Friday, February 28, 2014

Destruction and Starvation in Palestinian refugee camp in Yarmouk, Syria [See update]

Harry's Place just published an absolutely horrendous photograph from a Huffington Post article about the horrors being visited upon the people living in the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk, in Damascus (the photograph is below - click on it get the full impression). Update - apparently this was photoshopped. See photos below that come from the UNRWA website.

From the Huffington Post article:
A sea of hungry, haunted faces looks out from a massive queue that snakes through the bombed out Yarmouk refugee camp in southern Syria. In the photo, taken on Jan. 31 of this year in Damascus' Palestinian refugee camp, men, women, and children are on line for aid that includes desperately needed food and medical supplies. There are more than 18,000 people in the Yarmouk camp, and many are starving to death. 
The camp was originally built in 1948 to house Palestinian refugees fleeing the Arab-Israeli war. Since the start of the Syrian conflict the area has become a humanitarian disaster zone as fighting between government and rebel forces hinders attempts to deliver food and medical treatment to those within. 
Dozens have died in the camp from malnutrition, with reports of those trapped in Yarmouk sometimes resorting to eating grass and cats in order to survive. Aid from the United Nations has trickled in slowly since January 2014, sometimes only 60 parcels a day, and when it does arrive it results in the harrowing scenes such as the one you see in this photo. 
The United Nations has set up a special site to donate to the people of Yarmouk, which you can visit here.
For more information on what is happening in Yarmouk, I found many articles on the Electronic Intifada site - Search for Yarmouk. The Ma'an Palestinian news agency just published an AP article (using the same photograph) about apocalyptic scenes in Yarmouk refugee camp. The New York Times also published an AP article on Yarmouk with the same information, but as part of a longer article about Al Qaeda in Syria, and without this shocking photograph.

The AP article says:
On Tuesday, the chief of the United Nations relief agency supporting Palestinian refugees spoke of a rare visit he paid a day earlier to the besieged Palestinian camp of Yarmouk in Damascus. 
Filippo Grandi, the Commissioner General of UNRWA, said the extent of damage to the refugees’ homes in Yarmouk was shocking. “The devastation is unbelievable. There is not one single building that I have seen that is not an empty shell by now,” he said in neighboring Beirut. 
The state of those still in the camp was even more shocking. “It’s like the appearance of ghosts,” he said of the people coming from within Yarmouk near a distribution point he was allowed to reach. “These are people that have not been out of there, that have been trapped in there not only without food, medicines, clean water — all the basics — but also probably completely subjected to fear because there was fierce fighting."
Yarmouk, located in southern Damascus, is the largest of nine Palestinian camps in Syria. Since the camp’s creation in 1957, it has evolved into a densely populated residential district just five miles (eight kilometers) from the center of Damascus. Several generations of Palestinian refugees have lived there. 
Grandi said around 18,000 of the camp’s original 160,000 Palestinian refugees are still inside Yarmouk.
Gene, of Harry's Place, has donated to the UN refugee agency that is trying to help the people of Yarmouk (link above), which I would urge people to do too.


Apparently the above picture was Photoshopped (Gene has updated his post to reflect that). See here: for some genuine photos of the UN's distribution of food in Yarmouk. Here are several, which are heart-rending enough:

Academic boycott of Israel *is* aimed at individual scholars

So much for the claim that the academic boycott of Israel is not aimed at individual scholars, but only at Israeli institutions. A web site called DO NOT APPLY!! | donotapplyhebrewu is calling for international scholars not to apply for a position in Communication and Journalism at the Hebrew University. 

The title of the open letter is "Call for International Academics to Show Conscientious Respect for the Academic Boycott of Israel by Declining to Apply to Hebrew University Research and Teaching Positions." The signatories of the letter are a variety of people who are active in the academic boycott campaign. Haim Bresheeth, in Film Studies at SOAS, is the first person signing.

The same website is also calling for individual scholars not to attend an academic conference this summer at Tel Aviv University in Cinema and Television Studies (

There is also a call for international scholars not to attend a conference on Oral History at the Hebrew University this summer - see The boycott call says, among other things, "At a time when the international movement to boycott Israeli academic and cultural institutions is gaining ground in response to Israel’s flagrant and persistent infringement of Palestinian human and political rights, we urge scholars and professionals to reflect upon the implications of taking part in a conference at a complicit institution, and to refrain from such participation."

