Fight Hatred

Wednesday, Jul 23rd

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You are here: Profiles in Hate Academics Hatem Bazian: co-founder of the violently anti-Semitic/anti-Israel group called Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at the University of California, Berkeley in 2001.

Hatem Bazian: co-founder of the violently anti-Semitic/anti-Israel group called Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at the University of California, Berkeley in 2001.

You may not be aware of the many activities of Hatem Bazian: he has become one of the main figures behind a campaign of hate against Jews and Israel in the United States. In 2001, he was a co-founder of the group “Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).” SJP's stated goal is to promote a "just resolution of the plight of the Palestinians" and employs boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns as well as mock checkpoints and mock "apartheid walls" on campuses throughout the U.S. to promote that cause.

SJP’s theatrical and physical violence aims mainly at intimidating and marginalizing Jewish students on campus. It uses violent imagery to bypass discussion and skip right to the hate, accusing its opponents of Apartheid, Nazism and genocide. Its extremist speakers use lies and distortions to portray Israel and its supporters as absolute evil to create a hateful worldview (see Jessica Felber and Helen Freedman).

When the SJP deploys makeshift checkpoints on campuses where its members yell, “Are you Jewish?” at passing students, when it disrupts Holocaust memorials and Jewish student concerts, when it assaults and intimidates Jewish students on campus– it is making the trees and stones of the Ivy League and the Public Ivies a place of terror and danger for Jewish students.

The start of Students for Justice in Palestine activities in 2000-2003 coincided with a sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents on campus and an increase in incidents in California– the epicenter of its activity. Since then the pattern of incidents has resulted in the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights launching an investigation into the University of California.

The rising wave of hate culminated in the SJP’s launch of the first divestment campaign at an American university… on Holocaust Remembrance Day. During 2011’s Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust, they achieved another milestone by getting the Berkeley Student Senate to pass a resolution boycotting companies that do business with Israel.

Hatem Bazian was born in Nablus, went to high school in Amman, Jordan and went to the US to attend San Francisco State University. He finished a double major in International Relations and Speech and Communication at San Francisco State University, where he also completed an M.A. in International Relations. He then went on to receive his Ph.D. in Philosophy and Islamic Studies from UC Berkeley in 2002.

At San Francisco State University in the late 1980s, Bazian was elected president of SFSU Associated Students and the Student Union Governing Board. The election came as a result of a united front formed under the Progressive Coalition that brought together all the students of color organizations on a common platform and a joint political strategy.

A rise in incidents of anti-Semitism was reported by Jewish students at San Francisco State University coinciding with Bazian's increasing influence on campus, and contemporaneous Jewish students have said that Bazian was a critical player in fomenting this environment. Throughout the early 1990s at San Francisco State, Bazian continued his involvement in student politics supporting Pro-Palestinian groups on campus.

While Hatem was at San Francisco State University, he participated in an assault on the offices of the Golden Gater student newspaper accusing it of being full of Jewish spies. Jewish students had complained about anti-Semitic behavior by Bazian, in his role as student body president, and his campaign against Hillel, the leading Jewish campus organization, was a direct attempt to disenfranchise Jewish students.

When a controversial mural of Malcolm X containing dollar signs surrounded by Jewish Stars was painted on the student union building at San Francisco State, Bazian was an organizer of and a featured speaker at a press conference in support of the mural. According to the campus newspaper, The Golden Gater, Jewish students were forcibly excluded from this press conference despite it being held in the public Student Union building. A former SFSU student has also alleged that Bazian prevented his appointment to the Student Judicial Council on the grounds that he supported the state of Israel and was therefore a racist.

At the national conference of the United States Student Association (USSA) held at UC Berkeley in 1988, Bazian co-lead a major walk-out that culminated in the organization adopting a progressive board of directors structure granting by a 2/3 vote at least 50% of the Seats to Students of Color.

Bazian was elected as a Chair of the National People of Color Student Coalition (NPCSC) and an executive board member of the USSA. In both, he took the lead on affirmative action, access to education, anti-apartheid efforts on college campuses, and the Central American Solidarity Movement. He authored resolutions, which were adopted by the USSA national conference in 1991 calling for cutting US aid to Israel and imposing sanctions for its sales of military equipment to apartheid South Africa.

