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Jewish Federation of Orange County undermines Student Zionism at UC-Irvine

Over the past several years we have chronicled anti-Israel hate mongering by campus  Muslim  Student groups and  violation of opposing  views  of pro-Israel  speakers   and events  at the University of California, Irvine (UCI).  In a series of New English Review articles, interviews and Iconoclast blog posts we revealed the heckler’s veto of former Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren in February 8, 2010 by an organized disruption of his speech 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.  We also  unraveled  the story  behind  the Jewish Federation of Orange County (JFOC)  affiliate, the Rose Project, funding  the Olive Tree Initiative that brought  students to Israel and the West Bank  in 2009 for an alleged  chance encounters with a Hamas leader, Aziz Duwaik,  former Speaker of the Palestine Legislative Council.  See our NER article:”Does the Olive Tree Initiative have Credibility?”   We questioned  both the leadership of the Jewish Federation of Orange County and the UCI Administration dissembling over this incident.

UCI has a small Jewish student body versus a much larger Muslim one.  For most of the 32 weeks on the UCI campus, things are relatively quiet. However, during Anti Zionism Week (AZW) and Israel Festival, iFEST, sponsored by Anteaters for Israel (AFI)   the decibel levels and protests hate towards Israel rises to a veritable crescendo.  The AZW events organized by the MSU have typically involved anti-Israel speakers, and in the past some like Malik Ali with anti-Semitic statements, holding forth at noon events at the flagpole.  Despite this, JFOC President Shalom Elcott has suggested in the past, there is no anti-Semitism at  UCI.  Last year , an assault by  MSU protesters  disrupted  iFEST with calls for campus police assistance that resulted in a woman student being upbraided by  a JFOC  board member.  This year  AFI President Sharon Shaoulian organized  a three day event  from April 22 to 24th without JFOC funding, but with sponsors including  the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), StandWithUs, CAMERA on Campus, the Israel on Campus Coalition, and Hasbara.  Hillel, with is affiliated with JFOC, provided funding for Shabbat.

What happened during  iFEST  on April 23, 2015 revealed why JFOC   and Hillel have  undermined Jewish student  Zionism at UCI.  This year it was triggered  by an ambush of MSU and Students for Justice in Palestine (JSP)  pouring out  of the Campus Cultural Center  to attack  the Jewish student Zionist group , Anteaters for Israel’s (AFI)  during  their  iFEST Yom Ha’atzmaut  celebration of Israel’s Independence.   The iFEST attendees in opposition to the MSU/SJP protesters created space between the opposing groups  with massed Israeli and American flags  and Israeli dances. A Frontpage Magazine article  by Arnold Ahlert “Pro-Israel Student Group Meets Opposition from Jewish Leadership” revealed what happened when JFOC President Shalom Elcott and aide Lisa Armony, Hillel  Executive, intervened:

Witness Gary Fouse, adjunct UCI lecturer, reported that Lisa Armony, Director of the Jewish Federation of Orange County and Hillel Executive, was among those attempting to move the flag wavers back. One witness reported that they were “approached and told that it was wrong for anyone holding a flag to be standing facing the MSU/anti-Israel faction.” The witness was told that waving the flags was “antagonizing.” One of the flag wavers, who did not wish to be named, said that students who “seemed to be pressured by someone else” approached him and other flag carriers “and told us that we should not march with the flags since it ‘makes us look bad.’” It was further suggested to him that they move down the street and away from the area.

This witness also saw the far more troubling exchange between a man subsequently identified as Shalom Elcott, JFOC president and CEO, and AFI president Sharon Shaoulian. Elcott was seen “getting in the face of” Shaoulian, a third-year student, and screaming at her. As the witness explained, “I did not hear what this man said, but I saw Sharon break into tears,” he recalled.

Shaoulian confirmed that Elcott “advanced on me in a threatening fashion and began screaming at me and berating me” and was “looking down at me two inches away from my face.” He “blamed me..for ‘inciting’ the MSU/SJP to come out to protest,” though the anti-Israel protest happens every year. Elcott allegedly called Shaoulian “derogatory names, a ‘liar’ and a ‘disgrace.’”

Watch these YouTube videos of the UCI  iFEST encounter on the FouseSqwak blog:

Video One

Video Two

Video Three

Here is an excerpt from our NER interview with Shaoulian about the encounter with Elcott  at the UCI iFEST Yom Ha’atzmaut clash with MSU and JSP:

Jerry Gordon:

You had a recent exchange with the head of the Orange  County Jewish Federation.  I wonder if you could talk about that and the context in which that exchange occurred?

Sharon Shaoulian:  Yes, it happened on April the 23rd, which was a big festival day for AFI during iFEST.  Because the Federation, threatened AFI through another student, not to associate with the Zionist Organization of America, my board and I decided that it would be prudent not to ask for a Rose Project Grant and stand more independently on our own.

[…]

We were walking towards Shalom Elcott so he heard me pretty much the entire time, and that’s when he started advancing on me.  I’m five feet tall, and so he got very close to my face, just centimeters away from my face, peering down, screaming at me in front of everybody.  He called me a liar repeatedly, “You’re a liar.  You’re a liar.  They’re not going to come rush through the event.  You’re inciting all of these people.”  He told me that I was a disgrace, that the protesters were here because of me, that I caused all of this uproar, and that I should be ashamed of myself.

