Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Zionist Organization of America and UC-Irvine

Gary Fouse

As I have reported previously on this site, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) in New York (their HQS) has issued a statement calling on prospective university students to reconsider their intent to attend UCI in the wake of the disruption of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren's speech on February 8th. ZOA has also called on donors to stop contributing to UCI. This has unleashed a storm of controversy. Many, including some Jewish UCI students, have called the statement unwise and maintain that more Jewish students are needed at UCI to counter the negative messages of the Muslim Student Union.

This has raised an interesting debate on the those two questions, one in which both sides have merit. I myself have raised the question in the past, both in my writings and what I have uttered. At the same time, I respect the opinions of those students who have taken a stand against ZOA's position.

My purpose in writing this, however, is to remind the readers that no other national Jewish organization has gone to the wall to represent the complaints made over the years by Jewish students at UCI more than ZOA.

The complaint filed by ZOA a few years back with the Department of Education was made in response to actual complaints of harassment made by Jewish students then attending UCI. The incidents described have been described on this blog, most recently in my response to Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky. Where were the other national Jewish organizations when all that was going on?

When British court jester George Galloway (pictured below) came to UCI last May and walked away with boxes full of cash to be delivered to his friends in Gaza-probably to be used to buy more arms and lob more rockets into Israel courtesy of Hamas, who took the lead in protesting and calling for an investigation by the Justice Department and for UCI to launch its own internal investigation into whether campus rules were violated? It was the ZOA (ADL also wrote a complaint as well.)

But where were all the other national organizations? Where was the local Jewish Federation, for example?

That's where.

And in the wake of the February 8th incident that has brought more embarrassment to UCI both nationally and internationally, who has taken the lead?


Meanwhile, the local boss of the Jewish Federation, who has spent years denying the problem, is running around like celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, from news outlet to news outlet, expressing "outrage" ("laying down the gauntlet" according to one article) and demanding the university take "strong action".

Laying down the gauntlet! Gimme a break!

As I have always said as a non-Jew, how sad to see Jewish organizations and individuals not standing as one on these issues when their enemies are so determined and united.

The decision whether to attend UCI or donate to UCI is a personal one that has to be made by each individual. At the same time, I feel that Jewish students past and present owe a debt of gratitude to ZOA for standing up for their concerns. They have kept this issue alive in the public consciousness, and that is no small contribution

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