Since 9/11 the American public-not just long suffering conservative college students-has become aware of the oppressive presence of the academic left. Recently attention was drawn to one of the basic freshmen reading courses required at UC Berkeley, which is titled "The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance" and is taught by English instructor Snehal Shingavi. The course description concluded with the following caveat: "Conservative thinkers are encouraged to seek other sections." The conversion of the once liberal university into a political base for the radical left has been proceeding apace for many years. Recently, voices have arisen to challenge the campus totalitarians, both from within the academy and without. Hoping to quash the voices of dissent inside, the left has become both bolder and heavier handed.
U.C. Berkeley postures as a haven of free speech and tolerance, but like other so-called liberal campuses across the nation, it is far from that. The unstated rule in effect on the campus is that one is free to speak and to be as extreme as one wishes, but only so long as one speaks from the left. When the student newspaper, the Daily Californian, endorsed Ward Connerly's statewide Proposition 209, which banned racial preferences in California, the entire press run of over 23,000 copies was stolen. Nobody was punished for the criminal act.
More recently, the Daily Cal had its press run stolen for running David Horowitz's advertisement "10 Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery Are A Bad Idea-And Racist Too," and for running an ad by the Ayn Rand Institute calling for a United States attack on Iran. This year, the California Patriot, a monthly conservative magazine, had all 4,000 issues stolen due to an article critical of the separatist Chicano group MEChA, whose radical agenda is "self-determination" for La Raza (the "race") meaning that Mexico should reclaim the Southwest. (This was also the agenda of Germany, exposed in the famous Zimmerman memorandum that provoked America's entry into the First World War.) MEChA is funded by university fees and poses as a "civil rights" group.
Freedom of the press isn't the only First Amendment freedom to be traduced on campus. Even more disturbing is the silencing of any voices that offer an alternative to the leftist party line. Since 2000, no less than four speakers have had their speeches shouted down or cancelled since they ran afoul of the radical left. It should be noted that liberals who are not sufficiently leftist are as likely as conservatives to face this persecution (without any disciplinary response from the UC Administration). Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, was the official commencement speaker for 2000 (an honor normally denied conservative figures, but on at least one occasion bestowed on a student radical at Berkeley). Albright was forced to endure being called a racist and murderer before the entire graduating class by the University Medalist, whose award is similar to that of valedictorian.
This is the sort of campus environment that allows the scheduling of courses such as Snehal's exercise in pro-Palestinian propaganda (which is unique only in the baldness of its catalogue description).
The people responsible for acts of violence against speakers and publications are a small core group of far left activists who proclaim themselves "revolutionary Marxists" and "Bolsheviks" on their websites and who latch onto different causes as opportunities present themselves to further their more general goal of aiding America's enemies and destroying its democracy. The activist career of Snehal Shingavi illustrates their agendas.
Snehal is, in fact, the spokesman or leader of many different left-wing causes and extremist groups. He has been a campus union agitator and involved in the "anti-sweatshop" crusade for example, while his base of operations is as the Berkeley leader of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), a Trostkyite splinter which describes itself as "Leninist" and advocates violent revolution in the United States. Its website, under the heading "Revolution, not Reform" explains "The structures of the present government-the Congress, the army, the police and the judiciary-cannot be taken over and used by the working class. They grew up under capitalism and are designed to protect the ruling class against workers." In other words, American democracy is a sham, and only violent revolution can bring about the triumph of the socialist cause.
Even in the face of the terrorist attacks on September 11, Snehal's anti-American passions could not be contained. That evening, Snehal and other campus radicals hosted a candlelight vigil on Sproul Plaza, the traditional heart of U.C. Berkeley student life, which was advertised as a "memorial vigil." The bait and switch was that this was really an anti-America manifestation whose speakers proclaimed that the United States was the world's greatest terrorist regime, and expressed the wish that George Bush had been in the World Trade Center at the time of the attack.
The 9/11 terrorist bombings were hailed as the "first blow against American capitalism." I was there to hear it. During the open microphone period, I called for a military response against the terrorists and was booed off the stage. Another student spoke of his friend who was presumed dead in the Towers and was laughed at and mocked when he described his friend as a stockbroker. Towards the end of the evening, the presidents of both the campus Republicans and Democrats held up an American flag and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. They were booed and heckled by the anti-American crowd.
When students held a real memorial service six days later, Snehal was on hand to disturb the solemnity with a large neon poster that read, "Don't let them turn tragedy into an excuse for war." Such was his disgust with the United States that he could not even allow students an hour's worth of peace to mourn.
Like the rest of the hard left, Snehal has adopted the Palestinians as his latest cause and currently is a leader of the campus club Students for Justice in Palestine. Though the group hides under the claim that it is only anti-Zionist rather than anti-Semitic, an examination of its actions shows otherwise. It is an open supporter of the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah whose explicit agendas are the destruction of the Jewish state, and it regularly appropriates the images of the Holocaust to harass the campus Jewish community. This year, Snehal and his cohorts in the Students for Justice in Palestine advertised a demonstration on campus to be held on Holocaust Remembrance Day with flyers that featured large photos of Polish Jews being herded by Nazis juxtaposed with a photo of an Israeli soldier warily watching several kaffiyeh wearing Palestinians. The caption read, "Do not let it happen again."
During that demonstration, in spite of the howls from Jewish onlookers, one of the speakers said the Kaddish, the traditional Jewish prayer of mourning, for the Palestinians who had been killed by the Israeli army. Students for Justice in Palestine members, many (including Snehal, who is not Palestinian) wearing the kaffiyeh in the style of the terrorists, then proceeded to take over Wheeler Hall, one of the major academic buildings on campus. Snehal was quoted describing building occupations as positive and claiming that the protesters were using "critical thinking tools" to encourage economic divestment from Israel (which they regularly and falsely describe as an "apartheid" state).
This year's occupation led to the arrest of 79 protesters including one who was charged with felony assault on a police officer and to the temporary banning of Students for Justice in Palestine as a student group (within a month the UC Administration had rescinded the ban). At a follow-up rally protesting the arrests, Hatem Bazian, a lecturer in the Middle East Studies department and member of the Students for Justice in Palestine stated, to the approval of the crowd, "If you want to know where the pressure on the university [i.e., to prosecute the trespassers who were arrested] is coming from, look at the Jewish names on the school buildings." (UC Berkeley is a state institution whose main buildings are Sproul Hall, Dwinelle Hall and Wheeler Auditorium.
Around the same time as these events, Jews in Berkeley-were the targets of a rash of anti-Semitic attacks. Two orthodox Jews were set upon and beaten, the Hillel center had a brick thrown through its window, and several synagogues received bomb threats. Flyers comparing the Israeli army to the KKK appeared around campus, and several had "kill Jews" scrawled on them. The conditions were serious enough that many Jewish students removed their yarmulkes so that they would not be the next targets. The UC Administration, which is normally hypersensitive to the least slight against ethnic groups sat on its hands. At the same time it removed its ban from the criminal trespassers, Students for Justice in Palestine, and reinstated the group as a student organization.
When students return in the fall, they will find "English instructor" Snehal Shingavi, his arms full of copies of the ISO's newspaper The Socialist Worker, flyers supporting the latest round of Palestinian terrorism, or perhaps some entirely new anti-American cause. Snehal will be tending to the revolutionary business at hand, while rushing off to teach his "English" section and indoctrinate the unsuspecting freshman who sign up for "The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance."