Quakers and Airbnb Boycott Israeli Occupation of Palestine

I found this video from RT which was posted yesterday, Wednesday 21st November 2018 on YouTube. It reports that the Quakers have banned investing in companies which profit through Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The Quakers stated that

Our long history of working for a just peace in Palestine and Israel has opened our eyes to the many injustices and violations of international law arising from the military occupation of Palestine by the Israeli government.

With the occupation now in its 51st year, and with no end in sight, we believe we have a moral duty to state publicly that we will not invest in any company profiting from the occupation.

This is, apparently, the first time a British church had made such a move, and the Quakers have been criticized by Jewish groups, which claim that it is a reference to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement. the Board of Deputies of British Jews called the Quakers decision ‘appalling’ and said that it must be reversed. Quaker leaders, however, state that the decision recalls protests against apartheid South Africa and the slave trade.

The video then moves into a discussion about the decision with Les Levido from Jews For Boycotting Israeli Goods and Rafi Bloom, co-chair of Northwest Friends of Israel.

The Quakers are, of course, absolutely right. Israel is an apartheid state, and the West Bank is under military occupation. The Quakers are rightly famous for their pacifism. One of our aunts was a member of CND in the 1980s, and I got the impression that among the religious groups supporting the movement were the Quakers and Roman Catholic Franciscan friars. As for the Slave Trade, they were one of the main groups behind the Abolitionist movement when it first appeared in the 17th and 18th centuries. One of the great Quaker campaigners against it in the British Caribbean was Woolmer, a hunchbacked dwarf, who used to carry around with him a hollowed-out Bible filled with blood. When he saw a planter approaching, he used to stab the knife into the Bible, sending the blood spattering as a visual protest of the blood spilt through the infamous trade. Philadelphia, the city founded by another Quaker, William Penn, was also the home of many of the American Quaker campaigners against the slave trade. Later on they were joined by the Methodists and the evangelical wing of the Anglican church in Britain. I’ve also got a feeling that many Quakers may also have been involved in the legalization of homosexuality in Britain. Gerard Hoffnung, the musician and cartoonist, was a Quaker and a supporter of this movement to end the persecution of gays.

It’s to be expected that Jewish groups like the Board of Deputies of British Jews were going to be outraged at the church’s decision, but I note that the reporter does not say that they denounced them as anti-Semites. As the Quaker’s have always promoted peace and tolerance, such an accusation simply wouldn’t be credible.

I haven’t watched the debate, however, because I’ve no respect for the North West Friends of Israel. From reading Bookburnersrus, Martin Odoni’s and Tony Greenstein’s blogs, it’s very clear that they’re another bunch of thuggish bully-boys. Martin describes a meeting at a Quaker meeting house in Manchester, when the Jewish American reporter and activist Max Blumenthal was speaking about his latest book on Israel and its crimes. The Zionist activists there first tried to stop him entering, and then loudly heckled, sneered and guffawed throughout his talk until they were finally turfed out by the rozzers. And of course, they made the ridiculous claim that they were being silenced because they were Jews, when in fact they were thrown out because they were just there to disrupt and prevent other Jews talking and hearing about what was really going on.

Tony Greenstein described some of their members in one of his blogs. At least two were failed businessmen, one of whom was a lawyer, who’d been struck off. Quite apart from the usual contingent of Islamophobes and supporters of the EDL. They’re in no position to lecture the Quakers or the Jewish Israel-critical peeps, who have to suffer their anti-Semitic abuse, about morality.

The day before that report, the 21st, RT posted another piece discussing Airbnb’s decision not to list homes in the occupied West Bank, which also enraged the Israeli state. The company’s press room stated

We concluded that we should remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.

About 200 homes were to be removed from the list. The Palestinian authority welcomed the move, as they had previously requested the company to remove such listings. The Israelis, however, condemned it, and used the time-worn tactic of screaming racism.

