January 11, 2005
Friend of FLAME:
Last night I viewed the stunning new movie, "Hotel Rwanda,"
and was struck, as one must be, by the abject, inhuman cruelty exhibited
by one group of humans (in this case, the ruling Hutus) against another
(the minority Tutsis). More than 1 million people, mostly innocent
children, women and men, were slaughtered in Rwanda while the world
watched on (with the United Nations, predictably, in the front row).
The barbaric murders genocide committed by the Hutu
marauders in the movie reminded me of nothing more than the wanton
beheadings and bombings of innocents by crazed "insurgents"
in Iraq. How can people be so irrationally brutal to others, one is
forced to ask. How can racism an outlook so profoundly and
historically discredited still motivate people, still justify
hate in our world? Today, however, I read the article appended below,
and by the time I finished it, I was experiencing a fierce burning
in the pit of my stomach. It was not a feeling of anger per se,
but rather one of distress and then of fear perhaps a taste
of the fear the Tutsis in Rwanda felt as the hate against them rose
to a delirious violent frenzy. This article, which appeared in the
January issue of Commentary, is not about Rwanda, nor about
Iraq, but rather about anti-Semitism in the United States, by way
of a subversive conference that was held last fall at Duke University.
As you'll see, the fact that this conference of the pro-terrorist
Palestinian Solidarity Movement took place at a highly visible U.S.
university is troubling enough. But what struck me was the resentment
that swelled up against Jews during and following the conference.
The diatribes described here are shocking and frightening, but what
is more frightening is the quiet acquiescence of the Duke administration
in the face of blatant anti-Semitism on campus all in the name
of academic freedom. Since one cannot imagine that racist articles
or speeches denouncing Blacks, American Indians or even Arabs would
be permitted on any American campus, it is all the more disturbing
that anti-Semitism has become an acceptable "academic" debate.
Indeed, the politically correct excuses made for anti-Semitism are
themselves anti-Semitic, because they are selective and discriminatory.
The authors of this article have to live in Duke's morally bankrupt
environment: Eric Adler is a Ph.D. candidate in classical studies,
and Jack Langer is a Ph.D. candidate in history there. We applaud
them for their bravery in writing this piece.
A university plays host to anti-Semites and terror
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By Eric Adler and Jack Langer
Commentary, January, 2005
A new ritual on the American academic scene is
the annual conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement. The PSM
is an umbrella organization that connects various U.S. and Canadian
groups; its yearly gathering offers an opportunity for the constituent
elements to establish a visible presence on a prestigious university
campus and plan strategy and tactics for a movement dedicated to delegitimizing
the state of Israel. Over the past several years, the convocation
has been held at Ohio State, the University of Michigan and the University
of California at Berkeley. In October, it was the turn of Duke University.
Duke's president, Richard Brodhead, had only just assumed office last
summer when the university announced that it would be hosting the
PSM conference in the fall. Because the organizers had followed the
proper procedures for mounting such an event, Mr. Brodhead explained,
the decision to grant approval was an "easy one." After
all, the university was only reaffirming "the importance of the
principle of free expression."
Easy or not, the decision immediately provoked criticism. Some of
it came from Duke alumni and others off campus, and some of it came
from a student group, the Duke Conservative Union. Altogether, some
90,000 signatures were gathered for an online petition denouncing
the university's move.
Among the targets of protest was the PSM's fifth official "guiding
principle," which decrees the group's refusal to denounce any
terrorist act committed by Palestinians. Condemnation was also directed
at the PSM's amply documented history of anti-Semitism and incitement
to violence. One scheduled speaker, Charles Carlson, had openly called
for lethal attacks against Israeli youth, declaring that "every
young Israeli is military--they are all proper war targets,"
and that "each wedding, Passover celebration, or bar mitzvah
[in Israel] is a potential military target."
Another scheduled participant, Abe Greenhouse, had been arrested in
2003 after smashing a pie in the face of Israeli minister Natan Sharansky
as he was about to give a lecture at Rutgers. An organizer of the
2002 PSM gathering, Fadi Kiblawi, had written that the Palestinian
plight made him "want to strap a bomb to [his] chest and kill
those [Zionist] racists," while an erstwhile PSM speaker, Hatem
Bazian, had called for "an intifada in this country" (i.e.,
the U.S.) and asserted that the sacred texts of Islam require its
adherents to "fight the Jews." Prominently active in the
movement was Sami al-Arian, who in 2003 was indicted on racketeering
and terrorism charges and is currently awaiting trial in Florida.