These three "calls" are unmistakably targeted at individual international scholars (not Israelis) to refrain from cooperating with Israeli academic institutions, thereby possibly damaging their own careers (in the case of not applying for a position at Hebrew University) and international scholarly exchanges in the fields of oral history and cinema studies.

Needless to say, none of the signatories of these calls oppose international scholars going, for example, to conferences in China or from applying for jobs in China - a country which has been occupying Tibet for the last over 50 years, which still has an ongoing system of punitive labor camps, and which is a one-party state. For some reason, it is only Israel which is singled out for an academic boycott, despite the fact that many states are guilty of human rights violations (including the United States). As William Jacobson said on Tuesday night at Ithaca College, even during the height of the Cold War, no one was calling for an academic boycott of the Soviet Union. American academics realized that they could best have an effect upon the Soviet Union by going there and speaking with their counterparts there, rather than refusing to meet with them.

For information on the international oral history conference at Hebrew University, see Note that one of the keynote speakers is Dr. Adel Manna, of the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, who is speaking on "Oral history as a source for history of the Nakbah: The survival of Palestinians in Israel as a case study." The conference hardly seems to be denying the situation of Palestinians in Israel or the devastating impact upon them of the creation of the state in 1948.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Professor William Jacobson speaking against the academic boycott of Israel

Last night, Professor William Jacobson spoke at Ithaca College against the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. This was the second of two talks at the college last night on the boycott. Professor Eric Cheyfitz, also of Cornell, spoke the hour before in favor of the boycott. Professor Jacobson's talk was recorded, and he has put it up on Youtube for those interested in what he had to say.


While there doesn't appear to be a video of Professor Cheyfitz's talk last night, he was interviewed by Democracy Now! debating with Professor Cary Nelson, former president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which is one of the academic bodies that has come out in opposition to the boycott. The video of the debate is online at the Democracy Now! website - link above.

Update: References to Cheyfitz's and Jacobson's talk

Daled Amos - William Jacobson speaks at Ithaca College
The Ithacan - Guest Speakers Debate Academic Boycott
Jacobson reached out to the organizers of the first lecture, in which Cheyfitz defended the Dec. 4 decision by the ASA. 
Jeff Cohen, director and associate professor of the journalism department and director of the Park Center for Independent Media, which co-sponsored the Cheyfitz event, said organizers of the pro-boycott lecture responded to Jacobson’s request and offered him five minutes to present the opposing viewpoint immediately following Cheyfitz’s lecture but before the question-and-answer period. 
Jacobson said he requested equal time, but Cheyfitz organizers declined. He subsequently approached Hillel to sponsor an independent second event. 
“I would have loved to be on the stage with someone I disagree with vehemently on this issue,” Jacobson said. “I think that would have been a better approach.” 
Beth Harris, associate professor of politics at the college, said via email that while debates can be positive learning experiences, they serve a different purpose than what this event intended. 
“In my 14 years at Ithaca College, I have never heard of an outsider demanding that he get equal time in program that has already been planned with a guest scholar that he disagrees with,” Harris said. 
Harris also said Hillel set up a program that she thought was deliberately rude to Cheyfitz because it ultimately drew people out of the room before his presentation was over. 
“If you want to have a collaborative event, you don’t try to sabotage an existing program,” Harris said. “You call for a planning meeting and discuss what would be the best way to work together to meet a common goal. Neither Hillel nor Jewish Studies took this kind of initiative. While I am not surprised by Hillel’s approach, I am disappointed that Jewish Studies, as another academic unit, would not want to work collaboratively on events.” 
According to the Hillel community on campus, there was no intent to sabotage the Cheyfitz lecture. Igor Khokhlov, executive director of Hillel at the college, said Hillel intentionally planned the Jacobson event at 8 p.m. to allow time for the pro-boycott lecture and subsequent Q-and-A period to conclude. 
“When I went back to my board members, they said if Cheyfitz was talking for 30 minutes and there would probably be another 30 minutes of Q-and-A, likely they would be done within an hour or so,” Khokhlov said. “There was no ill intention to cut them off or control the agenda.” 
Harris said while Hillel hosts speakers on campus, the group does not make an effort to expose students to diverse opinions about the Israeli academic boycott issue.
“In none of Hillel’s events about Zionism or Israel have they ever sought a second speaker who would be anti-Zionist or critical of Israeli policy,” Harris said.
However, Hillel could face challenges if it tried to co-sponsor a joint event that included a pro-boycott speaker. According to Hillel’s international guidelines for campus Israel activities, Hillel will not partner with, house or host organizations, groups or speakers who support the boycott of, divestment from or sanctions against the State of Israel. 
While Khokhlov said he would not financially sponsor pro-boycott speakers, in accordance with Hillel’s international guidelines, he will find ways to make sure his students can attend conversations both for and against the boycott. 
“We have academic partners,” Khokhlov said. “This last event yesterday was sponsored by the Jewish studies department, as well. That’s a very easy solution for us. When the Jewish studies program co-sponsors an event, then Hillel doesn’t necessarily have to formally sponsor it.” 
Both Cheyfitz and Jacobson want academic freedom for all but have different ideas about how to accomplish that end. Junior Rebecca Levine, president of the campus Hillel community, said she encouraged both sides to come together in the future.
“I do think it is very important to keep the conversation open and encourage those who are willing to share their opinions and explore further,” Levine said.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Another threat to academic freedom

