Campus Watch Research
Hatem Bazian: Berkeley's Israel Boycott Advocate
by Cinnamon Stillwell and Rima Greene
Hatem Bazian, a senior lecturer in the department of Near Eastern studies at the University of California at Berkeley, provided the introduction at a Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) event at Berkeley on October 26, 2010, called "What Can American Academia Do to Realize Justice for Palestinians?" Bazian is an endorser of the Israel Divestment Campaign and a signatory to the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. He is a committed anti-Israel propagandist and activist.
In his introduction, Bazian was unabashed about promoting a politically active role for academia:
Accordingly, his remarks were peppered with exultant references to Berkeley's glory days:
Bazian urged "the same students who stopped the war in Vietnam, who stopped the levers of the machine" to "stop the normalization of Israel and the silence of the U.S." by pressuring American academia to cut off all ties with Israeli institutions. He was proud of the accomplishments of the BDS movement, boasting that:
He went on to outline his expansive view of the BDS movement, one in which common cause can be made with various other struggles, no matter how disconnected:
Bazian's reference to apartheid in South Africa is a staple of the BDS movement. But it is an inaccurate comparison, as is that of the "inner cities" of the U.S. to Palestinian "refugee camps." Such decontexualized verbal borrowings cannot be the work of an unbiased intellectual, as they confuse and blur meaning in order to incite passions.
Lisa Taraki, a sociologist at Birzeit University near Ramallah on the West Bank and co-founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, was the main speaker. Like Bazian, she relied heavily upon inflammatory language, labeling Israel a "colonial, settler, Zionist enterprise" that maintains power through "colonial rule, apartheid, and military occupation." She also invoked Berkeley's anti-war movement, likening it to the Arab-Israeli conflict:
She then outlined her vision for the BDS movement:
Although both speakers claimed they were not boycotting individuals, it is impossible to boycott institutions in the abstract. Real people are harmed. The academic boycott would in effect discriminate against students and faculty on the basis of national origin and religious and/or ethnic identity. Activists, for example, were urged to pressure universities to end study abroad programs in Israel, student exchanges between American and Israeli universities, and foundation grants to Israelis or Israeli institutions. The campaign calls for a thorough shunning of every element of Israeli society. Thirty-eight Nobel scholars have already condemned this move as "antithetical to principles of academic and scientific freedom, and antithetical to principles of freedom of expression and inquiry."
The UC Berkeley chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine was the primary sponsor for the BDS event, while the Muslim Identities and Cultures—a working group of the university's Townsend Center for the Humanities—was a co-sponsor. As noted in a letter of protest sent by California academics Leila Beckwith, Roberta Seid, and Tammi Rossman-Benjamin to UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, this "establishes an official association of the University of California at Berkeley with the promotion of a boycott against Israel." In response, the Townsend Center claimed that it "would not fund any group that does not act in the spirit of intellectual openness," nor was it "endorsing any position that could be construed as hateful of any religious or ethnic group." But under its aegis, Bazian and Taraki promoted a mean-spirited discourse replete with phrases extracted from other contexts in order to legitimize a campaign of discrimination.
Is this really a campaign with which UC Berkeley wishes to be officially associated?
Berkeley resident Rima Greene co-wrote this article with Cinnamon Stillwell, the West Coast Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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