In response to intense political pressure by multiple pro-Zionist organizations, the administration at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) recently decided to suspend Muslim students’ right to assemble and practice their faith together on campus. Alleging that emails anonymously “leaked” to the university prove that the Muslim Student Union was responsible for a protest of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s campus appearance by eight UCI students, the administration plans to suspend the more than 250-member Muslim Student Union for a year beginning in September, and place it under intense scrutiny and disciplinary probation if the student group is allowed to re-apply for recognition in the fall of 2011.
The student group is appealing this ban, contending that the MSU did not sponsor the protest, and that the students arrested for interrupting Oren’s speech were acting as individuals. Members have also challenged UCI’s decision to impose what their attorney Reem Salahi has described as “nothing but collective punishment” by suspending the entire group over a political protest.
Pointing to sustained efforts by powerful organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and the Zionist Organization of America, many are contending that UCI is allowing outside organizations to decide how it treats its students. Many of these organizations have publicly described their role in pushing the administration to suspend the student group, and have announced their intentions to undertake similar efforts on other campuses where students are organizing in defense of Palestinian rights.
While delivering a presentation on US-Israeli relations in February, Oren was interrupted several times by students who were outraged by his disregard for human rights and his attacks on the UN-commissioned Goldstone report. As a previous military spokesman for Israel, Oren defended Israel’s 2006 invasions of Lebanon and Gaza, its winter 2008-09 attack on Gaza, and touted his own role as a paratrooper during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon in the mainstream media. Although Oren eventually finished his presentation, the university had the 11 students who interrupted him arrested (eight were from UCI, three were from UC Riverside), and the eight UCI students were subsequently brought before the University Office of Judicial Affairs, which informed them that they may face criminal charges in addition to any other punishments the university decides to impose. Although they are all members of the MSU, the students maintained that the protest was not a MSU activity, and that they were acting as individuals (“11 Arrested for Disrupting Israeli Ambassador,” The Orange County Register, 8 February 2010).
The university publicly condemned the students who protested and, in response to demands from the Jewish Federation Orange County (JFOC) and other organizations initiated a Student Judiciary Review of the MSU. While this review was underway, someone anonymously delivered a collection of emails and other documents to the JFOC, the Investigative Project on Terrorism and the UCI that they claimed to have hacked from the MSU’s email account.
Despite its highly-suspect nature and unknown source, Lisa Cornish, head of the Judiciary Review and Senior Executive Director of Student Housing, based her findings almost exclusively on this “evidence” when she concluded that the MSU had violated parts of the Code of Conduct by “plan[ning] every detail of the disruptions” and then “covering up” its involvement by claiming that the protests were not an MSU activity. In her 27 May letter to the students, Cornish said that she planned to have the group’s recognition revoked on 1 September, require the members to complete fifty hours of community service, and have the group placed on disciplinary probation for an additional year if it was permitted to re-register in the fall of 2011 (“Letter to Muslim Student Union Officers” [PDF]). She did not, however, comment on whether the university planned to file criminal charges against the eight students who were actually responsible for the protests.
In light of these possible criminal charges, MSU’s attorney Salahi was unable to discuss the alleged evidence in detail. However, she maintained that the protesters were not acting on behalf of the MSU. She also said that much of the evidence presented was deeply flawed, and that the university’s punishment was entirely inappropriate, arguing that “all Muslim students on campus have been punished for the actions of a few.”
Salahi also pointed out the central role the MSU plays in the Muslim student community. While advocacy for Palestinian rights is one of their more frequently noticed activities, the MSU has also worked with different student and cultural groups on several social justice movements and community service projects. Last spring, UCI’s Cross Cultural Center recognized the MSU’s contribution to the university by awarding it the Social Justice Award.
The student group also facilitates daily and weekly prayers on campus, offers religious classes and organizes social events. Given its centrality to the Muslim student community, many students feel that their right to participate in the campus community as Muslims is being undermined. As newly-elected MSU President Asaad Triana observed, “depriving Muslim students a venue to associate jeopardizes their rights under the First Amendment and is an act of marginalization at a time when Muslim students and Muslim youth already feel besieged.”
The university’s decision to suspend the entire MSU has raised several questions about the role that outside pressure from several well-known anti-Palestinian organizations played in its decision. Husam Ayloush, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, observed that the disruption of Oren’s speech “was nothing but a peaceful and symbolic protest of the Israeli ambassador at UCI,” suggesting that the university’s response “appears to be politically motivated to silence any future peaceful and legitimate criticism of Israel’s brutal practices.”
