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A Bubbling Cauldron at UC Irvine?

by: Andrew Davey (atdleft)

Thu May 31, 2007 at 07:05:26 AM PDT

Last night, UCI Chancellor Michael Drake met with Jewish students to discuss the recent unrest on campus. Here's what The OC Register has to say about it:

UC Irvine Chancellor Michael V. Drake told several hundred concerned Jewish community members Wednesday night to join in on discussions and work together against what he calls isolated incidents of anti-Jewish speech by outsiders on campus.

Drake answered questions during a 90-minute town hall meeting at Shir Ha-Ma'alot in Irvine addressing concerns about what the Jewish community calls ongoing anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity on UCI's campus.

"We promote dialogue, understanding, growth and tolerance at UCI," Drake said. "I'd like to enlist all of you in working with me to make Jewish life on campus as strong as possible."

So what's happening on campus? Is there an anti-Jewish problem on campus? Is there an anti-Muslim problem on campus? Why is UCI becoming such a hotbed of controversy? Follow me after the flip for more...

Andrew Davey (atdleft) :: A Bubbling Cauldron at UC Irvine?
So what exactly is happening at UCI? Jewish groups on campus have been complaining about anti-Semitic incidents for quite some times now. Pajamas Media likes to call what's happening an "intifada" against Jews on campus. The Jewish Journal asks if UCI is a hotbed of anti-Semitic harassment. So is there an anti-Semitic problem at UCI?

But wait, is this all that's happening? After all, the very same Muslim Student Union that is being accused of being behind all this harassment is itself claiming harassment. In fact, police are still investigating the charge that an FBI agent threatened a Muslim student who was just taking down a protest wall on campus. And most recently, the folks at Red County/OC Blog accused the Muslim Student Union of "preaching terror on campus", even though The Daily Pilot found no anti-Semitism and no incitement to "terrorism" at the previous speech in the week-long series on the Israeli-Palestinean crisis. If anything, it seemed like it was the commenters on the OC Blog story preaching hate.

So what's the problem? Why do both sides feel so victimized? Perhaps there are incidents of radical extremists targeting Jews on campus. Perhaps there are right-wing extremists who seek to stir trouble with the Muslims on campus. Perhaps the controversy at UCI is getting way out of control. What can be done to quell the controversy? What can be done to reconcile the differences between the Jewish groups and the Muslim groups on campus? Why is the conflict at UCI almost reaching Israeli-Palestinean levels of intensity?

Hopefully, UCI Chancellor Drake and the administration can come up with a solution here. Something has to be done to address this bubbling cauldron. Something has to be done to stop this from bubbling past the boiling point.

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Check your dates. (4.00 / 1)
And most recently, the folks at Red County/OC Blog accused the Muslim Student Union of "preaching terror on campus", even though The Daily Pilot found no anti-Semitism and no incitement to "terrorism" at the event in question.

Actually, Andrew, those are two different events on two different days with two different speakers.

Sorry about that... (0.00 / 0)
You're right, The Daily Pilot covered the previous day's speech. I duly corrected that. But still, how can the Muslim Student Union at UCI be promoting peace one day and "preaching terror" the next? If I were you, I still wouldn't be proud of many of those comments on OC Blog.

Had enough of the "red county" right-wing crazy-talk bulls***? Well, then come and visit us at The Liberal OC! Yes, there ARE liberals in The OC! : )

[ Parent ]
Asking a friend for recent info (8.00 / 1)
I'm checking with a friend of mine who would know what UCI looks like to its Jewish students and the Jewish community. But here's an article in the LA-area Jewish Journal, from two years ago.

I'd describe the ZOA as one of the outside groups causing trouble, as is Daniel Pipes, who AFAIC is a major league asshole.  The American Jewish Committee is also right wing, and not helpful here.  But I'd also say that Prof. LeVine is probably not a good judge of what is offensive to most of the Jewish community, since he enjoys fighting with it.

On the other hand, the ADL is probably a reasonably good barometer of how the Jewish community looks at a situation like this.

A lot can happen in two years, and I'm checking out what currently is going on.  If I hear more, I'll post it.

Thanks for the info! (0.00 / 0)
I'm still trying to get a good idea of what exactly is happening at UCI. I doubt that most Jews are causing problems on campus. And I doubt that most Muslims are causing problems on campus. I guess it's just when I see these reports of the FBI harassing a random Muslim student just trying to take down a protest wall, or about Jewish parents who are afraid to send their kids to UCI, I have to ask what the heck is happening.

Thanks for offering some insight into what is a very saddening story.

Had enough of the "red county" right-wing crazy-talk bulls***? Well, then come and visit us at The Liberal OC! Yes, there ARE liberals in The OC! : )

[ Parent ]
Important to separate FBI from other groups (0.00 / 0)
It's important to note something: while the FBI may be shadowing Moslem or Arab activists, and there may be red-neck types who are doing worse, I doubt you're going to find Jews among either group.  So I'm not totally comfortable with you sort of conflating the situation on campus with the harassment of Moslems in OC, since there are folks who would suggest that what the MSU might do on campus is justified by these things. To the extent that the MSU is pushing the Jews on campus, they are complaining to the wrong address.

