The Chilling Effect of Equating Criticism of Israel to Antisemitism

The Progressive May 17, 2024:
Broadening the federal definition of antisemitism is a disingenuous attempt to quash dissent. Campus protests against U.S.-backed wars have a long history, and so do campaigns for ethical investment policies. As much as college and university administrators, corporate interests, and Washington policy-makers may have wanted to suppress such student initiatives, the principles of free speech and the cultural role of institutions of higher learning have made that difficult. Opponents of the current protests on college campuses targeting U.S. support for Israel’s war are, however, attempting to reverse that tradition through the disingenuous application of Civil Rights legislation.

The Crackdown on Campus Protests is a Bipartisan Strategy to Repress Pro-Palestine Speech

The Progressive, May 1, 2024: Unlike apartheid-era South Africa, many universities aren’t even recognizing Israel’s human rights abuses. A wave of sit-ins and encampments have swept college and university campuses across the country. They are being led—as in past anti-war campus protests in 1968—by Columbia University in New York. The immediate demand by most of these student groups is that their institutions divest from companies supporting Israel’s war and occupation. Calls for more ethical investment policies and an end to the bombardment of Gaza, however, are unthinkable for many university administrators and Washington officials, and the pushback has been intense.

Divestment campaigns have been fixtures on college campuses for generations—they’ve called for withdrawing financial support from arms manufacturers, owners of sweatshops, union busters, and carbon polluters, among other industries. What this wave of activism most resembles, however, are the protests of the late 1970s and the 1980s over investments in corporations doing business in apartheid South Africa. Back then, student encampments were designed as “shantytowns” to reflect the squalor in which Black South Africans lived amid the affluent white minority.

During the South Africa protests, arrests were mostly of students who engaged in more confrontational tactics, like occupying administration buildings, blocking traffic, or other actions meant to provoke arrest. The shantytowns and other encampments, with a few notable exceptions, were allowed to stay for weeks or even months. That’s not the case today, when many student camps have been subjected to mass arrests and removal almost immediately. [source]

Don’t Buy the Right-wing Disinformation Campaign on “From the River to the Sea”

Truthout May 5, 2024: This phrase was never about killing Jews. It emerged in the 1960s as a call for equal rights within a democratic state The wave of pro-Palestinian protests sweeping American campuses was triggered by Columbia University President Minouche Shafik’s order to forcibly clear a peaceful encampment on April 18. Her decision came as a direct result of her grilling the previous day before a House committee in Washington investigating alleged antisemitism on U.S. campuses: At the hearing, she pledged to take action against protesters. A major focus of the interrogation was the slogan, popular among pro-Palestinian protesters, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” [source]

Antiwar/Solidarity Activism on Gaza: New Generation, New Challenges

Project on Middle East Political Science April 2024: Israel’s war on Gaza and the Biden administration’s strident support for the massive Israeli assault in the face of widespread violations of international humanitarian law and the international outrage at the civilian death toll has brought a new generation of activists to the fore on campuses and elsewhere across the United States. I have followed campus activism on Palestine as both an observer and occasional participant since the 1970s, and recent months have witnessed a dramatic quantitative and qualitative shift in mobilization. [source]

Sudan’s Democratic Revolution: How They Did It

[By Stephen Zunes, reposted April 2020 from Inside Arabia by ICNC, Nonviolence International and The Conversation] Conditions under Sudan’s oppressive autocratic regime did not fit into what Western analysts see as the right ones for a successful pro-democracy civil resistance movement and yet they have emerged victorious—at least for now. Among other things, its success points to perhaps the single most important factor: nonviolent discipline

How Sudan’s Pro-Democracy Uprising Challenges Prevailing Myths about Civil Resistance

[International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, April 22, 2019] A powerful pro-democracy civil insurrection in Sudan which has ousted a longstanding dictator and his successor is still in progress, but Sudanese are hopeful for a full democratic transition. Demonstrations began in December of last year, initially focusing on the deteriorating economic situation, but soon escalated to demand that the authoritarian President Omar al-Bashir—who had ruled the country for nearly three decades—step down and that democracy be restored. By January, the protests had spread to the capital of Khartoum, gaining support from youth and women’s movements as well as a number of opposition parties….