Much of this political motivation came from well-known Zionist organizations like the Jewish Federation Orange County (JFOC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) — all of which openly demanded that the university suspend the entire student group after February’s protest.
The JFOC began attacking the MSU for its alleged “anti-Semitism” when the student group first began publicly criticizing Israeli policy nearly a decade ago. The JFOC immediately allied with campus groups like Hillel to pressure the administration to silence criticism of Israel, claiming that it intimidated Jewish students. The JFOC soon partnered with the ADL, which began to put even more media and political pressure on the administration to take action against the MSU.
The ZOA also joined in the effort, and began pressuring various contacts within the University of California administration to suspend the MSU. In a personal letter to UC President Mark Yudof, for instance, ZOA President Morton Klein condemned the UCI’s MSU along with the UC Santa Cruz’s Committee for Justice in Palestine, and accused the chancellors of both universities of being “grossly deficient” in their efforts to silence criticism of Israel (“Letter to Mark Yudof, Re: UC Irvine and UC Santa Cruz,” 8 August 2008 [PDF]).
Outraged by the protests against Oren, virtually every Zionist organization involved began calling for the MSU’s suspension in February. Although the ZOA placed itself at odds with several other organizations when it initiated a Jewish boycott of UCI, the different factions still managed to coordinate a fairly organized campaign to have the student group suspended.
The campaign against the MSU became so intense that its vice president, Hadeer Soliman, described it as an outright attack on the students’ “most basic rights of Freedom of Association,” and said that the MSU’s antagonists are “not seeking justice but rather censorship.”
As opposition to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people continues to grow, its apologists in the United States are focusing more of their energy and resources on silencing dissent on college campuses. While personal attacks on faculty are fairly common, the only other time an entire student group has faced punishment for a political protest was when UC Berkeley temporarily suspended its Students for Justice in Palestine group during an investigation in 2002. As MSU spokesperson Mahdis Keshavarz pointed out, the extent to which the university has allowed outside organizations to dictate its treatment of its students is both unprecedented and alarming. “By allowing an outside institution to come onto campus and influence its students standing,” she explained, “UCI is failing to protect them and setting a dangerous precedent.”
Such a precedent appears to be exactly what supporters of Israel are hoping for, as many of the organizations involved expressed their conviction that the MSU’s suspension will have a significant impact on other campuses. In its press release, the ZOA said the ruling “sends a powerful message to other colleges and universities … making it clear that this bigotry against Jews and the Jewish State will not be tolerated” (“ Muslim Student Union Suspended at UC Irvine“). The subtext to this message, it seems, is that all pretenses of academic freedom on the nation’s campuses have finally been discarded, and further objections to Israeli apartheid will be met with swift retaliation.
Describing the UCI’s vilification of its Muslim students as yet another “criminalization of Arab and Muslim political speech which has permeated the American university system in defiance of principles of racial and religious equality,” the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel recently released a statement of solidarity that condemned the administration’s attack on students’ “rights of free speech” and calling on them to “restore the integrity of the academy” by repealing its ban (“Statement Condemning Disciplinary Action against the Irvine 11 …,” 13 July 2010).
UCI’s decision to punish one of its student groups for a political protest is a direct threat to academic freedom and the right of students to organize and speak freely. As more right-wing organizations begin to target the academy, students in other social justice movements may soon find themselves under attack by outside organizations. While the precedent set by the UCI’s decision could intimidate some students into submission, others may respond by building stronger solidarity with students engaged in different and related struggles for social justice at home and abroad.
Brian Napoletano is a member of the International Socialist Organization and the former Public Relations officer for Purdue University Students for Justice in Palestine. He has previously written for The Palestine Chronicle, MRZine, and Socialist Worker. He can be reached via email at b.napoletano A T gmail D O T com.
By Philip Weiss on July 14, 2010
The Forward has an important story this week on Jews leaving Malmo, Sweden, because they are being targeted by Muslims there. The incidents that the piece describes are largely harassment, threats, expressions of rage.
And of course most of them turn on Israel:
Malmo, Sweden’s third-largest city, with a population of roughly 293,900 but only 760 Jews, reached a turning point of sorts in January 2009, during Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. A small, mostly Jewish group held a demonstration that was billed as a peace rally but seen as a sign of support for Israel. This peaceful demonstration was cut short when the demonstrators were attacked by a much larger screaming mob of Muslims and Swedish leftists who threw bottles and firecrackers at them as police seemed unable to stop the mounting mayhem.
