Sunday, September 14, 2008 – By: Gerstenfeld, Dr. Manfred
…….The academic year 2007-2008 saw ongoing anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic incidents in various countries. Among them is Israel Apartheid Week, which has become an annual ritual in a number of cities on several continents. So have the calls of the University and College Union (UCU) in the United Kingdom for discriminatory measures against Israeli universities and academics. In several universities, such as on some campuses of the University of California, anti-Israelism is endemic…….
Investigations at the University of California-Irvine
In 2006 the Hillel Foundation of Orange County set up a task force to investigate anti-Semitism on the UC-Irvine campus. They interviewed people about incidents that had occurred there. Officials from the school, however, including the chancellor, refused to be interviewed claiming it was against school policy. The interviews began in February 2007, but by August of that year Hillel decided the task was too extensive and discontinued its association with the project.
The investigation was later continued by members of the Jewish community of Orange County. They published their report in February 2008. This document is of major importance as it examines the structural problems of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli hate at one American university in their totality rather than dealing only with a number of incidents. It can serve as a model for similar investigations at other universities, Columbia and UC-Santa Cruz being among the prime candidates.
The new group’s report states that “acts of anti-Semitism are real and well documented. Jewish students have been harassed. Hate speech is unrelenting.” Furthermore, “Some faculty members have used their classroom as a forum for their anti-Israel agenda.”
The authors also assert that: “The Muslim Student Union…allies itself and identifies itself with terrorist groups that are enemies of the Unites States.” About the administration they note:
The Chancellor has failed to exercise his moral authority as an educator and leader by abrogating his leadership responsibilities. The boundaries of rational and reasonable discourse by constituencies that have differing positions on emotional issues have not been established. There is no indication that the University is at all concerned about the disconnect between campus values and the values of the greater society.
The report also mentions that the Jewish community as a whole has not been proactive. It even includes a suggestion that Jewish students should not attend school at UC-Irvine.
At the request of the Zionist Organization of America, the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) also launched an investigation into anti-Semitic incidents at UC-Irvine. After some initial inquiries, the office claimed it had not been informed in time and, based on this technicality, ceased the investigation. The task force of the Jewish community, however, concluded that there was evidence that all twenty-six incidents the OCR was supposed to investigate had indeed taken place, and that there had been additional ones as well.
An Abundance of Anti-Israeli Events
The 2007-2008 academic year was marked by numerous anti-Israeli events at UC-Irvine. In February 2008 an Israel Apartheid Week was held. This included a lecture by Imam Mohammad Al-Asi titled “From Auschwitz to Gaza: The Politics of Genocide.” He said Israel was an apartheid state and that “Israel is on the way down…your days are numbered. We will fight you until we are martyred or until we are victorious.”
Al-Asi returned to UC-Irvine in May 2008 to take part in a weeklong event to commemorate the Nakba, that is, the Arabs’ catastrophic defeat in the 1948 war against Israel. Other speakers were Norman Finkelstein and the imam Amir Abdel Malik Ali, who praised Palestinian mothers who sent out their children as suicide bombers.
When Daniel Pipes spoke in January 2008 at UC-Irvine on the threat to Israel’s existence, he was interrupted by pro-Palestinian students who were then removed from the audience. They continued their protest outside, saying things such as “it’s just a matter of time before the state of Israel will be wiped off the face of the earth…just keep on doing what we are doing, our weapon, our jihad, our way of struggling. May Allah give them strength.” Pipes, later interviewed by Hannity and Colmes on Fox News, said the school did not care about this type of disturbance.
Twenty students and alumni at UC-Irvine who were dissatisfied with the handling and representation of the events on campus wrote a letter to UC chancellor Michael V. Drake. It began: “We are deeply concerned about the anti-Semitism at UCI that has been frequently couched as false and hateful attacks on Israel. We do not believe that Chancellor Drake has exercised his responsibility as an educator and university leader in response to the anti-Semitism.” Drake, while condemning hate speech, never specifically condemned anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism even though they were rife on campus.
Hillel Invites Drake
Several of these students also wrote a letter to Hillel International president Wayne Firestone, saying they were upset that Chancellor Drake had been invited as a guest speaker at the National Summit of Hillel to lead a session on “Fostering a More Civil Society.” Firestone answered that it is better to work with such people than to dismiss them.
Regarding the invitation to Drake, Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America said: “By giving him a podium to give a speech, that only sends a message to him and to others that we are reasonably comfortable with the actions he’s taken to fight anti-Semitism and Israel bashing on campus when in fact he has said virtually nothing to give comfort to Jewish students on campus.”
Isi Leibler, former senior vice-president of the World Jewish Congress criticized Firestone’s statement that there was no relationship between anti-Israeli activity and anti-Semitism: “It is surely disconcerting for a Hillel president to express views by now repudiated even by such bodies as the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, not to mention the US government.”………………
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