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Congress Trains Academia To Deny Genocide

Above photo: Rep. Bob Good questioning Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway on May 23. C-Span still.

“Do you think Israel’s government is genocidal?”

Corinna Barnard reacts to  congressional lawmakers raising this question with university leaders last week.

“Do you think Israel’s government is genocidal?”

That’s the question that Rep. Bob Good, a Republican of Virginia, fired at Jonathan Holloway, president of Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey, last week in a U.S. House committee hearing.

Holloway, a scholar of African American history who has been steadily climbing the ladder of administrative positions at top-tier schools, looked stunned.

“Um sir, I don’t … have an opinion on Israel’s um …in terms of that phrase.”

Good: “You do not have an opinion as to whether Israel’s government is genocidal?”

Holloway: “Uh, no sir, I think Israel has a right to exist and protect itself.”

Good: “Do you think Israel’s government is genocidal?”

Holloway: “I think Israel has a right to exist and protect itself, sir.”

Good: “But you will not say Israel’s government is not genocidal. You can’t say that?”

Good, cut him off: “You can’t be that surprised by the topic of the discussion today and you can’t say that Israel’s government is not genocidal. That’s interesting.”

Good has a point.

It is hard to believe that Holloway, or anyone following world events in the slightest for that matter, would not have formed an opinion on whether the Israeli government is committing a genocide.

While Good was trying to wring a “no” out of Holloway, the correct answer for a university president, as a representative of the domain of knowledge, would undoubtedly have been “yes.”

The 1948 definition of genocide in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide includes:

“Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

It would be hard for anyone to deny that this definition has been met.

The evidence has been steadily accumulating in the media; via press reports and images and clips on social media showing Palestinians suffering an array of atrocities. As people scroll through them, they intimately witness a detailed hellscape of human suffering.

These horrifyingly graphic accounts may not be sufficient proof for international legal jurists operating under extreme geopolitical pressures. The court will seek additional evidence. But lay people in the court of public opinion should have no doubt about Israel’s alarming violations of every human right possible.

On top of the media evidence, there is also a trail of expert opinion. As early as Oct. 16, 2023, Israeli historian and genocide scholar Raz Segal, termed what Israel was doing in Gaza “textbook case of genocide.”

In January, South Africa sought an order from the International Court of Justice for a “provisional measure” ordering Israel to immediately end its military operation, on the basis of mounting evidence of genocide.

On. Jan. 26, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found “plausible” evidence of Israel committing genocide against Palestinians.

In March, Francesca Albanese, the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,  published “Anatomy of a Genocide,” a report in which she found “reasonable grounds to believe that the threshold indicating Israel’s commission of genocide is met.”

On May 20, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said he was seeking an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as leaders of Hamas, on suspicion of committing crimes against humanity.

None of this seems to concern the AIPAC-friendly team running the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce. It continues in its zealous work of cracking down on campus demonstrations in solidarity with Gaza in the name of “stopping antisemitic college chaos,” as it partially labeled the full committee hearing on May 23.

In the aftermath of the ICC prosecutor’s move, the hearing also became a time for marshaling Zionist loyalty oaths out of witnesses as well.

The committee published the following recap of its roughly three-hour session, which it headlined the “Rutgers, UCLA, and Northwestern Edition”:

“For the third time this Congress, the Committee held a hearing with university presidents to fight back against pervasive antisemitism on college campuses. Witnesses testifying included Mr. Michael Schill, President of Northwestern University; Dr. Jonathan Holloway, President of Rutgers University; and Dr. Gene Block, Chancellor of UCLA.”

Each of these university leaders was summoned for failing, in one way or another, to adequately punish, patrol and repress student encampments in solidarity with Gaza.

Holloway had gone so far as to reach a deal with the encampment at Rutgers, in what he defended as a move to “maintain a safe and controlled environment.” The students had 10 demands. Holloway refused these top two:

No. 1 — for the school to divest from Israel and reinvest resources into Newark and the local community and;

No. 2 — For Rutgers to end its relationship with Tel Aviv University.

But the agreement Holloway struck did make eight concessions, including the establishment of an Arab cultural center at Rutgers and “hiring administrators and faculty with cultural competency and knowledge of Palestinian communities.”

For this offense Holloway was summoned to Congress to face the wrath of Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

“Dr. Holloway, you accepted eight of 10 encampment demands, including an egregious amnesty deal to Rutgers students and faculty involved in the encampment,” Foxx chastised him at the opening of the hearing. “I would like to know what sort of message you think that sends to your Jewish students.”

Holloway, by the way, and the other witnesses were not legally compelled to attend these hearings, but lawyers are reportedly recommending university leaders to show up rather than risk a possible subpoena to appear. Such a possibility comes with chilling reminders from 1947, when film industry people were subpoenaed by the House Committee on Un-American Activities at the height of the Red Scare and wound up being sentenced to prison and then black-listed.  Then the question was “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party of the United States?” Today it’s the one Good was asking Holloway.

Under a steady torrent of hostility during the proceedings, Holloway apparently decided at some point it was better to switch than fight.

“Do you believe that Israel is a genocidal state?

This time, near the three-hour mark, the question came from Missouri Republican, Rep. Eric Burlison. He posed the question — like a lice check — to all three of the university leaders lined up like ducks at the table before him. (“Because that is the propaganda,” Burlison added, to make his position on the matter perfectly clear.) 

