Cinnamon Stillwell

I’m the West Coast Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum that focuses on Middle East studies. I was a political columnist for SFGate.com (San Francisco Chronicle online) from 2004-2008. I've written for the American Thinker, Frontpage Magazine, Family Security Matters, Accuracy In Media, Newsbusters, Israel National News, The Jewish Policy Center, J-The Jewish News Weekly of N. CA, Intellectual Conservative and many others. More info at CinnamonStillwell.com.

Friday, August 10, 2007

"Indoctrinate U" Outtake on Columbia Exposes Hamid Dabashi's Bigotry

I have a new post up at the Campus Watch blog on Columbia professor Hamid Dabashi whose bigoted remarks about "Israeli Jews" come to light in a hilarious yet shocking outtake from Evan Coyne Maloney's upcoming documentary, "Indoctrinate U":

Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature and Chairman of the Middle East Languages and Cultures department at Columbia University, figures prominently in the work of those of us trying to bring accountability and balance back to the field of Middle East studies. His anti-Western, pro-Islamist, and, at times, anti-Semitic commentary have been noted by Campus Watch on many occasions.

Indeed, he holds the current "Quote of the Month" spot for his review of the film "300," in which he likens the Persian Empire to modern-day America and the Spartans to the "Iraqi resistance, the Palestinians, [and] Hizbullah," while attempting to justify suicide bombings by comparing them to the Spartans' last stand at Thermopylae. This is what many have come to expect from Dabashi, whose apologetics seem to know no bounds.

Dabashi makes another appearance of sorts in an outtake from the upcoming documentary, "Indoctrinate U." The film, which will feature interviews with Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes and Middle East scholar Martin Kramer, focuses on bias and the "institutional intolerance" that's rampant in higher education. Filmmaker Evan Coyne Maloney has been making deleted scenes available at the "Indoctrinate U" website and the first of these involves Columbia University (watch it here).

In a "Columbia Quiz" given randomly to students and other passersby on campus, Maloney uses a Dabashi quote to make a point about what passes for acceptable in academia today.

Continue reading "Indoctrinate U" Outtake on Columbia Exposes Hamid Dabashi's Bigotry.

And click here to read my SFGate review of the film "300," which couldn't be more different from Dabashi's (imagine that?).

Khalil Gibran Academy Principal Dhabah Almontaser Resigns

The much-criticized principal of Khalil Gibran Academy, the Arabic language school set to open in NYC next month, Dhabah "Debbie" Almontaser, has resigned. And many are saying good riddance.

Beyond the controversy surrounding the school itself, which some feared would become a madrassa in the heart of Brooklyn, it was Almontaser's lame attempt to defend the T-shirts with the term "Intifada NYC" emblazened proudly across the front that appear to have done her in. The T-shirts, which were spotted on sale at an Arab Fair in Prospect Park last month, carried the logo of AWAAM.org, Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media. AWAAM is sponsored by and shares office space with the Yemeni American Association, of which Almontaser is the founder and a board member.

The fact that the term "intifada," which everyone knows is directly associated with the Palestinian/Arab war of extermination against Israel (otherwise known as the "uprising") had entered the mainstream lexicon in such a startling fashion was not lost on the public. Facing mounting criticism, particularly from United Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, Almontaser eventually condemned the T-shirt's message. But not before telling the New York Post that "intifada" just means "shaking off" and that the shirts somehow represented women "shaking off" oppression. And if you believe that, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn (literally) to sell you.

While some are reporting that it was the New York Post (which has covered the story extensively) that broke the T-shirts story, to the best of my knowledge, it first came to light via the Stop the Madrassa Coalition (STMC). The tireless activism of STMC spokeswoman and local parent Pamela Hall, who has been all over the media in recent weeks trying to call attention to the story, as well as the related information made available at the STMC website, turned out to be invaluable. Almontaser's resignation is a testament to the importance of citizens taking an active role in their children's education, not to mention being vigilant about potential Islamist encroachments.

The next challenge will be the fate of Khalil Gibran Academy itself and STMC is not letting up on the pressure. Stay tuned.

Update: Atlas Shrugs, who has been covering the story for months, blogged on Almontaser's resignation earlier today. Lots of useful links and info. Check it out.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Rainbow Grocery: The Saga Continues

Picking up on last month's blog post about the San Francisco health food store cooperative Rainbow Grocery and its troublesome history of anti-Semitism (both in the guise of "anti-Zionism" and of the flat-out Jew-hating variety), it seems there's even more to the story than I'd initially thought.

I've been in touch with David Alexander Nahmod, the freelance writer of Sephardic Jewish persuasion who recently filed a complaint with San Francisco's Human Rights Commission (HRC) against Rainbow after an employee hurled anti-Semitic epithets in his direction. Her exact words, according to him, were "Jews need to be killed, it's the only way to get them off Palestinian land" and "You’re just a stupid Jew." Not exactly subtle.

The article I initially referred to in J: The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California only provided sketchy details, but, as Nahmod pointed out, SF Weekly reporter Lauren Smiley also covered the incident. Her article, humorously titled (and written, I might add) "No Peace Prize For You," elaborates on the encounter between Nahmod and the Rainbow employee known only as Nikki:
Many Jewish customers have refused to enter Rainbow Grocery — the hippie-dippy worker-owned cooperative that preaches an "inclusive environment that is welcoming to everyone" — ever since two departments de-shelved Israeli products in an apparent anti-Israel boycott in 2002. (Store employee Naomi Jelks says it was done without store authorization, and the boycott was later shot down by an employee vote.)

