By Lee KaplanFrontPageMagazine.com October 29, 2004
On October 15-17, in sunny North Carolina, a strategy session for radicals, anarchists, anti-Semites and communists took place in the halls of an elite institution of higher learning, while under the benevolent gaze of university administrators. Billed as an "open dialogue" on Middle East issues, the Palestinian Solidarity Movement Conference proved to be an indoctrination and tactical training session for activists dedicated to the destruction of the state of Israel and the support of Palestinian terrorists engaged in the effort to liberate the Holy Land “from the Jordan river to the sea.”
In previous solidarity gatherings at Berkeley and the University of Michigan, the organizers of these conferences have featured known (and now jailed) Islamic terrorists and led participants in chants of "Kill the Jews!" Duke's Conservative Union ran an ad detailing the organization's violent history and agendas in an effort to dissuade their university from disgracing itself by defending the charade that this event had anything to do with an academic curriculum. But despite the clear evidence as to who the solidarity movement represents and what its agendas of violence and hate may be, the Duke Administration represented by its Vice President for Governmental Affairs, John Burness, ran interference for the radicals and went out of their way to make sure the event would take place exactly as the organizers intended.
Several Jewish organizations mounted a campaign to alert the Duke administration to the conference's destructive agendas. But presented with a petition of 92,000 signatures, the Duke Administration not only refused to turn away the PSM activists, but grossly whitewashed what went on during their gathering on Duke's campus and facilitated their activist agendas. Thus Students for Academic Freedom, a 135 chapter campus organization, appealed to Duke President Richard Brodhead to insist that all sessions of the conference be open to the public and to the press to no avail.
While presenting their events as "open dialogue" forums, the solidarity organizers have a consistent history of barring critics and observers from the press from their workshops and training sessions. At last year’s conference, hosted by Ohio State University, the organizers used metal detectors to prevent attendees from bringing tape recorders or cameras. This practice allowed them to deny the promotion of violent agendas at previous conferences and to win the support of administrators like Burness who claimed that there was no evidence that the Michigan conference had featured chants of “Kill the Jews” for example, until presented with documentary evidence by critics who had secretly infiltrated and taped the event. Nonetheless, Burness allowed the Duke organizers to screen participants at this year’s event, making a mockery of its claim to be academic or “open.” Duke University allowed the organizers to use metal detectors and confiscate tape recorders, while providing $60,000 in Duke funds (according to a Duke administrator I interviewed) for added security for the event.
When FrontPage magazine assigned me to cover the previous Solidarity Conference at Ohio State, I witnessed first hand how the organizers presented one face to the press – as a movement interested in Palestinian rights – and quite another in its closed sessions, counseling its student attendees on how to infiltrate Israel by lying to immigration officials and how to justify violence when confronted by critics. When I covered the Ohio State conference, I was not known to the organizers. Since then, because of an article for FrontPage in which I filed an undercover report on a training session the Palestine Solidarity Movement held for activists to infiltrate Israel and obstruct Israeli security officials, I have become their public enemy number one. Therefore, when Vice President Burness refused all appeals to open the Duke conference to public scrutiny, I resolved to go under cover again to ensure that the organizers would not be able to hide their agendas. Disguised as a Pakistani, and carrying a fake ID and a hidden recorder, I attended both the open-press events and the meetings the organizers – abetted by Duke administrators – had declared “closed” to the press.
DAY ONE: FRIDAY NIGHT
"We've come a long way in four years," boasted Fayyad Sbaihat on the first night of the PSM Conference. Sbaihat, the event's chief organizer, is a chemical engineering major from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Palestinian radical. Sbaihat headed a panel that included Dianna Buttu, a Canadian lawyer who represents the Palestine Liberation Organization, a terrorist organization, and the Reverend Mark Davidson of the Presbyterian Church, whose leaders recently met with another Middle Eastern terrorist group, Hizbollah, and which has become the first major institution to support the divestment movement whose goal is to weaken and dismantle the Israeli state. This opening panel was titled "Divestment: The Weapon of the Global Fight for Justice," although the weapon was directled solely at the democratic State of Israel. It attracted about 250 people about a third of whom were Jews who had come to this open session of the conference to oppose the conference’s mission. "Only in the fourth year of the divestment campaign has [this] idea been endorsed by a mainstream institution," Sbaihat said as he announced news that the Presbyterian Church had joined the movement to divest from Israel.
Until the announcement by the Presbyterians, the divestment movement’s success had been extremely limited. It had been denounced as a not-so-veiled form of anti-Semitism by the president of Harvard. Only a few small stocks of companies doing business in Israel had been removed from the portfolios of the University of Wisconsin (Sbaihat's base of operations) and Michigan's Wayne State University, which has a large Palestinian population. These were disappointing results for an anti-Israel campaign heavily supported with Saudi money and funneled through chapters of the Hamas-related, Saudi funded pro-terrorist Muslim Student Association on U.S. campuses.
That is, up until now. Sbaihat was thrilled that the Presbyterian Church was in the process of divesting its $70-billion portfolio from investments in Israel. Pro-Palestinians were now preparing to agitate for divestment within the Episcopalian and Anglican churches. Davidson suggested that leaders of his church will exert pressure on local businesses and corporations that do business with Israel, in addition to the Church's own financial divestment. Although he doubted the boycott would bring peace, Davidson said that cutting off funds to Jews in the Middle East was nevertheless crucial to bringing "social justice" to the Palestinian people.