Yariv Levin, the Israeli tourism minister, declared

This decision is completely unacceptable. This is pure discrimination, something that is taken only against Jews that are living in Judaea and Samaria. This is actually a racist decision – and more than that, I do believe that it is a double standard that is taken only against Israel, against Jews that are living here in Israel.

The anchorwoman then goes on to talk to Mustafa Barghouti, the General Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, about the issue, as well as a former commander in the Israeli air force. Barghouti states that the UN resolutions say that the settlements in the West Bank are completely illegal, they are discriminatory, as they are built on land stolen from the Palestinians, and any relationship with these illegal settlements are a violation of international law. He says that Airbnb has taken the right decision, as they stood to lose a lot due to the boycott against them. And what is really racist and discriminatory is the apartheid system the Israelis have created, which favours Israelis over Palestinians.

The Israeli spokesman, Reuven Berko, cited simply as ‘Middle East expert’, rants about Airbnb being ‘cowards to Islamic terrorists, I don’t know what’, accuses them of anti-Semitism and ignoring the right of the Jews to their homeland in Judea and Samaria and asks how many Christians are angry about this. He states that this is an awful step against history, against fate.

It’s the usual specious rubbish. The Biblical state of Israel certainly existed, and was the homeland of the Jewish people in antiquity. But it has not existed for centuries. For many Jews, their real homeland was the country in which they and their forebears had lived in the Diaspora. And the Bund, the Jewish Socialist movement, made that very clear in their slogan ‘Wherever we live, that’s our homeland’. And many Orthodox Jews feel that Israel cannot be restored except by the hand of the Almighty and the Messiah. Until that happens, modern Israel is to them nothing but a blasphemy.

As for appealing to Christian anger about this, the lead Christian Zionist movements, like Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, are millennialists, who believe that the restoration of Israel will usher in the End Times and Christ’s Second Coming, along with the destruction of those Jews, who won’t convert to Christianity. In fact, the indigenous Christians of Palestine have almost been completely cleansed from Israel. The Christian population before 1948 was 25 per cent. Now it’s only one per cent. American Zionist Christians put this down wholly to persecution from Muslims. Now Muslim Palestinians have persecuted their Christian fellow countrymen, whom they see as collaborators. But Palestinian Christians have also and are being persecuted by the Israeli state and the settlers. The Israelis have closed churches as well as mosques, and both churches and mosques have been attacked and desecrated by mobs of Israeli settlers.

In my somewhat limited experience, Muslim Brits are better informed about this than British Christians. I studied Islam when I was at College as part of my Religious Studies minor degree. I can remember reading the equivalent of the parish magazine from one of the British mosques. It contained an article attacking the closure of one of the mosques in Palestine and its conversion into a disco. The article also noted that a nearby Christian church had also been closed by the Israelis.

A few years ago Channel 4 also screened a programme about the relationship between Christianity and other faiths, in which the presenter travelled to Israel. There he encountered an Israeli ‘shock jock’ radio host, who ranted about Christians. The programme also covered a march of militant Israelis on a church used by Messianic Jews. These are Jews, who have accepted Christ as the messiah, but still observe the Mosaic Law. This is my opinion, but I think they’re very similar to the Christian community of which the Gospel writer St. Matthew was a part, as this is traditionally regarded as the Jewish Gospel, and St. Matthew is concerned to assimilate Christ’s teaching to that of the Jewish sages. The settlers were stopped at the church entrance by the Muslim doorman. And apparently, it was actually quite common to have Muslims at the door of Christian churches protecting the worshippers from religious violence from outside.

And if we are going to talk about racism and discrimination, a friend of mine, who studied Judaism at College also told me that in the 1960s the Israelis threw out tens of thousands of indigenous Jewish Palestinians, because they were culturally Arab. There have been articles in Counterpunch by the magazine’s Jewish contributors, which have pointed out that Israel is a European/American Jewish colony, whose founders had a despicable racist contempt for the Mizrahim, Jewish Arabs, or Arabicized Jews.

