Hatem Bazian writes: Friday, March 17, I reached an agreement with Arizona State University (ASU), the Arizona Board of Regents and Arizona attorney general that will allow a speaking event on the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement on April 3, 2018, at the university. The agreement is a victory for the BDS movement since the speaking contract previously included an unconstitutional anti-BDS clause that prohibited me from speaking on a boycott of Israel during my visit.
The agreement with ASU is a victory for the First Amendment and the rights of free speech. Again, pro-Israel forces worked hard to silence the voices of justice and human rights, but hard work and dedication made the difference. This is a victory for the BDS movement and a victory for Palestine’s voice in the U.S. I am deeply indebted to the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) hard work that will make it possible for me to exercise the rights enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution – the right to speak at ASU on BDS and to oppose the Israeli apartheid. This success was made possible through the hard work of CAIR Arizona, CAIR National and the American Muslims for Palestine’s (AMP) team on this important legal challenge.
Last month, I received an invitation from the Muslim Student Association to deliver a lecture on Palestine, the current crisis resulting from the U.S. president’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and the effectiveness of the BDS movement at ASU. As per the regular procedure for such an engagement, the students sent me ASU’s contract detailing all the conditions that must be fulfilled as well as the costs associated with travel, accommodations and stipend.
I read the contract and started filling it out but stopped as soon as I got down to item 20 on the list of contractual conditions. Surprisingly, ASU’s contract included the following text for item number 20: “No Boycott of Israel. As required by the Arizona Revised Statutes § 35-393.01, Entity certifies it is not currently engaged in a boycott of Israel and will not engage in a boycott of Israel during the term of this Contract.” This text was added to all ASU and other Arizona state public agencies contracts to adhere to the new law, which, at the root, seeks to protect Israel from the BDS movement.
I stopped filling out the contract as a matter of principle. I cannot and would not sign this contract in full conscience, being one of the key BDS organizers in the U.S., an academic who writes on BDS and an activist on Palestine with the strategy to use a nonviolent, human rights-focused movement to address Israel’s continued violations of international law. The contractual condition creates an ethical dilemma since it stipulates individuals to sign provided they are “not currently engaged in a boycott of Israel and will not engage in a boycott of Israel during the term of this Contract,” something that I cannot do as a precondition to be able to speak at a public university on BDS.
This contractual condition boils down to ASU and Arizona setting up a prior restraint on speech. “In the First Amendment law, a prior restraint is government action that prohibits speech or another expression before it can take place,” as the Cornell Law School explains. The government or any power has “two common forms of prior restraints. The first is a statute or regulation that requires a speaker to acquire a permit or license before speaking, and the second is a judicial injunction that prohibits certain speech. Both types of prior restraint are strongly disfavored, and, with some exceptions, generally unconstitutional.” Here, the ASU contract included language that clearly sets up prior restraint on my ability to speak about BDS during my upcoming visit to the campus.
Consequently, and with the help of the CAIR office in Arizona, I challenged the law so as to not accept the prior restraint imposed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) through its work in the U.S. political system to prevent those points of view that are critical of the ongoing Israeli occupation. I believe that this regulation in Arizona and other states like it is an attempt by AIPAC, other major Zionist organizations and the Israeli government itself to win an unwinnable cause, to maintain support for an apartheid state that constantly violates international laws. The law attempts to defend the indefensible by restricting freedom of speech and academic freedom so as to rescue and protect Israel and its continued apartheid and occupation. More critically, the condition and the Arizona law treats Israel as an exception to the norm. The law restricts free speech that is foundational to the First Amendment and a constitutionally protected right – the ability to ask for public adherence to a call for BDS of Israel.
