The following are the works of individuals and do not reflect the beliefs or opinions of the student occupiers as a group. They are included here for their relevance to recent university occupations and/or often because correspondents have requested their publication.
Letter from the Neumann brothers to the Israeli President and the Director of Yad Veshem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.
February 20, 2009
To the President of the State of Israel and the Director of the Yad Vashem Memorial.
Remove Our Grandmother’s Name from the Wall at Yad Vashem
By MICHAEL NEUMANN
and OSHA NEUMANN
Following the example of Jean-Moise Braitberg, we ask that our grandmother’s name be removed from the wall at Yad Vashem. Her name is Gertrud Neumann. Your records state that she was born in Kattowitz on June 6, 1875 and died in Theresienstadt.
M. Braitberg delivers his request with excellent reasons and eloquent personal testimony. His words are inspiring, but they give you – and those who stand with you – too much credit. I will instead be brief. Please take this as an expression of my disgust and contempt for your state and all it represents.
Our grandmother was a victim of that very ideal of ethnic sovereignty in whose cause Israel has shed so much blood for so long. I was among the many Jews who thought nothing of embracing that ideal, despite the sufferings it had inflicted on our own race. It took thousands of Palestinian lives before, finally, I realized how foolish we had been.
Our complicity was despicable. I do not believe that the Jewish people, in whose name you have committed so many crimes with such outrageous complacency, can ever rid itself of the shame you have brought upon us. Nazi propaganda, for all its calumnies, never disgraced and corrupted the Jews; you have succeeded in this. You haven’t the courage to take responsibility for your own sadistic acts: with unparalleled insolence, you set yourself up as spokesmen for an entire race, as if our very existence endorsed your conduct. And you blacken our names not only by your acts, but by the lies, the coy evasions, the smirking arrogance and the infantile self-righteousness with which you embroider our history.
In the end, you will give the Palestinians some scrap of a state. You will never pay for your crimes and you will continue to preen yourself, to bask in your illusions of moral ascendancy. But between now and the end, you will kill and kill and kill, gaining nothing by your spoilt-brat brutality. In life, our grandmother suffered enough. Stop making her a party to this horror in her death.
I join my brother, Michael Neumann, in asking that any reference to our grandmother be removed from Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial.
I have been to this memorial. Its buildings, paved courtyards and plazas spread themselves authoritatively over many landscaped acres. It frames the Holocaust as a prelude to the creation of the state of Israel. It embalms memorabilia of the death camps and preserves them as national treasures. That treasure does not belong to Israel. It is a treasure only if it serves as a reminder never to permit any nation to claim an exemption for its chosen people from the bounds of morality and decency.
Israel has twisted the Holocaust into an excuse for perpetrating more holocausts. It has spent the treasure of the world’s sympathy for the victims of the Holocaust on a fruitless effort to shield itself from all criticism as it massacres and tortures Palestinians and suffocates them under a brutal occupation. I do not wish to have the memory of my grandmother enlisted in this misbegotten project.
I grew up believing that Jews were that ethnic group whose historical mission was to transcend ethnicity in a united front against Fascism. To be Jewish was to be anti-Fascist. Israel long ago woke me from my dogmatic slumber about the immutable relationship of Jews to Fascists. It has engineered a merger between the image of Jewish torturers and war criminals and that of emaciated concentration camp victims. I find this merger obscene. I want no part of it. You have forfeited the right to be the custodian of my grandmother’s memory. I do not wish Yad Vashem to be her memorial.
The Braitberg letter, in French can be found at
and the translation here:
Michael Neumann is a professor of philosophy at a Canadian university. He is the author of What’s Left: Radical Politics and the Radical Psyche and The Case Against Israel. He also contributed the essay, “What is Anti-Semitism”, to CounterPunch’s book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Osha Neumann is a defense lawyer in Berkeley and author of Up Against the Wall MotherF**ker: a Memoir of the 60s with Notes for Next Time.
Coverage in ‘Student’ Newspaper
Instead of fully covering the student occupation, Edinburgh University’s ‘Student’ newspaper has chosen to undermine the editors of the Comment section to ensure the student body is kept in the dark over certain vital and entirely honest perspectives.
‘Student’ senior editors re-worked the 3-page Comment section after the deadline without consulting its editors, in clear breach of good working practice. Moreover, they put pressure on those editors over the nature of some of the articles (the section as a whole was well-balanced but they took exception to those portraying a pro-Palestine/pro-student occupation stance).
While the whole affair is deeply worrying, two outrageous executive decisions stand out.
Firstly, an article written by Barrie Levine of Scottish Jews for Just Peace was removed entirely. He is a guest writer providing a vital Jewish perspective on the matter and examining the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionisim. This is the same distinction the occupying students were trying to make throughout the event itself, when faced with unfounded accusations of intimidating Jewish students. This is a serious matter that would have been largely dealt with by Barrie’s article. Beyond trying to prolong ill-informed opposition to the occupation, in the face of wide support and actual understanding, there is no justification for removing the piece.
