Monday, May 11, 2015

The Jewish Federation/Hillel's Stealth Booth at UC Irvine

During the week of May 4-7, as the Muslim Student Union and Students for Justice in Palestine were holding their week of mock apartheid walls and speakers, the Anteaters for Israel set up a table on Ring Road about 50 yards away from the "Wall". For most of the week, their theme was selling falafels for aid to Nepal. Also nearby was another table pictured below.

Question: Which organization or student group put this table and display together? On the surface, the only "organization" that can be identified is #Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies". On Monday (May 4), I walked up to the table and checked out the literature, which consisted of 7 brightly illustrated post cards advertising  the above and several other organizations. I was given one of each. They are:

1 #Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies
2 The Parents Circle Families Forum
3 The Israeli-Palestinian Science Organization
4 The Peres Center
5 Good Water Neighbors Initiative
6 The Roots Project
7 Valley of Peace

All of these are reportedly joint Israeli-Palestinian ventures. I should add that each post card bears the "#Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies" across the bottom. 

On the surface, this seems to be a noble venture recently initiated by two individuals with a message of peace. There are numerous images of Jews and Arabs together in heart-warming scenes of friendship or romance. All good, right?

But there are several other images attributed to #Jews and Arabs Refuse to Be Enemies that suggest that this organization may have a certain slant to one side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as other issues.

And there is this missive to be found on the same Facebook page:

"Hate groups and extremists such as Pamela Geller use ads to misinform millions of individuals who take the train. This sort of propaganda puts Arabs/Muslims/Desi's in danger; these ads incite hatred and violence. In one of her ads she falsely claims that "Islamic Jew-Hatred" is in the Quran.
Join us in telling the world that "Islamic Jew-Hatred" does not exist! Although media, politicians and extremists manipulate current events in order to create hostility between Jews and Arabs/Muslims, we refuse to be enemies!"

Now let's take a look at a couple of the other organizations whose literature I picked up from the aforementioned table on May 4.

The Peres Center (of Peace) named after Shimon Peres. Here is what David Bedein of Arutz Sheva had to write about the Peres Center in 2011 and its connections to J Street:

Parents Circle Families Forum-Advertised as an organization of over 600 Israeli and Palestinian families who have lost family members in the conflict. Many observers charge that this organization tilts strongly to the Palestinian narrative.

And what is the connection between Parents Circle and Breaking the Silence? I also note a link to the parents of Rachel Corrie, the International Solidarity Movement activist who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer several years ago. (See below link.) In addition, the above link reports that Parents Circle received funding from the New Israel Fund, an organization that is decidedly pro-Palestinian.

In 2005, Lee Kaplan, writing in Frontpage Magazine, brought out the fact that one of the founders of
Parents Circle was not quite what she cracked herself up to be.

And of course, there is a connection between the Parents Circle and the UCI-founded Olive Tree Initiative, the latter of which has enjoyed support from the Orange County Jewish Federation.

If you are asking whether I engaged any of the people at the table in conversation, I did. On that same Monday occasion, after picking up the literature, I stepped back and snapped a picture of the signs in front of the table. That met with an objection  from a young lady who came up and said that I should have asked permission of the people at the table before taking their pictures. Fair enough., I apologized to her and the others and said I merely wanted to capture the signs. The young lady told me that she had ducked her head in order to avoid being photographed. I told her that it was my policy to try and avoid taking pictures of students, at which time she told me she was not a student. I asked everyone if I could take another picture without them present, and they consented. I conversed with two or three of them who said they wanted to present an alternative to the two differing sides (Anteaters for Israel and the MSU/SJP). When I asked if they belonged to any organization, a second young lady said, "Just grassroots students".

On Thursday, the 7th, I returned to the booth and again engaged in conversation with the two aforementioned young ladies (I am withholding their names).  We talked at length about the conflict, and they expressed their desire to find common ground and show people that Jews and Palestinians could work together though they could offer no real solutions to the conflict when I asked. The lady who had previously objected to my taking pictures on Monday identified herself as an Israeli and a member of Hillel. A third young lady identified herself as part Palestinian.

At one point, the second referenced lady advised me that this was the beginning of a student group (#Jews and Enemies Refuse to Be Enemies).

Here is my point: Based on my sources, my own observations, and conversations described above, I believe that this booth was set up by the Jewish Federation of Orange County and OC Hillel. I also believe that there is participation at this booth of the Federation's Jewish Federation's Jewish Campus Leadership Initiative.

I further have reason to believe this booth was set up to counter the table set up nearby last week by Anteaters for Israel. According to my sources, the setting up of this table caught the Anteaters for Israel by surprise and served to split off some of their members to the #Jews and Arabs Refuse to Be Enemies table. If I am correct on all of the above, it would cast further doubt on the Orange County Jewish Federation's professed support for Israel.

If the Jewish Federation and Hillel want to join hands and sing Kumbayah with the pro-Palestinian side, that is their business. Of more concern to me is their embrace of  #Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies. From what I see thus far, the latter organization has a definite tilt to the Palestinian side. The folks who set up that table at UCI last week should also have openly stated who it is they were representing. In my opinion, that was the OC Jewish Federation and OC Hillel. 

Couple all of this with the performance of the leaders of these two organizations at the recent I-Fest event at UCI when it was disrupted by pro-Palestinian demonstrators. In my opinion, both organizations are actively working against the students at Anteaters for Israel.


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