Hatem Bazian takes credit for working as Editor in Chief of Discourse Magazine, a monthly progressive publication in San Francisco. Discourse was first published in December 1991 and produced five issues before editor Christa Bell resigned. The magazine did not publish again until the Unified Student Movement at San Francisco State University voted to give Bazian a one-year contract as editor in chief in April 1993 but he did little in this position and was already a graduate student at Berkely by 1995.

Hatem Bazian went on to head the Muslim Student Association (MSA) at Berkeley. The first MSA National chapter was formed in 1963 at the campus of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) with the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood helping to establish the group and a Saudi Arabian charity, the Muslim World League, providing early funding for the group.

Bazian, however, found that there were practical limitations to what a group recognized as being Muslim could accomplish on campus, so he co-founded the broader “Students for Justice in Palestine” that shed the explicit Islamic colors of the MSA and added a degree of separation from the Muslim Brotherhood. This new group appeared to be a secular social justice movement whose agenda just happened to align with that of the Brotherhood.

The SJP organization allowed Bazian an even larger platform for his violent bigotry. In April 2002, seventy-nine members of SJP attempted to disrupt a Holocaust Remembrance Day event and were arrested. At a rally to protest their arrests, Bazian said, “take a look at the type of names on the building around campus — Haas, Zellerbach — and decide who controls this university.”

As a graduate student, Bazian was an important student leader in the movement for more fairness and better educational opportunities for African American and Latino students at Berkeley. He also played a significant role in almost every human and civil rights movement in the Bay Area, nationally and internationally, including the defense of Affirmative Action in California, American With Disabilities Act, Anti-Apartheid, Anti-Globalization Movement, and Central American Solidarity struggles.

After receiving his Ph.D. at Berkeley, Hatem Bazian has had an interesting academic career. He began teaching at UC Berkeley immediately after graduation, where he is now a Senior Lecturer in the Departments of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies, and between 2002-2007 was also an adjunct professor on Near Eastern Studies and Religious Studies at the Boalt Hall School of Law also at the University of California, Berkeley.

In Spring 2009, Bazian founded and became director at the Center for the Study and Documentation of Islamophobia, a program of UC Berkeley's Center for Race and Gender. He is also on the Steering Committee of The Religion, Politics and Globalization Program at UC Berkeley. The mission of the Program is to create an intellectual space where scholars from the humanities and social sciences can come together to share and deepen their understanding of the role of religion in world affairs.

In addition to Berkeley, Bazian is a visiting professor in Religious Studies at Saint Mary's College of California and UC-Davis. He has also taught at San Francisco State University, Berkeley Graduate Theological Union, and Diablo Valley College. His courses include: Islam, Sufism, Arabic, Politics of the Middle East Islamic Law and Society, Islam in America: Communities and Institutions, De-Constructing Islamophobia and Othering of Islam, Religious Studies, and Middle Eastern Studies.

Hatem Bazian also co-founded Zaytuna College of California where he is Academic Affairs Chair and teaches Arabic and Maliki Fiqh. The administrators of the college seek to make it the first accredited four-year Muslim liberal arts college in the United States. In 2010, it welcomed its first students to rented space in a Baptist seminary in Berkeley. The college, which has about a dozen faculty members, offers two majors: in Arabic language and Islamic law and theology. The school aims at providing leaders and imams who understand Islam within a Western context.

Bazian is the Director of Al-Qalam Institute of Islamic Sciences, Berkeley based on an effort to establish the systematic study of the essential sciences of Islam (Tafseer, Fiqh, Hadith, Usul, and Kalam) and to encourage action according to their content. He is also the current president of the American Muslims for Palestine.

Hatem Bazian is a former fundraising speaker for Kindhearts, a HAMAS front closed by the US government in February 2006 and is listed as a specially designated terrorist organization. In June of 2004, Bazian was featured in a KindHearts Fundraising Dinner, entitled ‘Palestinians in agony!’

Hatem Bazian has authored various articles on aspects of the Middle East. He is also a co-host and assistant producer of "Islam Today," a weekly Berkeley and Fresno California radio magazine covering Islam and its diverse people around the world. He has appeared in many TV and Radio interviews, offered frequent commentary on current affairs and is a regular translation consultant for the San Francisco Chronicle on stories relating to Palestine, the Arab world, Islam, Muslims and world politics.

