Perhaps it was the UC Irvine-imposed suspension or the negative publicity over the disruption of Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren's February 2010 speech on campus or just plain old growing up, but the embattled Muslim Student Union just presented a kinder- and gentler-sounding program seeking divestment from and boycotts of Israel.
At least the title eschewed the "genocide" and "apartheid" of years past in favor of "Palestine: An Invisible Nation." But critics taken to nicknaming the annual event "hate week" claim the May 5-12 program featured the same old "death to Israel" shtick.
Roz Rothstein and Roberta P. Seidis of the pro-Israel education group Stand With Us (not to be confused with the pro-MSU student criminal targets Stand With the Irvine 11) agree in an article co-penned in the Jewish Journal that this year's title was less inflammatory, no bloody Israeli flags were waved, no placards equating Jews to Nazis were toted and "the blatantly anti-Semitic, demagogic Abdel Malik Ali wasn't invited"--all of which have been the case over the past 10 years of the event.
"But this apparent moderation is a deception," concluded Rothstein and Seidis, who claimed the invited speakers were as extremist as ever.
They pointed first to Hedy Epstein, an elderly Holocaust survivor who, they say, "sweetly spouts Hamas' version of Israel's history and talks about her participation in the Free Gaza flotillas." Rothstein and Seidis argue Hamas is "the real oppressor of Gaza's residents," not Israel. Also coming in for criticism from the pair was: Israeli Matan Cohen, a Hampshire College student and leader of Anarchists Against the Wall, which seeks to obstruct the government building of the security barrier separating Israelis from Palestinians; former U.S. Ambassador Edward Peck, who was on the Gaza relief flotilla; and UC Berkeley lecturer Hatem Bazian, who has advocated boycotts, divestments, and sanctions against Israel.
"The speakers attack Jewish identity and Jewish students with thinly veiled or blatant anti-Semitism," Rothstein and Seidis wrote of these and other "propaganda parade" speakers. "They assault scholarship, the historical record, and rational thought, the mainstays of academia. They misrepresent and misapply principles of international law and human rights with Orwellian results."
The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) website focused on a speech titled "What Israeli Going On" by Amir Mertaban, a former president of the MSU West and chairman of Southern California's WhyIslam, an Islamic Circle of North America program dedicated to da'wah (proselytizing).
The uncredited IPT post accused Mertaban of refusing to answer audience members who asked if he condemned Hamas, calling it "a loaded question" and praising the group's social and political program. He was quoted as then saying, "Any unjust killing of Israeli civilians I absolutely abhor and Islam does not allow. However, Hamas has also done a lot of freedom fighting missions for that matter. And I am absolutely one who defends anyone's right, whether you be American, whether you be Jewish, Israeli, Palestinian, to defend your rights. If you feel that you've been attacked wrongfully, and you defend you rights, I will never call you a terrorist."
The IPT called that "rationalizing violence." Can't say that I read it that way. And for Mertaban later mentioning he supported the Taliban of the 1980s for having fought for its rights and freedoms, the IPT blasted him for failing to condemn the 2000s version in the same breath. The poor guy is damned if he says it, damned if he doesn't.
Speaking of damned, the IPT has permanently done so to Mertaban for allegedly saying this about Osama bin Laden at a 2007 MSU-West conference: "I don't know this guy. I don't know what he did. I don't know what he said. I don't know what happened. But we defend Muslim brothers and we defend our Muslim sisters to the end. Is that clear?"
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It sure as hell ain't invisible.
Finally, Adam Probolsky, an Orange County Republican Party operative and political consultant allowed free reign to sway the masses as an Orange County Register columnist, writes that he stumbled upon "hate week" while heading to an electric car conference at UCI last week.
"Among the most obnoxious and bizarre displays is a sign that depicts the number of tragedies on both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict since the year 2000," Probolsky writes. "The sign says that some 1,452 Arab children have been killed during the same time 124 Israeli children perished. I am not sure of the point the Muslim students are trying to make. Would they feel better if more Israeli children were dead?"
Do you really have to ask, Adam?