|Is Anti-Israel Bigotry Coming to Claremont McKenna?|
The bias, questionable scholarship, and even anti-Semitism prevalent in many Middle Eastern Studies programs may have come to yet another American campus. Claremont McKenna College (CMC), the highly ranked California liberal arts school, recently inaugurated a Middle East Studies department directed by Professor of Arabic Bassam Frangieh and is trying to establish a related study abroad program that will include Frangieh’s wife, Aleta Wenger, executive director of International Programs at the school. The program is accessible to students from all the Claremont colleges, including Pitzer, Harvey Mudd, Scripps, and Pomona. In a series of meticulously researched articles, CMC senior Charles C. Johnson exposed Frangieh and Wenger’s extremist views, powerful anti-Israel prejudices, and support for terrorist groups that make it unlikely this program can meet basic scholarly standards.
StandWithUs shares these doubts about the quality of education CMC students will receive and is deeply concerned about CMC giving its imprimatur to a program that promotes anti-Israel and anti-Jewish misinformation and bigotry. CMC’s Middle East Studies program will likely be inhospitable for Jewish and pro-Israel students and will infuse anti-Israel, anti-Semitic views on campus.
Frangieh’s expertise is in Arabic language and literature, not Middle Eastern history and politics. Some of Frangieh’s statements raise serious concerns about his qualifications to teach these other fields. In a 2007 lecture, he made the ahistorical, dubious claim that “from the beginning of Islam until the mid-13th century,” Islam was “very democratic” and had “customs” similar to “socialism.”[i]Though Frangieh railed against Arab dictators, he mentioned one exception. “The only leader of the Arab world who “really did something for his country” and who “wasn’t a thief” was Saddam Hussein.[ii]Frangieh apparently discounts Hussein’s ruthless dictatorship, genocide of Iraqi Kurds, torture of opponents, and systematic siphoning of money from the Iraqi people in the UN Oil for Food scandal.
More disturbing is Frangieh’s open support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas and how these views might taint his analysis of the Middle East. When Hezbollah launched the 2006 war with Israel, Frangieh signed a letter that praised Hezbollah’s attack on Israel as a “heroic operation…to safeguard the dignity of the Lebanese and Arab people” and bitterly denounced the many Arab governments that opposed Hezbollah.[iii]Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy whose goal is to establish an Islamist state across the Arab world, eliminate Israel, and fight “Western Imperialism.” It is blatantly anti-Semitic. Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, has said, “If the [Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” Yet Professor Frangieh celebrates this violent group.
Frangieh is equally supportive of Hamas. He welcomed Hamas’ 2006 electoral victory, saying to an interviewer that “Hamas might be able to produce the beginning of salvation. I wonder what else would the Arabs have without Hamas and Hezbollah? Nothing. Except humiliation. I congratulate Hamas on its victory."[iv]Hamas is another Iranian-supported terrorist group. Its founding charter calls for the murder of Jews, the “obliteration” of Israel and its replacement with an Islamist theocracy, and liberally borrows from the anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Yet Frangieh regards this violent, dictatorial, anti-Semitic group as “the beginning of salvation.”
Apparently, Frangieh also sees wider Arab violence as a “salvation.” He lionized Arab poet Abd al-Rahim Mahmud as “a symbol of heroism and pride,” though Mahmud’s poems glorify jihad and martyrs and have inspired terrorists and their sympathizers.[v]Rather than condemning the self-destructiveness of terrorism and violence, Frangieh wrote in 2000 that “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.”[vi]
Frangieh seems to share Hamas’ and Hezbollah’s distorted history and demonic view of Israel. The 2006 pro-Hezbollah letter claimed that “the recent Israeli aggression is the latest in a long series extending back to the founding of the Zionist state and motivated by both historical ambition…and by a racist supremacist ideology that denigrates the indigenous population.” It also described the IDF as a “Zionist killing machine.”[vii]Frangieh himself wrote that “the greatest blow to the Arab soul” was the creation of Israel.[viii]Frangieh is also not averse to traditional forms of anti-Semitism. He signed a 2007 petition that called Joseph Biden’s resolution to divide Iraq into three autonomous zones “a Zionist plot.”[ix]An apparently charismatic figure, Frangieh was an extremely popular professor at Yale,[x]as he is at CMC,[xi]which means students will likely be very receptive to his extremist ideas.
