Friday, February 1, 2013

ZOA Letter to UC Irvine re: Omar Barghouti

As previously reported, the UC Irvine chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine is sponsoring a speaking appearance by Omar Barghouti, an activist pushing the world-wide boycott effort against Israel. In response, the Zionist Organization of America in New York has sent the below letter to UCI Chancellor Michael Drake.

Zionist Organization of America Jacob and Libby Goodman ZOA House | 4 East 34th Street, New York, NY 10016 (212) 481-1500 | Fax: (212) 481-1515 | |

 February 1, 2013


Chancellor Michael Drake
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697

Dear Chancellor Drake:

We have written to you numerous times over the course of your Chancellorship at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), when anti-Semitic and anti-Israel speakers and programs sponsored on campus have created a hostile environment for Jewish students, violating UCI’s own principles of community, respect and tolerance. One of the steps we have repeatedly urged you to take is to publicly speak out and condemn anti-Semitic speech and conduct on campus, including anti-Israel speech and conduct that cross the line into anti-Semitism. As you may know, in an October 2010 policy letter clarifying that Jewish students are protected from a hostile anti-Semitic campus environment under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights recommended that university leaders publicly speak out against hateful speech.
There is now an important opportunity for you to speak out: Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UCI is sponsoring an event on February 4th entitled All About BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanction). Speaking at the event is Omar Barghouti.

Omar Barghouti is the founder of the BDS movement, a campaign to demonize, delegitimize and harm the State of Israel. Barghouti’s own statements leave no doubt that he is not simply seeking to harm the State of Israel; he is also committed to destroying it and replacing it with another Arab state. Here are some examples of what Barghouti has said:

 “If the occupation ends, let’s say, would that end your call for BDS? No, it wouldn’t.”
 Barghouti described the so-called “right of return” as “the most basic fundamental right that we cannot negotiate away. This is something we cannot compromise on.”

“If the refugees were to return you would not have a two-state solution you’ll have a Palestine next to a Palestine rather than a Palestine next to an Israel.”

This is nothing less than Jew hatred. If Omar Barghouti’s campaign was focused on eliminating the Italian or Irish states, no one would question that he was motivated by hatred of Italian people or Irish people.
Part of the BDS movement is the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), of which Omar Barghouti is a founding member. Promoting demonizing falsehoods about Israel, PACBI calls on “academics and intellectuals . . . in the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid . . . .”

That Omar Barghouti is promoting this campaign is the height of hypocrisy. He was born in Qatar, grew up in Egypt, and attended Columbia University in New York before moving to Ramallah. Barghouti could have continued his studies in any of these locations. But he chose to go to school at, of all places, Tel Aviv University in Israel!

Apparently, the “moral imperative” – as Omar Barghouti has called it – to boycott Israeli academia, is an imperative for everyone else, but not for himself. Thousands of people petitioned Tel Aviv University to expel Omar Barghouti because of the anti-Israel falsehoods he promoted to harm the university and the State of Israel. But the university refused to expel him, thus demonstrating the commitment to freedom of speech in Israel. The fact that Omar Barghouti, an Arab Muslim who was born in Qatar and lived in Egypt and Ramallah, was accepted to and enrolled at an Israeli university, makes his claim of Israeli apartheid downright ludicrous.

There has already been strong public opposition to the BDS campaign against Israel. In February 2011, the ZOA and 60 other Jewish organizations issued a statement condemning the campaign as “counterproductive to the goal of peace, antithetical to freedom of speech, [and] part of a greater effort to undermine the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in their homeland, Israel.” (See

When Hannah Rosenthal, then the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, spoke before a worldwide coalition against anti-Semitism in November 2010, she specifically noted that “when academics are boycotted – this is not objecting to a policy – this is anti-Semitism.” (See

In October 2010, approximately 40 international Nobel Laureates issued a statement opposed to anti-Israel academic and cultural boycotts, divestments and sanctions in the academy because they are “antithetical to principles of academic and scientific freedom, antithetical to principles of freedom of expression and inquiry, and may well constitute discrimination by virtue of national origin.” (See
In addition, many university leaders have spoken out and condemned boycott and divestment campaigns against Israel, including the presidents of Harvard University, Cornell University, Columbia University, the University of Michigan, and San Francisco State University.

We know that in June 2007, in a letter to the president of the Association of American Universities, you expressed your opposition to the British boycott of Israeli academic institutions and scholars. It is time to publicly condemn anti-Israel boycotts that are promoted here in the U.S, right on your own campus.
As you surely know, the University of California President’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture, and Inclusion issued a 10-page report last July, confirming that “Jewish students are confronting significant and difficult climate issues as a result of activities on campus which focus specifically on Israel, its right to exist and its treatment of Palestinians.” The report specifically noted that “[t]he anti-Zionism and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movements and other manifestations of anti-Israel sentiment and activity create significant issues through themes and language which portray Israel and, many times, Jews in ways which project hostility, engender a feeling of isolation, and undermine Jewish students’ sense of belonging and engagement with outside communities.”