Secondly, to add insult to injury, the chief editors hijacked half a page of the Comment section for an advert for the paper itself! If they wanted to argue too many articles on the occupation took space away from other issues, this proves no such logic lies behind their actions.
The chief editors of Student have been unprofessional in the extreme and shown prejudice against both the Comment section editors and the occupying students. Despite having the support of the Rector and many world-renowned scholars and organisations, and who are now working in a respectful collaboration with the university administrators, we are still being black-balled by a highly-prejudiced minority of students, including it would seem the chief editors of Student.
Where can all students involved in this situation get a fair hearing if they cannot rely on their own newspaper? These senior editors must be bought to account.
Meanwhile, it is more important now than ever before for those in possession of the truth to share it personally with as many fellow students as possible.
In response to [a comment writer], who likens the [efficacy of the] occupation to a cotton ball [stopping] a charging elephant, this is the difference that will be made:
In September 2009 5 Palestinians will travel to Edinburgh to learn at our ‘great’ institution. 4 years later they will return to Palestine, where maybe they will teach 5 more, who will teach 5 more. Perhaps they will speak with those awarded scholarships at Goldsmiths or SOAS or the 27 other occupied universities, together they might teach 100 more, and suddenly the cotton ball unravels and wraps itself around the legs of the charging elephant and down it falls. You claim that nobody else gives a ’shite’ about the occupation, but I assure you those 5 Palestinians do, and that’s why its being done. Not for the people who live in a country where education (for the moment) is a right, but for those who live in the other world, the world where education is only a dream.
To give this argument some weight, for those of you who like to see results, in the 1980’s over 50 U.K. universities awarded scholarships to South Africans as a direct response to their inability to access education under the Apartheid state. In 1994, armed with the tools that education provides, they joined forces with a man named Nelson Mandela and formed a government and a new South Africa was born.
Finally, in response to John, “what about the students in Zimbabwe and the DRC”, I totally agree. Why don’t you let this occupation inspire you to change the lives of 5 Zimbabweans. Make some noise, print some fliers, find a building…DEMAND THE NEXT 5 SCHOLARSHIPS, if every 50 students at Edinburgh University did the same, imagine what the world might look like?
Analysis: Occupation Edinburgh – Beyond Performativity
These days, it’s sobering to reflect on how rare it is for our revolutionary politics to be regarded as new and threatening. More often than not, whether it’s in the media or simply day to day conversation, we are continually reminded of how ‘reminiscent of x’ we are. The power of our message is in its referential quality. Our meaning is our meaning as homage.
Why is this a problem? Simply put, it neutralizes any attempt at the creation of something new. When our acts are viewed as ‘referential’ this robs them of their subversive character. Little is less threatening than the dated left. It also blocks our ability to think creatively, as our position in a ‘tradition’ provides us with an endless series of references that we can fall back on. Further, it hurts us even as it appears to help us, generating goodwill and nostalgia among certain authority figures which neutralizes us in advance. This is even more true in the case of university occupations. Meaning is created for us, even against our will. In this sense, our activities are ‘over-determined’.
How can we break out of this deadlock?
A couple of preliminary steps might include:
– We proceed on the basis that there is a discernable ‘student movement’ constituted of students, whose priorities should involve ‘reclaiming’ ‘our’ education. In my view, this perspective should be abandoned. Even if this were not already a radically over-determined field (circumscribing any genuinely radical potential) it adopts an implicit capitalist logic within its terms. The notion that an education can be ‘ours’ in the sense of providing a resource for the creation of wealth in a radically individualist sense should be rejected out of hand. With it should end the linked assumption that whatever skills we may develop as a result of our training are our concern, rather than that of the shared social body. In these ways, the label of ‘student’ is too small, and involves a division of labour that is fundamentally capitalist.
– Per the literature surrounding the New School Occupation in New York, the notion of an ‘occupation’ should be considered less a ‘tactic’ and a matter of exchange value, should be understood as an end in itself. The space that it creates the potential it can unleash should be the focus of our activities. In this sense, our means must become one with our ends.
– Finally, we need to overcome our neurotic concern with the past. This would involve a wholesale rejection of the latent attitude that considers things in terms of their reference to the past. Frequently, this perspective implicitly accepts the logic of Francis Fukuyama, who heralded ‘the end of history’ and foreclosed debate beond a liberal capitalist paradim. On one hand, this reduces our engagement with the developing police state to a crude form of sign-spotting and historical referencing. Instead of seeing a new state emerging, we diminishing the threat as if it will dissolve upon it’s revelation: that when the State reveals it’s hand in an explicit way that reality will simply not withstand the contradiction and collapse. On the other hand, we limit our options by consciously reducing ourselves to a pursuit of a joussiance through imitative acts. Put another way, we locate an ‘authentic’ excitement in the acts of those who have gone before us, and fetishize what appears to be their unbidden joy and enthusiasm, ignoring that the past is seldom less ‘posed’ than the present.