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Decision to cut Brooklyn College out of will causes a stir

August 31, 2010 1 comment

By Bruce Kesler

Bruce Kesler

ENCINITAS, California — Since last Friday, when I wrote Why I Just Disinherited My Alma Mater,  the post has had “legs” about what I and others say is politicized indoctrination as official college policy.

Brooklyn College requires incoming freshmen and transfer students to read an absurdly slanted book that Arab-Americans are routinely rousted by law enforcement and discriminated against, which the author attributes to racism akin to Jim Crow discrimination against Blacks a century ago and due to American imperialism. Somehow, according to college authorities, this is supposed to create a beneficial, educational “common experience.”

Glenn Reynolds’ InstaPundit blog, which is read by about 200,000 each day, linked my post and on successive days two posts by others about my post. By contrast, my hometown San Diego Union-Tribune’s daily circulation  is about 250,000. Many other blogs also picked up on my post.
Today, the New York Daily News, circulation about 570,000, reported the story after interviewing me: “Alum to cut Brooklyn College out of will over required freshman reading by ‘radical’ prof” Moustafa Bayoumi.

     “Bayoumi did not return a call for comment.”

      In a statement, Brooklyn College said it was “regrettable that Mr. Bruce Kesler misunderstands the intentions of the Common Reader experience and the broader context of this selection.”

The National Association of Scholars wrote, however, that Brooklyn College does not understand, or understands all too well, the Common Reading Controversy at Brooklyn College.

      We agree with those who find the assignment of this polemical book as common reading troubling. While much of How Does It Feel to be a Problem? seems a straightforward telling of stories, its central purpose is clear. It aims to establish Arab and Muslim Americans as victims and indict American society for making them so.  By assigning this book as the sole one to be read by incoming undergraduates, most of whom will have little of the knowledge needed to evaluate its claims, Brooklyn College opens itself to the charge that it is using what should be an important education experience for ideological goals – a charge which the evidence of our study indicates could be made against a great many other colleges and universities as well.

Many readers have written about their “common experience” in indoctrination at their colleges. It is getting harder for slanted — indeed, blatant — indoctrination to hide behind ivy-covered walls. The reactions continue and builds.

P.S.: I just received this email from a former classmate:

        I also had it with Brooklyn College and their attitude regarding Israel. I’m a retired N.Y.C teacher. I retired after 33 years in the system in 2001. I joined IRPE- a retiree organization at the college. I attended one of their lectures concerning the middle east. When we walked in, we were given maps of various mid-east countries. The so called conference became a hate session regarding eretz Yisroel. 3 speakers got up and one by one they denounced Israel. No one was allowed to respond to them. People walked out cursing them. When I wrote a letter to the college, they denied all of this. I left IRPE and would not contribute one further penny to the institution. Having worked, I graduated in 1969 and am the class representative for that year.
Congratulations on taking a stand.

IRPE is Brooklyn College’s Institute for Retirees in Pursuit of Education. 

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Kesler is a freelance writer based in Encinitas, California.  His posts also appear on the Maggie’s Farm website

Why I just disinherited my alma mater

August 27, 2010 2 comments

By Bruce Kesler

Bruce Kesler

ENCINITAS, California–I just updated my will and trust and, with heavy heart, cut out what was a significant bequest to my alma mater, Brooklyn College.

What caused the disinheritance is that all incoming freshmen and transfer students are given a copy of a book to read, and no other, to create their “common experience.” This same book is one of the readings in their required English course. The author is a radical pro-Palestinian professor there.

When I attended in the 1960s, Brooklyn College – then rated one of the tops in the country — was, like most campuses, quite liberal. But, there was no official policy to inculcate students with a political viewpoint. Now there is.  That is unacceptable.

The book is How Does It Feel To Be A Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America It is interviews with seven Arab-Americans in their 20s about their experiences and difficulties in the US. There’s appreciation of freedoms in the US, and deep resentment at feeling or being discriminated against post-9/11.

The seven are not a representative sample. Six are Moslem and one Christian. According to the Arab American Institute, 63% of Arab-Americans are Christian, 24% Muslim. The author chose those interviewed and those included in the book. 

The title of the book is drawn from communist WEB DuBois’ same question in 1903 in his treatise The Souls of Black Folk. The current book consciously draws a parallel, ridiculous on its face, between the horrible and pervasive discrimination and injustices that Blacks were subjected to a century ago and Arab-Americans today.

