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Hatem Bazian, a senior lecturer in the department of Near Eastern studies at the University of California at Berkeley, provided the 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?” Bazian is an endorser of the Israel Divestment Campaign and a signatory to the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. He is a committed anti-Israel propagandist and activist.
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.
Accordingly, his remarks were peppered with exultant references to Berkeley’s glory days:
This is a place that gave major contributions: the women’s movement, the anti-war movement, the labor movement, ethnic studies. This is a place where ideas were possible; this is a place where people wrote history.
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.
Bazian’s reference to apartheid in South Africa is a staple of the BDS movement. But it is an inaccurate comparison, as is the “inner cities” of the U.S. to Palestinian “refugee camps.” Such decontexualized verbal borrowings cannot be the work of an unbiased intellectual, as they confuse and blur meaning in order to incite passions.
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