It's also worth noting the following exerpt of one of the articles:

Pro-Israel students say they have been sworn at and intimidated by Muslim students. They say that a few pro-Palestinian activists have followed Jewish students around campus, pushed placards in their faces equating Zionism with Nazism and, in one instance, threatened violence.

This again is from two years back.  But stalking individual students is pretty extreme, and in my opinion, actionable by the administration if it's still going on.  I have never heard of any Jewish group doing this to Moslem or Arab students, and my memory of such things goes back 30 years.

From the same Jewish Journal article:

When asked whether the MSU had violated university policies by hosting the stridently anti-Zionist Malik Ali, [UCI Vice Chancellor] Gomez said he was unsure. He added that he personally found Malik Ali’s speech offensive.

I'm not familiar enough with the current situation at UCI to say much about Gomez, except that I don't find a lot of people from the Jewish community praising his judgement.  So when he says that he found Malik Ali's speech offensive, it says something.  I don't know anything about his politics, but he clearly is willing to piss off a good piece of the Jewish community in other statements.

That said: I agree with the statements both by Gomez and UCI Chancellor Drake that protection of free speech is a vital part of the university's mission.  I just think that Gomez should expect that if he shows up with an event, people will draw conclusions from it. Supporting free speech does not mean supporting the content of the speech, and if people who see him at an event think it says something about his politics (and about that of the UCI administration), perhaps it is not an unreasonable conclusion.

I'd ignore the ZOA and the AJC, but if Hillel is organizing these sorts of meetings in the community, it's a big deal, since it is very much a mainstream Jewish organization with support from across the Jewish community.

[ Parent ]
Both groups are being targeted... (0.00 / 0)
And everyone is suffering from what's happening. That's all I'm trying to say here. I'm sure that the FBI is targeting the Muslim community at UCI because of a few extremists attacking the Jewish community at UCI. The Islamist extremists are wrong to attack Jewish students on campus for injustice abroad that they have no part in. And the FBI is wrong in overreacting and meddling in campus affairs by harassing  Muslim students on campus that most likely have nothing to do with the recent violence.

Perhaps everyone needs to calm down. Perhaps all the outsiders need to stop butting in and provoking this conflict any more. Perhaps the larger community in OC needs to step in and try to help in healing all these wounds. That's what I'm trying to say here.

Something needs to be done to address the pain felt by all sides, and to try to heal the entire campus community.

Had enough of the "red county" right-wing crazy-talk bulls***? Well, then come and visit us at The Liberal OC! Yes, there ARE liberals in The OC! : )

[ Parent ]
FBI may not be responding due to that issue (0.00 / 0)
The FBI has been hassling people in the Moslem community irrespective of whether there was a Jewish community or not.  I am unaware of much (or any) FBI involvement in anything connected with the Jewish community, with the exception of events like the shootings at LAX some years ago.  Unless there were actual threats of violence (say, a death threat against someone on campus or the Jewish community -- I know of a case like that from around here, which involved white skin head types, not Arabs or Moslems), I don't think the FBI would be involved.  For them, this is a local law enforcement matter.

It's worth remembering that like it or not, there are people in the MSU who are what I'd describe as Moslem Brotherhood types, at least in terms of ideology and politics.  Hostility towards Israel you can take for granted for folks from that movement, but in fact, pretty vile anti-semitic literature is tolerated, and even popular (sometimes, rarely you can even find this sort of shit in English).  In the US Moslem community, this general point of view is not that common, since South Asian Moslems tend to be a lot more laid back, and more open to ecumenical activities, and in most places, there are more non-Arab Moslems than not.  And there are many Arab Moslems that are very moderate, tolerant people.  But it's definitely there, especially in Mosques that get a good deal of Saudi money.  And folks like this tend to have fairly poisonous attitudes towards the Jewish community.  I've been involved with cross cultural and ecumenical activities all my life, and I find these parts of the Moslem community completely uninterested in any kind of dialogue.  At most, they are interested in Jewish speakers who will repeat their talking points, up to and including at least some support for violence against Israelis.  You are not going to find many Jewish people who will do this, and I would describe exactly none of those as representing the Jewish community in any way, shape or form.

But that isn't why the FBI would be interested in folks like that.  The radical fringe of the Brotherhood in places like Egypt forms the core of what became Al Queida.  And if you're interested in finding people who are from that radical fringe, you're likely to look into exactly the same parts of the Moslem community that is most like the Brotherhood.

That's not to say that there is anybody at UCI that is at all sympathetic to the use of violence within the United States, although organizations like the MSU are not shy in saying they are fine with violence within the Middle East.  While I find that contemptible, it is not illegal, and speech of that kind is protected.  And even then, some of the Middle Eastern organizations (most noteably Hizbollah) have killed Americans in Europe.  It would not be that surprising if the FBI were interested in Moslems in the US that were in communication with people in these organizations.  And if you're booking speakers on campus from some of these groups, or helping them raise money in the US, even indirectly, that's exactly what you're doing, and the FBI may well take an interest in you.

