Cross-posted by Gary Fouse
As previously reported, I covered the anti-Israel/anti-US hate festival at UC-Irvine held January 31, 2009 and wrote an article which appeared on Campus Watch and Frontpage. One of the organizers of the event, Diane Shammas, wrote a response to Frontpage, which I am posting here along with my reply back to her (posted on Frontpage).Below is Ms Shammas bio taken from the website of the Levantine Cultural Association in Los Angeles.
"Diane Shammas is a Ph.D. candidate in educational policy at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Pitzer College, Claremont, California. Given the prejudicial attitudes that have been aimed towards Arab Americans and Muslims post 9/11, she has focused her dissertation on the relationships between campus social relations, racial campus climates, and student sense of school belonging among Arab and Muslim community college students. Among her recent publications is "Research on Race and Ethnic Relations Among Community College Students", in the Community College Review, Volume 32, Number 4, April 2007 written with doctoral advisor, Dr. William E. Maxwell.
Prior to returning to the University of Southern California for her doctoral degree, Diane was in the women's fashion industry, wholesale and retail for twenty-three years. She also owned women's retail apparel stores in Los Angeles and Newport Beach.
Diane is of Lebanese heritage, and was inspired to be both proud of and affirm her Middle Eastern, Arab, and Lebanese heritage through her father, who was the first president of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the World Lebanese Cultural Union."
"Dear Gary Fouse/FrontPage Magazine,
As one of the main organizers of “Whither the Levant? The Crisis of the Nation-State: Lebanon, Israel, Palestine,” I feel I should speak up. My knee jerk reaction was to ignore your comments as it just adds more fuel to your nonsense.
First, I want to thank you for your in depth critique of our conference. Although I do not agree with any of your comments, I think the contrary that our conference generated much fodder for thought.
Second, as Levantine Cultural Center and UC Irvine’s Middle East Studies Student Initiative (MESSI) wished to make this a successful event, the director of Levantine and I personally took head counts to see the number of attendees—with the ebb and flow of new people coming in for the various events, the total numbered 400. At one point we had a full room (300 seats).
Third, as for pro-Israel representation, the director of Levantine contacted the Ardvarks for Israel and Hillel on numerous occasions to ask that they recommend names to counter the so called "pro Palestinian leftist argument,” and yet only one suggestion was given to us in a three-month period, and the person was unable to make the engagement.
Fourth, the intent as usual with FrontPage Magazine is to detract from the solidarity of all our speakers in protest of the horrific genocide of the Palestinian people, and further suggest that there is discontent among us. I am referring to your comment of Norman Finkelstein’s “obnoxious and arrogant demeanor” that annoyed Mark LeVine. During Norman’s contested tenure, Mark LeVine fully gave his support.
Fifth, as usual with you folks—to use one of your favorite verbial expression—you like to “bash” Norman Finkelstein but solely on a personal basis, never his beliefs or statements. Am I to assume you can not refute them. The usual string of mantras is “self hating Jew,” who imbibes his speeches with Der Sturmer messages (by the way Professor Dershowitz referred to Der Sturmer as Der Stutterer—I suppose we can rely on him to always mangle his words, as he confused Orwell’s turnspeak for “newspeak”). It never ceases to amaze me how you at FrontPage Magazine never deal one on one with the issues that the speakers present, always to heap mountains of character assassinations.
Sixth, I met Dr. Finkelstein for the first time and I find him to be a well reasoned and a flexible person with whom to work. Perhaps, some folks find him arrogant, but Norman is a very serious person who spends an inordinate amount of time preparing his speeches. For this reason, he is very critical when speakers do not make a dedicated effort to do the same.
Seventh, when I first became acquainted with Norman Finkelstein’s work, I scrutinized his statements very carefully. In my thorough research, I found that he provided an accurate account of the 242 resolution. I might be paraphrasing here, but when Norman states that Israel wants peace on their “own terms” he is absolutely correct. Before I explain some biographical information is warranted here. I am of Lebanese/Arab American heritage. My father’s first cousin was a well respected, professional diplomat that in the 1960s served in the capacity as a Third Secretary to the UN, in subsequent years as an ambassador from Lebanon to Iraq, Greece, and Germany, but headed the Arab delegations to the Madrid talks in 1992. Most certainly he would be characterized as a man of moderate political leanings. At the time the Arab delegations included discussions of the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza as well as Southern Lebanon, my cousin most compellingly referred to Israel as wanting a “hegemonistic peace.”
