Monday, December 24, 2007

David Reznik Speaks!


TheRadiKaL:Who are you, where are you from, and what areas of study did you pursue while at the University of Florida?

David Reznik: I am the older son of Russian Jewish immigrants. My parents became wealthy in the ‘90s with a high-technology company they founded; nowadays, having closed that company down, they live a semi-retired life in Aventura (north of Miami). Although we moved across different parts of the U.S. when I was very young, I essentially grew up in Newport Beach, CA, a place well documented on the MTV show "Laguna Beach": vapid, "pretty," and overwhelmingly old-money WASP (white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant). I hated it there, especially since I was physically picked-on a lot by bigger kids (I was at least a year younger than most kids since I skipped second grade) and despite my father’s singular concern with my academic “achievement,” I was desperate to fit-in with the “cool crowd.” My attempts at assimilation were never successful, however, since my parents were new money immigrants and I was nothing more than "Doogie Howser" and/or “Urkel” to most of the “popular” kids. So, when I graduated high school, I went to UCLA and swore I would never look back (a promise I have kept). Following my undergrad years, I lived all around the greater San Francisco Bay area, working first as a marketing professional and ultimately becoming a middle-school special education teacher after realizing that the for-profit world was so alienating that it was bringing me to the brink of suicide. During my time as a teacher, I became increasingly interested in political issues (local, national, and international) and decided to try my luck in grad school studying sociology. I completed the Master’s program at the University of Miami and at the behest of my advisor there, enrolled in the sociology PhD program here at UF. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that my academic experience at UF has been anything but fulfilling, although I have to admit that I have learned a lot of life lessons from being here. In fact, all the ugliness that I have seen over the past couple of years as a PhD student has taught me that academia is not the place for me. As of now, then, my plans are to find a job teaching social studies at a high school somewhere in Florida next fall…

TheRadiKaL: Please tell us about Nakba '48 & Students for Human Society. Could you kindly debunk some of the more common and with that, most baseless rumors you've heard about them?

David Reznik: I joined Nakba ’48 in the fall of 2005; it was a pre-existing student organization on campus. I was eager to do a lot with the group because a) my girlfriend at the time was Palestinian and so the issue hit very close to home for me, and b) the individuals in the organization seemed very active, committed, and organized. Indeed, that academic year we tabled multiple times a week and our on-campus presence was quite strong (prompting a lot of backlash from Hillel, which I will discuss more in my answer to the next question). We mass-published two issues of a free journal that I edited called “Human Liberation,” one of our members developed a wonderful website, and we put on several well-orchestrated events on-campus. Most importantly, however, we bonded as a group of people. However, when some of the members began to slowly distance themselves from the group for personal reasons (mostly due to academic priorities, general burnout, etc.) there was some tension that started to arise and a group of us formed a splinter organization called Students for a Human Society (SHS). SHS was really an attempt to branch out and be active about issues beyond (but not exclusive of) the Palestinian cause including anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-capitalist campaigns. We were also hoping to get as “local” as possible with our activism, often working with the CLAS Unite movement to take back UF from the authoritarian demagogues in the administration as well as engaging in community service with homeless persons in Gainesville. The best (but most difficult) parts about SHS were our weekly meetings in which we tried to get more personal with one another; unfortunately, I was often resistant to that because of the fear of vulnerability, etc. So, as members graduated and/or moved on to other pursuits in their lives, both groups have basically died out although I can say that the bonds and friendships remain.

As for the rumors about the groups, I think that the "About" pages on each group’s website (www.nakba48.org and www.studentsforahumansociety.org) are accurate, comprehensive, and unambiguous in articulating exactly what we’re all about. But for expediency’s sake, we are not terrorists or anti-Semites or Satan worshippers or anything else that people might say about us. We’re just trying to call attention to what we believe are important issues in the world today that are under-represented on-campus and in the mass media.


TheRadiKaL: In a Radikal comment you stated: "the very real threat of physical intimidation and other forms of harassment for those who oppose Hillel, the Center for Jewish Studies, and the other Zionist organizations on-campus will silence any possible dissent." Can you expound on that for us? You see, there are folks out there refuse to believe that Zionism even exists.

