Middle East studies in the News
Lying By Omission: University of San Francisco's Middle East Studies Department Hosts the University of Haifa's Dalit Baum [incl. Stephen Zunes]
by Lee Kaplan
On November 9th, 2011, the University of San Francisco's Middle East Studies Department, International Studies Professor Stephen Zunes, the school's Muslim Students Association, and the Bay Area non-profit Global Exchange all sponsored an indoctrination session against the Jewish state of Israel and Jewish businesses. The event promoted the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement against Israel, while trying to pass itself off as an academic event. Professor Zunes has a long history of antipathy against Israel.
The guest speaker for that evening was Dalit Baum, who runs the anti-Israel website "Who Profits?" She is an Israeli radical leftist who in the past called for the dismantling of the Jewish state. She has boasted that she has already cost the Israeli economy in excess of 1.5 billion dollars by promoting BDS against Israeli firms worldwide. Baum bills herself as a "feminist scholar" and was introduced as such by Zunes, even though she only holds a degree in math and has never published any academic work regarding feminism. Baum made clear during the evening that she was at USF to present to the students "information" and "tools" they could use to boycott and divest from the Jewish state. Zunes commented at Baum's "courage," speaking at USF, because of Israel's new law allowing lawsuits by companies affected by BDS against activists like Baum.
As a form of perversion, the BDS Movement gets touted on college campuses by the likes of Zunes and Baum as some form of fighting "oppression" and "human rights abuses." It is actually an extension of the Arab League Boycott against Israel created in 1950. Boycotting Jews was the first political action step taken by the Nazi Party in 1933 that led to the Final Solution. It is a form of economic warfare to force Israel's government to capitulate to Arab demands. Zunes and Baum also tried to conflate their boycott efforts by fallaciously comparing Israel today with the 1980's apartheid South Africa in order to instill the idea that they were fighting "oppression".
Global Exchange, Baum's main sponsor, is the fundraising arm for Medea Benjamin's Code Pink, an NGO that routinely provides monetary and physical aid to the terrorist group Hamas. The Hamas charter calls for not only the killing and dispossession all of Israel's Jews, but the complete annihilation of all world Jewry. Code Pink/Global Exchange also sent $600,000 in aid to the "Iraqi Resistance," while US marines were fighting in Fallujah. A photograph of Medea Benjamin was flashed on the screen demonstrating against Israel overseas, but few in the audience would have seen the connection or recognized her and Zunes mentioned the organization as if it were a purveyor of brotherly love. Dalit Baum also condemned the US presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, suggesting it was mainly for profits and like the dispute between Israel and the Palestinian Authority a form of "neo-colonialism."
Some Jewish groups had expressed alarm the event would be held on the Jesuit campus. In order to put some distance between the event and itself, the administration required the head of the Muslim Students Association read a disclaimer that stated, "The presence of a guest speaker on the campus of the University of San Francisco does not necessarily imply approval or endorsement by the University of the views expressed by the guest speaker or by anyone present at the event." A communique also went out assuring critics that a question and answer session would follow and allow for differing points of view. 2 x 4 cards were passed out with instructions to write questions down that would be addressed later that evening.
After the disclaimer was read, Professor Stephen Zunes immediately stood before the room and stated he felt "obliged" to declaim the disclaimer. "I've been teaching here for 15 years," he said, "and it's the first time I've ever heard it explicitly said. Why it had to be said is an indication it's a challenge to raise human rights issues when you are dealing with a strategic ally of the United States [Israel]." Zunes reminisced about his own activism in boycotting South Africa and tried to conflate what went on there in the 1980's with what Israel is dealing with in the Palestinian Authority. "There is much to be said," he continued, "about boycotts, divestment and sanctions as a way to raise a challenge to the Israeli occupation." However, he made no mention that the Palestinian Authority does practice genuine apartheid against Jews (not to mention practicing terrorism) and even has a law on the books that metes out a death penalty for selling land to a Jew, even retroactively, and a "constitution" modeled after those of Iran and Saudi Arabia that do discriminate against religious minorities.
Zunes then introduced Baum as an "outstanding scholar" and "human rights activist." (She is in fact neither!) Baum began her lecture by first asking the audience how many of them had heard of the BDS movement or participated in it. She remarked that few in the audience knew about it as she thanked specifically Zunes and the MSA for inviting her explaining that her purpose there was to "report back" to USF students on the BDS movement and give them "tools" by which to engage in boycotting Israel "over here." She thanked specifically Zunes and the MSA for inviting her.
Baum's lecture could only be described as a form of "lying by omission"; that is, presenting just enough information about a topic to elicit a positive or negative reaction without presenting all the facts. In some instances she just outright lied.
Baum began by saying, "The idea of having a Jewish-only organization in Israel is like having a white-only racist organization here in America." She explained how the activist organizations she belonged to had been fortunate enough to join Arab groups "in solidarity" to oppose Israel's current existence as a Jewish state. She spoke of an Arab civil society of women's groups, educators, unions, Muslim groups, even communists that was working to "end the occupation" (she made it a point not to mention the myriad terrorist groups that make up the Palestinian Authority government-to-be or that these "civil groups" support the terror groups in their activities). She claimed she would speak only of the 1967 occupation of the West Bank but alluded many times to events in Gaza without mentioning rockets fired on Israeli communities.
