Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Howard Silver

I was horrified by Susan Abulhawa's lecture at Cal State Bakersfield's Kegley Institute of Ethics on Oct. 18, and deeply concerned about its effects on the audience, many of whom were students, and about its wider implications.

I knew that Abulhawa, a Palestinian-American, would present the Palestinian perspective, which should be heard. I expected that even if somewhat biased, it would be informative like the other fine Kegley lectures I've attended. Nothing had prepared me for this lady's distortions, hate mongering, and cascade of lies worthy of the pages of Der Sturmer. Abulhawa hurled classic anti-Jewish blood libels. Using staged photos and doctored videos as "evidence," she charged that Israeli soldiers sadistically torment and kill innocent Palestinians, including children and babies. Adding to the demonic image, she claimed that Israeli soldiers also target household pets, and tie up the legs of horses to torture them. I almost expected Abulhawa to say that Israelis also drink the blood of dead Palestinians. After all, she could -- and did -- say anything she wanted from the annals of anti-Semitism, unrestrained by reason, facts, evidence or decency.

Abulhawa repeated staples of extremist anti-Israel Arab propaganda, even those that have been discarded, such as the myth that Israel committed a massacre in Jenin. She stripped away context to demonize Israel's actions. In her rendition, Israel attacked Egypt in 1967 to grab land and kill Arabs, not to make a preemptive move for survival against Egypt, massing Arab troops, the closure of the Straits of Tiran, and bloodcurdling vows to "pave Arab roads with the skulls of Jews," as Syrian Defense Minister Hafez Al-Assad put it. She luridly detailed Israel's counterterrorism measures, absurdly claiming they were intended to prevent a Palestinian state and get rid of Palestinians. She didn't even touch on their real cause: Israel's peace offer for two states that Palestinians rejected in 2000 and the terrorist campaign of suicide bombing they launched in September 2000 that targeted Israeli restaurants, buses, schools, dance clubs and religious celebrations. More than 1,000 Israelis were murdered and more than 8,000 were maimed in the attacks. An estimated 80 percent of the victims were civilians.

And Abulhawa baldly lied. She declared that Israel does not allow Christians to live in the country when, in fact, pluralistic Israel is the only Middle Eastern country where the Christian population has flourished instead of declined since 1948. She accused Israel of ethnically cleansing Palestinians when, in fact, the Arab population in Israel and in Gaza and the West Bank has soared since 1967. She even charged that it is a "myth" that no Palestinian Arab state has ever existed, that the land "has always been Palestine" and that Palestinians had let Jews live there. In fact, of course, the land had been a Jewish nation for more than 1,000 years until the Roman conquest in the first century, and a Jewish population always remained for the next 2,000 years. No state --Palestinian Arab or anything else -- ever replaced the Jewish state until Israel was re-established in 1948 and discussion began about creating the first Palestinian Arab state in history. Abulhawa was denying Jews' rights and history.

I was horrified because this toxic propaganda may have seemed legitimate to the audience, especially to students, as it had the sponsorship of the respected Kegley Institute. I was horrified because Abulhawa is an anti-Israel extremist, yet was treated as mainstream. If her views are normalized, then I fear that peaceful coexistence is further away than ever, and that Palestinian extremism, which has been so destructive for both peoples, will continue. I was horrified also because Abulhawa expressed what is called the new anti-Semitism, with "Israel" replacing "Jew" in traditional anti-Semitic libels. I never thought such bigotry would be acceptable at an American university. I grieve because this kind of demonization justifies homicidal aggression against Israel and Jews, and because history has cruelly taught that such irrational bigotry endangers its target, poisons its host and threatens civilized values.

We must protest against such pernicious messages. We must demand that Kegley and other respected institutions ensure that they are not hijacked by extremists like Abulhawa whose goal is to incite anti-Israel hatred, not promote knowledge or understanding. Blood libel was alive and well in Bakersfield on Oct. 18. Decent people cannot and should not remain silent. The stakes are too high.
Thanks to SWU

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