Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Basque Victory at Stanford

Bad news to Zapatero and Aznar's undercover operator, they lost the Stanford Battle.

With the support of the big media they were able to gather 5,000 signatures from among 40 million Spaniards while the Basque camp was able to obtain 3,000 signatures from among 3 million Basques, if the percentage was not enough, the winners achieved that amount in one week only while their opponents had a full month to try to expand Spain's posture on freedom of speech.

Here you have the note from The Stanford Daily:

Basque debate continues

Second petition surfaces in support of President Ibarretxe’s arrival

February 13, 2008
By Kamil Dada

In anticipation of Thursday’s visit by the Basque Government president, a maelstrom of international controversy has surfaced. Stanford’s plans to host Juan Jose Ibarretxe has garnered coverage from both U.S. and Spanish media outlets, including the two largest Spanish national newspapers, El Pais and El Mundo.

A petition protesting Ibarretxe’s talk had garnered over 5,000 signatures as of Tuesday. However, within the last two weeks, another petition has emerged in support of the lecture. It has since received over 3,000 signatures.

The second petition calls on Stanford “to disregard the petitions of groups that pretend to obstruct freedom of speech.” It further argues that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

The democratically elected president’s visit has led to deep divisions over whether the leader should be allowed to speak on campus in the current format.

Rafael Dobado Gonzalez, a professor of history and economic institutions at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid who signed the first petition, said he wishes that the audience could be offered a contrasting perspective to Ibarretxe’s. He believes that the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), the political organization that Ibarretxe belongs to, has given long-standing political support to the terrorist organization Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA).

“The PNV opposes to any legal and political measure adopted by the Spanish government in order to weaken ETA,” Gonzalez said. “In short, the PNV exploits the existence of ETA and its methods — killing and kidnapping included — as a way to impose its rule on Basque society and to physically exclude non-Basque nationalists.”

Gonzalez cited an example in which the PNV, including Ibarretxe’s vice president, signed a 1998 secret political agreement with ETA “in order to create a new stage in the confrontation with Spain.” According to El Mundo, the PNV agreed “to break all agreement with [other non-nationalist, political parties] whose goal is the destruction of the Basque Country and the building of Spain.” The leaders of the PNV denied this agreement until the ETA published it in the Spanish newspaper, Gara, on Apr. 30, 2000.

Gonzalez added that he believed the talk would be used as a political platform.

“[Ibarretxe] is not an academic trying to search the truth on a certain scientific issue to relevant colleagues,” he said. “He is a politician attempting [to sell] his political merchandise to a distinguished and influential audience without competitors. At the same time, he will sell [his message] in Spain, especially, in the Basque Country that Stanford is receptive to his message.”

But Jeff Wachtel, special assistant to Stanford President John Hennessy, championed free expression and the exchange of ideas.

“While we recognize that there are those who disagree with Mr. Ibarretxe, the principle of free speech and open discourse on this subject takes priority at a university,” Wachtel said. “President Hennessy’s analysis and personal opinion [on] the political issues that have been raised does not have a bearing on this invitation.”

Elisenda Paluzie, an economics scholar in Spain, was one of the people who signed the second petition, which was in support of the lecture.

“[The protesters’] proposal to either cancel the event altogether, or to invite a political challenger to Ibarretxe’s claims is not only ridiculous but it reveals a deeply inquisitorial, dictatorial and anti-democratic vein,” Paluzie said.

She, too, placed an emphasis on the need for free speech.

“This conference also fulfills one of the roles of the university,” Paluzie said. “A place where one listens to different ideas, discusses and debates political, historical, philosophical issues. It is an opportunity for students and scholars to listen to a political leader from a minority people — the Basques.”

Paluzie further explained that for the majority of Spaniards, the existence of different nations, cultures and languages is a problem.

“They would never recognize [the Basques’] right to self-determination, their right to decide, as stated by President Wilson’s Fourteen Points or the U.N. Charter,” she said. “Ibarretxe’s proposal is about giving the voice and the decision to the Basques.”

A number of the organizers and supporters of the petition are planning to protest during the lecture, which will be held at Arrillaga Alumni Center at 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon.

“I want the Americans to know that in Europe the nationalists still have some power,” said Jose Jenaro, a Silicon Valley worker who grew up in the Basque city of Vitoria and plans to protest the talk. “They market themselves as peaceful people, but in reality they control the media, the streets and they terrorize their own people.”

Laura Wilson, chief of police at the Department of Public Safety (DPS), said that the protesters should be aware of what constitutes a legal protest.

“What is not permissible is to disrupt an event to the degree that lawful business, such as the ability of a speaker to speak, cannot be continued,” she said. “If an event is closed to the public or tickets are required, it is illegal to obtain entry and a person may be subject to arrest for trespassing. It is also a violation of law to incite others to riot.”

For security reasons, Wilson was not able to discuss the specifics of the security measures for the Ibarretxe event. However, Nick Brunot, a police services officer from the DPS, pointed out that he had been advising the organizers on how to protest legally.

“We have created a demonstration area for the protest group outside the lecture,” he said, “[in order] to allow them to exercise their first amendment right.”

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