[FPM title "The Misuse of 'Never Again'"]
Just when it seemed as though the misuse of language and imagery associated with the Holocaust could get no worse, along came "Never Again for Anyone." A national speaking tour designed to coincide with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, "Never Again for Anyone" traveled the U.S. from January 25 through February 19, 2011, landing at the First Presbyterian Church in Oakland, California on February 17. The event was a benefit for the virulently anti-Israel organization, the Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA).
The purpose of the tour was pernicious: to draw a connection between the Holocaust and the Arab-Israeli conflict, with Israelis cast as the new Nazis and "Never Again" transformed into the Palestinian rallying cry. Accordingly, the flyer for the event juxtaposed a photo of Jews fleeing Warsaw in 1944 with a photo of Arabs appearing to do the same from Tulkarm, in the British Mandate of Palestine, in 1948. Conveniently omitted was any context for the photos: the former group was fleeing extermination and the latter voluntarily abandoning their homes at the behest of an Arab leadership who tried and failed to exterminate the Jews.
In an attempt to lend an air of credibility to this exercise in propaganda, the tour featured Hajo Meyer, an 87-year-old Auschwitz survivor-turned fanatical anti-Zionist. Joining Meyer at several locations was Hatem Bazian, a senior lecturer in the department of Near Eastern studies at the University of California at Berkeley. Bazian—who gave the introduction at a Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) event at UC Berkeley in October 2010—is a notorious anti-Israel activist. He is also the director of the "Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project," a program of UC Berkeley's Center for Race and Gender.
Speaking to an audience of approximately 100 comprised largely of local leftist and anti-Israel activists who hung on his every word, Bazian wasted no time conjuring up the specter of Islamophobia. He referred to "the production of Islamophobia," claiming that, "politicians use Islamophobia to win elections." Holding up the grossly inaccurate comparison of the Japanese internment camps during WWII and the House Committee on Un-American Activities hearings during the Cold War, he alleged that Islamophobia is part of the plan "to create a new enemy." Bazian—using racial terminology to describe what is, in fact, a religion—asserted that, "Islamophobia reintroduces the pre-existing racial structure . . . Arabs, Muslims are racialized."
Ratcheting up the hysteria several notches, Bazian later claimed that:
They [the U.S.] want to produce reflexive hatred against Arabs and Muslims so that when they bomb Arabs and Muslims they do not feel that they are . . . destroying legitimate families like us[Americans]. . . . [They] need to create the feeling they [Muslims] do not belong to the human family . . . they are less than human, subhuman.
After asking, "What interests are served by Islamophobia? Who benefits?," Bazian cited an oft-mangled 2001 quote from Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes, strategically omitting the essential component (indicated below in italics):
I worry very much, from the Jewish point of view, that the presence, and increased stature, and affluence, and enfranchisement of American Muslims, because they are so much led by an Islamist leadership, that this will present true dangers to American Jews.
Although the quote had nothing to do with Israel, he then added:
Muslims are part of civil society. But American Zionists want to keep it exclusive to themselves. They want to shut down the discussion of 'does Israel serve our national interests?' They want to shut down the debate; it's a strategy of silence.
He followed this with a rant about opposition to Park51 (the ground zero mosque), before reaching the ludicrous conclusion that:
Right-wingers are leading the charge against Muslims in America. These are the same people as the neo-Nazi skinhead groups.
Without pausing for a breath, Bazian launched into his favorite list of organizations and websites he hates: Campus Watch, Jihad Watch, The Investigative Project on Terrorism, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Community Relations Council, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He drew no distinctions between them, but expressed particular animus towards the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Along the same lines, Bazian criticized the documentary series, Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West and The Third Jihad: Radical Islam's Vision for America. Rather than debating the substance of the films, Bazian charged them with supporting this supposed wave of Islamophobia.
In fact, FBI statistics reveal that two-thirds of all religiously motivated hate crimes in the U.S. are committed against Jews; anti-Jewish incidents outnumber anti-Muslim incidents by a factor of ten. A recent study conducted by the Center for Security Policy, "Religious Bias Crimes against Muslim, Jewish and Christian Victims: American Trends from 2000-2009," shows that hate crimes against Muslim Americans have remained relatively low and trending downward since 2001. Given this evidence, one might ask why, instead of the focus on "Islamophobia," there isn't a center for the study of anti-Semitism at UC Berkeley?
Bazian later resumed bashing Israel, alleging—against all evidence—that "it was Israel that prevented the two-state solution, not the Palestinians." Similarly, he made the following conspiratorial claim:
They [Israelis] still think the transfer [of Arabs] is the best approach . . . all of them, not one family, not one tribe should be left. . . . The highest levels of the Israeli government still believe that to solve the problem is to transfer the Palestinians.
Regarding the counter-terrorism training Israel has provided to American police and military forces, he concluded, "So who do you think those officers see as terrorists? Who do they look like?" That both Israel and the U.S. are targets for Islamic—not Irish or Basque—terrorists was left out of the equation.
Bazian lamented American financial support for Israel, insisting that the U.S. "budget is heavily invested in the military industrial complex" and spending a fair amount of time trying to back up this assertion, however faulty. Indeed, a video with excerpts of his talk posted at YouTube includes text with facts and figures that successfully contradicts Bazian on this point.
Meanwhile, events were transpiring outside the venue—where 25 or so pro-Israel protesters holding Israeli and American flags were gathered peacefully—that lent an air of paranoia to the evening. Unbeknownst to those of us sitting near the front of the church, security guards and tour volunteers were ejecting seated members of the audience in the rear whom they recognized as pro-Israel activists—either from the protest in front of the church or other local events. Similarly, they refused entrance to at least one person attempting to buy a ticket.
It was a replay on a smaller scale of the scene at Rutgers University on January 29, 2011, when sponsors and campus endorsers of the tour—having advertised the event as "free and open to the public"—suddenly began charging for tickets when a number of pro-Israel protesters tried to enter. Meanwhile, they allowed others in for free.
Adding to this pattern, audience members at several other stops on the tour reported that they were not allowed to photograph or record events.
The thuggish and discriminatory behavior of the event's organizers; the calculated inclusion of Hajo Meyer; and Bazian's radical, conspiratorial commentary are all standard fare for the "Never Again for Anyone Tour," not to mention the morally reprehensible and historically false premise of the entire enterprise. Perhaps it's time for organizers to apply the "Never Again" slogan to themselves.
Berkeley resident Rima Greene co-wrote this article with Cinnamon Stillwell, the West Coast Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.