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Tel Aviv University
TAU Minerva Humanities the Employment Hub for Radical Activists: Tom Pessah

 05.03.15

Editorial Note

For long, the Minerva Humanities Center at TAU has served as the premier employment outfit for radical activists.  The philosopher Adi Ophir, who urged NATO to bomb Israel in order to get it out of the territories, or Ariella Azoulay, who compared the separation fence in the West Bank to the fence in Auschwitz, they and others received salaries for doing what was essentially propaganda work. 

Minerva Humanities has continued this tradition by providing employment opportunities to a new cohort of scholar activists. Tom Pessah, who did his doctoral thesis "Backgrounding Ethnoracialization: The Meaning of Cleansing in Israel/Palestine, 1948" at the Department of Sociology of the University of California, Berkeley, is a case in point.  As indicated below, this highly committed activist has been a member of Students for Justice in Palestine that took part at mock checkpoints in Berkeley’s ‘Apartheid Week’ protests. He is also engaged with Zochrot, promoting Nakba recognition and responsibility of the Israeli society.

Pessah, a fellow at the Minerva Humanities, is the source of the call for papers to a conference on "Zionist Opposition to Expulsions of 1948", below. 

Israeli universities are public and thus obligated to be accounted to the public and its elected officials.  In the West the public supports tertiary education to advance the human capital of the country.  It is well known that, for yearssocial sciences in Israel rank well below average and are skewed toward the critical, neo-Marxist paradigm.  

For instance, the CHE Evaluation Committee of the Department of Sociology, Ben Gurion University stated that there was a real disparity between the demands of the students for applied fields such as sociology of organizations and the preponderance of classes on Critical, neo-Marxist theory. The report indicated clearly, "students are taught to comprehend society and culture from a critical perspective... While this intent is laudable...the Committee is of the opinion that the objective of the department's programs should be, first and foremost, to familiarize students with the variety of theories."  

There is nothing wrong with academics who are politically engaged. However, there is something very wrong with the Israeli tertiary education that uses taxpayers money to provide salaries for activists. 

Tel Aviv University authorities should be good stewards of the funding they receive.  A good place to start is to look at the practices of the Minerva Humanities Center.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: 2015-02-22 11:05 GMT+02:00
Subject: [SocSci-IL] קול קורא להגשת הצעות לכנס בנושא "התנגדות ציונית לגירושי 1948?"

שלום רב,

מצורף קול קורא לכנס בנושא "התנגדות ציונית לגירושי 1948?".
את הכנס מארגנת קבוצת המחקר "חיים ביחד" במרכז מינרבה למדעי הרוח באוניברסיטת תל אביב, והוא יתקיים ב-1 ביוני 2015.
הצעות להרצאות יש לשלוח עד 7 במרץ 2015 לדואר אלקטרוני: ResistanceNakba@gmail.com.

כל טוב,
קבוצת "חיים ביחד"
מרכז מינרבה למדעי הרוח


קול קורא לכנס: התנגדות ציונית לגירושי 1948?