In his academic work, Hatem Bazian declares himself to be an “organic intellectual,” a term he feels will directly connect his research to the people; rather than looking down from the ivory tower. The term comes from the work of Italian Antonio Gramsci who was one of the most important Marxist thinkers in the 20th century. Such "organic" intellectuals do not simply describe social life in accordance with scientific rules, but rather articulate, through the language of culture, the feelings and experiences which the masses could not express for themselves.

Bazian's published book, Jerusalem in Islamic Consciousness, is a reflection of his organic orientation with its claim to be a contribution to a better understanding of Muslim attachment and informed political attitudes toward their Sacred City of Jerusalem and Palestine in general.

Steven Emerson, in his book American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us ( pp. 214-215), quotes Bazian sermonizing at an American Muslim Alliance conference in May 1999 in California, promoting the Islamic State of Palestine. Excerpts from the quote read:

“In the Hadith, the Day of Judgment will never happen until you fight the Jews. They are on the west side of the river, which is the Jordan River, and you're on the east side until the trees and stones will say, oh Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him! And that's in the Hadith about this, this is a future battle before the Day of Judgment.”

Hatem Bazian, however, denied on The O'Reilly Factor ever saying these words, “I would never use that statement,” and that this was falsely attributed to him. He said that he was considering legal action as a response but this has yet to happen.

After a 2002 Students for Justice in Palestine rally at UC Berkeley resulted in the arrest of 79 protesters, Bazian spoke at a follow-up rally protesting the arrests. "If you want to know where the pressure on the university [i.e., to prosecute the demonstrators] is coming from, look at the Jewish names on the school buildings," he said.

In May 2002 he was the sole speaker at a two-day Middle Eastern “cultural assembly” at San Francisco’s George Washington High School -- an event whose rhetoric was so inflammatory that it generated formal letters of apology from the school administration to the public. The proceedings featured, for instance, a student singing a rap song comparing Zionists to Nazis while other students paraded with Palestinian flags in the background.

In October 2002 at the University of Michigan’s annual Palestine Solidarity Movement conference, Bazian opened his talk by thanking opponents of the conference, referring to University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman as an "obedient servant" and saying, "there's no such thing as bad publicity."

Bazian said two tactics commonly employed by pro-Israeli factions to silence pro-Palestinian groups include the issue of democracy in Israel and the charge of anti-Semitism.

"They draw parallels to the U.S. in order to neutralize the American public from examining what's going on. Being a democracy is not immunity from oppression and exclusion. South Africa was a democracy for whites, but not for everyone else. Democracy is the code word for suspending intellectual examination," he said. "With anti-Semitism, they've closed the door for entry for someone who will be able to speak about the Palestinian struggle. (Anti-Semitism is thus) used as a means of neutralizing the opposition so the mainstream American public will distance itself from the 'extremists.'"

In February 2004 in Montreal, Bazian gave an MSA-sponsored lecture at McGill University titled, “The New American Empire and its Adventures in the Middle East.” In this address, he cited neo-conservative think tanks, “Israel-centric” public officials, the Christian Right, and the oil industry as the four major forces driving American foreign policy. “The New York conservatives wanted to make the Middle East a safe neighborhood,” said Bazian “but not for Arabs; they wanted to make it a safe neighborhood for Israel.”

At an April 2004 rally held in San Francisco in support of the Iraqi insurgency he called for violence against America (link to video).

Bazian told the cheering crowd, Are you angry? [Yeah!] Are you angry? [Yeah!] Are you angry? [Yeah!] Well, we've been watching intifada in Palestine, we've been watching an uprising in Iraq, and the question is that what are we doing? How come we don't have an intifada in this country? …and it's about time that we have an intifada in this country that change[s] fundamentally the political dynamics in here. And we know every — They're gonna say some Palestinian being too radical — well, you haven't seen radicalism yet!

Bazian has become a major strategist for the Israel Divestment Campaign and the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Rima Greene and Cinnamon Stillwell wrote an article for FrontPageMagazine.com on Hatem Bazian’s introduction at a Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) event at Berkeley on October 26, 2010, called "What Can American Academia Do to Realize Justice for Palestinians?"

