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GNU is Not Unix Politics

RMS Cancels Lectures In Israel 609

Posted by timothy
from the tunes-called-by-piper-payers dept.
Eesh writes "Globes and Haaretz report that Stallman cancelled his plans for lecturing in Israeli universities as part of a visit to the Palestinian Authority, due to threats by the Palestinian organizers that they won't be paying for his trip if he does so. Globes write: 'Stallman was scheduled to visit Israel in July and to speak at Haifa University, Tel Aviv University and Shenkar College. The Palestinians initiated the visit, but when they understood that Stallman would also be speaking at Israeli universities they told him they would no longer fund the trip. In response, Stallman announced that he would cancel the speaking engagements in Israel, and would be satisfied with visiting the Palestinian Authority regions only.'" Here's the email from RMS and response from the Israeli organizer. Hopefully RMS will brush off being named "Linux founder" by Haaretz. Update: 05/29 19:39 GMT by T : Oops! As user Windrip points out below, it's Globes, not Haaretz, which attributed Linux to RMS.
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RMS Cancels Lectures In Israel

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  • makes sense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by roman_mir (125474) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @12:23PM (#36279820) Homepage Journal

    Maybe if universities in Israel want to have him speak there, they should invite him at a different time and by him some other tickets?

    • Re:makes sense (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mrxak (727974) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @12:27PM (#36279842)

      Exactly. Is it a dick move by the Palestinians? Absolutely. But it really is their right, after all, they are paying for his trip and they can put whatever conditions on it they'd like.

      Now, whether or not he should have, at that point, decided not to go at all, because he's being used as a political pawn, I suppose we can argue about that. But at the end of the day, he agreed to the trip as the Palestinians wanted, then decided he'd also do some other things on their dime, they said no way, so he decided to stick to the original agreement. I can't really fault him for that.

      If Israeli universities want to pay for him to come in a week later, then they are free to do that.

      • by ZipK (1051658)

        But at the end of the day, he agreed to the trip as the Palestinians wanted, then decided he'd also do some other things on their dime, they said no way, so he decided to stick to the original agreement.

        The reporting suggests that the original agreement did not have a "you will not visit Israel on a trip that we're funding" clause in it. The story suggests that RMS agreed to give some lectures for the Palestinians, and only later, when he added stops in Israel, did the Palestinians attach additional conditions; RMS then subsequently accepted these additional conditions.

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Maybe one day these two countries will outgrow this kind of petty disputes and see such things as opportunities rather than occasions to fight. Let's hope...
  • Someone has to pay for the beer.

    I'll give props to RMS in this case.

    • The "Free" in "Free software" stands for freedom, not cost; RMS has been very clear on this point, but he also seems to be ignorant of the fact that the best beer is also Free as in Freedom. IMHO, the saying should be "Free as in Freedom not Free as in promotional".

      It would be best to get the message out as broadly as possible, in this case RMS is taking what he can get to give as best he can. Better to speak to some than to none.

      I make Free Software. I also make Free Beer. At the local brewers club we exchange our carefully recorded recipes for different brews. We bring free samples of our fee free beer, and we share it Freely with anyone in attendance, both in bottle and in recipe. We have a great time "tasting" different brews: Some do wind up in the swill bucket, while other brews are favored, and their recipes are copied and reproduced again later by those who favor the beer. We make improvements and offer suggestions; Some of my brews have come back to me after being improved and I've had better beer, and better friends, because of it.

      It does cost us to make the beer, much like it costs us to make the software, or to make the speeches -- I think it's only fair trade that we receive reimbursement for our labors. In RMS's case: In exchange for speeches about Software Freedoms he accepts money and/or travel expenses. In the case of our brew club I exchange my beer for theirs; For friends and neighbors I exchange free beer for camaraderie and the occasional tool loan.

      "Free as in Beer" means something very much like "Free as in Freedom" to a home brewer like myself.

