Mideast Parley Takes Ugly Turn At Columbia U.
New York Sun, The (NY) - February 4, 2005
Author: SOL STERN and FRED SIEGEL Special to the SunSol Stern is writing “Israel without Apology” for Encounter Books. Fred Siegel is the author of the forthcoming “Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York, and the Genius of American Life,” also from Encounter Books.
You might think that Columbia University would be on its best academic behavior on the issue of the Middle East conflict these days. After all, several professors in the Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures, known as MEALAC, are credibly accused of anti-Semitism and intimidating pro-Israel students. The university’s president, Lee Bollinger, has appointed a committee to look into the charges. But even with the media spotlight on, Columbia apparently can’t help itself.
Last Monday night we attended a university panel on the Middle East conflict titled “One State or Two? Alternative Proposals for Middle East Peace.” Even the panel’s title was a giveaway that we were in for more anti-Israel bias on campus. The “one state” solution is a euphemism for the destruction of the Jewish state - a trope of the most extreme rejectionist elements within the Palestinian movement and their allies in Syria and Iran. Terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah want to create an Islamic Republic in place of Israel. A few splinter Marxist groups such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, founded by George Habash, offer the Jews a solution that’s far more “progressive.” They murder innocents merely to replace Israel with a “secular democratic” Palestine.
The scene at Columbia, with Spartacists handing out literature outside the packed auditorium and proponents of Palestinian military victory in the vast majority, was wildly at odds with the hopeful development on the ground, where Messrs. Sharon and Abbas are now scheduled to meet. One of the panelists was Mark Cohen, a Princeton historian of medieval Islam. He gave a measured scholarly presentation on the subject of Arab Muslim anti-Semitism, insisting that attacks on Jews in the Koran had little to do with hostility to Jews. It’s a debatable proposition. But professor Cohen never even engaged the issue at hand. He largely served as a prop for the ranting to follow.
Rashid Khalidi, a Columbia professor whose recent book argues that Yasser Arafat was right to reject the best peace deal he had ever been offered, opening the way to four years of bloodshed, presented a tendentious argument for a one-state solution that strained to stay within the bounds of reasoned discourse.
Then Joseph Massad took the floor, and the floodgates of hatred opened wide. Mr. Massad is one of the MEALAC professors accused of demanding of one Israeli student, “How many Palestinians did you kill today?” At the forum, he used the phrase “racist Israeli state” more than two dozen times. He used seemingly universalist language of anti-racism to drive a fascist argument. Mr. Massad is so extreme that he argued that Arafat was in effect an Israeli collaborator for even talking about compromise.
Whatever can be said of this rant, its “academic” content was hard to discern. But to judge by the applause he received, Mr. Massad was the star of the evening. Obviously, Mr. Massad, an acolyte of the dear departed George Habash, isn’t worried about President Bollinger’s panel, which includes three professors who have signed petitions demanding that all universities divest from Israel.
The final act of hatred came from the Israeli quisling “historian” Ilan Pappe, who has stated openly that his so-called scholarly work is an attempt to create a counter narrative to official Zionist historiography and to undermine the international legitimacy of the state of Israel. He bizarrely insisted that the destruction of Israel would pave the way for enhanced rights for women, and the feminist students in the audience cheered.
Instead of providing an alternative to hatred and extremism from both sides, this panel was a hate-fest masquerading as academic discourse. And this was no aberration attributable only to one misguided student group. In addition to Qanun, a Columbia Law School student group, the panel was cosponsored by the university chaplain, the Student Senate, and two of Columbia’s most prestigious academic affiliates: the Middle East Institute, headed by professor Khalidi, and the School of International and Public Affairs. SIPA’s dean, Lisa Anderson, was appointed by Mr. Bollinger to the committee looking into the charges against professor Massad - whose dissertation adviser she was.
Coming away from Monday night’s hate panel and then looking at this tangled web of conflicts of interest within the university, we realized that the issue of misconduct in the classroom by one or two professors, important though it is, is dwarfed by a more fundamental question: How did a great institution of higher learning allow itself to be transformed into a platform for vicious political propaganda and hate speech directed against one country, Israel?
Surely one crucial moment in this transformation was Columbia’s decision to raise $4 million - including a contribution from the United Arab Emirates - to create the Edward Said endowed chair in Arab studies, and then to give the prize to professor Khalidi. We don’t doubt that Mr. Khalidi has academic credentials. Compared to professors Massad and Pappe, he is a model of decorum and moderation. But when Columbia academic officials made this choice they knew they were getting a Palestinian political activist. From 1976 to 1982, Mr. Khalidi was a director in Beirut of the official Palestinian press agency, WAFA. Later he served on the PLO “guidance committee” at the Madrid peace conference.
In bringing professor Khalidi to Morningside Heights from the University of Chicago, Columbia also got itself a twofer of Palestinian activism and advocacy. Mr. Khalidi’s wife, Mona, who also served in Beirut as chief editor of the English section of the WAFA press agency, was hired as dean of foreign students at Columbia’s SIPA, working under Dean Anderson. In Chicago, the Khalidis founded the Arab American Action Network, and Mona Khalidi served as its president. A big farewell dinner was held in their honor by AAAN with a commemorative book filled with testimonials from their friends and political allies. These included the left wing anti-war group Not In My Name, the Electronic Intifada, and the ex-Weatherman domestic terrorists Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers . (There were also testimonials from then-state Senator Barack Obama and the mayor of Chicago.)