In his introduction, Bazian was unabashed about promoting a politically active role for academia: In academia are two narratives: academia produces embedded intellectuals in bed with power, and there's an academia that challenges power, who say [sic] that the role of the intellectual is to speak truth to power.

Bazian urged "the same students who stopped the war in Vietnam, who stopped the levers of the machine" to "stop the normalization of Israel and the silence of the U.S." by pressuring American academia to cut off all ties with Israeli institutions. He was proud of the accomplishments of the BDS movement, boasting that:

I am comforted at a national level with the conferences I have just been to. We activists from North America and activists from Europe met recently in Montreal and Chicago to discuss boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. People are committed to planning and organizing from college campuses.

He went on to outline his expansive view of the BDS movement, one in which common cause can be made with various other struggles, no matter how disconnected:

Specifically for here on campus, it requires us to be highly organized. The apartheid movement was very strategic with alliances [and] a large coalition—but across the board so that the bombs on Palestinians in refugee camps connect to the inner cities of the U.S.A. . . . We have to think of it as a continuum. We need an agenda that seeks change across the board.

You can see his hand in the latest activity on the Berkely campus from November 14th - November 18th 2011, called "Bring Down the Walls Week!" This event follows the strategy of connecting to other struggles by linking the Israeli security fence with the border fence along the US/Mexico border. These walls are claimed to not only delimitate (sic., apparently delineate) the nation state but reproduce social divisions along lines of race, class and gender, and reflect and reinforce existing power relations. Haten Bazian will speak on Nov. 16 with student Alejandro Garcia (apparently Mexican American) on "Beyond the walls of prisons."

Activists for the BDS movement were also encouraged to work against student exchange programs with Israel by pressuring universities to end study abroad programs in Israel, student exchanges between American and Israeli universities, and foundation grants to Israelis or Israeli institutions. The campaign calls for a thorough shunning of every element of Israeli society.

The UC Berkeley chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine was the primary sponsor for the BDS event, while the Muslim Identities and Cultures—a working group of the university's Townsend Center for the Humanities—was a co-sponsor.

As noted in a letter of protest sent by California academics Leila Beckwith, Roberta Seid, and Tammi Rossman-Benjamin to UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, this "establishes an official association of the University of California at Berkeley with the promotion of a boycott against Israel." In response, the Townsend Center claimed that it "would not fund any group that does not act in the spirit of intellectual openness," nor was it "endorsing any position that could be construed as hateful of any religious or ethnic group."

In 2011, Hatem Bazian also came up with a new idea, a national speaking tour called "Never Again for Anyone." Cinnamon Stillwell and Rima Greene described the talk given by Hatem Bazian on February 17, 2011 at the First Presbyterian Church in Oakland, California for frontpagemag.com.

The tour traveled the U.S. from January 25 through February 19, 2011, coinciding with International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The event was a benefit for the virulently anti-Israel organization, the Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA).

The purpose of the tour was 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.

Hatem Bazian 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.

To show the ulterior motives behind their promotion of Islamophobia in the U.S. and Israel, Hatem Bazian discussed a number of well-known Zionist individuals and organizations -- from Daniel Pipes to AIPAC to Russian-born Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman to U.S. Congressperson Peter King. Islamophobia is a tool used to shovel funding toward the military while domestic resources are cut for social services. Islamophobia is used to build unquestioning support for Israel so that it can continue its colonial expansion unabated.

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 parentheses):

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.

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.

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.

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?"

Hatem Bazian continues to take a major role in planning strategy for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel. He was active, but little reported, at the November 2011 National Students for Justice in Palestine “teach-in”, organized by its members to prepare for their Israel Apartheid Week events across college campuses throughout North America. This wa apparently part of his organizing strategy for hate activities aimed at American Jews and the State of Israel.

Further Reading:

Jessica Felber: Fighter against Hatred on the Campus of the University of California at Berkeley

Helen Freedman fights hatred in a demonstration at Columbia University against the Israel boycott platform of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)

Israel Law Center Launches Student Hotline to Combat Anti-Israel Hostilities on American Campuses

Denis MacEoin fights hatred at Edinburgh University

Aaron Marcus continues the fight against hatred at Rutgers University

Ben Cohen and the Fight against Hatred

US Schools and Universities Re-Empowered to Tackle Anti-Semitism

The Campus War Against Israel and the Jews: Students For Justice in Palestine