The Quakers and Airbnb are right to boycott Israel’s occupation of Palestine. And the real racism and apartheid is by Israel against the indigenous Arabs, who have been Jewish, Christian and Muslim, and have suffered discrimination, persecution and ethnic cleansing by the Israeli state.

Philosophy Threatened at SUNY Fredonia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/11/2018 - 9:21pm in

The administration at the State University of New York at Fredonia has targeted the school’s Department of Philosophy.

The Department of Philosophy may be eliminated, and the school will no longer offer students the opportunity to major in philosophy, if the plan being considered by the university’s president, Virginia Horvath and provost, Terry Brown, is approved.

The plan would make SUNY Fredonia the only SUNY comprehensive college without a philosophy BA program and without a philosophy department.

The proposal to close the department and discontinue the major is being made as part of a plan for “reducing expenses,” according to a memo from Horvath.

This is not the first time that the university has considered shuttering the Department of Philosophy. In 2017, the dean of the sciences and humanities at the school, Andy Karafa, considered the idea.

At the time, the department responded in detail, arguing that cutting philosophy would result in “minimal savings and substantial costs.” Its instructional costs are lower than the departmental average on campus and its full-time enrollment student-to-faculty ratio is higher than the average on campus. The number of philosophy majors is currently down, but that appears to correlate with an overall decrease in enrollment at Fredonia. Resignations and retirements have left the department with just two full-time members (both of whom are SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professors—a rank above full professor—and have won the top research-related awards at the school). In general, the philosophy department appears to run well and pretty cheaply at that.

It is striking that a university that bills itself as a “comprehensive, public, liberal arts university” offering “a complete college experience”, could seriously entertain the idea of no longer offering a philosophy major—especially since one of the criteria for assessing programs is their “centrality to the mission” of the university.

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MIT Launches Billion Dollar Ethics-Oriented AI Initiative

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 18/10/2018 - 1:42am in

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is establishing a new college focused on the development and “ethical application” artificial intelligence.

The Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing will be the centerpiece of MIT’s $1 billion initiative “to address the global opportunities and challenges presented by the prevalence of computing and the rise of artificial intelligence.”

A press release from the university states that, among other things, the new college will strengthen MIT’s role in “the responsible and ethical evolution of technologies that are poised to fundamentally transform society” and be “a place for teaching and research on relevant policy and ethics to better ensure that the groundbreaking technologies of the future are responsibly implemented in support of the greater good.”

Stephen Schwarzman, the chairman and CEO of Blackstone, an investment firm, made a $350 million donation that led to the establishment of the new college that bears his name. He says, “The College’s attention to ethics matters enormously to me, because we will never realize the full potential of these advancements unless they are guided by a shared understanding of their moral implications for society.”

The new college will include existing MIT faculty from a variety of disciplines as well as 50 new faculty positions, graduate fellowships in ethics and AI, forums to bring together academics, government officials, business leaders, and media to discuss AI-related policy matters, and a curriculum that brings computer science together with other areas of inquiry. In an email, Alex Byrne, head of the Department of Philosophy at MIT, said that he expects the department to be significantly involved in the new college.

You can read more about it at MIT’s site.

Elias Sime, “Tightrope: Internalized”

Related: “Computer Science Ethics: A Growth Area for Philosophy?“, “Nearly $15m For Philosopher-Led Artificial Intelligence Center“, “Patent Pending for Philosopher and Astrophysicist-Designed Artificial Consciousness Test“, “Philosophers Appointed To High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence“, “Will Computers Do Philosophy?” “Philanthropy for Philosophy: Fleeting Fad or Fertile Future?“, “Philosophy in 10 Years

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Teaching Philosophy as the Search for Complication

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 11/10/2018 - 4:50am in

Most students in philosophy classrooms in the United States are taking their first and only philosophy course. Why is it their only one?

There are lots of reasons, but here I’m just going to address one: students’ impression that philosophy is a waste of time. This is an opinion a few students have shared with me over the years, and one sees it thrown around a fair amount in various popular discussions of philosophy. Philosophy may ask interesting questions, but in most philosophy classrooms, these questions never get decisively settled. So what’s the point of all that philosophy? If all the proposed answers have problems, why bother going through them?

