Stephen Zunes was born in 1956 in Salisbury, North Carolina, to parents who were active in civil-rights, nuclear-disarmament, antiwar, and pro-Palestinian causes. He earned a B.A. in Government from Oberlin College in 1979, an M.A. in Government from Temple University in 1983, and a Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University in 1989. Zunes subsequently worked as an Assistant Professor of Politics at Ithaca College (1986-89), Whitman College (1989-91), and the University of Puget Sound (1993-94). Since 1995 he has been a Professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco, where he also chairs the Middle Eastern Studies Department. In addition to his teaching duties, Zunes has served since 1999 as a senior policy analyst at the Institute for Policy Studies, and since 2006 as a member of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict‘s academic advisory council. Moreover, he is an associate editor of Peace Review, and a contributing editor of Tikkun.
In May 2004, Zunes made a speech at a Santa Cruz, California event entitled “From Iraq to Palestine: U.S. Imperialism in the Middle East.” This event was co-sponsored by the Committee for Justice in Palestine, an Ohio State University (OSU) group that ran a Divestment Campaign exhorting OSU officials to sever all of the university’s financial ties to Israeli corporations and interests.
An inveterate critic of American foreign policy, Zunes wrote in May 2006 that: “[T]he United States is … out of step with the vast majority of the international community regarding the treaty banning land mines, the International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, and the embargo against Cuba. Similarly, two decades ago the United States was also out of step with the vast majority of the international community in regard to the mining of Nicaraguan harbors and support for the Contra terrorists as well as opposition to sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa and allying with Pretoria in supporting the UNITA rebels in Angola.”
In a similar vein, Zunes characterized the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq as an “illegal and immoral war of aggression” where President George W. Bush “deliberately misled us, exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and Iraq in order to justify” military action. And in December 2015, Zunes wrote that the rise of the Islamic terror group ISIS was “a direct consequence of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.” “Had Congress not authorized President George W. Bush the authority to illegally invade a country on the far side of the world that was no threat to us,” he elaborated, “and to fund the occupation and bloody counter-insurgency war that followed, the reign of terror ISIS has imposed upon large swathes of Syria and Iraq … would never have happened.”
Zunes is particularly opposed to American support for Israel. In his 2003 book Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism, he writes that U.S. financial aid to the Jewish state “has generally increased as the [Israeli] government’s repression in the occupied territories has worsened,” to the point where “it is the most generous foreign aid program ever between two countries.” Tinderbox received glowing reviews from such noteworthy leftists as Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Richard Falk, Saul Landau, and Rabbi Michael Lerner.
A supporter of the Hamas-inspired Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, Zunes has voiced his contempt for the Jewish state on many occasions. “The identification many Americans have with Zionism in the Middle East,” he suggests, is “a reflection of our own historic experience as pioneers in North America, building a nation based upon noble, idealistic values while simultaneously suppressing and expelling the indigenous population.” Moreover, Zunes has condemned “Israel’s colonization of occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank and greater East Jerusalem”; denounced the “Israeli annexation of territories seized in the 1967 war”—a war that in fact was precipitated by a joint Egyptian-Syrian-Jordanian effort to annihilate the Jewish state militarily; falsely claimed that “during the period of Israel’s war of independence between 1947 and 1949, Zionist forces forcibly removed many tens of thousands of Palestinians from their homes who were never able to return, what is today known as ‘ethnic cleansing’”; accused Israel of repeatedly and unjustifiably launching “devastating attacks” designed to kill innocents in “crowded residential neighborhoods” in the Gaza Strip; and accused Israel’s government of engaging in “a pattern of gross and systematic human rights violations.” After the longtime peace activist Daniel Berrigan died in April 2016, Zunes praised him for his “prophetic voice” and his harsh criticisms of Israel’s “militarism,” “racism,” and “crimes against humanity.”
In January 2012 at the Revolution Books store in Berkeley, California, Zunes spoke on a panel titled “U.S.-Israeli Assault on Iran Escalates: The Danger of War Grows.” All who came to the event were handed a copy of Revolution, the newspaper for the Revolutionary Communist Party USA. They were also given a flier for International A.N.S.W.E.R.‘s then-forthcoming “national day of action” in San Francisco, whose rallying cry was: “No War on Iran, No Sanctions, No Interventions, No Assassinations!” Some noteworthy excerpts from, and facts about, Zunes’s remarks:
On August 5, 2012, Zunes made his seventh appearance at the hilltop Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley (UUCB), whose “Social Justice Council,” according to the UUCB website, sponsored “forums focusing on social justice topics” and the creation of “a better, more just world.” Zunes’s topic, on this occasion, was “The United States and Iran.” Some noteworthy excerpts from, and facts about, Zunes’s remarks:
In a November 2013 article he wrote for AlterNet.org, Zunes described Iran’s newly elected president, Hassan Rouhani, as a “moderate,” and complained that “ hardliners in Washington” were trying to scuttle a potential negotiated deal designed to impose “strict safeguards to prevent the enrichment of uranium to a degree that could be used for the development of [Iranian] nuclear weapons.”
On February 12, 2016, Zunes wrote an article for Foreign Policy In Focus, stating that America is a “pervasively sexist society.”
Zunes believes that “widespread racism toward Arabs and Muslims” is highly “prevalent in American society.” After a jihadist named Omar Mateen, who professed allegiance to the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS or ISIL), used a gun to murder 49 people and wound 53 others at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida in June 2016, Zunes emphasized that “the overwhelming majority of killings of LGBTQ people here in the United States,” as well as most mass shootings generally, “have been committed by Christians of European ancestry.” He described a recent (December 2015) Islamic terrorist attack that had killed 14 people in San Bernardino as “one of the exceptions,” and complained that “you had politicians jumping all over [it] … to justify … Islamophobic policies.” “So, this use of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment,” Zunes added, “serves purposes both to avoid looking at rational reforms in gun laws but also as a means of frightening the American people into supporting more U.S. military intervention in the Middle East.”
In a July 3, 2016 article which he wrote for the Huffington Post, Zunes denounced “the dramatic and disruptive [Brexit] decision by the U.K. Electorate” to leave the European Union, as a measure “apparently rooted in anti-immigrant sentiment.” “British authorities have already reported an alarming spike in anti-immigrant hate crimes since the ‘Brexit’ referendum,” he said. “Fear of terrorist attacks is causing not just a rise in xenophobia, but an erosion of civil liberties, a rise in anti-Muslim activity, and the threat of further Western military intervention in the Middle East.”
In December 2017, Zunes described Israel’s presence in East Jerusalem as “a foreign, belligerent occupation.” That same month, he characterized the First Palestinian Intifada as a “non-violent” action.
For additional information on Stephen Zunes, click here.
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