    • by klapaucjusz (1167407) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @02:22PM (#36280638) Homepage

      I'll give props to RMS in this case.

      So now he's set the precedent that when you pay for RMS' trip, you're entitled to dictate what he does in his free time. Smart move.

  • What a mess. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Sunday May 29, 2011 @12:28PM (#36279848) Journal

    I think in that situation, I'd be inclined to say "a plague on both your houses", and go to Brazil.

    -jcr

  • It's Ironic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 29, 2011 @12:32PM (#36279870)

    Stallman expects the rest of us to live some live of software purity, never compromising on closed software, despite the fact that we often do so for pragmatic reasons like getting paid, getting the job done etc. Yet here is he, quite prepared to give into bullying terms when it suits him.

    • Re:It's Ironic (Score:5, Insightful)

      by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @12:45PM (#36279954)

      Stallman expects the rest of us to live some live of software purity

      I am not so sure about that one:

      http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/categories.html#ProprietarySoftware [gnu.org]

      in particular,

      We don't insist that users of GNU, or contributors to GNU, have to live by this rule. It is a rule we made for ourselves. But we hope you will follow it too, for your freedom's sake.

      Yes, he hopes that other people will follow in his organization's footsteps, but it is not something he insists on. Elsewhere on the GNU and FSF websites, I have seen remarks that indicate an understanding that some people may not have a choice in using proprietary software. Yes, RMS campaigns for a further expansion of free software use, and tries to make people aware of what they are forfeiting when they agree to proprietary software licenses, but that does not mean that he insists that everyone agree with him or that he has no concept that people may be forced to use proprietary software.

      • Re:It's Ironic (Score:5, Informative)

        by roman_mir (125474) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @01:19PM (#36280162) Homepage Journal

        RMS is not all of GNU, so here is his personal thoughts on the matter [kerneltrap.org]

        Richard Stallman: What about them? The programmers writing non-free software? They are doing something antisocial. They should get some other job.

        Any more questions?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Wow. Pretty selective quoting there. Maybe I can improve on it.

          JA: What about the programmers...

          Richard Stallman: What about them? The programmers writing non-free software? They are doing something antisocial. They should get some other job.

          JA: Such as?

          Richard Stallman: There are thousands of different jobs people can have in society without developing non-free software. You can even be a programmer. Most paid programmers are developing custom software--only a small fraction are developing non-free softwar

    • Re:It's Ironic (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @12:53PM (#36279992)

      despite the fact that we often do so for pragmatic reasons like getting paid

      +1

      How does Stallman pay his bills, anyway? AFAIK, MIT doesn't pay him. Is it all from paid speaking gigs? BTW, Speeches Want To Be Free.

      • Re:It's Ironic (Score:5, Interesting)

        by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @01:07PM (#36280076)
        The first question you need to ask is, "What are Stallman's bills?" The man does not have a permanent residence, as far as I know, and his travel expenses are paid for by the people who invite him to come speak. For the most part, it appears that the only things he would have to pay for in life are food and clothing, and even then it is likely that other people cover that for him. Essentially, he appears to be living the same lifestyle as Socrates.
      • RMS's bills and bio (Score:5, Informative)

        by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @01:08PM (#36280090) Homepage

        > How does Stallman pay his bills, anyway?

        (For a detailed answer, you could read a biography about him: http://static.fsf.org/nosvn/faif-2.0.pdf [fsf.org] )

        Some organisations pay him for the talks he gives. He also won some awards in the 90s which came with chunky cash prizes which he said he would invest.

        His bills probably aren't too big anyway. He asks his hosts to pay his travel and accommodation (usually staying with someone in their house rather than in a hotel). He has no kids, which saves him a lot of money.

        FSF doesn't pay him any salary.

    • by t2t10 (1909766) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @12:54PM (#36279996)

      Stallman expects the rest of us to live some live of software purity, never compromising on closed software,

      Free software is about receiving source code along with software and being able to modify and redistribute the software. There is nothing inconsistent about Stallman's behavior: you can get paid for software, you can create proprietary software, etc. if you like. Some of your business models may not work with free software, but that's not Stallman's intent, that's just a consequence.

