Middle East Studies Director Believes “Zionist Plot” Behind Plan to Partition Iraq, Views Hamas “With Great Pleasure,” – And Raises Funds for Mid-East Program, While CMC’s Administration Ignores Charges
The Claremont Independent has learned that Professor of Arabic Bassam Frangieh, head of the Middle East Studies department at Claremont McKenna College, actively supports Hamas, as well as Hezbollah as the newspaper reported in April 2010. The news comes days after a November 9 CMC Alumni Association event the home of Casey Borman CMC ’97 and amidst initial inquiries by the college into setting up a study abroad program headed by Frangieh in the Middle East.
Professional translations of several dozen Arabic documents, including statements, petitions, and interviews, show Frangieh's views in support of Hamas and Hezbollah.
- In a May 26 2006 interview after the controversial election of Hamas in the Palestinian territories, Frangieh celebrated, saying that he “view[s] Hamas with great pleasure.”“Hamas might be able to produce the beginning of salvation,” he told an interviewer. “I wonder what else would the Arabs have without Hamas and Hezbollah? Nothing. Except humiliation. I congratulate Hamas on its victory.” Earlier in the interview, he lamented the harassment he endured at the hands of Syrian intelligence, while Israelis lived safe within miles of their border. [Emphasis added]
The U.S., the U.K., the E.U., Japan, Canada, and Israel all classify Hamas as a terrorist organization. Jordan, where the proposed Middle East study abroad program will likely be located, banned Hamas entirely in 1999. According to the State Department, Hamas is funded by Iran, Palestinian expats, and “private benefactors” in Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.
- During the summer 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, Frangieh signed a pro-Hezbollah, anti-Israel petition that condemned Israel as a “Zionist killing machine”. Among other things, the petition called for a worldwide boycott of Israeli academics and institutions. According to its signatories, the "Zionist state" was "motivated by historical ambitions vis-à-vis Lebanese territory and waters and by a racist supremacist ideology that denigrates the indigenous population [of Lebanon], their culture, and their very existence." The petitioners called upon Lebanon to adopt Hezbollah - which it terms the "Lebanese Resistance" - as its legitimate army. The signatories deny that Israeli retaliation was due to the thousands of rockets fired indiscriminately on Israeli population centers beginning in July 2006 and the simultaneous kidnapping and killing of two Israeli soldiers near the border – actions described as part of a “heroic operation carried out by HizbAllah” in the petition Frangieh signed. [Emphasis added]
- In 2007, Frangieh signed a petition condemning a nonbinding U.S. Senate Resolution supported by then-Senator Biden dividing Iraq into three separate autonomous regions. The petition called the resolution a “Zionist plot,” led by “Zionist masters” who work with “Cowboys” and “flee their countries in search of riches,” thereby purposefully undermining a “strong Iraq” and dragging it into a “barbaric war.”
The term “Zionist plot” evokes language eerily similar from the conspiratorial Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a document which suggested a worldwide Jewish-run cabal. By extension, Frangieh’s support of that petition suggests he thinks that current Vice President Joe Biden, who supported the senate resolution, is part of that “Zionist plot” – a rather strong charge for a director of a program that allegedly hopes to train the next generation of diplomats, as the Fall 2009 CMC Magazine promises.
Unfortunately when it comes to anti-peace bias and ideology, Professor Frangieh’s academic work shows that his support of terrorists and their causes runs deep. Of course, that all of these documents were found with a mere Google search suggests that Claremont McKenna’s selection committee may be in need of serious reform – and it is to Professor Frangieh’s “academic” record that we shall now turn.
Dead Poets Society and Jihad
Frangieh’s Los Angeles’ alumni talk on November 9th was titled, “Poetry: The Soul of Arabs,” according to the school’s website. “Poetry reflects the identity, culture and history of Arabs,” Frangieh is quoted as saying on a promotional brochure. “Repeated verse changes consciousness and views, as it is the rejection of everything ugly in life.” But Frangieh’s writing on Arab “poet-martyrs,” reveal that some Arab poets embrace the ugly – and that Frangieh enthusiastically embraces them.
In a 2000 anthologized essay he wrote titled, “Modern Arabic Poetry: Vision and Reality,” he celebrates the work of dead poet, ‘Abd al-Rahim Mahmud. Mahmud’s poems “The Martyr” and “A Call to Jihad” inspire terrorists and their sympathizers, who often name their children after him. (Shadi Abd al-Rahim Mahmud al-Kahlut, for instance, was a Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative killed on his way to commit a suicide attack against Israel in 2001.)
Mahmud’s poem, 'The Martyr,' became internationally known when Israel during the 1993 Oslo Accords demonstrated that Mahmud's work, among other poets, made its way into sixth grade Palestinian curriculum where it was accused of inspiring hate. The poem also found its way into a 2001 Saudi Arabian textbook for 7th graders.
