UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake has come under fire.
UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake has come under fire.

Zionists Call for Donation, Enrollment Boycott of UC Irvine, Slam Chancellor

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) issued a statement Tuesday urging potential students to apply somewhere other than UC Irvine and potential donors to contribute elsewhere. The group, which has been "fighting for Jewish people and the Land of Israel" since its 1897 founding and boasts a national membership of 30,000, in particular slammed UCI Chancellor Michael Drake for allowing anti-Semitism to rule the campus.

"[T]he university has for years enabled bigotry, discrimination and the violation of civil rights by failing to condemn longstanding anti-Semitic and Israel-bashing speech and conduct on campus, and failing to enforce its own policies against the perpetrators," reads the ZOA statement.

The boycott comes hot on the heels of campus police arresting 12 students from Irvine and Riverside who disrupted a Feb. 8 UCI Student Center lecture by Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the U.S. The campus Muslim Student Union condemned the arrests, but it is unclear which, if any, of those quickly whisked out of the auditorium and cited by campus officers were MSU members.

Immediate condemnations of the disruptors by Drake, political science professor Mark Petracca and School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, were not enough to appease the ZOA, which especially faulted Drake for the outbursts.

"As a Jerusalem Post editorial noted, the Muslim Student Union 'made a mockery of the university's commitment to freedom of speech and treated its dedication to respectful dialogue with downright disdain.' Yet Chancellor Drake's response to the Muslim Student Union's latest misconduct was tepid at best," reads the ZOA statement.

Drake should have, according to the ZOA:

* condemned members of the MSU "for the disrespect they showed to the Ambassador of the State of Israel, their violation of others' civil rights, their possibly illegal conduct, and their violation of university policies--all of which brought further shame to him and his university";

* "clearly and forcefully" stated that "disciplinary proceedings would be instituted against the wrongdoers, as specifically provided for by university policy";

* "handled the matter himself," rather than referring the case to the Office of Student Conduct, which "itself been derelict in its responsibility when it comes to the Muslim Student Union."

University officials have found themselves in the ZOA's crosshairs since at least 2004, when MSU members drew national attention for wearing green stoles to graduation. The graduating students claimed the stoles symbolized their faith, while others alleged they represented allegiance to the militant group Hamas.

The following year, the ZOA complained to federal civil rights investigators about alleged anti-Semitic speeches by speakers invited to UCI and discrimination against Jewish students because the university failed to take action. An investigation concluded the speeches and marches were based on opposition to Israeli policies, not the religion or national origin of Jewish students.

Last year, the ZOA complained to university about a May MSU-sponsored event that included a speaker who compared Jews to Satan and "characterized them as slick, sneaky and conspiratorial."

Drake was singled out at that time for failing to respond to the MSU's solicitation of funds on campus for Viva Palestina, "which may have furnished material support and resources to the terrorist group Hamas," a violation of federal law. The group's founder, "Israel-bashing radical British politician" George Galloway, spoke at the event.

Drake and campus officials have said they will have no comment on the latest ZOA maneuver. But UCI spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon did say the arrested students face disciplinary action that could range from warnings to expulsions. The Orange County District Attorney's office will decide whether to press criminal charges against them.

Meanwhile, Lawhon said, the university is still investigating whether the MSU violated school policy by conducting fundraising on campus last May, adding that the ZOA complaint was forwarded to the FBI.

The call to boycott UCI enrollments and donations was not made lightly by ZOA National President Morton A. Klein, Chairman of the Board Michael Goldblatt, Vice Chairman of the Board Steven M. Goldberg, Chairman of the National Executive Committee Alan Mazurek and ZOA Center for Law and Justice Director Susan B. Tuchman, according to the organization's statement.

"Many of the problems could be rectified if the Chancellor would hold student groups like the Muslim Student Union to the university's clear standards of conduct," reads the statement. "Instead, the Chancellor has sent the inappropriate message that promoting misrepresentations and outright lies about Jews, Zionism and Israel is tolerable and acceptable.

"UC Irvine must now pay the price for its inaction. We call on all decent people, both Jews and non-Jews, to stop supporting, with their money and enrollment, a university that has been complicit in promoting bigotry. It's the right and moral thing to do, until the university makes it crystal clear that it will stop tolerating anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism and that the perpetrators will be held to the same standards of conduct as everyone else."

Drake and the university can't win. The Monday edition of the New University campus newspaper carried an editorial by the MSU's Hadeer Soliman defending the arrested students' right to protest, calling Oren the "official representative of a state that engages in war crimes and crimes against humanity," and warning that selectively enforcing university policies to punish the disruptors "is undoubtedly sending a political message and chilling all students' First Amendment rights."

The Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Council of American-Islamic Relations have also condemned the arrests by campus police.


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