The piece reflects the usual understanding in official Jewish circles about why people criticize Israel: “Criticism of Israel is a great way to express your anti-Semitism in an indirect way.”
Then there is this about free-floating Islam:
Swedish experts agree that integration of Muslims into Swedish society has failed, and this undermines the development of a more diverse society. Many pupils in heavily Muslim schools reject the authority of female teachers.
“We are Swedish but second- or third-class citizens,” said Mohammed Abnalheja, vice president of the Palestinian Home Association in Malmo. The organization teaches children of Palestinian descent about their bond to a Palestinian homeland. “We have a right to our country, Palestine,” he said. “Palestine is now occupied by Zionists.” Abnalheja was born to Palestinian parents in Baghdad and came to Malmo with his parents in 1996. He has never been to the place he calls Palestine…
“The place he calls Palestine” is unfortunate and insulting. Also, the Forward piece characterizes the Gaza rally as a “peace rally” that angered leftists. That rally was held as Israel was snuffing the lives of 400 children, and pouring white phosphorus on schools. No wonder it angered leftists.
This is actually what anti-Zionists said would happen, 65 years ago, when they warned that the creation of a Jewish state would sow discord. Or as the late Robert Lovett, architect of the Cold War, wrote when he was in the State Department under Truman (emphasis mine): “a number of people of the Jewish faith… hold the view that the present zeal of the Zionists can have the most dangerous consequences, not merely in their divisive effects in American life, but in the long run on the position of the Jews throughout the world.”
And lo, this has come to pass. Jews feel threatened because of the claims of Jewish nationalism… Full article
The CIA has lost one of its most valued former spies.
Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who defected to the US, is now on his way back home to Tehran after a very messy and public re-defection. ABC News obtained exclusive photos of Amiri leaving Washington’s Dulles International Airport late Tuesday night on a commercial flight to Doha, Qatar, en route to Iran.
Amiri was escorted directly to the jetway entrance by a security officer. He was flanked by what appeared to be a U.S. official and a representative from the Pakistani Embassy in Washington. He boarded the Qatar Airways flight ahead of the other passengers, and spoke only to his companions. After more than a year in the US, Amiri claimed he had never really defected. In a series of videos released on the internet, he insisted that he had been kidnapped, drugged and tortured by the CIA. The US flatly denies that it ever held Amiri against his will.
The Washington Post columnist and unofficial spokesman for the CIA, David Ignatius, attributes Amiri’s departure to a change of heart.
The CIA has struggled for decades with how to handle defectors better so that they are happy in a strange new land. The agency periodically tries to improve its tradecraft in working with these skittish guests. But defectors are trouble. They are like small boats in a heavy sea, not sure which way is home.
But Ignatius concedes that it is hard to understand why the Iranian scientist would have defected while leaving his wife and child behind. That detail, along with the deaths of Ardeshire Hassanpour and Masoud Alimohammadi, might seem to reinforce the claim that Amiri was in fact abducted and that all three cases be seen in the context of a US-backed, Israeli-led covert war targeting Iran’s nuclear programme.
What seems more likely however, is that the Iranians took the CIA for a ride — that Amiri’s “defection” took place so that Iran could glean more about the extent of American knowledge about its nuclear program and that the information he gathered was more valuable than the information he gave away.
One day after Portugal welcomed Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, Lisbon says it will summon Israel’s ambassador over a strongly-worded statement criticizing the step.
“The ambassador of Israel will be summoned,” a Portuguese foreign ministry spokesman told reporters on Wednesday.
In his statement on Tuesday, Israel’s envoy to Portugal, Ehud Gol, called Iran a “pariah regime” and urged the country against dialogue with Tehran.
“It is extraordinarily surprising and disappointing that some European countries are acting contrary to the decisions of the European institution of which they are a part,” said the statement sent to the Portuguese news agency, LUSA.
“By opening their doors to senior representatives of this pariah regime, these countries are sending a dangerously ambiguous message to Tehran,” Gol added. The remarks came ahead of a meeting between Mottaki and his Portuguese counterpart Luis Amado on Tuesday.
While in Lisbon, the top Iranian diplomat is also slated to hold talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, whose country — along with Brazil — has been urging a diplomatic end to the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.
Israel, which is believed to possess nuclear weapons and has for decades rebuffed calls to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), accuses Iran of harboring a secret military nuclear program.
