On October 15-17th, Duke University is scheduled to host the Fourth Annual Conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement. This year’s event was originally slated for the West Coast (last year’s was at Ohio State), but the organizers had to look elsewhere because of reports in Frontpage Magazine and elsewhere that chants of “Kill the Jews” were heard during the proceedings of the first conference at UC-Berkeley. The same chants were repeated at the University of Michigan conference the following year, where the guest of honor was Sami al-Arian, the U.S. head of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Al-Arian won’t be appearing at the Duke event because he is currently in federal lock-up. His group is responsible for the murder of more than 100 people inside Israel including some American citizens. The campaign Frontpage Magazine waged against the conference at Ohio State, the third conference site, undoubtedly contributed to making university administrators in California skittish about holding such an event again.
Duke was chosen because it is a private university and less beholden to the public than taxpayer-supported institutions. Duke also has a history of inviting terrorists to proselytize its students. Two years ago Duke invited Sami al-Arian to keynote an academic conference on “National Security and Civil Liberties.” Al-Arian was invited as a civil liberties expert. Last year, Duke’s African and African-American Studies Department invited Weatherman terrorist Laura Whitehorn who had set off a bomb in the Pentagon and served 14 years in federal penitentiary for her act. The Duke faculty presented Whitehorn to Duke students as a “revolutionary anti-imperialist who spent over fourteen years in federal prison as a political prisoner.”
Duke defends its decision to host the Solidarity Conference on the dubious grounds that this will be an open forum on the dispute in the Middle East whose discussions will take place in an academic atmosphere. Aware that this is in fact a conference which among other agendas is designed to mobilize support for divestment from Israel, Duke’s new president, Richard Brodhead, has distanced the university from such conclusions, saying that the conference will provide an example of Duke’s openness to all points of view. If previous conferences are any indication, this is the equivalent of whistling Dixie.
The Ohio State Solidarity conference presented one face to the outside world and another to those who attended its closed workshop sessions. The press conference before the event was a propaganda show as the organizers claimed to be hosting an academic meeting to discuss ways to bring a non-violent settlement to the Middle East. Once the press was gone, the interior workshops addressed to ways to conduct war against Israel and its supporters by promoting divestment, getting control of campus newspapers, joining a campaign to ruin the business of the Caterpillar Corporation (because the Israeli army uses these bulldozers to unearth terrorist tunnels), and other like concerns. Ways to counter negative press reporting of suicide bombings were also discussed – but never whether one should condemn them.
Historical lectures were indeed given, but from a hopelessly propagandistic point of view. Whenever an attendee challenged the propaganda, he was surrounded by hostile voices and shouted down. There were calls from organizers to support the Islamic terrorists (referred to as “freedom fighters”) in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Iraq, and speeches by leaders of various “revolutionary” groups who attended to show their solidarity with the Palestinian Intifada. Rather than open forums for discussion, the workshops were strategy sessions focused on attacking Israel and hoodwinking the American public.
The Ohio Solidarity Conference used airport-style metal detectors to confiscate tape recorders and cameras, while the press was barred. The Duke Solidarity Conference will follow the same procedures.
Duke’s VP for Governmental Affairs, John Burness, has stated in e-mails that al-Arian’s appearances at previous conferences and the connections to terrorism are not sufficient reason to allow the press to attend the Duke event or to allow cameras and tape recorders inside. Duke is certainly embarrassed, but not to the degree that it feels the need to do anything about it.
Duke University’s website attempts to whitewash the reports of anti-Semitic outbursts at previous Solidarity conferences by claiming that there is no evidence that such outbursts occurred (of course, if cameras and recorders had been allowed this would not be a problem). Yet a simple Google search turned up a signed legal affidavit as well as an eyewitness who testified that such chants were heard at the Michigan conference in both Arabic and English. Such activities in the past were even reported in the Ohio State campus newspaper, the Lantern and confirmed genuine by the New York Post and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. When proof was shown to Burness’s office, the university website was changed to the effect that “some” people “claim” to have heard such epithets in Arabic.
The Palestine Solidarity Movement is, in fact, a fraternal organization of the PLO, and its fraternal terrorist organizations the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Hamas. By its own admission the Solidarity movement operates under Palestinian control. It was set up on U.S. campuses by the PLO under various front names to reduce liability and to allow the different groups that compose it to pose as a “peace” movement. In practice, it recruits naive young people and die-hard radicals to go to the West Bank and Gaza and assist the PLO in interfering with the anti-terrorism operations of the Israeli army.
The organization insulates itself from scrutiny by using several different names such as Palsolidarity, Al-Awda, and SUSTAIN. At the Ohio State Palestine Solidarity Conference, its U.S. leader, Adam Shapiro, admitted before a crowded auditorium that all of these groups comprise the Palestine Solidarity Movement in the United States and that they call themselves the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) when they are abroad. The ISM website openly lists different named groups around the U.S. as “chapters” of the ISM. The same source states that the movement is “Palestinian-led.” Terrorists who murdered Israelis have met in ISM offices and one was even captured hiding in an ISM office with a weapons cache.
Duke’s President Richard Brodhead has taken the position that the problem presented by this conference is simply one of free speech. “We believe the best antidote to speech that others find disagreeable, is more speech, not less. In the final analysis, affirming that principle is the role of the university, and I stand squarely behind it.” How is free speech advanced by closed sessions, and the kind of intimidation of dissenting views that took place at the previous Solidarity conferences? When I asked Burness for a definitive answer as to whether the organizers would be allowed to confiscate cameras and recorders, he said it was up to the organizers.
While Burness continues to bury his head the sand, refusing to acknowledge the terrorist ties of the organizers, the fact is that Fadi Kiblawi, a convener of the Solidarity Conference in Michigan and of the forthcoming Duke Conference as well, has openly praised suicide bombers and expressed his desire to become one.
Registrants at Ohio State were also forced to sign a document in which they agreed unconditionally to the "Right of Return" as condition of entrance. What kind of free speech is this? The current online registration form does not require this for the Duke event. However, neither did the Ohio State registration—until the event. The University of Toronto canceled a similar event when it was learned the organizers required attendees to sign an identical statement. What is the problem with Duke?
Duke’s website claims the event does not violate U.S. laws restricting specific activities contrary to U.S. foreign policy on behalf of a foreign entity. Duke’s website claims, “The Palestine Solidarity Movement is not a foreign government, and there does not appear to be the type of connection between it and any foreign government such that its activities in the upcoming conference would be prohibited under U.S. law.”
However, the Palestine Solidarity website itself acknowledges that it is “Palestinian-led” organization (or did until last week, after the website had been exposed in FrontPage Magazine.) At the Ohio State conference last year, Adam Shapiro, the public face of ISM, said to a crowded auditorium that Palestinian “handlers” supervise all ISM “volunteers” in the West Bank and Gaza. Some of those “volunteers” are the people organizing the conference.
The guiding principles of the conference call for the “de-colonization of all Palestinian land,” meaning all of Israel’s territory. That is a call to war, not peace. The sixth principle states that the conference seeks to promote “civil disobedience,” which is a noble sounding euphemism for illegal action, “direct action,” that is violent destruction of property.
But it is the fifth principle that gives the charade away and exposes the hypocrisy that underlies Duke’s appeasement of these most unacademic conference holders: “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.” This is the language of Leninist vanguards and the totalitarian creed. The Party line is the supreme law, and no one breaks it. Thus does Duke make part of its campus a platform for totalitarians, affording a group of radical ideologues the opportunity to recruit unsuspecting Duke students to their destructive agendas.