David Reznik: I can’t chronicle everything, but here’s a few examples: when tabling for Nakba, our table has been spit at/on repeatedly and we are constantly being photographed by random guys; our protests (sometimes as small as two people) are always monitored by police who have been called by Hillel or its followers; I have personally had an interview I was doing with the local WCJB TV-20 News be shouted down, I have been followed, and I have had hateful comments made about me and my family by rabid Zionist students; and I witnessed a female colleague in Nakba being physically confronted by the head rabbi at Hillel and a gang of his understudies who began to thrust their flyers into her face. Oh yes, and of course, there was the lovely "Fuck Palestine, Love Osama" message chalked onto one of the tables in Turlington Plaza one of the days we were scheduled to table. And lest I forget, my profile on RateMyProfessors.com has featured students who have obviously never actually taken my class posting comments about how I am anti-Semitic and spend the semester indoctrinating them that "Israel is evil." So I would say this is a relatively well-organized and systematic campaign of harassment by the Zionist presence on-campus to intimidate those of us who are willing to actually stand up and denounce the state of Israel’s assault on the human rights of non-Jewish Palestinians.

By the way, the reason I target Hillel is that although they claim to be "the foundation for Jewish campus life," they are really "the foundation for Zionist Jewish campus life." A little research into their history and current campaigns reveals this quite clearly, as they pour inordinate money and resources into portraying anti-Zionist political campaigns as anti-Semitic, while the real anti-Semitism of college life (which includes the WASP Greek system and WASP standards of physical beauty) remain totally ignored. They also sponsor "birthright" trips to the state of Israel (supposedly as ways of “cultivating Jewish identity,”) which really amount to Zionism indoctrination summer camps. Any fundamental criticism of the state of Israel is not tolerated by the national organization, which has fired high-ranking administrative officials in the past for any such "treasonous" behavior.


TheRadiKaL: Can someone be Jewish, Muslim, or Christian and be anti-Zionist? Do you see any truth in that Zionism (like Pan Arabism or U.S. 'Patriotism') are in themsevles secular & political though non-religious?

David Reznik: I can only speak to Zionism and U.S. "patriotism" because I am Jewish and a U.S. citizen (and therefore implicated in both whether I like it or not). To me, both of these ideologies originate from, and ultimately serve the interests of, the leadership in each community who construct a false sense of social unity based on imaginary differences. When rich WASP men talk about "America," I always wonder what it would feel like to be an African-American or Native American since the "America" they invoke was constructed through the enslavement of Africans and the slaughter of the indigenous peoples. Recognizing this hypocrisy, those in power here like to delineate "American" identity by setting it apart from the non-American "Others": Communists, Muslims, undocumented persons from Latin America, etc. In this way, everyone who’s a U.S. citizen (including racial/ethnic minorities, women, etc.) begins to believe that they are somehow “American,” even if "apple pie" and “Chevy trucks” are just as foreign to them as to the supposed non-American "Others." My parents are a good example of this: people who sadly bought into an "American" identity only to find decades later that they have never, and will never, really feel like they are actually "Americans."

It’s the same with Zionism: the white European Jewish leadership has constructed an identity that misleads the global public into believing that non-Jewish Palestinians are the enemy of Jews and that the governments of the U.S./Western European nations (including Germany) are Jews’ best friends. Never mind that the latter have for centuries engaged in holocausts of varying magnitudes against Jews, while the former are actually ethnically Semitic. It’s very convenient for Christian and secular “Americans” to buy into Zionism too, since they believe that it is in the U.S.’s “strategic interest” to have a mercenary military base in the Middle East that keeps an eye on all that oil.

Zionism and U.S. patriotism are therefore nothing more than a sham marriage of convenience, really. “Americans” (who have a long history of anti-Semitism) can feel good about supposedly being Jews’ best friends by supporting the state of Israel, and Israelis can feel a false sense of security in siding with the big, bad international bully at the expense of their sisters and brothers (i.e. the non-Jewish Palestinians).


TheRadiKaL: Last March UF's Arab, Muslim, and progressive communities erupted in universal clamor against what many called an Islamophobist ad. To the best of your recollection, tell us about that ad-campaign, what implications it sent, and how SG and the UF administration handled it. Do you recall if Bill McCollum rushed to the aid of the Arab & Muslim communities like he recently did for the Zionists?

