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‘Cockroach’ as anti-Arab Slur and other Narrative Creations

Two Claremont Colleges conducted investigations: Pitzer exonerated its Students for Justice in Palestine members and pilloried a Jewish Israeli faculty member from the other school, while Claremont Mckenna found the Pitzer students and the faculty member behaved poorly.

Najib Hamideh and other Students for Justice in Palestine bar students entry to Claremont McKenna College cafeteria in "Israeli checkpoint street theater demonstration," March 4, 2013

Najib Hamideh and other Students for Justice in Palestine bar students entry to Claremont McKenna College cafeteria in "Israeli checkpoint street theater demonstration," March 4, 2013

CMC’s Dean of Students, Mary Spellman, conducted an investigation during the course of which 11 witnesses were interviewed including several SJP students, the Dining Hall manager, the public safety officer, Raviv, Hamideh and several others. The CMC review also included a number of relevant documents.

On April 19, Pamela Gann, president of Claremont McKenna College, released the results of CMC’s review which found that: (1) The professor’s conduct was inappropriate and below the standards of CMC behavior, but given the context and everything that had transpired, his behavior did not constitute harassment.  (2) The SJP demonstration violated the CMC and 5C Demonstrations Policies.  Both bar “actions in which there is a deliberate disruption or an impedance of access to regular activities of the College or of the College Community, including those which restrict free movement on the campus. (3) The faculty member had not inappropriately interfered with the demonstration and had not tried to shut down the demonstration.

Although these are the findings by the college with jurisdiction, the public narrative is a very different one. That is due to a publicity campaign instigated almost immediately after the event, one that continues to this day, not only by the SJP students, but by a Pitzer faculty member who reframed the incident as one in which the CMC professor’s statement was recast as viciously racist, that the CMC professor had engaged in a blatant effort to violate the “free speech rights” of the SJP students, that the SJP students had not “blocked” the CMC dining entrance, and that CMC is a biased, anti-Arab Palestinian institution.

The Pitzer professor, Dan Segal, became the “faculty advocate” to Hamideh, but in addition to acting as a supportive adviser, he affirmatively and immediately re-framed the incident  and “informed” the Pitzer faculty of that narrative.  As a faculty advocate Segal was bound by confidentiality rules governing internal investigations. But Segal instead chose to aggressively promote his version of the narrative to other faculty members, to students and to the media.  His version of the incident was delivered through emails to Pitzer faculty and to other media outlets, as well as in emails and telephone conversations with this reporter.

The narrative promoted by Segal, and less aggressively by the SJP students, was that the March 4 incident was about two things only: the effort to restrict free speech and the racist verbal assault of an Arab student by an Israeli professor.

Dan Segal was not present at the demonstration and only learned about what happened there several hours later, from the SJP students.  He learned about it after yet another Claremont Israeli Apartheid Week event that evening, a special showing of the anti-Israel film “5 Broken Cameras.”  This film and its relevance to this incident will be the subject of a later article in this series.

According to Segal, and therefore what appeared in most of the media accounts, was that what happened on March 4 was that: a “staunch Zionist” Jewish Israeli professor intentionally interfered with, and tried to block the free speech rights of pro-Arab Palestinian students at a pre-approved demonstration at CMC; that Prof. Raviv’s exclamation to Najib Hamideh was a racist slur; and that CMC is biased against Arabs .  Finally, Segal inspired other Pitzer faculty members to express outrage that Claremont McKenna had focused on whether the SJP students violated CMC’s policy on demonstrations, rather than focusing on a “staunch Zionist’s” racist attack on students exercising their free speech rights.

When asked by The Jewish Press why he described Raviv as a “staunch Zionist,” Segal responded: “because [Raviv] served in the Israeli military.”

Segal stated as fact things about which he had no independent basis, discussed the incident with outside media before and during the interview process, and also released to outsiders documents that were part of the investigation process.  He also sought and provided information about Pitzer’s internal investigation from Jim Marchant, Pitzer Vice President for Student Affairs, information that probably should have remained confidential, but which at the very least is or should be embarrassing to Pitzer.

Other than Pitzer’s Dan Segal, no one from either Claremont McKenna or Pitzer would discuss with this reporter any of the confidential aspects of the investigation or provide any of the relevant documents.

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


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3 Responses to “‘Cockroach’ as anti-Arab Slur and other Narrative Creations”

  1. John Keytack says:

    The heading for this post is misleading. Calling an arab or a muslim a cockroach isn’t necessarily an anti-arab slur. The professor might have called anyone that under similar circumstances. For example, if someone from refers to Andrew Cuomo as human vermin that doesn’t mean it’s an anti-Italian or anti-Catholic slur.

  2. Lori Lowenthal Marcus says:

    That’s the point, John. It isn’t an anti-Arab slur, but the SJP students and Prof. Segal need to twist it into one in order to claim Raviv was being racist and not just inappropriate by losing his temper and cursing at a student.

  3. Chernasky says:

    The greatest pity is the craven behavior of the Jewish students who lacked the beitzim to force their way through these punks; ran to “daddy,”and then didn’t have the self respect to support him. “We were like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and appeared so to them.”

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