Why was Palestinian legislator and scholar Hanan Ashrawi denied a U.S. entry visa to speak at a University of Massachusetts event?

Ironically, this event, which focuses on efforts by those Israel supports who want to shut down debate, is actually being targeted by those very forces. Caught in the scuffle, Hanan Ashrawi, who was supposed to join Roger Waters, Linda Sansour, Dave Zirin and Marc Lamont Hill as a guest speaker, found in the weeks leading up to the event that the U.S. was denying her visa.

“I think this is something new from the Trump administration,” Professor Sut Jhallysaid of Ashrawi’s thwarted efforts to speak at the conference. Jhally recalled Omar Barghouti’s similar experience in recent weeks, and charged that Trump is “doing the bidding of the Israeli government.”

Among the organizations who are targeting the event, the following stand out:

Israel supporters try to shut down UMass forum about efforts by Israel supporters to shut down debate

The Anti Defamation League wrote to the UMass chancellor that the event is a threat to “Jewish students’ sense of belonging, as well as their sense of safety and security on campus.” StandWithUs is said to have filed a legal request for email traffic from the school’s administration about the approval and sponsorship of the event, while CAMERA and a group called Americans for Peace and Tolerance, linked with the Islam-basher Charles Jacobs, have also organized to try to force the event off campus.

Particularly galling to me, the Peace and Tolerance group has said that Jews have a religious duty going back to Moses to prevent a gathering of anti-Semites:

Israel supporters try to shut down UMass forum about efforts by Israel supporters to shut down debate

Moses taught us to intervene to help our fellow Jews. Make your Passover extra kosher: help fight anti-Semitism and help our fellow Jews.“

To me, trying to shut down a woman who has worked for most of her adult life to bring about peace by a group calling itself Peace and Tolerance is indicative of the topsy-turvy climate that we live in at the present time. Born on October 8, 1946, in Nablus, Palestine, Ashrawi has not only served as spokeswoman for Palestinian rights at many peace conferences, she has also been the first woman to serve in several of the positions that she has held over the years. A feminist peacemaker, a professor of literature—what part of that was held so dangerous that she was denied a visa by the U.S. State Department?

“Universities are one of the last places you can have this kind of discussion,” Jhally says. “People are not backing down. This is precisely what people with tenure should do: have debates and discussions you can’t have anywhere else.”

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