Shortly after this report was issued, the California State Assembly passed House Resolution 35. It specifically calls on officials at California’s public universities to “increase their efforts to swiftly and unequivocally condemn acts of anti-Semitism on their campuses.”
Consistent with HR 35, please make sure that your university community, your alumni and donors, and California taxpayers understand that while the SJP may be free to sponsor programs and speakers that single out and demonize Israel with vicious falsehoods, UCI condemns and opposes them. As the SJP’s February 4th program is approaching, UCI must make it crystal clear that it does not support any campaign to boycott, divest from or sanction Israeli academic institutions, professors, or products, or companies that do business with Israel, because these campaigns are antithetical to the principles of academic freedom and free speech; they are anti-Semitic, divisive and hostile; and they promote hatred not peace.

 We look forward to hearing from you.

Very truly yours,

Morton A. Klein Susan B. Tuchman, Esq.
National President Director, Center for Law and Justice

I certainly concur with the above letter. The SJP has the right to bring in whatever knucklehead they desire to speak. This, of course, comes on the heels of the UCI student government passing a resolution urging UCI to divest from companies that do business with Israel. Chancellor Drake has already announced that the university will do no such thing. I think it would be altogether fitting for Chancellor Drake to make it clear that SJP and Barghouti do not speak for the university.


Anonymous said...

I don't think ZOA really expects Drake to do or say anything. It is a convenient way for them to express their viewpoint.

The SJP really just marginalizes themselves when they invite an radical ideologue like Omar Barghouti to speak. He might be able to convince a few naive kids that he is arguing for equal rights and all. However, once someone looks more into it they will see through his bs and see his one state resolution is an unreasonable settlement to the conflict. See Yugoslavia. Demand the former Soviet states be forced to rejoin the Soviet Union.

I'll be nice and give the SJP a nice pat on the back and say I am glad they are promoting a non-violent tactic.

Anonymous said...

Even Finklestein calls out Omar Barghouti.

Finkelstein: 1) Self-proclaimed leaders of the BDS movement claim to speak in the name of “Palestinian civil society” or “the Palestinian people,” although they have no basis to make such a claim. They then use this fraudulent claim as a club to silence any opposition to their diktat;

2) The movement is riddled with flagrant hypocrisy – a) a leader calls for the boycott of all Israeli universities while he
himself studies at Tel Aviv University,

(b) a leader claims that BDS doesn’t target individuals or an individual’s beliefs, only institutions, but he then calls for a ban on Daniel Barenboim
because Barenboim is a “Zionist,”

c) BDS did not call for a ban on [the film] Five Broken Cameras although it was produced in conjunction with an official Israeli film society. These are the hallmarks of a cult: everything is decided on the whim of the guru,
who himself is exempt from all rules and restrictions;

3) The movement functions in a cocoon world where the incantation of mantras – “BDS,” “One State” and “Israeli Apartheid” – has replaced a political analysis of what’s possible and likely to reach a broad public."

I have seen Omar say that South Africa leaders went to apartheid colleges because that was all they could do and said that he could stay at home or go to an apartheid university in Israel. He pays taxes for the university so it isn't a problem. Didn't make much sense but he somehow justifies it with that flip flop reasoning.

The biggest problem with Omar is that he refuses to even consider to compromise or negotiate on the "right of return". This is clearly a tactic to end Israel as a Jewish state.

I don't see him getting much support other than some far off fringe on the left and MSU fanatics.

He will only be in town one night and then he will be gone and forgotten. Then we can look forward to the next circus act the SJP or MSU will invite to speak on campus.

Dusty said...

Great take-down of the Barghouti dog and pony show by our friend Jon at Divest this

Siarlys Jenkins said...

This is nothing less than Jew hatred.


There is a substantial population whose grand-parents were living comfortably on their own land when the net effect of partition and war drove them away. To demand that they have a right to return and claim their property is not, per se, Jew hatred.

The fact that the prior owners were forced to flee by the war plans and propaganda of four effete Arab monarchies doesn't make a demand for the right to return into "Jew hatred." Whose fault it is makes no difference: it is still natural to want to return to your family's own land.

I believe this demand is unrealistic, given all the changes that have occured for better or for worse, mostly worse, in the subsequent years. I can sympathize with Shawnee wanting to reclaim land around Chillicothe Ohio, but I don't think the remaining residents of the state are going to vacate to facilitate their return. Poetic justice isn't always feasible.

One difference is that there are so few Shawnee in the world, it doesn't really pose a threat to the balance of political power for them to buy land in the state.

As for Italy or Ireland, its more like, if the O'Neill's and O'Donnell's demanded the return in full of their ancestors' pre-Elizabethan estates in Ulster, would it be just? Yes. Is it likely to happen? No. Could it be done now without creating a myriad of new injustices? Again, no. So it won't happen, much as we all enjoyed "Red High, Prince of Donegal" when we were kids. Would that be "Brit hatred"? Not necessarily, although it is inescapably true that Brits tend to be the ones occupying the land now. Well, mostly Scots really -- the pawns of empire.