A group that has refused to condemn terrorism and advocates boycotting Israel plans to hold its annual conference in Washington this month because it is the city where the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. led his 1963 march to champion equality for all human beings.
But, in stark contrast to Dr. King’s own beliefs, one of the speakers at the Palestine Solidarity Movement (PSM) event has condoned violence as a means of resistance and has a history of trying to stifle academic freedom while another has voiced anti-Semitic sentiments.
The conference is to be held at Georgetown University Feb. 17-19 under the guise of freedom of speech, but the Palestine Solidarity Movement’s agenda violates Georgetown’s own policy guidelines for campus events.
Those guidelines require “politically sensitive activities” to be sponsored by the University and not to “conflict with Georgetown University standards as a Roman Catholic institution  .” Instead, the conference is sponsored by a student group.
Defaming Dr. King’s Doctrine of Non-Violence
“I can think of no more fitting place for this conference than the city in which the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. led his historic 1963 march in support of the idea that all human being deserve to be treated as equals,” a spokesman for the group sponsoring the event, Bayann Hamid, stated in a PSM press release .
However, the contrast between Dr. King’s intentions and the organizers of the PSM conference couldn’t be more dramatic. Whereas Dr. King’s core beliefs and methods embodied peaceful, nonviolent struggle and the need for civil rights for all, organizers of the PSM event have previously refused to condemn terror as a legitimate means of protest.
The memory of Dr. King, whose wife Coretta Scott King died this week, is done a disservice when abused and mischaracterized by the PSM. The fact is that Dr. King was a strong supporter of Israel; in one interview included in a biography, he said, “Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all of our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity. I see Israel, and never mind saying it, as one of the great outposts of democracies in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land almost can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy  .”
A History of Suppressing Academic Freedom
One of the PSM’s featured speakers is Birmingham University lecturer Sue Blackwell, an English teacher who has led the effort in Britain to stifle academic freedom by orchestrating the vote for an academic boycott against Israel by the Association of University Teachers (AUT).
The AUT is the trade union and professional association for more than 48,000 UK higher education professionals. Blackwell, who has no expertise in Middle East affairs and doesn’t hold a Ph.D., has called Israel a “colonial, apartheid state” whose regime should be removed  .
Additionally, she labels Israel an “illegitimate” state. She wanted AUT to adopt a policy that would hold Israeli academics to a much higher standard of behavior than other academics and, without any evidence, has said that Israeli academics are “routinely implicated in racist discourses against Arab students and Arabs in general  .” When the AUT voted to rescind the boycott, she blamed the decision on a “well-funded campaign by the pro-Israeli lobby .”
Blackwell also has condoned violence, saying, “Governments commit daily acts of violence against their own citizens and those of other countries, and I support the right of ordinary people to resist that violence, using their own violence if necessary .”
Destruction of Israel by Another Name
Another speaker invited to the PSM conference is Mohammed Abed, a graduate student in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Abed calls for a final resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through a bi-national state in which areas of Jewish density would belong to an Israeli province and areas of Palestinian density to a Palestinian province.
The two areas would be federated in a national government that jointly handled foreign, military and economic affairs. The plan calls for the right of return of all Palestinian refugees; his redrawn map whittles Israel down to small, disconnected segments. In short, Abed advocates the dismantlement of Israel as a sovereign state and essentially a return to proposals recommended and rejected in 1947.
Abed’s venom against Israel is so extreme that University of Wisconsin students started a petition to boycott the school newspaper because of the “unusual levels of anti-Semitism” and “Jewish conspiracies and deceptions about Israel” that appeared in articles it printed by Mohammed Abed .
More Contrasts Between Dr. King, Palestine Solidarity Movement
The PSM has labeled Zionism as racism, a tag that even the United Nations repudiated in repealing its infamous resolution equating Zionism and racism  . The PSM’s agenda also includes sabotaging Israel’s economy, denying Israelis their right to education and denouncing Zionism – the Jewish right to self-determination.
Dr. King, on the other hand, specifically defended Zionism and even reproached those who disparaged it. “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism,” Dr. King said during an appearance at Harvard University in 1968  .
The PSM’s Agenda and Track Record of Hate
Compassion to the plight of the Palestinian people is both important and laudable. But the Palestine Solidarity Movement uses the hardships of the Palestinian people, some of which are the result of their own leadership, as a pretext for tactics that aggravate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The PSM Web site lists a series of “Points of Unity” that its members must agree to and which reflect the movement’s lack of interest in a negotiated solution that would result in the establishment of a Palestinian state coexisting with Israel  . The word “peace” does not appear anywhere in PSM’s principles and there is no mention of a two-state solution.
