Thursday, June 25, 2015

Should the University of California Adopt the State Department Definition of Anti-Semitism?

Ken Stern has written an op-ed in the LA Jewish Journal in which he argues against the idea of the University of California adopting the State Department's definition of anti-Semitism.

Below the link is what I have sent (or tried to send) to the reader thread. You will note UCI Professor Mark LeVine also has a comment in the reader thread.

As a Gentile who has taught part-time at the UC Irvine Extension since 1998, I co-authored with Tammi Rossman-Benjamin the recent letter to President Janet Napolitano which was signed by 104 UC faculty asking her to take steps to combat anti-Semitism on UC campuses. The letter also included a request that UC adopt the State Department definition of anti-Semitism.

While Mr Stern raises some good points, if you read between the lines, you detect that he himself has some reservations about Israel. I ask myself, however, if the State Department definition is not suitable for university campuses, why is it good enough for the State Department or anyone else? His own work says it is anti-Semitic to hold Israel to standards not applied to her enemies-or any other country. His own work says it is anti-Semitic to compare Israel to Nazis and to deny Jews the right to self-determination. Yet Mr Stern says this is not suitable for a college campus because  it would shut down free speech. I don't want to shut down free speech, but I will call out anti-Semitism when I see it. And I have seen it and heard it.

Since 2007, I have been active in fighting anti-Semitism on our campus and others as well. I can tell you from my own experiences that the anti-Israel and BDS movement on campus has indeed crossed the line into anti-Jewish expressions. I will concede that not all criticism of Israel is or has been anti-Semitic. However, much of it has been. The BDS movement as a whole, co-founded by activist Omar Barghouti, has as its ultimate goal the dissolution of Israel as a Jewish state. This is not about boycotting Israeli wine or  companies that do business with Israel. This is about destroying Israel. In my view, this entire conflict is more about religion than it is about land.

But to be specific, I would like to ask a few questions of Mr Stern as well as Professor Mark LeVine of  UCI, who has already weighed in in the reader thread.

1 Where were either of you two gentlemen in 2008 when the UCI Muslim Student Union put up a caricature of Ariel Sharon on their mock "Apartheid Wall"-a caricature that could have been straight out of the pages of Julius Streicher's Der Stuermer, hooked nose, leering mouth, and labeled as a cannibal? I was there. I saw it and photographed it. (It was subsequently removed.)

2 Where were you all these years that Amir Abdel Malik Ali was appearing on our campus and calling everybody "Zionist Jews" literally spitting out the words as did the Nazis? I was there every year confronting him with his vile language, his factual errors, and telling him to his face that he was an anti-Semite who hated his own country. I was also there during his last appearance when he told the Jews in the audience that they were "the new Nazis". (I think that fits into the State Dept. definition.)

3 Where were you when the MSU disrupted Ambassador Michael Oren's speech at UCI in 2010? I was there.

4 I won't ask where you were in 2010 when a UC Berkeley professor heckled and gave the finger to a group of Jewish students who were peacefully protesting the appearances of swastikas on campus a few days before. I wasn't there either, but I have viewed the photos and the videotape.

5 Do you know that in 2001, Mohamed al Asi, a Washington-based imam and supporter of the mullahs in Iran, appeared at UCI on behalf of the MSU and told his audience, "You can take the Jew out of the ghetto, but you can't take the ghetto out of the Jew"? No, I wasn't there, but I have the videotape.

The fact of the matter is that we do have a problem of anti-Semitism on our campuses. And here is some news for you: It is not at the hands of neo-Nazis or skin heads. It comes from the pro-Palestinian crowd. The Israel-Palestinian conflict is at the heart of the issue. To deny the linkage with Israel is to deny the obvious. To be fair, not all critics of Israel are anti-Jewish per se. Many are Jewish themselves for whatever their motives might be. Professor LeVine himself launched an angry tirade at me at UCI recently in front of his own students because I had the effrontery to call him "anti-Israel".  Why would anybody think that an advisory board member for Jewish Voice for Peace be anti-Israel? I think LeVine's comment in the reader thread speaks for itself.

Another side issue of this is the complete failure of most of the major Jewish organizations to stand up for Jewish students on campus. They would prefer to deny the problem and come down hard on any Jewish student at UCI who speaks the truth. I am talking specifically about the Jewish Federation of Orange County and OC Hillel. The ADL has been missing in action altogether. Nobody wants bad news to get out about the university lest Jewish students opt to go elsewhere, so the order of the day is to stand down when the ugly events occur. The last two years, the UCI I-Fest, sponsored by Anteaters for Israel, has been disrupted by pro-Palestinian students. I have been there on both occasions. The message from Hillel and the Jewish Federation? Stand down. Put away those Israeli and US flags lest you provoke them further.

Now comes Mr Stern with the latest stand down order supplemented by vague proposals for more programs, classes on anti-Semitism, discussion and debate. I would like to invite Mr Stern to join me in a discussion debate with Amir Abdel Malik Ali the next time he comes to speak at UC Irvine. It would be an education for him.

No comments: