Berkeley Intifada 

As students embrace the Palestinian cause, UC Berkeley has lost whatever reputation it may once have had for tolerance.

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UC Berkeley has attracted the scrutiny of Campus Watch more than once; a page on is devoted entirely to articles concerning Cal and its faculty. Hatem Bazian recently earned himself a place on its home page for comments he made at an April 10 San Francisco antiwar rally. "Are you angry?" Bazian asked the Civic Center crowd. "Well, we've been watching intifada in Palestine, we've been watching an uprising in Iraq. ... How come we don't have an intifada in this country? ... It's about time that we have an intifada in this country that changes fundamentally the political dynamics in here. ... They're gonna say some Palestinian being too radical. Well, you haven't seen radicalism yet!" Waving signs bearing slogans such as "Support armed resistance in Iraq" and "Support Our Mutineers," the crowd cheered his speech; he has been defending his statements in forums such as The O'Reilly Factor ever since. Bazian, who can recall being stripped naked at the Israeli border and being humiliated at Israeli checkpoints, takes palpable pride in pointing out that the vast majority of Cal students fighting for Palestine have never been there and are not even Muslim. "It's not unique that white students would support a Muslim issue," he mused in an interview shortly after the Pipes lecture. "Young people simply see that there is an injustice being perpetrated, and they rally around it. Look at the civil rights movement in the '60s -- the lunch-counter protest was led by university students."

Unsurprisingly, there's no love lost between Bazian and Pipes. "The quote-unquote scholarly Daniel Pipes belongs to a think tank -- which is an oxymoron in terms of him," Bazian said. "He just wants attention, bringing his circus around. You know what they say: People with small intellects go after those with large intellects."

Pipes' organization has directed even heavier scrutiny upon Cal's Center for Middle Eastern Studies. In 1998, the Saudi Arabia-based Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud Foundation gave the school $5 million to establish the Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud Program in Arab and Islamic Studies. Named for Saudi Arabia's second deputy prime minister, it comprises a visiting professorship, visiting scholars, a graduate fellows program, a research fund, an outreach fund, and a luxe new facility in Stephens Hall. Presented with the donation by Prince Faisal bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud in November of that year, Chancellor Robert Berdahl declared the university "delighted to accept this gift from our friends in Saudi Arabia." subsequently posted an article noting that families of 9/11 victims had jointly filed a $1 trillion class-action suit implicating Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud in the attacks, alleging that he had failed to curtail the channeling of charity money into terrorist organizations.

University officials maintain that the Center for Middle Eastern Studies operates under no obligation to its donors, pointing out that the center also receives funding from the Diller Family Jewish Studies and Israeli Visiting Scholars Program. Cal alum Helen Diller established the program last year because she was disturbed by the fervency of anti-Israel protests on campus and because she felt Israel was not well represented at the center. However, tensions flared when the university chose as its first Diller visiting professor the Israeli geographer Oren Yiftachel, an outspoken advocate for the Palestinian cause.

Although the center recently hosted a conference titled "Islamicizing Space in the Cosmopolis," the names of courses offered through the center hardly have a sinister ring to them. Among those offered next fall are "Harems and Court Cultures," "Multicultural Europe," "Medieval Hebrew Poetry," and "Introduction to Byzantine Civilization." And Prince Bandar, for his part, decried as "a crime" Yasir Arafat's refusal to accept the peace deal brokered by President Bill Clinton in 2001. But it is what might go on in such classrooms that worries

Other supporters of Israel worry too. Jesse Gabriel, who was student body president in 2002, became concerned after enrolling in an introductory Middle Eastern history course during one of his first semesters at Cal.

"I purposely sought one out that was being taught by a Palestinian professor, because I figured I can't learn if I'm only studying stuff I already know and already agree with," he recalled. But as the term progressed, "there were things my professor said in class that were completely offensive to me. My professor did several lectures on the Israel-Palestine conflict and did not mention terrorism once. There was no discussion of Israel's security situation. It was very one-sided."