Reverend Mark Davidson holds a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies, an academic field devoted to anti-American, anti-Israel and anti-military (if the military is not part of a revolutionary guerrilla movement) agendas. Davidson belongs to a progressive Presbyterian Church faction that has met with Hezbollah, the Islamic terrorist organization that murdered 241 U.S. marines in Lebanon in 1983 and is today the second largest terrorist army in the world. Hizbollah wants to establish an Islamic state on the territory of Israel. On the panel, Davidson stated that he objected to the biblical interpretation by "Christian Zionism" that "awards Jews exclusive rights to the land." In the course of the evening, Davidson never explained his belief in Muslims' exclusive rights to most of the Middle East and North Africa, nor did he mention the persecution of his fellow Christians in that region.
The PLO representative, Ms. Buttu, a Stanford-educated attorney and Canadian resident of Arab descent, also attacked Israel in statements that went unchallenged at the event. Buttu described Israel as "grabbing Palestinian land and resources." Equipped with graphs and posters, she dimmed the lights and wove a circuitous trail of lines implying that Israel was dividing up the indigenous population into "bantusans," as in the formerly apartheid South Africa. Ms. Buttu never addressed the reason for the security fence – the terrorist campaign against Israeli civilians – or the temporary nature of the security fence, which will stand until final borders negotiations are complete. The Palestinian Authority, which Ms. Buttu represents, arms the suicide bombers attacking Israeli civilians and lavishly rewards them as Islamic “martyrs” who are headed for heaven and (if they are lucky enough to be male) 72 virgins.
Specious comparisons of Israel and apartheid South Africa became a running theme of the conference. If Americans can be persuaded to think that Israel needs to be dismantled as a human-rights impediment, as was done justifiably in South Africa, this myth will preclude the possibility of a two-state solution. In fact, 21 percent of Israel's population consists of Arabs who live peacefully in Israel. If their Palestinian brethren would stop murdering Jews with bombs, rockets, and guns, Israel would have no need for physical security barriers. Moreover, it is the Arab states that have been made Judenrein – ethnically cleansed of their indigenous Jewish populations – without a peep of protest from the rest of the world.
In accord with the most recent Palestinian demand for a “right of return” for 5 million Arabs (the number of Arab refugees created by the 1948 Arab war against Israel has been estimated at 600,000) Buttu claimed there was plenty of room in Israel to accommodate any Arab seeking to move across the 1948 ceasefire line. An influx of 5 million hostile Arabs would of course spell the end of the Jewish state – which has always been the PLO’s agenda. Buttu didn’t mention that 76 percent of the West Bank, which is under PLO control, is still undeveloped and would easily accommodate the Palestinian population if the PLO spent its billions on internal development instead of on war against Israeli women and children and Swiss bank accounts for its billionaire leader.
Before the conference, I had enlisted as many pro-Israel Jews as possible to join me in attendance, specifically to counter such lies and misinformation. One such audience member asked Ms. Buttu why, given that human rights violations were so much worse in the Sudan, in China and elsewhere in the world, she considered it fair to single out only a tiny democratic state whose actual human rights record has been exemplary, and target it for divestment. In reply, Buttu said that while human rights abuses anywhere are deplorable (of course, “anywhere” did not include the human rights abusing Palestinian Authority she represents) Israel is "the greatest human rights abuser in the world." Israel is a civilized democratic state. The Palestinian Authority that Ms. Buttu represents holds public executions, murders its women for losing their virginity -- even when raped -- and promotes child sacrifice in a death cult that teaches schoolchildren to martyr themselves in the act of killing Jews. These facts went unmentioned at the conference.
Buttu lied, not only by omission, but through her outrageous characterizations of Israeli culture. According to Buttu Israeli schoolbooks incite violence against the Arabs. In fact, as is well documented, exactly the opposite is true. Jew hatred and incitements to destroy the state of Israel are pervasive in Palestinian textbooks down to the elementary school level. The maps of the Middle East provided of Israel falsely erase Israel from a territory called “Palestine” which never existed. (The “Palestine Mandate” carved out of the Ottoman Empire includes the British-created state of Jordan, the West Bank and the present state of Israel and was never occupied by a people calling itself “Palestinians.”) The role models offered to Palestinian schoolchildren are Islamic “martyrs” and suicide bombers.
At the previous Solidarity Conference at Ohio State, which I attended, an open-mike forum set the stage for a lengthy Israel-bashing session. The same happened at Duke, with speakers rambling at length about the evils of the Jewish state. One or two supporters of Israel did manage to voice questions and comments that challenged the dogma of the panel. A speaker from California told Rev. Davidson that his local Presbyterian minister in Los Angeles was ashamed of the actions of the main diocese.
Opponents of the Palestine Solidarity Movement’s anti-Israel agenda came prepared to challenge key tenets of the conference, which was framed by a set of “Guiding Principles.” Principle #5 appeared to be an indirect endorsement of suicide bombing and other acts of terror. It reads, "As a solidarity movement, it is not our place to dictate the strategies or tactics adopted by the Palestinian people in their struggle for liberation." When one pro-Israel advocate asked Ms. Buttu if the conference would clearly renounce suicide bombing, she employed the movement's standard doublespeak, skirting the question and characterizing the Palestine Solidarity Movement as a "grassroots" operation. It wasn't her place, said Buttu, to dictate policy. Such reticence was not evident concerning the actions of any other movement, state or individual. Only Palestinian terrorists were immune from criticism.
Addressing questions about Palestinian corruption and Arafat's diversion of millions of foreign aid dollars from his impoverished people, Buttu conceded that such abuses might take place, but she blamed them on Israel. One attendee asked why the Oslo and Taba peace agreements were abandoned by Arafat in favor of terrorism and murder. Buttu skipped over Israel's offer of virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza and outrageously dismissed these plans as their opposite --attempts to take "Palestinian land." Of course this made sense if “Palestinian land” included the whole of Israel.