Frangieh’s wife appears to share many of his views. Among the facts that Johnson uncovered was that this former American diplomat has a sinister view of Israel and is an enthusiastic supporter of the extremist Free Gaza Campaign, which seeks to “break” Israel’s legal blockade of Gaza to give support to Hamas. She is dismissive of official Israeli reports, even when they are often corroborated by other sources. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, she claimed in July 2010 that “[I] do not believe for one minute that the Israelis are allowing in food and medicine, and other commodities, to the level needed by the civilian population.”[xii] Yet, in this very period, the Financial Times reported, “Shops all over Gaza are bursting with goods,” causing prices to fall,[xiii] and the The Washington Post noted, “Grocery stores are stocked wall-to-wall....Pharmacies look as well-supplied as a typical Rite Aid in the United States.”[xiv]
The CMC administration’s response to Johnson’s exposés is equally disturbing. It defended Frangieh, comparing his support for terrorist organizations whose goal is to murder Jews with another faculty member’s analysis of the legal justifications for California’s controversial Proposition 8 regarding gay marriage as equal expressions of academic freedom. It also accepted Frangieh’s denial that he supported terrorist groups.[xv]Johnson also found that CMC’s vice president of Public Affairs and Communications had edited Frangieh’s Wikipedia page by deleting mention of his support for terrorist groups.[xvi]StandWithUs does not dispute Frangieh’s and Wenger’s rights to hold and publicize their views, reprehensible as they are, but does question the wisdom of appointing this ideologically extremist couple as directors of a Middle East Studies program.
Another unsettling development raises further concerns about anti-Israel bias at CMC. The school’s Center for the Study of Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights, founded in 2003, may not provide more accurate or more sympathetic views of Israel. John K. Roth (who is not Jewish), the center’s founder and director for three years, has compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians with the Nazis’ treatment of Jews in the 1930s and wrote in 1988 that Israel “would prefer to rid itself of Palestinians if it could do so. Their presence in Gaza and the West Bank is a liability and a threat to many Israeli intentions.” Though he insisted that his statement was misunderstood and though many Holocaust scholars defended him, in 1998 he was forced to resign from a position that the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., had just offered him.[xvii]Roth is still an advisory member of the CMC’s Center for Holocaust Studies. The current director, Professor Edward Haley, was instrumental in recruiting Frangieh to the faculty.[xviii]In 2009, as CMC President Pamela Gann and Frangieh tried to develop the international study component of the Middle East Studies Department, the Center for Holocaust Studies was suddenly renamed. It will now be called the Center for Human Rights Leadership to “reflect broader efforts in the field of human rights,” according to CMC’s press release.[xix]Apparently, its primary focus will no longer be the historical, moral, and philosophical dimensions of the Holocaust.
StandWithUs is deeply concerned about these developments. We urge CMC to choose other directors for its Middle East Studies program. We also urge CMC to ensure that the program is not dominated by anti-Israel bias and ideological extremism but instead promotes informed, responsible, mainstream education on Middle East issues. Finally, we ask CMC to adopt the U.S. Civil Rights Commission’s working definition of anti-Semitism, which recognizes that demonization of Israel is a new form of anti-Semitism,[xx]and ensure that sincere efforts are made to prevent its appearance on campus.
