How Stop the ISM Stopped Al Awda at UC Riverside
By Lee Kaplan and the Stop the ISM Team
Well, it finally happened: UC Riverside, an American taxpayer-supported public university that was to be the venue for the next international conference of Al Awda, a.k.a. the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, informed Stop the ISM last Sunday morning that the Fifth Annual International Al Awda Conference that was scheduled there for the weekend of May 24-26th has been canceled.
This marks only the second time an American university took enough responsibility to not allow itself to be duped into hosting unconditionally an anti-Semitic hate fest that masquerades itself as an educational event about the Middle East, the other campus being Rutgers in 2003. Al Awda’s conference was set to be a training and strategy session for boycotting American and Israeli Jewish businesses and even some American Jews, and to work toward the goals of Hamas to destroy Israel. Al Awda’s motto has always been “From the river to the sea,” meaning the organization was not in favor of a peaceful two state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but in the ultimate destruction of Israel and its Jewish and Christian population. Al Awda’s founder once called Jews who live in Israel “a disease.”
According to Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs James Sandoval at UC Riverside, the student organizers advised him “without explanation” that the event was being canceled. While Sandoval maintained the cancellation of the event was the decision of the student organizers that included the Students for Justice in Palestine and Muslim Students Union at UC Riverside, both International Solidarity Movement-affiliated groups, the UC Riverside administration deserves praise for setting up ground rules that obviously made the event too risky for the organizers to conduct on campus. The UC Riverside Muslim Students Union, like others across the US, has enjoyed an affinity for Hassan al Banna, the inspirational precursor to al Qaeda. Accordingly, anti-Semitism, and hatred for America and Israel were all on the Al Awda menu.
After considerable prodding by Stop the ISM, Assistant Vice Chancellor Sandoval set up three restrictions on the event that Al Awda obviously could not abide by. First, was an objection to a disclaimer posted on the Al Awda website that “the convention host committee reserves the right to decline any reservation at its sole discretion for any reason.” A similar disclaimer on the Al Awda website last year for the same conference at San Francisco State University was removed after Stop the ISM called attention to it with the SFSU administration. Public taxpayer-supported universities are not places where people can be barred because of their ethnicity or point of view as long as they behave in a lawful manner. At SFSU some Jews who support the existence of a Jewish state found their reservation requests ignored by the organizers. When notified the same thing was happening at UC Riverside, Sandoval intervened and insisted that the conference be open to anyone who could pay the entrance fee and attend in the spirit of an open university. He made Al Awda remove the restriction from their website.
Next came the issue of security. At the previous SFSU Al Awda Conference, the organizers had goons from their organization follow anyone around who they deemed as reporting what was really going on inside the event. The press was intimidated. This reporter was accosted more than once and even followed into the men’s room. Sandoval agreed such conduct should not be allowable at a public university and assured Stop the ISM that only UC police officers, some brought in from other campuses, would have sole authority for security. At the previous SFSU event some people were harassed even for taking notes or asking questions.
Of most importance was a decision made by Sandoval that cameras and recorders would not be banned at the UC Riverside event. In all other Al Awda and ISM events, cameras and recorders are banned to prevent outsiders from seeing the anti-Semitism and outright support for terrorist groups overseas that goes on. Sandoval advised the organizers that UC Riverside was not to be used for secret meetings that the public could not scrutinize for legitimacy.
Apparently, the above three requirements were more than the Al Awda organizers could handle. Al Awda released this message today:
VENUE CHANGE- UNITING FOR THE RETURN - FIFTH ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL AL-AWDA CONVENTION
NEW VENUE: Embassy Suites Hotel - Anaheim South, 11767 Harbor Boulevard, Garden Grove, CA 92840
DATE: May 25-27, 2007
The host committee of the Fifth Annual International Al-Awda Convention announces a change in venue. The convention will now be held at Embassy Suites Hotel - Anaheim South, 11767 Harbor Boulevard, Garden Grove, CA 92840. The convention will take place on the May 25-27 memorial day week-end.
The date of the convention commemorates the Nakba, the 59th year since the "State of Israel" was declared on stolen Palestinian land, and which led to the Zionist occupation of all of Palestine.