These and other unequivocal statements and deeds of PSM activists
were detailed in letters to the editor and in advertisements that
the Duke Conservative Union placed in the Chronicle, Duke's
student newspaper. In response, the university administration was
largely silent. But Mr. Brodhead himself, moving beyond his previous
stance of avowed neutrality in the name of free expression, issued
what amounted to an outright endorsement of the conference. Declining
to criticize any aspect of the PSM, he asserted only that a great
deal of inaccurate information was circulating on the Internet and
that the "deepest principle involved [in hosting the conference]
is not even the principle of free speech. It's the principle of education
through dialogue." How this "dialogue" would proceed
under the PSM's practice of prohibiting recording devices and reporters
from many of its sessions was never made clear.
Following a month or so of debate on and around the Duke campus, the
conference itself opened on Oct. 15. Its hundreds of participants
were treated to a series of lectures, panel discussions and workshops.
There were also a variety of "cultural events," including
a "sing-in" and a reading of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel
poetry. Affiliated groups like the International Solidarity Movement
and Jews for a Just Peace set up tables at which they distributed
leaflets and sold such wares as "Free Palestine" T-shirts.
One keynote speech of the PSM's exercise in "education
through dialogue" was delivered by Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Yale professor
of genetics, who presented a short history of what he portrayed as
the virulent Zionist "disease." There was also a lecture
by the PLO legal adviser Diana Buttu, a polished speaker whose theme
was that Palestinians under Israeli occupation have suffered a fate
worse than blacks under apartheid in South Africa, and that Israel
is today "the greatest abuser of human rights" in the world.
Nasser Abufarha, a doctoral candidate in cultural anthropology at
the University of Wisconsin, spoke of Israel's "racist ambitions"
and defended the terrorist activities of Hamas and the Popular Front
for the Liberation of Palestine in combating Zionist "aggression."
Brian Avery, an activist for ISM, explained that both George W. Bush
and John Kerry were "on auction to the Jewish lobby."
Although the Duke administration stoutly maintained both before and
during the conference that the PSM and ISM were "distinct and
separate" organizations, at least a dozen ISM activists led conference
workshops. The ISM specializes in sending European and American students
to the West Bank and Gaza to work on behalf of the radical Palestinian
cause. The group's co-founder George Rishmawi has candidly explained
its purpose in recruiting these foreign students: "When Palestinians
get shot by Israeli soldiers, no one is interested anymore. But if
some of these foreign volunteers get shot or even killed, then the
international media will sit up and take notice." That was certainly
the case with the ISM activist Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old student
at Evergreen State College who was accidentally killed in 2003 while
attempting to block Israeli bulldozers from uncovering terrorist smuggling
tunnels in Gaza.
One of the two ISM-led workshops at the Duke conference was
"Volunteering in Palestine: Role and Value of International Activists."
A last-minute addition to the schedule, the workshop was conducted
by ISM co-founder Huweida Arraf. Acknowledging during her talk that
the ISM cooperates with the terror organizations Hamas and Islamic
Jihad, Ms. Arraf encouraged students to join the group and instructed
them on how to enter Israel surreptitiously and how to deal with possible
arrest and deportation. The Duke administration never commented publicly
on the inclusion in the PSM's program of a workshop recruiting for
a group with self-professed ties to terrorists and an openly avowed
interest in generating casualties.
Another, less practical workshop"Segregation, Apartheid
and Zionism Are Crimes Against Humanity!"was led by Bob
Brown, a veteran of the Black Power movement of the 1960s. Mr. Brown's
theoretical discourse consisted mostly of unsubstantiated personal
anecdotes and random invective. Thus, he reminisced about meeting
Saddam Hussein's spokesman Tariq Aziz in Baghdad in 1974; alleged
that Condoleezza Rice's father had tried to force him to marry her
some years back; and referred to the Six Day war, in which Israel
fought off the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, as "the Jew
war of '67."
Still other sessions were devoted to such subjects as "Jewish
dissent" and the ethics of suicide bombing and kindred forms
of "resistance." Charles Carlson's workshop, "The Cause
of the Conflict: How Judaized-Christians Enable War," was inexplicably
After three days of meetings, the conference came to a close.
