By Lee Kaplan
UPDATE: SINCE THE ARTICLE BELOW RAN, UC RIVERSIDE HAS ANNOUNCED THE AL AWDA CONFERENCE HAS BEEN CANCELED ON THEIR CAMPUS.
Palestinian Radicals at UC Riverside
FrontPageMagazine.com | April 26, 2007
The University of California at Riverside is suffering from a severe case of bad timing. Just as the U.S. Civil Rights Commission has decided to launch a website documenting that anti-Semitism, masquerading as discussion about the Middle East, has become an endemic part of the American college scene, the taxpayer-supported public university has proved the point by agreeing to host a national conference by Al Awda, one of the most virulently anti-Israel organizations in America.
Al Awda ("the return," in Arabic), also known as the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, is one of the largest member groups of the International Solidarity Movement. A leader in the radical divestment campaign against Israel, it calls for the boycotting of Jewish-owned businesses both here in the US and abroad. (Last year, FrontPageMag.com featured articles about Al Awda’s 2005 national conference held at San Francisco State University, another taxpayer-supported institution.)
Al Awda was founded by Mazin Qumsiyeh, a former Yale geneticist and Palestinian Christian Arab who, according to former PLO terrorist Walid Shoebat, was an active member in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) during his youth living in the West Bank, and who participated in the lynching of an Israeli soldier. The PFLP, which introduced airplane hijackings to the world, is still considered a terrorist group by the State Department. Qumsiyeh also has a deserved reputation for anti-Semitism. At an Al Awda-sponsored ISM conference at Duke University, for instance, he described Jews living in Israel as "a disease." Now his group is again being welcomed by a major university.
It cannot be said that the school is unaware of this troubling background. UC Riverside was notified weeks before any public announcement that Al Awda chose the southern California campus for its venue this year in May and was supplied ample evidence of Al Awda’s militantly anti-Israel agenda. The purpose of Al Awda’s upcoming conference is to train radicals in the US to make war on Israel and to campaign against American institutions that support the Jewish homeland. True, Al Awda's members do not shoot machine guns at these "conferences." They simply devise ways to help those overseas who do.
Consider the press release just issued by Al Awda, evidently with the blessing of the UC Riverside administration. It describes the convention as “a commemoration of the nahkba ("catastrophe" in Arabic), the 59th year since the 'State of Israel' was declared on stolen Palestinian land, and which led to the Zionist occupation of all of Palestine.” In fact, most of Israel was established by Jews on land that was legally purchased -- not “stolen Palestinian land” -- and was created by the United Nations in accordance with international law. This press announcement alone -- an obvious attack on the legitimacy of the Jewish state -- should be enough to deny Al Awda the privilege to hold such an event at UC Riverside. It is worth noting, too, that Al Awda's targets are not only Israeli Jews. The group also openly supports the Iraqi "resistance" and other movements who are killing American soldiers in Iraq.
If UC Irvine’s administrators are troubled by this record, they show no evidence of it. Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs James Sandoval has used the standard excuse for allowing the conference to proceed on campus: "We had the campus police investigate and asked the University counsel, none of whom could find reasons to object to the conference on campus," he said. "We allow registered campus groups to bring in outside guests" (the event is co-sponsored by the UCR Students for Justice in Palestine and Muslims Students Union, as well as several other Muslim and anti-Israel groups based in southern California).
However, as this reporter pointed out to Sandoval, Al Awda's website, on its “Points of Unity” page, clearly states that the group “supports the struggle for the liberation of Palestine and views it as a struggle against all forms of colonialism.” That is, it supports terrorism. Having attended Al Awda workshops, I can further report that they are places where one can learn how to support the goal of Hamas to eradicate Jews in the Middle East. Other workshops plot strategy on how effectively to boycott Israel. Thus, Al Awda calls for “an end to all US political, military and economic aid to ‘Israel.’” Al Awda's press release may allude vaguely to a “Palestine Cultural Dinner Event,” but the last “cultural dinner event” I attended, at SFSU, served only to further the group's propaganda war against Israel.
Its veiled rhetoric notwithstanding, this is what Al Awda is really all about. For UC Riverside to grant a forum to such extremism is a travesty.