David Reznik: I think your readers are probably pretty well-versed in the political play-by-play of this fiasco due to your efforts. Therefore, I won’t get too much into detail about it; however, I will discuss a particularly sad issue related to the incident that probably not too many people know about. I was subpoenaed by the SG Rules and Ethics Committee to testify about whether or not the advertisement was discriminatory against Arab and/or Muslim students on-campus. The entire line of defense offered by the leaders of the Hillel network of groups who put together and paid for the advertisement was that there was no “intent” to discriminate. In other words, they were trying to convince the committee that this was an “equal opportunity” attack on “terrorists” of all races and ethnicities. During my turn testifying, I explained that such an attempt to make the ad seem innocuous would be equivalent to the makers of an ad against “illegal immigrants” claiming that they were not targeting persons from Latin America or the makers of an ad against “welfare queens” claiming that they were not targeting impovershed African-American women. I mean, come on, were the committee members really so naïve that they were going to buy that, in a hysterically Islamophobic post-9/11 America, the use of the word “terror” and “terrorist” in the ad was somehow not meant to target to Arabs and/or Muslims? Well, as the committee’s ruling that the ad was not discriminatory demonstrates, I guess they really were that naïve (or more probably, felt pressured to vote as though they were that naïve since more than half of them were signatories of the ad themselves).

TheRadiKaL: What did you make of UF Supreme Court Justice Matthew Klein's bigoted email and half-apology? I say 'half' since he never apologized to Nakba or ACA.

David Reznik: I was obviously appalled by the sheer hatred emanating from his email, but not surprised. My previous experiences dealing with Matthew indicated that he is a very angry person; I believe he thrives on being a lightning rod for negative attention because of various troubles he has experienced/is experiencing in his personal life. At several points in time, my partner Kristen and I (who comprise the official student executive board of Nakba at this point in time) considered filing "defamation of character" charges against him for the libelous insinuations in his email and the slanderous accusations in his interviews with the press that Nakba was behind the "terrorist" acts of ripping down his group’s posters. However, we have chosen not to because we reasoned that someone who is so obviously acting out deserves some compassion, forgiveness, and love in return, not the negative reinforcement and backlash he expects to receive (and has probably tried to thrive on to this point). Along those same lines, I also have chosen not to highlight his (and the rest of his hate-mongering coalition’s) bigotry by doing a mock advertisement campaign for an event I would call “Miserly Judaism Wants Your Money!” complete with an email blast about how this is an event that “the money-grubbing Jewish leadership on-campus doesn’t want you to see” and how “their leadership” has been tearing down the flyers in an effort to “get at your every last penny.” Of course, I could always defend the event and its promotion by arguing that any Jews who were offended by the campaign are obviously “money-grubbing, miserly Jews” themselves, otherwise they wouldn’t have taken offense to it, right? And I could always include a little “disclaimer” like Matthew and the other “Obsession” organizers that the campaign would not be targeting Judaism as a religion or as a people, but only the small group of “misers” who are using Judaism to justify their “attacks” on people’s “bank accounts.” Ultimately, however, I don’t think such a mock campaign would be effective, since I don’t believe in fighting hate with more hate, even if my hate is satirical…

TheRadiKaL: Please tell us what reactions you had to the screening of "Obsession..," the movie posters, and the general tone it set at the university?

David Reznik: I have a very similar feeling about all the groups that organized the film as I do of Matthew Klein. In other words, I feel that most of these men (and I stress men, because the leadership of all of these groups are almost exclusively angry, frustrated men) are actively seeking to bully minority groups they have the institutional power to pick-on. I know this because I used to be a staunch Republican and Zionist just like them, and I remember that my favorite thing to do was be as loud and hateful as possible so that everyone would look at ME! SEE ME, HEAR ME, LOOK AT ME! At the time, most of this desperation was tied to my hatred of my manipulative and over-controlling father who was attempting to mold me into someone I was not: a womanizing businessman who placed the value of money above all else. Regarding the leaders of the College Republicans, Jewish Law Students Association, etc. I’m not quite sure what is going on in each of their lives, but I would imagine it’s something similar at the core with the idiosyncratic particularities of their personal biographies making each slightly different. Unfortunately, however, their collective acting out is not a benign process, and UF’s campus has become frighteningly similar to the small Italian town in Roberto Benigni’s movie “Life Is Beautiful” where fascist anti-Semitism is etched in chalk on the walls, shop windows, and ultimately people’s minds. What I mean is that the flyers, film screenings, and overall bullying in the press and through the administration creates a climate for Arab and/or Muslim students that is beyond hostile and unwelcoming; I wouldn’t be able to describe it accurately because I’ve never experienced such an all-encompassing and pervasive atmosphere of hate.

TheRadiKaL: What did you think of the 'meeting' between Justice Klein, Patricia Telles-Irvin, and IOC? Did you find it troubling when state officials & the U.S. right wing successfully pressured the Machen administration to rescind the PTI Ruling?