The author asserts “The core issue [of Middle East turbulence] remains the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” that the post-1967 history of the entire area is essentially that of “imperialism American-style,” and that the US government “limits the speech of Arab Americans in order to cement United States policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Again, preposterous.

The author is Moustafa Bayoumi. He is called an “Exalted Islamic Grievance Peddler” with the following summary of his background:

“The second featured speaker at WCU’s forum was Moustafa Bayoumi, an associate professor of English at Brooklyn College and co-editor of The Edward Said Reader. Bayoumi contends that in the aftermath of 9/11, armed INS officials, U.S. Marshals, and FBI agents routinely roused Muslims from their beds ‘in the middle of the night’—indiscriminately arresting, shackling, and investigating them for possible terrorist connections.”

In September 2002, a year after 9/11, Bayoumi lamented that “an upswing in hate crimes [against American Muslims] has already begun.” As proof, he cited statistics, which would be thoroughly discredited, put forth by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). He then pointed to CAIR’s claim that “57 percent of American Muslims report that they have experienced bias or discrimination since Sept. 11,” and that “48 percent of [Muslim] respondents believe their lives have changed for the worse since the attacks.” “This is hardly surprising,” Bayoumi reasoned. “For the past year, Muslims have endured a daily barrage of demagoguery, distortions and outright lies about their faith. Never well understood in this country, Islam is now routinely caricatured.”

In March 2006, Bayoumi took up this theme again, asserting that “Muslim-bashing has become socially acceptable in the United States.” In 2008 he wrote: “It’s been seven years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and many young American Muslims are convinced that much of American society views them with growing hostility. They’re right.”

The theme of Muslim victimhood is by no means restricted solely to Bayoumi’s view of the United States. Indeed, he depicts Palestinian suicide bombings as little more than desperate reactions to “a brutal [Israeli] military occupation that has been strangling the Palestinian people for decades.”

Most recently, Bayoumi edited a book, Midnight on the Mavi Marmara: The Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and How It Changed the Course of the Israel/Palestinian Conflict, defending it and calling it Israel’s Selma, Alabama, the focal point for US civil rights struggles in the 1960s.

Online I found two professors who protested to the college president. One, retired from Brooklyn College, said:  This is wholly inappropriate.  It smacks of indoctrination. It will intimidate incoming students who have a different point of view (or have formed no point of view), sending the message that only one side will be approved on this College campus. It can certainly intimidate untenured faculty as well.”

Another, currently on the faculty, said: While our community of learning is committed to freedom of speech and expression, does that require that we must expose new students to the anti-American and anti-Israeli preachings of this professor? At the least, do not our students deserve a balanced presentation?

Another retired professor living in Brooklyn, protested and received back from a Dean:

Each year professors in the English Department and I select a common reading for our entering students. We choose memoirs (a genre familiar to students) set in New York City, often reflecting an immigrant experience, and written by authors who are available to visit campus. Students in freshman composition respond to the common reading by writing about their own experiences, many of them published in Telling Our Stories; Sharing our Lives’. This year we selected How Does It Feel to be a Problem: Being Young and Arab in America by one of our own faculty members, Professor Moustafa Bayoumi, because it is a well-written collection of stories by and about young Arab Brooklynites whose experiences may be familiar to our students, their neighbors, or the students with whom they will study and work at Brooklyn College. We appreciate your concerns. Rest assured that Brooklyn College values tolerance, diversity, and respect for differing points of view in all that we do.”

The professor tells us what happened next: 

“S I wrote to her again, and again, and then again once more, suggesting that she provide some balance to Bayoumi’s book, that she provide additional authors and additional speakers. I even suggested another author, Paul Berman, also resident in Brooklyn, also writing on Arab themes, also willing (I would assume) to speak to her students. And what did Dean Wilson reply to these repeated suggestions of mine ? You guessed it, she did not deign to reply at all.

Another professor’s unpublished letter (which I verified with him; I’ve verified the others also) to the college president said: “Anyone who has taught at a university during the past quarter-century and more knows that the slogan of ‘diversity’ generally alludes to its opposite (i.e., imposed uniformity of thought camouflaged by diversity of physical appearance) and also foretells mischief.”

