This week, I reported that Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti was back in California doing his stump tour of university campuses and speaking against so-called Israeli apartheid and the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement, of which he is a principle figure. Today, he spoke twice at UC Riverside. I attended the afternoon session, which was sponsored by the UCR Humanities Department and the Ethnic Studies Department. He also spoke in the evening sponsored by the Students for Justice in Palestine and MECHA. I attended the afternoon session, but arrived 15 minutes late. There were approximately 70 people present, mostly students and about ten elderly community members. Most of the students were taking notes since several were attending for class credit. This was clearly a one-sided event under the sponsorship of a part of the UCR faculty. As I noted in my previous post, two members of the Humanities Dept. were co-founders of the US Campaign for Academic Boycott of Israel. About ten faculty members have also signed on to the recent American Studies Association resolution to boycott Israel universities.
As I arrived and began videotaping, Barghouti was giving his definitions of apartheid and applying them to Israel. He then launched into a discussion of the BDS movement and all the great public figures who are supporting it around the world. It was pretty much the same presentation he gave when he spoke at UC Irvine last year.
Most of the questioners during the q and a were critical of Barghouti's one-sidedness. My question was directed to the Dept of Humanities and Ethnic Studies Dept. I wanted to know if they were putting their imprimatur on this one-sided presentation of a complex issue by bringing in a man like Barghouti, a man who though he is not Israeli, had studied for his masters degree at Tel Aviv University yet was traveling around the world calling for an academic, cultural, and economic boycott of Israel. I referred to him as a hypocrite (hence the moniker, "Omar the ingrate"). I concluded by asking if this was the official position of the Humanities Dept. and whether they would bring in a speaker who would speak on behalf of Israel because what I had seen here was not education, but indoctrination. (The older folks applauded.)
The question was answered (sort of) by the moderator, English professor David Lloyd. He said that he was proud to have invited Barghouti, that he was a proud signatory to the Campaign for Boycott of Israel and co-founder of such. He then went onto a long discourse on how he had worked for justice and human rights for 30 years on issues all over the world, blah blah blah, woof woof woof, quack quack quack. He termed my question about presenting the pro-Israel side preposterous by suggesting that the pro-Israel side gets most of the exposure (on a university campus???) and is rarely if ever asked to debate the other side. He used as an example Ambassador Michael Oren's invitation to UC Irvine by saying that he was never asked to debate the Palestinian point of view (Of course, we know that Ambassador Oren was repeatedly disrupted by the Muslim Student Union.) However, Lloyd did not answer the part of whether an opposing voice would be brought to UCR. (After all, it was "preposterous".) Nor did he answer whether the Palestinian narrative was the official position of the department. Barghouti for his part ( I am paraphrasing) said that he studied in Israel because as a Palestinian, where else was he going to study? (In other words, he chose to study "at home". He also studied at Columbia University.) Barghouti at another point also referred to "letters" which had been written to UCR regarding his appearance.
By the way, Barghouti is reported by different sources as having been born in Qatar or Kuwait and grown up in Egypt. When he spoke at UCI last year, I began my question to him by asking him where he was born. He refused to answer saying it was "irrelevant".
Barghouti is also appearing on Wednesday at UCLA (at 3 pm at Kaufman Hall 200). He is being sponsored by Professor David Shorter, an anti-Israel activist. He will also be appearing at the UCLA law school in the evening with UCLA Professor Robin Kelley, another anti-Israel activist.
This event today was a classic example of how academia is indoctrinating students to particular points of view. Both Barghouti and Lloyd made the preposterous-to use Lloyd's words- claim that the pro-Israel side dominates the discussion. That is definitely not true on virtually any university campus.
I will post the video of this event within the next 24 hours.