      Yet here is he, quite prepared to give into bullying terms when it suits him.

      The Palestinians are paying for the trip and they get to set the conditions they pay for; that's the way all invited talks work. "No side trips" is a common condition for invited talks.

      What's actually going on is that Israel is forcing foreign scientists wanting to visit the Palestinian territories to travel through Israel, and then saying "oh, we made you come here, why don't you also give some lectures for free". Imagine the US used military force to keep international planes from landing in Canada and then asked foreign scientists diverted through the US to also give free talks in the US; it would be quite outrageous.

      The situation is made even worse because the Palestinians are so poor compared to Israel. For Israeli universities to piggy-back on a trip paid for by the Palestinians ought to be a huge embarrassment for Israel.

      The obvious thing would be for Israel to pay for the entire trip, including the trip to the Palestinian territories. That would be the obvious, right and peaceful thing to do. Apparently, Israel isn't interested in that.

      I hope Israel will turn around and do the right thing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        The Palestinians are paying for the trip and they get to set the conditions they pay for; that's the way all invited talks work. "No side trips" is a common condition for invited talks.

        Nonsense. Are they requiring him to get on a plane and land in US? I don't know what kind of deal RMS got for himself but I am pretty sure it is quite uncommon that organizers require you to go back to country of origin after the engagement is over. He should have negotiated fee for giving talks like 1k/hour and pay for his

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I hope Israel will turn around and do the right thing.

        Israel could say "oh, we still want you to visit us, so we will fund your trip if Palestinians withdraw their funding. And we will allow you to visit them too."

        Now that would be the right thing.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 29, 2011 @02:10PM (#36280552)

        Noam Chomsky was barred entry into Palestinian territories (entry and exit to which is controlled by Israel) last year:

        My daughter and I, along with two old friends, were going to Ramallah from Amman and were stopped at the border, waited several hours, several hours of interrogation, and finally my daughter and I were denied entry.

        The reasons are quite straightforward. I’ve spoken at Bir Zeit University before, but in every prior occasion, it was a side trip, when I was visiting Israel and giving talks at Israeli universities. This time differs in one respect. I was—I had an invitation from Bir Zeit, and I accepted it gladly, as in many other cases, and I had no intention of going on to speak in Israel as well this time. That’s the only difference. So, essentially, what Israel is saying is that they insist on the right to determine who is allowed to just visit a Palestinian university at their invitation and talk.

        http://www.democracynow.org/2010/5/17/denied_entry_israel_blocks_noam_chomsky

      • by Shipud (685171) * on Sunday May 29, 2011 @02:24PM (#36280648)
        Wow. So many untruths, Where to start?

        "What's actually going on is that Israel is forcing foreign scientists wanting to visit the Palestinian territories to travel through Israel, and then saying "oh, we made you come here, why don't you also give some lectures for free". Imagine the US used military force to keep international planes from landing in Canada and then asked foreign scientists diverted through the US to also give free talks in the US; it would be quite outrageous."

        It would also be outrageous is Israel is doing it, which it isn't. I would ask you to find citations for that ever happening. And what is this about "Israel paying"? When a scientist is invited to speak at an academic institution the institution is paying. There is zero government involvement. There is also no involvement from other institutes, unless they are pooling resources for an event (say, a conference).

        " 'No side trips' is a common condition for invited talks".

        I am an associate professor and I have been invited to give hundreds of talks, at institutes and companies in the US and in many other countries. I have never heard of this "Common Condition".

        At most I ask my paying hosts for accurate dates, telling them I will be travelling more. I have never encountered any kind of objection to that, nor a request to share the primary travel venue. Of course, I do not ask for extra travel or Room & Board for the "side" travels.

        "Apparently, Israel isn't interested in that."

