Hatem Bazian, a senior lecturer at Berkeley in Islamic Studies, recently went on television and was put on the defensive by Bill O'Reilly. The subject was comments Bazian had made at a left-wing rally in San Francisco on April 10, 2004, calling for an "intifada" in the United States.
As reported by LittleGreenFootballs.com, and Frontpagemagazine.com (and viewable here) Bazian ungrammatically declared to a crowd of protestors, "we're sitting here and watching the world pass by, people being bombed, and it's about time that we have an intifada in this country that change fundamentally the political dynamics in here."
Bazian concluded with a promise of more violence to come: "They're gonna say, ‘some Palestinian being too radical' — well, you haven't seen radicalism yet!"[i]
Bazian appeared on Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor on April 19 to explain what he meant by the word intifada. Bazian defined it as "shaking off," willfully ignoring that these days, both in Arabic and in English, it means "violent rebellion."
"It was a reference point," Bazian backtracked. "I was calling for a grassroot political change at this time to make changes in the country considering what has been taken place." O'Reilly pressed him:
O'REILLY: But no violence. You don't want anybody to use violence?
BAZIAN: No. I've been activist for the past 20 years or so. And I have never engaged in any violence. And non-violence is the method that I choose for political change.
O'REILLY: OK. Therefore, I assume then you condemn Hamas and Hezbollah?
BAZIAN: Well, I condemn the targeting of civilians in any situation. I think relations to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; you have the Hatfields and McCoys getting at each other. And I think it will behoove us here in the United States not to aid or encourage either side to engage in violence.
O'Reilly was ready for Bazian's efforts to dodge his accusations.
O'REILLY: We did a very exhaustive search on you, professor. And we've never seen you say that you condemn the violent methods of Hamas and Hezbollah ever.
BAZIAN: Well, yes, if you want me to speak about the violence that has taken place, I just spoke to you, telling you that violence is unacceptable.
O'REILLY: OK, but you yourself have not come out and condemned it.
Bazian here was relying a common two-step tactic of those who sympathize with the militant Islamic and Palestinian causes: condemn the violence or terrorism in general, without naming names; then deflect blame to the victim, especially the United States or Israel; or dismiss the danger that terrorism poses.
Here are a few examples of the "I condemn … but" line of reasoning, all concerning the Palestinians and Israel:
• Eric Vickers, head of the American Muslim Council: "We condemn any sort of terrorist activities," but "We can't be simplistic in our views. We have to recognize exactly what is occurring in the Middle East. We have to recognize that what is occurring there is an uprising by the Palestinian people."[ii]
• Rashid Khalidi, former PLO press flack, now a "professor" at Columbia University: "Killing civilians is a war crime," but "Resistance to occupation is [accepted] in international law."[iii]
• Joel Beinin, professor of Middle Eastern History at Stanford: "there is absolutely no justification for the Palestinians' targeting of unarmed civilians in their struggle to end the occupation," but "no Palestinian armed actions of any sort have ever posed an existential threat to Israel."[iv]
Bazian fit this pattern precisely:
• "I condemn terrorism throughout. But at the same time, I would like people here in the U.S. to begin condemning the Israeli assassinations."
O'Reilly repeatedly offered Bazian the chance to condemn terrorist groups, but he as many times declined it. Thus is another academic equating the targeting of terrorist leaders with the targeting of civilians and children. In this context, it is hardly surprising that Bazian would also call for a campaign of violence in the United States.
Jonathan Calt Harris, a former reporter for Time magazine and managing editor with the Middle East Forum, is a writer in Illinois.
[i] "An Intifada in This Country," April 11, 2004, LittleGreenFootballs at http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=10615
[iii] Khalidi, Rashid, Arab Tells Arabs: 'Stop Whining' NewsMax.com, Wires, Saturday, June 8, 2002.
[iv] Beinin, Joel. Another Bloody Passover, AlterNet, March 27, 2002 at http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=12711