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Harvard Israel Trek students at the grave of Yasser Arafat in Ramallah
Yesterday, in "Yes, We Visited Arafat's Grave", I reported on the beginning of a right-wing panic attack over the visit by a group of Harvard students to Yasser Arafat's grave in Ramallah in the West Bank. The upset stems from the fact that the visit was part of the Harvard Israel Trek, which has been underway during Harvard's spring break, and which is supported by Harvard Hillel and funded by  Boston's Combined Jewish Philanthropies, among others.

Now, CJP's president, Barry Shrage, has responded in a strongly-worded statement to what he called "vicious attacks by ideologically motivated bloggers from across the country."

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Harvard Israel Trek Students at Yasser Arafat's grave in Ramallah
Recently six Israeli Harvard undergraduates, five veterans of the Israel Defense Forces and the sixth an Arab-Israeli, organized the Harvard Israel Trek, which is currently underway during Harvard's spring break. The participants are a group of non-Jewish Harvard students.

Last Monday, as the organizers write in today's Times of Israel,

participants of the Harvard College Israel Trek visited Ramallah in order to meet with senior members of the Palestinian leadership. During the visit students were shown the Mukataa, the headquarters of Palestinian Authority, which includes the grave of Yasser Arafat and met with Nabil Sha’ath, Ali Jarbawi, and members of the Palestinian Negotiation Team. In line with our objective to broaden exposure to the issues discussed on the trek, participants have been documenting the entirety of our time in Israel through pictures, video, blogging and other forms of social media. As such, a photograph of participants posing at the burial site of Yasser Arafat was shared on social media and picked up by various online publications.
The trek is supported by Harvard Hillel and funded by Boston's Combined Jewish Philanthropies and a number of family foundations.

For the kerfluffle this is beginning to cause, please follow me below the fold.

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The Third Narrative, "a North American Jewish organization that supports progressive causes in Israel, the U.S. and Canada," that has "often criticized Israeli policies and behavior, including settlement expansion, racism against Arabs and crony capitalism," has established an Academic Advisory Council composed of

progressive scholars and academics who reject the notion that one has to be either pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian. We believe that empathy for the suffering and aspirations of both peoples, and respect for their national narratives, is essential if there is to be a peaceful solution. Scholars and academics should play a positive role in asking difficult questions, and promoting critical thinking, about the Israel-Palestinian conflict. To achieve this goal we insist on the importance of academic freedom and open intellectual exchange, and so reject calls for academic boycotts and blacklists, as well as efforts to punish academics for their political speech, including even those who support the academic boycotts that we oppose.
As academics and independent scholars who frequent Daily Kos may be interested in associating themselves with this effort, and people generally may be interested in learning about it and availing themselves of its resources, below the fold I reproduce its founding Statement of Principles.
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Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 09:48 AM PDT

The Apartheid Smear

by another American

Nelson Mandela:

As a movement we recognise the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalism just as we recognise the legitimacy of Zionism as a Jewish nationalism. We insist on the right of the state of Israel to exist within secure borders, but with equal vigour support the Palestinian right to national self-determination.
Martin Luther King, Jr.: "The whole world must see that Israel must exist and has the right to exist ..."

Yasser Arafat recognizes a Jewish state (Israel) as well as a Palestinian state:

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Reuters reports:
Pro-Russian demonstrators in eastern Ukraine smashed their way into public buildings and burned Ukrainian-language books on Sunday ...
In Kharkiv, Reuters Television footage showed pro-Russian activists scaling an iron gate, smashing a van and breaking into the offices of a Ukrainian cultural center. Two policemen stood nearby, examining the van. The footage then showed young men seizing Ukrainian-language books, including a volume devoted to the 1932-1933 man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine, which killed from 7-10 million people. "Do you see what they print here?" one activist said to another. The activists then took the books into the street and set them alight in small bonfires, along with posters from the extreme-right wing Right Sector group.
Writing in The New Republic, Julia Ioffe argues:
Putin has also shown that he was serious about using force not just in Crimea, but in Ukraine proper. So far, he has kept it just to busing in hooligans into eastern Ukraine to act as grassroots pro-Russian protesters. But make no mistake, Putin is about to take eastern Ukraine, too.  

To wit: On Saturday, the two-week anniversary of the authorization, the Russian foreign ministry was already laying the foundations for such a seizure, saying that it was being flooded with requests from citizens across eastern Ukraine, asking the Russians for protection against the western Ukrainian fascists.

