Carnegie Mellon hosts hate speech

A fence at Carnegie Mellon University that was covered with anti-Israel slogans recently. (Christopher Rolinson/The Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh)

A fence at Carnegie Mellon University that was covered with anti-Israel slogans recently. (Christopher Rolinson/The Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh)

PITTSBURGH, Feb. 23 (JTA) — Carnegie Mellon University was again the focus of anti-Semitic activity last week when guest speaker Malik Zulu Shabazz included several anti-Jewish and anti-white remarks in his presentation. Shabazz is the national chair of the New Black Panther Party for Defense. The evening started out smoothly for the Feb. 17 Black History Month program at the university. There was no protest before the speech, students waited in line patiently, and no riots broke out when about 150 people were turned away because the room had filled to capacity. Everything was going just fine when Shabazz took the podium around 7:30 p.m. to discuss “Black History and the Role and Responsibility of the Black College Student.” That is, until the lights went out. “Turn the [expletive] lights on, honkeys!” said Shabazz. “This is the best example of white racism,” he said into the darkness. As CMU police officers and staff members scrambled to fix the problem, members of the New Black Panthers stormed the back of the auditorium, asking for an explanation and a solution. Most of them were dressed in black military uniforms, and one carried a nightstick. Audience members instinctively pulled out cell phones and Shabazz continued his lecture lit by a glowing blue haze from the crowd. He kept the crowd energized by periodically pumping his fist into the air and preaching “black power,” a refrain the audience repeated in unison. The event, sponsored by CMU student group SPIRIT, had been opposed by such student groups as Tartans for Israel and the Hillel JUC because of Shabazz’s history of anti-Semitic remarks. His appearance came on the heels of a controversy surrounding the University Lecture Series, which this year included a talk by Ali Abunimah, the co-founder of the Electronic Intifada Web site. Norman Finkelstein, a controversial critic of Israel who accuses Jewish organizations and elites of exploiting the Holocaust for financial and political gain, is scheduled to speak on March 14. The university delayed Finkelstein’s appearance, which originally was scheduled for February, after objections by Jewish student groups. Shabazz used the lights-out incident to attack the university for cutting his funding to appear on campus. Last semester, the CMU Student Senate decided not to provide SPIRIT with $2,000 to bring him. “You collaborated and conspired to cut my money,” Shabazz said, “And now this?” When the lights were turned back on, Shabazz decided to change the content of his lecture. Instead of empowering the room, which held more than 150 black students, he chose to further alienate 10 percent of the audience — white and Jewish student. His topic came in response to Tartans for Israel President Rachel Svinkelstin’s press release, which encouraged Shabazz to stick to his lecture topic. “How can I speak about racism without talking about the white Jew?” Shabazz asked, as he read aloud an essay written by Svinkelstin, who was not in the audience. Finishing her essay, Shabazz crumpled up the paper and threw it onto the floor, to the audience’s evident delight. Just an hour before Shabazz’s lecture, Svinkelstin spoke to a crowd of about 150 students, faculty and community members in front of Doherty Hall about the importance of a diverse community at a “declaration of unity” rally sponsored by the Hillel JUC. But inside the lecture hall, differences were brought to light and diversity was trampled. “White folks are white folks — you can’t tell the difference between a Christian and a Jew,” Shabazz said, explaining how the Semitic people of the Middle East were originally black and the Ashkenazim had immigrated to Israel long after the “real Semites” had moved away. A table lined with books at the front of the room contained such titles as “The International Jew” by Henry Ford, “Secrets of the Federal Reserve” by Eustace Mullin, and “The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews” by the Historical Research Department of the Nation of Islam. “The Secret Relationship” is banned in Canada and at all Barnes and Noble stores. Shabazz said he didn’t blame the actions of Hamas, Hezbollah or Islamic Jihad because Israel is a terrorist state. And, he added, “Zionism is racism.” In fact, Shabazz alleged that Jews overemphasize the Holocaust compared to what he called “the black holocaust.” “Our holocaust didn’t last six years. Our holocaust has lasted 400 years,” Shabazz said. “You say you lost six million? We lost 150 million.” But Shabazz didn’t limit his attacks to Jews and whites. “Dr. Condoleezza Rice is a high-paid, high-priced prostitute and a puppet of the current administration,” he said. He secretary has sold out, he continued, because she works toward “white goals.” Noa Zilberling, 25, who teaches in an after-school program, said that appealing to the audience’s base emotions and trying to find a lowest common denominator was simply Shabazz’s attempt to slip in his own agenda among facts. “This is exactly what Hitler did,” she said as she left the auditorium in tears. According to Bettysue Feuer, a regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, the New Black Panther Party is one of the few African-American organizations be designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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