Faced with direct questions, the speakers avoided responding when they feared the truth would damage their credibility. Stephen Miller, a Duke student who leads the campus chapter of Students for Academic Freedom, asked Fayyad Sbaihat whether he was a member of the terrorist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, as claimed by Israeli intelligence officials. Sbaihat denied the charge curtly, in six words, then cut Miller short and moved to the next question.
Many in the audience laughed at Miller's question. To Sbaihat's fellow travelers in terrorism, such an affiliation would be something praiseworthy, and not at all surprising. Sbaihat, a Palestinian refugee from the West Bank, has apparently unlimited funds to jet all over the U.S. and Canada, organizing conferences such as Duke's from his base at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Other major players in the Palestine Solidarity Movement, Mohammed Abed and Nasser Abufarha, also operate from Madison as part of the “Alternative Palestinian Agenda.” These two were present at the Duke conference, leading and lecturing at sessions on the need to destroy Israel.
Finally, I decided to approach the microphone to expand on the question for Mr. Sbaihat, after he had blown off Stephen Miller. Seeing me approach the mike, Sbaihat hurriedly ended the question-and-answer period.
As I was leaving the panel session, a fellow reporter from the New York Sun asked me how he could get into the workshops over the weekend. He had been informed that the press would not be allowed in. I gave him some advice: "Get a disguise."
DAY TWO: THE WORKSHOPS
The Palestine Solidarity Movement (also known as the International Solidarity Movement) knows me well due to my earlier infiltrations of their events and training sessions as a member of the press. I gained access to the workshops at Duke by putting on my disguise as a Pakistani Muslim (I am a former actor by profession). My costume afforded me access to unscripted remarks and interviews I could never have otherwise obtained. I was equipped with a hidden camera and tape recorders. I smuggled these past the conference's metal detectors with surprising ease, given that Duke had spent nearly $60,000 to aid the PSM organizers in keeping out inquiring reporters like me.
The first workshop I attended on Saturday morning was given by this year's guest of honor, Mazin Qumsiyeh (a previous guest of honor at the Michigan conference, Sami al Arian, sits in jail today as the U.S. head of Islamic Jihad, a group that murdered over 100 people in Israel, including American citizens). Qumsiyeh is the head of Al Awda ("the Return"), a division of the International Solidarity Movement with cells across the U.S. and Canada which promotes the destruction of Israel through the right of return agenda. Qumsiyeh, a professor of biology at Yale, created a stir last year when he published a list of Jewish students on campus and attacked them as “pro-war” pawns of the Bush Administration. (In fact, many Jewish students at Yale are prominent opponents of both the President and the Iraq war.)
Qumsiyeh co-hosted the first session with Mohammed Abed, who is part of Sbaihat’s cohort at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, organized as the “Alternative Palestinian Agenda.” Last year, Abed also gave a workshop lecture at Ohio State, denouncing two-state solutions for the Middle East conflict and advocating the Palestinian “right of return.” At Duke he repeated these points. Handsome, with a dignified English accent, Abed sounded educated and rational as he spoke about the impossibility of allowing Israel to exist. Neither he nor Qumsiyeh addressed the irony of their support for a “right of return” for displaced refugees while advocating the removal of Jewish communities in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Or perhaps they did. Qumsiyeh declared that "Zionism is a disease," which would preclude those labeled Zionists from having any rights. Qumsiyeh denounced the Jewish state's existence and cited texts that he claimed proved "Nazi-Zionist collaboration" during the Holocaust. His intention was to undermine any justification for the creation of a Jewish state.
Qumsiyeh’s perverse reconstruction of historical events included the claim that Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians nothing in the Oslo accords. In fact, Barak offered not only the entire West Bank and Gaza, but half of Jerusalem -- with authority over the Temple Mount, Israel's holiest shrine, which the Arabs immediately closed off to Jewish worshippers. Barak's dovish predecessor, Rabin, had vowed to never give up any of Jerusalem before he was assassinated. But because the Clinton-Barak plan would ratify the existence of the state of Israel, Arafat left the offer on the table, broke off the talks and launched an Islamic jihad and a wave of suicide bombings in the second “Intifada” to destroy the Jewish state.
Qumsiyeh, a Christian Arab, played his collegiate audience by claiming that, "All movements of ethnic nationalism are a disease. I'd say the same about an Islamic state.". On the other hand he had nothing negative or critical to say of the Palestinian Constitution, which clearly states that Palestine is an Islamic theocracy, like Iran, after which it was modeled.
Next, Qumsiyeh lamented the high population density in Gaza, although its density is no greater than that of San Francisco. "In the West Bank," he complained, "there simply isn't enough room" for the Palestinian population. But, as noted, 76 percent of the West Bank is unoccupied and open for development, a fact which no one mentioned. "The UN never intended there to be a two-state solution" in 1948, Qumsiyeh preposterously claimed. "There is a peace process, but not peace. Colonization should be prevented until they (the Jews) all leave."
In this view, which pervaded the conference, Israel is an illegitimate colony, which must be destroyed and its population of colonizers removed. This conception is completely ahistorical, since Israel was created in exactly the same way as Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq, out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, which had been ruled by the Turks for 400 years. In my best Pakistani accent, I posed a question to Qumsiyeh: Did the Jews not have a legitimate fear of such a one-state solution, given Palestinian terror attacks on their children? I also asked why the Palestinians could not first create a viable democracy and foreswear terrorism for five years, as in the original Oslo plan, before proposing a one-state solution, while exalting suicide bombers of innocent civilians as heroes in their media.
