Lawyer and journalist Glenn Greenwald. (Rick Bowmer / AP)
Every week the Truthdig editorial staff selects a Truthdigger of the Week, a group or person worthy of recognition for speaking truth to power, breaking the story or blowing the whistle. It is not a lifetime achievement award. Rather, we’re looking for newsmakers whose actions in a given week are worth celebrating.
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There is no shortage of opportunities to celebrate Glenn Greenwald’s journalism—hell, we’ve named him Truthdigger of the Week three times before. From standing up for WikiLeaks’ whistleblower Chelsea Manning and founder Julian Assange to publishing the now famous NSA surveillance exposé based on the Edward Snowden leaks, Greenwald has made a name for himself as a courageous writer who’s willing to go to great lengths in protecting free speech. This week we decided he deserved to be named Truthdigger once more, for his indictment of Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her billionaire husband for their shameless attempt to blackmail the University of California (UC) into punishing students for speech and activism critical of Israel.
Greenwald’s piece, published at The Intercept and titled “The Greatest Threat to Campus Free Speech is Coming From Dianne Feinstein and her Military-Contractor Husband,” revealed that two weeks ago, Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum, made the following comments at a UC regents meeting in a debate over whether to severely discipline students who speak out against Israel:
I should add that over the weekend my wife, your senior Senator, and I talked about this issue at length. She wants to stay out of the conversation publicly but if we do not do the right thing she will engage publicly and is prepared to be critical of this university if we don’t have the kind of not only statement but penalties for those who commit what you can call them crimes, call them whatever you want. Students that do the things that have been cited here today probably ought to have a dismissal or a suspension from school. I don’t know how many of you feel strongly that way but my wife does and so do I.
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Greenwald noted that the University of California has been considering adopting the State Department’s 2010 definition of anti-Semitism, which includes a section on the subject as it relates to Israel, and suspending or in some cases expelling students who express their opinions in a manner that falls under this definition
What is Anti-Semitism Relative to Israel?
EXAMPLES of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel, taking into account the overall context could include:
• Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis
• Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis
• Blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions
DOUBLE STANDARD FOR ISRAEL:
• Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation
• Multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations
• Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist
However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.
Greenwald eloquently explained why employing this definition, adopted under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in an academic setting is not only counterintuitive but also “patently unconstitutional”:
The ironies of this definition are overwhelming. First, it warns against advocating a “double standard for Israel”—at exactly the same time that it promulgates a standard that applies only to Israel. Would the State Department ever formally condemn what it regards as excessive or one-sided criticism of any other government, such as Russia or Iran? Why isn’t the State Department also accusing people of bigotry who create “double standards” for Iran by obsessing over the anti-gay behavior of Iran while ignoring the same or worse abuses in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uganda? The State Department is purporting to regulate the discourse surrounding just one country—Israel—while at the same time condemning “double standards.”