This time, the issue has nothing to do with Israel.
South Carolina lawmakers voted Wednesday to withdraw about $70,000 in funding from two public colleges that included books with gay themes on their freshman reading lists.

The Columbia State reported that state House budget writers took away $17,000 from the University of South Carolina Upstate for teaching "Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio," a book about the state's first gay and lesbian radio show. They also withdrew $52,000 from the College of Charleston for teaching "Fun Home," which describes the author's growing up with a closeted gay father and her own coming out as a lesbian. Those amounts were based on the amount of money spent on the required-reading books last year.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Academic Freedom, Academic Justice, and Academic Indoctrination

In a wrong-headed article in the Harvard Crimson (The Doctrine of Academic Freedom), published a couple of days ago, Harvard student Sandra Y. L. Korn justifies the denial of academic freedom by resorting to something she think is a far higher goal - academic justice. She doesn't seem to realize that her argument stifles diversity of research and opinion, and that ultimately it could be used against her by those who consider her to be a purveyor of academic injustice. Devotion to freedom of thought or speech does not appear to be one of her values.

She begins by approving of the actions of the SDS, back in the early 1970s, in trying to get Harvard to fire Richard Herrnstein, the psychologist who argued that I.Q. was almost entirely dependent upon heredity (see here for an abstract of his article on I.Q. in The Atlantic). The SDS had argued that "Herrnstein's theories have been discredited, that they justify the oppression of minorities, and that they are false and dangerous."

Herrnstein responded to the attacks on him by the students: "What bothers me is this: Something has happened at Harvard this year that makes it hazardous for a professor to teach certain kinds of views.” As Korn writes, Harvard's deans "expressed concerns about student activists’ 'interference with the academic freedom and right to speak of a member of the Harvard faculty.'" She asks, "Did SDS activists at Harvard infringe on Herrnstein’s academic freedom? The answer might be that yes, they did—but that’s not the most important question to ask. Student and faculty obsession with the doctrine of 'academic freedom' often seems to bump against something I think much more important: academic justice."

And what is "academic justice," as opposed to academic freedom? Korn answers: "If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of 'academic freedom'?"

Instead of academic freedom, Korn writes that the academy should adopt the standard of "academic justice": "When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue."

And how should the academic community "ensure that this research does not continue"?

She suggests that because Harvard Government professor Harvey Mansfield is conservative and writes sexist books about women that she "would happily organize with other feminists on campus to stop him from publishing further sexist commentary under the authority of a Harvard faculty position. 'Academic freedom' might permit such an offensive view of rape to be published; academic justice would not."

Being a feminist, I don't agree with Harvey Mansfield on the proper roles of men and women, but neither do I think that Harvard faculty members (or professors at any college or university) should be forbidden to publish on certain topics because their views do not meet with the approval of people who consider themselves devoted to "academic justice."

Why is Korn digging up the ancient cases of the accusations of racism against Herrnstein and of sexism against Mansfield? The real point of her article is to argue that the standard of "academic justice" should be used to argue in favor of the academic boycott of Israel. She's unhappy that the President of Harvard condemned the vote of the American Studies Association to join the academic boycott of Israel. And she doesn't like the fact that those who argue for the boycott maintain that its purpose is to increase academic freedom for Palestinians. 