Qumsiyeh responded by ending the session. So much for “open dialogue.”
I left the classroom and went upstairs where another workshop, "Divestment 101: Getting You Started," was being led by Wendy Ake and Eyad Khalaf. I caught the tail end of the lecture, and managed to get an interview with Khalaf, by telling him I was writing a book. Khalaf first told me that pro-Palestinian activists on campuses should always try to link Israel to South Africa. I asked Khalaf if Palestinians who are Israeli citizens have the right to vote. He said they did not. In fact not only do they vote but the Palestinian Arabs who are elected members of Israel’s parliament openly call for the dismantling of Israel's democracy.
Khalaf also told me that Israeli Arabs are not allowed to own businesses. This too was a bald falsehood. He claimed that Israeli settlers in the West Bank were given Arab land for free. This was also untrue. After the 1967 war in which the West Bank came under Israeli control (it had been used to launch the Arab attack) Jews bought their homes on Jordanian "crown lands" which had no individual owners. When I challenged him with these facts, he persisted with the fiction that any land owned by Arabs was simply taken by Israelis without compensation. Even when the government of Israel confiscates land under eminent domain, the owner is compensated at real value. Some Palestinians have even sued in Israeli courts and overturned Israeli government appropriations.
Khalaf volunteered another complaint -- that Arabs in the West Bank are given different colored license plates than Israelis. This is true, but it is only because the Palestinian Authority requested the distinction to reflect separate sovereignty. As another example of Arab dispossession, Khalaf said that the West Bank features special roads accessible only to Jews. It is true that there are security roads for settlers who have been attacked and killed on main roads, but Arabs in the Palestinian Authority can apply for permits to use them.
I asked him if any Jews in Israel had claim to live in the Holy Land at all. He replied that the Jews were all settlers from Europe. This is another blatant untruth. Jews have lived continuously in the region for 3,000 years and a majority of Israel’s population – fifty-five percent -- is made up of Jewish refugees from Middle Eastern lands. He claimed that only Jews were allowed to immigrate to Israel to become citizens. This was also false. Khalaf claimed that there were special Jewish Arab Palestinians who reside in the northern West Bank (there are none) comprising one percent of the Palestinian population. Only these special (and imaginary) Jews who live under the Palestinian Authority had a right to remain. All other Jews would have to go, including the Jewish refugees from Arab lands and their progeny born in the Jewish state.
Edward Said, the late anti-Israel professor at Columbia University, once said, "Truth doesn't matter; only emotions matter." Said urged Palestinians to "write your own history." Palestinians like Khalaf apparently believe that as long as an historical claim justifies the dismantling Israel, it's worth repeating. Khalaf, an ideological disciple of Said, now recruits the next generation of creative historians on American campuses.
To test the range of his fabrications, I asked Khalaf if the Palestine Authority has a law condemning to death any Arab who sells land to a Jew, which it does. He denied such a law existed. By now, Wendy Ake, who had co-lectured earlier with Khalef, had approached the place where we were standing and began to eye me suspiciously. Ake seemed to think I was asking too many questions, and she became wary after I asked for her name and email address. After snapping a few photos with my hidden camera, I decided it was time to move on.
Another Saturday session was devoted to the "Palestine Education Project (PEP): Bringing the Palestinian Struggle to School." It was led by Ora Wise, an anti-Israel Jews who had said at the previous solidarity conference at Ohio State that, "Zionism is racism." Ora is a Hebrew teacher at the Kolot Chayeinu synagogue in Brooklyn, NY. The daughter of a Cincinnati rabbi, she now advocates the destruction of the Jewish state. Nothing is more valued by the Palestinian radicals than a Jewish schoolteacher dedicated to furthering their destructive agenda.
This year, Ora led a workshop on how to induce young Americans, particularly minorities in inner-city schools, to hate Israel. She instructed the attendees to contact teachers all over the country with the goal of convincing children that Israel is a threat to the peoples of the Middle East. She advised them to avoid going through the principal’s office in these schools but to contact teachers directly. "Here is how you teach Israeli oppression," she began. "Give a kid some water, but give other kids a lot of water. Give some kids toys, and other kids no toys. Talk about the comparisons. Tell them the Israeli kids have the toys, the water. The Palestinians have nothing -- and it is the fault of the Israelis." Wise reminded attendees to make sure they blamed the Israelis in front of the children.
"Get children to draw photos of their families in their homes," said Wise. "Then, show them all the photos of what a Palestinian child would draw, reflecting oppression." She explained, "You can order these special pictures" from various Palestinian activist sources. Another handy tip she offered: "Get a hula hoop. Get the classroom of kids to stand close together around the hula hoop. Then put a child in the middle of the hula hoop. The child in the hula hoop is the Israeli. He has lots of space. He has all the water. Everyone else is crowded and uncomfortable."
Another strategy session closed to the public and the press was, "From Birthright to the ISM: The Struggle against Roots and Walls." This session provided information on how to exploit institutions and individuals that supported Israel to further the International Soliddarity Movement’s goals. Vicki Kaplan, a Duke alumna, Rann Bar-On, a conference organizer, and Jessica Rutter described how to get free plane tickets to Israel. The plans boiled to deceiving Jewish philanthropists, who provide money to send young Jews to the Jewish homeland on "Birthright" trips. Activists should apply for “Birthright” grants, then proceed to the West Bank to disrupt construction of Israel's security fence, which is the Solidarity Movement’s latest project.