This is not an unreasonable view. In general, questions are for answering. And in most other college courses, questions are satisfactorily answered. But in philosophy courses—especially at the introductory levels—they are not, and it’s hard to see how they could be.

Thinking that philosophy is pointless may deter students from taking additional philosophy courses, or may get them to disengage from their current one.

What should philosophy professors do about this?

One thing I’ve tried over the past couple of years in my lower-level courses is a complete reframing in my account to the students of what we’re doing when we’re doing philosophy. One of the most important things studying philosophy can do, I tell them, is reveal that everything is much more complicated than they’ve been led to believe. This is in part evidenced by the astonishing range of questions we can raise about our beliefs, and by the surprising range of answers to these questions—answers which in turn raise further complications.

Framing philosophy as the search for complication turns aspects of philosophy courses that students tend to see as failures into successes.

For example, in my Contemporary Moral Problems course, which for many students is their first ever philosophy course, one topic I often cover is abortion. We read from authors who disagree with each other not just on the permissibility of abortion but also on what’s important in discussions of abortion. After this unit, students are left with more questions and uncertainty about abortion than before, realizing that certain moves they were led to think settle disputes over abortion really just get the conversation about it started. Philosophy has not shown them which position is correct. That could seem like a failure. But if the point of covering abortion was to show just how complicated an issue it is, then we see how we’ve ended up with a success.

I emphasize at the start of the term and repeatedly throughout it that our job as philosophers is to discover how much more complicated various matters are than what they’ve been told by politicians, the press, their families, their religious authorities. Lessons on various topics and arguments are organized to highlight the variety and difficulty of questions they raise. By downplaying the importance of coming to conclusive answers, not coming to them during the course is not seen as a disappointment.

What we do in philosophy courses at this level is like mapping a territory; it isn’t a problem when the map is more complicated than you thought it was going to be. And now you have a more accurate map to what we’re interested in exploring.

Does this work? I admit I don’t have concrete evidence that it does. I do seem to have had fewer instances of students complaining about the point of philosophy. And there seems to be broader and more consistent participation in class, perhaps owing to the class being more about questions and complications than on coming to have some position or another. As a teacher, I feel like I’m doing a better job: the course is unified around a defensible thesis, evidence for which accrues with each topic, that is valuable for the students to understand.

The idea of philosophy complicating matters is one that will be familiar to any philosopher, but I hadn’t seen it suggested as the organizing theme of a course, and thought I’d share my thoughts about and experience with it. Discussion welcome.

Victor Vasarely, “Tridim”

related: “The Intellectual Achievement of Creating Questions

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Bad Taste Pop Alert! Die Krupps’ Nazis Auf Speed

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 30/09/2018 - 2:53am in

Here’s a little light relief from some of the heavy stuff. It’s a musical interlude with an anti-Nazi message. Die Krupps are a German Metal/Industrial band, who presumably take their name from the big German armaments firm. The video and song’s based on the fact that during the Second World War the Nazis kept the German army, the Wehrmacht, fighting by giving them Privitin – the drug amphetamine, commonly called ‘Speed’.

It begins with a statement by the band that they do not condone Fascism or drug taking, before showing the airmen of the Luftwaffe zooming around the sky snorting the drug like it was going out of fashion. They are then either shot down by the RAF, or collide, and fall to Earth, on which is projected the grotesque face of Hitler himself.

However grotesque the video is, it’s based very solidly on fact. The Nazis did use drugs to keep their pilots in the air. I’ve forgotten precisely what the drug was, but it got into American drug culture as ‘Nazi Crank’, and became a real problem among some Native Americans.

The video also reminds me of one of the transatlantic underground comics, or comix, that was around in the 1980s. This was Hitler’s Dope, the cover of which featured the Fuehrer snorting something highly suspicious while behind him and to his right sat a bare-breasted Eva Braun. As the people, who produced the comix tended to be college-educated Hippies with left-wing political views, I doubt very much that this was a piece of pro-Nazi propaganda.