בין סוף 1947 לתחילת 1949 גורשו כ- 770,000 פלסטינים מן השטח שהפך למדינת ישראל. הפליטים היוו  כ- 85% מהאוכלוסייה הפלסטינית הקודמת בשטח זה. היסטוריונים  ציונים שמרניים נטו להציג את התהליך באחת משתי צורות: האחת היא שהגירוש היה תוצר לוואי שולי של הלחימה הסדירה ולכן לא היתה כוונה לגרש (אין כוונה ולכן אין אחריות); השניה היא שהגירוש היה בלתי נמנע ומתבקש נוכח השאיפה להקים מדינה עם רוב יהודי יציב. אמירתו של ארי שביט שהברירה היא לוד בלי מדינה יהודית או מדינה יהודית בלי לוד ממחישה את הגישה הזו (היתה כוונה אבל המעשה מוצדק ובלתי נמנע).חוקרים ביקורתיים  גם הם הציגו  את הגירוש באחת משתי צורות עיקריות: האחת ראתה בו פועל יוצא של אידיאולוגיה ציונית או מיליטריסטית שהחזיקה בה  הנהגת היישוב הציוני-ישראלי כולו ולכן הגירוש היה מכוון ומתוכנן (מעשה מתוכנן ומכוון-פשע) או שראו בו מעשה מתבקש לנוכח השאיפה למדינה עם רוב יהודי מוצק ולכן לא היה צורך בתכנון, שכן הפרויקט במהותו מחייב את פעולת הגירוש (מעשה מובלע גם אם לא מכוון  וגם והוא פשע). מתוך כך נטו כמעט כל הצדדים להמעיט  בדיון סביב ההתנגדות הפנים-ציונית לריקון ישובים פלסטינים. ההתקפות על הישובים הללו בוצעו בידי המחתרות והצבא, ורבים מן האזרחים היהודים השתתפו בהם או הרוויחו מהם, או שהעדיפו להעלים עין. אך עם השנים נחשפות גם עדויות להתנגדות של גורמים בקרב החברה הציונית-ישראלית לחלקים שונים של התהליך. גם אם ברור בדיעבד כי לא הצליחו לעצור את תהליך העקירה בכללותו,  היו מקרים שבהם תושבי ישובים יהודיים שכנים, חיילים, חברי מפלגות (ביניהם כמה אנשי מפ"ם) ופקידים ממשלתיים (למשל, אנשי משרד המיעוטים שהתקיים במהלך המלחמה) ניסו למנוע הרס ישובים פלסטינים, או ניסו למנוע גירושים.

ב-1 ביוני 2015 תקיים קבוצת "חיים ביחד" של מרכז מינרבה למדעי הרוח שבאוניברסיטת תל-אביב כנס בנושא. נשאף לבדוק האם התקיימו בפועל עמדות כאלו או שהיו יכולות להתקיים במסגרת הפרויקט הציוני? מי היו אלה שהתנגדו? מה היה הרקע האידיאולוגי שלהם? האם תפסו את עצמם כציונים? איזה מין ציונות הם שקפו? האם גם הם שאפו למדינה יהודית? מה הביא אותם להתנגד?  האם היה סיכוי כלשהו להצלחת ההתנגדות שלהם, או האם היא נדונה מלכתחילה לכשלון? מה תפקידם של פרטים בצמתים היסטוריים כאלה? ומה היחס בין פוליטיקה ומוסר ברגעים מכריעים בהיסטוריה? כן נבחן עד כמה היתה התנגדות כזאת יכולה לבטא שותפות בין יהודים לפלסטינים, כולל במסגרת גופים לא ציונים.

חשיבות המהלך נעוצה בהעלאה לדיון של אופציות היסטוריות שנשכחו, שלפיהן חלקים, ולו מעטים, בתוך החברה היהודית לא קיבלו את גירוש האוכלוסייה הפלסטינית כפתרון לסכסוך בין התנועה הלאומית הפלסטינית לבין התנועה הציונית. כך מאותגרת הטענה הנפוצה לפיה הרס הישובים הללו היה חלק בלתי נמנע מן המלחמה. בנוסף, מתאפשרת פה הבנה מעמיקה יותר של תנאי התקופה, גבול הציות, האחריות האישית, מרחב הפעולה שנותר בכל זאת, מערך השיקולים שנלקחו בחשבון, ותפקודה של מערכת ערכים בתנאי משבר - כוחה וגבול כוחה.

אנו מזמינים ומזמינות הצעות להרצאות שיעסקו, בין היתר, בנושאים הבאים: סרבנות במהלך המלחמה, היענות קציני צבא לפניות תושבים ופליטים בשלבי המלחמה השונים, הגנת תושבי יישובים יהודיים על שכניהם, דאגת מעסיקים לעובדיהם, ועיסוק בנושא בקרב מפלגות ומשרדי ממשלה. האם קיימות עדויות חזותיות להתנגדות כזו? עד כמה היא ביטאה היענות לקריאותיהם של פלסטינים? מה איפשר להתנגדות כזאת להצליח, ומתי היא נכשלה? כיצד ניתן להגדיראת האחריות של החברה היהודית למה שהתרחש, במונחים מוסריים ופוליטיים? עד כמה היתה הנכבה תוצר מבני של הציונות, ועד כמה היא היתה יכולה להימנע אילו רבים יותר היו מתנגדים לגירושים?