On a national level, AIPAC and all the major, mainstream and established Zionist organizations – the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), Anti-Defamation League(ADL), Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and American Jewish Committee (AJC) – are engaged in a full campaign to restrict free speech on BDS and curtail criticism of Israel and its continued human rights violations. The attempts at legislation supported by all the major mainstream Zionist organizations is intended to shield Israel from criticism and possibly cause American people to abandon Israel as they did in the past when it chose to divest from South Africa. Here, a heavily Israeli funded and full national campaign is underway to counter the BDS movement. This campaign attempts to use federal and state legislation to target individuals with structured and systematic defamation, as well as to work to recruit voices that normalize Zionism among segments of the Arab and Muslim communities through the Shalom Hartman Institute Muslim Leadership Initiative and fictitious interfaith projects that focus on silencing Palestine. Israel’s supporters have been the leading agents on restricting free speech and academic freedom on many college campuses by advocating a whole host of civility codes and conflating anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism and criticism of Israel while using university administrations and administrative regulations to limit the free expression of solidarity with Palestinians. The cases of San Francisco State University with professor Rabab Abdulhadi’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative (AMED) program and the University of California Berkeley in relation to a course on Palestine is a case in point where university administrations became part of the strategy to limit pro-Palestine free speech and academic freedom while coordinating these strategies with local Zionist leadership and, at times, with the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco – the representative of a foreign state given access and solicited for ideas on how to limit the constitutional rights of American students and professors.
AIPAC and many of its regional affiliates have been working overtime to push for legislation across the U.S. to restrict free speech on BDS, and in some cases to criminalize advocacy for Palestinian human rights. The victory in Arizona is very important and serves as a model to challenge legislation that seeks to protect Israel at the expense of constitutional rights, the right of free speech and freedom of association, since considerable demonization and criminalization efforts on college campuses are directed at Students for Justice in Palestine. Israel and its supporters should not have veto power over the First Amendment and legal challenges should be mounted to expose the efforts of a foreign government and its agents to undermine the right of anyone in the U.S. to critique a country that is addicted to human rights violations and U.S. foreign aid. BDS is out of the bottle and attacking the First Amendment is a battle Israel and its supporters will certainly lose. Read original article
Withdrawing the Palestine Liberation Organization’s recognition of Israel is likely to spark some international backlash, although most observers would consider this unsurprising. A previous vote by the same PLO Council in 2015 to suspend security coordination with Israel was never implemented, although this is now also reaffirmed in the Monday vote.
The significance of the vote is that the normally infuriatingly cautious Mahmoud Abbas voted in favour of both motions. He called Trump’s peace plan the “slap of the century.” Let us see what actions follow, at least the suspension of security coordination is guaranteed once the US defunds the Palestinian Authority as Trump has promised to do.
Resolution no.: A/RES/ES-10/19 on 12/21/2017 (21st Dec) at 12:13:55 PM. Jerusalem motion at UNGC (two weeks after the Trump declaration) passed with overwhelming majority for the resolution and against the position of the United States. 128 states voted for the resolution, including all members of the UNSC except the United States.
9 countries out of 193 UN member states voted against the resolution: Canada, Guatemala, Honduras, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, the United States and Israel. 35 countries abstained from the resolution including: Australia, Cameroon, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, South Sudan and Togo. Canada and Australia clearly did nothing for their white colonial settler image in this vote, although both Canada and Mexico are clearly in the throes of NAFTA renegotiations with Trump at the moment.
Others, significantly the ‘NATO’ front line in Eastern Europe (Latvia, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania) also abstained, although plucky Estonia and Lithuania voted yes with the resolution.
21 states were absent.