Prior to the Oct. 2004 PSM conference at Duke University, the movement’s organizers rejected a request to endorse a letter calling for a civil debate that would “condemn the murder of innocent civilians,” “support a two-state solution” and “recognize the difference between disagreement and hate speech….”
Rann Bar-on, PSM’s local spokesperson at Duke, said on Sept. 8, 2004, that the PSM “would not sign the statement because it violates the philosophy of the organization, which will not condemn any Palestinian action  .” When asked about the upcoming Georgetown conference, PSM spokesperson Nadeem Muaddi told the Washington Jewish Week “the group has refused calls to condemn terrorism and suicide bombing because such efforts never include a condemnation of Israeli violence as well  .”
Instead, the PSM calls for “addressing the deep-rooted issues of Israel’s racism and ethno-religious centricity rather than debating facts on the ground  .” However, the PSM provides readers with misleading information about Israel’s policies and its treatment of Palestinians. In one such case, the PSM describes Israel’s ‘oppressive’ discrimination of Israeli-Arabs. According to the PSM, Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are considered a lower class group and are targeted for discrimination in education, employment and the military .
The Palestine Solidarity Movement fails to mention accounts of Israeli-Arabs who serve as members of the Knesset  , Israel’s democratically elected Parliament, ambassadors  , Supreme Court Justices , professors  and security guards who were critically injured while preventing major terrorist attacks.
Another important detail that the PSM excludes is that in 1948, the Declaration of the State of Israel was established to “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex” and guarantees “freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture  .” Arab citizens of Israel enjoy the same equal rights as Israelis.
Indeed, the PSM’s declaration of opposition to all forms of oppression runs unambiguously counter to its stated goal to “cause the isolation of the racist state [Israel] economically, socially, culturally, and diplomatically in the international arena;” insisting that “Israel must be characterized a pariah state .”
Even though the PSM claims to be dedicated “to implementing divestment and boycott strategies as a component of human rights activism  ,“ its April 2005 academic boycotts have harmed not only Israelis, but Palestinians as well.
Its divestment campaign prohibits Israeli and Palestinian educators and students the right to academic freedom. Hundreds of Palestinians attend Israeli schools and universities; sanctioning Israeli academic institutions is counterproductive to the PSM’s discriminatory measures.
Furthermore, the movement’s attempts to weaken Israel’s economy, which directly affects the Palestinian people, can only cause greater financial instability in the West Bank and Gaza. Apparently, the Palestine Solidarity Movement seeks to deny Palestinians some of the most basic rights that Israel guarantees and provides to Palestinians.
A History of Deception
The PSM conference at Duke devoted workshops to teaching participants how to deceive the organizers of the Birthright Israel program, which offers young Jews free trips to Israel. The workshop taught attendees to try to get into the program to gain free transportation to Israel and then abandon the Birthright program to join Palestine Solidarity Movements in the West Bank, such as the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).
Another workshop called Bringing the Palestinian Struggle Into Our School instructed participants on how to infiltrate public schools with the goal of teaching children lessons that portray Israel in a negative light and encourage sympathy for the Palestinians.
The PSM’s Refusal to Acknowledge Israel’s Desire for Peace and the PSM’s Refusal to Place Blame on Palestinian Leaders
Israel is not perfect, and the citizens agree on the need to do more to bring about equality for Arab citizens. There should be no doubt, however that Israel is committed to peace. As early as 1947, before Israel’s creation, the Zionists representing the future Jewish State recognized that there should be two lands for two people.
But Israel was subsequently attacked by its Arab neighbors. Despite that and several other attacks, Israel continued to reach out its hand in peace and made painful sacrifices, such as giving up the Sinai for peace with Egypt. In August, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank; Israel also has altered routes of the security fence that strained Palestinian livelihood.
To this day, Israel is a democracy committed to the peace process and a two-state solution. Acting Prime Minster Ehud Olmert was recently quoted as saying, “I hope that after [the January 25 Palestinian] elections results are in, and after our election results are in, that I will be able to enter into negotiations with Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas]… on a final status agreement between us and the Palestinians  .”
The peace process, however, is not a method of rapprochement endorsed by the PSM. Fayyad Sbaihat, a member of the PSM and the University of Wisconsin Divestment Campaign, believes that the efforts exerted by the United States, the European Union and the United Nations to end the conflict have been in vain and futile. Rather, the Palestine Solidarity Movement considers blame and denial plausible measures to cease the bloodshed.
The PSM refuses to credit Israel with its commitment to the Palestinian people or to peace. Instead, it continually blames Israel as the sole proprietor of the Palestinians’ suffering. Meanwhile, the PSM continues to intensify its crusade to hinder potential peace negotiations that lay the foundation for a future Palestinian state. Even today, as the world witnesses the lawlessness and chaos in Gaza  , the PSM directs all of its opprobrium at Israel.