One by one, first Northwestern’s Schill, then Rutgers’ Holloway and then UCLA’s Block, all answered “no.”

Holloway, whose answer came in a very low voice, has proven his ability to move with the shifting winds, as he showed in a 2017 retrospective about why he had resisted efforts by students at Yale to rename a residential complex named for John C. Calhoun, a staunch white supremacist of the pre-Civil War era.  After the university decided to rename the college, he went along, writing:

“After so many years of taking the increasingly uncomfortable position that the name of the college should not be changed, I am certain that the Corporation made the right decision. Moreover, I applaud President Salovey for revisiting last April’s decision with thoughtfulness and patience.”

Defining Genocide

Under the current version of the Geneva Convention, the term genocide, more fully,

“means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  1. Killing members of the group;
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Bear in mind that the convention does not say that all five of these acts must be met. It says “any” of them committed “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

For the purposes of people who are just thinking this over and making up their minds — such as university presidents, not international legal jurists — the evidence of all these conditions should be abundant.

As a model for what can be said for each one, consider No. 1 —“killing members of the group … with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

Israel has largely blocked foreign journalists from covering its assault on Gaza. More than 100 Palestinian journalists have been killed since the assault began on Oct. 7, 2023, according to Reporters Without Borders, which has just filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court  “over alleged war crimes committed by the Israeli army against at least nine Palestinian reporters since Dec. 15.”

The shortage of reporters to help assess civilian casualties has contributed to a chronic, ghoulish skirmish around the civilian death toll.

The latest round came in early May after the U.N. made a downward revision of the proportion of women and children in the civilian death toll — to 57 percent from 69 percent.

“One could be forgiven for wondering whether the UN had raised about 6,700 Gazan children and 4,500 Gazan women from the dead,” Graeme Wood, staff writer for The Atlantic, complained about the revision in his piece, “The UN’s Gaza Statistics Make No Sense.” He continued:

“OCHA has provided a running body count since the beginning of the Gaza war, and it currently stands at 34,844. This figure was generated by Hamas and is apparently accepted, give or take a few thousand, by Israelis.”

The U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHR, has explained the revision as the result of its switch to using the health ministry’s data — because it has more identification documentation — than that of the Government Media Office, its previous source.

Both the health ministry and the media office are run by Hamas, which has administered the occupied territory since June 2007.

Writers such as Wood  are careful to point out Hamas’ connection to the Gaza casualty figures, presumably as a skewing risk. But if Hamas has an interest in steering the numbers it’s not clear in which way.

Ralph Nader, for one, thinks that Hamas would be more likely to want to low-ball the civilian death toll, rather than the other way around. “Hamas keeps the figures low to reduce being accused by its own people of not protecting them, and not building shelters,” he wrote in early March, adding:

“From accounts of people on the ground, videos and photographs of deadly episode after episode, plus the resultant mortalities from blocking or smashing the crucial necessities of life, a more likely estimate, in my appraisal, is that at least 200,000 Palestinians must have perished by now and the toll is accelerating by the hour.”

Even under current tabulating constraints, the figure that Woods cites, almost 35,000, is horrendous. And so is the 16,000 figure mooted in a recent podcast by Netanyahu — whose arrest warrant is being sought by the ICC’s chief prosecutor.

With all this killing there is also ample evidence — for the purposes of establishing genocide — of an “intent to destroy … the group … in whole or in part.”

This intent has been proclaimed brazenly by numerous Israeli leaders — from the prime minister, the president, culture minister, multiple military commanders, the agriculture minister, finance minister, and many others; down to a “video of soldiers chanting that there are ‘no uninvolved citizens’ in Gaza and that they will ‘wipe off the seed of Amalek.’” All of this is summarized in South Africa’s application to the World Court, beginning on page 60.

The Committee Rules

Nonetheless, the House Education and the Workforce Committee just extracted three “no” responses from reigning members of the U.S. academic elite.

They follow the lead of the U.S. commander in chief.

On May 20, the White House issued a curt statement calling the International Criminal Court’s application for an arrest warrant against Israeli leaders “outrageous.”

Later that day, at an event celebrating Jewish heritage, U.S. President Joe Biden expanded on his defense of Israel.

“But let me be clear.  Contrary to allegations against Israel made by the International Court of Justice, what’s happening is not genocide.  We reject that.  (Applause.)  And we’ll always stand with Israel and it’s — in the threats against its security.”

Such statements can only further harden the casing of political favor that Washington has welded around Israel’s commission of rampant war crimes.

The day after the hearings, on May 24, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to stop its assault against Rafah “immediately” to prevent genocide from being committed.

But the assault continues, along with growing condemnations and protests of Israel and more accounts of human agonies.

For now, the committee is pleased with itself.  “Three hearings and seven college presidents later,” it crowed on Twitter/X, “@EdWorkforceCmte‘s antisemitism investigation will not stop until there is accountability.”

But with mounting evidence to prove that Israeli is committing genocide, the tactic of demanding denials from university leaders is dangerous for all involved, given the degree of complicity it represents.

Holloway, during the incident at Yale about renaming of Calhoun College, has shown his ability as a weathervane. But the direction of the winds outside that insular congressional chamber were impossible to detect. In January, the Center for Constitutional Rights warned that the Biden administration was “rendering itself complicit in possible genocide against Palestinians in the occupied territory.”

The same warning could be extended to the team running these hearings and the witnesses who appear before it, putting themselves on the record.

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