Sunday, August 26, 2007

 

UMichigan Press Caves, Protects Zionism

In "State Censorship: Handala & Hasbara," I wrote: "Hasbara, dear readers, is about more than spreading pro-Zionist propaganda, it is also about suppressing and distorting anti-Zionist speech and ideas." Well, the Zionists of StandWithUs-Michigan are trying to show us all just how much a small group of determined racists can accomplish on that front.

The University of Michigan Press is an arm of the state-funded University of Michigan (UM) and the US distributor of books published by Pluto Press. The UM Press web site describes Pluto as follows:
Pluto Press, established in 1970, is one of the UK's leading independent publishers. Pluto Press is committed to publishing the best in critical writing across the social sciences and humanities.

Pluto authors include Noam Chomsky, Sheila Rowbotham, Pierre Bourdieu, Jean Baudrillard, Frantz Fanon, Hal Foster, Augusto Boal, Susan George, Israel Shahak, Antonio Gramsci, John Pilger, Manning Marable, Edward S. Herman and bell hooks.
But StandWithUs-Michigan doesn't like the offerings of Pluto Press and they don't like one book in particular. They say (links in the quote below are mine--VFPDissident):
Anti-Israel author Joel Kovel's 2007 publication "Overcoming Zionism" is distributed in the United States exclusively by University of Michigan Press. The book is a polemic against Israel, condemning Jewish support for the state and blaming Israel for nearly every wrong, real or perceived, in the entire Middle East. Kovel's Israel is the very definition of imperialistic and malicious in its systematic oppression of a morally neutral "Palestine." The book itself is dedicated to Rachel Corrie, "may she live in glory." ...

Overcoming Zionism is a wholly unscholarly propaganda text, a rambling negation of every aspect of Israeli society, and a near complete restatement of Israel's history. It is published by the radical left Pluto Press of London, England
Concerning Pluto, they claim:
Hundreds of anti-West, anti-American and anti-Israel Propaganda Texts Reach US Exclusively Via University of Michigan Press ...

'Pluto Press is clearly a publisher comfortable with its radical left label and agenda,' said Jonathan Harris, director of StandWithUs-Michigan. 'That is their perogative [sic]. The shocking thing is that a university press has chosen this one publisher to disseminate to its American readers. This one publisher, with numerous titles of pure bias and propaganda, rates that sort of endorsement from the University of Michigan? Is this the "important scholarly research" that now rates mass distribution by the University of Michigan? It is quite shocking.'
Although StandWithUs-Michigan doesn't openly call for censorship, it is clear from their site that they want the UM to pull the plug on Kovel and Pluto because they express truths and ideas that Zionists can't stand. The sad part is that they apparently have had some success. When their call to pressure UM Press Director Phil Pochoda and UM President Mary Sue Coleman went out on August 13th, the link to the description for Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine on the UM Press web site still worked but it doesn't any more (see before and after).

Moreover, here is an e-mail message dated August 24th and reportedly from Pochoda to Kovel:
Joel,

Because it is a distributed title for Pluto Press, no one at UMP had read Overcoming Zionism prior to the Stand/With/Us diatribe. I and others read it after that assault, and had fully expected to gear up for, at least, a free speech defense. Though I had no trouble with the one-state solution your book proposes nor with a Zionist critique, per se-- we had, after all, proudly and successfully published Virginia Tilley -- I (and faculty members I asked to read the book, as well) were apalled [sic] by your reckless, viscious [sic], and unmodulated attack on Zionism and all Zionists. For us, the issue raised by the book is not free speech but hate speech. Perhaps such vituperative and aggressive rhetoric works for the barricades, but it cannot be countenanced or underwritten by the university or the university press, even in this peripheral, distributed capacity.

Even worse for me, as a result of your book, the university is in the process of reassessing our relation as a whole to Pluto (and that has been a four year relationship that I have cherished, both personally and professionally). While that review goes on (and I am only marginally involved), we have ceased shipping Overcoming Zionism.

