Speakers Favor Controversy Over Facts

“Controversy is good … Controversy is exactly what we want.”

This statement, made by Anna Baltzer last Tuesday, reflects a growing trend in the Muslim Student Union’s (MSU) annual anti-Israel week. Baltzer apparently fails to realize that some people prefer facts rather than a questionable presentation based on faulty assertions and plain fabrications. Baltzer not only damned the Israeli security barrier for “preventing daily life” but took a step past the line of reason by saying it “doesn’t prevent attacks,” even though terrorism has declined by 92 percent since the barrier’s construction in 2002.

Cynthia McKinney, a former congresswoman, was a new addition to the MSU’s lineup of speakers. McKinney decried American foreign aid to Israel and briefly recounted her experience in attempting to sail through the Israeli naval barrier implemented around Gaza to prevent Hamas from smuggling arms.

However, the show was stolen by Malik Ali, an Oakland imam who has repeatedly accused the “Zionist Jews” of corrupting and controlling the United States government, economy and media. Ali has also repeated the conspiracy theory that the “Zionist Jews” were responsible for 9/11. His constant vilification of the “Zionist Jew” is a weak way to dodge charges of anti-Semitism, as most Jews are Zionists by religious affiliation.

Last Thursday night, Ali delivered a speech in the Student Center entitled “Silence is Consent.” Unfortunately, Ali’s speech was not at all concerned with facts, as it focused more on religious extollment and anti-America and anti-Israel rhetoric. What was surprising was the much-higher level of vitriol and naked hate in Ali’s rhetoric at the nighttime event in comparison to his public daytime event at the flagpoles.

“Allah is a terrorist,” Ali said at the speech’s inception. “When we fight against the enemy, Allah will strike fear in the heart of the oppressor. He terrorizes them.”

Ali also reminded the audience that the “Zionist Jew is in the party of Shaytan [Islamic term for “Satan”] … they follow the Shaytan’s power … they like to operate behind closed doors, they are the Whisperers … when you get tempted by Satan.”

Ali warned the audience not to develop relationships with the Zionist Jews and not to fault Hamas, which he considers the victim, insinuating that Hamas’ use of the Palestinian people as human shields and suicide bombs is to be excused.

In an effort to separate Zionism from Judaism, Ali continued to allege that “[Zionism] has nothing to do with Judaism.” Ali seems to be unaware that the land of Israel is mentioned by name over 800 times in Jewish prayer and texts.

Ali also remarked, “The [UC Irvine] administration can’t stand the Zionists, but they won’t say anything. It’s unjust. We’re not going to obey the administration. The administration looks stupid because it follows the Zionists. They [Zionists] are Satan.”

The last remark was met with laughter from the audience. The allegation is meant to imply that Zionist students on UCI’s campus somehow control the UCI administration, a microcosm of Ali’s belief that Jews control the media, wealth and government. It also alluded to the recent controversy involving the MSU’s display of Anne Frank wearing a keffiyah, a popular article of clothing similar to a scarf worn by numerous Islamic militants such as Hamas and the Taliban. UCI administration forced the MSU to cover up the image and ultimately remove it. Ali followed this with a call to the audience to resist such policies and what he deemed unjust rules.

In a weakly-veiled call for violence, Ali cried, “We are moving into a phase of civil disobedience; there’s no other choice except to disobey.”

In response to an audience member’s question about the MSU’s support for Hamas, Ali responded, “You’re IDF [Israel Defense Forces]. I’m Hamas. We can’t be friends.” When the audience member told him that yes, they could, Ali replied, “No, we ain’t, brother. You’re a Zionist and I’m a Muslim, so yes we can discuss, but we can’t be friends.” The statement is reflective of Ali’s constant attempts to create division between students on college campuses.

The night’s events reinforced more than ever that Ali has fallen victim to the ideology popular in Muslim fundamentalist circles that the Jews, and in some cases Americans, are solely responsible for Muslim suffering in the world. The night also marked the end to a week of controversy for the members of MSU, who, in addition to being told to remove their offensive display of Anne Frank, flaunted a torn-up, paint-splattered, burned Israeli flag on campus and confronted protestors at the flagpoles by shouting insults.

Ultimately, the objectivity and motives of the MSU should be questioned so that hopefully fair, factual and nuanced presentations of the complex issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be favored instead. Until then, the MSU deserves little trust in light of its recent events and choice of speakers.

AE Anteater is a third-year English major. He can be reached at emailremoved@uci.edu.