This was meant to go out a week ago, but got misplaced to another address, and I only noticed this now. So sorry for the delay. It’s still an important item.
Below is an account by New Profile activist Mirjam Hadar Meerschwam of one event that has to do with the quite preposterous poster attached. One more sign o’ the ever more alarming times around here. I’d recommend reading this in full, and forwarding on. Let the world know what the Israeli society looks like from within nowadays.
HOW IT WORKS
Today, June 9 2010, Uri Hadar, my partner, was slated to participate in a public meeting at Bar Ilan University. At the last moment, yesterday night, he withdrew. I want to describe what happened.
As you probably know, Uri , a full time professor of clinical psychology at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Psychology is an active participant, off and on campus, in public debate and activity aimed to criticize and bring an end to Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian lands. He is a founding member of FFIPP (Faculty for Israeli and Palestinian Peace) and of Psychoactive (Israeli Mental Health Professionals for Human Rights).
He regularly participates in meetings and conferences, as well as publishes, on the upholding of human rights, dialogue and reconciliation in Israel/Palestine. He belongs to a small but growing number of Israeli academics who expressly address the occupation in their university teaching on the assumption that the social, cultural, political and epistemological context in which he and his students meet and negotiate knowledge is deeply implied in the formation and communication of that knowledge.
As part of his political activism on campus, Uri moderated a public conference call on video , “Voice from Gaza”, last April. This conference call was organized by Hakampus Lo Shotek (The Campus Is not Silent), the Israeli campus-based organization dedicated to human rights violations in the context of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. In brief, the two-hour event, which was organized at MIT/Harvard, USA was moderated by Dr Sara Roy, senior research scholar, Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and the voices from Gaza were those of Dr Eyad Sarraj, a senior non-aligned peace and human rights activist, and President of the Gaza Community Mental Health Center; Rowiya Haman, psychiatric nurse in Gaza, and Omar Shaban, economist and director, PAL-Think, a Gaza-based Palestinian think-tank .
Here is an excerpt taken trom their Mission Statement on the internet:
“To promote peace, freedom and prosperity through debate on public issues, producing policy recommendations to the decision makers in Palestine and Middle East. PAL Think aim to:
– Perform constructive and facilitative roles in the rationalization of public discussions, thinking and decision processes.
– Improve quality of life of the Palestinians by promoting innovative development solutions that challenges mainstream thinking on politics, economics and social issues.“
Recently, Uri was asked by an Israeli not-for-profit organization, The Forum for the Land of Israel (mostly appearing under the name: The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel) to participate in a panel meeting on “Pluralism of Opinions in the Academic Discourse”.
Since the meeting was held under the aegis of the above organization and at the religious Jewish Bar Ilan University it was clear to Uri that he was being invited to “defend” his ideas in a politically antagonistic setting. The Forum introduces itself as follows on its English website:
The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel is committed to protecting human rights in Israel, ensuring sound government, and preserving the national integrity of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
This is how It explains its roots:
The Forum began as a grassroots organization seeking to find fair and equitable solutions for the thousands of Israeli evacuees resulting from the Disengagement from the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria in August 2005.
One of the Forum’s stated objectives is formulated thus:
Safeguards the Jewish presence throughout Israel
In the Israeli/Palestinian context this places the Forum solidly on the nationalist right.
Uri was worried about participating in this panel. He anticipated that anger and hostility would be directed at him. These days, in the wake of the Israeli army’s attack on the Turkish flotilla, the atmosphere in Israel is even more charged than usual and the subject on which he was to talk is controversial, to say the least.
He would have gone ahead, though, were it not for a phone call, yesterday afternoon (less than 24 hours before the event) from a friend from Psychoactive. Ilana happened to walk past a small but colourfully eyecatching poster at Bar Ilan University. No one had sent Uri this poster or informed him of its contents. Again: he was invited to a panel on “Pluralism of Opinions in the Academic Discourse”.
I shall attach a copy of the poster, but I also describe it below, for those who don’t read Hebrew. My description, needless to say, is tendentious and tries to offer you the context which I deem relevant.
· The sheet/flyer is headed by the logo of the “Forum for the Land of Israel” – the letters and Star of David are blue against a white background. Blue and white, plus the Star, claim affiliation with Zionism and the “national” agenda (a careful distinction with the first referring to nation and nationbuilding, and the second to nationalism; often, in local practice and reality, this distinction collapses).
· A thick red horizontal band appears below. In large blue-national letters (creating a visually arresting contrast with the red background): Stop! All lines have been crossed! Then, in white print: At the conference “Voices from Gaza” Tel Aviv University offered a stage to Hamas and Hezbollah supporters. Is there no limit to academic lawlessness?! To the right of this is a representation of the Israeli traffic sign, white against red, that reads: Stop!