        Again what is "Israel" the university of Tel Aviv? The University of Haifa (which, BTW, in which the majority of students are Palestinians)? The Israeli Immigration authorities? The Mossad? El-Al?

        • by yariv (1107831)

          The statement about Palestinians being the majority of University of Haifa's students is not true. About 20% of the students are Arabs, from what I know (but I didn't find any formal numbers). The vast majority of those are Israeli citizens. There is a large minority in Israel of Arabs (about 20%). they usually define themselves as Palestinians, but they are still Israeli citizens. There are almost no citizens of the Palestinian Authority in Israeli universities, if there are any at all.

          This doesn't change

    • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @01:21PM (#36280190) Homepage

      There's nothing in the free *software* philosophy about what conditions can be put on plane tickets. There's a hint in the name - it's about software, not planes.

      His lousy options were to cancel the Israel gigs, or cancel the Israel and the Palestinian gigs. He went for the former, and apologised.

      This isn't news at all. This part of his work must be pretty frustrating for him.

    • Yet here is he, quite prepared to give into bullying terms when it suits him.

      I'm sorry, but: what?

      I think a group that is in a heavily-embargoed, poverty-ridden country has every right to be furious at their scraped-together funds being used for speaking engagements in the highly-privileged nation that is doing the embargoing.

      The fact that RMS went and booked the other speaking engagements shows that he truly has no political sensitivities, and has been the wrong person to represent the FSF for quite

  • Real reason (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jethro (14165) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @12:39PM (#36279924) Homepage

    They refuse to call it "GNU/Israel".

  • by nweaver (113078) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @12:43PM (#36279938) Homepage

    This now sets a precedent that RMS will respond to fiscal pressure, as he's established that the head of FSF will change who he says it to based on who's paying.

    Far better for RMS to have refused the trip entirely. Yes, it would have canceled the Israeli university talks anyway, but it would have at least said that he's unwilling to be bullied or change who he talks to.

    And for those who say "He could go on a separate time on Israeli money": There is a huge logistical cost in his time and effort involved in traveling halfway across the globe. A trip like this takes two days near dead for travel time & jetlag alone.

    This is a cost which RMS, not the Palestinians, is presumably paying. It makes sense, if this cost is incurred, to also give talks at Israeli universities, as this cost is something the Palestinians presumably aren't paying for, he is.

    If, instead, the Palestinians are paying for his travel time as well as his ticket, this makes the precedent even worse.

    • Re:Bad call IMO... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MysteriousPreacher (702266) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @12:58PM (#36280026) Journal

      You're drawing a pretty broad conclusion from this one specific event. Had he agreed to *never* have any dealings with Israel then I'd agree there's a problem. All he did was to cancel lectures on this specific trip that is being paid for people kind of entitled to make such a demand - regardless of how petty it may be. I don't see how this is a civil liberties or freedom thing when he's voluntarily traveling on their ticket.

  • Will they be there, listening to Stallman, or will they be carefully segregated from their sexual superiors?
    • by rawler (1005089)

      Are you sure they would want to? [earthweb.com]

      And yes, I happen to think that the whole RMS Sexism debacle was blown a little out of proportion, but it damaged his reputation as a speaker wherever gender-neutrality is desired.

  • Stupid move, rms (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao@@@hotmail...com> on Sunday May 29, 2011 @12:48PM (#36279968) Homepage

    In his place, if someone tried to manipulate me like that, I'd do the opposite -- give them a big fat "fuck you" and go meet the other side instead, even if I had to pay for the trip.

  • Easy solution;

    Both parties want him to Speak, let both parties pay half each. If both parties refuse, stay home, if only one accepts, then go there.

    I fully understand why the Palestinians do not wish to pay the "Israeli" share, and the other way around. However, splitting the costs is fair, and all parties win.

    Sure, I realize it might be impolite if the Palestinians had already been promised a visit, but I think at least the option of splitting costs should be proposed.

