Parents of University of Michigan students and Michigan
taxpayers should be outraged by the divestment conference being
held this weekend at U-M.
While the name and stated goal of the conference is
divestment from Israel, that is merely a cover for what will
really happen: support for terrorism against Americans and a
hate-fest against Jews akin to a Hitler rally in Nazi Germany.
As a Michigan alumna, I respect speech rights of everyone, no
matter how odious their positions may be. But free speech does
not include incitement to violence, which the U.S. Supreme Court
has repeatedly ruled illegal and not covered by constitutional
Security concerns can trump free speech. U-M President Mary
Sue Coleman, by irresponsibly allowing the conference to take
place, jeopardizes the safety of thousands of students.
The conference organizer, U-M senior Fadi Kiblawi, wrote in
the U-M publication Al-Risalah of wanting "to strap a bomb
to one's chest and kill." That Kiblawi remains a U-M
student after uttering such a desire, let alone obtaining use of
U-M facilities for anything, is incredible. His proclamation is
simply a variation of yelling "Fire!" in a crowded
theater. Ditto for the words and deeds of several conference
speakers, a "Who's Who" of supporters of terrorism and
For instance, Sami Al-Arian is a founder and ruling council
member of the terrorist group Islamic Jihad, the Tampa Tribune
reports. That group murdered American college student Alisa
Flatow. A chilling surveillance video of Al-Arian's multiple
fund-raising tours of America's mosques shows Al-Arian being
introduced as "the president of the Islamic Committee for
Palestine, . . . the active arm of the Islamic Jihad
Movement." While he and others in the video praise killing
Jews and Christians, Al-Arian states, "Let us damn America.
. . . Let us damn (its) allies until death." In another
speech, he praised a "river of blood that gushes forth and
does not extinguish, from butchery to butchery, and from
martyrdom to martyrdom, from jihad to jihad."
Al-Arian's words have led to deadly actions. Just 10 days
after Islamic Jihad suicide bombers killed 18 people in 1995,
FBI and INS agents discovered a letter from him that sought a
merger with Hamas and "support to the jihad effort . . . so
that operations such as these can continue."
This type of speech and organizing to exhort terrorism is
illegal, not just under incitement exceptions to the First
Amendment, but under the 1996 Clinton counter-terrorism package,
which expressly prohibits contributions to and any facilitation
of groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, on the State
Department terrorist list.
Other stark examples of unprotected and inciteful speech have
occurred at rallies much like this weekend's from some of the
very speakers expected to appear here:
At a May 1999 conference in Santa Clara, Calif., Hatem Bazian
stated: "The Day of Judgment will never happen until you
fight the Jews. . . . The trees and stones will say, oh Muslim,
there is a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him!"
In October 1998, Mahdi Bray coordinated and led a Washington
rally of 2,000 people, during which he played the tambourine as
the crowd repeated, "Let's all go into jihad, and throw
stones at the face of the Jews."
On Dec. 22, 2000, Bray organized and spoke at a rally outside
the White House at which the emcee and crowd chanted
responsively in Arabic: "O Jews, the Army of Muhammad is
coming for you!" The Nazi swastika was openly displayed.
Yet these same people are welcomed at the University of
Michigan. In an embarrassing lack of leadership, U-M President
Mary Sue Coleman sent an e-mail saying she would allow the
conference because Berkeley held it last year. But that
conference was followed by a year of at least 50 violent
incidents against Jews on campus or nearby. If violence follows
the speeches in Ann Arbor, the regents and Coleman will be to
Because Coleman is apparently in the habit of copying others
-- rather than being independent, responsible and concerned with
the safety of students -- why isn't she emulating the leadership
of University of South Florida President Judy Genschaft?
Genschaft's campus once employed Al-Arian as a professor but
later fired and banned him from the campus, citing security
concerns and student safety.
Coleman must ban from U-M any conference speakers and
organizers who have records of inciteful, violent speech.
Otherwise, divestment will certainly be in order -- from the
irresponsible University of Michigan.
Debbie Schlussel is
a political commentator and attorney. She is a frequent guest on
ABC's "Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher" and Fox
News Channel. Join her fan
club or discussion
Views expressed are
those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Political
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