So Penn State's School of Communications had CNN's Wolf Blitzer give a commencement speech along with an honorary degree. Mr. Blitzer actually made a visit to Penn State before. He participated on panel in 1989 to discuss the Palestinian Intifada. He represented the pro-Israeli viewpoint on the panel. He was the Jerusalem bureau chief for the Jerusalem Post after working for the pro-Israeli lobby group AIPAC. Its interesting that a former lobbyist for a special interest group now has his journalism hat on. He's no precedent for Penn State journalist students to follow.
Among the panellists Blitzer debated was Norman Finkelstein. Dr. Finkelstein was subsequently invited by SJP and told us that Blitzer performance was so bad he refused to get on the same plane with Finkelstein back to New York. Part 1 of Q&A session of the debate can be found here. You can judge for yourselves.
“Israeli pinkwashing,” in the words of Prof. Jasbir Puar, “is a potent method through which the terms of Israeli occupation of Palestine are reiterated – Israel is civilised, Palestinians are barbaric, homophobic, uncivilised, suicide-bombing fanatics.”
Last week, pinkwashing came to Penn State, with the campus Hillel chapter hosting two back-to-back talks by speakers from the Israeli Consulate General’s office in Philadelphia. First, the consulate’s Public Relations director (and former IDF Captain) Sharon Singer spoke on “Being Gay in the Israeli Army.” Much of her talk consisted of screening Youtube clips depicting gay intimacy in Israeli films and television shows.
Afterwards, Deputy Consul General Raslan Abu-Rukun spoke about Israeli foreign policy and emphasized the atmosphere of racial and religious harmony in the Jewish state. When he presented a vigorous justification of Israel’s killing of 1400 civilians during the 2009 Gaza war, the majority of the audience, wearing stickers saying “Free Palestine” and “End the Occupation” stood up and walked out.
Abu-Rukun spoke for only a few minutes after the walkout, addressing the remaining audience of 10-15, mostly comprised of Hillel members. A few pro-justice students also stayed behind. “How do you reconcile the rosy picture you paint with Human Rights Watch’s account of “systematic discrimination” against Palestinians,” asked one student. Visibly flustered, Abu Rukun complained that Israel was often unfairly targeted by human rights agencies. When asked if there were any human rights organizations he would recommend for objective coverage of Israel and Palestine, he was unable to name even one.
Abu-Rukun, an Israeli Druze, was on his second visit to Penn State. In his talk, he mentioned his private meeting with President Graham Spanier earlier that morning. Pres. Spanier, himself born in Apartheid South Africa, was one of the main organizers of the 2007 University Presidents’ petition against the decision by Britain’s University and College Union to pursue academic boycott of Israel (the petition appeared as an ad in the New York Times sponsored by the American Jewish Committee.) When asked afterwards about the subject of his meeting with Spanier, Abu Rukun’s response was unequivocal. “I am a diplomat,” he said. “My job is to advance Israel’s interests.”
The following day, the Consulate updated their Facebook page, describing the event as “fully packed.” The event certainly was packed, but only if you include the protestors.
Anna Baltzer's visit last week went great! We had a packed audience and was very much involved with her lecture. We ran out of copies of her books and DvDs, and if anybody would like to purchase more please email us. The presentation was another sad reminder of the brutal occupation and apartheid practices by the Israelis against the Palestinians. More and more people are becoming aware of the facts on the ground and Israel and their supporters in the U.S. are finding it very difficult to hide it. Baltzer gave an example of one international News Weekly mentioning the "Plight of the Palestines," compared to a U.S version of the same issue that mentioned Michael Phelps making history in Athens.
Anna Baltzer is a Jewish-American Columbia graduate, former-Fulbright scholar, the granddaughter of Holocaust refugees, and an award-winning lecturer, author, and activist for Palestinian human rights. As a volunteer with the International Women's Peace Service in the West Bank, Baltzer documented human rights abuses and supported Palestinian-led nonviolent resistance to the Occupation.
A professor on campus donated an antique map of Palestine to us. He attached a card with the following message,
Dear Students for Justice in Palestine,
I found this map in an antique store in Lewisburg in 2005. Thought you all would like it.
My maternal grandmother’s family were murdered in Nazi camps – she barely escaped. Using their suffering in order to justify the oppression of the Palestinians is a crime.
Please use this map to help students and other at Penn State to REMEMBER – the history of Palestine, the suffering of Palestinians today, never to quit fighting until we win justice in Palestine for Jews and Arabs alike.