Given this history, you’d think that Professor Frangieh would be critical, but to him, Mahmud is a “courageous poet and a man of purpose who changed his vision into reality and the reality of his life into a myth – and he shall remain a symbol of heroism and pride for his people.” And lest there be any doubt about it, Frangieh considers himself one such person, telling the aforementioned interviewer that he is a “Palestinian,” notwithstanding his birth in “exile.”
According to Frangieh’s essay, Arabs’ souls have suffered “the most devastating blow” with “the creation of the state of Israel and the transformation of the Palestinians into a stateless people.” (He ignores that Israel allows Palestinians not living in the territories to vote and serve as members of the Knesset.) And most abhorrently, Frangieh condones suicide attacks and untold bloodletting on p. 249:
Nietzsche wrote, “The ideal condition cannot be achieved by dreaming, we must fight and struggle to achieve it.” Clearly, the fights and struggles of isolated poets and individuals have not succeeded in making change. Even if the best one hundred Arab poets loaded themselves with dynamite and exploded in the streets of Arab capitals, it would not be enough. For real change to come about, thousands of people will have to die; thousands must martyr themselves. It appears that only massive revolution will succeed in overturning the corrupt regimes of the Arab world. Only then can significant and radical change take place. [Emphasis added]
That “radical change” is, unfortunately, the Islamic movements Hamas and Hezbollah, to whom Frangieh has given repeated support.
All of these revelations cast still more doubt on whether the director of Claremont’s burgeoning Arabic and Middle East programs supports Middle East peace. And if the program does not support peace, what does it seek to promote?
These questions will have to be answered sooner, rather than later. The school is currently in the early stages of raising money for a study abroad program in Jordan. Bassam Frangieh will be heading up that program and has already taken a public role in fund raising for it. Given his support for terrorist regimes, let’s hope that Claremont McKenna is vetting the money raised more carefully than it did Frangieh’s academic record.
Indeed, Professor Frangieh’s lack of serious academic publications was part of the reason that Yale University initially denied him a tenure-track position in 2005 and that nearly prompted him to depart for the University of Delaware. According to the Yale Herald, Deputy Provost Charles Long said that Frangieh, like works published by most language lectors, lacked “substantive original research” to enable him to put him on the tenure-track.
Frangieh himself told the Yale Herald that he wanted to offer courses in Arabic languages and literatures, which were “[his] specialty.” If that’s the case, what is Frangieh doing teaching, “Trends and Movements in the Modern Middle East”? Why can a poetry scholar, like Frangieh, teach a required course to all Middle East studies majors that purports to study “the emergence of the Modern Middle East,” “Islamic political movements” and that draws “concepts from political science, history, language and literature”? Is he really qualified to teach such subjects?
The Claremont Independent unequivocally supports academic freedom, but Frangieh’s – and the other petitions’—calls for boycotts of Israeli academia are designed not to further academic freedom: They are designed to end it. We also support the free inquiry of ideas, but supporting terrorist organizations that assassinate political leaders and that kill American servicemen and civilians of all nationalities, ought to raise serious questions about what kind of campus we want to be and what we want to teach.
It is morally repugnant for President Gann to compare Professor Ken Miller’s arcane ballot testimony in the Proposition 8 trial to Frangieh’s support for terrorist groups that kill civilians. Indeed, Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, put it candidly: "if [Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” Do we really want a professor who supports an organization run by a man who wants nothing less than a second Holocaust, funded by a country whose leader denies there ever was a first? Do we want that professor, with those views, running – and helping to raise funds for – an extension of our school in the Middle East? And how does any of this promote peace?
Professor P. Edward Haley, Frangieh’s colleague in the Middle East Studies department at Claremont McKenna and an analyst of the Middle East conflict, described Hamas and Hezbollah as “radical movements” that make peace difficult. “Hamas,” he wrote in September 14, 2010Christian Science Monitor, is “a terrorist organization in Washington’s eyes.” Professor Haley is hardly a pro-Israel scholar, but in the past, has conceded Hamas’s and Hezbollah’s troubled record.
At the very least, Claremont McKenna’s administration owes us an explanation as to why someone with those views was hired and why they have been so silent now that those views are widely known. Ariel Katz CMC ’13 and president of Claremont Students for Israel, offers a suggestion: “Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist organizations, and the school should treat the endorsement of these terrorist organizations as they would treat the endorsement of any other terrorist organization. As to what that entails, that is up to CMC.”
But Claremont McKenna’s community deserves more. Endorsing the murder of civilians ought to be grounds for dismissal. It is not academic freedom to support slaughter.
Will Claremont McKenna’s administration continue to be silent?
Charles C. Johnson is editor emeritus of The Claremont Independent.
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