May 30, 2010
Of Semites and Semantics
For a blatant display of Jew-hatred on a public university campus, this month's award goes to Jumanah Imad Albahri of the Muslim Students' Association at UC San Diego. The punchline of Albahri's exchange with David Horowitz during his guest lecture does leave one gasping...unless, of course, you are someone who responds to the topic of Jewish genocide with "for it."
The UCSD Muslim Students' Association, a graduate student/instructor who had Albahri in a class, and Albahri herself, quickly posted responses, apparently attempting to explain away the conversation that is visible and audible on YouTube.
These postings are revealing. In various ways, all three statements ask us to not hear what we have heard, not see what we have seen.
They direct our attention away from the event to the claim that there is a "smear campaign" against Albahri, to the MSA's stand "for justice," to the assertion that the student is "for peace" and that her expressed views could not possibly be anti-Semitic. After all, Jumanah Imad Albahri says she is "a Semite." These linguistic ploys try to turn the aggressor into a victim and work to contort the plain sense of words.
Horowitz: I am a Jew. The head of Hezbollah has said that he hopes that we will gather in Israel so he doesn't have to hunt us down globally. For or against it?
Albahri: For it.
In its press release, the UCSD Muslim Students' Association does not specifically address Albarhri's comments, but it does take care not to be held responsible, explaining that "no single member of our student organization can speak exclusively on behalf of our MSA." Most of their statement focuses on why they proudly sponsor anti-Israel week on campus. They offer no gesture toward those who are offended, even horrified, by what we have heard. Instead, they use general terms and, without discussing what Albahri said, take the occasion to decry "indiscriminate murder" by the Israeli military.
We thus condemn the loss of all innocent lives, as well as all groups, whether state or non-state actors, that advocate and perpetuate the killing of innocent civilians.
Specifically, we condemn all Palestinian factions that have rejoiced in the killing of innocent Israeli civilians just as much as we condemn the indiscriminate murder of hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians during Israeli military aggression.
Likewise, the graduate student/instructor posting on David Horowitz's blog does not denounce Hamas, Hezbollah, or the killing of Jews, but uses the same generalized language as the Muslim Students' Association: "I do not support any organization that advocates violence against any specific group, nor do I believe that my student would do so."
Then, perhaps because what we see in the video obviously conflicts with this assertion, the instructor makes Horowitz the problem: "I'm saddened that this speaker -- her elder -- manipulated the conversation in this fashion to make her look like someone she isn't, out of an egotistical desire to prove his own point[.]"
The instructor, as Michael J. Toten writes in Commentary, "when confronted by a person with a clearly and explicitly stated genocidal ideology, prefers to lambaste that person's rational critics."
And Jumanah Imad Albahri responds to her own words. She says that no, she is not "for genocide of Jews or anyone" but rather "for" Hamas, sort of. Then she proceeds to blame Horowitz for everything from "confusing" to "attempting to vilify" and silence her.
We can only hope that with the omnipresence of video cameras at public events and the availability of YouTube, most people will simply trust their own eyes and ears.
Cherryl Smith is Emeritus Professor of English at California State University, Sacramento.