“The only solution is to dismantle and do away with Zionism,” stated Sami Al-Arian, the founding director of Istanbul Zaim University’s Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) during a June 20 webinar. Such hateful sentiments exemplified CIGA’s June 18-23 second annual Palestine Conference, which shockingly included prominent individuals such as South Africa’s former ambassador to the United States, Ebrahim Rasool.
As previously examined, this conference on “Challenging Apartheid in Palestine: Reclaiming the Narrative, Formulating A Vision” achieved considerable notoriety merely due to Al-Arian. A federal court convicted this Palestinian-American former University of South Florida computer science professor in 2006 for supporting the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which ultimately led to his deportation to Turkey in 2015. At CIGA, Al-Arian has continued his long-established record of demonizing and calling for Israel’s destruction, which, as the conference showed, numerous academics in America and abroad zealously promote.
Al-Arian spoke with Rasool about “Exploring A Framework for Dismantling Israeli Apartheid.” Pursuant to this theme, Al-Arian declared that “Israel as an idea should be rejected. I cannot engage it in any way, shape, or form.” He wanted to “dismantle this regime” of Israel’s “racist state,” and thereby “I am cleansing the Jew from being a racist.”
Despite Al-Arian’s past support for jihadists, he declared that this purging “is not a religious war. This is not a war between Judaism and Islam,” but then sought help precisely help from two Islamic Republics in Iran and Pakistan. He thus explained his alarming nuclear deterrence calculus:
Israel feels safe that it can do whatever it wants because it has a nuclear monopoly. That means I have to think deeply why I shouldn’t be supporting Iran to have a nuclear weapon because that will break Israel’s monopoly. Alternatively, why not ask Pakistan to give me a nuclear cover, so that if Israel ever, ever tries to use that as a weapon against me, then it will be hit hard by another nuclear [weapon].
In response, Rasool expressed no concern over such apocalyptic scenarios as he lectured on “Dismantling Apartheid: Learning from the South African Struggle.” South African activists against apartheid such as he had “always made time to link it with the Palestinian struggle,” he said. Israel and South Africa were “two colonialisms, two sets of racisms,” and “both of them perfected the art and the science of discrimination.”
Rasool recalled African National Congress leader Nelson Mandala, later South Africa’s first post-apartheid president, from prison in 1991. Shortly after the South African apartheid regime released him from prison on February 4, 1990, he met in Cairo with Yasser Arafat, chairman of the terrorist Palestinian Liberation Organization. There the pair was like “two long lost brothers,” Rasool said.
Like Al-Arian, Rasool wondered, “How do we dismantle the Israeli state,” and he sought American support for his proposed single Palestinian state subsuming Israel’s Jews into an Arab/Muslim-majority. “We want American citizens, for example, to understand that Black Lives Matter and that be a lens for support of the Palestinians,” he said, invoking what has become a common intersectional theme. He praised San Francisco Bay longshoremen, who had on June 4 refused to unload an Israeli merchantman, for “refusing to offload an apartheid ship.”
Al-Arian and Rasool’s comments about Israel were bad enough, but CIGA Research Fellow Ubeyd Ruff made heinous antisemitic comments during the conference’s June 21 panel on “Examining How the Apartheid Industry Functions.” “People joke on the internet that if you want to commit murder, just say that you are Jewish and claim that the person you killed is antisemitic. Just put on the magic yarmulke and you can murder who you want,” he said. This “joke, in practical reality, it’s not far from the truth of what’s happening in Palestine,” he added. San Francisco State University Professor of Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Rabab Abdulhadi made a minor qualification that this “joke is quite problematic,” for some Jews are her allies in Israel-hatred.
Ruff’s unfunny humor logically followed from his bitter comments on Israel, which seemed personal to him. By all indications he comes from an American Muslim background, although his daughter’s Arab great-grandfather fled from territory that became Israel in 1948, yet he stated that “our towns and villages have been stolen.” Echoing panelist Huwaida Arraf, a founder of the terrorism-supporting International Solidarity Movement, he asserted that even “genocide charges could be brought” against Israel. He denounced Zionism as a “supremacist” and “far-right movement, that has hijacked Judaism.”
The June 22 session on “Reversing Apartheid: The Role of the Law, Politics, Economics, and Popular Mobilization” took the rhetoric even further. Osama Abuirshaid, director of the Hamas-front group American Muslims for Palestine, proclaimed that “Zionism is a racist-fascist ideology” and “Israel is a tarnished brand” in the United States. A Gallup “2017 study found that the more Americans learn about Israel, the less they like it,” he said.
Abuirshaid’s fellow panelist, Omar Zahzah, Internal Development Coordinator for the Palestinian Youth Movement, agreed in the panel’s latter part that “Israel is a racial supremacist, genocidal, and fascist…state.” “Zionism is white supremacy. Zionism is a form of racial domination. Zionism is a form of racial subjugation,” he added. In relations with Israel, “normalization has to be an absolute redline in the same way that white supremacy in the United States is.”
This Palestinian-American University of California—Los Angeles doctoral candidate has a long record of campus anti-Israel activism, yet he presented academia as an ideologically hostile environment. “Academia is an institution in the U.S. which is fortified through various racist and genocidal projects such as settler-colonialism and slavery,” he said. Higher learning “today remains invested in weapons companies and helping police forces develop technologies to better surveil oppressed and working-class communities of color, is certainly an oppressive space,” he added. Similarly on his enemies list, the left-leaning Anti-Defamation League “is in fact a Zionist organization dedicated to surveilling and smearing pro-Palestinian racial justice activists to stamp it out.”
Such references to genocide, racism, fascism, and nuclear weapons throughout CIGA’s conference made Israel loom large as a totalitarian evil akin to the Nazis. This small, yet successful, Jewish state has become an obsession in the perfervid imaginations of conference participants. This derangement syndrome belies the ubiquitous assertion that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism, yet disturbingly, some advocate that America’s Democratic Party make common cause with such sentiments, as the next article in this series will show.