The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) office in Anaheim, which covers Southern California, is cheering news that the Department of Education (DOE) is closing an investigation into whether Palestinian rights activism on three UC campuses, including Irvine's, created an anti-Semitic climate. The DOE's Office for Civil Rights was also looking at the University of California schools at Berkeley and Santa Cruz.
The DOE had been responding to complaints that student protests and academic programming in support of Palestinian rights and critical of Israel "created a hostile environment for Jewish students," according to CAIR's California offices.
The investigation of UC Irvine began first, in 2007, followed by UC Santa Cruz in March 2011 and UC Berkeley in July of last year.
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There had been reports of tensions between Muslim and Jewish students at UCI dating back long before Israel's ambassador to the U.S. was shouted down by several Muslim Student Union (MSU) members during a February 2010 appearance on campus. The MSU has previously claimed the DOE probe began after complaints about fiery speakers at the 2007 Israel Apartheid Week teach-in the organization sponsored.
But the investigation drew blowback from CAIR's California offices as well as attorneys from Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Lawyers Guild.
"This is a victory for student free speech," says Zahra Billoo, executive director of CAIR-San Francisco Bay Area, in a statement. "We hope that students who exercise their First Amendment right to advocate for human rights and social justice will continue to do so on their college campuses without fear or intimidation."