Posts

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.

Boston Jewish Leadership caught in Deception over Newton Schools Disputed Texts

Questions on the integrity of Boston Jewish communal groups, the regional office of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) and its affiliate, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) were raised in a Boston Jewish newspaper report released this week.  The investigation was prompted by a raging dispute with Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) over the Newton, Massachusetts School Board use of controversial anti-Israel and Muslim proselytizing high school texts.

The Boston Jewish Advocate (The Advocate), the weekly Jewish community newspaper of record, has published an investigation of this latest development in an 18 month battle brought to the community’s attention by Dr. Charles Jacobs and his team at Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT), “ADL, CJP Newton reaction raises questions of integrity”.  We posted on The Iconoclast about this simmering dispute in late October 2013, when Jacobs and APT took out ads in several local and regional newspapers.  These were about the troubling world history course texts used by the Newton School Board in 9th and 10th grades; “The Arab World Studies Notebook” and “A Muslim Primer”.

The Advocate’s expose was triggered by a November 15, 2013 letter signed by the heads of the regional ADL, the CJP and its affiliate, the JCRC, published in the newspaper, alleging that they had conducted their own investigation on the troubling Newton school board texts. This letter was prompted by another ad by the APT pointing out the lack of attention by the local Jewish defense and Federation groups to anti-Israel maps from the controversial texts similar to those that ran on bus kiosks and in subways of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).  The Advocate expose noted:

Controversy continues to swirl over a statement released by the ADL, CJP and JCRC claiming that charges by APT President Charles Jacobs of anti-Israel material in the Newton Public Schools were groundless.

Following that statement and ambiguity over whether a referenced ADL report even existed, the JCRC stated that it has also conducted an inquiry into alleged anti-Israel materials taught in 9th- and 10th-grade history classes in the Newton Public Schools that is separate from that of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
However, the JCRC – like the ADL before it – declined to share the details of their review with the public, prompting some in the community – including an instructor at Brandeis University in Waltham – to raise the question of transparency in local Jewish organizations.

We have reported in New English Review articles, interviews and Iconoclast posts on the local Boston regional and national investigations by the APT. In particular we have drawn attention to the nearly decade long battle to uncover the support and indoctrination in terrorism by the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC) controlled by an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood,  the Muslim American Society..  The ISBCC figured prominently in the incitement of the Boston Marathon jihad bombers, the refugee Tsarneav brothers.   APT also produced a documentary on anti-Semitism in the Northeastern University faculty and its former Muslim Chaplain associated with the ISBCC.   The APT also produced the nationally acclaimed film, Losing our Sons about the first home grown Islamic terrorist action after 9/11 by Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, aka, Carlos Bledsoe. He was trained by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He attacked a Little Rock, Arkansas Army Recruitment center on June 1, 2009.  Mohammed-Bledsoe, originally from Memphis, Tennessee, engaged in a jihad action that took the life of the late Army Pvt. Andy Long, seriously injuring a fellow recruiter, Army Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula.

The deception, disputed  by the ADL, CJP and JCRC in this latest development, was uncovered through investigations by Middle East watchdog group CAMERA’s  Joshua Katzen, a Brandeis University adjunct faculty member, and Russell Pergament, publisher of the Jewish News Services (JNS).

The Advocate cited ADL and JCRC’s lack of transparency:

Neither ADL nor JCRC has agreed to release its findings in order to support their joint statement in a Letter to the Editor in the Nov. 15 issue of The Advocate, where the organizations’ leaders wrote that they have done a “careful review of the materials at issue,” concluding, “We trust that this is reassuring to members of our community.”

[ADL New England Regional Director] Robert Trestan said a report of their investigation does not exist, ADL’s New England Regional Board Chair, Jeffrey Robbins,
said there is indeed such a written analysis but it is not available to the media.“It’s an internal report,” he said. “People do this stuff internally all the time. … It involves all kinds of proprietary research.”

JCRC Executive Director Jeremy Burton said … JCRC has not completed a “written report or briefing memo” of its analysis.

Katzen replied:

The failure of both organizations to release the reports that they claim to have undertaken, by nameless non-experts, indicates that no such reports were ever prepared.

While CAMERA has an expert on the subject, [Senior Research Analyst] Steve Stotsky, who made serious and professional findings, there doesn’t appear to be anyone at either ADL or JCRC with the credentials to analyze the curricula. Why on earth would they be refusing to release the reports?  Only two explanations: Either the reports are slipshod and amateur, or [they] don’t exist.

Barry Shrage, President of the CJP responded:

Implicitly acknowledging that there were in fact such materials in the Newton schools, Shrage said, “In my view the question of existence [of materials listed on APT’s advertisement] is not the issue, but rather how these materials were used.”

When asked about how the situation reflects on transparency of the Jewish community organizations, Shrage turned the attention on Jacobs’ group, saying, “What about APT? Where is their transparency?” He went on to say that APT still has not answered questions to ADL and JCRC’s inquiries.

In response to the question about his organization’s transparency, Jacobs said in an e-mail, “Our ads and our many op-eds have disclosed the basis of our concerns.”

Russell Pergament publisher of the JNS who conducted his own investigation said:

I really doubted any report existed. I pushed hard on the phone with Schrage…. I wanted facts. What is really alarming here is to see Boston’s most powerful and
well funded Jewish communal organizations train their firepower on one courageous man, Charles Jacobs, who has time and again come to the aid of Jewish high school and college students facing harassment.  These groups often did nothing and, worse yet, even tried to undercut him. That they jointly, almost conspiratorially, joined forces to try and take him down is worse than disgraceful. You have to question their fitness to retain these positions of trust.

An anonymous prominent Boston Jewish community leader observed:

Instead of releasing any report or detailed findings on which their statement is based, these organizations are asking us to blindly trust them and their general conclusion on faith. And yet, how can we do that when they are saying two inconsistent and contradictory things, at least one of which is therefore a lie? This is no longer just a story about the Newton schools, but about accountability and how our communal organizations and leadership operates.

Jacobs of the APT commented:

It seems to me that ADL has done a disservice to the Jewish community and Jewish leadership in Boston, by claiming to have done a thorough, quality investigation – which they refuse to disclose …

We do not believe ADL has any credible basis for its continuing claim that there is nothing for Boston’s Jewish community to worry about. This is very unfortunate for a community that desperately needs strong leadership at a time when Israel and its supporters are under attack in universities, in K-12, and in the media.

Once again, Jacobs and the APT team as well as independent investigators have caught the Boston Jewish community leaders in a web of deception abetting anti-Israelism in both the local schools and in the public debate.  This does not come as a surprise to us, nor is it an isolated case.  For example, we can point to our investigations of the controversial Olive Tree Initiative at UCAL Irvine funded by an affiliate of the local Orange County, California Jewish Federation.

How can we trust the Boston Jewish leaders to defend both Israel and the Jewish people?

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