Palestinian advocate's behavior at meetings spinning out of control

Ann Arbor News

December 12, 2006

by Tom Gantert

Four years ago, Blaine Coleman, the anti-Israel protester, wasn't the buffoon who has been arrested twice in a recent five-day span.

He wasn't the man who went into last week's Ann Arbor City Council meeting holding up an obscene sign containing the F-word in front of a group of visiting Boy Scouts from a local elementary school.

The Blaine Coleman in 2002, when he first started showing up at City Council meetings, was interested in debate and changing people's minds about the long-standing Palestinian issue.

The Blaine Coleman of today needs to be shut down.

His own pro-Palestinian peace group recognized that when they voted to kick him out earlier this year because of his conduct.

Then, after his second arrest for disrupting a public event, he telephoned me.

He wouldn't answer the question of the night: "How did standing in front of a group of elementary school Boy Scouts with an obscene sign further the Palestinian cause?''

The truth is that nothing Coleman has done in the past year has helped Palestinians.

You have to look no further than Ron Suarez, the newly elected 1st Ward council member to know that.

Suarez agrees with Coleman's claim that within the occupied territories, the situation is very similar to apartheid. He agrees that most Americans are not getting the real story of what is going on in the occupied territories.

Suarez said he'd be embarrassed to admit his views because of "people like Blaine Coleman.''

"The Palestinian cause is hurt by Blaine,'' Suarez said.

Contrast Coleman to Henry Herskovitz, another pro-Palestinian protester who also shows up at City Council and other public meetings.

Some past and current council members have said they may disagree with his views, but will listen to him because, unlike Coleman, he presents them rationally.

For Coleman, there is little hope.

His recent conduct is painful to watch, nothing more than a pathetic circus sideshow.

The thought of a man wanting to change opinions coming into an ongoing public meeting with the F-word on a large two-word sign and screaming a Supreme Court case's name to defend his vulgarity as he's hauled off shows he's lost his way. His followers who defend him are in shameful denial.

The Ann Arbor City Council rules say the council can ban people who constantly disrupt meetings for a specified period of time. Most council members are hesitant to do that.

Coleman and his sidekick Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, who usually stands by Coleman at meetings, have become hate-mongers. They offer only insults and antagonism. They make you want to run away from, rather than embrace their cause.

At the Jewish Community Center this year, Savabiesasfahani was protesting a Jewish speaker. She did it by standing with a bullhorn yelling racial insults at people as they entered.

They think to disrupt and insult is the only way to deal with opposing views.

It wasn't always like that for Coleman.

Now, Coleman will only recite familiar rants about the City Council.

"This City Council is directly responsible for the murder of 4,000 Palestinians,'' he said, during his call to me. "That's why we have been demanding that Ann Arbor divest from the racist violent state of Israel for years and years. Why is it so impossible for City Council to even have a public hearing on divestment?''

Holding the Ann Arbor City Council responsible for the madness in the Middle East is ridiculous.

But ridiculous is what Coleman has become in the past year.

Tom Gantert can be reached at 734-994-6701 or