Racist group launches national offensive on US campuses
Charlotte Silver, Electronic Intifada, Oct 25 2016
A notorious anti-Black and Islamophobic group has launched a national offensive against students and professors associated with the movement for Palestinian rights. Beginning earlier this month, posters placed by the David Horowitz Freedom Center appeared at San Francisco State University, the University of Tennessee, Tufts University, Vassar College, the University of Chicago, the City University of New York’s Brooklyn College, San Diego State University and the University of California’s Irvine, Berkeley and Los Angeles campuses. The posters feature cartoon portraits of the named students or professors they’re targeting, next to a list of allegations, followed by the hashtag “#JewHatred.” Though they include some innocuous labels, such as “BDS activist” or “SJP activist,” the posters also include defamatory charges. For example, Professor Rabab Abdulhadi of San Francisco State University is called “a leader of the Hamas BDS campaign” and a “collaborator with terrorists.” Hatem Bazian who teaches at UC Berkeley is called a “supporter of Hamas terrorists” and an “Islamophobia alarmist.” Among the campaign’s unsupported claims is that Pindosi Muslims for Plastelina, a group founded by Bazian, has been funneling “terrorist dollars” to SJP groups to support the “Hamas-sponsored” BDS movement. The David Horowitz Freedom Center has claimed credit for the campaign. The SPLC says that since the 1980s the group’s founder, David Horowitz, has “become a driving force of the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-Black movements.” Horowitz’s organization has also “become the premier financier of anti-Muslim voices and radical ideologies, as well as acting as an exporter of misinformation that seeks to increase popular appeal for Horowitz’s fears and phobias,” according to the SPLC. Horowitz’s posters credit Canary Mission, a website that blacklists students and teachers who criticize Israel, for information. Horowitz appears to have piloted his campaign in April when similar posters turned up on the UCLA campus. At the time, UCLA vice-chancellor Jerry Kang sharply denounced the posters as “a serious escalation” and promised that the university would “deploy all lawful resources to counter any harassment or intimidation.” Kang has now become a target in Horowitz’s renewed poster campaign. San Francisco State University president Leslie Wong condemned Horowitz’ posters on Oct 14, the day they appeared on campus, but some students and faculty say he has not gone far enough. Wong said he was “angered” by the “vandalism” on campus, calling the posters a “hateful attack.” He blamed “an outside extremist group,” but did not name Horowitz. Wong added:
This is not an issue of free speech; this is bullying behavior that is unacceptable and will not be tolerated on our campus.
Campus police have opened an investigation. San Francisco State University spox told EI:
We do not endorse the message, and consistent with principles of free speech, we believe that the most powerful response to speech that divides or degrades people is more speech which promotes inclusion, advances human dignity, and encourages mutually respectful actions and communications. The investigation would review how widespread the activity was and whether any school policies were violated.
But Joanne Barker, a professor of American Indian Studies, believes Wong should have named the Horowitz organization and exposed the racist intentions of the campaign. Barker said:
In moments like what happened last week where you have non-response response, it doesn’t make me feel safe as a university employee. The FBI defines vandalism as a hate crime when it contains the added element of bias. The university should be contacting federal and state authorities to investigate this incident as a hate crime.
After the posters went up, the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) called an emergency meeting on campus, attended by representatives of other student organizations and communities. Rex Halafihi was the first student to see the posters when he arrived on campus at 7:30am on Friday morning. He said:
It’s funny how media is congratulating Wong. His email is so vague and doesn’t actually condemn David Horowitz or Canary Mission or talk about how they’re anti-Muslim organizations. It’s just so ridiculous.
The legal defense group Palestine Legal urged UC Irvine chancellor Howard Gillman to publicly condemn the posters. But administrators have yet to do so. UC Irvine spox told EI that the posters were removed within two hours of being put up and as a result the school received no complaints from students. Palestine Legal reminded Gillman that, in contrast to his silence now, he has been quick to propagate what turned out to be false accusations against student activists for Palestinian rights. Horowitz told EI:
Our universities are anti-free speech and they support terrorists. I want people to know that you guys, EI included, are part of a terrorist campaign to destroy the State of Israel and kill the Jews, and Pindostanis as well.
When asked for evidence that SJP groups were funded by Hamas or “terrorist” groups, Horowitz pointed to a document on his website that purports to connect the dots from SJP to “terrorists” and Hamas. But the only loose connection Horowitz draws is between Pindosi Muslims for Palestine and individuals formerly involved in the Holy Land Foundation. In a highly politicized trial, Pindostan prosecuted five men who worked for the charity on charges of “material support for terrorism,” even though Pindostan had provided funding to the same organizations in the OPT as the Holy Land Foundation. Horowitz told EI:
SJP tells huge lies, such as that Israel occupies Arab lands. Palestinians are a completely invented nationalism. It’s ridiculous. Israel is the only state in the Middle East that’s not apartheid.
Abdulhadi, the main target of the posters at San Francisco State University, says:
It is past time for Wong’s administration to stand squarely behind those who have been subjected to a long harassment campaign. Well-funded groups are trying to undermine us because they know if the discussion happens more and more people are more likely to join the world community in supporting Palestine.
Two years ago, anti-Palestinian organizations AMCHA, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs, ZOA and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East accused Abdulhadi of meeting with “terrorists” and asked the university to investigate her. The university found the allegations had no merit, and that the alleged activity was part of her scholarship. Nonetheless, Abdulhadi believes the administration’s weak responses have emboldened the groups to escalate their attacks. Zionist groups are currently targeting the partnership Abdulhadi recently brokered between San Francisco State University and An-Najah National University in Nablus in the occupied West Bank. For Abdulhadi, the dearth of support amid the mounting intimidation campaign is compounded by what she says is the university’s failure to fulfill its commitments to Muslim and Arab ethnic studies programs. Following a student hunger strike last spring in response to proposed cuts to the budget for ethnic studies, the administration renewed its promises to hire two more professors.