In the immediate aftermath of the bloodbath perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists, the Institute for Palestine Studies showcased a star-studded cast of Palestinian terrorist sympathizers posing as scholars. Without the slightest acknowledgement of the murder of Jewish innocents that hung in the shadow of the event, the panel lamented the “criminalization” of pro-Palestinian activism.
Prior to the seminar, a pleasant older woman initiated a conversation with me. She is from “Palestine” and is in the U.S. visiting her children. One of her sons moved to Lebanon years ago to join the PLO. He’s been “missing” since the Lebanese civil war in 1976. However, she and all her children are “very active” in the Palestinian cause. Her “geography” and “religion” require it.
In an audience packed with pro-Palestinian activists, held at SEIU headquarters in Washington, DC, a panel on the “Legal Assault on Palestinian Rights Activism” began. It was moderated by Rashid Khalidi, an activist of Palestinian descent, whose views are so skewed that the ADL accused him of manipulating history and distorting reality to the point where it is “unrecognizable.” His views on Palestine go well beyond mere support for “oppressed” Palestinians. In past talks, he identified with the PLO so strongly that he repeatedly included himself by stating “we” when discussing the PLO’s agenda. But that didn’t stop Columbia University from making him the head of its Middle East studies division and giving him a professorship teaching classes to unwitting students. Not surprisingly, Khalidi is also good friends with President Barack Obama.
Khalidi started the two hour seminar by asserting that “those who oppose Palestinian rights have a hard time when the story gets out. No one wants to be an advocate of colonization, unequal rights and oppression.” The pro-Palestinian view is exploding in churches, unions, and most of all, on college campuses. According to Khalidi, it is only “ignorance”, “disinformation and misinformation” that leads Americans to hold a “Zionist viewpoint.”
Andrew Dalack, with the Palestine Subcommittee of the National Lawyer’s Guild, provides legal support for pro-Palestinian activists. His most notorious client was Rasmea Odeh, who currently sits in jail awaiting sentencing on her conviction for immigration fraud. Twice, she lied on her application for citizenship to the U.S., falsely claiming she had no criminal record. In fact, she had been imprisoned in Israel on a terrorist conviction for blowing up a grocery store, killing numerous innocent civilians. She also was active with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, though according to her attorney, she joined prior to its designation as a terrorist organization. Dalack, a young, articulate attorney, had an excuse for every aspect of Odeh’s situation. She misunderstood the application’s question, she really wasn’t guilty of the charge despite her conviction, she said the IDF personnel raped and tortured her, and the U.S. judge on her case was a “Zionist”.
When DHS arrested her at her home, she became the “face” of a national movement. Dalak explained that “if you come after one Palestinian, you come after all of us.” To him, the real reason Odeh was indicted was her pro-Palestinian “activism”. “Now”, he stated, “we are all under the government’s magnifying glass.” And, in a theme that would weave itself throughout the seminar, he insisted that prosecutions were “selective” due to political views and intended to intimidate.
Dima Khalidi, (Rashid Khalidi’s daughter) is an attorney who started an organization called “Palestine Solidarity Legal Support” (PSLS). It works closely with the far-left Center for Constitutional Rights, largely funded by George Soros. Her organization provides legal assistance, advocacy, and interventionism for pro-Palestinian activists, especially on college campuses. Their activities, sparked by Cast Lead’s “assault on Gaza” and the growth of the BDS movement, should all be protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment she explained. Her presentation expressed two themes. First, was that it’s the government’s intent to “silence, crush and criminalize” pro-Palestinian activity. Second, “Zionist groups” pressure the U.S. government to repress activism and “the government follows suit.” She claimed that the NSA and the NYPD visited “coffee shops, barbershops and everywhere a Muslim can be found” in order to collect information. Pro-Palestinian activists are treated “disparately” from others, receiving “selective prosecutions.” She insisted that the government “targets” Palestinians simply for fundraising. She cited the freezing of Islamic charities like the Holy Land Foundation and the prosecution of Sami al-Arian, who sits in jail on a terrorism-related conviction. Khalidi completely omitted that these charities funnel money to Hamas, a State-designated terrorist organization.
Khalidi also complained of activities that “chill speech.” Ironically, she cited as support for her claim, the arrest of eleven students at UC Irvine, who shouted down Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, preventing him from speaking. The students, warned in advance of the consequences, were arrested for disrupting a public event. To Khalidi, removing the silencers of speech constitutes the “chilling of speech”.
Additionally, she asserted that allegations by “Zionist organizations” that Palestinian groups are funneling money to Hamas are “inciting law enforcement investigations”. Apparently, it’s irrelevant whether or not the allegations are true. She is “heartened” to see how many people are “willing to stick their necks out and not be silenced.”
Yaman Salahi, an attorney who focuses on free speech issues, whined about the flood of civil rights complaints filed against pro-Palestinian activists on campuses, for creating a hostile environment for Jewish students. For example, there were complaints at UC Berkeley when the Muslim Students Association and Students for Justice in Palestine made mock military checkpoints. They held fake rifles to the students’ heads and demanded to know their religion before allowing them to pass. Pretending that the IDF aims assault weapons at every Palestinian passing through, Salahi proclaimed that student civil rights charges are “exaggerated”. “We’re not talking about bona-fide anti-Jewish hate speech. It’s legitimate activism.” What the IDF does to Palestinians in real life is “worse”.