I will always appreciate the excellent liberal arts education I received at Brooklyn College, and the critical thinking that has caused me to disinherit it.

A Board member tells me the 55,000-member Scholars for Peace in the Middle East is now considering its next move.

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Kesler, a freelance writer based in Encinitas, also published this article on the Maggie’s Farm website.

Who among us really stands for freedom?

July 4, 2010 Leave a comment

By Bruce Kesler

Bruce Kesler

ENCINITAS, California–Most Americans, and many abroad, can’t help but choke up as they see our flag floating by in a patriotic parade. But, the 4th of July isn’t Flag Day, June 14. How many hung out their flag then?

Most Americans, and many abroad, are thankful for the men and women of the United States who stand and fight to keep millions from slavery to thugs. But, the 4th isn’t just about them. How many Americans at home give their all to support our troops and commitments?

Most Americans, and many abroad, appreciate the freedom and opportunities found by coming to our shores. But the 4th isn’t Immigration Day. How many appreciate the work, the fortitude, the risk needed to be independent?

Most Americans, and many abroad, say they’d fight for freedom. But, the 4th isn’t about physically fighting. How many stand up in public, regardless the consequences, and in their spoken and published names demand respect for our rights?

Most Americans, and many abroad, take the 4th as just another holiday. But, the 4th is about not taking a holiday from the responsibilities of a free people. How many rededicate themselves to being and helping others be free?

In 1776, most in America were not supporters of the Revolution that dramatically changed and improved the lot of future generations here and abroad. Even among the supporters, most were sunshine patriots and few Winter Soldiers.

To the few stalwarts we and the world owe more than can ever be adequately given, and indeed few were or are given what they deserve. But, the stalwarts don’t seek material rewards or comforts. How many are so at peace with themselves by just being there in full devotion and exposure to stand up?

Most Americans, and many abroad, know all this. But, too few live it, every day, in every way. How much more secure and peaceful and at ease would all be if more did?

We aren’t free and independent because we remember, respect or celebrate it. We are only free when we practice it at every opportunity and calling and contribute to others’ realization of it.

The first battle isn’t on some distant shore or with our neighbor. The first essential fight is with our own rationalizations of retreat from being an American, the exceptional.

If there’s a tear to be shed, it’s for ourselves when we haven’t been an American. If there’s a tear worth shedding, it’s in gratitude to ourselves that we have and have taken the opportunity to be an American.

The stirring words and actions of past times are inspirational. The words and actions of today are the reality of whether we actually are inspired.

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Kesler is a freelance writer based in Encinitas. This column first appeared on the Maggie’s Farm website

Is New York Times reporter a propagandist for Turkey?

June 14, 2010 Leave a comment

By Bruce Kesler

Bruce Kesler

ENCINITAS, California-The New York Times’ headline could have been “Turkey’s Islamist Government Is Just Doing the U.S. A Favor, Wink, Wink” instead of “For Turkey, an Embrace of Iran Is a Matter of Building Bridges,” by Sabrina Tavernise.

With the imprimatur “News Analysis”, the NYTs bureau chief in Istanbul, Sabrina Tavernise, with a 1993 B.A. from Barnard College in Russian Studies, tells us that “Top leaders of Mr. Erdogan’s party believe that only a Turkey that is independent from the United States will be an asset for Washington in the long run.” Tavernise adds, “Turkey is not lost, they say, but simply disagrees with the United States over how to approach the problems in the Middle East.”

Although mildly disagreed with by some sources in her article, her “news analysis” is an apologia for Turkey’s Islamist government siding with Iran, Syria, Hamas against the US, Israel, and the West. Oh, and now Hizballah.  Erdogan has invited the head of Hizballah, on the recommendation of Hamas, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may attend also, to attend a rally in Turkey honoring Erdogan.

Tavernise is mostly carrying water for the Erdogan government, akin to the NYT’s Walter Duranty for Stalin’s.  Her Russian Studies might have prepared her better, but one wonders whether the Walter Duranty articles in the NYTs were even covered in her undergraduate schooling, Duranty being the NYT’s bureau chief in Moscow from 1922-1934. As Roger Kimball reminded us, “With peasants dropping like flies everywhere around him, Duranty cheerfully cabled back to New York that although there were some occasional food shortages, there was ‘no actual starvation.’ ”

Tavernise doesn’t speak Turkish. The Turkey expert, Gerald Robbins, does speak Turkish, whom I interviewed a few days ago. Robbins’ informed view of whither Turkey – Islamist, increasingly dictatorial, opponents largely neutralized within, with aspirations of wider power in the Middle East, and not friendly toward the US or the West —  stands in stark contrast to Tavernise.