The International Solidarity Movement and the PSM Connection
Although conference organizers say otherwise, the PSM conference is closely linked through its objectives with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a group that has harbored known terrorists .
Nevertheless, the Palestine Solidarity Movement’s Web site states explicitly that it is not affiliated with the ISM, stating instead that the ISM is an “umbrella group of Palestine-related groups” and that “the PSM is a completely separate organization from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) .” On the other hand, Georgetown University’s Students for Justice in Palestine (GU-SJP), which is sponsoring the event on behalf of the PSM, is affiliated with DC Palestine Solidarity – a 13-member group to which the ISM belongs.
The ISM claims to be “a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles .” Although Palestinian residents determine when and where protests should be conducted, it is the ISM members who organize the protestors and confront the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
Under the ISM’s influence, foreign volunteers from America, Canada, Europe, Asia and other parts of the world enter Israel, financing their own trips. Most arrive through Ben Gurion Airport and travel immediately to East Jerusalem to stay a few nights at the Faisel Hostel, a front for the ISM’s Jerusalem headquarters.
The ISM Web site provides advice for ISM protestors entering Israel before their arrival . The protestors are openly encouraged to mask their true intentions upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport. For members wishing to state their true purposes for arriving in Israel, the Web site suggests calling ahead to the ISM media office in Beit Sahur so that ISM organizers are prepared to obtain legal council if necessary.
All volunteers who wish to protest on behalf of ISM are required to undergo two days of training in Ramallah, preparation that is required to become a member. Trainees are taught nonviolent protest techniques, such as how to ‘forget’ one’s passport to avoid identification if questioned by the police and how to continue protesting after an army official has repeatedly requested a protestor to leave a closed military zone.
The ISM training emphasizes Palestinian history and suffering and gives in-depth lessons on Israeli military insignias. However, Palestinian suicide bombers, other forms of Palestinian terrorism and Israeli civilian casualties are intentionally suppressed from the ISM’s training in order to generate anti-Israel inductees.
ISM founders Adam Shapiro, an American Jew and his wife, Huwaida Arraf, openly state that, “We accept that Palestinians have a right to resist with arms, as they are an occupied people upon who force and violence is being used. The Geneva Conventions accept that armed resistance is legitimate for an occupied people, and there is no doubt that this right cannot be denied .”
ISM spokesman Raphael Cohen admits that on April 25, 2003 he hosted a group of 15 people at his apartment that included Asif Mohammad Hanif and Omar Khan Sharif, British nationals who subsequently participated in various activities planned by the ISM in Gaza .
Five days later, the two carried out a suicide bombing in a popular pub next to the American Embassy in which three people were killed and 60 injured. Hanif and Sharif entered Israel under the guise of “peace activists .” The ISM denies responsibility for the actions of the British bombers.
On March 27, 2003, ISM members were caught harboring Islamic Jihad terrorist Shadi Sukiya. He was arrested by Israeli forces in the ISM’s office, where a handgun was also found, after two foreign ISM activists helped hide Sukiya. These foreign activists tried to bar IDF soldiers from entering the ISM offices, knowing that Sukia was there  .
While the International Solidarity Movement claims to be a humanitarian organization dedicated to the principles of nonviolent resistance, it has demonstrated no interest in peace for Israelis. At a minimum, the ISM has acted as an apologist for terrorism and, at times, actively abetted militants. The ISM is a pro-Palestinian organization that is openly opposed to the two-state solution envisioned by the parties truly interested in peace.
Georgetown’s History of Hostility toward Israel and Violation of Campus Policies
Georgetown has long been known for the faculty in its Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, widely viewed as apologists for militant Islam and critics of Israel. Not surprisingly, the university recently accepted a $20 million gift from Saudi Prince Alaweed Bin Talal . Bin Talal has accused Israel of “slaughtering the Palestinians” and his offer of $10 million following 9/11 was rejected by New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The conference is being allowed on the Georgetown campus under the guise of freedom of speech, even though the agenda violates the university’s guidelines for campus events as described in its Campus Activity Facilities policy. Those guidelines require “politically sensitive activities” to be sponsored by the university and not “conflict with Georgetown University standards as a Roman Catholic institution.”
Allowing the Palestine Solidarity Movement to hold its conference at Georgetown isn’t an issue of free speech. Rather, it is a question of whether an academic institution should violate its own guidelines to host a conference with no academic sponsorship or scholarly value and that incites hatred and violence.
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Source: The Israel Project