All of these activities may well be legal.  But they might draw FBI attention all the same.

[ Parent ]
Outside groups causing trouble (0.00 / 0)
I think there is a great deal of that going on here. While the issues originating on the campus and amongst students are significant and need to be resolved by them, you have these outside groups who are constantly looking for flashpoints and controversies - ESPECIALLY on a college campus - to keep their own fires burning.

Whereas UCI administrators could potentially help play a role in bringing both sides to a table and having everyone talk out and work out their differences so that people feel able to promote their ideas as well as feel safe on campus generally, these outsiders want to stoke confrontation, and block efforts at a constructive dialogue or fair resolution.

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave

[ Parent ]
What can be done about the outside groups? (0.00 / 0)
So then, what can we do about the right-wing groups going after the Muslims on campus? And what can we do about Islamist extremists going after the Jews on campus? Can UCI do anything to lessen their influence? Is there something that the larger community in Irvine and Greater Orange County can do to stop these outsiders from causing all this havoc on campus?

It's just saddening to see this situation continue to spin out of control at this otherwise fine institution. It's sad for the Jews. It's sad for the Muslims. It's sad for everyone affected by it. : (

Had enough of the "red county" right-wing crazy-talk bulls***? Well, then come and visit us at The Liberal OC! Yes, there ARE liberals in The OC! : )

[ Parent ]
Know who's reliable, and who isn't (0.00 / 0)
This is a good question, and people down in OC think about it a lot.  The official Jewish community, in the form of organizations like the local Jewish federation (which does fundraising, social services and such) and its groups like the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), and groups like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Hillel try as much as possible to "manage" situations like these where there is public conflict, and they tend to be pretty responsible about it.  The outside groups are very unhappy about this, and I found a web site today made up of RW Jewish types bitching about how "useless" the ADL has been.  This is a good thing: it's the Jewish community pushing back on the Idiots and refusing to give them the time of day.

I have some compassion for the UCI officials dealing with this stuff.  The Idiots are not shy about getting in the faces of UC officials.  The Idiots claim to represent the Jewish Community, but since there is no central authority in the Jewish community, it's tough for the officials to know who's representative, and who is just some shmuck with a lot of ego.  In other communities, the non-Idiots try to get to know the officials and develop a relationship with them, which is very helpful when things get nasty.  It makes for better policy by the university, at the very least.

I don't know much about how the MSU relates the outside community, so I don't know what goes on at that end.  My impression is that CAIR -- the Moslem equivalent of the ADL, as I've seen it put -- has also had a constructive role in dealing with this.  I believe that some of the local imam have as well.  But someone who knows more about the US Moslem community would have to tell you.

[ Parent ]
No problem (0.00 / 0)
I just noticed you were excerpting Chris Prevatt, and so my correction is more properly directed at Chris.

As for the comments (0.00 / 0)
I only recently read the them, and I deleted one I thought violated the rules of the comments section. But I think Chris's characterization of them is grossly exaggerated.

It's not your fault, Matt... (0.00 / 0)
And I'm sorry if I or Chris implied that it was. It's just that we find it troubling how some of these individuals in the Red County/OC Blog community would resort to such vitriolic and spiteful language. And yes, I'm glad to see that you're taking care of some of those commenters in question.

But what I want to know here is why these folks feel emboldened to make such vicious comments about Muslim-Americans. Why are these folks doing it? And why did they take what happened at UCI earlier in the month, and completely distorted it? That's what I'd like to know.

Had enough of the "red county" right-wing crazy-talk bulls***? Well, then come and visit us at The Liberal OC! Yes, there ARE liberals in The OC! : )

[ Parent ]
I don't know (0.00 / 0)
I hesitate to characterize OC Blog commenters as the "OC Blog community." There's little I can do about who comments before they actually comment. The Internet has an inordinate share of loonies from across the political spectrum.

And I need to correct my previous correction, because I see now that Chris was excerpting you, not the other way around!

I understand... (0.00 / 0)
I understand that there's not much you can do about these commenters before they make their comments. That's why I'm not blaming you for this. I'm just wondering why these folks think they have license to trash an entire tradition of faith.

And I use the term "community" because OC Blog has developed a regular group of people who read (and some who write) the stories on the blog and make comments. The same is true here at Calitics, where we've developed an online community of people from throughout the state who write stories, make comments, and do much more. Now I understand that you and I as individuals can only do so much within our respective online communities. I'm just wondering why the more extreme elements have to resort to inciting such hatred and vitriol.

And once again, I made the correction on my story here. Sorry about that first statement. But still, why did "El Libertador" present the speech that he attended so differently from how Daily Pilot covered the other speech? Were the two speeches that radically different? And why did those commenters resort to such outright ugliness?

And again, I'm not blaming you, Matt. You seem to be handling this well. I'm just wondering why these outsiders want to make the UCI situation worse.

Had enough of the "red county" right-wing crazy-talk bulls***? Well, then come and visit us at The Liberal OC! Yes, there ARE liberals in The OC! : )

[ Parent ]
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