Posted: October 15, 2004
A number of Muslim campus groups organized specifically anti-Israel events and invited radical anti-Israel speakers to campuses. Many of these speakers combined criticism of American policies toward Iraq with attacks on Israel for its policies toward the Palestinians.
A common theme in such speeches is that U.S. government policy in the Middle East is directed and controlled by Israel. Many speakers attacked "neo-conservatives" (alleged to be Jewish or beholden to Israel) in the Bush administration. Others more explicitly elaborated conspiracy theories about Israeli/Jewish control of the administration, Congress, or the media-anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that had been quite rare on American college campuses until relatively recently. Recent examples include the following:
- The Muslim Student Union at the University of California, Irvine, sponsored a week of events in May 2004 labeled "Tragedy in the Holy Land: 56 Years of Terrorism." Featured speakers included Amir Abdul Malik Ali, the Imam of Masjid Al-Islam in Oakland, and Mohammed al-Asi, a radical Islamic cleric from Washington, DC. During his speech, al-Asi, who in the past had accused Israel of complicity in the 9/11 attacks, now blamed Israel for the U.S. invasion of Iraq and referred to the Bush administration as a "puppet" of Israel. Al-Asi urged students to "tip the balance and recreate [America's] image-not in the image of Zionist Israel." Kareem Elsayed, president of Irvine's Muslim Student Union, praised Asi, calling him "very knowledgeable, very eloquent and he presents points very clearly."
Amir Abdul Malik Ali claimed that Zionism was a white European colonizing movement that was racist by nature and that those who consider themselves Zionists are therefore white supremacists. He said that he was speaking about "Zionist Jews," not "righteous Jews," and claimed that his speech wasn't anti-Semitic but rather anti-Zionist.
In an earlier visit to the Irvine campus, at the invitation of the Muslim Student Union, Ali gave a lecture titled "America Under Siege: The Zionist Hidden Agenda." During the talk, Ali called Zionism a mixture of "chosen people-ness and white supremacy," and claimed that the Iraqi war was in the process of "Israelization" and that Zionists had "Congress, the media and the FBI in their back pocket." He also said that, "the Israelis knew about and were 'in-control' of 9-11" and that it "was staged to give an excuse to wage war against Muslims around the world."
- In February 2004, the Students for Justice in Palestine and the Third World Forum sponsored a presentation by Dr. Jess Ghannam at the University of California-San Francisco. Ghannam, a University of California-San Francisco professor and outspoken pro-Palestinian activist, has repeatedly accused Israelis of practicing racism, apartheid, and "ethnic cleansing." At the talk, according to one attendee, Ghannam characterized the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an issue of white Jews vs. non-white Arabs, calling Israelis and Americans "racists, white masters, and oppressors."
Muslims are not the only anti-Israel speakers invited to campuses by Muslim student organizations.
William Baker is a popular speaker among American Muslim student groups. Baker, head of Christians and Muslims for Peace, has a long anti-Semitic and anti-Israel background. In the 1980s, he was a prominent associate of anti-Semitic publisher and Holocaust denier Willis Carto, chairing Carto's extreme-right Populist Party. He also wrote Theft of a Nation, an anti-Israel and anti-Jewish book.
- Baker was invited to speak in May 2004 at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, by the Muslim Student Organization, but the event was cancelled after protests from the local Jewish community.
- In March 2004, Baker spoke at Western Michigan University at an event hosted by that university's MSA, which claimed that Baker was invited to speak "to promote peace, tolerance and understanding between the two largest religions in the world."
- In October 2003, Baker was invited to the University of Pennsylvania by the MSA. After the issue of his extremist background was raised, MSA president Muhammed Mekki said that Baker's anti-Semitism was "irrelevant to the discussion."
- The MSA and the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) facilitated a speaking tour by the Neturei Karta, a tiny group of ultra-Orthodox rabbis with a record of hostility to the existence of the state of Israel. In June 2004, during a stop at California State University in Los Angeles sponsored by the Muslim Student Alliance, Neturei Karta members rehashed their basic beliefs, including the idea that the land used to create the state of Israel contradicts the principles laid out in the Torah. Several days later, at the University of California, Irvine, Neturei Karta reportedly voiced its support for suicide bombings. CAIR has claimed its association with the Neturei Karta was to "focus on ways for Muslims and Jews to cooperate."