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San Francisco • North Carolina • New York City
Anti-Arab witch-hunt on campus

By Nicole Colson | December 3, 2004 | Page 12

A STRING of incidents on college campuses across the country shows how low the right wing will go to stifle opposition to the Bush administration's racist policies.

The new witch-hunt on campus includes an attack on Arab and Muslim students at San Francisco State University (SFSU)--where at the beginning of November, College Republicans campaigning for George Bush accused four female Middle Eastern students of being "terrorists."

As one of the women told Socialist Worker, "I walked over because I heard one of them call [another woman] a terrorist. One of the Republicans asked where I was from. When I said Iran, they 'oohed' and 'ahed' and said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to a terrorist.'" The Republican thugs reportedly called the women "sand niggers" and "camel jockeys"--and one slapped one of the women's hands.

But incredibly, SFSU President Robert Corrigan has brought the four women up for disciplinary action. Corrigan demanded that the four apologize to the Republicans--and chastised progressive students for calling out the Republicans as racists.

The four women have been harassed by threatening phone calls and came under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, in Raleigh, N.C., antiwar activists at North Carolina State University have been harassed by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) following a November 5 demonstration of 200 people at the local Republican Party headquarters, where some windows were broken. Afterward, JTTF agents began knocking on doors, questioning members of the Student Peace Action Network, Campus Greens and Middle Eastern-North African Student Association about the vandalism.

To hear the FBI tell it, this kind of random abuse is normal. "It's just like any other crime or any other type of investigation: You have to interview people who were at the scene," said Michael Saylor, supervisory special agent in the JTTF's Raleigh office.

But this was no routine "investigation." It was crude intimidation tactics.

As a statement signed by Raleigh-area progressive activists and organizations explains, "This is clearly an attempt to silence antiwar activists in the area and to label anyone who disagrees with the Bush agenda as a 'terrorist.' It is vital that all who support free speech denounce these tactics and support the antiwar community in Raleigh."

That same attempt to silence activists is on display at Columbia University in New York City, where a campaign of harassment has been whipped up against Joseph Massad, a professor in the department of Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC), for supposed "anti-Israel bias."

In reality, the campaign against Massad and MEALAC is a calculated attempt to squelch voices of opposition to Israel's war on Palestinians. It coincides with recent attempts by some members of Congress--in conjunction with the Zionist Organization of America--to lobby the federal government to file charges against anyone calling on U.S. corporations and academic institutions to divest from Israel.

With the Bush administration claiming a "mandate" from the election, these attacks show that conservatives are feeling more confident in their efforts to silence those who oppose them. We have to send a message that we won't let anyone--on our campuses or in Washington--get away with tearing up our rights.

David Russitano and Julie Southerland contributed to this report.

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