Thursday, May 10, 2007

UC Irvine safe for Jews

Martha Mecartney, chairwoman of UC Irvine's academic senate, was surprised recently to hear her daughter relay a school friend's fear: "Since she and some of her friends were Jewish, it was not safe for them to walk around the UCI campus."

"Why in the world," Mecartney asked in an op-ed in today's OC Register, "would this untruth be spread around Orange County?"

The simple answer is that, among its growing stature as a premier institution, UCI has become the bad boy of collegiate Jewish-Muslim relations. I blogged last month about California campuses' reputation as "Hotbeds of Anti-Israel Rhetoric." The article from the Forward focused on UCI and the cadre of rabble rousers, like Amir Abdel Malik Ali, who are invited to campus by a small group of MSA students to praise suicide bombers and rail on the "Zionist Jews."

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 “Holocaust in the Holy Land.” Speaking on a campus plaza behind a sign reading “Israel, the 4th Reich,” Ali noted that Israelis are “reluctant to get on buses and things, or go to the cafĂ©,” adding, “It’s about time that they live in fear.” He said that whereas Israelis are “coming to live,” they are opposed by “people who are ready to die, who say either victory or martyrdom. You can’t fight against that.”

“We will fight you until we are either martyred or until we are victorious,” he said. “That’s how we look at it. And they know that that’s how Muslims believe.”
Mecartney takes issue with these speakers and says it is unfair to broad brush UCI a hostile place for Jews.

It appears that the goal of these speakers and their supporters on our campus is not to foster discussion and bring attention to possible solutions for the plight of the Palestinians but to demonize Israel and American Jews who support the existence of Israel. This I find highly repulsive and against what I believe in, which is tolerance and respect for all and a peaceful and productive solution to a long-term political and religious challenge in a land claimed by many peoples for many centuries.

But to equate a few individuals who visit the campus each year and spout vitriolic speech (which is their constitutional right) with UC Irvine being unsafe for Jewish students is a horrible misrepresentation of the truth. There has been vandalism of signs erected by both pro-Israel and anti-Israel factions, but there have been no documented cases of physical violence against any Jewish students. The campus is safe for all students – in fact, UCI is one of the safest campuses in the entire UC system. Jewish students must know this since they have been coming to UC Irvine in increasing numbers each year, and this past fall UC Irvine had the highest-ever number of Jewish students enrolled.

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