Turkey and Yemen: draft resolution
Status of Jerusalem
The General Assembly,
Reaffirming its relevant resolutions, including resolution 72/15 of 30 November 2017 on Jerusalem,
Reaffirming also the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, including resolutions 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967, 252 (1968) of 21 May 1968, 267 (1969) of 3 July 1969, 298 (1971) of 25 September 1971, 338 (1973) of 22 October 1973, 446 (1979) of 22 March 1979, 465 (1980) of 1 March 1980, 476 (1980) of 30 June 1980, 478 (1980) of 20 August 1980 and 2334 (2016) of 23 December 2016,
Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and reaffirming, inter alia, the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force,
Bearing in mind the specific status of the Holy City of Jerusalem and, in particular, the need for the protection and preservation of the unique spiritual, religious and cultural dimensions of the city, as foreseen in relevant United Nations resolutions,
Stressing that Jerusalem is a final status issue to be resolved through negotiations in line with relevant United Nations resolutions,
Expressing, in this regard, its deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem,
- Affirms that any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council, and in this regard calls upon all States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem, pursuant to Security Council resolution 478 (1980);
- Demands that all States comply with Security Council resolutions regarding the Holy City of Jerusalem, and not recognize any actions or measures contrary to those resolutions;
- Reiterates its call for the reversal of the negative trends on the ground that are imperilling the two-State solution and for the intensification and acceleration of international and regional efforts and support aimed at achieving, without delay, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative1 and the Quartet road map,2 and an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967;
- Decides to adjourn the tenth emergency special session temporarily and to authorize the President of the General Assembly at its most recent session to resume its meeting upon request from Member States.
Times are changing, and most reporting on the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is stuck in the past. The OIC was founded when a group of Israeli extremists started a fire at al-Aqsa mosque on 21 August 1969 with the hope of destroying it. It is based in Saudi-Arabia (and its current Secretary-General is Saudi: Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen), and so in the past proceedings have predictably been dominated by Saudi politics.
It has, therefore, invariably issued fairly lame statements in reaction to Israeli infractions and atrocities, with little action ever displayed. The image that comes to mind is of an old Arab proverb said to originate with Imam Shafi’i: the dogs bark but the caravan moves on – الكلاب تنبح والقافلة تسير (which actually rhymes in Turkish it ürür, kervan yürür), where the caravan is the Israeli colonial project (and you know who the dogs are).
This year, however, the Presidency happened to be held by Turkey, and Erdoğan, who rarely misses a trick, took the opportunity of convening an emergency meeting of the OIC to Istanbul to respond to Trump’s outrageous infraction of international law in his unilateral US announcement of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel: 48 states responded to Erdoğan’s call within 7 days. The change of venue seems to have brought with it a change of mood. Dogs are second class citizens in Turkey – Turks, and Istanbulites in particular are crazy about cats. The metaphor of the barking dog therefore no longer applies. Erdoğan’s performance was more like a cat screeching. So what happens when a cat screeches?
Aside from Turkey leading the OIC conference to officially declare East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine, the Turks vowed to establish an embassy to Palestine there. Erdoğan is also using these declarations as the beginning of a major initiative in the UN both to support Palestinian rights and to sideline the US from any involvement in future Middle East peace talks. Mahmoud Abbas surprisingly echoed this demand, despite the normally supine attitude of the Palestinian Authority towards the US.
But there were a number of extremely important subtexts to the meeting, entirely missed or misunderstood by both Western and Arabic media. Iranian President Rouhani was grinning like a Cheshire cat, pleased that Turkey is in the front like diplomatically on this matter, whilst the overt confrontation in the Middle East is between the Trump administration and his country. The unprecedentedly close relationship between Turkey and Iran forged in the course of the Astana peace process was gaining even more oxygen.
The Trump administration’s irrationality in regard to the Jerusalem declaration has all but scuppered US diplomatic credibility in the Middle East, irrespective of its purported ties to the Saudi and Emirati regimes. Now, its collapsing relations with Turkey (after the YPG problem and the Zarrab case, the Jerusalem declaration was the straw that broke the camel’s back) means that any hope of putting any kind of regional pressure on Iran, military or otherwise, is totally out of reach.
Some reporters pointed to the absence of the Saudi King at the OIC meeting, tarring the whole enterprise and the conference proceedings with the old ‘dogs barking’ brush. Mahmoud Abbas spent the day before with King Salman, who, under Trumpist influence, tried to bully him into withdrawing from the conference. It’s a surprise Salman’s son (MbS) didn’t try to kidnap Abbas, to force him to do his bidding, as he did recently in the case of a number senior Saudi royals, and the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad el-Hariri. But Abbas left promptly and backed Erdoğan’s call.
