Salaita Breaks His Silence

Sep 10

Steven Salaita has broken his silence. Here is his statement regarding what has happened to him, professionally and personally, as a result of the University of Illinois’ decision to terminate him from his tenured position.  It appears that even thought the University of Illinois is prepared to settle with him financially, Salaita will accept nothing other than reinstatement.  That is certainly the right call from the perspective of the academic community, but litigation, if pursued, will extract a high personal and financial tool on Salaita and his family, and will require substantial support from his fellow academics to succeed. This could be a landmark case on academic freedom, and the extent to which private donors will be permitted to set the agenda for speech on the university, the university’s hiring decisions and methods of teaching used by faculty.

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Write a Letter to the Trustees of the University of Illinois in Support of Steven Salaita

Sep 04

Despite the vast amounts of negative publicity the University of Illinois has received, and continues to receive as a result of its decision to terminate Professor Steven Salaita, it has yet to reverse its decision.  Its Board of  Trustees will be meeting on September 11, and they should be made aware directly of the consequences their decision will have on the University, both in terms of the law and its academic reputation.  Please take some time and write an e-mail to the trustees expressing your opposition to the decision to terminate Professor Salaita and demand his reinstatement.  The names and the e-mails of the trustees are set out below:

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University of Illinois Rescinds Offer to Professor for his Anti-Israeli Tweets

Aug 06

This morning, I read this disturbing report that the University of Illinois rescinded an offer it made to a professor to join its faculty on account of his anti-Israel tweets. It is important that we write to the University of Illinois protesting this decision.  Please consider sending an e-mail the University Chancellor, Phyllis Wise, explaining why this decision is not consistent with the values central to a university in a democracy.  Her e-mail address is chancellor@illinois.edu (or in the alternative, pmischo@illinois.edu).  Here is the note that I sent her:

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Ilana Feldman, Professor of Anthropology at George Washington University, on Israel’s Long-Standing Policy of Isolating Gaza

Jul 29

Ilana Feldman, an anthropologist at George Washington University, has written this informative post on Israel’s evolving policy of isolation of Gaza, which is now reaching its crescendo in “Operation Protective Wedge.” She concludes with the following bleak assessment of life in Gaza:

“So Gazans are immobilized in every sense: cut off from other members of their community, isolated from the “international community,” deprived of economic opportunity, basic goods, and access to advanced medical care. Imposed immobility is itself a form of violence against people, and it cruelly magnifies the violence of military assault. The current catastrophe in Gaza is a product of years of preparation. Restriction of Palestinian movement goes back to their displacement in 1948. And mobility management has been a central tactic of Israeli occupation since 1967. The phone call ahead of the bomb, the “roof knock” (a small bomb) ahead of the lethal strike, are twists in this long trajectory. That sometimes the phone call is not followed by a strike underscores its potency in psychological warfare. These tactics are yet another weapon in the massive arsenal deployed against Palestinians.”

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Hamas “Defense” Spending Compared to Israel According to Israel’s Shin Bet

Jul 28

When Israeli propagandists talk about Hamas diverting resources from needy Palestinians to fight Israel, keep this factoid in mind, courtesy of Shin Bet, Israel’s intelligence services (from WikiLeaks):

“According to the leaked cable, Gaza’s de-facto Hamas government spends an estimated budget of US$290 million annually, on a population of approximately 1.5 million residents. The PA’s budget is four times bigger, at approximately US$1.24 billion in 2010. The PA provides services to about 2.4 million residents in the West Bank, as well as covering some of the costs of certain services for Gaza’s residents. The Shin Bet estimates that Hamas uses US$40 million (13.8% of its budget) for military and security needs, and invests the remainder in administration and civilian projects. Israel, by comparison, ran a budget of US$96 billion in 2010 (for a population of 7.6 million), and spent 18.6% of it on military and security purposes – so that, ironically, even according to Shin Bet estimates, Israel spends proportionately more on its military than Hamas spends.”