The community-based local host committee currently includes the Southern California chapters of Al-Awda (Al-Awda Riverside, Los Angeles and San Diego), Students for Justice in Palestine at UCR, The Palestinian American Women's Association, The Free Palestine Alliance, The National Council of Arab Americans, The Middle East Cultural and Information Center, The Muslim Students Association at Palomar College, The Muslim Students Association at UCSD, Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA, The Muslim Students Union at UCR, The Arab Community Center of the Inland Empire, Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid - Southern California, Students for International Knowledge at CSUSB, and The Muslim Students Association at CSUSB.
The Fifth Annual International Al-Awda Convention promises to be an amazing three-day event from speakers and workshops, film showings, to a Palestine Cultural Dinner Event. The opening will be held on the evening of Friday 25 May and include a moving event at which survivors of the Nakba, the great catastrophe, share their recollections of their first-hand experience in 1948.
On Saturday May 26, the convention will devote itself to political assessments, and to developing the ongoing work of organizing right to return campaigns such as refugee support, media work, student, art/culture, etc., in addition to our recruitment and outreach projects.
On Sunday May 27, the convention will arrive at its resolutions based on the concrete recommendations of the various workshops.
The Saturday evening Palestinian Cultural Dinner Event will include keynote addresses as well as music by world-renowned maestro Dr. Nabil Azzam, poetry readings and more. A Naji el-Ali exhibition will also be on display in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of his assassination. The cartoons for this exhibit were kindly provided by Khalid el-Ali, his son.
Among the confirmed convention speakers are:
- Dr. Jamal Zahalka, new leader of Balad (National Democratic Assembly, al-Tajamu' al-Watani al-Dimuqrati) who will discuss the current situation of Palestinians living in the areas of their country occupied in 1948 and in the context of the persecution of Dr. Azmi Bishara, former leader of Balad.
- Leila Al-Arian, journalist, daughter of political prisoner Sami Al-Arian.
- Dr. Naseer Aruri, former member of The Palestine National Council.
- Elias Rashmawi, National Coordinator National Council of Arab Americans.
WHY VENUE CHANGE
The host committee decided to move the convention from the University of California at Riverside to the Embassy Suites Hotel - Anaheim South when new unacceptable conditions were demanded by certain UCR administrators well after they had approved the venue. For example, the administrators levied new administrative, security and other fees in the thousands of dollars which the hosts of the convention at UCR viz. the Students for Justice in Palestine would be expected to pay. Such prohibitive fees are highly unusual and have almost certainly never before been levied at UCR on any other student group. Additionally, the university administrators insisted that Zionists be allowed to attend the convention, and that they film the convention and its participants, a remarkable attempt at intimidation.
All these new conditions and unreasonable demands were considered by the host committee as an attempt to shut down the Fifth Annual International Al-Awda Convention. Hence, the committee decided to move the convention to the Embassy Suites Hotel - Anaheim South, 11767 Harbor Boulevard, Garden Grove, CA 92840 - The committee felt that this private venue would provide a safer and more secure environment for our community and convention attendees.
All of the guests listed above call for Israel’s destruction, and are supporters of Hamas and the terrorists who kill US soldiers in Iraq. Al-Arian was convicted of being the US head of Islamic Jihad and involved in killing over 100 people in terrorist attacks, including some Americans. The Boycott of american firms promoted by Al Awda at this conference includes Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Blockbuster Video and even Home Depot.
Stop the ISM earlier provided the UCR administration with ample photographic evidence and proof over the last thirty days that Al Awda is linked with American Nazi Party organizations such as the Aryan Nations due to their commonality in Jew-hatred, that it engages in blatant anti-Semitism on its affiliated websites and violates US law regarding promoting a boycott of Israeli businesses that was set up by the Arab League. Secondary boycotts of American businesses that do business with Israel are also considered illegal and Al Awda clearly stated on their website their goal was also to boycott American Jews by boycotting certain American firms. Photographs of Al Awda organizers in San Francisco waving Palestinian flags with red fists dripping with blood on them and exhortations in Arabic that “Palestine is ours and the Jews are our dogs!” sent to the UC Riverside authorities over the last month were not enough to sway the administration to take action at first, allegedly, because the University counsel found “nothing illegal” about it, however, campus restrictions on secretive or abusive behavior apparently were enough to make the event be canceled.