Tehran, Ankara and Brasilia issued a joint nuclear fuel swap declaration on May 17. Three weeks after the initiative, the UN Security Council approved a Washington-drafted sanctions resolution targeting Iran’s financial and military sectors. However, in recent weeks, the European Union has urged the resumption of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the six major world powers.
A former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton says that the only thing which can rescue Barack Obama’s increasingly tenuous grip on power as his approval figures continue to plunge is a terror attack on the scale of Oklahoma City or 9/11, another startling reminder that such events only ever serve to benefit those in authority.
Buried in a Financial Times article about Obama’s “growing credibility crisis” and fears on behalf of Democrats that they could lose not only the White House but also the Senate to Republicans, Robert Shapiro makes it clear that Obama is relying on an October surprise in the form of a terror attack to rescue his presidency.
“The bottom line here is that Americans don’t believe in President Obama’s leadership,” said Shapiro, adding, “He has to find some way between now and November of demonstrating that he is a leader who can command confidence and, short of a 9/11 event or an Oklahoma City bombing, I can’t think of how he could do that.”
Shapiro’s veiled warning should not be dismissed lightly. He was undersecretary of commerce for economic affairs during Clinton’s tenure in the Oval Office and also acted as principal economic adviser to Clinton in his 1991-1992 campaign. Shapiro is now Director of the Globalization Initiative of NDN and also Chair of the Climate Task Force. He is a prominent globalist who has attended numerous Bilderberg Group meetings over the past decade.
Shapiro is clearly communicating the necessity for a terror attack to be launched in order to give Obama the opportunity to unite the country around his agenda in the name of fighting terrorists, just as President Bush did in the aftermath of 9/11 when his approval ratings shot up from around 50% to well above 80%.
Similarly, Bill Clinton was able to extinguish an anti-incumbent rebellion which was brewing in the mid 1990’s by exploiting the OKC bombing to demonize his political enemies as right-wing extremists. As Jack Cashill points out, Clinton “descended on Oklahoma City with an approval rating in the low 40s and left town with a rating well above 50 and the Republican revolution buried in the rubble.”
… Shapiro is by no means the first to point out that terror attacks on U.S. soil and indeed anywhere in the world serve only to benefit those in positions of power.
CNN host Rick Sanchez admitted on his show this week that the deadly bombings in Uganda which killed 74 people were “helpful” to the military-industrial complex agenda to expand the war on terror into Africa.
During the latter years of the Bush presidency, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld mused with Pentagon top brass that shrinking Capitol Hill support for expanding the war on terror could be corrected with the aid of another terror attack.
Lt.-Col. Doug Delaney, chair of the war studies program at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, told the Toronto Star in July 2007 that “The key to bolstering Western resolve is another terrorist attack like 9/11 or the London transit bombings of two years ago.”
The same sentiment was also explicitly expressed in a 2005 GOP memo, which yearned for new attacks that would “validate” the President’s war on terror and “restore his image as a leader of the American people.”
In June 2007, the chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party Dennis Milligan said that there needed to be more attacks on American soil for President Bush to regain popular approval.
Given the fact that a terror attack on U.S. soil will only serve to rescue Barack Obama’s failing presidency, and will do absolutely nothing to further the aims of any so-called “right wing extremists” the attack is blamed on, who should we suspect as the masterminds behind any such acts of terror? Surely not Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief string puller, the son of an Israeli terrorist who helped bomb hotels and marketplaces, and the man who once said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste….an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.” … Full article
Hollman Morris is known in Colombia for path-breaking journalism, but US wont let him into the country for a Harvard fellowship.
Hollman Morris is a Colombian journalist who has received dozens of international awards for his work uncovering atrocities and human rights abuses in the decade’s-long armed conflict in his country.
But the United States apparently views him as a terrorist. (More on this terrorist thing later).
For many years Morris, an independent television journalist, has risked his life trekking to remote (and dangerous) corners of Colombia to talk to victims of Colombia’s war. When there were allegations of the Colombia military or paramilitaries killing innocent people in a far away corner of the country, many journalists would report the story with a few press releases and phone calls from the comfort of Bogota. If it was reported at all. Not Morris. He would go to the source, often walking through the jungle for days to get to the location, speak to people, and find out what happened, and put it on television.
At its best, Morris’s work has led him to uncover evidence of atrocities potentially committed by actors of the state. At minimum, his reporting has often thrown doubt on official government positions few other journalists seem dare to challenge.
By all accounts, this has infuriated the outgoing president, Alvaro Uribe, who has publicly insinuated Morris is a terrorist sympathiser because of his interviews with the Farc guerilla group.
