The difference between Ramallah and the American university

The Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh writes for the Jerusalem Post. I had the privilege of meeting him when I visited Israel in the summer of 2007. He is one disarmingly brave man.

He has recently been in the United States visiting American campuses. Perhaps not surprisingly, he finds the climate of opinion on campus different from the climate of opinion among Arabs on the West Bank in Ramallah. But the particular difference he finds comes as something of a surprise:

I discovered that there is more sympathy for Hamas [on campus] there than there is in Ramallah.

Listening to some students and professors on these campuses, for a moment I thought I was sitting opposite a Hamas spokesman or a would-be-suicide bomber.

I was told, for instance, that Israel has no right to exist, that Israel’s “apartheid system” is worse than the one that existed in South Africa and that Operation Cast Lead was launched only because Hamas was beginning to show signs that it was interested in making peace and not because of the rockets that the Islamic movement was launching at Israeli communities.

I was also told that top Fatah operative Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life terms in prison for masterminding terror attacks against Israeli civilians, was thrown behind bars simply because he was trying to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Furthermore, I was told that all the talk about financial corruption in the Palestinian Authority was “Zionist propaganda” and that Yasser Arafat had done wonderful things for his people, including the establishment of schools, hospitals and universities.

Toameh brings both good news and bad news:

The good news is that these remarks were made only by a minority of people on the campuses who describe themselves as “pro-Palestinian,” although the overwhelming majority of them are not Palestinians or even Arabs or Muslims.

The bad news is that these groups of hard-line activists/thugs are trying to intimidate anyone who dares to say something that they don’t like to hear

Toameh’s sobering report is “On campus: The pro-Palestinians’ real agenda,” and all of it warrants urgent attention.

Via my friend Fern Oppenheim.

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