University of California, Irvine (UCI) Chancellor Michael Drake condemned remarks endorsing terrorism made by Amir Abdel Malik Ali while the Oakland-based pro-Palestinian activist spoke on campus last week. Drake’s May 15 statement decried Ali’s claim to support terrorist groups who call for Israel’s destruction as a breach of UCI’s commitment to values and civility.
Ali gave a noontime address at the Orange County campus on May 14 as part of “Israeli Apartheid Week,” an annual program sponsored by UCI’s Muslim Student Union (MSU) that calls Israel an apartheid state while claiming to support Palestinians in their conflict with Israel. During a Q-and-A period that followed Ali’s address, Roz Rothstein, founder and CEO of StandWithUs, asked Ali if he supports Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad. Ali replied “yes” to all three. When she asked if he supports jihad on the UCI campus, Ali said yes, insofar as it pertains to “speaking truth to power.”
“Let me be clear: We condemn the speaker’s endorsement of terrorism,” Drake said in a statement posted on his Web site. “Nothing could be more contrary to our fundamental values and our commitment to dialogue and democratic rule. ... We are an educational institution that promotes, practices and teaches tolerance; these remarks supporting terrorism were deplorable.”
Drake’s statement did not refer to Ali by name but made clear reference to the date, time and context in which Ali made his comment. The chancellor did not attend Ali’s address, though several university administrators were present, according to UCI spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon. The purpose of the statement was to reaffirm the university’s values, not to engage on a personal level with a speaker who goes to many campuses, which would be inappropriate for a university chancellor, Lawhon said.
A frequent guest at UCI at the behest of the MSU, Ali has been accused of making anti-Semitic statements on campus in the past. Speaking to a crowd on May 14 that included several hundred students of diverse backgrounds along with many Jewish students and pro-Israel community activists, Ali said the “Zionist mentality” of perpetuating war in Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere is the cause of financial ills facing society today.
“The Zionist mentality wants war, and the more war we have in society, the more poverty we have. That’s why the [college] fees are going up, because they’re pulling more money into war. Pulling more money into war while more people are losing their jobs, losing their housing.”
He went on to call Jews “the new Nazis.”
In a statement released Monday, the MSU said it joins Drake in condemning terrorism, even as it qualified Ali’s comments as having been made “in the context of leading resistance against a state that continues to function based on genocidal and apartheid-like politics.”
Some pro-Israel advocates on and off campus were pleased with Drake’s remarks. UCI economics professor Amihai Glazer, who spearheaded an open letter expressing disturbance over activities on campus said to foment hatred against Jews and Israelis and signed by 63 Jewish and non-Jewish UCI faculty members, said he appreciated the chancellor’s strong statement.
“For years, the chancellor said that he would not criticize a particular speech or a particular event,” he said. “This is the first time I know that he has.”
Others said Drake should have said condemned Ali’s anti-Semitic comments and those who brought him to campus.