Sunday, February 12, 2006
This month Georgetown University plans to host the annual conference of an anti-Israel propaganda group called the Palestine Solidarity Movement (PSM). The PSM certainly is controversial. It is also dangerous.
The purported aim of the PSM is to encourage divestment from Israel. To this end, its conferences boast a cavalcade of anti-Israel speakers whose speeches often degenerate into anti-Semitism. At the 2004 conference at Duke University in North Carolina, for example, keynote speaker Mazin Qumsiyeh referred to Zionism as a "disease." Workshop leader Bob Brown deemed the Six-Day War "the Jew War of '67." Not to be outdone, Nasser Abufarha praised the terrorist activities of Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The PSM maintains that it is a separate organization from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which sends foreign students to the West Bank and Gaza to foment anti-Israeli sentiment.
All the same, the two groups seem to have intimate ties. At the 2004 PSM conference, for instance, the International Solidarity Movement ran a recruitment meeting called "Volunteering in Palestine: Role and Value of International Activists." In that session, the organization's co-founder, Huwaida Arraf, distributed recruitment brochures and encouraged students to enlist in the ISM, which, she acknowledged, cooperates with Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Another ISM co-founder, George Rishmawi, told the San Francisco Chronicle in a July 14, 2004, news story why his group recruits student volunteers.
"When Palestinians get shot by Israeli soldiers, no one is interested anymore," he said. "But if some of these foreign volunteers get shot or even killed, then the international media will sit up and take notice."
Tragically, the group got its wish in 2003, when ISM member Rachel Corrie, 23, was killed while trying to block Israeli bulldozers from demolishing Palestinian houses in Gaza. The Israelis said the houses were covering tunnels used to smuggle weapons.
Nor is this an ancillary part of the PSM's mission. In the aftermath of the 2004 PSM meeting, conference organizer Rann Bar-On -- who is an ISM member -- informed the Duke student newspaper, "I personally consider the Palestine Solidarity Movement conference a huge success, as it brought about a tripling of the number of Duke students visiting Israel-Palestine this year, making Duke the most represented American university in the West Bank this summer." By Bar-On's own admission, recruitment into the ISM is the PSM's raison d'etre.
In agreeing to host the PSM from Feb. 17 to Feb. 19, Georgetown can't even claim that its regard for free speech and expression trumps all. In 2005 the university's conference center refused to host an anti-terrorism conference sponsored by America's Truth Forum on the grounds that it was "too controversial." So why is free speech and expression of cardinal importance now? Perhaps it is related to the recent $20 million donation from Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, a prominent financier of the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. If Georgetown President John J. DeGioia is concerned for the safety of his student body, he will reject the 2006 Palestine Solidarity Movement conference. Pleasing donors is an important duty of a university president, but preventing the recruitment of Georgetown students into a dangerous, pro-terrorist organization is a more vital obligation.
-- Eric Adler -- Jack Langer
are respectively, a lecturer in the history
department at Rice University and a doctoral
candidate in history at Duke University.