The message sent by Columbia University officials by this choice was that they were determined to honor the memory of Edward Said by continuing to have radical Palestinian activism on campus. That’s what they now have in spades. The question is whether it’s now possible within the university’s public space to even make an argument for the only democratic country in the Middle East.
A radical idea: Documenting insurrection
Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA) - September 7, 2003
Author: Steven Rea
“Revolution really was in the air,” says Bernardine Dohrn , the ‘60s radical who, along with a gang of her Weathermen cohorts, can be seen - in archival footage and new talking-head interviews - in The Weather Underground.
Dohrn , whose photogenic fashion sense (miniskirts, Jackie-O shades) made her one of the most visible members of the radical movement that sprang up on campuses during the Vietnam War, is captured at a 1969 news conference at the outset of Sam Green and Bill Siegel’s documentary, which opened Friday at the Ritz at the Bourse.
“There’s no way to be committed to nonviolence in the middle of the most violent society that history has ever created,” the young Dohrn , fresh out of law school, says, defending a philosophy that amounted to a declaration of war against the U.S. government, and ultimately forced her and her partners into years of hiding.
Dohrn and other leaders of the Weathermen, an offshoot of Students for a Democratic Society, went on the FBI’s most-wanted list, and continued to orchestrate the bombings of government and corporate targets. When a person was killed in one of its early attacks, the group declared it “a terrible error,” and tried to avert injuries in a series of later bombings, including one at the Capitol in Washington. But a Greenwich Village townhouse the Weathermen used was destroyed in an accidental explosion that killed three bombmakers.
“I think for a lot of people, it is a revelation to see what was going on,” Dohrn said on the phone from Northern California recently. “We’re taught a very pabulum version of radical history. Even Malcolm X gets domesticated. Certainly Martin Luther King gets domesticated in a way that is both kind of wonderful that he’s recognized, and really excruciating because the heart of what was so innovative about him is cut out of it. . . . Anybody who worked with him, of course, knows about the torment and the crises and the making it up as he went along, and just the tremendous pressure brought to bear on him to stop.
“So, taking peeks at history is always subversive and always shocking.”
The Weather Underground is a pretty intriguing “peek.” Although filmmakers Green and Siegel, both in their 30s, don’t ask all the hard questions they could have, their film does capture a moment, and a movement, in stark contrast to the times today.
“I’m not sure what we have to tell young people today, by the way,” says Dohrn , 61, a law professor at Northwestern University. “But I think just the discovery of history is itself an exciting thing.”
Through interviews with Dohrn , husband Bill Ayers , Naomi Jaffe, Mark Rudd, David Gilbert (serving a life sentence for a 1981 Brink’s armored-car robbery gone fatally awry), Brian Flanagan, and SDS cofounder Todd Gitlin, the film chronicles a time of heady idealism and insurgency. It also shows how these mostly white, upper-middle-class kids tried, often with awkward zeal, to ally themselves with militants such as the Black Panthers . (The Brink’s job, which involved the recently paroled Kathy Boudin, is barely mentioned in the movie.)
2 RADICALS GET TERMS IN SLAY-THEFTS
Philadelphia Daily News (PA) - February 15, 1984
Author: United Press International
A judge today sentenced former Black Panther SekouOdinga and revolutionary Silvia Baraldini to 40 years each for conspiracy and racketeering amid a bedlam of chants from black separatist supporters.
“I am a freedom fighter,” Odinga told U.S. District Court Judge Judge Kevin Thomas Duffy before his sentencing. “I am a prisoner of war.”
Twenty minutes later, in a separate sentencing, Baraldini echoed the same sentiments.
Odinga and Baraldini were the first of four defendants sentenced today - six months after convictions in the federal trial resulting from a series of armed robberies, including the $1.6 million Brink’s heist in which two policemen and a guard were killed.
Former Weather Underground leader Kathy Boudin and ex-convict Samuel Brown face similar charges in a state trial in White Plains, N.Y. Jury selection continued today in that case.
For the federal sentencings today, 30 spectators jammed into the tiny courtroom in Manhattan to chant support for Odinga , 39, and Baraldini, 35.
Members of the audience waved the green, black and red flags of the radical Republic of New Afrika, a group that seeks to annex five southern U.S. states for the creation of an independent black nation.
They repeatedly shouted “Free the Land” - the slogan of the RNA. At his sentencing, Odinga , dressed in a white Afrikan shirt and hat and green pants, called back “Free the Land.”
Odinga , who represented himself at the sentencing, in a statement painted the U.S. government and Duffy as “racist” and “fascist.”
Duffy, who had been silent until then, immediately imposed the maximum sentence on Odinga . He sentenced him to 40 years on the conspiracy and racketeering charges, and added a $50,000 fine.
“I will recommend he not be considered for parole,” Duffy said, as the audience hissed.
At her sentencing, in which she also received 40 years and a $50,000 fine, Baraldini derided Duffy for his “abuse of petty power” and the government for using “traitors” as prosecution witnesses.