Rutter, the leader of Duke's anti-Israel divestment group, boasted that she herself had recently manipulated the Birthright grants with ease. She was able to do this because of the general lack of awareness of the sophisticated cynicism of Israel’s enemies. Had the Birthright program’s program planners searched for Jessica Rutter’s name on the Internet, they would have discovered that is an anti-Israel activist.
I had written about this manipulation of Jewish philanthropies and programs in my article on last year's Palestine Solidarity Movement conference at Ohio State. This movement was planning to infiltrate Jewish youth chapters, specifically Hillel groups, on college campuses, to gain access to their funding and to subvert them from within. This year, I got an intimate look at how the plan to use Hillel against Israel is supposed to work.
Radicals of Jewish descent in this strategy session (closed to all but committed anti-Israel militants) were told that Hillel is a democratic organization, operating under a "big tent" to encompass all points of view. The conference speakers advised young attendees to enter Hillel posing as Jewish progressives. Once inside, they should encourage divestment and weaken Israel "by any means necessary." It is an instance of what David Horowitz has called the “unholy alliance” between radical Islam and the American left. The Hillel infiltrators could also monitor pro-Israel activities on campus in order to disrupt them. When scholar Daniel Pipes came to speak at U.C. Berkeley, some students from the campus Hillel sought to disrupt his speech and had organized events critical of Israel. I joined some pro-Israel students who were concerned about these activities and expressed their concern on the Internet program, Israel National News. Instead of addressing the problem, Hillel's director ejected the pro-Israel students who had gone on the air to expose the radicals in their midst. On campuses like Berkeley, Hillel has created a monster -- a vehicle for anti-Israel activists funded by the Jewish state's most ardent supporters.
Another closed panel I attended was called "The One-State Solution and Bi-nationalist Politics' Impact on Activist Discourse." It featured Fadi Kiblawi, who has publicly expressed his wish to become a suicide bomber. Kiblawi advocates killing Jews in all countries to hasten the creation of a Palestinian state. He spoke to a full, eager audience; the room was so crowded I had to sit on the floor behind the panelists.
At one point a husky young man from the audience raised his hand to propose a topic shift. "One thing we need to discuss," he said, "is Jewish control of the media. The Jews are everywhere. Look at the governor of New Jersey. He even has a homosexual Jew, an Israeli, for his lover." Kiblawi agreed. "Yeah, isn't it disgusting?"
At no time during the conference were suicide bombings or terrorist attacks mentioned, let alone condemned -- by the panelists. Nor were critical views of Palestinian tactics tolerated. In one of the public sessions Duke student Stephen Miller asked whether the Jewish minority within a new Palestinian state will be treated equitably, given that an Arab who sells land to a Jew is put to death for his "crime." From her seat in the audience, Ora Wise shouted him down, calling his presence “sexist.” Women were being excluded from a male-dominated conversation, she claimed. When she had gained control of the floor, she shriekd: "The land doesn't belong to them!"
A session titled, "A Palestinian Presence On Campus: How to Start an Organization," was hosted by Aseel Elborno, President of the Middle East North African Student Association at nearby North Carolina State University. Elborno began by encouraging everyone to start pro-Palestinian campus groups. Once the schools' paperwork procedures were met, she assured us, radical groups would have financial resources to promote the PLO's agenda. In other words, the good intentions of U.S. taxpayers in funding education could be exploited to underwrite their political message. "The universities have tons of money [that] you can get by requesting funds from student government allocations," Elborno said. "They never say 'no.'" Well, actually they do say no – to conservative students – but never to “Third World” leftists.
The conference was running half an hour behind schedule, so I rushed to the next meeting, an "Anarchist Caucus" given by Abe Greenhouse, the Rutgers student who smashed a pie Natan Sharansky’s face when the Israeli Minister of the Diaspora visited the campus to speak. Greenhouse told us he became an anarchist at age 15. When I asked him to define what being an anarchist meant, he said that it was a form of Communism that rejected social hierarchy. Greenhouse described the International Socialist Movement as the "field operation for the anarchist movement based on its structure of using affinity groups" in the Holy Land. In other words, the Palestinian Authority has used U.S. anarchists and their tactics as another weapon against the Jewish state, rallying unaffiliated people to their cause and giving them something mainstream to oppose. The PLO uses young American anarchists as recruiters and activists in the West Bank and Gaza as defenders and human shields for Arafat. One such anarchist was Rachel Corrie, a student from Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington, who was run over by a bulldozer as she attempted to prevent Israeli security forces from demolishing a bomb-smuggling tunnel in Gaza.
A young Chicano spoke of his association with MECHA and the Azatlan Movement, a Latino organization that advocates reoccupying the western United States by force, if necessary, to create a Latino nation. Azatlan members call themselves "America's Palestinians." He identified himself as homosexual and pointed out that Greenhouse was, too; this seemed relevant to their alliance with the Palestinian cause. Neither acknowledged let alone addressed the fact that gays are brutally persecuted under the Palestinian Authority in contrast to Israel, where they enjoy full civil rights. Many gay Palestinians have actually sought refugee status in Israel, fearing for their lives under the Arafat regime.
An Israeli girl in her early twenties praised Greenhouse for his pie assault on Sharansky. "It was brilliant," she said. "They talked about it all over Israel when it happened. You really got your message out." She couldn't praise him enough. Greenhouse then left to conduct another workshop upstairs. This was "The Anatomy of the Organized Zionist Community in the United States," led by Greenhouse and Rachel Roberts of Jews Against the Occupation. These two Jews lectured on the history, leadership, operational methods and finances of the major Jewish organizations in the United States characterizing them as “the enemy” and always referring to them as "the Zionists." Greenhouse discussed Zionist Organization of America, Theodore Herzl, the Anti-Defamation League, AIPAC (America's Israel lobby), the Jewish National Fund, Hillel, B’nai Brith and all other Jewish groups in America as if they were part of a dangerous and powerful conspiracy.