Baum began by showing a map of Israel and the Palestinian Authority then saying that Israel has no borders. She claimed that 3.5 million Palestinians live in the area but that the Israeli communities (settlements) had control over the main roads and implied only Jews were allowed to use them. She referred to the areas around the settlements as being "ethnically cleansed." She made no effort to point out that Arabs who are Israeli citizens are the same ethnic and religious makeup as Arabs in the Palestinian Authority nor about how various security measures were needed because Palestinian terrorists routinely attack Israelis who use those roads. Nor did she say Arabs from the PA can use those roads after getting security clearance, such as taxi drivers. She told her audience, "If you are Jewish you can go to some areas and if you're not you can't go to other areas all in a country that has no borders." This was an example of leaving out just enough information to make a false impression: if a person is an Arab and an Israeli citizen he is permitted to go anywhere any Jewish Israeli citizen goes. Palestinian Authority Arabs are restricted due to terror attacks on Israelis. Israel's lack of permanent borders is because the Arab states back in 1967 all agreed to refuse to make peace with Israel so the "borders" are in fact temporary armistice lines subject to final negotiations as part of a peace deal. Few of the students attending her lecture would have known this and clearly Baum and Zunes didn't want them to.
Baum then accused Israel of "profiting from the occupation" by selling inferior goods to the Arab population in the West Bank such as spoiled food, what she attributed to "neo-colonialism." Never mind that no one is forcing those Arabs to buy anything at all they do not want to buy. Perhaps it was neo-colonialism that USF students were being forced to sit through an inferior lecture from an inferior pseudo-scholar!
She later tied this profiteering as being behind the security costs in the West Bank. "The security costs are the costs of the Palestinian resistance," she said. Note how terrorism is dubbed by her "resistance." She made no attempt to suggest that the Palestinian Authority government is run by a terrorist organization (Fatah) and myriad such organizations run things there such as Hamas and even the PFLP that works with her organizational network in Israel. Through some twisted logic she determined that Israeli corporations that provide jobs for Palestinian Arabs should be boycotted in order to make Israel leave the area to the Palestinians, without once explaining how any such activity would benefit the average Palestinian Arab.
Baum displayed a photo of boys at a weekly demonstration in the village of Bi'ilin. She urged people in the audience to boycott an Israeli firm that manufactures tear gas because "tear gas can make you very sick and you could die," unlike Hamas bombs and rockets. But she completely ignored the fact that the Arab population and their leftist collaborators in Bi'ilin stage a riot every Friday at the Security Fence, where rocks, Molotov cocktails and other incendiaries are thrown as Israeli soldiers. She called these riots "demonstrations" and declared them "nonviolent." But then she said she never attends them physically herself because she is scared of the violence that goes on only from the Israeli police.
Baum then explained the three purposes of her movement and BDS:
The first one was "Repression," which she explained was Israel's need to control the population in the West Bank. She complained that security companies in the West Bank were profiting from the occupation and this was why the "occupation" would not end (no mention of Arab terror attacks on Israelis or the recent murder of an Israeli father of four on the highways which is an almost weekly occurrence). Baum displayed a photo of a section of the Security Fence that comprises large security walls and towers around Jerusalem but is really only about three per cent of the entire fence that is mostly barbed wire. The fence in the photo was set up to block sniper shots into the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo in Jerusalem from the surrounding hills. Few in the audience would know this and apparently Baum didn't want them to know it. Attempts to raise this information were denied and referred to the 2x 4 cards to be answered "later."
Baum explained her own history, beginning with the anarchist lesbian group Black Laundry in Israel. She elicited giggles from the audience as she explained "funny" things her group would do in near weekly demonstrations against the Israeli military. None of her audience would have known that just for being lesbian in a Palestinian state she would be subject to murder, nor that homosexuals in the PA routinely flee to Israel for refuge. She described Black Laundry as "the first time part of a huge nonviolent movement that was facing a very violent Israeli military." She continued, "being a nonviolent activist, I don't like violence."
Baum next attacked Israeli security companies, some doing business in the US, saying Israel profits from US subsidies. She declared this was done to provide Israel with free security products.
It was at this point that Baum also began explicitly lying in her presentation, not just omitting facts for an unknowing audience she and Zunes hoped to recruit.
She displayed a photograph of Ofer Prison in the West Bank, where the military and police incarcerate terrorists or violent rioters. She described it as "a very terrible prison for Palestinian 'political prisoners'." She later said that she had never been inside or toured the prison herself, and forgot to mention that Palestinian prisoners in Israel's system routinely earn Master's degrees and PhD's while in prison at the expense of the Israeli taxpayer.
She described the administrative courts near the prison and accused Israel of arresting "13 year-old kids dragged from their houses in the middle of the night" and brought there. Nobody in the audience would know these are the same rock throwers who attack Israelis on the highways and at riots such as in Bi'ilin. The implication was that Israeli police just raid homes for no reason at all.
