Victory at Rutgers

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Jul 18 06:40:26 MDT 2003

NY Times, July 18, 2003
Trenton Backs Rutgers U. on Conference

Gov. James E. McGreevey of New Jersey declined yesterday to step in to
prevent a student group from holding a pro-Palestine conference at
Rutgers University in October, even though some Jewish leaders and
others say the group promotes anti-Semitic views.

Mr. McGreevey met with the president of Rutgers, Richard L. McCormick,
yesterday to respond to growing criticism that the National Student
Conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement was being organized by
students with ties to terrorists.

But even before his meeting with Dr. McCormick, the governor had been
assured by the state's Office of Counterterrorism that it had no
evidence that the student group sponsoring the forum, New Jersey
Solidarity, had ties to such groups, said Kathleen Ellis, the governor's
director of communications.

Ms. Ellis said that while the governor did not agree with the views
espoused by the group, he had decided not to try to overturn the
university president's decision to allow the conference.

"The fact of the matter is," Ms. Ellis said, "though he personally has
very strong negative feelings about this group's message, it does come
down to this is America and we all have a right to express our views as
long as it's not a threat to anyone's safety. No one gets to pick and
choose who gets to speak, who gets the stage."

In a statement issued after the meeting, Dr. McCormick said he and the
governor had had a "friendly and productive conversation" in which they
dwelled on the importance of free speech.

"The governor and I agreed that we find the views of New Jersey
Solidarity to be reprehensible," he said. "But we also agreed that the
best way to counter deplorable arguments is more discussion, not less,
and that the appropriate place for this kind of discourse is the
university. Governor McGreevey and I share the belief that the strength
of our society depends on such openness."



(comrades might remember Charlotte Kates from the earliest Marxism list.
She was Lou Godena's friend. At one point she was stalked by a creep who
had shown up on the list. When Yoshie and I called the attention of the
list to this matter, the creep sent a complaint to Ohio State and
Columbia. Let's put it this way. Blue-collar Ohio State was far more
committed to free speech on the Internet than blue-blood Columbia.)

July 18, 2003
Law Student With a History of Taking Left Turns

WHEN Charlotte L. Kates was in elementary school, she devoured a series
of books on foreign countries. One nation, however, captured her
imagination. She was in the family car on her way to a children's arts
festival in Philadelphia, when, she said, the utopian vision of a
communist society in the Soviet Union leapt off the pages and inspired
her to be a revolutionary.

She never looked back. As a law student at Rutgers University, and one
of the leaders of New Jersey Solidarity, a pro-Palestinian student
group, Ms. Kates has reserved space at Rutgers this October for the
Third North American Student Conference of the Palestine Solidarity
Movement. The gathering will draw hundreds of student activists from the
United States and Canada, and they will converge on the New Brunswick
campus, she said, to "organize against the Israeli occupation of Palestine."

The forum has attracted the attention of state politicians, including
Gov. James E. McGreevey and John O. Bennett, the Republican leader in
the State Senate.

Mr. Bennett sent a letter to the governor asking him to "prevent our
prestigious and world-renowned university from hosting this abominable

The governor met with the Rutgers president, Richard L. McCormick,
yesterday to discuss the conference, among other things. According to
the governor's office, Mr. McGreevey left the meeting supporting Dr.
McCormick's decision to let the conference take place.

Ms. Kates also stirred up the campus in March when her organization
reserved banner space for two weeks at the Douglass College Center. The
banner read: "From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free."

"It was a call for all land between the Jordanian River and the
Mediterranean to be returned to the Palestinians," she said.

Such a call also meant Israel would be wiped off the map. The Israel
Action Committee of Rutgers organized a sit-in at the center demanding
that the banner be removed. It was not.

New Jersey Solidarity takes a hard line in its support of the
Palestinians. Ms. Kates will not, for instance, condemn suicide
bombings, saying "it is not our place in the United States to dictate
the tactics Palestinian groups use in the liberation struggle."

Seated in a small coffee shop near the Rutgers Law School on Monday, Ms.
Kates, 23, recalled the book she was reading on that car trip to
Philadelphia years ago. "The book quoted the 1917 revolutionary slogan:
peace, land, bread and freedom," she said. "This idea hit me. I had to
find out more about socialism."

SHE began to read Lenin and Marx. She looked up the American Communist
Party's local chapter in New Jersey, where she grew up. She rode her
bike on Sunday afternoons to local party meetings. By age 13, she said,
she had joined the party, paying monthly dues of 50 cents.

"It is a workers party, so dues are paid on a sliding scale," she said.
"I kept it from my parents. A year later, a clerk at the supermarket
mentioned to my mother that she had seen me handing out copies of the
communist newspaper the People's Weekly World at the Collingswood train
station. The clerk wanted to know if my mother was also a communist."

Her parents, although not pleased, allowed her to continue. Activism
does not run in her family, but she is quick to add that "my parents are
working class." Her brother, Benjamin Kates III, 16 years her senior, is
a United States marshal in Texas. Her father, Benjamin Kates Jr., now
retired, drove heavy equipment. Her mother, Carol, is a service
representative in a bank.

Her decision to "side with the oppressed, liberation movements and the
working class" is one that has led her to butt heads repeatedly with
authority. In the seventh grade, she agitated to loosen the dress code
at her school and reduce the lunch fees. "It was called the `lunch costs
too much campaign,' " she said.

Later, she used a board, reserved for honors students to note important
moments in history, to mark anniversaries like the protest on March 6,
1930, when a million Americans across the country marched for
unemployment insurance.

As an undergraduate at Rutgers in 2000, she helped organize a "people's
convention" to run a radical slate for City Council in New Brunswick.
The slate, which had three candidates, received 28 percent of the vote.

Her small dorm room at Rutgers, which she shares with three other
first-year law students, is decorated with the requisite picture of Che
Guevara, a hero of the Cuban revolution, along with a poster of Nabil
Salameh, a slain radical Palestinian leader.

A poster on the wall reads: "Long Live the Proletarian Feminism of the
Heroic Red Women Fighters of Peru." Without a moment's hesitation, she
said her favorite book is "The State and Revolution" by Lenin.

She has a weakness for Dr. Pepper. There was a case on her floor. And
she makes room on her wall for prints by the artist Gustav Klimt.

The day after being featured in an article in The New York Post this
month with the headline "Rutgers gets `F' For Putting Anti-Semitism 101
on the Schedule," she lost her summer job as a customer service
representative for an electronics company in Teaneck.

"They told me it was because they were doing financial restructuring,"
she said, her signature red kaffiyeh draped around her shoulders, "but I
have my doubts."


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