Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Gaza and Charities at War: Louis Brandeis Center vs. UC Berkeley

Red Cross debuts protective crystal emblem


I haven't been on my high horse about the impact of the Hamas-Israeli war on civil society for a minute.  I keep feeling there is something absurd or arrogant about being an academic when men, women and children are dying right now.  I mean we are all going on about our business while this human vulgarity is ongoing like prime time television.  Not just there, though.  Whatta you gonna do though?  

The Louis D. Brandeis Center filed a brain warping complaint yesterday against UC Berkeley.  The gist of the complaint is that Berkeley discriminates against Jewish people directly and in nearly all of its operations, including its tolerance of student and nonprofit organizations that support Palestinian causes.  I am not nearly qualified to give it an accurate description, but I can tell its an intellectual heavy-weight and resolving the complaint (in a court of law or public opinion) will have a serious impact on civil society.  I'm inclined, if you haven't noticed, to deride politicians who want to defund Palestinian rights advocacy groups or revoke their tax exemptions, or the universities that host them, because of those groups' alleged "material support to terrorists."  I think its mostly war hysteria of a sort we've seen before.

But, well, I don't think that can be said of the Brandeis Complaint.  This is to my mind a serious and legitimate complaint opening a serious, less political conversation.  One that needs to be had.  The conversation will require some hard thinking about the difference between "advocacy" and "material support to terrorists." And how we mediate issues underlying national security, social justice, and civil society. Because advocacy is the invariable currency of humanitarian NGOs even if by only silently feeding the homeless or displaced. But does the International Red Cross and Red Crescent provide material support to terrorism by feeding a terrorist's homeless family while he is off fighting?  And if the ICRC or just some local campus group speaks sympathetically about the issues terrorists terrorize about, does the nonprofit provide material support to terrorists?  

Some hard thinking ahead.

darryll k. jones

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