She objected to an unmanned robot vehicle Israel builds and use, which patrols the border urging the manufacturer be boycotted. The robot seems to have more academic publications to its credit than Baum. She talked of Caterpillar and Rachel Corrie and Gaza and told the audience Israel routinely bulldozes homes with people in them. She falsely claimed the Israelis just pull up to civilian homes for no reason and give the occupants only a few moments to flee, "if you are very old or disabled you die." This was blatant lying. Home demolitions only are used to destroy homes that were used as bomb factories or homes of suicide bombers and they are not random.
"Settlements" was her second issue, she said "because they are illegal." Thus spoketh the feminist who has no legal training. She said that since WWI, international law consensus was that it's not a good idea to let states hold onto what they occupy in other countries in a war because it leads to later wars. Never mind that the West Bank is not legitimately part of any country except Israel!
She never told her audience that Jewish settlements were in the West Bank and Gaza before the war in 1948. She claimed to cite international law by the 4th Geneva Convention, which says that no state can take over another country's land by force: "Such occupation, it says, must be temporary until agreement reached over time." It never bothers her that the Arab states attempted to seize all of Israel's lands by force repeatedly.
Baum has no international law degree nor is the Geneva Accords even applicable as it is only between established states that are signatories to the Accords. There was no Palestinian state in 1967, and the West Bank and Gaza were under illegal occupation by Jordan and Egypt, who lost the land to Israeli control because they started the Six Day War. Baum complained Israel held that land 44 years, not nearly as long as India has held Kashmir. The Arab League in fact formulated the "three no's" in Sudan after 1967: "No peace. No negotiation. No Israel.
Baum then mentioned Israeli companies the BDS movement was targeting such as Lev Leviev's. She showed photos of activists picketing the store in New York and crowed how successful they were, that they had allegedly gotten his company to stop building settlements in the West Bank. "This is a huge victory for a small group singing and dancing in New York."
Her third issue was "Land Exploitation." She accused Israeli companies of exploiting "cheap land." Hunh?
"Why is it cheap?" she asked the audience. An MSA student blurted out: "It's stolen!" "Right!" she replied. In fact, land taken by Israel for industrial uses or settlements is only former government land that belonged to the Jordanian government or Egypt's. No private property of Palestinians is taken. Baum outright lied to the audience, suggesting Israel just takes Palestinian private homes for its own use, taken with no legal recourse.
Baum specifically targeted the Ahava Company in the West Bank, which makes cosmetics from Dead Sea mud. She boasted that the BDS campaign had forced the closure of the Ahava store in London. The audience would never know that the store closed not because people boycotted Ahava products but because BDS activists prevented the surrounding stores from doing any business, so the landlord refused to renew Ahava's lease due to the riots.
Again, playing international lawyer, Baum accused Israel of conducting "pillage" when selling mud. Israeli companies employ Arabs in the West Bank, who would be unemployed without the Israeli presence.
Baum also attacked Soda Stream, boasting how BDS activists got the European Court of Justice to force the company to remove the label Made in Israel from their products because their factory was in the West Bank. "You should educate people about that," she said. "The most important category is exploitation of resources and the Palestinian labor."
At this point Professor Zunes recommended a film called the Bottom line about corporate exploitation of blacks in South Africa under apartheid. In case anyone had any doubts as to how he regarded Israel.
"Maybe you should have a training night one night where you can screen this film," said Baum.
"Try and find something around you that connect to the crimes in Palestine. And try to find something you can do over here that will influence the bottom line over there . . . you can be effective." She urged students who "want to know how I am implicated, how products I buy are related to 'crimes' over there. Not to make them feel guilty but to make a difference."
She concluded with a swipe at Ariel Sharon, who decided to build the Security Fence, and said that years of Likud governments had exploited the West Bank. She made no mention of the horrendous bus bombings and terror attacks and murders of Israelis, attacks financed by the late Saddam Hussein. As a result of the construction of the fence, terror attacks dropped 97 per cent.
Zunes then engaged in anti-Zionist Terrorism
I raised my hand at the conclusion and tried to ask a question.
I asked Prof. Zunes if I could ask him a question about bringing in a lecturer who could show how many falsehoods were just presented. Zunes replied I should fill out a 2 x4 card with my question for the question-and-answer session that was now to begin. I did so and handed him the card with my business card. Baum took all the 2 x 4 cards and each time she came to a question by a pro-Israel member of the audience she simply said, "I don't want to answer this question." She responded only to questions that supported what she said earlier, ignoring any questions that might elicit discussion. Zunes ignored my question. When the event broke up I approached Zunes at the front of the room and politely asked him, "Professor Zunes, you didn't answer my question. Can I bring in a lecturer to lend balance to what was presented to your students here tonight?"
"You're a liar!" Zunes screamed at me. A plainclothes security guard from USF stood next to me and threatened to handcuff me and throw me out of the room if I did not leave immediately. I asked the guard, "What? For asking him a question? He's the one who is yelling."
I left. A complaint to the Administration with a recording and eyewitness by me the next day was only stonewalled.
This is the state of Middle East Studies at the University of San Francisco. Welcome to 1933 where students are taught to boycott, divest from and sanction Jewish businesses.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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