If reaction to Daniel Pipes’ lecture on Tuesday (2/10) was any indication, fascism is alive and well at UC Berkeley. Pipes was invited by the Israel Action Committee and Berkeley Hillel to speak at the college campus known for its leftist politics. But ironically, the home of ''free speech'' and ''tolerance'' has shown itself to be distinctly intolerant to those who express political views other than their own. And Daniel Pipes happens to fit that description.
Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum, a member of the U.S. Institute of Peace, and a columnist for the New York Sun and the Jerusalem Post. But most importantly, he is pro-America, pro-Israel, and one of the foremost strategists of our time when it comes to the threat of militant Islam.
All of these combined make Daniel Pipes public enemy number one according to UC Berkeley leftists and especially radical Muslim students. Indeed, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) was out in full force on Tuesday, acting like the thugs and bullies they routinely accuse Pipes of supporting. There were about 50-70 of them, amidst a crowd of 700, and after failing to prevent Pipes from speaking, they did their best to try and disrupt the lecture and intimidate the audience.
Pipes had anticipated problems beforehand and had warned supporters that the Muslim Student Association was planning to make an appearance. They had posted an announcement about the lecture at the leftist website SFIndyMedia.org, raving that a ''Zionist'' was coming to town, and exhorting members to show up. In fact, the lecture was moved to another site on campus to accomodate a larger audience, but the MSA students still managed to sniff it out.
Outside the lecture a crowd of them were gathered, along with sympathetic leftists, many carrying the types of signs and slogans that have become all too familiar in recent years. Signs equating Zionism with Nazism, for instance. Others presented Pipes’ quotes out of context in order to smear him. Then there was the guy who shows up at all Bay Area leftist events in an Uncle Sam outfit with a sign saying ''Israel Wants You to Die for Her.'' Another nut-job hovered near the entrance shouting to anyone who would listen about how Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. ''were against Zionism.''
The Berkeley Police Department was out in full force, as were a private security team. People going inside were frisked three times and had their bags searched thoroughly as well. And a sign on the door warned that no banners, signs, shouting, or violence would be allowed. Yet all of this seemed rather futile because any and all were welcomed into the lecture, including the protesting MSA students and the guy screaming about Gandhi. The event was meant to be free and open to the public, but there’s a point at which this type of inclusiveness becomes counter-productive. It was clear from the get-go that the protesters intended to try to disrupt the event, and once inside, that’s exactly what they did.
It began as soon as Pipes stepped up to the podium. In fact, before he’d spoken one word, someone had to be escorted outside because he wouldn’t calm down. Then jeering, giggling, hissing, booing, and finally, the orchestrated chanting of ''racist'' and ''Zionist,'' (among other things) starting drowning out the lecture. However, the rest of the audience gave as good as it got and the event turned into a shouting and clapping match between Muslims and Jews.
The tension in the air was thick, tempers were rising, and yet amidst it all, Pipes kept his cool. He managed to deliver his lecture, which covered the War on Terrorism, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and Iraq, but he was forced to stop many times. Pipes spoke directly to the protesters on several occasions, pointing out the irony of their undemocratic behavior, as well as mentioning casually that it is only when he speaks at college campuses that he requires such heavy security. He even brought up the fact that members of the MSA are currently under investigation for possible ties to terrorism.
Their reaction to his speech was telling.
When Pipes brought up the need to support moderate Muslims over those who subscribe to militant Islam, they booed.
When he brought up the need to improve the status of women in Islamic countries, they booed.
When he warned that peace in the Middle East would never be achieved as long as the Palestinians continued to subscribe to a ''cult of death,'' they booed.
When he mentioned Middle East Studies professors who have been arrested under terrorism charges, they booed.
When he discussed the need to combat Islamic terrorism, they booed.
When he referred to the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks as subscribers to militant Islam, they booed and shouted ''Zionism''--no doubt a reference to the myth that Jews were behind the attacks.
When Pipes brought up CampusWatch.org, the website he founded to provide a voice for students feeling oppressed by their leftist professors, they shouted out ''McCarthyism'' and, of course, ''racist'' yet again.
And when he mentioned Iraqis’ ''liberation'' from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny, they booed even louder.
''I’m sure the Iraqis were much better off under Saddam Hussein,'' Pipes responded sarcastically.
When it came time for the question and answer period, the group of MSA students all got up together and left, chanting ''racist'' and ''Zionist'' over and over again. However, a few stragglers were left in the audience, and they eventually had to be escorted outside by the police because of their unruly behavior. One of these was the man who had been babbling about Gandhi. By this time he got down to basics, calling Pipes ''a racist Jew.'' Sadly, it took several more of these epithets before he was forcibly removed.
After the lecture, many Jews in the audience were visibly shaken. For those who hadn’t yet encountered Muslim hostility up close and personal, it was an eye-opening experience. Perhaps not all of UC Berkeley’s Muslim students subscribe to the anti-Semitic views of the MSA, but if that’s the case, they certainly didn’t make their voices heard that evening.
The fact is, radical Muslim students and their leftist counterparts are the most domineering, destructive, and dangerous forces in higher education today. If we’re to win the War on Terrorism, we may have to start with our own college campuses.
Cinnamon Stillwell is a contributing editor to ChronWatch. She lives in San Francisco and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.