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University of California Board of Regents Passes Groundbreaking pro-Israel Resolution

Tammi Benjamin-Rossman, Hebrew language lecturer at UC Santa Cruz and founder of AMCHA, Initiative for protecting Jewish students, was pleased to announce today, the UC Board of Regents historic action in Oakland yesterday: condemnation of Anti-Zionism as Anti-Semitism.  She wrote about this a major breakthrough in an AMCHA blog post, University of California Unanimously Passes Landmark Policy to Protect Jewish Students: 

At the UC Board of Regents meeting today, the University of California passed a resolution which condemned “anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination” and stated “they have no place at the University of California.”

Anti-Zionism has now been linked to anti-Semitism and condemned by the most prestigious and largest public university in the United States. This is an unprecedented and remarkable step forward, which will benefit Jewish students across the country!

AMCHA began communicating with UC Regents and community members a year ago after hearing from concerned parents and students about the rapid rise of anti-Semitism at UC. In September the Regents appointed a task force to address the problem. The task force held numerous public meetings and hearings to hear from the community and experts. Last week they released the proposed Statement of Principles Against Intolerance that was approved unanimously yesterday by the Regents Committee on Educational Policy and today by the full board.

leaders of pro-isreal groups

Leaders and Representatives of multiple organizations (including AMCHA Initiative, Bruins for Israel, Iranian American Jewish Federation, Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs, Students Supporting Israel at UCLA, and Zionist Organization of America), UC Students, UC Professors, and concerned UC Alumni at the UC Regents Meeting, March 23, 2016.

At yesterday’s meeting, dozens of UC students and faculty, representatives from Jewish organizations, including, the Anti-Defamation League, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Jewish Community Relations Council, and AMCHA Initiative, and State Assembly member Travis Allen testified before the Regents urging them to support the measure. In addition, over the last week, more than 4,000 UC students, faculty, parents, alumni and stakeholders; 60 Jewish and education advocacy groups, including Hillel International, Jewish Federations of North America, and the American Jewish Committee; as well as the California Legislature’s Jewish Caucus and U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman urged the Regents to condemn anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in the Statement.

The vote, with the inclusion of the condemnation of anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism, represents a new direction in administration addressing modern anti-Semitism.  We are incredibly proud of this achievement. It was a challenging journey to arrive at this point, one that required the persistence of AMCHA, our extraordinary at-will coalition partners, students, activists, alumni and supporters.

Watch this YouTube video of the historic UC Board Of Regents vote:

We have written numerous articles and blog posts about the virulent anti-Zionism espoused by Muslim Student Union, Students for Justice in Palestine in the UC system and other elite campuses. That began with a January 2011 interview about the situation on the UCIrvine campus with local Orange County Jewish activist, Dee Sterling.  Especially concern was the disruption of a speech by Former Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren at UC Irvine in 2008, recounted his memoir, Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide. That led to the successful prosecution under California heckling conspiracy statues in Orange County. That led to the conviction of 11 MSU student leaders from the Riverside and UC Irvine Campuses in 2011.

There were revelations about campus leftists controlling the Olive Tree Imitative program, funded in part by a grant from a local Orange County Jewish Federation affiliate at UC Irvine. That led to an alleged chance encounter in 2009 with Aziz Duwaik, the Hamas Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker. In June 2015, we interviewed the President of Anteaters for Israel Jewish student activist Sharon Shaoulian, who recounted actions by former Orange County J Fed President Elcott and the campus Hillel chapter executive during IFEST (Israel Festival) supporting pro-Palestinian MSU kiosks during Apartheid Awareness week. We reached out to former AFI leader and UC Irvine alumna, Reut Rory Cohen who provided the history of Orange JFed antagonism towards campus Jewish activism.   Ultimately, the cumulative effect of these exposes resulted in the resignation  in July 2015 of Orange County J Fed President Elcott.

We hope that Sharon Shaoulian, Reut Rory Cohen, Dee Sterling, Gary Fouse, Debra and Amichai Glazer involved at UCIrvine are pleased about yesterday’s UC Board of Regents vote. However, now the effort must begin in earnest enlisting the Chancellors and faculty Senates of each University and state college campuses in California to implement initiatives protecting Campus Zionism activism and free speech. That also goes to local JFeds and Hillel Chapters to clean up their acts to reform misguided efforts thwarting such campus activism.

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EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Victory for Zionism at University of California Irvine Campus

It’s official. The problematic President of the Orange County Jewish Federation & Family Services (JFFS), Shalom Elcott, has been ousted by the board – his contract was apparently not renewed. Notwithstanding he remains as a strategic consultant to the Chairman of the JFFS board. This marks an important victory for Campus Zionism on the controversial UC Irvine campus. Thus, ends a nearly decade long intrusion by Elcott working against the Zionist Anteaters for Israel (AFI) campus group.  AFI’s leaders like incumbent Sharon Shaoulian and alum like Reut Cohen and others have borne the brunt of assaults on their  campus activities  and free speech by Elcott with support from  his  appointed Hillel chapter campus director. Elcott’s dossier  was the subject of a June 2015 NER article, “How One Southern California Jewish Federation Undermines Student Zionism at a State University.”

