Arab students at the University of Pennsylvania have joined with pro-Israel campus advocacy groups to invite a token Syrian from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) to speak on the their campus. Undoubtedly this Syrian will come to University of Pennsylvania to speak on behalf of the neoconservative and Zionist agenda in Syria.
The event is being sponsored by, among others, the Pennsylvania Arab Student Society (PASS), Penn Friends of Israel, and StandWithUs. Penn Friends of Israel “is a student initiative-led and student-run Israel advocacy group on Penn’s campus” which “acts as an open and supportive forum for Israel advocacy.” StandWithUS is a pro-Israel campus advocacy group that is proudly “supporting Israel around the world.” It is dedicated to spreading Zionist lies and propaganda with a special focus on whitewashing the crimes of the Israeli terrorist army and seeking out token Arabs willing to work with them.
The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) is a fanatical, neoconservative “think tank” committed to extremist Zionism and perpetual US war on Arab & Muslim countries. This group of racist fanatics also regularly seeks out token Arab and Muslim Zionists and fraudsters masquerading as “academics” including the Egyptian Khairi Abaza, who was at AIPAC’s “think tank”, the Washington Institute For Near East Policy (WINEP), before joining the FDD, along with Tony Badran and Walid Phares, two pro-Israel, right-wing Lebanese fascists.
This is not the first time that StandWithUs and the FDD worked together on US campuses. In 2007 the two groups brought Khaled Abu Toameh, a self-described “Israeli Arab”, to UC Berkeley to repeat racist clichés about Palestinians, defend “Israeli democracy”, and help promulgate the official Zionist narrative.
With the current crisis in Syria StandWithUS and the FDD have again joined forces on a US campus to bring a token figure to ostensibly speak on behalf of the Syrian people through a pro-Israel, pro-US prism. In this case it’s the Syrian Ammar Abdulhamid a political charlatan who, along with his wife, set up a Washington outfit called the Tharwa Foundation to work with the FDD. He claims to have once “yelled at”, “cursed”, and stared down Asef Shawkat, a claim which in itself suffices to ignore and dismiss this character as a lying buffoon. Abdulhamid’s only claim to recognition in Syria is that he happens to be the son of Muna Wassef, Syria’s most celebrated actress. He is currently a fellow at the FDD where he’s described as a “liberal, pro-Democracy activist”, a distorted phrase often used as a euphemism for the handful of neoconservative Arabs that support US wars on the Middle East and North Africa and defend the usurping Zionist entity in occupied Palestine.
The members of PASS responsible for the decision to co-sponsor this event should be ashamed of themselves. It is outrageous that an Arab student organization at any American university would join with pro-Israel campus advocacy groups to invite token Arabs to parrot the pro-Israel narrative and promote the warmongering agenda of neoconservatives in the Middle East and North Africa. This type of behavior is especially troubling when we recall that US campuses are the last place in America where we still hear anti-Zionist views expressed and Palestine solidarity activism is strong and growing. One would expect an Arab student organization to participate in groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine and support activities such as Israel Apartheid Week.
Moreover, universities are where students go to learn about the world and are taught to engage in critical thinking, debate ideas, and pursue objective, empirical study. It’s not the place that should be turned into a forum for pseudo-academics spewing cheap political propaganda on behalf of Israel and the neocon agenda. Such an event will not provide students with any insight into what’s happening in Syria.
Among the Syrian people, like all peoples, there is a diversity of opinions. What is certain, however, is that a Syrian neocon and pseudo-academic at the FDD does not represent any segment within Syrian society, neither among supporters of the Syrian regime nor members of the legitimate opposition which, in all likelihood, most students at the University of Pennsylvania and across the US have not had the opportunity to hear from. A political huckster that’s offered his services to pro-Israel groups in this country and the most extreme elements of the US foreign policy establishment does not represent any indigenous voice within Syria and most certainly is not a “pro-democracy activist.” What Abdulhamid represents is anathema to the Syrian people. Opposition to foreign interference, imperialism, and Zionism is part of Syrian political culture. The Syrian people, despite their diversity of views, are unanimously committed to preserving their full independence and sovereignty, and defeating the Zionist project in Palestine.
As for the Arab students co-sponsoring this event along with Israel’s friends, their disgusting behavior has qualified them for internships at James Zogby’s Arab-American Institute (AAI) and the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), assuming it’s not on the verge of collapsing as has been rumored. Their behavior at the University of Pennsylvania is exactly the type of experience that would be very valuable to the AAI which organizes and co-sponsors events with J Street and the ATFP where Ziad Asali and Hussein Ibish function as the Arab-wing of AIPAC.