Friday, March 10

Moral Equivalence?

This is what happened at Istahan University in Iran this week:

Alireza Soltanshahi, a representative of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who heads the Presidential Office for the Study of the Palestinian Issue, addressed the gathering, telling participants that, the Holocaust myth has turned into an industry for the Zionists to gain money.

This is what happens at UC Berkeley - almost constantly:
[A student] remembers the glass front door of Berkeley's Hillel building -- where he attends Friday night services -- shattered by a cinderblock, with the message FUCK JEWS scrawled nearby. He remembers the spray-painted swastikas discovered one Monday morning last September on the walls of four lecture rooms in LeConte Hall accompanied by the chilling bilingual message, "Die, Juden. "


One flier making the rounds declared, "The neoconservatives and the Jewish Lobby ... planned the Iraq wars. ... Most of the US media ... are Jewish owned." Meanwhile, the largest sign said, "I Want You! to DIE for Israel. Israel sings: 'Onward christian soldiers.'" On the reverse side, in an attempted riff on "Pax Americana," the sign said, "I WANT YOU TO KILL FOR THE AMERA-ISRAELA POX!"


"Do you know what it's like to be on a bus, and to see that bus blow up and see heads roll down the street?" the older man shouted, arms wild at his sides. "I've seen it -- in Israel."

The sign-bearer stood firm. "Well, they should have been killed," he yelled, his voice rising. "They should have been killed! They should have been killed because it wasn't their land! They should have been killed and it should have been more."


One March day in 1996, a group of battle-fatigue-clad young men made their way across crowded Sproul Plaza chanting "Hezbollah! Hezbollah!" -- the name of the Lebanon-based organization in whose ranks suicide bombing is said to have been invented. When they reached Sproul Steps, the men took turns praising Palestinian suicide bombers who had carried out recent attacks in Israel: The preceding two weeks had been marked by two bus-bombings, a bus-stop bomb, and a shopping-mall bomb with a total of 67 killed. One of the demonstrators led the group in loudly declaring his willingness to become a martyr. The men then trampled and spat on an Israeli flag. In preparation for the event, "Zionism is fascism" had been chalked onto sidewalks surrounding the campus.


Later that year [2001], 23-year-old Aaron Schwartz was walking toward the Hillel building as part of an obviously Jewish group celebrating the annual holiday Simchas Torah. According to accounts in The Daily Californian and the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, one onlooker mocked the procession by goose-stepping in place, chanting "Heil Hitler," and performing the Nazi salute. After punching Schwartz in the face and knocking him to the ground, the man and his two companions strolled away.


At a rally on campus protesting the arrests [of violent pro-Palestinian demonstrators], Palestinian-born Islamic Studies lecturer Hatem Bazian spoke stirringly. Cal's administration, he reportedly told the crowd, was under pressure to punish the demonstrators. As for the source of that pressure, Micki Weinberg recalls Bazian telling his listeners that the answer lay in the names of UC Berkeley's buildings. Zellerbach, Bazian offered pointedly. And Haas. And Moses.


When [Daniel Pipes] went on to call for Palestinian acceptance of Israel's existence, hisses swirled in the hall like steam. "No!" shouted many in the crowd.

"Death to Zionism!" proclaimed a voice.

"I thought this was an institution of higher learning," Pipes said, baiting his hecklers.

"You racist Jew!" cried the protester who had been hoisting the Gandhi sign.

"Ra-cist! Ra-cist!"


A young woman in a kaffiyeh screamed up at a Jewish student significantly larger than herself. Her lips were wet with fury. "If I don't agree with you, then you call it anti-Semitism!" she shouted, as friends arrived to support her. The young man was surrounded. "You call it anti-Semitismmm!" she raged. "Why can't you tolerate anti-Semitismmm?"


"Liberation Through Islam" was the theme of the sixth annual Muslim Students Association West Conference, held on the Cal campus this February ... Clusters of young men, many in skullcaps and kaffiyehs, drifted in and out of Wheeler, but women and men entered and exited through separate doors marked "BROTHERS ENTRANCE" and "SISTERS ENTRANCE."


The weekend concluded with an evening program called "Muslim Students in the Struggle." A few officers and alumni took turns at the podium; one young man speculated about the day "when we are called upon to rock the West like it's never been rocked before." This is inevitable, he said. "Allah has promised the people that they will inherit this land."
I'd say Cal Berkeley has the Iranians beat by a mile. Iranian fascism is almost liberal in comparison.

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