Amid campus-wide controversy, Middle East Forum Director Daniel Pipes spoke yesterday on the Middle Eastern conflict. Nearly 200 members of the Yale community, including a large number of protestors, attended the talk.
At least a third of those in attendance protested Pipes by wearing black clothing and black gags across their mouths.
Eliana Johnson ’06, president of the Middle East Forum at Yale, said MEF invited Pipes to speak as an authority on American interests in the Middle East. She said Pipes inspired critical discussion on Israel-Palestine relations.
Yale Coalition for Peace and Muslim Students’ Association member Saqib Bhatti ’04 said the protest was organized earlier this week because Pipes has publicly made derogatory comments about “brown-skinned peoples” and Muslims, and is a founder of CampusWatch.org, which he said has been used as a tool to silence dissent on campuses.
“Our intent was to be respectful of his presence but to still voice opposition,” Bhatti, who is also a member of Students for Justice in Palestine, said. “We thought the gag was a powerful visual image that can’t be ignored.”
During his speech, Pipes called for Palestinian recognition of Israel. He said peace depends upon the desires of the Palestine population.
“Diplomacy focuses exclusively on government to government relations,” Pipes said. “Were the governments to come to an agreement, it’s not necessarily the case that the population would follow. In fact, once an agreement was shared, the [Palestinian] population became more anti-Zionist than less.”
After his lecture, Pipes was asked by an audience member why he claims 10 to 15 percent of all Muslims are potential killers.
“[Militant Islam] is the body of ideas that causes a lot of murders,” Pipes said. “Ten to 15 percent of Muslims support Militant Islam and wish to be in a country where there is a Militant government.”
Diplomat in Residence Charles Hill, who was scheduled to answer questions along with Pipes, said after the presentation that he disagreed with Pipes’ stance.
“Pipes’ view is that diplomacy has failed and is hopeless,” Hill said. “I’m much more positive. I think diplomacy has brought tremendous successes. The key to this is the suppression of terrorism. When you get close to peace, terrorists will literally blow up any chance of peace.”
In a November 2002 issue of the New York Post, Pipes wrote a column titled “Profs Who Hate America.” The article named Director of Cytogenetics Services at the Yale School of Medicine Mazin Qumsiyeh and Yale Professor Glenda Gilmore as two professors who fit this description.
Qumsiyeh said during the talk that both he and Gilmore received hate mail as a result of the column.
“We don’t hate America, we just don’t like American policy in the Middle East,” Qumsiyeh said.
Pipes asked Qumsiyeh to forward him all records of hate mail.
Pipes then said another listed professor blamed his move to Canada on hate mail he received. Pipes said the truth was that this professor left the U.S. because of a career opportunity. This, Pipes said, “shows what liars you all are.”
Some students were not allowed to enter the room or listen through open doors. Abe Koogler ’06 said doors were blocked by policeman who he said prohibited approximately 40 students from entering the talk.
Zvika Krieger ’06 said few in attendance came with an open mind.
“[This event] was a circus between people who were closed-minded and didn’t want to hear what Pipes had to say and others who uncritically accepted everything he said,” Krieger said.
Johnson said she believes Pipes spoke well before a tough audience.
“I knew all along what an eloquent, soft-spoken subtle speaker [Pipes] is,” Johnson said. “I think that can stand powerfully when people in the audience throw epithets at him. He so ably answered their questions.”
But many audience members collaborated to show their distaste by bearing signs and banners denouncing his message, in addition to donning black clothing and gags.
Bhatii said members of organizations including the Yale Coalition for Peace, the Muslim Students’ Association, the Arab Students’ Association, Students for Justice in Palestine, the Pan-Ethnic Coalition, Concerned Black Students, the Black Student Alliance at Yale and Hillel participated in organizing the protest.
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