Wednesday, February 5, 2014

David Palumbo-Liu Back to Defend BDS (Part 2)

This is a continuation of my fisking of the article by David Palumbo-Liu with the hypocritical title of "Politics Over Freedom, Again." Having finished not defeating typical counter argument against the academic boycott, he changes the subject about how the cult of BDS is winning. He cites the fact that Omar Barghouti was able to get a column in the notorious anti-Israel New York Times as proof that the "protests" as he calls them, then finally gets to the point of his article which is the new bill in New York:
"Although the bill has been withdrawn for revision, in its present state it prohibit publics universities and colleges from using any taxpayer money on groups that support boycotts of Israel. For instance, such funds could not be used for travel or lodging for a faculty member attending a meeting of a group that supports a boycott of Israel. Just as dangerous, this law will lay the groundwork for other attempts to silence debate and opposition on other controversial issues."
The irony of a guy who think it's okay to stop Israelis from studying alongside Americans is concerned about "silencing debate" is quite amusing. But because the bill doesn't forbid calls for boycotts, I have significantly less sympathy for Palumbo-Liu's argument than I did before. Why? Because of "my tax dollars." If colleges and universities want to collective punish innocent people at the behest of the genocidal and racist movement that is BDS, that's their right. But the state isn't obligated to pay for it. And Jeffrey Klein said exactly that, to which Palumbo-Liu responds that the bill is illegal. How is that? Because according to Palestine Legal Support Scholar (nice unbiased source):
"These bills clearly aim to discourage expressive activities such as boycotts based on the legislators' personal disagreement with the content of the expression. Painting the ASA boycott resolution as discriminatory is not only inaccurate, but also distracts from the fact that its purpose is in fact to protest the human rights violations...These bills would be both a violation of free speech and academic freedom, which the proposed legislation cynically purports to defend."
Once again, a BDS supporter + whining about academic freedom = hilarious.  In fact these arguments are the inversion of each other. The boycotters say that they aren't obligated to do business with people who do things they don't like, and the legislators say that they aren't obligated to provide state funds to people who do things they don't like. Of course they don't violate freedom of speech at all, not any more than if the state decided to fire somebody who was a proud racist. No one has to give you money, so deal with it.

Palumbo-Liu then accuses the 200+ college presidents and universities who condemned the resolution of being "all too willing to bypass their scholarly obligation to actually read carefully the resolution they were protesting," arrogantly thinking that they are all wrong while he is right. At this point he scrambles for a hand hold by finding that the bill allows for an exception if the boycott is designed to "protest unlawful discriminatory practices." Obviously this was intended at places like Chik-Fi-La, but Palumbo-Liu seizes onto it to make his argument.

So Palumbo-Liu launches into a multiparagraph attack on Israel accusing it of all manner of discriminatory things, such as the famous "50 laws," none of which are actually discriminatory, before concluding that:
"One of the primary reasons for the academic boycott against Israel is to shed light on the profound ways that discrimination against Palestinians is in many cases perfectly legal under Israeli state law. This fact should then lead those who are concerned about discrimination on the basis of religion, race or ethnicity to consider whether or not one would like to associate with a state that created and perpetuates such discrimination."
"Palestinians" are not a religion, race or an ethnicity. Jews, however, are. If Israel is wrong for discriminating along the basis of nationality, then it stands to reason that the ASA and its supporters are also wrong for doing the same. There might be discrimination in Israel but as both Norman and Noam pointed out there is racism everywhere. It doesn't make any sense to fight discrimination with discrimination, as BDS calls for. And as Palumbo-Liu admitted himself earlier, BDS cares less about "discrimination against Palestinians" than it does about alleged human rights and international law violations. So let's not be disingenuous for a change.

But maybe I spoke too soon! Because Palumbo-Liu has a response to that argument! Ready? Emphasis mine:
"Now the easy rebuttal is to say, well the ASA and others are just getting back what they dished out. No. The boycott called for by the ASA does not prohibit entertaining or even sponsoring Israeli scholars, so long as they are not explicitly acting as representatives of state institutions...Bills like Klein's say one thing and do two other things. They declare themselves for freedom when stifling legal acts of protest, and stifling debate about where discrimination exists."
This is weaksauce. It doesn't address any of the counter arguments against the boycotts. All Israeli institutions are state institutions, and they are hardly the only country alone in doing so. Also this "representatives" argument is misleading: the ASA is basically saying that Israelis can come they just can't say what university they are from. Which is McCarthyist as hell. Restricting what scholars can and can't say is the definition of infringement on academic freedom, especially when it's not like Tel Aviv University or Haifa University are super evil, they are just Israeli. The attempt to draw a distinction here is just weaseling out of what they signed onto, and it shows.

I might add that as long as we are splitting hairs, we can do that with Klein's bill as well. Under its terms you can protest against Israel until you're old and gray, you just can't call for boycotts against it. What could be wrong with that? Oh right I forgot, because it's all about the BDS. If you can't have that, you've got nothing.

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