"It's a good thing we did here," announced the university's
vice president for public affairs, John Burness, setting the tone
for a chorus of self-applause. In its own post-mortem roundup, the
student-run Chronicle, which had endorsed the PSM's official
refusal to denounce Palestinian terrorism, lauded the university administration
for "masterfully" handling the affair and reported with
great satisfaction that the "overall tone of the weekend was
one of discussion and learning." Looking to the future, the paper
urged upon Duke a positive responsibility "to continue the dialogue
the Palestine Solidarity Movement conference initiated."
And indeed the close of the conference did not mark the end of Duke's
experiment in "discussion and learning." To appreciate what
happened next, it helps to know that, unlike the Duke Conservative
Union, the university's two Jewish organizations, the campus Hillel
(known as the Freeman Center) and a student group called Duke Friends
of Israel, had opted from the beginning to refrain from criticizing
the university for agreeing to host the conference. In fact, in a
demonstration of their own commitment to free expression, the groups
publicly praised the decision. At the same time, and in the same spirit,
they formulated a "Joint Israel Initiative." This was a
resolution pledging that both they and the PSM would conduct a civil
dialogue, would together condemn the murder of innocent civilians,
and would work toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. On the eve of the conference, the Jewish groups also staged
a "rally against terror."
But whatever hopes the Jewish campus organizations held out
for civil dialogue were rapidly dashed. Representatives of the PSM
refused to sign the Joint Israel Initiative, objecting in particular
to its condemnation of violence. Not only that, but in the aftermath
of the conference, even as the open anti-Semitism on display there
was going entirely without censure, Duke's Jewish organizations themselves--and
Jews in general--became the object of furious attack.
The first salvo was an article in the Chronicle by one of its
columnists, a Duke senior named Philip Kurian. Headlined "The
Jews," it denounced Jews as "the most privileged 'minority'
group" in the United States and in particular bemoaned the "shocking
overrepresentation" of Jews in academia. Replete with references
to the "powerful Jewish establishment" and "exorbitant
Jewish privilege in the United States," the article went on to
characterize Jews as a phony minority that can "renounce their
difference by taking off the yarmulke."
Mr. Kurian's column was followed by an even more intense anti-Semitic
outpouring on the Chronicle's electronic discussion boards.
"I am glad you have the courage to stand up to the Jews,"
wrote one correspondent. Another said he "was thrilled to read
Mr. Kurian's belligerent critique of that long-nosed creature sitting
squarely in the middle of the room that nobody is allowed to talk
about. Yes--that elephant Mr. Sharon . . . and his treasonous cousins
One posting, beside providing a link to an online article blaming
the Jews for the outbreak of World War II, called for "an investigation
into the Jewish community's practices and leadership during the past
150 years." "Whenever anyone says anything negative about
the Jews," expostulated still another writer, "they go after
them with Mafia-style ruthlessness. . . . This is the reason Jews
are the most hated people on earth and why they have always been kicked
out of every country."
Having welcomed known anti-Semitic agitators onto its campus,
how did the Duke administration react when the aftereffects of the
agitation began to play themselves out before its eyes? Responding
to Mr. Kurian's article in a letter to the Chronicle, President
Brodhead first condemned the "virulence" of some of the
PSM's critics. He then pronounced himself "deeply troubled"
by Kurian's sentiments, while offering assurances that Mr. Kurian
"probably did not mean to . . . [revive] stereotypical images
that have played a long-running role in the history of anti-Semitism."
Reverting to his by now standard mantra, Mr. Brodhead stressed again
that the central issue was the importance of "education through
dialogue." "I am grateful," he wrote, "to the
many individuals and groups who helped turn last week's Palestine
Solidarity Movement conference into a peaceful and constructive event"
and "proud to be at a school where difficult matters are dealt
with in such a mature and constructive way."
It is all but impossible to imagine the president of Duke offering
a similar encomium to, say, a conference of neo-Nazi rabble-rousers
on his campus, or defending a parade of speakers dilating on the "diseased"
history of, say, black Americans. It is in fact impossible to imagine
Duke agreeing to host such debased goings-on in the first place. In
that sense, the administration's appeals to free expression and dialogue
were the purest disingenuousness.
Moreover, and whether or not a university has a duty to license
the unfettered expression on its campus of every venomous notion under
the sun, the real issue at Duke was always the refusal of the licensing
authorities to call such notions by their proper names--in this case,
bald anti-Semitism and incitement to the murder of innocents. That
refusal on the part of the university and its president, a mark not
of "constructive" liberality but of cowardice and complicity,
is what led infallibly to the postconference outbreak of anti-Jewish
hatred. Once the guardians of the citadel granted permission to open
the gates, is it any surprise that the marauding hordes came storming