A press release from the Orange County JFFS issued on Wednesday, July 22nd confirmed Elcott’s replacement:

The Board of Jewish Federation & Family Services (JFFS) announced today that it has appointed Dr. Lauren Gavshon, JFFS’ current Director of Clinical Services as interim President and Chief Executive Officer, replacing Shalom Elcott as President and Chief Executive Officer

Elcott, a visionary leader who fundamentally transformed JFFS into the robust and diverse organization it is today, will continue to serve as Strategic Advisor to the Chair of the Board

Dr. Gavshon and her family have been involved in the local Jewish community for over 20 years, and she is well positioned to take on this expanded role,” said Daniel J. Koblin, Chair of the Board.

Our colleague, UCI adjunct faculty member, Gary Fouse on his Fousesquawks  blog wrote:

I know nothing about Dr. Lauren Gavshon, who is the interim CEO. The press release describes her as a bridge-builder. Heaven knows they need one over at the Federation after the Elcott reign.

Here is my question: If Elcott did such a great job, as the Federation is claiming, why the change? Why is there no reason given? Normally, something is said about a “retirement” or so-and-so wanting to spend more time with the family. One can read all kinds of things into this, but I will await further information coming out-as it surely will.

Hopefully, the new CEO will change the culture at the Federation and make it one that will truly represent all the Jewish students at UC Irvine especially the ones that choose to fight for Israel and stand up to anti-Semitism. Hopefully, the new leadership will speak out about anti-Semitism at UCI rather than try to sweep it under the rug. Hopefully, the new leadership will join the community in fighting the problem instead of trying to keep its members away from campus. Hopefully, the new leadership will support those who want to wave the Israeli and American flags in the face of pro-Palestinian demonstrators who disrupt pro-Israel events on campus. Hopefully, the new leadership will cut all ties with the insidious Olive Tree Initiative and denounce it for what it is; a thinly-veiled attempt to sway students toward the Palestinian narrative while masquerading as neutral.

Ms. Gavshon has a lot of work cut out for her as she tries to repair the mess left behind by Elcott.

We were glad to have helped in whatever way I to raise consciousness among Orange County co-coreligionists and Jews around the world about Elcott’s  cultivation of Israel’s enemies on the dime of the Orange County JFFS at the UC Irvine campus. One of Elcott’s  more troubling initiatives at UCIrvine was  diverting funds from a JFFS affiliate, the Rose Project , to fund student  trips sponsored by the left-wing  controlled  Olive Tree Initiative at UCIrvine. That led to an alleged inadvertent meeting in 2009 with Hamas leader on the West Bank, Aziz Duwaik, and Palestinian Legislative Council leader.  It has been almost five years since published an interview with  local Zionist activist and Ha’Emet blogger,  Dee Sterling about the plague of anti-Zionist activities on the Southern California campus.

Former Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren  was scheduled to  give a speech at UC Irvine on February 8, 201, when it was disrupted  by campus members of the Muslim Student Union (MSU). That was followed by   the arrest, prosecution and conviction of 11 students, 8 from UC Irvine and 3 from UC Riverside for disturbing a public event   The legal action brought by the Orange County District Attorney triggered a one year suspension of the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate by the Administration only to be reduced to 10 weeks by the retiring deputy Chancellor at UCI.  In the interim, Students for Justice in Palestine was formed as a placeholder for the suspended MSU.

Sharon Shaoulian

Sharon Shaoulin, President of Anteaters for Israel, UC Irvine

We produced a number of articles on the NER and our blog The Iconoclast about the misguided  helmsman of the JFFS of Orange County.  There was our joint effort with Debra Glazer developing A Pledge Against the Self-Destruction of American Jews to be signed off Jewish Federations against participation in anti-Zionist programs of  groups like J Street and Jewish Voices for Peace and unfortunately all too many fellow traveling Jewish Federations. Prescient, given the spike in Antisemitism in the EU, the Global BDS movement  and the great divide among fellow American Jews about Obama and controversial pact with Islamic Republic of Iran.

Besides Sterling, Fouse and Glazer there were others among the UCI faculty and local Orange County community activists exposing Elcott endeavoring to defeat campus Zionism. In the end with his ouster, perhaps a new day will dawn  for both Orange County JFFS and at UC Irvine.  Sharon Shaoulian, current President  and alum like Reut Cohen of Anteaters For Israel can quiet satisfaction that at least this nightmare is over.  They stood up to Elcott’s  bullying tactics, which we and others exposed, possibily resulting in the JFFS board  decision  this week to terminate his contract. Elcott’s ouster should be a warning to his minions at UCI Hillel and leftist allies of the anti-Semitic Muslim Student Union, Students for Justice in Palestine and the Olive Tree Initiative at UCI. Hopefully  Shalom’s brother David  Elcott at NYU’s Wagner College might arrange a permanent position for  him  with J Street. Professor Elcott is a member of the J Street Advisory board.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

IDF arrests 100 Hamas Leaders after kidnapping of three Jewish boys

It hit us like a proverbial 2×4 this morning when we opened today’s Wall Street Journal (WSJ) with a report on 100 Hamas leaders arrested yesterday by the IDF, “Israel Arrests Hamas Officials”. These arrests were in retaliation from the alleged Hamas kidnapping of three Jewish youths caught hitchhiking home five days ago from a yeshiva in the Gush Etzion bloc between Bethlehem and Hebron. See our Iconoclast post, “IDF Raids Seek an American and Two Israelis Allegedly Abducted by Hamas”.