Other evidence over the succeeding weeks since the announcement of the event that Stop the ISM provided to the UCR administration included specific examples of Al Awda’s blatant anti-Semitism by exhortations to murder Jews. Such evidence included poetry on the Web by an international Al Awda leader exhorting murder and suicide bombings. Since the UCR event was billed as an “International Al Awda event,” calls for suicide bombings and killings were hardly appropriate for a California state campus.
Vice Chancellor James Sandoval deserves some credit for not playing the complete fool to Al Awda, by at least setting some ground rules for the event that the organizers no doubt felt they could not adhere to. One was the removal of a disclaimer on the Al Awda website saying the organizers had the right to bar anyone from attending the conference for any reason. That disclaimer was posted on the Al Awda website. San Francisco State University, that hosted last year’s national conference, also required the organizers to remove such a restriction from the event that did take place on that taxpayer-supported campus after Stop the ISM pointed the disclaimer out. Despite that, some who support Israel’s right to exist found their reservations ignored or missing at SFSU when that conference took place. Sandoval intervened after being notified of the restriction on the Al Awda website and advised the organizers that since UCR is a public university, nobody could be barred from the event.
The Arab irredentist group Al Awda has always managed to get by on plausible deniability whenever it came to its outright support for anti-Semitism and the annihilation of Israel, but when the organization came under potential open scrutiny this time, it canceled its own event. In the past, Al Awda has not allowed cameras or video recorders at their events, an ISM tactic, because these events are really terrorist-support strategy festivals, not peace or educational events. The fact is the US Civil Rights Commission just came out condemning anti-Semitism on US colleges that is masked as Middle East “discussion” or only criticism of Israel must have also played at least some role in the UCR administration’s requirements for this Al Awda conference that the organizers found unacceptable.
Al Awda has now moved this conference to private property where they can bar people from seeing what goes on inside. The universities have provided a low cost or free venue in the past and fostering the image of an academic event for conferences like these that belong in despotic totalitarian-state Middle Eastern universities, not on an American campus. Al Awda attendees, although mostly Palestinian Arabs, also voice their unwavering international support for the Ba’ath Party that supplies terrorists who kill American soldiers in Iraq.
Whatever the reasons for the cancellation of this event, UC Riverside deserves praise for conducting itself like a professional institution of learning, not an indoctrination center for Jew-haters. Whether this had something to do with the new finding by the US Civil Rights Commission about campuses being disabused by anti-Semitism masking as political discussion of the Middle East is not the issue; for once, a major American university conducted itself in an intelligent manner that treated veiled anti-Semitism as being every bit as objectionable as attacks on any other ethnicity. Meanwhile, the Al Awda show will still go in Garden Grove, California, but not on a college campus partially subsidized at taxpayer expense.
Write Vice chancellor James Sandoval (firstname.lastname@example.org ) and Chancellor France Cordova (email@example.com) and praise UC Riverside for doing the right thing once the truth emerged. Perhaps other universities will now finally catch on to the ISM and its affiliates like Al Awda. At the same time, get on the phone to
the corporate offices of Hilton Hotel Corporation and the Mayor of Garden Grove:
Hilton Exec. President is Matthew Hart. Write him at
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 310 278-4321
Hart is now the key executive to contact to stop this.
Hilton has been balking at canceling this conference. Tell them you will boyucott Hilton Hotels if they do not cancel the Al Awda conference. Also note: Hilton is on Al Awda's list of businesses to be boycotted for doing business with Israel!
Other contacts below:
Stephen F. Bollenbach, CEO
Hilton Hotels Corporation World Headquarters
9336 Civic Center Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
email@example.com VP Communications
firstname.lastname@example.org Embassy Suites Manager
UPDATE: HILTON MANAGEMENT IS STONEWALLING ON CANCELING THE AL AWDA JEW-HATE FEST AT THEIR HOTEL: EMAIL THEM AND CALL THE CEO AND COMPLAIN.
Mayor of Garden Grove
11222 Acacia Pkwy
Garden Grove, CA 92840