UC Berkeley's Hatem Bazian: Academic or Activist?
by Cinnamon Stillwell • May 10, 2007
Hatem Bazian is a senior lecturer in the department of Near Eastern studies, a member of the faculty advisory board in the religion, politics and globalization program, and an adjunct professor at Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his Ph.D. in Islamic studies.
Along with teaching courses in Islamic law, religious studies and Arabic, Bazian, a Palestinian native, also devotes an inordinate amount of time to pro-Palestinian activism. Unfortunately, the bulk of this activism is centered on organizations, publications, speeches, and events that demonize Israel and, at times, the United States.
As documented by Jonathan Calt Harris for Campus Watch:
In May 2002, Bazian was the sole speaker for a two-day event at San Francisco's George Washington High School so inflammatory as to generate formal letters of apology from the school administration to the public. Advertised as a Middle Eastern "cultural assembly," the event featured a rap song by a student comparing Zionists to Nazis as students ran back and forth with Palestinian flags. Student and faculty observers called the supposedly multicultural event "pure pro-Palestinian propaganda."
In October of 2002, at the University of Michigan, at the Palestinian Solidarity Movement's annual conference, Bazian shared a forum with revisionist historian Ilan Pappé and the now-jailed academic and terrorist fundraiser Sami Al-Arian of Florida Atlantic University. At Michigan and elsewhere Bazian consistently denies being an anti-Semite, calling the accusation a ploy of opponents. "(The charge of) anti-Semitism is used as a means of neutralizing the opposition so the mainstream American public will distance itself from the 'extremists.'"
Yet, Steven Emerson, in his book American Jihad, quotes Bazian sermonizing at the American Muslim Alliance conference in May 1999 in Santa Clara, California, promoting the Islamic State of Palestine. Excerpts from the quote read, "'In the Hadith, the Day of Judgment will never happen until you fight the Jews ... and the stones will say, 'Oh Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him!'" There are a lot of passages in the Koran that do not advocate killing Jews. Why search out Hadith reports that do?
Post-Saddam, Bazian makes the rounds to Muslim Student Association events decrying the war and finding new ways to blame Israel for all American foreign policy. Speaking in Montreal in February 2004, at McGill University's MSA-sponsored lecture entitled "The New American Empire and its Adventures in the Middle East," Bazian named neoconservative think tanks, Israel-centric public officials, the Christian Right, and Oil, as the four forces behind American foreign policy.
Bazian has indeed been a consistent critic of U.S. foreign policy, particularly in regards to the war on terrorism, as well domestic attempts to combat radical Islam. In that vein, he is reportedly working on a book with the overwrought title, Virtual Internment: Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians, and the War on Terrorism, as well as giving talks on what he calls the "new COINTELPRO" (a reference to the FBI's operations in the 1960s and 70s to infiltrate and disrupt various groups seen as radical).
Bazian is perhaps best known for a speech he gave at a 2004 anti-war protest in San Francisco where he called for an "intifada in this country" and then went on to proclaim, "[sic] They're gonna say some Palestinian being too radical – well, you haven't seen radicalism yet!" Footage of this speech was captured by anonymous photojournalist and LGF contributor "zombie," and can be seen in its entirety at zombietime.com.
Bazian later appeared on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" to explain his use of the term "intifada," which he claimed was actually "a political intifada similar to the statements of calling for regime change, political activism." But the damage was done and Bazian's inflammatory words lived on in infamy. Not that they did anything to endanger his position at UC Berkeley, where he remains a lecturer to this day.
In fact, Bazian was captured (albeit from behind) just last week in a photograph posted at UC Berkeley's news center speaking with former president Jimmy Carter, who was on campus to discuss his controversial and widely criticized book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (hat tip: zombie). It seems fitting, considering that both consistently use the inaccurate term "apartheid" to describe Israel's relationship both to its Palestinian neighbors and to its own Arab citizens, that these two would find common ground.
Continuing this pattern, Bazian will be one of the speakers this week (May 11) at an event in Dearborn, MI called "Palestine: We Will Return." Presented by Americans for Palestine, a non-profit organization of which Bazian is the president, and co-sponsored by the Palestinian Cultural Center of Beit Hanina and the Palestine Office-Michigan, the event will commemorate "the 1948 occupation of Palestine and the 1967 occupation of the West Bank." Or, in other words, the 59th anniversary of Israel's founding, whereby the Palestinians (then simply called Arabs) were offered, but refused, their own state, and Israel's triumph in the Arab-initiated 1967 six-day war.
Other speakers at this event include fellow San Francisco Bay Area pro-Palestinian activist Alison Weir, who runs the organization and corresponding website IfAmericansKnew.org, which is aimed at ending U.S. support for Israel, and Dr. Raji Al-Sourani, who is described as a "Palestinian professor of mental health." Al-Sourani is also the director of the Palestinian Human Rights Center and unsurprisingly, it appears that the bulk of his efforts have been directed at Israel and what he dubs its "apartheid wall." No doubt Bazian will be in good company.
Next up on Bazian's calendar is a lecture on May 15 at the University of California, Irvine titled "The Trail of Tears- Roots of Israeli Apartheid." UC Irvine will be holding what it calls a "week long series of events aimed at educating and inspiring people to get involved in supporting justice for Palestine," but which, if past years are any indication, is more likely to be a forum for condemning Israel's attempts to defend its citizens against Islamic terrorism, not to mention its very existence. With lectures titled "Zio-Nazis" and "The UC Intifada," it's fairly clear what this "educational" event is all about.
Bazian's consistent presence at any and all events that are hostile to Israel and sometimes America bespeaks a pattern of behavior UC Berkeley might want to consider in terms of its own reputation. Instead, Bazian is listed at the UC Berkeley news center as one of the "heroes among the UC Berkeley faculty" who received a letter from the Chancellor for going "above and beyond the call of duty."
Bazian was in fact recommended for the citation by a Muslim student who felt he was supportive when she complained to him of experiencing "bigotry and hatred" on campus. Be that as it may, it's a little difficult to understand how the university could apply the term "hero" to someone with Bazian's record of questionable extracurricular activities.
But all too often, those with Bazian's political proclivities are seen by the academic establishment as suitable representatives for Middle East studies in American universities. Until colleges and universities distance themselves from such polarizing figures rather than legitimizing them with positions of influence, public distrust of academia is likely to persist – and rightly so.
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