Morris and his family, including his young daughter, were victims of illegal spying by Colombia’s spy agency, the DAS (among a handful of other journalists, lawyers, judges, opposition politicians, and human rights activists). Human rights groups say it was a deliberate attempt to dig up any personal dirt they could find on him to squash his reporting. The scandal was so big, the agency was going to be dismantled, but as of yet it has not.
Regarding the Farc, it’s true Morris has interviewed Farc commanders over the years. But so have countless other journalists from Colombia and abroad. If Colombia threw in jail every reporter who has had contact with the Farc, the jails would be full overnight.
But Morris’s critics – and there are many in Colombia – largely fail to recognise only a small portion of his stories deal with the Farc; most of his pieces have a razor sharp focus on human rights, giving a true and authentic platform for those otherwise with no outlet to tell their story.
It is true that because Morris aggressively pursues stories on the ‘front lines’ of conflict, he often finds himself in sticky situations. Like last year when he recorded brief interviews with several Farc hostages moments before they were granted freedom, a move that was criticised by some in Colombia as Morris allowing himself to be used by the Farc to promote a propaganda agenda. In journalism theory class, maybe so. But when in the jungles of Colombia caught in between a firefight between rebels and the Army (as Morris has been on several occasions) perhaps things are not as clear at the time.
And unlike many other journalists, Morris isn’t afraid to give his personal viewpoints on President Uribe (especially after the government spying scandal against him), thrusting himself into the realm of activist-journalists, according to his critics.
But he and his brother, Juan Pablo – who is the executive producer at their Bogota-based Morris Productions – are recognised as respected, top shelf journalists by many people. They have done documentaries for Discovery Channel, European channels, and for many years had an independent programme on Colombian public TV called Contravia, partially funded by a grant from the European Union.
I first met Hollman and Juan Pablo almost eight years ago. We have since crossed paths in Peru, Honduras, Washington DC, and several times in Colombia. They have both worked for Al Jazeera on numerous occasions on a freelance basis, and specifically helped me on stories.
But the crowning recognition of Morris’s journalistic aptitude was being awarded a prestigious Nieman Fellowship at Harvard, where he was going to join an elite group of other journalist’s from around the world in this years class, and step back from his day-to-day reporting to study human rights issues that could enhance his theoretical understanding of the issues he reports on back at home.
But right as Hollman was making final preparations to head off to Harvard, brushing up on his English, the US government branded him with another label: “Terrorist”. As the Associated Press pointed out, his visa to study in the United States was denied, as US officials told him he was ineligible on grounds of a ‘terrorist activities’ section of the US Patriot Act.
Of course, US Embassy officials in Bogota won’t comment on individual cases.
So the speculation from human rights groups interviewed in a recent Washington Post article about the case, is that the Uribe administration – Washington’s closest friend in Latin America this decade under the George W Bush administration – orchestrated the visa rejection because of Morris’s reporting that questioned Uribe’s policies. Now some are pinning it on the Obama Administration.
I won’t pretend to know what the truth is on why the visa was denied and what role – if any – the Uribe administration played. It is no secret Morris’s reports over the years have annoyed Uribe to no end, and thus Uribe has tagged him a conspirator with terrorists, regardless of the fact he has never been charged with any such a crime. Groups such as Human Rights Watch protested Uribe’s comments.
The larger question is: What exactly is the objection from the US government to having an internationally recognised Colombian journalist do a Harvard-sponsored fellowship? What exactly is the evidence of his terrorist activities, or how exactly is he in violation of the Patriot Act?
Maybe ironically, the same US Embassy in Bogota that rejected his study visa to Harvard, singled him out in a 1997 human right report as having to flee the country because of death threats from illegal armed actors (scroll down to the section titled “Freedom of Speech and Press” in the link above).
The Committee to Protect Journalists has sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking her department to reconsider Morris’s case.
For their part, the Nieman Foundation appears to stand behind Morris, but that is a small consequence because without a visa there is no chance to take part in the fellowship.
One of the comments by a reader identified as “vaalex” in the Washington Post article about the case said this: “His (Morris’s) work is too important to interrupt by wasting time at Harvard. The State Dept. decision is a blessing in disguise.”
A backhanded compliment to Morris, I guess, but still probably little consolation.
Because after Morris was accepted to Harvard, at first glance, one would think the US State Department would have opened the door and patted him on the shoulder with congratulations. Instead, the State Department slammed the door and slapped him across the face and branded him with the terrorist label.