Her lack of elemental understanding is evident in her repeating without comment, or perhaps even worse the second sentence is Tavernise’:

It is a risky calculation, but one that Hooman Majd, an Iranian-American writer, says the Turks are in the best position to make. Unlike Americans, Turks travel to Iran frequently and speak a language similar to the Azeri dialect spoken in Iran’s north.

That’s like saying, speaking a language like Yiddish – with some common elements with German — will allow someone to be fluent in modern German or on German politics, or modern Hebrew and Israel for that matter. Or, to the point, saying some Turk tourists speaking something akin to one minority language within Turkey, partly similar to a minority language in part of Iran, somehow is supposed to provide deep insight into Iran’s rulers or Iran generally. Tavernise is a tourist in Istanbul, not speaking Turkish, reporting bull. Tavernise speaks something closer to “Duranty” in her “news analysis.”

Even the NYT’s publisher supported revoking Duranty’s Pulitzer, calling Duranty’s work “slovenly” that “should have been recognized for what it was by his editors and by his Pulitzer judges seven decades ago.”  Yet, the NYT’s Istanbul bureau chief, Tavernise, repeats the NYT’s contemporaneous slovenliness.

I emailed Sabrina Tavernise early Sunday morning to comment on the interview with Gerald Robbins, I commenting to her, “I think you are too sanguine.”

I’ll update if she replies.

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Kesler is a freelance writer based in San Diego. This article previously appeared on the Maggie’s Farm website

Andrew Hoffman, helper of military families, up for ‘All Star’ award

June 8, 2010 Leave a comment

By Bruce Kesler

Bruce Kesler

ENCINITAS, California–Andrew Hoffman is a congregant at my synagogue, Temple Solel.  Andrew Hoffman is a finalist in Major League Baseball and People magazine’s 2010 “All-Stars Among Us” national campaign, in conjunction with the MLB All-Star Game. The campaign is to recognize individuals who are serving their communities in extraordinary ways.

Andrew Hoffman works at  Jewish Family Service’s Hand Up Youth Food Pantry in San Diego, which distributes food to families in need. Two Sundays each month Hoffman leads teens in distributing food and hygiene items to hundreds of needy military families in San Diego.

Andrew Hoffman is an everyday hero, helping to create a family-friendly environment for our courageous military heroes and their families. As one military mom said, “This distribution is a blessing. Last week I had to choose between diapers and groceries. Now I don’t have to.”

Andrew Hoffman deserves your support.

Please go to this link, click on the San Diego Padres, and vote for Andrew Hoffman. The site says you can return and vote as many times as you want between now and June 20.

So, please vote and often.

A total of 30 “All-Stars,” one representing each MLB team, will attend and be honored at the All-Star Week and at the pre-game ceremony on July 13 in Anaheim, CA. One of the “All-Star Among Us” winners will also be featured in People magazine during the week of the All-Star game.

By the way, today (June 8th) is Andrew Hoffman’s birthday, now 25.  Let’s give him a BIG deserved birthday honor.

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Kesler is a freelance writer based in Encinitas, California. This posting also appeared on the Maggie’s Farm website

Three big truths need to be understood in ‘flotilla’ affair

June 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Bruce Kesler

By Bruce Kesler

ENCINITAS, California–Better appreciation of the facts about the Gaza flotilla (a flatuated term for that motley group of ships) are emerging, after the jumping to jaundiced judgment to jeer Israel.  The key one: Turkey hid behind its radical IHH front to instigate violence and got what it wanted.

Why? The obvious answer is to delegitimize Israel.

True, but there are fathoms below that to delve for some bigger truths.

I’ve been stressing diving for one “big truth.”  (here and here) The Obama administration was deep into pressuring Israel, likely contributing to the outcomes favorable to Israel’s enemies. Washington and Jerusalem should have known better.

