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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.

Rabbi Praises Anti-Israel, Anti-America Noam Chomsky

Rabbi Isabel de Koninck

Rabbi Isabel de Koninck

My colleague, Lori Lowenthal Marcus, founder of Z Street and national correspondent for The Jewish Press, demonstrates in this article why progressive rabbis at college Hillel chapters are leading this generation of Jewish college students, astray. Witness the honorary degree given to Noam Chomsky at the June 12, 2015 commencement at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Drexel handed out 14 honorary degrees, including Chomsky. He was one of several honorees who spoke at a number of campus ceremonies.  According to the Drexel announcement Chomsky received his honorary degree as “professor emeritus at MIT, linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, logician and political commentator.” The Drexel Hillel executive director and campus rabbi, Rabbi Isabel de Koninck, posted on her Facebook page about being in the presence of Chomsky. de Koninck exclaimed: “That’s me with Chomsky and President Fry!”  A former Drexel Hillel student cited by Marcus said:

A representative of the Jewish community should probably not be in a photo op with him. It is a bit disturbing that a figurehead of the Jewish community would allow herself to be next to him.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some students felt alienated and more hesitant to be involved in the organization after seeing such a photo.

de Koninck is an alumna of Brandies U, received her ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia, was a Wexner Fellow and is a board member of the Reconstruction Rabbinical Association.

Chomsky originally hailed from a Philadelphia Jewish family, where his father was a noted Hebrew linguist and Hebrew school administrator; his mother came from an avowed leftist anarchist background. Chomsky was fortunate to have been educated at the University of Pennsylvania where he received in rapid order over the period from 1944 to 1950 a BA, MA and PhD before settling down as a cognitive linguist at MIT. He is a linguist who adhered to an environmental / behavioral model of how speech developed and disputes the view that speech was genetically determined. Despite being the author of 100 books, many of them anti-war, anti-American, anti-Israel and socialist/anarchist tracts. The New York Times Magazine did a profile on him that revealed his biggest problem at the time was estate planning. He had made a fortune from sales of his books published by the progressive London-based Pluto Press. Chomsky came to the fore in 1967 at the peak of the Vietnam anti-war movement as an advocate of the New Left, from which he made a career giving college lectures and receives honoraria.

Marcus notes some of Chomsky’s extreme views.

On Israel:

He has called the Jewish State such a consistent and extreme violator of human rights “that you hardly have to argue about it.” For that reason, he claims, U.S. military aid to Israel is in direct violation of U.S. Law. He also contends that peace proposals made by Hamas have been more “forthcoming” and sound than any proposed by Israel.

Although he is distressed that the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel) Movement has not yet been successful, he is very supportive of it.

On America’s foreign wars and policies:

Chomsky also denied there was proof of Osama bin Laden’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks, and said the U.S. attack on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan would justify a retaliation scenario in which “Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic.”

Also, according to Chomsky, the United States is not a democracy; it is a “plutocracy” in which most citizens are disenfranchised.

12 Years ago, on a rainy night in November 2003 in New Britain, Connecticut, I witnessed the award of a $50,000 honorarium presented to Chomsky  then President of Central Connecticut State University, who subsequently resigned in March 2004 over charges of plagiarism and fiscal misappropriations. I was there in the presence of the Hillel director and students from the nearby University of Hartford. Also present was a fellow Army Intelligence reserve officer and high school history faculty member, Richard Bruneau. At the time CCSU was notoriously “occupied” by pro-Palestinian and anti-Iraq war activists, including a local Chomsky acolyte, distinguished university professor emeritus Norton Mezvinsky.

We witnessed a succession of speakers queuing up at a microphone excoriating the US for the “unlawful” invasion of Iraq, and Israel as a colonial power occupying Palestinian lands. This despite the Jewish nation defending its citizens in the midst of a bloody Intifada.  I recall remarking to Bruneau at this convocation at CCSU   it reminded me of the images of Hitler’s Nuremberg rallies. Except that those participating in the adulation for Chomsky were community pro-Palestinian anti-Israel and anti-War leftists supported by CCSU faculty and its President.  The sense of that occasion was caught in Bruneau’s report on the Chomsky ‘honor’ in a Frontpage magazine article, “College Pres Cheers Chomsky”:

On Tuesday night at Central Connecticut State University, a capacity crowd filled Welte Auditorium to honor Noam Chomsky, touted as “one of the world’s most distinguished scholars” and a “noted foreign policy critic.” A standing ovation and resounding applause greeted Chomsky as CCSU President Richard Judd deemed his appearance a “special night” for venerating “one of the greatest intellectuals” of the last two centuries.

I attended wondering why taxpayers should subsidize reverential treatment for a man who has provided sustenance for Holocaust deniers and who blames America for virtually every international calamity of the past 100 years. Moreover, why pay homage to an anti-American viper who has characterized the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as less vile than American air strikes?

However, I left thinking that maybe Chomsky should have his own television show. The exposure would destroy his credibility, and we could bury his reputation right along with the other enemies of civilization like Mao Zedong, Pol Pot and Fidel Castro, whom he has endorsed.

Fast forward to June 2015 and the Drexel University’s honorary doctorate bestowed on Chomsky and the problem of misguided Hillel leadership.  You may recall the Swarthmore ‘free Hillel’ episode that we posted in December 2013, “Defining Moment: Hillel International Confronts Swarthmore College Chapter on Zionism”.   Swarthmore College is a member of the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia.  The kerfuffle concerned the challenge by the college chapter to the standards imposed by Hillel International CEO Eric Fingerhut.  We wrote:

The confrontation between the Hillel Chapter at elite Swarthmore College near Philadelphia and Fingerhut over the chapter’s so-called Open Hillel policy of presenting speakers delegitimizing Israel marks a new and potentially important development for this Jewish campus organization.

We concluded:

Given our exposure to problems on U.S. campuses over a decade, we applaud what Fingerhut at Hillel International is doing.  We presume that he has the backing of the principal funder of Hillel International programs, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Let us hope Fingerhut’s arrival as President of Hillel International isn’t too late to reign in anti-Zionist efforts like the Swarthmore Open Hillel initiative on many US college campuses.

With the Drexel Chomsky honor, it would appear that more ‘missionary work’ is required by both Fingerhut and the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia to combat demonization of Israel by the Jewish campus group chapters across America. The example of this growing problem with Hillel is chronicled in our series of articles on the anti-Zionist environment at UCIrvine. See in our June 2015 edition: “How One Southern California Jewish Federation Undermines Student Zionism at a State University.”

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