The U.S. and Europe (rightly) are not going to war over Crimea. The task now is to shore up Ukraine and deter Putin so that Ukraine may hold free and fair elections on May 25.

n/t Phil Ochs

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A public opinion poll (Google translation) conducted from 25 February to 4 March 2014 by the Ukrainian Center for Social and Marketing Research shows that, in the presidential election scheduled for May 25,

only 2.5% of respondents say they will vote for Tyagnibok of “Svoboda”; and only 1.6% will  for Yarosh of “Pravyy sektor” (Right Sector), the two far-right Ukrainian parties.
Regarding foreign policy, 50.1% of all respondents, and 62.0% of those who say they would participate in a referendum, would "vote for accession to the European Union. 30.7% of all respondents, and 38% of would-be participants, would "vote for accession to the Customs Union with Russia and Kazakhstan Bilorussyu." 9.2% said they wouldn't participate. 10.% refused to answer.
Petro Poroshenko, a wealthy member of parliament, leads with 21.2% of all respondents, 30.9% of those who say they intend to vote and have chosen a candidate.

Vitali Klitschko, the former WBC World Heavyweight Champion , as he styles himself, polls at 14.6% and 21.3%. Klitschko is a member of parliament and leader of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform, which is said to have "an anti-corruption and pro-European platform." It won 40, of 450, seats in the October 2012 parliamentary elections.

Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister who was imprisoned by Viktor Yanukovych, polls at 9.7% and 14.1%. Tymoshenko was co-leader of Ukraine's 2004-05 Orange Revolution and prime minister in 2005 and from December 2007 to March 2010. Currently, she is undergoing treatment in Berlin's Charite Hospital. She leads the Batkivshchyna or the All-Ukrainian Union "Fatherland" party.

Acting President Oleksandr Turchyno, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko, and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov — are from the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) Party. In the 2012 parliamentary election, Tymposhenko's and Klitschko's parties withdraw in favor of each other's candidates in a number of constituencies.

Sergei Tigipko, deputy chairman of Yanukovych's Party of the Regions, polls at 7.1% and 9.6%.

Peter Simonenko, leader of the Communist Party of the Ukraine, polls at 5.0% and 6.4%.

Oleg Tyagnibok, leader of the far-right All-Ukranian Union (Svoboda) Party, polls at 2.5% and 3.6%. In 2004, Tyagnibok was expelled from parliament after "a fiery speech in which he described how Ukrainians, during World War II, bravely fought Muscovites, Germans, Jews 'and other scum,' and then used slurs to refer to the Jewish-Russian mafia, which rules in Ukraine.'” Svoboda won 38 seats in the October 2012 parliamentary elections.

Dmitry Jarosz (Yarosh), leader of the far-right Right Sector party, polls at 1.6% and 2.3%.

Finally, Viktor Medvedchuk, another wealthy oligarch, chairman of the pro-Russian political organization Ukrainian Choice, and father of a goddaughter of Vladimir Putin, polls at 1.0% and 1.3%.

81.9% of respondents say they are certain or likely to vote; 13.1% that they are unlikely or certain not to vote; and 5.0% are unsure.

During the survey, respondents were asked to make their own prediction as to who will be the next president of Ukraine interviewed was asked the following question: "Tell me, no matter who the candidates you support, do you think he still would win the election and become the future President of Ukraine? ".
At the first position is projected Ukrainian breaking yet those candidates P.Poroshenko, Tymoshenko and V. Klitschko. Although, if a high enough rating, V. Klitschko won voters believe something less than Tymoshenko. Almost about half - 48.7% of respondents did not answer this question and make a prediction as to who will be the next president of Ukraine.
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The Interpreter, an invaluable source of information regarding Russia and, in these days, Ukraine,  links to an article in Izvestia reporting that the Duma is considering a draft law, prepared by a member of Putin's United Russia party, which would, according to The Interpreter

giv[e] criminal penalties to journalists who publish “false anti-Russian information, and/or provide information and support to extremist anti-Russian separatist forces, including the reflection of events beyond the borders of Russia.”

“Beyond the borders of Russia…” In other words, if Crimea votes to join Russia, journalists who criticize what happens next could be tried for separatism. Even short of that, if journalists publish anything that the government views as “false anti-Russian information,” then the journalists could be subjected to the same penalties.

Izvestia, in Google translation, reports:
The reason for the development of the bill are publications in the Russian media, in which the authors, according to the MP [member of parliament], admitted incorrect historical analogies and interpretation of events in Russia and the Ukraine coup.
Izvestia adds that the first deputy chairman of the relevant Duma committee "supported the idea of the law on the liability of the media for 'anti-state' of the publication[.]" (Sic, in Google translation).