In her opinion, "Those defending the academic boycott should use a more rigorous standard. The ASA, like three other academic associations, decided to boycott out of a sense of social justice, responding to a call by Palestinian civil society organizations for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions until Israel ends its occupation of Palestine. People on the right opposed to boycotts can play the “freedom” game, calling for economic freedom to buy any product or academic freedom to associate with any institution. Only those who care about justice can take the moral upper hand." ("Those who care about justice" are the supporters of the academic boycott of Israel).

Not only does Korn's argument have an unpleasant aroma of moral superiority about it, since she arrogates to herself and those who agree with her the right to decide what is just, and then use that standard to judge other people, it is also distinctly illiberal. According to her, colleges and universities should not be free to foster many different research paths, in an attempt to increase the store of knowledge available to their students and the community at large. Such an approach also allows for criticism and the discovery of new evidence that disproves other views. Korn is arguing, to the contrary, that a Harvard education should be an exercise in indoctrination, not education.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Advocating for a boycott of Israel is cheap talk

In When Jews Undermine Israel, Andrew Apostolou writes:
A recent New York Times article “A Conflict of Faith: Devoted to Jewish Observance, but at Odds With Israel” illustrates the luxurious nature of American Jewish life. The article provides a tiny sample of self-proclaimed observant American Jews (“As a religious Jew” one of them declares modestly) who announce that they care about Palestinian human rights (a good cause that is entirely independent of religion. This just in: atheists can be for human rights too). These observant Jews support a boycott of Israel or oppose the nature of the current Jewish state. 
Advocating for a boycott of Israel is cheap talk.... 
Cheap, because Jews elsewhere do not have such a luxury. American Jews can have frivolous views without penalty. By contrast, in France, which I recently visited, there are overtly anti-Semitic movements, people march down the street shouting Vichy and anti-Semitic slogans, and the Jews are politically marginal. The neo-fascists in France are polling at 20% (neo-fascists because “extreme right” is too feeble a term). More and more French Jews are considering aliyah to escape a society in which they are under pressure and the dire euro economy. French Jews need a state of Israel as a haven. They do not have the luxury of using the Jewish state as an intellectual punching bag. 
Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg z”l used to say that the holiest site in Israel is not the kotel but the arrivals hall at Ben Gurion airport. Why? Because it is the only place in the world where they will never say that they will accept no more Jews. Most Jews still need a state, even if some American Jews don’t.

Why Anti-Zionist Jews Are a Minority

Excellent article by Jonathan Tobin of Commentary on Why Anti-Zionist Jews Are a Minority.
One need not support every action of the government of the State of Israel or have no sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians to understand that not only does Israel have a right to exist but that its fall would endanger the lives of its people and, by extension, Jews everywhere. The notion put forward by one of the subjects that “non-statist Zionism” would succeed was exploded several decades ago by the refusal of Arab opponents of the Jewish presence in Israel/Palestine to accept Jews on any terms.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Why I oppose the academic boycott of Israel

The debate over calls for the academic boycott of Israel has arrived at Ithaca College. Eric Cheyfitz, one of the supporters of the boycott in the American Studies Association, has been invited to speak on February 25.

My position on the academic boycott of Israel is well-known to readers of this blog. I have written several posts about it over the years, particularly when the University and College Union in Britain voted several times to support the boycott.

When I saw the poster, I began to reflect how my academic work has been immensely enriched by my studies in Israel. When I was a graduate student at Harvard, I went to Israel for two years, 1987-89, to improve my Hebrew and take courses at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Studying there gave me the opportunity to learn from some of the most prominent scholars in several fields of Jewish Studies.  I took a course on early Jewish mysticism with Professor Rachel Elior, and found my dissertation topic. I took many other courses in Jewish Studies that were not, at that time, offered at Harvard, including a course on the Zohar, another one on the range of interpretations of Genesis 38 (the story of Judah and Tamar) with Yair Zakovitch (Bible) and Avigdor Shinan (Midrash), a course on the Septuagint with Emanuel Tov (one of the world experts on the study of the Septuagint), a reading course with Michael Stone on 3 Baruch, a course on Midrash with Avigdor Shinan (a world expert on Midrash), a course in Biblical Aramaic, etc. I had originally intended to spend only a year in Israel but I was so interested that I decided to spend a second year at the Hebrew University.

