Text of ZOA’S Letter to UC President Mark Yudof
Dear President Yudof:
We were very disappointed in your response to the many messages of concern and outrage you received about the anti-Semitic program sponsored by the Muslim Student Union (MSU) at the University of California, Irvine from May 5-21, 2009. Given a disgraceful title
promoting an anti-Israel falsehood – “Israel: The Politics of Genocide” – the MSU’s program consisted of more than two weeks of hateful lies about Jews, Zionism and Israel. With all due respect, your response was much too understated and qualified. You should have absolutely and unconditionally condemned a program that – as it does every year – promoted hatred of Jews and Israel.
By now you surely know the details of the event. The MSU displayed posters that said, “anti-hate = anti-Israel,” and “Stop Israeli Genocide.” What could be a more despicable lie than to characterize Israel’s efforts to protect its people from suicide bombings and rocket and missile attacks as “genocide”? If there were no Arab terrorism and no rockets and missiles being launched in a deliberate attempt to murder innocent Jewish people, not a single bullet would leave a single Israeli rifle.
The MSU cruelly displayed the Israeli flag with the Jewish Star of David ripped and blood-stained. The MSU made false and absurd comparisons between the Palestinians’ situation (virtually all of which they have brought on themselves) to the deliberate murder of Jews during the Holocaust. The MSU erected what it calls an “apartheid wall,” when the fact is that Israel was forced to erect a security fence in order to protect innocent civilians from Palestinian Arab suicide bombings and terror attacks; if there were no terror attacks and suicide bombings by Arabs against innocent Jewish people, there would be no so-called “wall.”
The MSU even went so far as to display an image of Anne Frank – probably the bestknown symbol of the horror and tragedy of the Holocaust – wearing a keffiyeh, under the mocking heading “Fashion Sense.” We understand that this image was even too much for the UCI administration. Completely contradicting its supposed adherence to the First Amendment right to free expression, the UCI administration reportedly compelled the MSU to cover up the image of Anne Frank wearing a keffiyeh, as if the rest of the hate and bigotry of the past two weeks was acceptable and not deserving of a single comment of criticism or denunciation from the university leadership.
As it does frequently, the MSU invited Amir Abdel Malik Ali to speak at this most recent Israel-bashing event — twice. As he typically does, Malik Ali demonized “Zionist Jews” – as if prefacing his accusations against Jews with the word “Zionist” makes the accusations any less anti-Semitic. He actually referred to Jews as Satan. He dredged up all of the age-old anti-Semiticstereotypes of Jews, describing them as sneaky, crafty, conspiratorial, inhumane and not to be trusted. Here are just a few examples of his hateful and anti-Semitic speech:
- · “The Zionist Jew is of the party of Shaytan – Satan. They follow the Shaytan’s pattern.”
- · “One of the characteristics of the Shaytan – Satan – is that he likes to operate behind closed doors. Satan is slick, . . . he operates in the shadows, in the dark.”
- · “That’s the Zionist. The Zionist likes working behind the scenes, behind the scenes. They can’t operate in sunshine. They gotta be behind the scenes.”
- “Bring them out in the open. Bring ‘em out. Let them spew that racist ideology. It’s not a racist ideology that’s reserved only for the Palestinians, it’s a racist ideology that’s reserved for everybody.”
- · “For those Jews who are starting to wake up and come back to their humanity, keep going. The highest point you can come to, the highest point you can get to, is to become an anti-Zionist. That you are against Zionism itself. Don’t stop at simplythinking that we just have to do this and then everything will be fine. No. You get to the point where you believe with all your heart we have to get rid of Zionism. That that is the problem. Now you have gotten to the point. Now you’ve gotten there.Now you’re there. You’re an anti-Zionist Jew.”
These words are nothing less than incitement to hatred and violence against Jews and Israel, including Jewish students at UCI. These are the kinds of words that were heard at Nazi rallies in Munich in the 1930’s, and that would be met with a standing ovation.
Even before the program began, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) understood exactly what the MSU was doing and issued a clear and unambiguous condemnation of the program, recognizing from the title and line-up of speakers alone, that the event “appears intended to encourage violence against the State of Israel and propagate the spread of anti- Semitism.” Referring to a previous speech at UCI by Amir Abdel Malik Ali, Congressman Sherman called it “a stain on the fabric of a great university, which can be cleaned only by the
personal and public denunciation of its Chancellor.” Congressman Sherman affirmed his support program as anti-Semitic. He spoke with one voice as a public leader and a private citizen.
Yet in your response to the many messages of concern and outrage you received about the MSU’s hateful event, you were careful to “separate my public role as President of a state university from my private life as a Jewish man who is active in Jewish causes and a strong defender of Israel.” In your response, you were careful to “remove my cap and gown and to exercise my First Amendment rights as a private citizen.” In your response, you were careful to condemn only “the title of the series” [emphasis added] as “virulent, historically inaccurate, and offensive to Jewish people everywhere.”
Respectfully, you lost an opportunity to exercise the moral leadership that has been entrusted to you. There should be no difference in your outrage about the MSU’s anti-Semitic bigotry, whether you are speaking as a private citizen or an educational leader. In fact, it was incumbent on you in your capacity as an educational leader to denounce the MSU’s program as hateful and anti-Semitic.
In addition, the title of the program, while offensive, was not the meat of the problem. The content of the MSU’s program is what you should have boldly condemned. Demonizing and vilifying Israel, exploiting age-old stereotypes of Jews, and drawing comparisons of
contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis is anti-Semitism. That is what you should have said, instead of narrowly focusing on the title of the event alone.
Finally, your response to the MSU’s program should not have anything to do with whether you are Jewish or not, or active in Jewish or pro-Israel causes or indifferent to them. Regardless of your religious background or the level of your activism, anti-Semitic bigotry is wrong and unacceptable, and that is what you should have made crystal clear. Anti-Semitic bigotry has no place on the UCI campus or anywhere else, and you should have soundly condemned the expression of that bigotry by the MSU these past two weeks, without any of the qualifications that you attached to your statement. Anti-Semitism should be criticized and condemned not just by Jews or Jewish and pro-Israel activists, but by all decent and moral people who abhor bigotry. With all due respect, it was appalling and shameful for you to say that only Jewish people would be offended by the MSU’s program. Everyone should be offended and most people are.
We have asked you repeatedly to address the problem of anti-Semitism at UCI, specifically imploring you to exercise your First Amendment right to condemn hateful Israelbashing speakers and programs by name, as well as the student groups who are sponsoring them, so that the university community – especially the perpetrators – understands what is wrong and why. How disappointing that when you finally spoke out, it was done with unwarranted caution and inappropriate qualification.
What has been going on at UCI is shameful, frightening and dangerous – not only to Jews on campus, but to Jews in the larger community. Mr. President, we strongly urge you to actimmediately – to publicly and unequivocally condemn, by name, the perpetrators of the anti-Semitic bigotry, as well as the hateful, anti-Semitic programs they are sponsoring at UCI on aregular basis.
Note: It might also be pointed out that ZOA’s example that President Yudof simply alluded to the title of the program, likely stems from the furror caused by the public outrage over OC Task Force photos of the UCI Marquee (and of Anne Frank in kaffiyah on the side of a mock Israeli tank). The release of the photos created an avalanche of letters and phone calls to his office as well as a letter from ZOA to UCI’s General Council. It is likely that if the University hadn’t been caught in apparent violation of State and University Codes, Mr. Yudof might well have continued to remain entirely silent on this subject.—OCITF
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