Mideast Tension at UC Irvine Gets National Coverage

Middle East-related tension at the University of California Irvine garnered prominent media coverage this year, prompting six articles and one editorial in the Los Angeles Times. The paper’s coverage emphasized incidents in which Muslim students came under assault, but significantly downplayed–or altogether ignored–the far greater hostility displayed toward Jewish and pro-Israel students.

Half of the Times articles dealt at length with the arson of an “apartheid wall,” which was constructed by the Society of Arab Students to protest Israel’s separation barrier. The display was part of “Anti-Zionism Week,” which included a presentation entitled “The Apartheid Wall: Ethnic Cleansing, Israeli Style.” As of press time, a police investigation had not turned up the culprit(s).

Nevertheless, in a June 18 story, the Times equated the work of an unknown arsonist to anti-Israel events organized by campus groups, saying that there is a

level of distrust on campus that Muslim, Jewish and pro-Israel students feel toward one another. Last month, a campus display put up by the Society of Arab Students was burned down. …..the president of Anteaters for Israel… said Muslim and Arab students had sponsored an Anti-Zionist Week and had brought several anti-Israel speakers to campus, some of whom she said used anti-Semitic rhetoric. (Emphasis added)

Thus, the newspaper’s story constructed a parallel between the unsolved arson (for which the reporter by suggestion implicated Jewish or pro-Israel students) and the anti-Semitic rhetoric, which is reported as an allegation, rather than a fact.

Anti-Semitic Rhetoric

In a June 24 editorial, the Times again gave short shrift to anti-Semitic speech at UC Irvine events, saying only:

bad feeling grew into open rancor this year, especially after a Muslim student group sponsored an anti-Zionism week with speakers whose oral histories of the Middle East were one-sided at best.

Describing the speakers as merely “one-sided at best,” and by failing to cite any of their statements, the Times obscured the Muslim Student Union’s (MSU) hate-mongering

The New University (NU), the student paper at UC Irvine, reported that in a Feb. 26 speech at the school, Imam Amir Abdel Malik “explained that the only bad Jews are Zionists and that Zionists are not following the Torah.” The article also detailed Malik’s “Jewish Cracker theory,” which NU paraphrased:

Jews are plagued with arrogance, an arrogance that is brought about by a combination of ideas like white supremacy and the notion that Jews are the chosen people. This arrogance, he claimed, is a “deadly mix.”

Malik also delivered two lectures at the MSU’s anti-Zionism week in May: “IDF: Israeli Terrorist Forces” and “Zionism: America’s Disease.”

Imam Mohammed Asi, who also spoke at Anti-Zionism Week, once blamed Israelis and Jews for the Sept. 11 attacks: “We have enough evidence to believe that those who were macro-managing these events were the Israeli, Zionist Jews” (C-Span, Oct. 31, 2001).

Symbols Under Attack

The other Times stories were about the controversy surrounding Muslim students who wore green sashes emblazoned with the Shahada, the Arabic testament of the Muslim faith, during the 2004 commencement. Some Jewish students considered the sashes reminiscent of garments worn by terrorists and feared that Muslim students were showing solidarity with terrorists.

Reacting to the commencement hoopla, a Los Angeles Times editorial erroneously claimed that “only Muslims were called on to explain or defend their symbols.”

But, as Merav Ceren, president of the school’s pro-Israel group, wrote:

We’ve seen a precious symbol of our religion, the Star of David, put on signs and desecrated by having swastikas drawn on it or next to it. And then we’ve seen people who are supposed to be our fellow students carrying those hateful signs, chanting and marching down the street. (NU, May 31, 2004).

In Praise of Terrorism

Another point that the Times ignores is that perhaps there are good reasons for asking Irvine’s Muslim students to explain certain symbols. In addition to the question of the virulent speakers, the university’s Muslim student magazine raises real cause for concern. Al-Kalima promotes itself as “the Muslim voice on campus and the Southern California community.” In its June 2004 issue, Abdulrahman Hachache, a fifth year student, lauded assassinated Hamas leaders Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Rantissi:

[T]he Arab people have realized that the only solution to the Zionist situation is through military force, which is espoused by Hamas, Hizb’ Allah, Islamic Jihad, and other Islamic resistance organizations…

…Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, who only had control of his tongue, stuck to his correct legitimate ideology and was assassinated as a hero of the Palestinian people and Muslims worldwide… Yassin used it [tongue] to fight and ‘terrorize’ the evils of Shaytan (Satan) and the enemies of Allah.

…Yassin[’s]…persistence, piety, and self-sacrifice led to his popularity amongst people all over the world…

If Hamas is sincere, the assassinations will embolden the organization and those within it by making them stronger and eventually allowing them to succeed and reap the rewards they seek, as long as they stick steadfastly to their objective and work for the sake of Allah.

Hamas’ proclaimed “objective” is to destroy Israel. And Yassin, whose “piety” the writer touts, has said that “reconciliation with the Jews is a crime.”

Hoax Quote

In addition, the MSU unabashedly used a fake quote to promote their Anti-Zionism Week. The publicity material included the following alleged quote attributed to former Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion: “We must use terror, assassination, intimidation land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.”

Phil Schlesinger, a UC Irvine student, requested a source for the alleged statement. In a June 2 email, MSU representative Fatima Ibrahim claimed that Ben-Gurion made the statement to his General Staff in May 1948, and she cited the “Koenig Report,” a leaked 1976 policy report by Israel Koenig, the Northern District Commissioner of Israel’s Interior Ministry.

In a second email that day, she advised Schlesinger to “read the memorandum closely and if you still can’t find it, you can tell me and I will bring the whole memorandum with the quote pointed out.”

CAMERA provided Schlesinger with the “Koenig Report” which does not contain the alleged statement or any other by Ben-Gurion. When confronted with this information, Ibrahim revised her story:
first of all I am not going to spend time 1 week before finals to search for the quote (which is your responsibility)…the quote is a famous quote that can be looked up in many books such as “BEN-GURION, A BIOGRAPHY”, by Michael Ben-Zohar [sic].
“Remember,” she added, “that the Koenig Report was your initial suggestion, which is not where WE got it from.”

CAMERA contacted Bar-Zohar, who confirmed that the “quote definitely isn’t” in his book. Schlesinger requested that the MSU retract the quote, but the group has so far refused.

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