Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Friday, January 03, 2014


  • The Israeli government is torturing Palestinian children, including keeping them in outdoor cages during winter, according to a new human rights report. A report by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel claims children suspected of minor crimes have been subjected to “public caging,” threats and acts of sexual violence and military trials without representation.
  • Ilan Pappé is foremost among the Israeli "new historians" who have challenged the traditional view of Israeli history, especially the Israeli role in the 1948 ethic cleansing of Palestinians.  He teaches history at Exeter University in England.  I share some of what Pappé said in a recent extensive interview:
If I had to choose a formative event that really changed my point of view in dramatic way, it would be the attack of the Israelis on Lebanon in 1982. For us who grew up in Israel, it was the first non-consensus war, the first war that obviously was a war of choice: Israel was not attacked, Israel attacked. Then the first Intifada happened. These events were eye openers in many ways for people like myself who already had some doubts about Zionism, about the historical version we learned at school.

It [Israel] is a very indoctrinated society probably more than most of Western societies and more than the non-Western societies. It is not because of coercion that people are indoctrinated, it is a powerful indoctrination from the moment you are born to the moment you die. 

Even the first Zionist settlers when they came and realised that what they thought was an empty land or at least their own land, was full of Arab people, they regarded these people as aliens, as violent aliens who took over their land. It is this infrastructure they have built about the other side that feeds all the Israelis’ perception and visions. It is a dehumanisation of the Palestinians that begins in the late nineteen century. 

The Palestinian political elite lived in the cities of Palestine but the main victims of Zionism up to the 1930s were in the countryside. That’s why the revolt started there but there were sections of the urban elite that joined them..... I pointed out in one of my books that the British killed or imprisoned most of those who belonged to the Palestinian political elite and military or potentially military elite. They created a Palestinian society that was quite defenceless in 1947 when the first Zionist actions, with the knowledge that the British mandate was coming to an end, commenced. I think it had an impact on the inability of the Palestinians to resist a year later in 1948, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

The task of changing Jewish society from within is formidable. This society seems to be more and more entrenched in its positions. The more I think about it the more desperate I am about succeeding in changing it from within.
  • The American Studies Association (ASA) is facing down the predictable backlash against its historic mid-December resolution in support of the academic boycott of Israel. "With the vote to boycott Israeli universities, the ASA has embraced a legitimate means of addressing Israel's human rights violations and challenging the U.S. government's unconditional support for Israel," reads the ASA press release. "As we move forward, threats and insults will not silence our voices or undermine the growing support for the academic boycott." 
  • Almost immediately after the overwhelming 2-to-1 passage of the resolution, the ASA faced a backlash organized by defenders of Israeli apartheid. In response, the ASA has issued a press release reiterating the social-justice motivations behind its resolution, while noting that its own members have been subjected to a campaign of harassment and intimidation for daring to break the wall of silence that for so long has muted any criticism within the U.S. academy of Israel's denial of Palestinian rights. Both the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, for example, published editorials condemning the ASA, while imposing a near-total "apartheid wall" against ASA members seeking to provide a counterpoint. The most virulent attacks, however, have come from university presidents. Kenyon College President Sean Decatur and Indiana University President Michael McRobbie not only condemned the ASA vote, but they also unilaterally and without consultation with faculty suspended the ASA membership of their American Studies programs. Presidents at Harvard, Purdue, Northwestern and University of Texas-Austin have likewise condemned the ASA vote. 


Anonymous Herb Hoffman said...


I, too, found Pappe's article enlightening -- and compelling. However, I have a fundamental disagreement on the issue of an academic boycott. I have come to the realization that boycotts, sanctions, blockades... tend to harm more innocents than deliver harm to those in power. Cuba, Iran are two current examples that come to mind.

I have never agreed with the boycotting of intellectual and information exchange. This is a basic building block in the foundation of academia. The US has prevented academics coming to this country for lectures, teaching etc. and usually we, the progressives, have protested.
Now, a large academic group in the US is doing just what we have in the past condemned.

There are many alternatives for sending such a message to the Israeli government -- which I suggest is distinct from the academic institutions.
[I am not so naive that I am blind to the insidious influence of the US government on our own academic institutions.] Perhaps, I am suggesting that the first stop for the 5000 ASA members would be to give a good look at the institutions of which they are members, where their influence would have much more impact.

In no way am I advocating a "free pass" for the Israeli government. I, too, have been and I am critical of the many egregious, illegal and immoral actions of the Israeli government and its IDF arm.

I continue to be in awe and deeply respectful of your work and what you have been instrumental in accomplishing. Keep it up!


1/3/14, 10:51 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

I have been to Palestine twice in past 14 mos.
I have nonviolent friends who have been killed, one a filmmaker doing nonviolent resistance shot in the face in Aida Camp-- for filming the IDF.
BDS was what made the difference in So Africa.

1/4/14, 7:26 AM  
Anonymous Martha Duenas Baum said...

Appreciate you taking the time to discuss this important topic. For great updates and terrific posting on the ASA discussions generated Kēhaulani out of Wesleyan on fb :

1/4/14, 10:51 AM  
Anonymous Herb Hoffman said...


Thank you for your sharing your experience of atrocities committed by the IDF. There is no denying that such horrible actions occur often.

The point that I failed to include in my comment is that social science research points out that direct, interpersonal contact is effective in changing or influencing attitudes. The ASA is taking an action that is just the opposite.

Though I believe that the blockade of South Africa played a role in changing the position of the government re apartheid, there were many other variables in play. Similar variable are not currently working in the case of Israel.

Last point: Blockades are indirectly violent in that they create great harm to innocent individuals. This may not be the case with the ASA, however I would prefer an active exchange, interaction among the academics as a possible pathway to change.



1/4/14, 12:31 PM  

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