Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bonfield Vs. Gottstein Today at the Bartlett Club

Today at noon, the Anchorage Bartlett Democratic Club will host an exchange between Mark and Dawn Bonfield, representing Alaskans for Palestine, and David Gottstein, the Alaska director of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee.

The Bonfields and Gottstein have presented at the Bartlett Club before, but not during the same time slot. The Bonfields are known for their engaging, often humorous presentations at which they play both sides of the contentions issues regarding continuing Israeli expansion in the occupied territories of the West Bank. Gottstein has presented twice at the Bartlet Club recently - once to counter an appearance by Alison Weir, director of the organization If Americans Knew, and once to counter the last appearance at the club by the Bonfields.

It should be noted here that yesterday the U.S. Department of Education launched an investigation into anti-Semitism at the University of California Santa Cruz:

The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights will investigate charges of anti-Semitism at the University of California at Santa Cruz based on a complaint that the university ignored concerns that criticism of Israel was "creating a hostile climate for Jewish people on the campus."

You can read a letter from the Dept. of Ed announcing the investigation here. The move is the first such investigation since the Department announced last October that they were expanding federal anti-bullying guidelines to include religious groups with “shared ethnic characteristics.” Previously, the relevant civil rights statute, Title VI, did not explicitly cover religion. This was a move applauded by Israel supporters, such as the Zionist Organization of America, who saw it as a way to criminalize activism critical of Israel on campus.

The lecturer who brought the complaint is Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, who teaches Hebrew at the school. You can read Rossman-Benjamin's complaint to the Education Department here. Among the events she sites as examples of anti-Semitism on campus was a screening of the film Occupation 101 and another event called "Understanding Gaza." This event featured speakers from Jewish Voice for Peace which she characterizes as "an extreme and disreputable fringe of American Jewry." The Chronicle quotes her letter:

The anti-Israel discourse and behavior in classrooms and at departmentally and college-sponsored events at [Santa Cruz] is tantamount to institutional discrimination against Jewish students, which has resulted in their intellectual and emotional harassment and intimidation, and has adversely affected their educational experience at the university.

Reading over the complaint, it's hard to believe that anyone took it very seriously.
But the Obama administration has taken this complaint seriously.

Alaskans for Palestine, among its other community outreach activities, has shown a number of movies at UAA, which seek to inform people of the Palestinian viewpoint in the Israel-Palestine conflict. One of those is named specifically in the U.S. Department of Education's complaint - Occupation 101. It is an excellent film, and its authenticity has not been questioned. Will Alaskans for Palestine be sanctioned off of dampus, due to the California complaint?

Here's a clip from Occupation 101:

Another issue that has come up in discussion of this pending civil rights case has been that of people on campus or students feeling they have been intimidated at an event or classroom activity, because of their religion, ethnicity or heritage.

I've produced and/or hosted a lot of events at UAA - James L. Acord (three times), environmental trekkers Erin & Hig (three times), author Max Blumenthal, sculptor Peter Bevis, and others. One lecture I gave, along with Rabbi Josef Greenberg, back in 2004, resulted in outrageous harassment of one of the people who had come to hear us:
During the Q & A session after a lecture I gave at the University of Alaska Anchorage in April 2004, a young Palestinian American was booed by Jews and Christian Zioinists in the audience, merely for recounting his own observations from visiting relatives in the West Bank. When one of them shouted at the courageous young man “Shut the fuck up! You’re not even human!” several in the audience applauded, including a GOP member of the Alaska State Legislature [Rep. Bob Lynn] and the former treasurer of the Alaska GOP [Fred Agree]. I have it all on videotape. Others laughed and jeered at him when he was called a “raghead.”
Under the parameters being held to by the Department of Education complaint, it seems this incident would qualify as actionable. At the time, though, most of us who attended just took the bruises and outrages as part of the interaction one sees when contentious subjects are brought forward.


n said...

Are these the refugee camps in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan or in Gaza? I am not sure. If it is Gaza, I would blame their government who is in charge (and gets lots of moola from the US), just as I blame the government in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan for not helping their "brothers". You have read about how they are treated in those countries haven't you? Nice family. Arafat had millions but his people had nothing.

Could you please post your video of the harassment of the Q & A speaker?

n said...

You can see the little girl looking to someone on the side who obviously is telling her what to say.

Anonymous said...

@N: You sure have a black and white view of Palestinean people that is worthy of most "Baptist" Christians who seldom look beyond their church leader who tells them what to think.

Anonymous said...

The 2004 event was not a "lecture" you were suppose to give although it ended up that way. It was suppose to be a pro/con talk on your one-sided cantata. After you jacked your jaw for 45 you gave the Rabbi 15 minutes and then told him to sit down when he called for questions on what he had said. That is when the whole thing went down hill you liar!
And Zayed is no more a "Palestinian" than you are, he's just a Jew hating sack of shit like you.
You keep telling yourself those lies though idiot!

n said...

Anonymous 8:12....what did I say about Pals? All I did was ask which country the camps were filmed, as I am sure you know these Arab countries have them too. Also, just mentioned what I say in the video...the little girl looking off to the side. And Arafat had lots of money, his wife lived a cushy life in Paris. It is fact. Sorry if that bothers you.