הצעות להרצאות באורך של עד 200 מילה יש לשלוח עד 7 במרץ 2015 לדואר אלקטרוני: ResistanceNakba@gmail.com תשובות יישלחו למגישים עד 28 במרץ 2015 .

 

המלצות לדוברים ושאלות יש להפנות לתום פסח, בדוא"ל: tompessah@yahoo.com





From: Tom Pessah
Date: February 17, 2013, 4:48:22 PM PST
Subject: [cal_sjp] report islamophobic incitement against SJP and MSA
Reply-To: Tom Pessah
A video has surfaced http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnSlbOhZgGI, showing UC Santa Cruz Hebrew lecturer Tammi Rossman Benjamin making extremely offensive comments about the Muslim Students Association and Students for Justice in Palestine groups at an off-campus event in June 2012. Benjamin singles these student activists out from all others, saying, “These are not your ordinary student groups like College Republicans or Young Democrats. These are students who come with a serious agenda, who have ties to terrorist organizations”.

If you are a UC student we encourage you to fill in this form for reporting incidents of intolerance on campus: https://ucsystems.ethicspointvp.com/custom/ucs_ccc/default.asp

For more background, see http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/nora/us-university-lecturers-shocking-hate-speechagainst-arab-muslim-students-condemned
===
To unsubscribe, send an e-mail to cal_sjp-unsubscribe@lists.riseup.net
Visit www.calsjp.org for more information about our organization Join us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2200472824/?fref=ts
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==============================================


  |Published May 15, 2013

The Nakba: Addressing Israeli arrogance

For Israelis wishing to participate in a common struggle, relieving ourselves of our ignorance and arrogance should be the top priority. Not for the sake of Palestinians – for our own sake, to restore our own humanity.

By Tom Pessah

Palmach troops overseeing the displacement of Palestinians from the central city of Ramlah in July, 1948. (Photo: Palmach Archive)

About a decade ago, when I was studying for my first degree at Tel Aviv University, I went to a weekend retreat organized by Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam to meet Palestinian students from the West Bank. The retreat took place at a location near Bethlehem that was relatively accessible for the Palestinians, but they still had to pass through checkpoints, some getting beaten or humiliated in order to meet us.

Neve-Shalom/Wahat al-Salam’s workshops are structured very formally. During the inter-Jewish meetings I was the perfect leftist, constantly scolding other participants for views that weren’t progressive enough. And when we met the Palestinians, I tried hard to be accommodating and supportive, hanging out with them after the meetings and using my primitive spoken Arabic to listen to their experiences and questions about Israelis.

Near the end of the workshop we split into groups to “solve” different aspects of the conflict together: Jerusalem, borders, one state or two? As the progressive I thought I was, I confidently chose the group on possibly the most explosive topic – the Right of Return. We Israeli Jews convened first, and came up with a generous proposal: we would allow 100,000 Palestinians into our own country! This would be difficult for us to “sell” to our public, it was much to the left of the Israeli consensus at the time, but we were still willing to take what seemed like a brave and generous step.

When we offered the limited entry into our country to the Palestinian students, they weren’t as grateful as we had anticipated. In fact, they were profoundly insulted, deeply disappointed. In the closing meeting of the workshop, they spoke of how disillusioned they had become, how they felt that in the end, Zionist upbringing influences all of us Israelis, even the ones that initially seem reasonable and open-minded. I tried to argue with them, explain to them, but it was too late. I remember watching them leave, climbing over the fences of the compound to circumvent the Israeli soldiers in the area, in order to try and avoid being arrested. I was sobbing. I felt I had disappointed them and disappointed myself, despite my best intentions.

We don’t talk enough about Israeli arrogance as a huge barrier to any form of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation, even co-resisting the occupation. So we keep assuming that the land is simply ours, even if Palestinians were born there, even if their families lived there for generations. We’re sure our violence is better because we only hit civilians by accident. We try to teach them to be reasonable and to accommodate themselves to our higher moral standards if they want us to listen to them. Intended or not, the arrogance is there, and not just among right-wing extremists.