Just as I don’t believe that the real goose-stepping idiots of the Far Right anywhere in Europe, whether Germany, France, Britain or wherever, would find the video’s depiction of the Nazis and the Luftwaffe remotely attractive.

It would probably send them berserk with rage. Which is a very good reason to show it!

Debate Debacle

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/09/2018 - 5:00pm in

Debate! The highest form of communication. You have to listen to every idea - even if that idea is “you should be dead.”

Choose Wisely!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 31/07/2018 - 5:00pm in

Goofball thinks we should live in a just society, but Galahad is worried about how that will poll.

Where the Open Exchange of Ideas is Most Protected and Valued

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/07/2018 - 5:50am in

“[A] commonly held, and wrong, belief is that colleges and universities suppress speech as a matter of course. In fact, the higher education sector is where the open exchange of ideas is more protected and valued than most other sectors in society.”

That’s Sigal Ben-Porath, a philosopher at University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, in an interview at 3:AM Magazine chock full of wisdom about many of the current debates about speech, politics, and inclusion in colleges and universities.

Professor Ben-Porath’s views on these matters is shaped by the historical and philosophical big picture, as well as her empirically-informed work on and experience with campus issues (see her Free Speech on Campus). The perspective is clarifying and informative.

Below are some excerpts from the interview, beginning with some general remarks about what universities are about:

Questions about viewpoint diversity, the boundaries of acceptable speech on campus, the need to encourage or discourage certain forms and types of expression on campus out of concern to maintaining an atmosphere of open minded inquiry, all these are the lifeblood of campus. It is what we do every day when we do our work well, and what we aim to teach our students to do. This does not mean that universities and colleges are perfect; we do fail when we create conditions that chill speech, when we discourage the expression of dissenting views, when we fall into patterns of dogmatic thinking. But to present higher education as a context where young people are being indoctrinated into certain political views, and where free speech is under attack, is to misunderstand research and teaching or to ignore the realities of campus life.

Interviewer Richard Marshall asks about some “common myths” regarding these issues. Professor Ben-Porath replies:

There are over 4000 colleges and universities in the United States, some of which are actively dealing with speech tensions, and there are many institutions of higher education globally which are dealing with similar tensions. The issue is commonly portrayed in the public debate as a matter of tension between a commitment to open expression on the one hand, and a commitment to inclusion on the other. This is a false dichotomy and a misguided representation of the two values—inclusion and freedom (especially freedom of expression)—as mutually exclusive. In fact, college campuses have many ways to address both commitments at once, by ensuring a robust and open inquiry. In the vast majority of cases, an inclusive climate is one in which more people and more views are protected and expressed. Focusing on marginal (though important) cases in which speech, especially bigoted, biased, and controversial speech, is exclusionary and undermines the equal standing of diverse members of the campus community is sometimes important, but it also distracts from the fact that for the most part the two values go hand in hand especially in the higher education context.

Another commonly held, and wrong, belief is that colleges and universities suppress speech as a matter of course. In fact, the higher education sector is where the open exchange of ideas is more protected and valued than most other sectors in society. Businesses regularly limit speech by their employees, as Elizabeth Anderson discusses in her recent book Private Government; schools are increasingly permitted to limit student and teacher speech, as Catherine Ross shows in Lesson in Censorship; social media platforms are run by private entities whose commitment to neutral protection of speech is questionable. Universities, while flawed, stand out as institutions where free speech is upheld. That does not mean we have nothing to improve—sometimes concern about hurt feelings can become exaggerated and chill speech; in some places viewpoint diversity should be more of an active concern than it is; and in many contexts some students are effectively silenced because their identities or ideologies are not equally valued. Free speech is regularly negotiated as part of our mission to expand and disseminate knowledge, and that is a constructive aspect of our work.

