BDS at UNM
It's a story that is depressingly familiar. A pro-Palestinian speaker is invited to a university. The local Jewish community gets wind of it and protests the speaker as extreme and anti-Semitic. The protest then becomes the story and the pro-Israel community is forced to fend off charges of "stifling" free expression.
So it went this week at the University of New Mexico. Ali Abunimah, a co-founder of the Electronic Intifada blog and a mainstay of the campus speakers circuit, was invited to the University of New Mexico. Abunimah is a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as well as the author of "One State."
Ben Harris of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) has an interesting blog post on my talk at UNM, and although its clear he does not agree with much of what I say, he made a genuine effort to convey it -- even though he uses questionable terms such as "Israel's supposed war crimes and crimes against humanity" as if there is not a mountain of evidence documenting such, including in a tiny number of cases convictions in Israeli courts.
Harris also writes about me: "Incredibly, he attacked European Union humanitarian aid to the Palestinians as complicit in the occupation by ameliorating its worst effects. Far better, he implied, that the Palestinians suffer so as to accelerate international outrage."
That is not at all the point I sought to make. Rather, what I argue is that aid in the absence of political action to end the oppression which makes aid necessary in the first place is what Desmond Tutu has called 'polishing the chains' of captivity. I am not saying aid should end and Palestinians should suffer more, but that aid should not be used as a conscience-cleansing substitute for the tough political action --and even confrontation-- needed to end Israel's abuses.