May 26, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — Two Jewish groups are demanding that the chancellor at the University of California, Irvine denounce an anti-Israel, anti-Semitic speaker hosted by a campus Muslim group.
The Zionist Organization of America and the Orange County, Calif., chapter of the Anti-Defamation League have asked Michael Drake to condemn the May 13 speech by Amir Abdel Malik Ali and revoke the charter of the Muslim Student Union that hosted him.
In his speech, delivered as part of “Israel Apartheid Week,” an annual event on several U.S. campuses, Ali compared Jews to Nazis and said Muslim students should not engage in dialogue with them.
Jews would not be expected to sit down with Nazis “for tea and cake,” Malik Ali said. Then, referring to Jewish students, he said, “You all are the new Nazis. So we’re saying, we ain’t sitting down with you for tea and crumpets.”
“How long must we hear Malik Ali support terrorism, express hatred of Jews and call for the destruction of the State of Israel before the university is willing to denounce him and those who invite him?” asked Kevin O’Grady, the ADL’s regional director for Orange County.
In a May 17 letter to Drake, ZOA leaders insisted that “It is your obligation to ensure that these deplorable circumstances finally stop.”
Drake condemned the speech, but has refrained from denouncing Malik Ali by name or taking action against the Muslim Student Association.
University spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon said the chancellor’s original message was sufficient.
“His message was to reinforce the campus values” of respect and civil dialogue, she said, “not to respond directly to a speaker or organization.”
The chancellor “does not feel calling out a particular speaker is the correct response,” she added.
Drake chairs UC-Irvine’s new Advisory Committee on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion, a multi-constituency panel to monitor the interpersonal and intergroup atmosphere on campus.
In late March, the president of the UC system, Mark Yudof, asked each campus to create such a committee. He did so in response to the recent spate of racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic violence that has plagued the UC system.
Lawhon noted that this week UC-Irvine is hosting iFest, a celebration of Israeli culture put on by Hillel and Anteaters for Israel.
UC-Irvine has long been a flashpoint in the campus pro-Israel wars, notably last February when hecklers interrupted a speech by Israel’s U.S. ambassador, Michael Oren.
The ZOA previously has accused the university of enabling bigotry and violating civil rights “by failing to condemn longstanding anti-Semitic and Israel-bashing speech and conduct on campus, and failing to enforce its own policies against the perpetrators.”