What’s going wrong in current debates is not an over-valuing of free speech, but an ideological co-opting of its banner:

While free speech has been politicized and even weaponized in recent years, I do not think that the correct response would be to downgrade it as a central concern for democracies generally and specifically for institutions of higher learning… Without wide protection for speech we lose part of the bedrock of our democratic values, in that we fail to protect the ability of individuals not only to think for themselves but also their ability to communicate their thoughts to others.

If we fail to protect speech in colleges and universities, and abandon the distinct ways in which it deserves and requires protection in the context of the pursuit of knowledge and its dissemination, we lose our ability to push the boundaries of what we know both as individuals and as a collective (meaning, the knowledge held by a discipline, or by society). Institutions of higher education are built on the assumption that knowledge is evolving and progressing, and if we suppress speech we are sure to lose a key way in which our understanding of the world continues to grow. Downgrading speech as a key dimension of this work, and permitting its suppression, would mean halting the effort to expand and refine our shared knowledge, as well as limiting our ability to communicate and relate the knowledge we have to our students and peers. Hence I do not see freedom of expression as overly valued in the current debate; I do see it as sometimes improperly framed or wielded to advance ideological goals. To correct for that we—those who care about democracy and about research, teaching and learning—must not cede it to ideologues but rather hold on to its role as a cornerstone of both democracy and scholarly work.

Professor Ben-Porath emphasizes that we should not think that free speech and inclusion are necessarily in conflict:

I see freedom and inclusion as generally aligned and complimentary, and I suggest that tensions between them exist not at the core but only in the margins of their application. I reject this tension as inherent to the relations between these two important values, and I also reject it as it applies to the functioning of a university. If freedom as a general democratic value, understood negatively as lack of undue governmental restraints or positively as ensuring the substantive opportunity to act by one’s will, is respected and implemented, it ought to apply to all members of the democratic community. In applying freedom properly, we also recognize and implement a vision of inclusion, understood as creating access to all for participation as equal contributing members and to benefiting from all that the relevant community has to offer. I don’t think this is a particularly controversial vision of either freedom or inclusion…

While freedom, especially freedom of speech, is key to our mission, we cannot fulfil our mission if we fail to ensure that all of our members can openly speak and be heard—in other words, without true inclusion our mission to protect free expression as a way to maintain an atmosphere of free inquiry and leaning cannot be realized. For example, if members of racial minorities are consistently devalued and questioned, if women are consistently intimidated or ridiculed when they participate etc., than we do not in fact uphold and maintain an atmosphere of free inquiry, because we effectively silence or fail to hear what many in our community are contributing to the discussion. This does not mean that bigoted or biased speech must be censored to protect an inclusive climate, but it does mean that such speech—which is marginal to the overall endeavor—should be considered in light of its disproportionate impact on some members of our community. The university community, or some of its members (for example, student clubs, department, or the administration) can decide to take steps in response to exclusionary speech, for example by elevating the voices of those who are silenced by exclusionary speech, by emphasizing and enacting the inclusive aims of the campus, or by ensuring that there are groups, practices, and conditions that allow for all to participate and be heard.

I encourage you to read the whole thing.

Mohammad Ehsai, untitled

The post Where the Open Exchange of Ideas is Most Protected and Valued appeared first on Daily Nous.

Loan Stars

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 10/07/2018 - 5:00pm in

A new game show called “Paid Off” will relieve a contestant’s student loan debt - if they win. Even the quiz show economy sucks for millennials.

How to Teach (Philosophy): Readings Sought

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 10/07/2018 - 4:15am in

What readings about teaching would you assign to philosophy graduate students?

That’s the question sent in by a philosophy professor tasked with developing a teaching curriculum for philosophy graduate students. Graduate students are rarely explicitly trained in how to teach college students, so what articles, books, websites, etc., are worth assigning and going over with them to help make them better teachers?


Some related posts: “How Will You Try to Improve Your Teaching?” (several links in that post), “Philosophy Teaching Games“, “Teaching As if Our Students Were Not Future Philosophers.”

book sculpture by Kylie Stillman


The post How to Teach (Philosophy): Readings Sought appeared first on Daily Nous.