David Reznik: Although I did not attend the meeting (and curiously neither Kristen nor I were ever invited despite being accused of “terrorism” and being the subjects apparently of a UPD investigation into our group’s supposed flyer defacement/robbery), I must say that I found Dr. Patricia Telles-Irvin’s email to be relatively good coming from such an Islamophobic administration. I have actually written to President Machen and Co. before on issues relating to Islamophobia on-campus to no avail. However, it appeared to me that the leadership of IOC had succeeded in at least getting Dr. Telles-Irvin to “do the right thing.” Now the backlash that ensued was absolutely horrific. I’ve never seen such wanton racism as that which has taken place over the past few weeks: letters to the editor decrying “Islams” and “Islamics” (those are not even real words for crying out loud), people accusing those of us who were appalled by the flyers of being "radical terrorists" and/or their sympathizers, even the frickin’ State Attorney General’s office (who obviously have absolutely nothing better to do right now) getting involved. What a farcical, scary, and tragic display of ignorance and hate. If I was Arab and/or Muslim, I would be totally mortified by the sheer magnitude of institutionalized Islamophobia that has now been brought into plain view. But to me, the absolutely most despicable part was seeing President Machen quoted in the Gainesville Sun as saying that all was well with Attorney General McCollum despite the latter’s threats to actually sue the university for supposedly infringing on the free (hate) speech of the "Obsession" organizers:

"'It was fun," Machen said of his conversation with McCollum.'He's a Gator. He's coming to the Capital One Bowl, and we both care about free speech.'" (Gainesville Sun, December 14)

"He’s a Gator?" That’s supposed to comfort Arab and/or Muslim students? What about Dr. Telles-Irvin, whose judgment and morality have so obviously been belittled (I would imagine not for the first time) by arrogant male higher-ups who think they can “handle the situation better”? And finally, I wonder why Dr. Telles-Irvin’s free speech was not defended? According to the event organizers’ libertarian view of free speech, doesn’t she have the right to say whatever she wants, including ask for an apology from the "Obsession" organizers? It becomes painfully clear at this point what constitutes "freedom of speech" here at UF: the speech of white men is protected, while women and racial/ethnic minorities must hold their tongue…


TheRadiKaL: If you were to organize a real Arab-Israeli Peace negotiation, would you include Hamas? Should the State of Israel amend the Oslo Letters and recongize the will of the Palestinian electorate? Why or why not?

David Reznik: Being somewhat of a communist and anarchist (I think the two go together), the first thing I would do if I were organizing “peace” negotiations, would be to forget all the “leadership” and instead bring together the most downtrodden and forgotten persons from “both sides” (for example, trafficked sex slaves from Tel Aviv and the poorest widowed women from Gaza). I believe that people are beautiful and when they are not led astray by the power-plays of political parties and other such alienating institutional forces, they actualize peace through recognition of their common suffering. An example here is that there are non-Jewish Palestinian villagers who, on a daily basis, lead marches alongside Jewish Israeli anarchists against the continued construction of an apartheid wall in the West Bank, cutting fences down and breaking through other such vulgar inhumanities that the Israeli government attempts to impose in the name of Zionism. I find such actions to be the REAL "peace process," as opposed to all the high-falootin’ meetings and other b.s. we hear about through the mass media.

However, I have been called naïve for believing in such an “idealistic” pathway to “peace.” So, if you are asking me to shed my utopian visions (which would require me to be drugged and/or undergo memory erasure procedures), yes, I would include Hamas and all other elected Palestinian officials to any peace negotiations, because I try not to tell other people what they can or cannot do (including who they can/cannot elect as a representative government).


TheRadiKaL: What are your views on the State of Israel claiming Jerusalem as it's legal capital? Can there be peace without Holy City?

David Reznik: I do not believe in the institutional legitimacy of the state of Israel, so whatever city it claims as its “legal capital” does not really concern me a great deal. However, if it were up to me, the entire world would have one global state called Humanity and if enough people (including Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc.) wanted Jerusalem as its capital, then so be it…


TheRadiKaL: Word association time (5 words or less please):

Gators For Israel: Misguided and desperate for identity

Neturei Karta: Really nice people

Rob Heck: A truly wonderful friend

Islam On Campus: A great student organization

Matthew Klein: Needs more love

Bill McCollum: See Matthew Klein

Radical Islam: FOX News Islamophobia-speak

Zionism: We (Jews) have lost our way

Bush Administration: Cheating, lying bullies

Hamas' Electoral Victory: Elections mean nothing

Hamas/Fatah Clashes in Gaza: Really sad, but not unexpected

One State Solution: The only solution

Capitalism: Stop buying things for Christmas!

Multinationals:

Iran: Leave them alone

Syria: See Iran

Peace: Love is the answer


TheRadiKaL: Do you have a website or email where people can get in touch with you?