The Interpreter explains:

“Beyond the borders of Russia…” In other words, if Crimea votes to join Russia, journalists who criticize what happens next could be tried for separatism. Even short of that, if journalists publish anything that the government views as “false anti-Russian information,” then the journalists could be subjected to the same penalties.
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Picture of a neo-nazi guy at #EuroMaidan I guess… pic.twitter.com/d2gohNygV4 #Ukraine via @EastOfBrussels

— Florian Irminger (@FlorianIrminger) March 4, 2014

Russian propagandists are presenting the overthrow of the Yanukovych regime as a take-over by fascists, extreme nationalists, and Nazis. They've also propagated the notion that it was a Gay and Jewish conspiracy. Yale professor, and specialist on eastern and central Europe, Timothy Snyder in that right-wing rag The New York Review of Books (not), relates:
Yes, there were some Jews, and there were some gays, in this revolution. And this was exploited by both the Russian and Ukrainian regimes in their internal propaganda. The Russian press presented the protest as part of a larger gay conspiracy. The Ukrainian regime instructed its riot police that the opposition was led by a larger Jewish conspiracy. Meanwhile, both regimes informed the outside world that the protestors were Nazis. Almost nobody in the West seemed to notice this contradiction.
This man is defending Ukraine from fascism.calls me a prostitute,says go back to Jews and gays who sent you here pic.twitter.com/gSlax0LfFl
Antalia Antelava tweets: This man is defending Ukraine from fascism.calls me a prostitute,says go back to Jews and gays who sent you here pic.twitter.com/gSlax0LfFl
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Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 06:32 AM PST

"Time is running out."

by another American

And not only in Ukraine, where the Russian Federation, is in breach of its solemn undertakings in the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances to, among other things, "respect the Independence and Sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine," and "refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine[.]" Rather, I refer to hopes for peace between Israel and Palestine, and President Obama's recent interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, entitled "Obama to Israel -- Time Is Running Out."

President Obama meets today with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. According to Goldberg,

President Barack Obama will tell him that his country could face a bleak future -- one of international isolation and demographic disaster -- if he refuses to endorse a U.S.-drafted framework agreement for peace with the Palestinians. Obama will warn Netanyahu that time is running out for Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy. And the president will make the case that Netanyahu, alone among Israelis, has the strength and political credibility to lead his people away from the precipice.
But if Prime Minister Netanyahu "does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach." And, President Obama rightly noted, ""It’s hard to come up with one that’s plausible.”
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This picture taken on Jan. 31, 2014, and released by the UNRWA, shows residents of the besieged Palestinian camp of Yarmouk, queuing to receive food supplies, in Damascus, Syria. A United Nations official is calling on warring sides in Syria to allow aid workers to resume distribution of food and medicine in a besieged Palestinian district of Damascus. The call comes as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urged Syrian government to authorize more humanitarian staff to work inside the country, devastated by its 3-year-old conflict. (AP Photo/UNRWA)
This is not a cgi image.
Before the Syrian civil war, over 100,000 people lived in the Yarmouk camp. Today, according to the United Nations, "18,000 Palestine refugees in Yarmouk are under siege." This photograph, taken on January 31, 2014, shows men, women, and children lined up for desperately-needed aid. According to the World Post:
Dozens have died in the camp from malnutrition, with reports of those trapped in Yarmouk sometimes resorting to eating grass and cats in order to survive. Aid from the United Nations has trickled in slowly since January 2014, sometimes only 60 parcels a day, and when it does arrive it results in the harrowing scenes such as the one you see in this photo.
The United Nations has established an emergency fund. Please give generously.
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If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. George Orwell, The Freedom of the Press.

Another diary is condemning as "reprehensible" the State of Georgia's issuing license plates for the Sons of Confederate Veterans depicting a Confederate flag:

Now, the fact that Georgia allows these plates at all – with $10 of each sale benefiting SCV – is beyond reprehensible.
I believe that purchasing these license plates is reprehensible because purchases help fund the SCV.

I believe that displaying these license plates is reprehensible, except in a critical context, because they convey a message of support for slavery, racism, and rebellion against the United States of America.

But precisely because the SCV license plate is speech, unless we're prepared to ban all messaging license plates, we can't reprehend Georgia's willingness also to make this plate available without violating the First Amendment's free speech clause.

Georgia, as it happens, allows many different special interest license plates. Follow on for some less objectionable examples.

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A new International Monetary Fund Working Paper, Debt and Growth: Is There a Magic Threshold?, further discredits the claim, notoriously propounded by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, and used by conservatives around the world to rationalize austerity policies, that a country's economic growth collapses once it crossed the 90% debt-to-GDP threshold. Earlier, graduate students at the University of Massachusetts had revealed errors in the professors' spreadsheet. When corrected, the supposed correlation disappeared. (For more on this, see John Cassidy's New Yorker article, The Reinhart and Rogoff Controversy: A Summing Up.)

Now, three IMF researchers "present[] new empirical evidence," analyzing "the relation between debt and growth over longer periods of time." Their

results do not identify any clear debt threshold above which medium-term growth prospects are dramatically compromised. On the contrary, the association between debt and medium-term growth becomes rather weak at high levels of debt, especially when controlling for the average growth performance of country peers
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