It matters not whether you are Jewish or not. If you are becoming alarmed at the rise of anti-Semitism on our university campuses, and you are thinking about becoming involved, you need to know exactly who it is you are fighting. It is not just the Jew haters.
I have been involved in this problem for almost ten years as a (Gentile) part-time teacher at UC Irvine. There have been times that UCI has become the object of national attention for this problem, for example, in 2010, when the speech of the Israeli ambassador to the US was loudly and repeatedly disrupted by members of the UCI Muslim Student Union. (One student was from UC Riverside.) To be fair, UCI is hardly alone because these problems are erupting on campuses across North America. Just recently, however, on May 18, Students for Justice in Palestine and other student groups disrupted the screening of a Pro-Israel military movie by Students Supporting Israel at UCI. Once again, UCI has a black eye over an ugly incident that has gathered national attention. To make matters worse, at least two of the people disrupting the event identified themselves as lawyers from the National Lawyers Guild at the UCI Law School. They reportedly told the terrified Jewish female students that the protesters had a right to be let in (apparently as they were trying to force their way through the door). Campus Police had to be called to protect the Jewish students, but no arrests were made.
So why are we having this problem?
The cause is not neo-nazis or skin heads. The cause of the problem is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the agitation of pro-Palestinian students. Those students (and many professors and outside speakers) are not all Arabs. Nor are they all Muslims. While many Muslim Student Association chapters have been involved in the anti-Israel movement, a movement that has often spilled over into anti-Jewish expression, their "sister organization", Students for Justice in Palestine, is made up of Muslims and students of other faiths (or non-faiths) and even Jews. It is they who are increasingly in the front lines when unpleasant incidents take place on college campuses. They were co-founded by a Palestinian-born professor at UC Berkeley, Hatem Bazian, a man who once called for an intifada in America.
So those people are the ones we have to counter, right? We have to counter their lies about Israel and expose their actions on campus to the public, actions which sometimes can only be described as brown shirt tactics like shutting down any speech or event that is in support of Israel. We just saw it again at UCI on May 18. Those are the ones we have to counter, right?
So they are. Yes, but they are just one head of a three-headed monster.
The second head is the universities themselves. All but a few private colleges are solidly in the hands of the left. On the one hand, you have left-wing faculty members who dominate the humanities and social sciences. They are solidly on the side of the Palestinian narrative. For them, opposing Israel, the only democratic nation in the Middle East, is simply part and parcel of opposing their own country-part of the extreme left-wing agenda. It's like baseball and hot dogs.
On the other hand, you have the administrators-the chancellors and presidents- a group of cowards so afraid of their own shadows and running afoul of political correctness that they make Bert Lahr look like the hero in The Wizard of Oz. (He played the cowardly lion.) Up to this point, they have been unwilling to confront the perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts on campus. Why? Simple. Often the perpetrators are Muslim, which the universities consider a protected class-a marginalized minority, if you will. Jews on the other hand are lumped together with whites ("privileged whites" as they say in academia). Besides, nobody wants to offend the Muslims, right? That has consequences, legal and other. It is all about political correctness. That is why one university after another stands by while their student governments are forced to waste days and days and into the wee hours debating useless boycott resolutions against Israel and companies doing business with the Jewish state. They have to endure heated rhetoric, Jews being insulted and hooted-and in the recent case of UC Davis- swastikas painted on a Jewish fraternity wall. But it's all free speech, you see.
So we then stand up and write hundreds of letters to university presidents and demand that they confront anti-Semitism on campus. We line up the major Jewish organizations to stand with us and demand..........
That. my friends, takes us to the third head of the three-headed monster, the major, national Jewish organizations. The problem is that they are missing in action, and worse still, in many cases are thwarting our efforts to put pressure on the universities to reform and protect Jewish students.
First, let me mention a few organizations that are doing the right thing. That would be the Zionist Organization of America, Stand With Us, the AMCHA Initiative, and CAMERA. There are some others including those that I omit simply because I am unaware of them.
On the other hand, the Anti-Defamation League, in my view, is missing in action. Their previous CEO, Abe Foxman denied any problem of anti-Semitism at UCI a few years ago in Newport Beach when he addressed a Jewish group. I was not present, but a close friend of mine from the Orange County Independent Task Force on Anti-Semitism was. He pointedly asked Foxman his opinion about the problems at UCI, to which Foxman replied that there were no problems-that the Jewish students and administrators had it under control. (They certainly didn't have it under control on May 18.)
In addition, every May, when the UCI-MSU brought their anti-Israel week of events to UCI, I would see the then head of ADL's Orange County branch watching, listening and saying not a peep. He could have been involved in the q and a when some of these vicious anti-Semites like Oakland imam Amir Abdel Malik Ali were spouting their venom. I spoke up and asked critical questions. I voiced my opposition. Why couldn't he?
