Revolution#107, November 4, 2007
Confronting Horowitzian Fascists at Berkeley
Editor’s note: David Horowitz is a right-wing hit-man in the forefront of the attack on dissent and critical thinking in academia. He organized a so-called “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” (IFAW) on campuses around the U.S. October 22–26. On many campuses, this was a very two-sided political confrontation, with both Horowitz’s events and exposure of his agenda and his lies. We’ll have more coverage and analysis next week. But to give a flavor of what happened, we’re printing excerpts from the following correspondence from Berkeley, CA (see revcom.us for more coverage).
The University of California at Berkeley (UC) has not been Berkeley of the ’60s for a long time. A recent forum on creationism attracted close to a thousand supportive Christian students, while a forum to “Defend Science” attracted far fewer, and mostly non-students. That said, we are beginning to see some new fissures, like the recent protest of hundreds in support of the Jena 6. And now, students have started to stand up to the Horowitz assault.
On Monday, October 22, the “Peace Not Prejudice” people who were also mobilizing in response to IFAW showed the movie The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, that exposes the torture there and the role of high-ranking people in the U.S. government in that.
And, on October 22, at the same time people were marching against police brutality, an activist organizing opposition to IFAW was on the UC campus talking to people about politically confronting Nonie Darwish later in the evening. Nonie Darwish was the IFAW speaker at Berkeley, and she is the spokesperson for the group "Arabs for Israel." On that day, there was a man in the middle of campus with a sign that said "Islam Abuses Women." There was a provocative “check list” on the back of his sign: "Polygamy, Incest, Wife Beating." A bunch of students crowded around and started debating with him. The anti-IFAW organizer got in the mix and did loud agitation and distributed a lot of flyers and posters. This went on for hours, with a constant group of about 30 or 40 students standing around arguing with this guy. People went and made signs and brought them back. One Black student was saying, “What would we do if the KKK came on our campus?” By 7 p.m., when Nonie Darwish was supposed to speak, a group of students, including some Muslim students, followed the guy with the “Islam Abuses Women” sign over to the IFAW event. Then there was a spontaneous rally/speak-out/debate in front of the building for about half an hour. World Can’t Wait activists were there with orange jumpsuits.
Revolution correspondent Larry Everest started reading quotes from the Bible about enslaving women, etc., which just infuriated the guy with the “Islam abuses women” sign. Then we all went in. There were about 60 right-wingers and about 40 on our side. Darwish’s speech itself—very narrowly, and through personal anecdotal evidence—described some of the horrors of radical Islam. She really didn’t put forward her actual positions though. What does she advocate in response? War? Torture? How does she feel about the Christian fascists she’s lining up with? The Q&A were on notecards and Darwish was even dodging the pre-selected questions, so people were forced to yell out our questions and comments. Someone asked her about torture and Abu Ghraib, which she dodged by asking “What about Daniel Pearl?” Finally, after being pressured to answer, she said she supports “really scaring them [the detainees].” The organizers—who claim they are the victims of constant censorship—very quickly shut down any potential discussion and ended the event. The whole thing was very two-sided, and it was clear that Nonie Darwish and the College Republicans were the ones who didn’t want to debate.
The next night (Oct. 23), Revolution Books put on an event called “What about U.S. Fascism?” with Larry Everest and graduate student teacher Roberto Hernandez. Although a call was put out on the Republican website to come to the event saying it was going to be “a lot of fun,” none showed. Roberto Hernandez discussed how the attack on Ethnic Studies is much more than an attack on the history of non-whites and their relationship to the U.S., it is an attack on critical thinking itself. Larry Everest pointed out that Darwish tells people not to ask questions like, “Why do they hate us?” There were a number of really good questions. People were trying to get a handle on the seriousness and implications of IFAW and what it’s tied into (the Christian Fascists, attacks on professors, war on Iran, etc.).
Wednesday night, October 24, was the College Republicans’ screening of the war propaganda film Obsession. We brought our own portable movie projector with speakers and battery power to show the World Can’t Wait video about IFAW on the side of the building in front of the entrance. Unfortunately, the cops said it was against school rules, but though they couldn’t tell us which ones, we still had to shut it down. So we got into our orange jumpsuits and kneeled in front of the entrance to the movie. Before it started, we went into the room and kneeled in front of the movie screen. There were about 30 or 40 people in the room, and some of the right-wingers started yelling at us and made jokes about Halloween. One of the jumpsuited activists took his hood off and started agitating about why we are here, and why we are wearing the jumpsuits—because movies like this prepare people to accept and justify torture and unending war in the Middle East. He encouraged people to watch the movie and see what they think, telling them that he’d watched it and, although they compare radical Islam to the Nazis, he said that this film was actually very similar to Nazi propaganda. The cops told them if they didn’t sit down or leave they would be arrested. They sat down and the one who’d been speaking walked out. When he was outside, the cop handcuffed him and said he was making a “citizen’s arrest” on behalf of the College Republicans. He was cited and released, but the message was clear: don’t question, don’t speak up. After the movie was over, three of the remaining activists stood up and very calmly started explaining that now it was time for free speech and they would like everyone to stick around because there are a few things this movie leaves out. The Republicans were trying to wrap it all up, saying they weren’t going to talk here but people were welcome to debate on their blog. When the activists continued to raise the issue a lot of loud arguing ensued and the police came in and pulled the activists out, injuring one high school student’s wrist. The police said they were there to prevent a physical fight between the two sides, but there was only a heated debate. The College Republicans might not have good arguments, but they have the power of the state behind them. On the positive side, several young women who were in the audience told us they wanted to be part of the counter-demo the next day for the Sproul Plaza rally that the Republicans were having.
Thursday, October 25, the Repubicans read “Voices of Terror” at a rally in the center of campus. We came with jumpsuits and one of the young women we had met the night before put one on with another activist and went and kneeled in front of their speakers. We also held up big banners right behind the speakers with different quotes from the speakers of IFAW (Coulter, Santorum, Horowitz). The Republican quotes were mainly from Muslims attacking Jews. They only spoke for about a half hour and the crowd of about 200 students were very angry, sometimes yelling things like “This is racist.” Right after, some activists and a student did a little speaking out to the crowd about the sham that is IFAW. The student said something to the effect of “I’m a Jew and I’m not on the right or the left, but when they tell me I’m siding with the terrorist when I have a problem with the government, that gets in the way of my free speech.”
Later that evening, the coalition of thirty student groups, as part of the “Peace not Prejudice Week,” held a rally on Sproul. Over 300 people heard Rabbi Michael Lerner and others (including hip hop artists and spoken word poets) speak about racism, the power of students, and against the war.
The main campus newspaper, the Daily Cal, reported that students at the noon rally “yelled ‘What About Guantánamo.’” An annoyed campus Republican told Daily Cal, “For many people, the week had more to do with the military escapades of the U.S. rather than Islamo-fascism.”
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