While U.S. congressional hearings drew attention to supposed anti-Semitism on universities, Naomi Klein urged advocates of a ceasefire in Gaza to ignore the “distraction machine,” which is “on overdrive.”
Naomi Klein, the writer and activist, has led calls for supporters of a permanent cease-fire in Gaza to stay focused on Israel’s mass killing of civilians and to resist the “smoke and mirrors” of Congressional hearings this week that sought to distract from Israel’s “genocidal violence.”
“The distraction machine is in overdrive,” said Klein on social media after more than a day of reaction to the presidents of three top universities being hauled before Congress on Wednesday to testify at a House hearing titled “Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism.”
Republican members including Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) demanded to know whether the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) would discipline students for “calling for the genocide of Jews.”
The university leaders suggested that their schools typically do not punish students for speech alone — in accordance with the U.S. Constitution, Penn president Liz Magill said in a video posted later — but said such calls could qualify as harassment if they were “directed and severe, [or] pervasive,” and could be punished if it “crosses into conduct.”
Sally Kornbluth, president of MIT, said she had “not heard calling for the genocide of Jews on our campus.” Stefanik replied that “chants for intifada” — a call for an “uprising” which is not inherently violent — have been heard at the school.
Videos of students holding an anti-war protest at University of California, Los Angeles were widely circulated in October, with some influential pro-Zionist celebrities and commentators asserting that students were proclaiming, “We want Jewish genocide.” The protesters were actually addressing Israeli officials and saying, “We charge you with genocide.”
“Can someone point me to an example of a student group calling for the genocide of Jewish people?” asked Mari Cohen, associate editor of Jewish Currents. “Why are we having this conversation?”
The hearing wasn’t the first to confront speech on college campuses since Israel began its U.S.-backed onslaught in Gaza, which has killed at least 17,177 Palestinians in just two months.
Last month the House Judiciary Committee invited student leaders of conservative and pro-Zionist groups to testify about “hostility towards certain points of view” on campuses, and the hearing was interrupted by pro-Palestinian rights students who demanded to know whether their speech should also be protected.
Klein said Wednesday that the repeated hearings on the topic “are smoke and mirrors to distract from genocidal violence in Gaza.”
Klein suggested that it has not gone unnoticed by Israeli officials that journalists and residents in Gaza have continued to widely share information about the reality on the ground, where dozens of Palestinians were killed Thursday in Israeli air raids on a home in Gaza City.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) escalated attacks on the city of Khan Younis in the south — previously a relatively safe refuge for people who fled northern Gaza — with “multiple residential buildings and units… flattened,” according to Al Jazeera.
“The occupation is trying to destroy all residential buildings in the eastern areas of Khan Younis,” reported the outlet on Thursday.
Gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases as well as hepatitis have also begun spreading due to blockades on medical supplies, fuel, and safe drinking water, leading the World Health Organization to warn last month that disease could ultimately kill more civilians in Gaza than the bombs the U.S. has helped to provide for Israel.
“Congress should be working towards a lasting cease-fire to end Israel’s deadly assault on Gaza, a hostage exchange, and a path to equality, justice, and safety for all Palestinians and Israelis,” said the Jewish-led Palestinian rights group IfNotNow on Wednesday, responding to a House resolution that claimed anti-Zionism and antisemitism are one and the same. “Not wasting precious time using antisemitism as an excuse to shut down free speech.”
Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.
This article is from Common Dreams.
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