Among those  the IDF detained was  Abdul Aziz Duwaik, speaker of the non-functioning Palestinian parliament and a University of Pennsylvania Architecture graduate.   Students  from the  University of California  at Irvine Olive Tree Initiative program purportedly met him by accident in the disputed territories back in 2009. We chronicled that in our NER article, “Does the Olive Tree Initiative Lack Credibility?”   This is not the first arrest for Duwaik as the IDF previously detained him in January 2012 in the wake of the October 2011 release by Hamas of former IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, held in captivity in Gaza since his capture by terrorists in 2006.  Duwaik had previously been detained by the IDF in 2006, when Shalit was originally abducted.

Investigations by local Orange County Zionist activists, among  them Deidre or “Dee” Sterling  and Debra Glazer, had revealed funding of the OTI program in part by an affiliate of the Orange County Jewish Federation, the Rose Project,  and the Chancellor of the UCAL University system. Those revelations of the chance encounter  with Duwaik raised contretemps over why a Jewish Federation of Orange County (JFOC)  was funding the OTI program that  put  UCIrvine students, both Jewish and not, in harm’s way during trips to the disputed territories.  A subsequent OTI trip included a visit to Ramallah to pay respects at the tomb of the late Fatah-PLO leader, Yassir Arafat.   In our NER article on the episode we noted:

The JFOC’s credibility problem surfaced from a response to a California Public Records Act (PRA) request by local activists from Ha’Emet. That information surfaced a “smoking gun” letter sent by JFOC President Elcott to UCI Chancellor Drake in October, 2009 revealing a meeting between OTI students and Hamas representative Duwaik. The JFOC leaders seized upon this letter as evidence that they had brought this to the attention of UCI administrators seeking an investigation. The JFOC leaders never informed the community.

In the JFOC letter the authors wring their hands about the fact that Jewish students on the 2009 OTI trip inadvertently met with a Hamas leader of the West Bank, Aziz Duwaik, on September 16th. The students were told by an unidentified person, presumably, the field co-coordinator for the OTI program, to say nothing while passing through Israel or upon arrival back in California, as it might look as if under our laws they were giving material assistance to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

As noted in a  FrontPage Magazine article, “The Patrons of Anti-Israelism”, U.Cal   Chancellor Yudoff also provided funds to OTI:

. . . only a matter of weeks after the Hamas meeting was made known to Drake, University of California Chancellor Mark Yudoff donated $5000 to the OTI via the Lumina Foundation for Education. This was followed in May 2010 with a $2000 award to the STUDENT LEADERS OF OTI by Yudoff for the university’s Presidential Leadership Award.

Sources tell us that the same OTI program leaders who perpetrated the 2009 encounter with Duwaik are still in charge at UCIrvine.  Further that UCIrvine graduate are conducting OTI program elsewhere in the UCAL university system.

Then there was Sheik Hassan Yousef, co-founder of Hamas in West Bank and father of the fabled Shin Bet double agent,  Mosab Hassan Yousef, subject of the 2010 bookSon of Hamas , and the  acclaimed 2014 Sundance Festival movieThe Green Prince.   We had contacted  the younger  Yousef in 2010 to facilitate  legal clinic aid to assist him in fighting a  Department of Homeland  Security  (DHS) immigration hearing that might have resulted in his being deported  back to Israel.  The immigration Judge dismissed the charges in a June 2010 decision granting Mosab asylum.  We noted in an Iconoclast post on the DHS immigration hearing decision:

The efforts of many, including his former Shin Bet handler, have been rewarded with this decision of the DHS. We had been an early advocate for Congressional investigation of this misinformed deportation matter.

Ha’aretz in a March 2010 report noted that Sheik Hassan has disowned his son Mosab when it was revealed that the latter had become an agent for Shin Bet. Mosab had  assisted  in conducting intelligence operations disrupting terrorist plans purportedly saving lives, both Israeli and Palestinians.   Part of the Sheik’s animus for doing this was Mosab’s public conversion to Christianity. The Ha’aretz article cited the Sheik’s message conveyed by letter while serving a six year term in an Israeli prison:

Hamas Web sites published a letter by Sheikh Hassan that the militant group said was smuggled out of the Israeli prison where he is serving a six-year sentence.

In the letter, he said his family announced its “complete renunciation of the one who was once our eldest son, who is called Mosab.” The father said though he was sorry to take such [a step], he had no choice after his son “disbelieved in God…and collaborated with our enemies.”

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.