  • by Meneguzzi (935620) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @01:15PM (#36280136) Homepage Journal
    Well, opinions about the right or wrongness of Israel aside, it is a well known fact that Israeli universities are pretty well funded and staffed (especially if compared to Palestinian ones).
    They already have top class academics working for them and plenty of funding to bring other academics to visit them pretty regularly. I have had the privilege to meet many famous Israeli academics, but I am yet to meet a Palestinian one.
    If we just ignore the politics for a little while, I can see why an underfunded Palestinian university might feel cheated if they are paying for a guy to come from across the world to give a lecture, and the guys across the border who have lots more funding and better staff than they have tried to amortize Israeli costs of bringing a foreign academic by using Palestinian money. After all, they could have offered to split the bill or something.
    On top of that, I'm not sure about the situation right now, but until very recently, Israel (which controls Palestinian borders and tax collection) was withholding tax money from the Palestinian Authority because they were in reconciliation talks with Hamas. Again, ignoring politics, but looking at a very real cashflow issue that their universities might be having, I can see why they might resent this move.
  • I'd have told the palestinians to grow up and get a life... it would be my travel arrangements or tough sh1t no visit at all...
  • Not Ha'aretz (Score:2, Informative)

    by Windrip (303053)
    More pig-ignorant editorializing from /. editors.

    One of the posts in the linked thread goes to some Israeli biz-pub.

    The Ha'aretz article [haaretz.com] about RMS' decision doesn't mis-attribute "Linux Founder" to RMS.

    The error is in another publication [globes.co.il]

  • by sciencewatcher (1699186) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @01:23PM (#36280200)
    Since RMS consequently rejects any piece of software that restricts his rights or movements, the only right thing to do would be to reject the Arab invitation to visit the former British mandate of Palestine. Of course the Israeli invitees then should pick up the tab to pay for his travel expenses to Israel. The Israelis did not restrict RMS's whereabouts and should be lauded for their policy of sticking to freedom for all, including the Arabs.
  • by deblau (68023) <slashdot.25.flickboy@spamgourmet.com> on Sunday May 29, 2011 @01:24PM (#36280204) Journal

    The Palestinians don't believe in freedom of speech. RMS should cancel his entire trip; his talk would be wasted on them anyway.

  • by hackus (159037) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @01:25PM (#36280210) Homepage

    However, even a turkey could see that would cause problems given the plans the "New World Order" has for the region.

    I would have not accept funds in the first place from any political organization over there for transportation.

    I would have a independent source of funds for travel expenses. I would then ask for donations from both sides when I got there to pay for the trip.

    Richard runs the risk of looking like he is choosing sides by doing this, even though he might not feel that way about the politics of the region.

    I say that because his mission is somewhat political due to the economics he will be discussing and social systems that make open source software very profitable as well as technically superior than close source commercial software.

    -Hack.

  • For those who didn't RTFA, after the organizer said that he respected RMS' right to cancel the talk and that happens, he did make good points about why RMS' decision is disappointing for his fans.

    You chose the "Free beer" giving up the "Free of speech" and that disappoints me very much since it has to do with the genuinity implementation of your own presented ideas.

    Elsewhere in the response he gives the details

    Boycotting the Israeli Universities since you get funds from Palestinians means that you accepted the Palestinians proprietary license. Neither you nor them want to help their neighbor.

    I agree, and my respect for RMS' idealism is lessened.

  • I wonder how he'll do with the travel side of the equation - When someone lands at Ben Gurion and then states an intention to speak in Palestine, one typically faces an extensive set of invasive questions - Questions that I suspect someone like Stallman may be unwilling to answer. If that's the case, he may find himself back on the next flight to the USA.
  • I'm hardly a Stallman fan, but this seems a bit blown out of proportion.

    As others have said, go to the Israeli universities on another trip.

    Of course, he could do the payback thing and get the Israelis to pay for his second trip, schedule appearances in the Palestinian territories and then cancel them.

    Would be a nice symmetry to that.

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