Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Yale College Republicans Host Barbecue Right Next To Hunger Strike

Members of the Yale College Republicans hosted a barbecue Friday right next to where members of the Local 33 graduate student union participated in a hunger strike, the New Haven Register reports.

The College Republicans served a meal of barbecued beef, baked beans and corn to those on the plaza, just a few feet from the tent Local 33 had erected to house hunger strikers protesting the school’s decision not to negotiate a contract.

Local 33 was not fazed by the Republicans’ barbecue, but instead focused on staying healthy and not eating. Eight Yale University graduate student teachers have not eaten in days, the New Haven Register reports.

“I’m not really focused on that,” Aaron Greenberg, Local 33 chairman and political science graduate student teacher told the New Haven Register. “I’m focused on making sure we have lots of water, make sure I’m healthy. We have a check-in with our nurse this afternoon. We are focused on that.”

The union chapter said it wants the hunger strike to be a source of joy, and invited others to join in when one of their members got too hungry. “Instead of eating your lunch, sit with us and lift our spirits,” reads a flier Local 33 distributed on campus earlier this week. “When one of us cannot continue, come take our place.”

Local 33, the graduate student teachers’ union which is part of the international labor union UNITE HERE, is protesting the school’s decision not to negotiate a contract. Greenberg said the school is stalling until President Donald Trump appoints a new head of the National Labor Relations Board, someone who might be harsher to the union’s requests.

Greenberg said Yale President Peter Salovey, along with “top members of the Yale administration and members of the Yale Corporation are deciding to side with Donald Trump over members of their own community. I think that is unacceptable. I think that is despicable. They say we have to wait so we are waiting without eating.”


A win for free speech in London

‘There must no longer be a mouthpiece for Israel on this campus’, one student leader pronounced to a throng of anti-Israel protesters. Cheers went up and signs jiggled. A placard echoed the speaker’s sentiment: ‘No to Israeli invasions of SOAS.’ Was the IDF about to launch a military strike against the Bloomsbury-based School of Oriental and African Studies? Perhaps Mossad had planned to wipe out the SOAS students’ union? No, something much more calamitous was going to happen: Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, was about to give a talk to students.

Back in 2015, the SOAS students’ union voted to support the anti-Israel BDS movement by 73 per cent — although its mandate was somewhat clouded by the fact that only 20 per cent of the student body bothered to vote. Nonetheless, with BDS instituted, the union seeks to boycott Israeli goods from entering the campus — including ambassadors.

Last night, it wasn’t only students who wanted to prevent Regev from speaking. Prior to the event, 150 academics from SOAS and other universities wrote to SOAS’s director, Valerie Amos, asking her to cancel the event on the basis that it would ‘cause substantial distress’ to the student body. The idea that students are vulnerable creatures who need shielding from the horrors of the world, particularly the pesky repercussions of Israeli infiltration, has long been perpetuated by campus censors. But the endorsement of this idea by university academics marks a worrying development in the paternalistic impulse gaining sway at universities.

As Richard Verber, senior vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told me at the protest: ‘Universities are supposed to be centres of knowledge.’ Rather than adopt the mantra that Israel is ‘fundamentally evil and shouldn’t be given a platform’ – as Josh, a SOAS student, told me – universities should be unsafe spaces where any and every idea can be discussed and challenged.

It was, therefore, reassuring to see that last night’s BDS protesters were not left unchallenged. Undisturbed by the bleak drizzle descending on SOAS’s main plaza, around 300 protesters gathered for what turned out to be a relatively calm face-off. On one side, bolstered by a pop-up stall selling falafel, around 200 BDS supporters clamoured loudly about the need to ‘Free, free Palestine’. On the other, a pro-Israeli contingent made up of students and non-students alike smilingly retorted: ‘Free from Hamas.’

Despite the heated nature of the debate, there wasn’t much conflict. The most confrontational moment came when the BDS supporters decided it was time for some speeches. In a move similar to a politically charged version of Glee, the pro-Israeli block unsheathed a music system and did its best to drown out the ravings of the pro-Palestinians with Israeli pop.

Police and legal observers were spread thinly throughout the crowd. David Jones, an observer from Jewish Human Rights Watch, explained to me that their presence was necessary because the BDS activists were ‘driving students out of universities’. It seemed doubtful that this chickpea-ridden clash of protesters would spout anything more heated than the falafel wraps beings sold for a fiver, but things took a nasty turn when one anti-Semitic protester announced that ‘six million Jews walked into the gas chambers like lambs for slaughter!’. When asked by a group of disgusted pro-Israeli protesters what he meant, he smiled charmingly and explained: ‘Because they were cowards.’

Many of the pro-Palestine speakers and protesters said they were taking a stand against ‘Israeli apartheid’. When I asked a protester what the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had to do with apartheid, he responded gruffly: ‘Are you stupid? The Palestinians are being discriminated against!’ Robert Sacks, a South African pro-Israel protester who fought against Apartheid in Pretoria, disagreed. He told me the ‘mindlessness of the BDS movement is frightening… It is an insult to the real anti-Apartheid movement.’ Pointing to the 1957 Immorality Act in Apartheid South Africa, he maintained that ‘these people who have come here to rant about Apartheid don’t understand what it was’.

