The Forward published a lengthy article last week titled, “California Campuses Gain a Reputation as Hotbeds of Anti-Israel Rhetoric.”
It opens with a January protest in Irvine sparked by a lecture from Daniel Pipes, a polarizing Middle East expert and a visiting professor at Pepperdine University:
The lecture topic was âThe Threat to Israelâs Existence.â The speaker was Daniel Pipes, a Middle East analyst known for his hawkish pro-Israel views and sharp denunciations of Islamic extremism. The setting was the University of California, Irvine, a campus with a national reputation as a hotbed of anti-Israel rhetoric.
Students wearing Palestinian kaffiyehs clustered in the center of the auditorium.
The stage was set for confrontation.
Sure enough, 15 minutes into Pipesâs speech, just as he had built up to one of his main points â âThe Palestinians must have their will crushed so that they will no longer be trying to eliminate Israel, so they will tend to their own affairs and leave Israel aloneâ â dozens of Muslim students interrupted him with hostile shouts, before promptly marching out of the lecture hall, chanting âanti-Israel, anti-oppression.â
Afterward, the student protesters gathered outside, where they listened to a speaker vow, âItâs just a matter of time before the State of Israel will be wiped off the face of the earth.â
Here’s the nut:
U.C. Irvine though is only the most recent in what can seem like a rotation of California campuses to emerge as the focus of Jewish communal concern. At a number of California public universities, Jewish students have long faced particularly inflammatory rhetoric from anti-Israel activists â a state of affairs that predates even the most recent intifada. While at any given school, such activity tends to ebb and flow, established Muslim student groups in California repeatedly have brought fiery anti-Israel speakers to campus, including one who regularly praises suicide bombers, expresses support for Hamas and Hezbollah, and rails against âZionist Jews.â
âI think the tenor and the tone of the debate and the shrillness of identity politics is meaningfully different in California,â said David Harris, director of the Washington-based Israel on Campus Coalition. âThere are different challenges on campuses across the country, to be sure, but at some schools in California â especially large state schools â Israelâs supporters on campus are confronted with distinct challenges, including strongly heated rhetoric and a lack of respect and common civility.â
Surprisingly, the article offers no voice of moderate Muslims. Only this from Oakland cleric Amir Abdel Malik Ali (pictured):
Last spring, Ali gave a notorious speech at U.C. Irvine during a week of activities sponsored by the campus Muslim Student Union under the rubric âHolocaust in the Holy Land.â Speaking on a campus plaza behind a sign reading âIsrael, the 4th Reich,â Ali noted that Israelis are âreluctant to get on buses and things, or go to the cafÃ©,â adding, âItâs about time that they live in fear.â He said that whereas Israelis are âcoming to live,â they are opposed by âpeople who are ready to die, who say either victory or martyrdom. You canât fight against that.â
âWe will fight you until we are either martyred or until we are victorious,â he said. âThatâs how we look at it. And they know that thatâs how Muslims believe.â
I called Shakeel Syed, the executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, which overseas area mosques, to see if, in fact, Ali spoke for all Muslims.
“I categorically would dispute the myth that all Muslims feel that way,” Syed said. “I don’t think anybody speaks for all Muslims to beign with. And it is not right for Forward to say that all California campuses—the only controversy that exists on this is at the UC Irvine campus. Both Hillel and the Muslim group are unable to reconcile and both have been quite hostile to each other.”