Besides writing the book, Busy Dying,
Hilton Obenzinger is a long-time Palestine solidarity activist who now teaches writing at Stanford University. Following is the text of a recent email interview with Busy Dying author Obenzinger. (See below for parts 1 to 5).
Following the Israeli war machine's late 2008-early 2009 military campaign in Gaza, many anti-war students in the UK began to stage campus protests there in support of some kind of anti-apartheid divestment and academic boycott campaign for Palestinian human rights. Do you think it might be desirable and/or possible for a similar campaign to happen on many U.S. campuses during the 2009-2010 academic year--especially if the Israeli war machine gets the green light from the U.S. government to attack Iran?
Hilton Obenzinger: The BDS campaign could have some impact, although I’m wary of its effectiveness.
A few years ago, students at Stanford set up a committee to call for divestment and called Israel an apartheid state. They made some headway, but much of the discussion got deflected into the Zionist outrage that Israel could be associated with the racist South African regime.
Likewise the boycott debate – it often gets deflected into a freedom of speech or academic freedom brouhaha. Maybe getting into academic freedom debates is good, but I have my doubts.
If Israel attacks Iran, all kinds of things may make sense – but the propaganda about Iran as evil is very intense--not that I support theocracies--and I’m sure many will support any attack. Perhaps better would be a campaign for Israel to join the non-proliferation treaty so that UN inspectors could check their bombs?
In the main, though, I consult with students but I leave it up to them to take the lead. They don’t need one more moth-eaten old radical to tell them how to do things.