Columbia and Barnard aren’t the only campuses where right-wing Zionists have fought bitter campaigns in the name of defending Israel and Jewish students. The unlikely site of the latest battle, as intense and angry as anything in Manhattan, is the University of California, Irvine (UCI). I should know–I teach there.
While the campaigns at Columbia and Barnard failed to persuade those schools to deny tenure or otherwise penalize faculty members the right-wing Zionists found objectionable, at UCI the professor who occupies the chair in Jewish history, Daniel Schroeter, has decided to leave after being condemned for failing to support the right-wing Jews’ campaign. Thus that campaign has had its first big success–but instead of getting rid of a Palestinian professor, they’ve gotten rid of a Jewish one.
UCI has been described as a place where rocks are thrown at Jews, swastikas painted on campus buildings and Hamas slogans displayed at a commencement ceremony. These charges have been disseminated widely–not only in the Jewish press, including the Jerusalem Post, but also in such mainstream media outlets as Fox News, where Bill O’Reilly featured the Hamas commencement story. And they were listed in a formal complaint filed by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) with the US Office of Civil Rights (OCR), arguing that Jewish students at UCI were the target of harassment and that the university had failed to protect them from anti-Semitic acts.
The OCR exonerated the UCI administration in a report issued in November. You might think that would have been the end of it, but the report only escalated the ZOA claims of Jewish victimization and its campaign against UCI. Three Republican senators–Arlen Specter, Sam Brownback and assistant minority leader Jon Kyl–and five members of Congress recently expressed “concern regarding anti-Semitic incidents aimed at Jewish students” at UCI and complained about the OCR report.
The OCR issued its report after federal investigators visited the campus eleven times to monitor demonstrations and interview students and staff. Stone-throwing at Jews? The ZOA complaint listed one stone thrown at one Jew in 2004. Swastikas on campus? The ZOA complaint listed one swastika found in a men’s room toilet stall–with Bitch Ass Asians written underneath. “The campus police investigated the incident immediately,” the OCR found, “but were unable to determine the culprit or the motive.” The swastika was promptly removed. And the “violently anti-Semitic” commencement where Muslim students displayed “Hamas slogans”? At the 2004 commencement some Muslim students wore green stoles over their gowns that contained Arabic script. The script, according to faculty members who read Arabic, spelled out the creed recited daily by all devout Muslims, “There is no god but God”–the equivalent of the Jewish “Shema Yisrael” (“The Lord is One”).