"Iraq: Four Years after 'Freedom,'" an event at the University of California at Berkeley tonight (April 9), is the kick-off for the Arab American Legal Services, a program founded in February, 2007 by the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the San Francisco Immigrant Legal Services Network.
Sponsored by the Arab American Legal Services, the Muslim Law Students Association and the Middle East Law Student Association, the event purports to "memorialize four years of war on Iraq." Considering the wording involved in this description and the quotation marks around the word "freedom" in the event's title, it's hard to imagine that the event will offer a terribly pro-American perspective.
Speakers include professor of sociology at California State University, Sacramento Ayad Al-Qazzaz, who specializes in Middle Eastern and North African societies and cultures. He is the president of the Middle East Cultural Association of Cal. State University, Sacramento and he produces a television show for the Access Channel in Sacramento titled "Focus on the Middle East." Radical leftist attorney Lynne Stewart, who was convicted in 2005 of aiding a U.S.-designated terror organization and conspiracy to defraud the United States, has been one of his guests.
An Iraqi native, Al-Qazzas was a signatory to the 2006 "Statement by Iraqi expatriates on the Third Anniversary of the Occupation of Iraq." The statement blames "the occupation" for "the activities of murderous sectarian terrorists and criminals" and encourages (emphasis added) "peaceful resistance, resistance by other means, and non-cooperation with occupation forces and officials."
He also took part in a 2005 "War Crimes Tribunal on Colin Powell" held at DeAnza College in Cupertino to coincide with a campus appearance by the former Secretary of State. Al-Qazzas is a regular speaker at regional anti-war events put on by such groups as the Sacramento chapter of Moveon.org and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento.
Another speaker at the UC Berkeley Iraq war event is Samera Esmeir. A former lawyer, Esmeir is now an assistant professor at UC Berkeley's Department of Rhetoric and she specializes in Middle East studies. In particular, it would seem, Palestinian victimhood and post-colonialism. Indeed, Esmeir teaches a course at UC Berkeley titled "The Rhetoric of Colonialism and Post-Colonialism," a subject with which she appears to be exceedingly familiar.
According to her faculty bio, Esmeir is writing a book entitled The Work of Law in the Age of Empire: Production of Humanity in Colonial Egypt, as well as working on two research projects, one on "the constitution of life and death in the laws of war and occupation, with a particular focus on Palestinians and Iraqis" and the other on "the colonial genealogy of the field of 'comparative law.'" She is also co-editor of Adalah's Review, "a sociolegal journal published in Arabic, Hebrew and English that focuses on the Palestinian minority in Israel."
Esmeir spoke at a 2001 conference at Columbia Law School titled "Freedom and Justice for Palestine," which was sponsored by groups such as Al-Awda (Palestine Right to Return Coalition) and the International Socialist Organization. She was also one of the speakers at a University of California, Santa Barbara conference earlier this year called "The Middle East in Crisis." Speakers were composed of editorial committee members of the Middle East Report, a publication that focuses on "Middle East peace and justice issues." If the remarkably one-sided historical primer posted at its website, "Palestine, Israel and the Arab-Israel Conflict," is any indication, the Middle East Report is hardly an unbiased source. Next weekend (April 13-14), Esmeir will take part in a conference at UC Berkeley called "America and its Wars" that promises more of the same politicized "scholarship."
Likewise, tonight's event at UC Berkeley on the Iraq war does not bode well for balance. Sadly, this has become something of a pattern when it comes to Middle East studies at UC Berkeley.