Eighth, you omitted one important detail. You fixated on Norman “sitting sullenly with his face in his hands”. You certainly have mischaracterized him. He maintained a low profile, sitting at the end row during our second panel discussion. After the second panel finished, members of the audience literally flocked to his side asking him a plethora of questions regarding the crisis in Gaza.
It is no wonder that you at FrontPage Magazine are quivering in your boots: your support for Palestinian injustice and Apartheid is dwindling. More so than with the Lebanon-Israel War in 2006, a sizeable number of Jews around the world has expressed solidarity with Palestinians from the US, Canada, Europe and Morocco. Both Norman and my friend, the director at Levantine, had immediate relatives that perished in the Holocaust, but they had the intestinal fortitude to fight in the struggle against the annihilation and oppression of the Palestinian and Lebanese people. Thank god for people like this they have given Arab Americans a voice."
PhD, Urban Education, Policy, and Planning
My response on Frontpage:
I will try to respond to your points one by one.
As for the number of attendees, I think my estimate was pretty accurate. At the first event-the Lebanon film, I estimated about 50 people and at the fullest, I estimated about 150. But let's not quibble.
As for your invitations to Hillel and Anteaters for Israel (I don't know why you call them Ardvarks for Israel other than as a gratuitous slap), I cannot speak for their presence or non-presence. The Jewish community is divided including Jewish students at UCI. As for Hillel, they prefer to ignore you and not get involved, for which I criticize them. Perhaps one reason for the low-or non-existent Jewish attendance was the fact that it was scheduled on Saturday. I don't know, but as a non-Jew, I cannot speak to that.
As for Finklestein, you really discredit your cause when you use a character like that. He is indeed arrogant and obnoxious. He can't say two sentences without insulting somebody. The moment I was referring to was clear. He would not stop talking and LeVine had to cut him off. I watched Finklestein's reaction, and he acted like a spoiled child. If the audience flocked to him after the panel, why should I be surprised? The entire audience with the exception of myself, was on his side. Our university treats him like a rock star. Deans and Vice Chancellors laugh at his jokes and applaud his attacks. They should be ashamed, and I have repeatedly criticized them for their lack of concern for our Jewish students who are being subjected to anti-Semitism by UCI's radical MSU and their hateful speakers like Mohammed al-Asi and Amir Abdel Malik Ali.
I have not called Finklestein a "self-hating Jew". I will repeat that his manner is arrogant. On a previous visit to UCI, he browbeat a student who asked him a critical question but in a polite manner. I frankly don't know what his motivation is. It is clear to me that he hates Israel and he hates America as well. When he wasn't tearing down Israel, he was tearing down his own country. And please do not associate me with Alan Dershowitz. I may agree with him on Israel, but I am no fan of his due to his defense of OJ Simpson.
As to your 7th point, what do you want me to say? I know nothing of your biography, I know nothing about you or your family nor do I care.
As for me, I am not a member of Frontpage. They printed my report. Nor am I quivering in my boots. I was the one who was alone in the audience questioning the one-sided bias against Israel. I was the skunk at the garden party. If you were there when I asked questions about the morning film, did you think I was quivering in my boots?
Ms Shammas, I am not a Jew. What I am is a Christian who is an amateur scholar of the 3rd Reich and the Holocaust and who has lived for a few years in Germany. I am very sensitive to the issue of anti-Semitism. I realize there are two sides to the Israel-Palestinian issue-something your event ignored. What I see is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in my country which is being fueled by radical Islamists aided by radical leftists in academia (like Finklestein) and enabled by cowardly university administrators. I intend to fight that. While I support Israel, my main focus is anti-Semitism.
I stand by every word I wrote.