With gravity bordering on paranoia, Greenhouse identified philanthropists, like Ron Lauder, who has restored synagogues and Jewish schools in Eastern Europe that were obliterated in the Holocaust, as sinister forces. "Don't buy Estee Lauder," Greenhouse admonished. Greenhouse concluded by discussing Hillel, which he said welcomes a diversity of opinion. Campus chapters are less interested in Zionism than in social and religious Judaism, he said pointedly. The acknowledgment of Hillel’s liberalism was not a concession that his demonic picture of Jewish organizations might be flawed however. It was a tactical instruction. Hillel’s openness meant that solidarity activists intent on Israel’s destruction could rise easily in Hillel's ranks.
The relentless reference to Jews as Zionists at the conference – indeed the interchangeability of the words “Jew” and “Zionist” -- was an unintentional confirmation that the anti-Zionism of the solidarity activists was in fact anti-Semitism as critics have charged – despite the presence of deracinated Jews like Greenhouse and Wise.
DAY THREE: STRATEGY SESSIONS
On Sunday morning, I spent two hours disguising myself as a Pakistani again before I set off for the final day of the Duke conference. I was able to get through the metal detectors with my concealed camera and recorder, and sat down in front of the morning panel: "What Palestinians Are Up Against: Oppression and Discrimination." The program identified the panelists as Brian Avery, a "human rights advocate," Rauda Marcos, a Palestinian poet and leader of a lesbian group, and Rania Masri, a local Palestinian writer and filmmaker also listed as a "human rights advocate."
Avery's face was disfigured -- the result of some ricocheting bullets that struck him one night when he violated curfew in a combat zone around Jenin. The program guide and Avery himself both blamed the Israeli army. But the Israeli army maintains the bullets came from Palestinian terrorists firing carelessly in the area. After the shooting, Avery received expert medical care in Israel – free of charge. He dismissed Israel’s charity to a dedicated enemy describing the treatment he received as a public relations stunt because he was a foreign national. Avery never detailed the work he allegedly did as a "human rights advocate." And it was clear from his remarks that Jews did not qualify for such protections. "Bush's signing of the Global Anti-Semitism Bill was special payback to the Jewish folk," he informed his audience. In a later outburst he told them, "Zionists control all the media."
One of the speakers who followed Avery, Rania Masri, urged "people of color" to boycott Jewish products and businesses. Like other panelists who harped on racial issues she ignored the fact that most Israelis have the same skin pigmentation as Arabs. Rauda Marcos another speaker said, "I would vote for a revolution. When is our revolution going to happen? The Palestinians still have the same problem no matter who they deal with-Barak, Sharon, it was all the same." She drew sweeping parallels between the Iraqi occupation and the conflict in Israel, blaming both on America. "Israel is a place for the U.S. to land in," Marcos declared. "Palestine? Iraq? What's next? What country will be invaded by the U.S. army and Israel?"
Gays are "not free" in the U.S. and Israel, said Marcos, a self-declared lesbian. A moment later she was complaining about the International Gay Pride Festival, which is scheduled to be held in Jerusalem in 2006. She urged everyone to “boycott” the festival. "We cannot be free as gays at the same time other people are being jailed, killed!" she cried.
This was the end of the panel. Wendy Ake came on the dais to announce a litany of resolutions passed by committees of the conference. Many of them dealt with new ways to promote divestment plans against Israel. A proposal to arrange a wider boycott against the Caterpillar Corporation also was adopted. Surprisingly, two resolutions had been introduced to condemn suicide bombings and terrorism. The resolutions proposed amending principle #5 of the conference principles, which currently fails to reject such attacks. An organizer announced that these anti-terrorist resolutions were the only ones that failed to gain approval. On hearing this, the audience erupted into wild cheers and applause. Some people stood up, screaming for joy.
Rann Bar-On, an organizer of the conference, was later quoted in the local Herald Sun, which provided an entirely positive review of the conference covering most of its front page. Said Bar-on, "We don't see it as very useful for us as a solidarity movement to condemn violence."
The final resolution designated the University of Wisconson-Madison as the venue for next year's Palestine Solidarity Conference. Madison is the home turf of the Duke conference’s organizer Fayyad Sbaihat.
The resolutions over, the room cleared once for "strategy sessions" in which radical groups that had come to Duke from around the U.S. met to plan campus activities for the coming year. Members of the press were barred.
As I picked my my belongings to move, I was approached by Dovid Weiss, a rabbi from the Neteuri Karta, who commented he noticed I was taking notes and asked me if I'd like to interview him. The Neteuri Karta is an obscure sect of ultra-Orthodox Chasidic Jews who believe the state of Israel should be destroyed because it came into being before the arrival of the Messiah as foretold in scripture. Arafat has made good use of the Neteuri Karta; he pays their leader, Moshe Hirsch, $50,000 a year to be his “Minister of Jewish Affairs,” which is a job in name only. For this payment, Hirsch lends the Neteuri Karta name to the Palestinian cause.
At Duke the previous day, on Saturday, I had seen Weiss and a Netueri Karta colleague participating in the conference workshops. A truly Orthodox Jew would never engage in such activities on the Sabbath. Dovid Weiss, I concluded, was little more than a terrorist fellow-traveler in rabbincal clothing.
As the room cleared, chairs were rearranged for the "strategy planning session." Representatives from radical groups and self-styled revolutionaries from all over the U.S. introduced themselves and began discussing their activities from the previous year and what they were planning to do in the coming year. Most were from chapters at American colleges. When my turn came, I said I was from Georgetown and working on a new project.
