Apr. 3, 2008
A group of students at University of California, Irvine – known as one of the more militant campuses in the country when it comes to anti-Israel activity – took the chancellor to task in a news release this week for failing to adequately respond to the ongoing incidents on campus.
The 20 current and former UC Irvine students said they were “deeply concerned about the anti-Semitism at UCI that has been frequently couched as false and hateful attacks on Israel.”
The letter follows a statement by campus Jewish groups that called concern over anti-Semitic activity “exaggerated” and defended the administration’s handling of the situation.
The authors of the letter disagree: “We do not believe that UCI Chancellor Michael Drake has exercised his responsibility as an educator and university leader in response to the anti-Semitism,” they stated.
The letter follows a recent address by Drake at the opening session of a Hillel summit on the university and the Jewish community. The invitation drew protest from Jewish organizations such as the Zionist Organization of America, which in 2004 filed a complaint with the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights about the situation at UC Irvine. ZOA President Morton Klein said that Jewish leaders should meet with Drake, but not offer him a podium.
Programs at UCI have included “Holocaust in the Holy Land;” “Israel: The 4th Reich;” and recently in February 2008, “From Auschwitz to Gaza: The Politics of Genocide,” at which speakers reportedly made such statements as “Zionist Jews… are the new Nazis,” and that “the apartheid state of Israel is on the way down… your days are numbered. We will fight you until we are martyred or until we are victorious.”
Klein told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that he expected Drake to condemn the programs by name and the students behind them, as well as acknowledge the falsity of the anti-Semitic statements and “make it clear they are at variance with the values at UC Irvine.” The students behind the recent letter called for similar action.
Hillel spokesman Jeff Rubin said that “For Jews, likening Auschwitz to Gaza is objectionable, and of course we condemn that.” But whether to condemn the specific “content” is a “subject that every university administrator has to decide for himself,” said Rubin. “The truth is that there is very outspoken Muslim student population on campus with an anti-Israel bent, but at the same time there is a thriving Jewish life on campus which includes a Hillel, Jewish fraternities and sororities, and a full-time Israel fellow on campus,” Rubin added.
Drake condemned anti-Semitism in general terms, but fell short of making any specific condemnation of such activity on campus. The students’ letter said that while the chancellor may not suppress free speech, he should use his own right to free speech to denounce anti-Semitic speech and conduct as “against the values of the UCI community.”
Meanwhile, an independent task force comprising Jewish and non-Jewish community members recently concluded a year-long investigation into anti-Semitism at UCI, and found that “acts of anti-Semitism are real and well documented. Jewish students have been harassed. Hate speech has been unrelenting.”
The task force criticized Hillel, the Jewish Federation, the Anti-Defamation League, and the American Jewish Committee for failing to hold Drake and his administration accountable, and recommended that Jewish students “consider enrolling elsewhere unless and until tangible changes are made.”
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