UCSC Students Protest Conservative Journalist, By Roger Sideman, SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL,

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January 24, 2007

A handful of UC Santa Cruz students protested a speech on campus Tuesday night by British journalist and author Melanie Phillips.

Phillips, a pro-Israel advocate known for her conservative views on everything from evolution to global warming, spoke on campus about how moderate Muslims in Europe are not doing everything they can to prevent the rise of militant extremism.

Protest organizers said they wanted to be careful not to stifle free speech. They handed out more than 100 fliers to attendees.

Phillips’ talk at the Merrill College Cultural Center was sponsored by and the Israel Action Committee and Jewish Studies program, two UCSC groups, along with Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and Stand with Us, a national organization supporting Israel.

Phillips is the 10th speaker in a series of talks about the Middle East organized by Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, who teaches Hebrew, but the first one that’s drawn protest.

“What she’s going to say is not a message that’s been heard frequently at UCSC,” she said.

Rossman-Benjamin said she invites people who will bring a balance to views on campus about the Israel/Arab conflict.

“So far, the official, university-sponsored events feature only one kind of speaker: those with a bias or tilt against Israel,” she said. “The importance of free speech must be reinforced repeatedly by presenting views on the UCSC campus that are not always politically correct,” she said.

But students like Alexander Jabbari have already made up their minds.

Jabbari, a student of Iranian descent, said he handed out pamphlets outside the building to highlight past statements from Phillips that he considers bigoted.

“She says there’s no difference between a peaceful Muslim and a terrorist Muslim and cloaks her words in pseudo-intellectual language,” he said. “She also wants to invade Iran. To me, that’s an explicit threat”

Phillips said critics often confuse her challenges to moderate Muslims as prejudice.

“I can’t criticize minority groups without being accused of bigotry or racism,” she said.

Jabbari said the protest outside the building was initiated by the two student groups called the Iranian Student Network and Jews for Justice.

“They’re just wrong on Phillips’ positions on Islam,” said Rossman-Benjamin.

“She’s not saying every Muslim is potentially radical, but that there’s a problem with moderate Islam where people are not doing what they can mitigate radical movements,” she said.

The fliers handed out by protesters asks attendees if Phillips would suggest a link between peaceful Christians and those who bomb abortion clinics in the name of God.

Rossman-Benjamin says that Jews, as well, have been intimidated by anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rhetoric in the classroom, curricula and campus events. In September, she along with students and professors from other UC campuses, presented the UC Regents with a 3,100-signature petition which asks for a review of how courses portray the Israel Palestine conflict.

“Faculty bias in the classroom contributes to hostile environment for Jewish students and corrupts the mission of the university,” she said.

Contact Roger Sideman at atrsideman@santacruzsentinel.com

UCSC Students Protest Conservative Journalist, By Roger Sideman, SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL,

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Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) is not-for-profit [501 (C) (3)], grass-roots community of scholars who have united to promote honest, fact-based, and civil discourse, especially in regard to Middle East issues. We believe that ethnic, national, and religious hatreds, including anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, have no place in our institutions, disciplines, and communities. We employ academic means to address these issues.

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