Now the Human Rights Commission is investigating a complaint by ex-customer David Nahmod, who says he was called a "stupid Jew" more than a year ago by a cashier who employees say identifies as Palestinian. Nahmod, a 51-year-old freelance writer and dog-sitter, says he motioned to the woman's "Free Palestine" T-shirt and asked, "Wouldn't it be nice if they could all live in peace?" He alleges that she responded with the epithet and that suicide bombers should kill as many Jews as possible. He said he approached her a second time months later to similar effect. ("I thought she might just be having a bad day" the first time, he says, seemingly without irony.)

Jelks says an "internal investigation" conducted after Nahmod filed a customer complaint yielded another story: The cashier said she didn't want to talk politics at work (duh, man, read the T-shirt!), but Nahmod escalated the conversation into a heated exchange, and Nahmod's accusations could not be proven.

The cashier, who identified herself as Nikki, flung some major attitude on the phone while telling us her version, and then said we couldn't print any of it, or she'd sue. Since we've already got one lawsuit from the Bay Guardian, all we get to print from Nikki is this: "The things he is saying I said are all false. None of these words came out of my mouth."
Well, that's debatable, but if past experience is any indication, it's at least a possibility that Nikki is the one fudging the truth. The unprofessional behavior thus far on her part and that of other employees (one threatened to "whoop him" when he complained) hardly lends credibility to the Rainbow crowd, and its history of attempted anti-Israel boycotts (a popular past time of local lefties who are in thrall to the Palestinian "cause," which, these days, seems to entail wiping out Israel) doesn't help.

Indeed, the words of Peter Altman, deputy director of BlueStarPR, a nonprofit that promotes Israel, who is quoted in the SF Weekly article, says it all:
...Nahmod should have known better than to bring up Israel at Rainbow: "David is naive because most people know that if you don't want Israel torn to shreds, first of all, they wouldn't go there, and if they do, they'd be quiet."
Apparently, Jews who don't want to see Israel destroyed should just quietly keep their heads down while shopping at the "tolerant" and "open minded" co-op known as Rainbow Grocery.

SF Weekly certainly got an earful from what one acolyte labeled the "true progressives of Rainbow Grocery" in its August 1st Letters to the Editor section. A group of Rainbow employees responded to Smiley's article by labeling it a "flippant attack," defending their employees' rights to make what they call "political stands," and accusing Nahmod of being a "troublemaker with a trumped-up complaint." And for good measure, they played the Jewish card, extolling the alleged great number of Jewish shoppers and employees at Rainbow. Given that some of the worst Israel-haters and anti-Semites these days are Jews (most of whom have abandoned their faith for the more secular religion of leftism), this means nothing.

What's more, according to Nahmod, he's had little to no interaction with any Rainbow employees other than the charming Nikki, so the accusations against him have no grounds. As he put it:

How do all these Rainbow workers & shoppers "know me to be a troublemaker"? I don't know them & they don't know me. I've never met or spoken to any of them...The people who wrote that letter, I honestly haven't a clue as to who any of them are. I've asked HRC to question them--to describe me if they know me so well.
Something tells me we're unlikely to hear back from Rainbow employees on that last point. It seems that instead of owning up to any possible misdeeds, they are instead closing ranks.

But Rainbow may have at last met its match. Beyond Nahmod's case, someone who wishes to remain anonymous has informed me that she too may be filing a complaint with the Human Rights Commission. In an e-mail sent to Nahmod and shared with me, she had this to say:
[There's] no way to prove this unfortunately, but I was completely positive that I was let go from Rainbow because I was Jewish. I didn't work for them. I was demonstrating a produce item for a friend and was asked not to return. I look and sound Jewish and was getting uncomfortable vibes from employees. Yes, I may have had a bubbly and persuasive (some might say stereotypical) style that didn't fit their laid back image, but I was selling my friend's product like crazy. He was thrilled to have me witha 300% hike in sales when I demonstrated. He was not given a reason as to why they didn't want me back, and he thought that strange but didn't want to ruffle any feathers and let it drop. It really gave me goosebumps to read your piece because the girl in charge of the Dairy dept. who asked me not to return, and wouldn't give me a reason but that "we're not a good fit" was named Nikki!
While I cannot vouch for her claim or those of Nahmod, my own experience with Rainbow Grocery certainly strengthen the possibility that anti-Semitism is part of the equation. For as much as leftists like to insist that anti-Zionism has nothing to do with anti-Semitism, the reality has borne out just the opposite. One cannot seek to demonize a nation and a people by distorting and falsifying history and supporting movements that are blatantly genocidal in their goals without being a party to the hatred and bloodshed associated therewith.

As I have maintained ever since my own post-9/11 break with the left, such self-proclaimed "progressives" are, in fact, on the wrong side of history. And history will eventually catch up to them.

Update: It appears Rainbow Grocery, while once opposed to carrying Israeli products, has no such issues with those of "Your Black Muslim Bakery" in Oakland, seven of whose employees are currently under arrest for the murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey (in addition to the bakery's history of criminal activity). As pointed out by local blogger Cyclizen:

I remember seeing loaves of Your Black Muslim Bakery bread for sale at Rainbow Grocery a while ago. I bought some once. It wasn't very good. Just think; Rainbow and everyone who bought their products funded terrorists.

...A few years back, Rainbow attempted a boycott of Israeli goods. I wonder if they'll stop carrying Your Black Muslim Bakery goods. Oh, that's right. It's closed down.

I used to shop at Rainbow, but before I knew any of this, didn't very often, because everything is so expensive there, even with the 10% discount they offer to members of the SF Bike Coalition.

I guess that's the extra you pay for groceries that are organic, antisemitic, and tied to alleged murderers.
Indeed.