Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Please note I have a new phone number...


Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

Let's talk...

Let's talk...

Monday, April 25, 2011

How the Zionists try to stifle democracy

This letter speaks for itself in the very biased and bigoted way these Zionists tried to pressure college officials in a most disgraceful way not to allow a leading Palestinian rights activists to speak at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This bigot, Mike Presant, speaking for the Jewish Federation lies about what Mazin Qumsiyeh spoke about at Calvin College. Hopefully there will be a rebuttal by those who invited Mazin to speak to this most disgraceful attack on democracy and the truth because the Israeli killing machine must be exposed and stopped.

Alan L. Maki

Interim Executive Director’s Letter
April 2011

I would like to talk with you this month about a recent speaker at Calvin College named Mazin Qumsiyeh. While this letter is about the circumstances surrounding this particular event, my hope is to engage you in a broader conversation about a familiar issue, though not necessarily in the Grand Rapids area: the rise of anti-Semitic rhetoric on college campuses in the guise of pro-Palestinian speech.

In late February our office was alerted by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit to Mr. Qumsiyeh’s planned visit to Grand Rapids as part of a lengthy book tour around the U.S. We were directed to an ADL ‘backgrounder’ on him (google “ADL” and “Qumsiyeh” to find it), and were immediately concerned not only by his extreme views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (e.g. he’s a proponent of the so-called “one-state solution” which if implemented would lead directly to the end of Israel as a Jewish state), but also his propensity to use anti-Semitic rhetoric in his speeches. Mr. Qumsiyeh also employs familiar anti-Semitic stereotypes such as Jewish or Zionist control of the media and the U.S.

We decided to reach out to the Calvin representative listed as the book tour contact to share the ADL information and discuss our concerns. After an initial polite exchange and an offer to look at the ADL website, we were turned away without explanation. The Calvin representative said the faculty bringing in this speaker had no interest in discussing this further (although she later offered to discuss it after the event), even though we highlighted Mr. Qumsiyeh’s track record of comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, anathema to Jews everywhere and in my view, anti-Semitic on its face. We had wanted to ask Calvin why it would give such a speaker a forum at all, and ask it to reconsider its invitation to him.

Now, you may wonder, why not let him talk and then ask Calvin to bring in a pro-Israeli speaker? After all, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is near and dear to our hearts, underpins the tradition of free speech on college campuses in America, and is close to sacrosanct. But respected institutions in civilized society need not offer all manners of speech a public hearing. Simply put, promoters of hate speech should be told they are not welcome. Imagine if a Calvin professor proposed a speaker on race relations in America who was known to use the ‘n-word’ and other racial epithets and stereotypes in describing African-Americans. How would Calvin react to that proposal? Another representative at Calvin admitted to me that such a person would never be invited to its campus. Then why not shun a person who has a documented track record of using anti-Semitic language as well?

It is noteworthy that, while our Jewish community has had a warm relationship with Calvin on various cultural programs including literature and music, we have had disagreements previously with college officials on similar matters to the current question. As I write this letter, we have requested a meeting in order to begin a dialogue with senior Calvin officials about anti-Semitic rhetoric. I have suggested that we discuss this issue in the context of the “Healing Racism” program designed for both leaders and interested members of our greater Grand Rapids community. The leaders at Calvin are quite familiar with it, as I am sure some of you are as well. As the title of the program infers, its focus is on black-white relations and considers racism a disease that requires extensive dialogue across racial lines to treat. When I attended the program over ten years ago, we watched a film about Henry Ford. It was not about cars. The anti-Semitic background of Mr. Ford was unknown to every other person in my Healing Racism group, all of whom were not Jewish. This taught me a lesson – we should not assume non-Jewish members of our greater community have an awareness of anti-Semitism as we do. My hope is that, in the spirit of Healing Racism, we will be able to connect with Calvin’s leaders about our concerns regarding anti-Semitic hate speech in a manner that we have been unable to accomplish in the past.

This is where we stand with Calvin, and I will keep you informed about its leadership’s response to our request for dialogue. Now, I would like to make a request of you, my fellow members of the West Michigan Jewish Community. While temporarily in my current leadership position in our community, I am only one voice, filtered by my own experiences and biases. To address this very serious issue in the right way, I need to be your representative and hear your collective voices on this question. What is your reaction to this situation? Join us on the Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids facebook page where excerpts of this letter are posted or, if you would prefer, call or write to me directly at mike@jfgr.org. As you can tell, I feel passionately about this issue and, no matter whether you agree or disagree with me, your opinion matters.

In sum, my view is this issue boils down to a question of free speech versus hate speech on college campuses. As suggested earlier, I am proposing that anti-Semitic hate speech (and for that matter, anti-Muslim hate speech, too) be shunned voluntarily by colleges and universities. When the Detroit JCRC representative initially contacted us, he mentioned his concern that Mr. Qumsiyeh, as ADL documents, “crosses the line.” Admittedly, where the line lies between free speech and hate speech is a difficult judgment to make. Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once famously stated, “I know it when I see it,” when discussing another free speech issue (pornography), and perhaps that’s how such judgments in the case of free versus hate speech must be made as well. Nonetheless, when Israel is equated to Nazi Germany, “I see it” quite clearly.

This month, as we recall our history from slavery to freedom, I bid you best wishes for a happy and healthy Passover! And I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Mike Presant

P.S. I attended Mr. Qumsiyeh’s speech, which proved to be a disappointment. In brief, it was a 130 year history lecture on Palestinian popular resistance presented using the classic propaganda technique of an Alice-in-Wonderland, upside down narrative (e.g. were you aware this resistance has always been nonviolent?). Of note, his anti-Semitic rhetoric was toned down, which was not surprising since he was aware we were watching him, though he did make some noticeable allusions to Jewish noses and one-sided Western media. He was neither inciteful nor insightful.