Worse than ADL, however, are Hillel and the Jewish Federation. In these cases, I should note that both are national organizations with local chapters who operate somewhat autonomously. Out here in Orange County, the local chapters of these organizations have been an obstacle to all I and others have attempted to do to bring the problems of UCI to the attention of the community-particularly the Jewish community. To hear them tell it, everything is just fine and dandy at UCI. "Jewish life is thriving" is their motto. (It wasn't thriving on May 18.)
The obvious question is - why ? The problem as I see it is that both organizations have a conflict of interest in these matters. Both are highly connected with UCI. Hillel is a national organization whose mission is to enhance the life of Jewish students in college and provide services and support for them. While the national organization claims strong support for Israel, there are many chapters around the country that want to have what they call an "open Hillel" that is open membership to Jewish students notwithstanding their support (or lack thereof-or even opposition ) of Israel. At UCI, Hillel's position has for years been to not make waves. They actively discourage students from speaking out about the problems or fighting back against the pro-Palestinians when they engage in bully-boy tactics. In my mind, Hillel is afraid that if UCI has a reputation for anti-Semitism, Jewish students will be reluctant to enroll there. Therefore, if there are no Jewish students, there is no need for Hillel on campus.
Note: I always say that 99% of UCI's students are not involved in the problem. But a small minority (MSU/SJP) has created a lot of bad headlines for UCI over the years.)
Similarly, the Orange County Jewish Federation and Family Services has the same conflict of interest in my opinion. The Jewish Federation's mission is to collect donations and parcel money out to various local Jewish interests and charities. Hillel is also a beneficiary of the Federation. They are basically joined at the hip. The leadership of the Federation has had over the years, in my view, too close a relationship with UCI. Both the Federation and Hillel have tried to downplay the problems at UCI. Both organizations have also cracked down on students who don't go along with the program. That includes not making waves over problems of anti-Semitism. I have known and spoken with several former Jewish students at UCI who have related stories about how Hillel and the Federation have put pressure on them-and their families- when they (the students) spoke out and fought back against the brown shirts on campus. (And I can bring them forward at any time.) Some have already gone on the record over the past several years.)
I should also mention the Rose Project, which is the money arm of the Federation. In recent years they have provided funding for Jewish students to participate on the much-vaunted Olive Tree Initiative. This program was founded at UCI and operates within the Department of Social Sciences. Ostensibly it takes Jewish, Muslim and other students to the Holy Land to expose them to both sides of the conflict. Students visit Israel proper and the West Bank. In reality (in my view) the program is tilted toward the Palestinian narrative. The tour guide operators in the West Bank are known operatives and even co-founders (George S Rishmawi) of the International Solidarity Movement, In 2009, the group actually met with the highest ranking Hamas official in the West Bank, Aziz Dweik. The meeting did not appear on the official schedule, and students were allegedly instructed not to mention the meeting when they crossed back into Israel. To this day, the OTI has failed to furnish their financial expenditures pursuant to a California Public Records Act request from a local private citizen.
Another aspect of the problem is that for Jewish students who go along with the Hillel/Federation program, there is support available for further study, grants, and so on. For those who don't-there is ostracizing.
Furthermore, what we have here is a symbiotic relationship between Hillel, the Federation and UCI. In the case of the recent SJP disruption of a Students Supporting Israel event (May 18), the administration is quick to deny anti-Semitism at UCI in spite of the history over the years and in spite of the necessity for the UC Regents to recently pass a statement of principles on intolerance that specifically addressed anti-Semitism on UC campuses. And what does UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman do this past week? He issues statements specifically referring to previous statements by Hillel and the Federation that deny the underlying problem of anti-Semitism. They are all using the same talking points. In other words, the Federation and Hillel give cover to UCI. In my opinion, the intention is for these three entities is to limit the investigation into the May 18 incident to within UCI. Students who were speaking to outside people investigating the incident (specifically Campus Reform) have suddenly become silent. (For the record, I have not had any contact with any UCI students. Though I have a lot of questions, since I am a part-time teacher at UCI, I don't think I should involve myself in that regard.)
In regards to the current controversy over the May 18 incident, there is a suspicion that what I have described above is playing out again. Here is the big question: Have any Jewish students at UCI been told by Hillel and/or the Jewish Federation not to talk to outside parties (like Campus Reform) about the May 18 incident? As for UC Irvine, much as they would like to defuse the situation, it is a question that they should be concerned with as well.
So welcome to the fight, Dear Reader (if you are so inclined). Just be aware that you will be fighting on three fronts.