I returned to Israel for the 1992-93 academic year to do research for my dissertation. I consulted with Professor Elior frequently and audited another class of hers on the Hekhalot literature. If I had not been able to go to the Hebrew University and the National and University Library for research, I probably could not have finished my dissertation. The National Library houses the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts, and it was there that I learned how to read medieval manuscripts, from others in the community of scholars who also used the library.

I went to Israel again for the 1998-1999 academic year, benefiting from a Lady Davis Fellowship given to me by the Hebrew University. While there, I worked on research topics that arose out of my dissertation and explored new areas. I took a course at the university with Joseph Naveh on ancient Jewish amulets - we learned how to read, translate, and interpret them. I also participated in a year long seminar at the Hartman Institute on messianism and mysticism in Judaism. I gave a presentation there on Metatron as a messianic figure in 3 Enoch. 

In the spring of 2012, when I was on sabbatical, I spent seven months in Jerusalem working on my second book, Angels' Tongues and Witches' Curses: Jewish Women and Ritual Power in Late Antiquity.

Since my first stay in Israel in 1987-89, I have visited almost every year to do research. Since the summer of 2006, I have gone every summer for up to two months. In terms of my research, Israel is really my academic home. I use the National Library and participate in the community of scholars and scholarship there. In the last couple of years I have met graduate students at the library who are working on their dissertations and I have been able to be helpful to a few of them in their research. Since I teach at a primarily undergraduate institution, I don't teach any graduate students, and I value the opportunity to be able to advise current students.

The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) has issued guidelines for how people should boycott Israeli academia. They include "refrain[ing] from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions." Participation includes "Academic events (such as conferences, symposia, workshops, book and museum exhibits) convened or co-sponsored by Israeli institutions." The events include events held both in Israel and abroad that are sponsored by Israeli institutions. They are also opposed to study abroad programs in Israel, under the reasoning that "These programs are usually housed at Israeli universities and are part of the Israeli propaganda effort, designed to give international students a “positive experience” of Israel." In addition, official representatives of Israeli academia who give talks at international venues should be boycotted, as well as special honors given to these recipients. They also oppose any Palestinian/Arab-Israeli collaborative research projects or events. The boycott campaign opposes any events and projects that bring Palestinians and/or Arabs and Israelis together, "unless based on unambiguous recognition of Palestinian rights and framed within the explicit context of opposition to occupation and other forms of Israeli oppression of the Palestinians." The boycott campaign also calls for not publishing or refereeing articles for academic journals based in Israeli universities.

While USACBI says that the boycott is aimed at Israeli academic institutions (on the pretext that they support the Israeli occupation), and not at individual Israeli scholars, it is difficult for me to see how this caveat really protects individuals. For example, my research at the Hebrew University in 1998-99 was financed by a Lady Davis grant. If I hadn't received the money, I wouldn't have been able to go for the year. In addition, Israeli scholars who go to international conferences are usually supported by travel grants from their institutions, as are academics in other countries. (It should be noted that the endorsement of the boycott by the American Studies Association states explicitly that "Routine university funding for individual collaborations or academic exchanges is permitted"). 

Every four years the World Congress of Jewish Studies is held at the Hebrew University. Scholars in Jewish Studies from Israel, Europe, the US, and other parts of the world give papers. Since USACBI maintains that events convened by Israeli institutions should be boycotted, this means that one of the primary conferences in the field of Jewish Studies would be able to function only for Israeli scholars. Again, boycotting this conference would have a direct effect upon individual scholars, both Israeli and from other countries. Despite the claim of the ASA that the boycott "does not seek to curtail dialogue between U.S. and Israeli scholars," it would actually have this effect, in that it would prohibit US scholars from going to conferences in Israel sponsored by any academic institution. 