· The central horizontal band of the poster consists of four marked rectangular spaces which are intersected by a largish circular space in their middle. Three rectangles consist of highly colourful, striking photographs. What the photographs share is their focus on flags. One photo is dominated by large Israeli flags. They are seen from close by. Two are held by invisible hands, one is draped around the shoulders of a man the back of whose yarmulke-covered head is visible; another bit of flag is seen, behind which the yarmulke-wearing head of another man. The other two photographs offer views of masses or mobs. No human-scale close ups here. One shows us a sea of placards (STOP the Holocaust in Gaza, one of them reads, for instance, or: Free Palestine, but also Jewish Socialists). The effect is noisy, angry, and “Palestinian” – the placards carry images of the Palestinian flag, the colours are green, red, black, white. The other photo actually does show us human faces, those of some smiling young women included. There is again, however, the immediate effect of being swamped – as a viewer – in a mass of hollering people. And many of the protesters wear Palestinian colours and keffiyehs – the national headscarves that evoke, for a mainstream if not right-wing nationalist section of the Israeli public, alarming associations with Yasser Arafat and terrorism. Flags again, and signs, reading: Genocide Not Justice, End the Massacre, Ceasefire Gaza. The fourth rectangular space consists of a blue background with medium sized white letters reading, in English: “The Forum for The Land of Israel” organizes a response conference on the subject of: This is followed in the same size black letter s – not very visible against the blue background: Pluralism of Opinion in the Academic Discourse – ie the title of the event Uri was told. And this again is followed by information about the time and whereabouts, plus the invitation to: Come and listen and express your opinion! – all of this in white print.
· The circular central image, at last. It is difficult to avoid the impression, also given the actual content of the image, that this circular shape at the center functions as a visual reminder of a shooting target. The image, here, is complicated. What you see is a zoom-in on a man in suit who stands behind a lectern which is marked with the official insignia of Tel Aviv University, with that name, indeed, below it. Where his head should be, however, a photomontage has been inserted. This is a self-announced photo-montage: a white-rimmed photograph of a head is pinned (with two, red headed pins – which however can be misread as slightly off the mark red-winged darts, reinforcing the shooting-target association). The head is the stereotype of the hooded terrorist: it is completely masked in a sinister black balaclava with holes for mouth and eyes. The semiotics of this stick-on terrorist image is not entirely clear to me. Perhaps the graphic “artist” was trying to ensure the legality of the image: a less markedly quoted representation of the Tel Aviv University lecturer as a hooded terrorist could have been problematic. But another reading is prompted too: We (the makers of this broadsheet) stick an identity onto the Tel Aviv University speaker. We mark and mask him. Admittedly, it is not very clever to have designed an image that invites such readings – in fact almost demands them….
· The poster concludes with a narrower red band. In this band appear the following white printed words:
Prof. Uri Hadar from Tel Aviv University coordinator of the “Gaza Voices” conference.
Prof. Asher Cohen from the Faculty of Political Science at Bar Ilan University
Prof. Avi Bell from the Faculty of Law at Bar Ilan University
MK (member of Israeli parliament) Dr Michael Ben Ari from the Ichud Leumi [Party] (The National Union)
Note that Uri’s affiliation is truncated: Tel Aviv University (which the rest of the poster has already branded as a terrorist stronghold) – not Department of Psychology – but coordinator of the “Gaza Voices” conference. The other members of the panel are presented in their current professional capacity.
Just a few notes on the other panel members – I googled them, so this is publicly available:
Prof. Cohen is affiliated with The Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs which describes itself as follows:
“The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs is an independent non-profit institute for policy research and education. Israel’s growth and survival are dependent on its winning the war of ideas. The challenges that Israel faces today are not only military. They extend to the United Nations, the mass media, foreign universities, and non-governmental organizations. In many cases, the assault on Israel is aimed at its very legitimacy as a Jewish state. A direct by-product of the attacks on Israel is a clearly detectable rise in anti-Semitism, especially in Europe. In this environment, what is needed is not just better public relations, but also a rigorous analysis of the issues being exploited by Israel’s adversaries who question Israel’s legal rights. In response, the Jerusalem Center seeks to present Israel’s case and to highlight the challenges of Islamic extremism and global anti-Semitism.“
Prof. Avi Bell has an entry on Wikipedia which reports on his activities in critiquing the findings of Human Rights Watch and the publication, more recently of, A Critique of the Goldstone Report and its Treatment of International Humanitarian Law. Like Prof. Asher Cohen, Prof. Bell is a researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
About Dr Michael Ben Ari, Wikipedia says this:
“Michael Ben-Ari(Hebrew:מיכאל בן ארי, born 12 October 1963) is an Israeli politician, and a current member of the Knesset (MK) for the National Union party. He is the first outspoken disciple of Rabbi Meir Kahane to be elected to the Knesset.. He has aPhD in Land of Israel.”
The kind secretary at Bar Ilan offered apologies and promised the offending posters/flyers would be removed and not handed out as planned. Uri nevertheless felt unable to participate.
Much worse than this is happening here in Israel/Palestine, of course.
But I think it is important to dwell on how the political debate is held – who is watching which values, by what means and for whose sake.
Thanks for your patience.
I will translate the short talk Uri wrote and intended to give during the panel and send it tomorrow.