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ZOA expands its enemies list

by Brad A. Greenberg

February 8, 2008 | 11:08 am

Speaking of the Bintel Blog, they’ve got an interesting post about a pair of university presidents who have made the Zionist Organization of America’s hit list.

The right-wing group is criticizing Hillel for inviting two university chiefs — Amy Guttman, president of the University of Pennsylvania, and Michael Drake, chancellor of the University of California at Irvine — to speak at a summit that it’s is holding on universities and the Jewish community. According to the JTA, the ZOA is calling for the pair to be disinvited.

Guttman, the ZOA says, is an inappropriate invitee because in 2006 she posed for a picture at a Halloween party with a student dressed as a suicide bomber. The ZOA’s issue with Drake is that U.C. Irvine has been the site of “anti-Semitic speakers and programs” that have caused “Jewish students to feel threatened, harassed and intimidated.”

Never mind that Guttman has said that she didn’t grasp the nature of the student’s costume as the photo was being taken, and that she later called it “clearly offensive.” Even if one is skeptical about her explanation, only an extremely ungenerous person would assume that she’s guilty of anything worse than a momentary lapse of judgment.

In Drake’s case, it is true that the main Muslim student group at U.C. Irvine has repeatedly held viciously anti-Israel events on campus — events where the rhetoric often crosses the line into antisemitism (not to mention anti-Americanism). And some have argued that U.C. Irvine’s administration could be more sympathetic to Jewish concerns on this matter. But ultimately, there’s also a free speech issue in play, so it’s not as if the university can simply prohibit such events.

The irony is that the ZOA wants Hillel to effectively boycott two individuals who have actually weighed in against campaigns to boycott Israeli universities. Guttman and Drake are both signatories to an American Jewish Committee-sponsored statement strongly condemning anti-Israel academic boycotts.

Hillel, for its part, has declined to follow the ZOA’s advice.

 

I plan on attending the Hillel event. The ZOA letter should make for good conversation with the accused.

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