If scholarly organizations and academic institutions in the US decided to support the academic boycott, it would have a seriously deleterious effect upon the field of Jewish Studies, since it would prohibit American scholars from going to any conferences in Israel (which are usually sponsored by Israeli universities). Israeli scholars who headed institutes at Israeli universities would not be permitted to speak at American universities. I suspect that the boycott would also prohibit foreign scholars from receiving grants or fellowships at Israeli universities. Since the boycott campaign opposes study abroad in Israel, foreign students, on the undergraduate or graduate levels, would not be able to study at Israeli universities, or do dissertation or other research in Israel, and would therefore be cut off from the knowledge and connections they could gain from collaboration with Israeli scholars. When I went to the Hebrew University as a visiting graduate student in 1987-89, I enrolled in the university through the Rothberg International School. The academic boycott would have prevented that, directly impacting my academic career.

In addition, USACBI states, 
While an individual’s academic freedom should be fully and consistently respected in this context, an individual academic, Israeli or not, cannot be exempt from being subject to boycotts that conscientious citizens around the world (beyond the scope of the PACBI boycott criteria) may call for in response to what is widely perceived as a particularly offensive act or statement by the academic in question (such as direct or indirect incitement to violence; justification — an indirect form of advocacy — of war crimes and other grave violations of international law; racial slurs; actual participation in human rights violations; etc.). 
This means that USACBI (in agreement with PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) supports boycotting individuals who, in its judgement, engage in incitement to violence, justification of war crimes, etc. How does USACBI define war crimes? What if a scholar wrote an article supporting retaliatory Israeli strikes against Hamas or Islamic Jihad terrorists who had just fired missiles into Israel (while at the same time cautioning against any strikes that could harm civilians)? Would that count as a "justification of war crimes"? If I wrote an essay for this blog maintaining that the separation wall had stopped many suicide bombers from entering Israel from the West Bank, would that count as justifying a "grave violation of international law," given that the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion in 2004 stating that the wall is illegal under international law? This part of the call to boycott could justify the boycotting of scholars in political science, international affairs, Middle Eastern politics, history, and other fields who write articles and books that justify any actions that USACBI consider to be war crimes, incitement to violence, etc., therefore also directly impacting individual scholars, Israeli or not.

I'm glad to see it's been proven that we live in a post-racial society

Michael Dunn was convicted today in Florida of attempted murder for shooting at a car with four African-American teenagers in it. The jury did not convict him of actual murder even though he actually killed one of them, Jordan Davis. Dunn continued firing at the car even as it drove away - isn't that sufficient evidence of murderous intent? 

This is what the prosecutors said:
Prosecutors had argued that Mr. Dunn did not shoot Mr. Davis out of fear for his life, as he testified. He shot him, they said, because he was enraged that when he asked the teenagers to turn down the music booming from his car in a gas station parking lot — he described it to his fiancĂ©e as “thug music” — Mr. Davis did not do so and then cursed him.
The jury couldn't agree on the count of first-degree murder, apparently unable to decide whether he had acted in self-defense or not, and the judge declared a mistrial on this count.

Self-defense against what? He claimed that Davis had a shotgun and pointed it at him. No shotgun was ever found, and no one else saw it. I think he invented the existence of the shotgun in order to exonerate himself. 

He was angry that the teenagers were playing loud music. Well, I don't like it when other people play loud music, but I've never pulled out a gun and shot them (especially since I don't own a gun). So what if Davis cursed him when Dunn asked him to turn the music down - does that justify murder?

And of course, Dunn is white. 

According to this article in the Tampa Bay Times, "Defendants claiming 'stand your ground' are more likely to prevail if the victim is black. Seventy-three percent of those who killed a black person faced no penalty compared to 59 percent of those who killed a white."

Dunn's animus towards African Americans is demonstrated by letters he wrote in jail while awaiting trial:
Letters by Dunn from jail released this week by the State’s Attorney’s Office reveal disturbing racial animus. In a letter to an unknown recipient highlighted by Jacksonville’s WTEV, he writes:
It’s spooky how racist everyone is up here and how biased toward blacks the courts are. This jail is full of blacks and they all act like thugs. … This may sound a bit radical but if more people would arm themselves and kill these **** idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.
In another letter to his girlfriend highlighted by HLNtv, he writes:
I just got off the phone with you and we were talking about how racist the blacks are up here. The more time I am exposed to these people, the more prejudiced against them I become.
And in another to his grandmother, he says:
I’m not really prejudiced against race, but I have no use for certain cultures. This gangster-rap, ghetto talking thug ‘culture’ that certain segments of society flock to is intolerable.