Friday, May 9, 2014

Threats and Intimidation by Hillel and Jewish Federation at UC Irvine

Gary Fouse

Anteaters for Israel forced to cancel speaking appearance by Nonie Darwish at I-Fest.

                                   "One person's hate speech is another person's education."

Hat tip Frontpage Magazine

Nicole Hungerford has an article in Frontpage Magazine describng how Hillel of Orange County and the Orange County Jewish Federation pressured Anteaters for Israel, a Jewish student group on the UC Irvine campus to withdraw a speaking invitation to Nonie Darwish.     

In response, Hilell's statements about Nonie Darwsih do not hold water. I have attended the last two appearances of Darwish to the UCI campus, and there was no security problem or incident. (Of course, she travels with her own security because of the threats on her life. Secondly, as a representative of Arabs for Israel, Darwish could have limited her talk to her support for Israel as a native-born Egyptian. How is that divisive?

In my last several years of confronting anti-Semitic hate speech on the UC Irvine campus, I have learned that Hillel is a useless organization at best and a big problem at worst. Of course, Hillel chapters, which are devoted to enhancing Jewish student life on campuses, vary from area to area, and I have no beef with those endeavors Presently, There is a great struggle going on as we speak between the new national leadership, which is against the involvement in Hillel of groups hostile to Israel vs several "open chapters", who want to accommodate anti-Israel Jews as well. Just to give you a taste of the flavor of Orange County Hillel, here is a piece I posted back in 2011 regarding this outfit.

I may not have a dog in that hunt, but I do object when Hillel's lack of willingness to stand up to anti-Semitism when it comes from campus events pertaining to the Israel-Palestinian issue conflicts with my own efforts to address these issues at UC Irvine.

One thing I want to underline: I have no quarrel with Jewish students who choose not to get involved with these issues on campus. They have a variety of reasons to make that choice, and some of it may depend on their own level of religious devotion or their own attitudes toward Israel. Besides, a lot of these young people on campus just want to do their studies, get along with fellow students, and not be involved in contentious issues. I get that. That is their choice, and I respect it.

What I don't respect are the so-called adults in the Hillel leadership who advise Jewish students not to get involved in these particular issues and in some cases put pressure on these students not to get involved. This is just the latest example of Hillel and Jewish Federation doing just that.

I had the occasion to exchange a few words with one of those high-ranking officials of Orange County Hillel Monday-before-last on the first day of the MSU anti-Israel week of events. I am going to leave his name out of this, but I am going to relate the conversation as it was heard by two witnesses who were party to the conversation.

In discussing the event at UCI and the recent BDS vote-down at UCLA, this person mentioned that he had been meeting with students at UCLA during that controversy. He then went on to say that things were much better in this regard at UCI than in past years. He listed the usual things like the upcoming I-Fest and the various religious dinners they have held on campus for the students etc. He also took issue with those who came out to oppose the MSU's speakers saying that it just gave them undue attention.

One of my friends and associates took issue and told this individual about what had been going on at UCI prior to the recent arrival of this individual. He explained the work of the Orange County Independent Task Force on Anti-Semitism at UCI.

I also jumped in and told him of the things I had seen and done in recent years at UCI. I told him of the times myself and others had shown up at the MSU events and documented what was being said and participated actively in q and a. I told him the two times I had stood face to face with Amir Abdel Malik Ali  after his speech and  told him why he was anti-Semite and his positions were wrong. I also told him that at times, I as a Gentile was wondering where all the Jews were while I was taking on Ali.

To all this this character said, "Well, I think that's counter-productive".

It was when my friend asked him who he was and he mentioned his position with Hillel, as well as the Rose Project, we both reacted, "This is the problem." "That explains everything" and walked away.

Again, it may be none of my business, but it is my opinion that Jewish students who wish to stand up to anti-Semitism on campus when it arises out of the Israel-Palestinian conflict need to find other sources of funding than Hillel, the Jewish Federation of Orange County, and its financial arm, the Rose Project. These organizations have a built-in conflict of interest. These people know that if Jewish students decide not to attend UCI because of perceived anti-Semitism, they are all out of a job.

Which they should be.

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