Princess Leia is more than that. She is the feminine divine in the realm of the Force.

In her most recent book, “Princess Diarist”, she writes about her experiences with fans who want her to still look like and to be a young princess. Yet, she is more than this. She knows after all these years that people see her and Princess Leia as one. She reflects upon this in the HBO documentary, “Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.”

“They love her, and I’m her custodian; and I am as close as you’re gonna get. She’s me and I’m her. They talk to me like I’m Princess Leia who happened to have all these difficult experiences to go through and it’s like me fighting for the Force.”

She has had difficult experiences that many other people have also had except she spoke openly about hers. In the “Princess Diarist” she writes about her relationship with Harrison Ford when they worked on the early Star Wars movies. He was older and married and she was wise enough at that young age to know there would be no happily-ever-after with him. She writes about a love that takes her breath away and of wanting her breath back.

She writes: “If anyone reads this when I have passed to the big bad beyond I shall be posthumorously embarrassed. I shall spend my entire after life blushing.” I suspect that she will not be blushing, but laughing at her young self. I image her free of the pain and embarrassment and filled with nothing but joy.

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Words

Jan12

by: Sara Yamasaki on January 12th, 2017 | 2 Comments »

“My dad killed people like you,” Bobby Jones yelled.

My five-year-old body twisted into a tight knot. Heat in my stomach travel up my chest and settled in my throat. I kept my head down, blinked hard, and watched the ground—one saddle shoe, then the other, moving me in measured slow motion to kindergarten.

I didn’t know what it meant to be killed. Didn’t know anyone who had died, hadn’t seen death on television, and hadn’t even lost a goldfish. But every day, Bobby waited at the bottom of the hill to taunt and follow me to school. As much as I wanted to run, I knew I’d get caught. Bobby was bigger and older than I was. So I listened to the calming sound of gravel underfoot and said nothing, my throat burning, my pace quickening.


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Yes We Can

Jan11

by: on January 11th, 2017 | 4 Comments »

In his farewell address, President Obama returned to the basic theme that propelled him to national attention and to the White House – We the People have the power and the duty to make the United States a more perfect union. The audacious challenge comes at a moment when we face a transition of power to a presidency that no doubt will be, charitably put, one of the most unconventional in history.

I say: Now is the time for us to take up this challenge and organize to resist a Congress and a president who will take us backward on any number of issues.

President Obama reminded us that the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness “while self-evident, have never been self-executing.” The work of citizens is to use our freedom to work toward both our own dreams and toward the common good. He spoke of his achievements, and he said they were also our achievements:

“reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, . . . unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history. . . open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, take out the mastermind of 9-ll . . . win marriage equality and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens. . . ”

These achievement are a testament to democracy, but President Obama warned of three major threats to our democracy – income inequality, racism, and societal fragmentation along with self-selected facts. He called upon us to stay engaged with the global struggle “to expand democracy and human rights and women’s rights and LGBT rights.”

He warmed us about complacency. He said: “our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.” He spoke of the importance of voting rights, of the “corrosive influence of money in our politics” and the problem with gerrymandered congressional districts. He warned against seeing our political opposition as malevolent rather than misguided.

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Why Monsanto Wants Me in Jail

Jan10

by: Reverend Billy Talen​ on January 10th, 2017 | No Comments »

I am facing some jail time for standing up to the evils of Monsanto and other Big Ag usurpers of the Earth. My trial beginstomorrow.

The prosecutor in Iowa appears corrupted by Monsanto and has proposed to a judge that protesters of its toxins be deprived of their constitutional rights at trial. Let’s repeat that. A Des Moines assistant District Attorney has filed a motion that would preclude any “referencing” of the 1st Amendment or free speech protections of the Bill of Rights in my trial. This would retroactively strip a protester, me, of the right to protest simply. Here’s a link to the motion.


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