While the clash of protests was ostensibly about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it soon became clear free speech was the real battleground here. Some of the anti-Israel protesters claimed to be bastions of free expression on the basis that they want to ‘give a voice to the Palestinians.’ But it soon became clear that their conviction in free speech is far from resolute. Leaflets with ‘unofficial demo advice’ – which, unsurprisingly, were being distributed by a man who materialised from a group surrounding the demo’s official organisers – advised protesters: ‘Don’t talk to the media… Don’t talk to Zionists.’ Not only did this highlight the conspiratorial tone of contemporary critics of Israel — it also demonstrated the pitiful esteem in which the BDS movement holds open discussion and debate.

Reassuringly, interspersed among the protesters were individuals carrying neither Israeli nor Palestinian flags, but rather placards saying censorship has no place on campus. Izzy Posen, a student carrying a sign criticising the attempted No Platforming of Regev, told me: ‘I’m not here for Israel. I’m here for free speech.’ Why? ‘Because it’s the cornerstone of democracy.’ It is only through allowing the open circulation of ideas, including those we find abhorrent, that individuals can learn to think for themselves and take themselves seriously. As Lawrence Rosenberg, who had an Israeli flag draped round his shoulders, told me: ‘The BDS movement is inherently anti-free speech.’

For all the furore, Regev’s talk inside SOAS was notably tame. Undoubtedly taking note from last year’s debacle at UCL – where former IDF officer Hen Mazzig was chased off campus by infuriated BDS protesters – security was tight. There were multiple ID checks. Security personnel were positioned on every door. Yet despite the stringent security measures, the discussion was very open. Before he could even get comfortable, Regev was immediately asked to defend himself against claims he is a war criminal. Students were allowed to ask whatever they liked, whether it be for Regev to distinguish between a colonialist and an Israeli settler, or for him to justify why Israel even deserves to exist in the first place.

Concluding the discussion, the president of SOAS’s Jewish Society thanked the audience ‘for coming along and supporting free speech’. It was in this liberal and open-minded spirit that the meeting was carried out. It demonstrated that for all the rumpus occurring outside, those who wish to restrict free speech on campus won’t win. For no matter how many falafel wraps they buy, the BDS movement will always be thwarted by those who want to listen to and interrogate contentious ideas.


Australia: Thought police screening schoolbooks in Victoria

Kevin Donnelly

Victoria’s politically correct thought police and nanny state mentality know no bounds. The Marxist-inspired LGBTI gender and sexuality program is being forced on all government schools, as is the Respectful Relationships program that presents boys and men as violent and misogynist.

Add the state’s Curriculum and Assess­ment Authority’s principles and guidelines dictating what texts should be studied in years 11 and 12, and it’s no wonder Victoria is once again being ­described as our Albania of the South — a state where cultural-left ideology and group-think rules, and freedom of thought is under threat.

The guidelines warn that texts should not be chosen “regardless of literary or dramatic merit” if they deal with “violence or physical, psychological or sexual abuse”, “gratuitous use of coarse language” or they “promote or normalise the abuse of alcohol, the use of illegal drugs or other ­illegal behaviour”. Texts dealing with the full ambit of human ­nature with all its flaws, weaknesses and susceptibility to give in to temptation are to be cut from the state-mandated curriculum.

Often the most enduring and worthwhile examples of literature by their very nature portray the dark and unsettling side of ­humanity and personal relationships. In the Greek tragedy The Bacchae, Euripides presents Dionysus as a god of wine, promiscuity and physical gratification that represents an enduring ­aspect of human nature. Other Greek tragedies, such as Antigone and King Oedipus, centre on the nature and impact of violence, ­deceit, betrayal and the ­impact of psychological and sexual abuse.

Shakespeare’s Macbeth, as vividly portrayed in Roman ­Polan­ski’s film adaptation, is awash with violence and death, and there’s no escaping the reality that what drives Lady Macbeth to suicide is her mental and psychological ­instability. The final scene of Hamlet is also bloody, and once again the destructive impact of psychological abuse is evident with Ophelia’s suicide. As proved by one of Shakespeare’s most memorable characters, Falstaff, it’s also true that great literature often involves bawdy scenes ­involving alcohol and rude and ­offensive language.

Similar to Falstaff, the central character in Zorba the Greek would fall foul of today’s PC thought police as he is consumed by the attraction of women and drink, illus­trated by his statement: “To be alive is to undo your belt and look for trouble.”

There’s also no doubt that if the Victorian guidelines relating to “social and sexual relationships” are taken seriously then metaphysical poets like Marvell and Donne would be unacceptable.

Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress is a seduction poem feminists would castigate as misogynist in nature as the poet’s aim is to convince his mistress to consummate their relationship “like amorous birds of prey”. Donne’s poem Elegie: To his Mistress Going to Bed would also definitely be in the no-go zone as the lines, “Licence my roving hands, and let them goe, Behind, before, above, between, below”, would cause feminist apoplexy.

Modern Australian classics like Wake in Fright, The One Day of the Year and Don’s Party, given the pervasive influence of alcohol, gambling and sexual innuendo and misbehaviour, would also fall foul of the politically correct mentality that seeks to impose state sanctioned behaviour.

And what of Tolstoy’s War and Peace,that vast and majestic novel that not only vividly and in detail portrays the death, suffering and violence of war but also the interplay of characters depicting the full range of human emotions and ­actions ­including sexual promiscuity, ­betrayal and abuse?

Whatever the nature of the text or how challenging its issues, teachers must ensure the way it is taught is affirmative and constructive, that lessons ­include a range of perspectives and there are alternative points of view.

DH Lawrence argues: “The Business of art is to reveal the relation between man and his circumambient universe at the living moment.” Lawrence also argues that literature should never be sanitised and, as such, students have the right to encounter human nature and their world in all its complexity and challenges — good and evil, dark and light.


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