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Crescent Chronicles: The Travails of North American Ramadan

Jul 28

Muslim Matters has published a very interesting history of moon sighting in North America, and the context behind the 2006 decision of ISNA and the fiqh committee to adopt astronomical calculation as the basis for determining the beginning and end  of Ramadan.  It also has a special shout out to Toronto, although I’m not sure it is one we should be proud of:

“Toronto is one of the few cities, if not the only, which hosts mosques that simultaneously follow all permutations of moonsighting opinions that have ever existed in Islam’s legal history; local sighting, global, Saudi-sighting, astronomical calculations – perhaps there are more. This represents a trend which has become common occurrence across much of the North America; Muslim communities split along lines of lunar dogmatism.”

Meanwhile, if you need evidence that Muslims are great at making lemonade when life gives them lemons, check out what the article attributes to Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on this situation:

“While its easy to have a dismal outlook on this debate, there are positive take a ways from this situation as well. As Shaykh Hamza Yusuf recently pointed out, Muslims arguing over something like moonsighting, which may appear as a trivial matter, is a sign of a serious community of believers. People disagree because they hold their convictions to be true, they care about their religion, and they strive to practice it in the most correct way. In a society where religion is increasingly viewed with an eye of irrelevance, it is refreshing to see a people who care enough about it to disagree over it.”

Well, one might think there are more useful things for us to engage deeply in to evidence the strength of our convictions, but that perhaps that discussion is best left for another day.

‘Id Mubarak to all, but especially for the Gazans.

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The UK’s Independent Exposes Brain Behind Israel’s Propaganda Machine to be a Republican Party Hack

Jul 28

We all know that Israel’s expressions of concern for the Palestinians it kills, whose homes it destroys and whose lives it has destroyed is all nonsense, but perhaps we don’t know the details behind how the propaganda has been constructed, in coordination with public opinion experts from the US with the express goal of manipulating US public opinion.  This article from the UK’s Independent sheds some light on what can only be described as an incredibly cynical and duplicitous, if not evil and despicable, strategy of Israeli decision makers to try to mask the ugly reality of their actions from public opinion in the one state they believe can stop them — the United States. There are so many despicable statements in the article, but here is one for starters:

“Dr Luntz cites as an example of an “effective Israeli sound bite” one which reads: “I particularly want to reach out to Palestinian mothers who have lost their children. No parent should have to bury their child.”  The study admits that the Israeli government does not really want a two-state solution, but says this should be masked because 78 per cent of Americans do. Hopes for the economic betterment of Palestinians should be emphasised. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is quoted with approval for saying that it is “time for someone to ask Hamas: what exactly are YOU doing to bring prosperity to your people”. The hypocrisy of this beggars belief: it is the seven-year-old Israeli economic siege that has reduced the Gaza to poverty and misery.”

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From The Electronic Intifada: The Gaza massacre is the price of a “Jewish state”

Jul 27

From The Electronic Intifada:

“If you support Israel’s “right to exist as a Jewish state” in a country whose indigenous Palestinian people today form half the population, then you, like Soffer, must come to terms with the inevitability of massacres. If you oppose the horrific, repeated massacres in Gaza, then join the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), a movement that aims to decolonize Palestine and restore to all the people all their legitimate and inalienable rights.”

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From Mondoweiss: “The Deafening Silence Around Hamas’ Ten Year Truce Proposal”

Jul 27

From Mondoweiss.net:

“Perhaps more surprisingly, the international community – with the exception of Turkey and Qatar – has spent no words on the Hamas truce proposal although many of the points of the proposal already enjoy international support. This refusal to deal with the proposal is particularly problematic in the current context. Without any pressure by the international community, Israel, the party who has the upper hand in this conflict, will feel legitimized to keep refusing negotiations for a real truce with Hamas. Truces and negotiations are made with enemies not friends. International organizations and Western leaders, echoing Israel and the United States, maintain that Hamas is a terrorist organization and thus any direct negotiations with it are embargoed.”

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Religious Arguments, Non-Religious Arguments and Public Reason: the Special Case of Transitional Societies

Jul 06

My friend Andrew March recently published an interesting article on the use of religious arguments for public justification and their relationship to public reason.   The article is well-worth reading in its entirety for its interesting taxonomy of the different kinds of religious arguments that might be presented in political life, and crucially, how such arguments interact with different registers of political concern.  In short March argues that a much more sophisticated approach to religious argument and its relationship to a civic life in a politically liberal state is required that goes beyond the binary choice of either never admitting the legitimacy of religious arguments or always admitting them.

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