He, and others on the panel repeatedly held up Jewish Voice for Peace, (another Soros-funded organization,) to support the notion that even some Jews agree with their anti-Israel sentiment. He dismissed the argument that their activities disrupt campus life, because, he explained, that is the whole point of campus activism. He also omitted the fact that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries largely fund U.S. Middle East Studies programs, giving them a pro-Arab bias. He wailed about calls to Congress demanding professors to provide “balanced” perspectives. Though unequal funding of viewpoints is prohibited by Title VI of the Higher Education Act, the process has been “abused.” Salahi failed to mention that the purpose of Title VI is to provide education that would best serve the national security interests of the U.S. Despite this, almost all of UCLAS’s Middle East professors are pro-Palestinian, as are they are at most universities.
Steven Salaita is a former English professor at Virginia Tech, who claims he was recently “fired” from a tenured position at the University of Illinois for tweets he made in his private capacity. He marveled at the “sophistication” and “intelligence” of pro-Palestinian activism on campuses, but lamented its “criminalization.” According to Salaita, schools want their students to be “automatans” and “unthinking subjects”. When “Zionist activists” are unable to make progress, they rely on punitive modes to prevent the conversation from showing both sides. He claimed that “Zionists” cannot make the case to support Israel. Instead, they merely oppose BDS efforts. He criticized those who point out that Israel is singled out disproportionately in the UN, (where it suffers more resolutions for its human rights violations than all other countries combined). It’s “annoying” and “stupid”, he stated. “Israel singled itself out” when it said that “it’s a light unto the world” and has a “higher standard of morality”. With venom in his voice he declared, “[N]othing makes a Zionist more compassionate than human rights violations in China. That really tugs at their heartstrings.”
Omitting the fact that Hamas uses hospitals, schools and mosques as human shields, Salaita asserted that Israel admits it bombs children, but “blames Hamas” to avoid taking responsibility.
He also suggested that the issue should not be framed as pro-Palestinian activism, but as “another mode of American oppression”. These “Zionist tactics” are part of a pattern around the country, demonstrating American imperialization, oppression, and criminalization. That’s why the pro-Palestinian groups are joining forces with labor unions and other “oppressed” groups.
In fact, Salaita was never made a firm offer for the job at the University of Illinois. He went through the interviews but his name was withheld from the appointment process when the content of his tweets came to light. During the seminar, he conveniently omitted the comments, but here are a few examples: “Zionism: transforming ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible to something honorable since 1948”, “Zionists take responsibility: if your dream of an ethnocratic Israel is worth the murder of children, just fucking own it already”, “Will you condemn Hamas? No. Why not? Because Hamas isn’t the one incinerating your children you disingenuous prick.” “If Netenyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth from Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised?” “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I hope all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing!”
Yet, now, Salaita presents himself as the champion of “free speech” and “academic freedom”. Rather than the hate-filled, anti-Semite that he is, he has become a hero of the pro-Palestinian movement and claims that he is being penalized for nothing more than presenting an unpopular political point of view.
The First Amendment prohibits laws that restrict freedom of speech. Salaita and his pals are free to say whatever they want, but they don’t have the “right” to any particular job. The University of Illinois stated that it was concerned he wouldn’t show respect for students of different viewpoints. His tweets prove their point. His claim of “viewpoint discrimination” belies the fact that college campuses abound with pro-Palestinian professors and yet, it is only he who was singled out.
The actions that the panelists are defending under the pretext of “free speech” often constitute, in legal terms, harassment, intimidation and even battery. Yet, the lawyers on this panel thought that campuses should be disrupted, and students should be upset, and that indeed, the college isn’t doing its job if the students “leave with the same viewpoints they came in with.” Not one of them made a distinction between actual intellectual viewpoint diversity provided in college classrooms and intimidation on college campuses, engaged in by “activists” who often include people not connected to the university. They made no distinction between spewing forth hatred and intellectual enlightenment. They omitted at least half the story by failing to acknowledge terrorism coming from Hamas and other Palestinians, when criticizing Israel’s violent actions. Panelists argued that Israel is not defending herself, but is an “apartheid” state, committing genocide on an oppressed people.
It was clear that every single panelist supports Hamas and does not consider it a terrorist organization. The actions of Hamas and others like it constitute “pro-Palestinian activism.” Every time a “charity” is frozen or a Palestinian is convicted on terrorism charges after trial, it is because the Judge or the prosecutor is a “Zionist”. The word Zionist was thrown around as a broad term for anything and everything they disliked. In some cases, like with Salaita, it was clearly code for “Jew” which of course is always evil. If Palestinians commit crimes in the U.S., it is not really a crime, but is the fault of U.S. collaboration with Israel, “Zionist” groups “enciting” government action, or America’s Zionist government itself. Anything short of contemplating that Palestinian sympathizers funding State-designated terrorist organizations, harassing students, shouting derogatory epithets or tweeting anti-“Zionist” hatred is less than virtuous was totally absent from this seminar.
The purpose of Title VI was to ensure that students would learn languages with which they were unfamiliar as well about various regions of the world, in order to secure American national security interests. It has clearly gone awry. This presentation was a skewed, hate-filled and one-sided seminar. But it was only one seminar. What is really frightening is that each panelist represents and works with numerous organizations that preach the same hatred. Under the guise of free speech and human rights these “scholars” and pro-Palestinian lawyers” work to violate both.
Deborah Weiss, Esq. is a contributing author to “Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Terrorist Network” and the author for “Council on American-Islamic Relations: It’s Use of Lawfare and Intimidation.” Her work can be found at www.vigilancenow.org