All around him, Gabriel saw eager first-year students accepting it all as the whole story. "This is a very big university, an internationally known university that is very highly rated for its scholarship," he said. "There are no faculty members willing to stand up and defend Israel -- and very many who are willing to stand up and criticize it." Associate Professor Beshara Doumani declined to discuss Gabriel's claim, lamenting the frequency with which such challenges are being leveled at Middle Eastern studies instructors nationwide, fueled by the muckraking of Campus Watch and similar groups.

Gabriel, who grew up in a largely Jewish community just north of the San Fernando Valley, where Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were official holidays at the public schools he attended, said he "honestly never encountered anyone who was anti-Semitic or anti-Israel" -- until he came to Cal. "I used to think anti-Semitism was something you encountered in history books about what happened in Berlin in 1939," said the political-science major. "But my first stepping foot on campus in 2000 coincided exactly with the outbreak of the Al Aqsa intifada. So for a lot of students my age, their experience in dealing with the increase of violence in the Middle East has defined their identities."

When Gabriel was settling into life on campus, he frequently sported a favorite T-shirt whose front bore the Coca-Cola logo in Hebrew. When Jewish friends warned him that by wearing the T-shirt he was "asking for trouble," he snorted in disbelief. But the logo did spark hostility, he said, just as Micki Weinberg said his yarmulke had attracted "dirty looks."

Perhaps no classroom dispute at Cal has acquired the same level of notoriety as when student Susanna Klein claimed last August that her Arabic-language instructor had defended The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a legitimate historical document. Those were fighting words. In a letter to College of Letters and Science executive dean Ralph Hexter, Klein wrote that Iraqi-born doctoral candidate Abbas Kadhim had "announced before the entire class during a discussion on Zionism that he believes that the infamous text The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is not an anti-Semitic forgery but was in fact written by Jews." She also filed complaints with other university officials, calling for Kadhim's dismissal.

One of the world's fiercest works of propaganda, the Protocols purport to be the minutes of a meeting in which Jewish leaders outline a strategy for taking over the world. Since it first started circulating in 1897, the document has been conclusively discredited by major international scholars, who have outed it as a fake contrived by Russian officers in Czar Nicholas II's secret police. In a landmark 1993 case, a Russian court ruled that the Protocols is an anti-Semitic forgery. Details of its provenance have emerged: As early as 1921, the London Times ran a series of articles demonstrating that the Protocols are derived from Dialogues in Hell, a political satire authored in 1864 by French lawyer Maurice Joly. Extensive passages of the Protocols match passages in Dialogues nearly word for word. But it still finds large and eager audiences. Distributed by the Nation of Islam, widely available on the Internet, a popular seller in bookstores from Argentina to Croatia to Japan, the Protocols are also widely taken for truth throughout the Arab world. A major Egyptian publisher issued a new edition in 2002. That year, Egyptian state television aired Horseman Without a Horse, a thirty-part miniseries based on the Protocols.

Klein's letter to Dean Hexter continued: "I asked Mr. Kadhim if he was being serious about his claim. He assured me that he was 100 percent certain in his belief that Jews were behind the Protocols. ... I am disgusted that UC Berkeley is giving a forum to an ignorant, anti-Semitic, and prejudiced individual." Klein also posted her complaint on the Web site.

In his subsequent rebuttal, also on that site, Kadhim defended his teaching methods but pointedly avoided mentioning the Protocols. However, he was quoted elsewhere as saying that he had merely been "explaining the conventional wisdom of Iraqis" and that when push came to shove he couldn't be certain who authored the Protocols. "I know some people say it is a forgery and some people say it is not," he told The Jewish Bulletin, "but it is not my job or duty to know the details." In a letter to UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, who took an interest in the case and began a correspondence, Kadhim elaborated further: "As you know, this issue of authenticity and the identity of the author -- or authors -- of the Protocols has not been settled ... I am not in the business of endorsing one view over the other." Today, nearly a year after the incident, Kadhim calls it a sad episode. "It was an absolutely false accusation," he said. "At this time, I believe that it does not deserve to be dignified by any more discussion."

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