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Facts and Logic About
the Middle East
P.O. Box 590359
San Francisco, CA 94159
January 11, 2005
Dear 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 advocates.
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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
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
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 canceled.
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 in America."
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
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 through?
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