Controversy has erupted at California’s Claremont McKenna College after a student journalist exposed how the head of the Middle East Studies Department, Dr. Bassam Frangieh, is an open supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah. The college has responded by pretending his record of praising the terrorist groups doesn’t exist and editing Frangieh’s Wikipedia entry.
Charles C. Johnson of The Claremont Independent has done extensive research on Frangieh, including having his Arabic works translated. Johnson tells FrontPage that more incriminating material is on the way, but what has already been discovered is nothing less than shocking.
In May of 2006, Frangieh congratulated Hamas on winning the Palestinian elections, saying, “I wonder what else would the Arabs have without Hamas and Hezbollah? Nothing. Except humiliation.” He said that he “view[s] Hamas with great pleasure” and even went so far as to say, “Hamas might be able to produce the beginning of salvation.” This lavish praise cannot be denied, clarified or downplayed. It is clear that Frangieh is an unabashed supporter of the terrorist group.
He also supports specific acts of terrorism. He signed a petition in 2006 describing Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel, which included the firing of rockets on civilians and the kidnapping of soldiers, as a “heroic operation.” The document referred to Israel as a “Zionist killing machine” that is “motivated by historical ambitions…[and] a racist supremacist ideology that denigrates the indigenous population, their culture, and their very existence.”
It describes Hezbollah as the “Lebanese Resistance” and asks the Lebanese government to enlist it as its army. The petition also demands that the international community boycott Israeli products, cut off diplomatic ties and even boycott Israeli academic and scientific institutions that do not condemn the invasion of Lebanon.
Frangieh also wrote an essay in 2000 titled, “Modern Arabic Poetry: Vision and Reality” that praises an extremist poet named Abd al-Rahim Mahmud, whose poetry has made its way into Palestinian and Saudi textbooks designed to indoctrinate the youth into supporting terrorism and hatred. Two of his most popular poems, “The Martyr” and “A Call to Jihad,” are particularly admired by terrorists.
In his essay, he said that even if Arab poets blew themselves up, it would not force the change he feels is necessary in the region. “For real change to come about, thousands of people will have to die; thousands must martyr themselves. It appears that only massive revolution will succeed in overturning the corrupt regimes of the Arab world,” he writes.
Though Frangieh views all the Arab regimes as corrupt, one stands out among him as the best: Saddam Hussein. He says the dictator “really did something for his country” and “wasn’t a thief,” though he is quick to add that this doesn’t mean he is defending Hussein’s brutality.
Frangieh also espouses wild conspiracy theories. In 2007, he signed a petition condemning a resolution that would divide Iraq into three sectarian-based autonomous regions as a “Zionist plot.” It described the war in Iraq as “barbaric” and hatched by “cowboys” seeking the country’s wealth. Like other anti-American conspiracy theorists and Islamic extremists, he sees U.S. foreign policy as secretly orchestrated by Zionist imperialists with evil motives.
He has also been active in trying to book speakers that share his views, such as Syria’s ambassador. He also worked with the Muslim Students Association to have Zaid Shakir speak, who the New York Times reported in 2006 “said he hoped that one day the United States would be a Muslim country ruled by Islamic law.” He also espouses 9⁄11 conspiracy theories and condemns America’s “demonization” of Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban, Hugo Chavez, Saddam Hussein and others. Shakir even said that he opposes the hijacking of civilian airliners, but “if you hijack an airplane filled with the 82nd Airborne, that’s something else.”
Charles Johnson told FrontPage that he will soon release additional material related to Frangieh and that he is working to get statements from experts on anti-Semitism to join his cause. “I want the school to say if they will defend the academic freedom of someone who supports anti-Semitic terrorist organizations,” he said. Johnson also says that questions are going to be raised about Frangieh’s academic integrity.
Frangieh’s wife, Aleta Wenger, also works at the college as its “executive director for international programs” and other positions that give her influence over the awarding of scholarships and fellowships, including the Fulbright Award. She supported the activists trying to break the Israeli blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and sees Israel as so wicked that it might bomb the American University of Beirut.
Johnson said that he is encouraged thus far by the reaction on campus to his work. “Numerous faculty members in numerous departments are supportive,” he said.
FrontPage was told by Claremont McKenna College that Professor Frangieh was unavailable for an interview because he had to meet a deadline for an article. The college has put out a statement on the matter that says, “the College does not agree with the student’s opinion that Professor Frangieh supports terrorism. In addition, Professor Frangieh has specifically and emphatically denied that he supports terrorism, or any acts of terrorism by any organization.” The college’s vice president of public affairs and communication reacted by deleting information about Frangieh’s support for terrorism from his Wikipedia page.
Claremont McKenna is wrong to assume that a condemnation of the vague term of “terrorism” means he is not an extremist. Frangieh obviously would not include Hamas and Hezbollah under the definition of “terrorist organizations” if he supports them. His denial is unconvincing and meaningless given his record.
Students at Claremont McKenna and their families should be outraged that their tuition is going to fund a Middle East Studies Department led by a supporter of terrorism. It is time for the community to demand that the college explain why it still employs Professor Frangieh even after having Charles C. Johnson do the research it should have done long ago.