Allowed To Flourish
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has urged donors to make no contributions to the University of California, Irvine, and has also urged students to not apply there, because the university has for years enabled bigotry, discrimination and the violation of civil rights by failing to condemn longstanding anti-Semitic and Israel-bashing speech and conduct on campus, and failing to enforce its own policies against the perpetrators.
For years, UC Irvine’s Muslim Student Union has been promoting hateful falsehoods about Jews, Zionism and Israel. As just one among many examples, one Muslim Student Union-sponsored speaker last May compared Jews to Satan, and characterized them as slick, sneaky and conspiratorial. Despite being repeatedly asked to publicly condemn the speech and its promoters and organizers, UC Irvine’s Chancellor Michael Drake did not do so. Indeed, the Chancellor has never publicly condemned the Muslim Student Union or any of its speakers and programs as hateful, anti-Semitic and against the university’s purported values of respect and tolerance, despite the fact that the Chancellor has the First Amendment right and moral duty to speak out.
UC Irvine has also failed to respond to the Muslim Student Union’s solicitation of funds on campus for a group called Viva Palestina, which may have furnished material support and resources to the terrorist group Hamas. This would be a violation of federal law. Last May, the Muslim Student Union sponsored a speech by Israel-bashing radical British politician George Galloway who talked about the group he founded, Viva Palestina. Viva Palestina has been bringing “convoys” of vehicles, goods and supplies to Gaza, supposedly to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. But there is evidence that Viva Palestina has been providing support and resources to Hamas, which would be illegal. The Investigative Project on Terrorism headed by terrorism expert Steven Emerson, issued a 31-page report about Viva Palestina, which debunked the claim that Viva Palestina’s goal is to provide for the needy. The report states that “Viva Palestina’s most visible leaders call for the elimination of the State of Israel . . . They treat Hamas leaders as the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people and provide both material and moral support to the terrorist organization.”
There is evidence that at the Muslim Student Union event last May, both Galloway and members of the Muslim Student Union solicited funds for Viva Palestina from the audience. Witnesses reported that collection boxes were passed around and students were designated to collect them. In addition to the serious legal implications of its conduct, the Muslim Student Union did not get the university’s approval to solicit funds, as required by university policies. Indeed, UC Irvine’s own records reflect that the Muslim Student Union misrepresented to the university that the event was not going to be a fundraiser. Although the ZOA informed UC Irvine five months ago of the Muslim Student Union’s actions last May – including that the group may have used the campus as a base for fundraising for a terrorist group – and the university pledged to complete an internal investigation by the end of 2009, the investigation has not been completed and the Muslim Student Union has continued as a registered student group, without suffering any consequences.
UC Irvine’s silence and tolerance of the Muslim Student Union’s hateful actions predictably resulted in the events of last Monday evening, when members of the Muslim Student Union and others repeatedly interrupted a campus lecture given by Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren. In what was reportedly a carefully orchestrated and preplanned scheme, the hecklers harassed Ambassador Oren, attempted to silence him, and interfered with his free speech right to present Israel’s position, causing the Ambassador to have to leave the podium and exit the room on one occasion and to cancel the planned question-and-answer period after his lecture.
As a Jerusalem Post editorial noted, the Muslim Student Union “made a mockery of the university’s commitment to freedom of speech and treated its dedication to respectful dialogue with downright disdain.” Yet Chancellor Drake’s response to the Muslim Student Union’s latest misconduct was tepid at best. The Chancellor did not condemn the members of the Muslim Student Union for the disrespect they showed to the Ambassador of the State of Israel, their violation of others’ civil rights, their possibly illegal conduct, and their violation of university policies – all of which brought further shame to him and his university. The Chancellor did not clearly and forcefully state that disciplinary proceedings would be instituted against the wrongdoers, as specifically provided for by university policy. Rather, in his statement, the Chancellor vaguely noted the arrest of 11 individuals who “are being processed accordingly.” As to what actions the university itself would be taking the Chancellor was equally vague, stating that “the Office of Student Conduct has initiated the Student Judiciary Review process to address issues under their jurisdiction.”
If the Chancellor were serious about finally redressing the Muslim Student Union’s wrongs, he would not have referred the matter to the Office of Student Conduct. He would have retained jurisdiction and handled the matter himself, because the Office of Student Conduct has itself been derelict in its responsibility when it comes to the Muslim Student Union.
When the ZOA brought the Muslim Student Union’s unauthorized and possibly illegal fundraising for Viva Palestina to the university’s attention five months ago, the ZOA did not simply allege wrongdoing by the student group only. The ZOA also provided evidence of wrongdoing on the part of at least four university administrators who were present at the Galloway event where the funds were solicited. These administrators knew or should have known that UC Irvine had not authorized the solicitation of funds, as university policies plainly require. They knew or should have known that the Muslim Student Union had misrepresented to the university that the event was not going to be a fundraiser.
Yet none of the administrators stopped the fundraising. According to university records, when one of the administrators, Edgar Dormitorio, submitted a report about the event afterwards to the Vice Chancellor, he did not even mention the unauthorized solicitation of funds. Mr. Dormitorio is the Director of the Office of Student Affairs and Assistant Dean of Students. Given the way he responded to the Muslim Student Union’s conduct at the Galloway event, he and his staff should not be determining what sanctions, if any, should be imposed on the Muslim Student Union for their repeated disruption of Ambassador Oren’s speech. That Chancellor Drake has entrusted that incident to the Office of Student Affairs is further evidence that the university is mishandling a serious and ongoing problem, and thus enabling anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism on the campus.
In urging that contributions to UC Irvine be stopped and that students not apply there, the ZOA’s National President, Morton A. Klein; Chairman of the Board, Dr. Michael Goldblatt; Vice Chairman of the Board, Steven M. Goldberg, Esq.; Chairman of the National Executive Committee, Dr. Alan Mazurek; and Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., stated, “The ZOA has not made this call lightly. But the Chancellor has ignored repeated requests to respond to the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hostility that has plagued his campus for years. Many of the problems could be rectified if the Chancellor would hold student groups like the Muslim Student Union to the university’s clear standards of conduct. Instead, the Chancellor has sent the inappropriate message that promoting misrepresentations and outright lies about Jews, Zionism and Israel is tolerable and acceptable.
“UC Irvine must now pay the price for its inaction. We call on all decent people, both Jews and non-Jews, to stop supporting, with their money and enrollment, a university that has been complicit in promoting bigotry. It’s the right and moral thing to do, until the university makes it crystal clear that it will stop tolerating anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism and that the perpetrators will be held to the same standards of conduct as everyone else.”