As I said this I noticed that John Burness, Duke's Vice President for Governmental Affairs, had joined the strategy session. Burness had had several run-ins with the faculty, students and alumni at Duke because of the interference he ran for the organizers of this event. Even after receiving a petition signed by 92,000 people asking Duke not to host the event, even after proof was submitted demonstrating that the terrorist supporting International Solidarity Movement and the Palestine Solidarity Movement were in fact the same entity – something he had denied -- Burness continued to defend the conference, claiming that it was a matter of "freedom of speech." Burness also ensured that the organizers would be allowed to close their strategy sessions so as not to reveal many of their most destructive agendas to the general public and the press. After the conference, organizers were quoted by the local press as saying the event cost them less than $10,000 to put on. Another report claimed they spent less than $2,000. But Duke University officials conceded they had spent $60,000 to make the hatefest possible. This was the price of Burness’ “free speech.”
Throughout the disputes leading up to the conference, Burness seemed personally invested in seeing that the conference would take place. He presented the affair in a positive light on Duke's website, and obstinately dismissed the negative information passed on to him by its opponents. In addition to denying that there were any links between the Palestine Solidarity Movement and the International Solidarity Movement, even after organizer Ran Bar-On admitted he was a member-organizer from the latter, Burness also denied that "Kill the Jews!" had been chanted at the Michigan Palestine Solidarity Conference. He did make a partial and half-hearted correction after I sent him a legal affidavit and other evidence to prove it was true. Burness claimed on the Duke website that a major Jewish organization had endorsed the Michigan conference, which was a blatant fabrication, which he refused to correct until the Jewish organization itself corrected him.
While I was reflecting on the presence of Burness in the inner sanctum of these strategy sessions, my cell phone rang and I went to the back of the room to answer it. Burness followed me and said he knew who I was, and threatened to call the police. So that’s why he was there. As an enforcer for the conference organizers, to protect the secrecy of their planning sessions. Burness said I was a member of the press and that I had to leave or I would be arrested. I had noted that organizations like the International Socialist Organization, which openly advocates the violent overthrow of the American government, were attending. I defended my presence at the session, but elected to leave. Once outside, I asked Burness whether he was aware that the agenda of the International Socialist Organization attending the event was the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. Apparently the question struck a sensitive nerve. His answer was “You lying f—k!” as though I had accused someone close to him of an embarrassing act.
Before I was able to file this report, David Horowitz, my editor at FrontPagemagazine.com and the man who had sent me to report on the conference at Duke, received this email from John Burness:
From: "John F Burness"
Subject: Lee Kaplan
Date: Monday, October 18, 2004 1:27 PM
Hello Mr Horowitz:
We have communicated several times in the past and while we have disagreed on a number of issues, I have always felt we did so with respect for each others’ views. That is why I write you now.
I enclose an e-mail I have just sent to Lee Kaplan, a reporter for your publication FrontpageMag.com. Several weeks ago, Mr Kaplan wrote to ask if I would assure him that he could attend the meeting of the PSM conference on campus since he reported that he had been denied entry to a similar event in California, the previous weekend. I sent him the enclosed email confirming that he could do so. You will note that his participation in the event was conditional---as it was for all other attendees from the media or the general public---that he agree to honor the code of civility required of all registrants and that should he come as a representative of your publication, he agrees to respect the decisions of the student sponsors concerning media participation including restrictions on the use of cameras and recording devices at specifically designated events.
…Mr Kaplan … had the option available to anyone who wished to attend the conference to be there as a private citizen. That would have permitted him to attend all sessions of the conference including those which the sponsors had declared off limits to the media. Mr Kaplan chose to register as a member of the media representing FrontpageMag.com, which absolutely was his choice to make.
At one of the sessions that was closed to the media, Mr Kaplan attended in a Clouseau-like disguise with make up, dyed hair and a fake beard, wearing a Kaffiyeh. (At an earlier workshop, I realized that he also was in disguise and represented himself as a Muslim from Pakistan.) When the attendance sheet went around he signed it as Michael Dost and listed an email address as Kuwaitikwiki@yahoo.com. When one of the students asked him if he was Lee Kaplan, he told her his name was Michael Dost and showed her a fake drivers license from Rhode Island (which I believe to be illegal). After I checked firstname.lastname@example.org(he at least showed a sense of humor with this email address) to determine if it was valid and of course it wasn't. I approached Mr Kaplan and told him he needed to leave since the event, as he knew, was not open to the media. He showed me the same driver's license he had showed the student. I told him that he nonetheless would have to leave and he did so not happily but without incident. In a subsequent conversation with him outside of the building, he acknowledged that he was carrying a taping device in his pocket. And shortly thereafter he had removed the fake beard and make up.
I have worked with many journalists over the years but never have I experienced one whose behavior has been so outside the norms of recognized ethical and journalistic standards as Mr.Kaplan. Since Mr Kaplan was at this conference as your reporter, were you or anyone associated with your publication aware of his deliberate decision to lie in agreeing to respect and comply with the rules of attendance that the student organizers of the conference had stipulated and to which all other reporters complied? I hope you agree with me that his behavior violates just about every appropriate standard of journalistic integrity that I assume you require of reporters for FrontpageMag.com.
I look forward to hearing from you.
