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June 29, 2020


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John K Wilson

Lubet puts enormous emphasis on a pledge in his critique of my article. A pledge is not a speech act. It sits there and does nothing unless it is implemented. A pledge is a statement of belief with a slightly different verb. “We must all boycott Israel” and “I pledge to boycott Israel” are identical statements. Both might be troubling if implemented, and both are mere beliefs without implementation.

Legally speaking, a personal pledge is unenforceable and has no meaning. Under the law, it is no different from any other strong political expression. Lubet assumes a distinction between faculty who merely hold views and administrators who have the power to impose them. But the truth is that faculty have power, too. They have power in faculty committees (in theory), and they certainly have power over students in their classes, and many faculty (such as Steven Salaita) have been fired based on the assumption that students might feel afraid of disagreeing with their viewpoints.

Not everyone who makes a personal pledge imposes that pledge on others. An evangelical Christian who signs a pledge to spread the Gospel should never be banned from serving as an administrator simply because it would be inappropriate for a public college administrator to use their position to impose their religious beliefs on others. Controversial political views should never be used to ban people from universities.

Steve Diamond

Steve, Did you need to publish this with a neo-con outlet run by Bill Kristol? I thought you were a man of the left? I hope that this is not a sign that anti-BDS viewpoints are unable to get published by the left.

Ediberto Roman

Tough issue many progressives are fearful of addressing. Thanks for raising attention to the matter. Personally, I am of two minds on the matter, believing we should always promote debate. Where I draw the line is if the position promotes violence.

But was Fidel Castro a Progressive?

Yes, many American Progressives are fearful of addressing it.

One reason is because they'd have to tackle the truth about a 1400 year old imperialist religious-legal order, one which engaged in wholesale cultural appropriation, land and property theft, racist tax laws, etc. This, even though Progressives wish to present one side in the middle east issue as simply being the victims of Western imperialism, and in terms Said-ian Orientalism, etc., rather than being the long-standing beneficiaries of imperialist theft and murder themselves who to this day persist in racist and xenophobic practices of cultural erasure. This problem threatens the very cogency of the core of the overall Progressive narrative/agenda, especially as it serves to advance current domestic policies in the USA in terms of ethnic/racial politics. (Fortunately, by contrast, that narrative is losing traction in the developing world/the Global South, as the narrative is ITSELF seen to be a neo-imperalist one).

The second, related reason is because Progressives wish to adjudge such matters through the lens of international law. But the more they push on this end, the more that lens is itself ALSO seen to just be a Western imperialist edifice. So, Progressives - particularly in the USA - are fearful of losing what legal power and control over that legal narrative, and thus over the world. Fortunately, and especially with the help of groups like TWAIL, this narrative too is losing force, and, concomitantly, the power of American Progressives/the Western Left.

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