ZOA Applauds U.S. Congressman Sherman for Condemning Muslim Anti-Semitism at UC Irvine and Calling on Chancellor to Denounce It
May 28, 2008

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) applauds U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) for his powerful letter to Dr. Michael V. Drake, Chancellor of the University of California, Irvine (UCI), in which he expressed his concern about the campus event sponsored by UCI’s Muslim Student Union from May 7-15, 2008, entitled “Never Again? The Palestinian Holocaust.” According to Congressman Sherman, the event “appears intended to encourage violence against the State of Israel and propagate the spread of anti-Semitism.” Congressman Sherman called on Chancellor Drake to denounce the Muslim Student Union’s anti-Semitic speakers and programs, emphasizing, “As an American, you have a right to speak out. As Chancellor, it is your duty to condemn anti-Semitism, especially when it occurs at the UCI campus.”

Congressman Sherman objected even to the title of the Muslim Student Union’s event, noting that it was “particularly inflammatory.” According to Congressman Sherman, “[c]omparing current Israeli policies to the Holocaust, the systematic murder of the Jewish people of Europe, is clearly anti-Semitic. It wholly demeans the Jewish victims of the Holocaust and vilifies the Jewish citizens of Israel.”

The Congressman also characterized the titles of some of the lectures at the Muslim Student Union’s event – “Death to Apartheid: A Farewell to Zionism” and “Silence is Consent: Stop the Palestinian Holocaust” – as “disturbing.” He said that the speakers invited by the Muslim Student Union to give these lectures “have a record of making anti-Semitic statements.” Congressman Sherman noted the words of one of the lecturers at a speech at UCI in May 2006: “The truth of the matter is: [Israel’s] days are numbered. We will fight you until we are either martyred or until we are victorious” [emphasis in original]. In Congressman Sherman’s view, “[i]t should be of concern that a speech given at UCI calls for ‘martyrdom’ – the euphemism for suicide bombing.”

In calling on the Chancellor to denounce the hate speech at UCI sponsored by the Muslim Student Union, Congressman Sherman said, “While I strongly support the First Amendment rights of individuals to speak freely and without impediment at your campus, I hope that you share my belief that we all have a moral responsibility to denounce speech that is clearly and unambiguously hateful in nature. If you share that belief, I would ask that you publicly denounce the hate speech discussed above.”

Congressman Sherman has assumed a leadership role in the battle against campus anti-Semitism. In addition to condemning the Muslim anti-Semitism at UCI, he spearheaded a letter to Secretary Margaret Spellings of the U.S. Department of Education in April 2008. Co-signed by U.S. Representatives Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Steven Rothman (D-NJ), Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), Robert Wexler (D-FL), and Shelley Berkley (R-NV), the letter demands answers to whether the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is enforcing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) to protect Jewish students from anti-Semitism on their campuses. Title VI requires that recipients of federal funding (which includes public and most private colleges and universities) ensure that their programs and activities are free from discrimination based on “race, color, or national origin.” In the fall of 2004, the Office for Civil Rights clarified that it would enforce Title VI to protect Jewish students, recognizing that in the context of affording civil rights protections, Jews have been considered a racial and a national origin group. But after the ZOA filed a case under Title VI on behalf of Jewish students at UCI, alleging that UCI had violated Title VI by failing to respond effectively to Jewish students’ claims of harassment and intimidation, the Office for Civil Rights’ decision – absolving UCI of wrongdoing – reflected that this agency had narrowed its interpretation of Title VI, so that Jewish students would no longer be a protected class under the law.

The House Members’ letter to Education Secretary Spellings came immediately after a similar letter sent to Secretary Spellings by three members of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. U.S. Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and Sam Brownback (R-KS), questioned how the Office for Civil Rights handled the ZOA’s Title VI case against UCI, and how the Office for Civil Rights is interpreting Title VI.

Morton A. Klein, the ZOA’s National President, and Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., the Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, praised Congressman Sherman for taking a leadership role in fighting Muslim anti-Semitism and hatemongering at UCI against Israel’s very existence, which is a serious problem on campuses across the country: “Congressman Sherman clearly understands that anti-Semitism can mean something beyond physical violence and ethnic slurs. Demonizing Israel, denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and making comparisons between Israelis and the Nazis are also examples of anti-Semitism. It is this kind of Muslim anti-Semitic bigotry that occurs on a regular basis at UCI. As Congressman Sherman has emphasized, UCI Chancellor Drake has the responsibility as an American and as an educational leader to speak out and condemn the Muslim anti-Semitic programs on his campus by name. We all await Chancellor Drake’s response to Congressman Sherman. We hope that the Chancellor will heed the words of Congressman Sherman and finally clearly and publicly denounce the Muslim Student Union’s programs for exactly what they are: hateful, divisive, and anti-Semitic, filled with propaganda lies against Jews and the Jewish State of Israel.”

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