This in fact forced Salman’s hand. He couldn’t as Guardian of the Two Holy Mosques (Mecca and Medina) find himself at odds with the OIC decision, so he pre-empted it, by announcing his backing for the idea of East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. Abbas revelled in announcing this fact to the OIC conference. Some Arab reporters accused him of being undignified in – as it were – carrying Salman’s message for him. However, what Abbas in fact did was to highlight the impotence of the Saudi King before the determination of the other members of the OIC conference. It is a deep stain on the al-Saud that they didn’t attend, and yet still had to go along with the decisions of the conference.
What is worse for the Saudi King, is that Jordan’s King Abdulla, a long-time Saudi ally, took an independent line like Abbas. He also visited Salman prior to the OIC conference, was bullied just like Abbas, and wasn’t kidnapped by MbS. In his speech at the conference, Abdulla confirmed the Hashemite dynasty’s commitment to the protection of the Islamic Holy Places, and in doing so, upstaged the al-Saud. Abdulla’s Hashemite ancestors had traditionally been the guardians of the shrines in Mecca and Medina, only for the British to put the al-Saud in charge instead. Abdulla’s speech, quiet and balanced as it was, finally ripped apart the Islamic credentials of the Saudi upstarts.
So when a cat screeches… a bloody scratch follows
Until now Iran had lost its credibility on the Arab Street, because of its rescue of the Assad regime. All will now be forgiven as the penny drops. The Iranians were perhaps right to support Bashar, despite his despicable character and his Neanderthal régime.
Trump’s move is -woefully, blatantly – in contempt of international law and UNSC resolutions, which the UNSC itself didn’t fail to point out to its US representative. The US has lost it’s position as a fair arbiter in the Middle East process – some say it has finally shown its hand – and now its international reputation is as sullied as Israel’s.
Liberal Jewish groups in the US see this danger clearly. The Union of Reform Judaism stated: ‘… any relocation of the American Embassy to West Jerusalem should be done in the broader context reflecting Jerusalem’s status as a city holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike…the White House should not undermine these efforts by making unilateral decisions that are all but certain to exacerbate the conflict.’
J- Street released a statement saying that a Palestinian capital must also be established in the East Jerusalem: ‘… the effect of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem or of declaring that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital prior to a negotiated agreement will be to anger key Arab allies, foment regional instability and undermine nascent US diplomatic efforts to resolve the larger conflict.’
New Israel Fund also criticized the decision in a statement: ‘President Trump many not understand what’s at stake here, but we do. Moving the embassy risks igniting the tinderbox of anger, frustration and hopelessness that already exists in Jerusalem. Throwing…balance off with this unilateral gesture could have grave consequences.’
The US has either been sowing discord or waging war directly in the Middle East for 35 years. So far Iran won the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war, the 2003-9 Iraq war, and the 2011-7 Syrian war. Let’s see what happens in the next war. Ali Abdulla al-Saleh supporter and funder of violence and militancy across the board is dead. Yemen is open. What will the Arab autocrats, who are the allies of the US, do apart from buy paintings by Leonardo for $450m, and yachts for $500m, all the while mistreating former Gulf allies?
Saudi Arabia’s formal statement denouncing the Trump decision belies their co-operation with him over this new roughing-up of the Palestinians. It smells of fear and double-dealing. The news from Jerusalem is being “managed” by Saudi authorities.
Hopefully, the liberal voices in America above will help undo Trump’s idiocy and the influence of the Christian right on US Middle East policy. Turkey’s efforts to create international consensus against this move will definitely help to keep the pressure on. Erdoğan calling the OIC to a conference on the matter of Jerusalem is a symbolic move, although welcome of course. What people don’t recognise, on the other hand, is the crucial importance of Turkey’s position as the energy transit hub for Mediterranean gas, offering the cheapest route to Europe, which Israel is banking on for its future.
Certainly Abbas has kicked the so-called peace process into the long grass. He doesn’t look too phased by the events and Mike Pence will be disappointed if he thinks he can restart peace talks on his visit to Israel next month.
Although the Palestinian Authority has continually disappointed in the prime task of keeping the Palestinians united and resisting pressure, Abbas has shown more mettle recently in taking Israel to the ICC.