[i]“Islam and Development,” University of Bridgeport, 2007, at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1680967234340437238#
[ii]“Islam and Development,” University of Bridgeport, 2007, at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1680967234340437238#
[iii]“Statement by Workers in the Public Cultural Sphere in Lebanon Collective,” July 25, 2006, at
[iv]Charles C. Johnson, “Middle East Studies Director Believes ‘Zionist Plot’ Behind Plan to Partition Iraq, Views Hamas ‘With Great Pleasure,’” Claremont Independent, Dec. 6, 2010 athttp://www.claremontindependent.com/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticlePrinterFriendly&uStory_id=a216bf80-f3c8-4726-8c01-dd6b4481e8d9
[v]Charles C. Johnson, “Middle East Studies Director Believes ‘Zionist Plot’ Behind Plan to Partition Iraq, Views Hamas ‘With Great Pleasure,’” Claremont Independent, Dec. 6, 2010, athttp://www.claremontindependent.com/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticlePrinterFriendly&uStory_id=a216bf80-f3c8-4726-8c01-dd6b4481e8d9
[vi]Charles C. Johnson, “Middle East Studies Director Believes ‘Zionist Plot’ Behind Plan to Partition Iraq, Views Hamas ‘With Great Pleasure,’” Claremont Independent, Dec. 6, 2010, athttp://www.claremontindependent.com/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticlePrinterFriendly&uStory_id=a216bf80-f3c8-4726-8c01-dd6b4481e8d9
[vii]“Statement by Workers in the Public Cultural Sphere in Lebanon Collective,” July 25, 2006, at
[viii]Charles C. Johnson, “Middle East Studies Director Believes ‘Zionist Plot’ Behind Plan to Partition Iraq, Views Hamas ‘With Great Pleasure,’” Claremont Independent, Dec. 6, 2010, athttp://www.claremontindependent.com/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticlePrinterFriendly&uStory_id=a216bf80-f3c8-4726-8c01-dd6b4481e8d9
[ix]Charles C. Johnson, “Middle East Studies Director Believes ‘Zionist Plot’ Behind Plan to Partition Iraq, Views Hamas ‘With Great Pleasure,’" Claremont Independent, Dec. 6, 2010, athttp://www.claremontindependent.com/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticlePrinterFriendly&uStory_id=a216bf80-f3c8-4726-8c01-dd6b4481e8d9
[x]Julie Post, “Arabic Prof Frangieh Will Remain at Yale,” Yale Daily News, April 28, 2005, athttp://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2005/apr/28/arabic-prof-frangieh-will-remain-at-yale/
[xii]Charles C. Johnson, “Claremont McKenna Cover-Up: Can’t Hide Prof’s Pro-Terrorist Loyalties—or His Wife’s,”Big Peace, Dec.12, 2010, at http://bigpeace.com/cjohnson/2010/12/15/Claremont McKenna-cover-up-cant-hide-bassam-frangiehs-loyalties-or-his-wifes/
[xiii]Tobias Buck, “Gaza looks beyond the tunnel economy,” Financial Times-UK, May 24, 2010, athttp://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4c51267a-66ca-11df-aeb1-00144feab49a.html
[xiv]Janine Zacharia, “In Gaza, a complex, dysfunctional way of life,” The Washington Post, June 3, 2010, athttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/02/AR2010060204687.html
[xv]Charles Johnson, “Dean of Faculty Hess Responds to Frangieh Work,” The Claremont Conservative, Dec. 16, 2010, at http://www.claremontconservative.com/2010/12/dean-of-faculty-hess-responds-to.html
[xvi]Charles C. Johnson, “Claremont McKenna Cover-Up: Can’t Hide Prof’s Pro-Terrorist Loyalties—or His Wife’s,”Big Peace, Dec.12, 2010, at http://bigpeace.com/cjohnson/2010/12/15/claremont-mckenna-cover-up-cant-hide-bassam-frangiehs-loyalties-or-his-wifes/
[xvii]Bettina Boxall, “Scholar Resigns Holocaust Museum Post Amid Dispute,” Los Angeles Times, July 6, 1998, athttp://articles.latimes.com/1998/jul/06/local/me-1173
[xix]“The Holocaust Center Has a New Name but its Focus on Human Rights and the Holocaust Won't Change,”Claremont McKenna Press Release, May 15, 2009, athttp://www.claremontmckenna.edu/news/pressreleases/article.asp?article_id=1249
Friday, January 7, 2011
StandWithUs Releases Statement, "Gravely Concerned" With Claremont McKenna's Middle East Studies Program
By Charles Johnson at 8:25 AM
StandWithUs, a prominent Middle East Studies education organization, has released a statement regarding Bassam Frangieh and the college's treatment of his pro-Hezbollah, pro-Hamas views. It is copied below. They'll be more as we get closer to school, but here it is for your viewing (dis)pleasure.