Phil Pochoda
Director
University of Michigan Press
There are a few interesting things about this message. First, to his credit, Pochoda sees the StandWithUs-Michigan campaign for what it is--a "diatribe" and an "assault" on truth and intellectual freedom. Unfortunately, it is clear that Pochoda has a stunted notion of what qualifies for a "free speech defense"--strong attacks on Zionism and Zionists don't make the grade. Neither do "vituperative and aggressive rhetoric" (see "On Propriety, Power, and Social Protest"). I haven't read Overcoming Zionism but I've spoken with friends who have and are acquainted with Kovel and I've also read some of his other work; Pochoda's bald characterization of Kovel's book as "hate speech" strikes me as absurd. Interestingly, the whole process has been taken over by someone in a higher pay grade--"I am only marginally involved," says Director Pochoda. His statement "we have ceased shipping Overcoming Zionism" explains why the book description no longer appears on the UM Press web site.

So, folks you now know to buy Overcoming Zionism and other fine titles by Pluto Press. I have a couple of titles on my bookshelf and I highly recommend Pluto. And let's be sure to tell Phil Pochoda and Mary Sue Coleman to stand up for intellectual freedom and against Zionist thought control by continuing to sell Overcoming Zionism and Pluto Press books. Here's the contact info:

Phil Pochoda, Director
University of Michigan Press
839 Greene Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3209
Phone: (734) 764-4388
Fax: (734) 615-1540
E-mail: pochoda@umich.edu

Mary Sue Coleman, President
University of Michigan
2074 Fleming Administration Building
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1340
Phone: (734) 764-6270
Fax: (734) 936-3529
E-mail: presoff@umich.edu

See also:
Updates:

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Comments:
Please let the "Michigan Daily" know.
 
I already did let the Daily know but, frankly, I don't have a lot of confidence in them.
 
Greetings from Joel Kovel.

I appreciate the solidarity, and welcome your help in the struggle against the Zionist Thought Police and liberal collusion therein.

But there has been an important development in this case, which you need to know about. As a result of influences unknown, UMP has somehow "uncaved". It's utterly unclear what is going on, and all the danger signs are there to be taken seriously, but at the moment, Director Pochoda has recanted and OZ is back on their list. To repeat: we are not breathing any sighs of relief, as the operative hierarchy here, from UM Press, to the mid-level UMich figures, to the top officials, to the trustees, and to the Governor of Michigan, with all the shadowy forces around them, not least the Zionist apparatus, are keeping everything very close to the vest. In a word, we know nothing, really, about how this is going to turn out. We intend to organize and fight against these forces, but first they have to reveal themselves.

I would appreciate it if you could foreground this in the blog. Pluto, in particular, is very edgy about the situation, as their survival is at stake.

Thanks,

Joel Kovel
 
Joel,
The people in charge of UMichigan Press website search facility have not been told that you have been forgiven Joel! your book still does not show up in the search results....

Your book is truely an inspiration for working towards respect,equality, justice and peace. But above all it is an example of honesty and courage.
A person must be very courageous to stand up to the World zionist lobby.

Adel from Ireland
 
As of September 10, Joel Kovel's book is still nowhere to be found on the UM press list. Actually, no mention of Joel Kovel at all.

Phyllis Ponvert
 
see video: Zionist Pressure Fails to Stop Overcoming Zionism Book The distributor dropped his book after receiving threatening emails from a Zionist pressure group. But the Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism was able to convince them to continue distributing it.
 
Hi,

StandWithUs was frequently engaging in activities on my campus last year. While my campus is hardly, as they would call it, a "problem campus" every so often something happens which drives the Zionist nutjobs crazy. Last year, Norman Finkelstein was invited to speak at my school. The then-president of the pro-Israel club (who now works for SWU as a campus coordinator) contacted SWU and a plethora of Israeli organizations in the area to attack my school until they dis-invited Dr. F. Eventually, they settled on a compromise, but SWU still kept putting pressure on my school to prevent any type of pro-Palestinian message from being spread.

The former Israel club president wrote an article about her activities which I posted on my blog (the entry is here if you want to read it for yourself: heyhollywood.blogspot.com/2008/10/okay-guys-i-really-hate-to-touch-on.html . I wrote a lengthy response to her, which she did not respond to. I would like to point out in all of this that SWU's main goal is censorship. That's how they operate. We have to let people know what they really stand for so people will be aware of them and will give them the cold shoulder if they appear on other campuses.

- Julia
 
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