John F. Burness
Senior Vice President for Public Affairs
and Government Relations
This is David Horowitz’s reply:
Hello Mr. Burness,
As a preface to my reply to the concern you express about journalistic ethics that may or may not have been involved in Lee Kaplan’s report on what transpired at Duke, allow me to put your letter in a more appropriate context. I, too, have concerns, and these are not only ethical but also practical, involving issues that affect the lives of innocent human beings. I am frankly amazed and appalled at the lengths you are prepared to go to deny the obvious and to defend the indefensible in this case. We are not after all discussing an academic conference at Duke concerned with intellectual matters of inquiry and interpretation. We are not discussing a medical convention dedicated to the development of practical techniques for improving human lives, where issues of patient privacy would be a legitimate concern. We are discussing a convention of radical and violent groups, practiced in the art of hate, who have been brought together for the purpose of dismantling and destroying a democratic state that was created as a refuge for the pitifully few survivors of one of the great crimes against humanity in recorded history.
In this matter, you and the Duke administration have gone out of your way to make possible and to defend at every turn a conference organized by individuals who are driven by a hatred of Jews and who are dedicated to the destruction of the state of Israel by any means necessary -- including the murder of innocent civilians, which the attendees went on record refusing to condemn. In the report by Lee Kaplan, which can be verified by reference to the tapes he was able to make, the organizers of the Duke conference reveal themselves to be cynical liars about matters of life and death for the Jewish citizens of Israel -- which are not matters of reasonable disupte. These people are committed to techniques of manipulation and deceit for the sole purpose of subverting campus organizations in order to further a destructive agenda contrary to the intent of the members of these organizations, to be adept practitioners of slander for the purpose of demonizing Jews in general, whom conference organizers ritually referred to agents of a “disease” -- Zionism -- and the state of Israel in particular as an institution worthy of destruction.
In viewing these matters, I cannot be unmindful that the fate of six million Jews was sealed while German universities, not all that different from Duke, maintained their civilities while sponsoring “open dialogues” with the very anti-Semites who were preparing the slaughter. What is ethical in pretending that Jew-hatred did not have a field day at Duke in the sessions of the Palestine Solidarity Conference? Or that the conference itself was not defined by anti-Israel agendas? I’m curious, too: Would you have expended the kind of effort you did or the sizeable Duke resources you made available to these radicals if they had been members of the Ku Klux Klan and their targets had been African Americans rather than Jews? The Duke Chronicle, for which you are not directly responsible but which also bears the Duke name, censored an ad I placed in its pages and forced me to remove factual data about these conferences to protect the sensibilities of supporters of terrorism and the destruction of Israel. On the other hand, following the event, the Chronicle published – unedited – an anti-Semitic article by a Duke student who happened to be African American. Can you detect the pattern here?
As you were reminded in advance of the conference, the organizers of this event were members of an International Solidarity Movement whose purpose -- documented in the pages of this magazine and elsewhere -- was to aid and abet terrorists in Israel by obstructing the work of Israeli security forces while hiding under the cloak of “human rights” activism and the immunity they enjoy as citizens of the democratic West. There is no mystery about who these people are. Their conference at Michigan not only featured chants of “Kill the Jews,” a fact you continue to remain agnostic about (whose agendas does that serve?), feature as its honored keynoter the North American head of Palestine Islamic Jihad (Sami al-Arian, whose organization is responsible for the murder of more than 100 innocent people in Israel). Sami al-Arian is no stranger to you and Duke, as we have discussed in previous exchanges. In 2002, he was the keynote speaker at a faculty-sponsored conference at Duke on “Terrorism and Civil Liberties.” Al-Arian was presented as a spokesman for civil liberties. This was more than seven years after Al-Arian was exposed by the Miami Herald as terrorist who had ranted “Death to Israel” at terrorist rallies the FBI taped and a year after Judy Genshaft had removed Al-Arian from his position as a professor on her campus pending the results of the FBI’s investigation. (Al-Arian was indicted and is now in jail.)
Now to your point. Lee Kaplan attended these sessions and revealed that their attendees are training students to deceive others, Jews mostly, such as the students and administrators and benefactors of campus Hillel organizations. You were present at these closed sessions and know this. Yet this was no more your concern then the wall of lies that the organizers put out in the first place about the nature of their agendas in holding the conference (“open dialogue” etc.), which you worked so hard to protect. If you had been successful in policing those who came to attend the conference, Lee Kaplan would never have been allowed to take his tape recorder in to these sessions and the organizers would be able to present their next conference -- to be held on the unsuspecting campus of the University of Wisconsin -- in the same deceptive way they presented this one. And administrators like you would be able to claim that there was no evidence that would be anything but an “open dialogue” and academic discussion of issues in the Middle East. They would then be able to to repeat the same deceptions and perhaps secure the same assistance from the administrators in Madison.
Now, however, thanks to the ingenuity and dedication of our journalist Lee Kaplan, we have tape recordings and copious notes of these proceedings precluding all but the hopelessly credulous from doubting his report. No administrator at Wisconsin will be able to pretend, as you did, that statements made were not made and that agendas pursued were not pursued, and that the conference organizers were anything but deceptive in their treatment of the public. Kaplan’s report will alert the university community in Madison that their university’s name and auspices and resources would not be used for an academic conference which intends “open dialogue” but for a conference whose agenda is to recruit and organize support for anti-Israel and terrorist agendas. This was not a conference “For Palestinians” as the Raleigh Sun-Herald falsely proclaimed, but against Israelis and Jews.
I think this pretty well sums up the importance and value of a free press, and we at FrontPage are proud to have been able to carry on and further this noble tradition. And that is how we see the issues of ethics and integrity as they were involved in the shameful conference you helped to facilitate and promote at Duke.
Standwithuscampus also contributed to this report.
Lee kaplan is an deditor at http://www.frontpagemag.com