The Obama administration, as the US State Department spokesman admitted, “through multiple channels many times” before the interdiction urged Israel to “restrain” itself.  Israel acted with restraint, to the point of ineptitude.  Similarly, the Obama administration at Turkey’s demand urged Israel to immediately release all aboard the Gaza blockade running ships, even though about forty were not identified or their links to Turkey and instructions were not discovered, and Israel promptly complied, allowing Turkey to cover up a key part of its nefarious role.

Credible journalists should be investigating these and probably more instances of the Obama administration’s culpabilities in harming Israel and strengthening US and Israeli foes.  For those journalists who have forgotten how, here’s the basics of their craft when competently practiced: Who? What? Where? When? Why?

Some may find this exercise in truth finding not worthwhile because “everyone already knows the Obama administration is comprised of useful tools of US foes”, as one bluntly put it.  But, not everyone knows, just those not of the Left paying attention.  Most liberals are still in denial. This key truth needs to be prominently driven home for all to face and know.  Such a high-profile event as this is the perfect vehicle to verifying what “everyone already knows,” or should know.

There’s a second “big truth” to be brought to the surface.

Since 2002, when Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan came to power in Turkey, he has been inching and jumping to move Turkey away from its past of Western orientation that Kemal Attaturk set it on after WWI, instead toward an Eastern (i.e., Islamist) view. Erdogan has played his cards well, and the stale Kemalists not.  September 12 Turkey is to hold a referendum, supported avidly by Erdogan and his party, though by none else, that would cripple separation of powers by placing the judiciary under tighter control by his executive.

In the usual way of rulers who seek more power, Erdogan purposely picked the perfect “us-them” to rouse the 99%+ of Turks who are Muslim, “them” being Israel.

Erdogon and Turkey’s fingerprints on the Gaza instigation needs to be brought to the surface for all to see, including for those Turks who will be repulsed by Erdogan’s dirty deals with radicals for his own self-aggrandizement. The future of Turkey and of its impact on the West is at stake.

There’s a third “big truth” that needs to be brought to the light of day.  That is the utter dangerous inanity of the Obama et. al. world view.  They have repeatedly demonstrated that their view is useless and counter-productive to Western interests.  Former allies and foes are not fools. They see the weakness, incompetence and ineptness of the Obama administration. They are, thus, encouraged to be bolder in pursuing policies and actions inimical to the US and to regional or world peace. Consistent with the Obama world view that is indifferent to or hostile toward the West is the casting out of Israel as an ally and measures that weaken its survival.

Surfacing the first “big truth” above is key to taking the blinders off for all to starkly see the others, and get more energized in sending those who have shucked American strength and integrity, and the survival of allies, to the bottom.

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Kesler is a freelance writer based in Encinitas.  This article appeared previously on the Maggie’s Farm website.

Gaza flotilla was an intentional provocation, not a peace convoy

May 31, 2010 1 comment

By Bruce Kesler

Bruce Kesler

ENCINITAS, California — Let’s cut out the crap from the international sob-sisters and abetters of Gazan Hamas thugs. Let the UN Security Council show this video upon its big screen, and then choke on the hasty lies swallowed by puerile politicians of pusillanimity pontificating from far away, and the media that vomited the lies upon its viewers and readers. Those who say anything Israel did was disproportionate parrot the word on cue, without any sense of what it means, in definition or actuality.

There are only two things disproportionate: 1. Israelis were armed with paintball guns and did not use more force to quickly quell and control those violently prepared upon the Mavi Marmara. Instead, Israel, as usual restrained itself, while no such self-control was planned by or exerted upon those on the ship. 2. The usual crowd of sympathizers to terror and antagonists to self-defense knee-jerk echoing of clearly wrong, inane and antagonistic charges against Israel, even despite the clear evidence to the contrary.

The blockade of Gaza is to prevent war material from entering. It preserves the peace. The convoy was offered but refused to have its cargo inspected and if humanitarian transferred to Gaza.

The convoy was not humanitarian in intent or action.  It was a blatant political propaganda ploy, intentionally belligerent in word and deed, to provoke in order to pressure Israel to commit suicide, opening Gaza’s borders to the type of infusion of deadly weapons and missiles for Hamas to attack Israel that flows unimpeded into Lebanon.

Any who defend the convoy or its passengers are actually furthering avoidable death and war. 

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Kesler is a freelance writer based in Encinitas.  This appeared previously on Maggie’s Farm web site.