When he paused, while berating me, I told him, “You know, sir, what you are talking about?  They [meaning MSU protesters] are here every single year.  They’re not here because of me.  They’re here because we’re trying to be pro-Israel on this campus and they won’t stand for that.”

Elcott continued to yell and to make a scene. I flat out told him, “You, sir, you and Rose Project, you didn’t give us any funding for this event.  You expressly told your son, Jordan, not to be a part of iFEST.  So, with all due respect, why are you even here?  You know, if you didn’t want to have a stake in this event, why are you even here at our event?”

He didn’t say anything.  He obviously had nothing to say. That’s when I told him. “You know what?  You should be ashamed that you’re screaming at me, that you’re yelling at me.” He started recording me. While this was going on, community members were defending me and trying to get him to back away from me.  I think a lot of people were nervous about his proximity to me and the level that he was screaming at me.  Eventually we were pulled apart.  So that’s when Lisa Armony  caught what he did and tried to defend the action to my own parents.

On May 5, 2015, Carolyn Glick commented about the altercation at AFI’s UCI iFEST in a Jerusalem Post (JP) column, “Siding with the Victims of Aggression”:

Last month, the heads of the Jewish Federation in Orange County reportedly interfered with student celebrations of Yom Ha’atzmaut at University of California at Irvine on behalf of Muslim anti-Israel protesters who sought to ruin the festivities. According to a report of the events at the online FrontpageMagazine, the pro-Israel students separated participants in their event from Muslim student protesters by placing a line of students waving Israeli and American flags between them.

The move was angrily opposed by Federation Director Lisa Armony and Federation President Shalom Elcott. They reportedly insisted that the Israeli flags be taken down because they were “antagonizing” the anti-Israel protesters.

The accusation against JFOC of the FPM expose and Glick’s JP column comment led to the  response by Armony in the JP blog post, “Turning against fellow pro-Israel advocates“ of May 14th:

The accusation that we interfered with a Yom Ha’atzmaut [Independence Day] celebration at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) on behalf of anti-Israel protesters is based solely on a recent piece from the online FrontpageMagazine. The blogger relied primarily on unnamed sources and unsubstantiated assertions to paint a misleading picture of the festival, JFFS, and Elcott’s and my activities.

We reject the claims in the article that we told people to stop waving Israeli flags at anti-Israel protesters, claiming that we accept anti-Jewish discrimination on campus and “stand with the (anti-Israel) aggressor against the (Jewish) victim.”

FrontpageMagazine on May 15, 2015 published an editorial castigating Shalom Elcott and Armony for obfuscating what occurred at AFI witnessed by others, “An Attack on Front Page from the Jewish Federation of Orange County.”  That was crystallized by the May 4th FPM article suggesting  that their interference  at the IFEST event and shameful attack  on AFI President Shaoulian  were  an affront to decency  and unwarranted.   FPM considers JFOC’s defense of its actions calumnious.  The FPM editorial concluded:

Without a doubt the JFOC has much to answer for. The JFOC can be assured Frontpage will continue our no-holds-barred coverage of its brazen attacks on Jewish students and pro-Israel activists without apology.

The JFOC  alleged defense  reminds this writer of  J Street’s Orwellian meme of “Pro-Peace, Pro Israel”.  But this is nothing new for Elcott and JFOC. This is just the latest example of their nefarious activities on the UCI campus.

Elcott’s interference with Jewish student Zionist activities on the UCI campus amounts to bullying:  denial of free speech rights of Shaoulian and fellow AFI members. It amounts to a heckler’s veto equivalent to what occurred in 2010 during former Israeli US Ambassador Oren’s speech at UCI when MSU members shut down his talk.  The Elcott and Armony actions at iFEST and subsequent  slander of both Glick and FPM   does not  serve the interests of the Jewish student community at UCI.  Ms. Armony’s Jerusalem Post blog post upbraiding Glick and FPM  was emblematic of  what Dr. Johnson once said about patriotism, the last refuge of a scoundrel.  Witness JFOC claiming the mantle of a ‘responsible’ adult leadership on all pro-Israel activities at UCI implying less than adult behavior by Zionist AFI. That is truly topsy turvy  chutzpah.  The screaming attack by Elcott against Shaoulian  demeaning her  is not ‘adult behavior’. It is indicative of manifestly  deep rooted animus  against critics of his leadership at  JFOC especially   concerned  Jewish community  supporters  of the Jewish Student Zionism  of AFI.  The JFOC attacks against a colleague, Nonie Darwish, preventing her from speaking at an AFI-sponsored event in 2014, accusing her of being an “Islamophobe  are indicative of an  out of control  leadership at JFOC.   It is past time for responsible directors of JFOC to review Elcott’s unacceptable behavior.  Perhaps this most recent episode during IFEST at UCI may result in a search for new more effective leadership at JFOC.

More will be revealed about JFOC’s behavior in this latest episode in our interview with Ms. Shaoulian to be published in the June edition of the NER.

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.