I really long for the good old days when Amir Abdel Malik Ali spoke at UC Irvine during the annual anti-Israel Hate Week. Lots of people would turn out on both sides, and Abdel Malik would never disappoint with his inflammatory speeches calling various people "Zionist Jews" whether they were even Jews or not.
Alas, those days seem to be over. In the last couple of years, the Muslim Student Union seems to have lost their spark. The noon speakers have disappeared, and the evening events have lost their interest-even for the MSU if tonight was any yardstick.
Tonight was advertised as a panel featuring SF State University Professor Rabab Abdulhadi and three or four members of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS), whom she mentors. Abdelhadi, GUPS and SFSU have been in the news a lot in the past couple of years over murderous expressions produced by the some of the latter advocating the murder of IDF soldiers. Abdulhadi was the center of a controversy last year over a trip she took to the Middle East paid for by the university which did not turn out quite as advertised. Instead of attending a conference at a university in Lebanon, she would up visiting her homies in a solidarity visit.
This was clearly the star attraction of the week.
Except she didn't show and either did the Guppies. Instead, the moderator came to the microphone and announced to the audience of about 40 that it was all going to be done via Skype. The empty table on the stage with two microphones remained empty as the microphones were removed. In addition, it was announced that anyone who had not signed the guest book outside would not be allowed to film since this was a "private event" (which it was not).
At this point I turned to Vice Chancellor Chief of Staff Edgar Dormitorio, who was seated a few feet away. He said to me, "Just give me a minute." He then walked to the back of the room and conferred with members of the MSU for some 30 minutes. When he returned, he advised me that he had informed the MSU that the university was not going to enforce their "no video" rule.
In addition, the moderator asked everybody in the audience to all move down to the first ten rows. A few people from the community seated in the back decided they were comfortable where they were. The moderator repeated the request three times. The aforementioned people remained in their seats.
While all the discussions were going on in the back of the room, one of the MSU girls again asked the aforementioned people to change their seats, which they declined to do, at which time she called them "A-holes."
By now the whole event was running almost an hour late. There were apparent technical difficulties. Finally, it was announced that some Palestinian guy in Washington DC, who had grown up in a refugee camp in Syria would be interviewed via Skype.
But what about Abdulhadi and the Guppies? No explanation.
So then we were treated to some guy in Washington smoking a cigarette on Skype talking about some Palestinian refugee camp in Syria. The crowd of about 40 became a crowd of about 20 as several MSU members got up and walked out during the course of the talk. After he finished, there was one question. A Jewish lady asked him why Syria had not given Syrian citizenship to these Palestinians when Israel had granted citizenship to Arabs remaining in Israel. Of course, he didn't directly answer that. He said Syria had given them some rights, but that he was a refugee because of Israel.
At that point, the moderator announced that it was all over. No explanation as to what had happened to Abdulhadi and the Guppies, either in person or via Skype.
And you know what? I didn't even bother videotaping it.
On second thought, maybe after we left, Abdulhadi and the Guppies magically appeared on stage from behind the curtain or the Skype call went through. You know what? Who cares? If 20 or so of them want to stay up all night and sit through that, have at it.