Where does this arrogance come from? Consider a quintessential example, Golda Meir’snotorious statement to the Sunday Times in 1969:

There were no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state? It was either southern Syria before the First World War, and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.

“It is not as though… we came and threw them out and took their country away from them.” Meir felt confident proclaiming this in 1969, 20 years after over 750,000 people, about 80 percent of the Palestinian population of the area that became Israel, were either driven out by force or violently prevented from returning. Twenty years of impunity, when generals likeYigal Alon, who had systematically cleansed the areas they conquered of every single Palestinian village and town, served as government ministers alongside Meir.

But few of those who have heard of this statement know of Meir’s history during 1948 itself. Yaakov Lublini, the Israeli military ruler of Haifa, recalls an incident in April, when the city was conquered and most of its Palestinians left or were expelled:

We walked up some stairs. The apartments on the first two floors were abandoned. When we reached the third floor, an old Arab woman approached us, carrying some bundles. When she saw Golda she stopped and burst into tears. Golda stopped, looked at her, and tears streamed down her face. The two women stood there and cried.

Weeks later, Meir described her own experiences:

It’s a shocking thing to see the city dead […] near the port I found children, women and old men waiting to a way out. I went into the houses, there were houses where the coffee and the pita-bread were left on the table. I couldn’t but see with my eyes that this must have been the picture in many [East European] Jewish towns [ayarot yehudiyot]

I do not wish to idealize the Meir of 1948. Despite her tears, she never seriously challenged the massive expulsion and prevention of return orchestrated by her colleagues in the ruling Mapai party, led of course by Ben-Gurion. But these moments of humanity and identification across ethnic boundaries are a reminder of what could have been, before years of arrogance and denial hardened her heart.

Israelis born after the Nakba rarely cry about it. We rely on our formulas: “these things happen in wars”; “this wouldn’t have happened if they accepted the UN partition resolution”; “you cannot set the clock back.” All this in a country that grants Jewish immigrants significant financial benefits under the Law of Return – a law that aims to correct injustices caused 2,000 years ago by the Roman Empire. Persecution of Jews in Europe, and the Holocaust in particular, are an unavoidable part of every discussion of the occupation, or of Israel’s policy towards Iran. The destruction of over 400 villages and towns six decades ago is within living memory, but Israeli Jews treat it as an obscure historical detail that Palestinians just need to get over already.

History forms people’s identities, and Palestinians are no more likely to shed their history than Israelis. Both peoples are destined to live together and the only true alternative to remaining separate and unequal is a common struggle. For Israelis wishing to participate in such a struggle, relieving ourselves of our ignorance and arrogance should be the top priority. Not for the sake of Palestinians – for our own sake, to restore our own humanity.

Go and learn: if you want to educate yourself about this hidden history, watch Palestinian and Israeli testimonies here and here. Learn here about life in the largest pre-1948 Palestinian town. Go on a tour of former Palestinian villages guided by refugees. Attend ceremonies organized around the country on May 15th. Learning the details can be hard, it can be distressing, but the reward is sweet – liberating ourselves from our racism.

Read more:
PHOTOS: Palestinians commemorate Nakba Day with rallies and protests
Despite efforts to erase it, the Nakba’s memory is more present than ever in Israel
Report: Forced displacement on both sides of the Green Line
Remembering the Nakba, understanding this is a shared land
The Palestinian Nakba: Are Israelis starting to get it?

Tom Pessah is an Israeli graduate sociology student at the University of California, Berkeley


====================================================

http://972mag.com/why-the-inconvenient-truths-of-the-nakba-must-be-recognized/45666/


 |Published May 14, 2012

Why the inconvenient truths of the Nakba must be recognized

 

By Tom Pessah

Limor Livnat was furious. The minister of culture was speaking at a Knesset discussion about the Independence Day arrests in Tel Aviv, following an attempt by a small non-profit called Zochrot to commemorate the Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948. The Israeli police surrounded the Zochrot office in central Tel Aviv, preventing the activists from exiting. One person spent a night in jail for reading aloud the names of destroyed Palestinian villages from a history book. But Livnat’s anger wasn’t directed at the police, but rather at those arrested:

I went in with my iPhone to the Zochrot association [website], and there it was. There are some details there, including places. What are the Arab villages that the Zochrot association is talking about, that it tries to present to the public? The public should know what this is about. They present a map, and the map has dots. Dots, dots, dots […] from the north of the country to its south, south of Be’er Sheva. And these dots, which are the villages we’re talking about, the points are in all the State of Israel! Not in Judea and Samaria, not in the Gaza region, not in what you call the Occupied Territories […] Here, inside Tel Aviv! I found some like that in the Tel Aviv area, dozens of dots.

During and around the 1948 war, over 400 Palestinian villages and towns were destroyed by Israeli forces. Over 80 percent of the Arab population of what became the State of Israel was either expelled or banned from returning. Many of those who managed to stay were internally displaced, their village lands were given to Jewish communities or turned into parks. These are all documented historical facts, yet their discussion is considered so outrageous that the minister of culture didn’t need to explain what was wrong: for her, it was self-evident that a website mentioning destroyed Palestinian villages inside Israel (even inside Tel Aviv!) is an abomination.

Israelis, especially younger generations, approach the history of 1948 through a number of well-trodden formulas: the UN decided on a partition creating a Jewish and Arab state, the Arabs refused, neighboring Arab countries intervened, and at the end of a bloody war, some Palestinians found themselves on the other side of the border. These things, we are told, happen in wars.

I remember hearing for the first time about the expulsion of Majdal, today Ashkelon. The town had been known as the “Arab Manchester,” and several of its textile workers were affiliated with the Histadrut labor union. Despite protests from the Histadrut, the town’s inhabitants were loaded onto trucks and dumped in the nearby Gaza Strip. But this didn’t “happen in war.” It happened in 1950, after the ceasefire. When I heard this for the first time, I thought it must be a mistake: how could this have happened after the war? What was the security reason?

Israeli historian Benny Morris found a communique from the previous year by Yigal Allon, one of the senior commanders, who urged the army to transfer the town’s Arabs. For him, the Palestinian population was too close to the Egyptian front lines, and their presence could serve as a base for enemy infiltration. In June 1948, Allon thought the Arabs of Ramle would also be a threat, and gave orders to expel them. In April of that year, according to his own testimony, he used threats to push the Palestinians of the eastern Galilee to flee: their villages could have served as bases for the Syrian army. And, according to a letter he wrote to Ben-Gurion, he would also have liked to have conquered the West Bank to eliminate the security risk posed by the Jordanian army. This letter mentions a potential problem, the presence of a civilian population, but Allon reassures Ben-Gurion that “a large part, especially the refugees, will retreat eastwards as a result of the military operations… The plan for the offensive must take into account leaving an opening for the retreat of the enemy army, and the refugees following it.”  Had Ben-Gurion resumed the offensive, the West Bank could have been emptied too.

When you dive into the history of 1948, certain features become familiar. Some Palestinians used violence against Jews; some generals stretched the definition of security risk to its widest possible interpretation. There were Israelis who protested: Ben Dunkelman, the commander who conquered Nazareth refused to expel its inhabitants; Rabin recalls how soldiers instructed to drive out Lydda’s population had to undergo “extensive propaganda activities.” But most Israelis didn’t object: they trusted their security forces that had successfully repelled the incoming Arab armies, and they often benefited from the vast properties the refugees left behind.

Remaining unaware of this history is a form of illiteracy: it has deeply influenced anyone living in the country or connected to it in any way. The simplistic formulas that most Israelis believe leave them incapable of understanding Palestinian experiences and expectations, and are a major barrier to reconciliation. And ignorance of the systematic expulsions enable them to continue in different forms – see, for example,  current plans to displace tens of thousands of Bedouins in the Negev.

Jewish Israeli history will remain intertwined with the fate of Palestinians. Genuine awareness of our shared history is essential. Zochrot is holding another event to commemorate the Nakba: this time they invited Livnat. Perhaps one day she, or another minister of culture, will attend.

Tom Pessah is an Israeli sociology student, currently studying the Nakba as part of his PhD

 

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