The Role of Civil Resistance in Bolivia’s 1977-1982 Pro-Democracy Struggle

July 2018 Middle Atlantic Review of Latin American Studies II(1); also from the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict and at Research Gate: Despite being the poorest and least developed country in South America, Bolivia was the first to emerge from the period of military dictatorships that dominated the continent from the mid-1960s into the 1980s. This article examines the role of civil resistance in that country’s seemingly improbable early end to military rule, noting how a broad coalition of unions, intellectuals, the Catholic Church, and opposition parties succeeded in bringing down a series of military leaders, eventually ushering in elected civilian governance. Despite the pro-democracy movement’s successful defeat of the dictatorship of Hugo Banzer in 1978, it took more than four years, three general elections, five presidents and several coups d’état before full electoral democracy was restored. This article responds to questions of how the movement was able to persist, grow, and maintain largely nonviolent discipline in the face of severe repression, shifting alliances, and internal divisions, and how the movement helped lay the groundwork for more recent radical changes in Bolivian politics. The article illustrates other critical factors in the movement’s success: the willingness to avoid armed struggle, the country’s rich tradition of mass-based civil resistance and defiance of central authority, and grassroots democratic relations…

Civil Resistance Against Coups: A Comparative and Historical Perspective

Nations are not helpless if the military decides to stage a coup. On dozens of occasions in recent decades, even in the face of intimidated political leaders and international indifference, civil society has risen up to challenge putschists through large-scale nonviolent direct action and noncooperation. How can an unarmed citizenry mobilize so quickly and defeat a powerful military committed to seizing control of the government? What accounts for the success or failure of nonviolent resistance movements to reverse coups and consolidate democratic gains?

This monograph presents in-depth case studies and analysis intended to improve our understanding of the strategic utility of civil resistance against military takeovers; the nature of civil resistance mobilization against coups; and the role of civil resistance against coups in countries’ subsequent democratization efforts (or failure thereof). It offers key lessons for pro-democracy activists and societies vulnerable to military usurpation of power; national civilian and military bureaucracies; external state and non-state agencies supportive of democracy; and future scholarship on this subject.

Remembering Martin Luther King, the Radical for Peace

The Progressive April 3, 2018:
It is nothing short of tragic that the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4 arrives during a presidential administration containing some of the most overtly racist individuals to hold positions of such political power in generations.
    Most people learn only about King’s great accomplishments in the fight against racial segregation and Jim Crow laws in the South. Yet King also opposed the de facto segregation in housing and other manifestations of racism in the North, and was a passionate advocate for peace.
    He challenged the draining of our national resources for the military. He opposed the Vietnam War and other aspects of U.S. foreign policy. He questioned an economic system that created enormous poverty amid great wealth. He was assassinated while organizing the Poor People’s March, in which he planned to lead thousands of poor Americans of all races to Washington, D.C., to demand economic justice.
    In speaking out against the Vietnam War, King recognized it was “the symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit.”

Global Journalist: Egypt’s Staged Election

[Zunes’ segment begins at 14 mins.]

[Global Journalist March 8, 2018]:
Egypt will hold a presidential election at the end of this month. But there’s little drama about who will actually win. President Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi, who led a 2013 coup against the country’s first democratically elected leader, is expected to be handily re-elected. That’s because el-Sissi’s government has arrested or intimidated all viable potential opponents.
    That’s left him facing off against one virtually unknown opponent – someone who was actually an outspoken supporter of el-Sissi until just hours before the candidate registration deadline.
So while most observers view this election as a sham – it’s not without drama. After el-Sissi’s coup ended a brief experiment with democracy following the Arab Spring, the country has been going backwards in many ways.
    Its economy is stagnant, its population is growing rapidly and there’s virtually no place for people to express discontent. Opposition leaders have been jailed or exiled and independent media has been tightly restricted. Meanwhile the country faces a bloody Islamist insurgency in the Sinai peninsula.

Power’s Prophet: Remembering Gene Sharp

The Progressive February 1, 2018:
As a left-wing student activist in the 1970s, I parted with most of my comrades regarding their romanticization of armed revolution. Recognizing that pacifist arguments would be unconvincing—particularly in cases of those struggling against U.S.-backed dictatorships around the world—I came upon the writings of Gene Sharp, a Harvard University-based scholar who, through his study of centuries of nonviolent struggle, made a convincing case on utilitarian grounds that nonviolent struggle was a better means of resistance…

In Trump’s America, who’s protesting and why?

Washington Post April 24, 2017
   For March 2017, we tallied 585 protests, demonstrations, marches, sit-ins and rallies in the United States, with at least one in every state and the District. Our conservative guess is that 79,389 to 89,585 people showed up at these political gatherings, although it is likely that there were far more participants.
   Because mainstream media often neglect to report nonviolent actions — especially small ones — it is probable that we did not record every event that occurred. This is particularly true of the “A Day Without a Woman” strikes on March 8. It’s virtually impossible to record an accurate tally of participants for strikes, in part because many people deliberately conceal their motivations for skipping out on work or school when they participate. Nevertheless, we think our tally gives us a useful pool of information to better understand political mobilization in the United States (For our counting methods, please see our first post in the series.)

The Bipartisan Effort against Campaigns for Corporate Responsibility

The Progressive, Huffington Post & Common Dreams
The Trump Administration’s efforts to legitimize the Israeli occupation and illegal settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories has received surprising bipartisan support. A series of bills passed or under consideration in Washington and in state capitols seeks to punish companies, religious denominations, academic associations, and other entities which support the use of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) to challenge the occupation of Palestinian land…