David Reznik: My website is www.clas.ufl.edu/users/dreznik and my email address is davidreznik@hotmail.com

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks David. Its good to know there are Jews out there who don't subscribe to imperialism in the name of "securing a future for the Jewish people" through militant agression. No doubt, Jews will be better off if they dont instigate the entire Muslim world and international diplomatic community by upholding the Occupation. Ironic, but true: its the anti-Zionist, anti-imperialist Jews who really have the best interest of the Jewish people in mind.

Anonymous said...

Is Lutin running?

Anonymous said...

Humm... well said. I am of the understanding that Hasidic Judaism also does not recognize Israel.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Master degree to teach in high school. Good job loser.

Christian Duque said...

Loser? lol, ah so you are advocating that people with less education teach America's youth? Also, are you familiar with UF's Pro Teach program? They have the highest hire rate in the state and they graduate with a B.A. & Masters of Education.

Loser? For wanting higher education to be a better teacher. Wow, you Zionists and U.S. nationalists really fear books huh? LOL

Anonymous said...

You actually get a supplement to your pay as well when you have anything past a single BS/BA degree.

Anonymous said...

A master's degree in sociology is hardly a degree at all. The same goes for education degrees.

Anonymous said...

this was an interesting article. Have you spoke with Matt Klein about his position and the comments stated from Mr. Reznik. I am not going to call anyone good or bad because they belong to a particular group. Kudos for Mr. Reznik for wanting to educate our children. I am not sold on his statements of hatred from Hillel though. Christian I hope we can truly rise above childish name calling and placing people in boxes. You further alienate the "bad guys" by calling them Zionist or US nationalist. I am not calling any group good or bad, but to stoop to an elementary level is absurd. Christian if you are the journalist I think you are I would like to see some balance and the other side you apparently detest in these "zionist" etc.

Anonymous said...

I love that Duque blatantly censors comments which make points he doesn't like now.

Jon said...

Good job David and Christian. I wish more people would read this.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:29...Neturei Karta is an ultra orthodox sect that espuses anti-Israel sentiment and they have been ostracized (and given the Jewish equivalent of excommunication) by all factions of the Jewish world, including other Hasidic sects that are anti-Zionist (most notably Satmar-Chassidim). While Hasidim like Satmar think a Jewish state will only arise after the Messiah arrives, they don't cross the line of full on supporting Palestinians leadership and other organizations that seek to see Jews thrown out of their homes and murdered in suicide bombings etc. On another token there are Chassidic groups like Chabad-Lubavtich that espouse pro-Israel philosophies based on TORAH facts stating that once Jews are in control of the land they are obligated to keep it and these Chassidim would never turn teir backs on half of world Jewry and leave that at the hands of the Arab world that thirsts to see the Jews pushed into the sea.

The only one who needs more love is Reznik, who seems to not have gotten enough from his womanzing businessman of a father who prob gave him no Jewish education, hence the star of david tattoo on his back and because of that, led him to date outside of Jewry (mom has to be Jewish for you to be Jewish, gotta continue having Jewish babies or no more Jews-shh Christian, don't get excited) which then lef him to seriously date a Palestinian who succeeded in brain washing him to hate his own people and accentuate his anarchist and communist leanings.

Christian Duque said...

I normally keep all hate-speech off the blog, because as of late it's been getting awfully chilling. This having been said, Anon 12:46, sometimes I will include malicious entries such as yours, in order to remind the readers that hateful people remain 'out there.'

I'm currently in another state and adjusting to life out here. The David Reznik interview will close out 2007, but big plans lay ahead for TR in 2008. There will be some SG coverage, though the extent of my blogging will probably be limited to a weekly-only capacity.

Anonymous said...

What about Gravel, Prof. Albert, ryanmoseley.com

Anonymous said...

Funny, because I've left comments that were completely unoffensive, and had them left out!

Chris said...

I'm not sure what to think of the issues discussed, because I don't think that I'm educated enough to understand all the ramifications of Zionism.

David, I'm glad that you are humbling yourself to teach high school. I believe that is a truly honorable prospect.

Finally, I ask you to carefully consider the words of G.K. Chesterton, and I urge you not to become the man he describes. He said this:

"But the new rebel is a Sceptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then he writes another book (about the sex problem) in which he insults it himself. He curses the Sultan because Christian girls lose their virginity, and then curses Mrs. Grundy because they keep it. As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie, and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie. He calls a flag a bauble, and then blames the oppressors of Poland or Ireland because they take away that bauble. The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite sceptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything."