Oakland Tribune Outtakes

Notes from Oakland, Berkeley and in between

At Cal, tension on the rise between members of some Jewish and Palestinian student groups

By kbender
Thursday, October 2nd, 2008 at 10:35 am in Uncategorized.

One of our correspondents in the field, Elizabeth Pfeffer, comes to East Bay Outtakes with this report about tensions escalating at UC Berkeley between members of certain Jewish and Palestinian student groups.

 

In the last few weeks, there have been at least four incidents of hate graffiti and vandalism on the Cal campus or nearby, Gabe Weiner, a former Cal student and campus coordinator for Israel Peace Initiative, told our reporter.

 

Weiner said swastikas and Jewish symbols were written on a poster promoting Israel-Palestine peace that was on a bus shelter next to the Eshleman Hall, the student government building. The vandalism occurred last month during a student senate meeting at which Israel was discussed, students have said.

 

Police have taken a report, but so far no arrests have been made in connection with defacing the poster, which was part of a campaign to humanize Israeli issues by Bluestar PR.

 

Just last week, an inflammatory anti-Israel statement was discovered on The Star of David Bridge on West Campus, in addition to other cases of hate graffiti and anti-Semitic drawings on bus shelter posters.

 

Campus police are investigating the incidents and Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau sent out a campus wide e-mail condemning the vandalism and calling it an “anti-Semitic obscenity.”

 

According to John Moghtader, 20, the student senator who spoke about Israel during the meeting the night the bus shelter sign was vandalized, the Israel-Palestine conflict has been dividing students at Cal since he was a freshman.

 

Moghtader says there is a certain pro-Palestine group on campus that he suspects is responsible for the vandalism, due to their alleged history of publicly comparing Nazis and Jews. He said that group is Students for Justice in Palestine.

 

“They have a pattern of tying in anti-Semitism with supposed criticism of Israeli policy,” he says.

 

No representatives from this group were available for comment.

 

According to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, comparing Nazis and Jews is hate speech.

 

Moghtader says he has grown ttired of Cal administrators treating anti-Semitic hate speech as an opportunity for dialogue rather than discipline.

 

But isn’t that always the way at Cal?

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5 Responses to “At Cal, tension on the rise between members of some Jewish and Palestinian student groups”

  1. SF2OAK Says:

    In lala PC land what do you expect? The anti war movement morphed into a anti Jewish movement pretty quickly. There was a speech on campus given by Dennis Prager who knocked Cal for not celebrating Israel’s 60th birthday- it included the shared values that each has of bringing equal rights to all, voting rights to all, a commitment to knowledge and bringing up society, a free media, freedom of religion, all values Israel and Cal espouse. Sit the Palestinians down have the debate on these subjects then let (the left) or anybody decide which side to stand with. It is sad but laughable and cryable to think that the Palestinians can only say that it is because of Israel that they are downtrodden (the myth)yet in areas they control or in other Arab countries like Jordan, Palestinians do not have the rights that Palestinians do in Israel.

    So Cal lets the anti semitism go unchecked because they are afraid, they were afraid of the tree sitters and they are even more afraid of real tough subjects.

  2. yaman Says:

    It is a sad thing that there are a small number of students at Cal who are exploiting these hate speech acts for their own political ends.

    All coverage of these incidents, especially the one related to the bus stop sign near the senate chambers, are based entirely on speculation. Links between timing and the like are all invented, based on the private suspicions of various individuals involved in various different organizations on campus. But the only people who are responsible for finding the culprits, the police, have never named any suspects, so it is odd that others have their “hunches” which apparently not even the police find credible. For those reasons it is inappropriate for anybody to throw out defamatory accusations like the one presented by John Moghtader in this article.

    As a member of Students for Justice in Palestine, and a student who generally has tried to keep an eye on discussions regarding Israel and Palestine, I know that racism plays a big role in much of what is said about Israel and Palestine. Just a few months ago, for example, an Israeli cabinet minister, Avigdor Lieberman, suggested that all Arabs in Israel (who account for 20% o the population by citizenship) should be encouraged to leave the country. Last Spring, an Israeli deputy defense minister, Matan Vilnai, suggested that Israel might inflict a “shoah” (holocaust in Hebrew) on the Palestinian people. And, of course, it is well known that the decades-old Hamas charter refers to classic anti-Semitic texts like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

    What is unique about SJP and its members is the fact that we reject these narratives flat out. We have no confidence in Israeli or Palestinian officials and leaders who have failed to bring about a just resolution for the past 60 years. We don’t believe that any of the “mainstream” discussions regarding Israel and Palestine do justice to Israeli and Palestinian civilians who simply want to live their lives without the threat of arbitrary and indiscriminate violence killing them and their loved ones. Every government in Israel and Palestine has brought only failure and continued misery for all people in the region, and the United States’ one-sided and unconditional support for the Israeli government has exacerbated that situation. We do not believe in government power, but in people power.

    And as people, we have come together from our diverse backgrounds to work for a common goal of peace and justice. SJP is probably one of the only political places on campus where Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, and Arabs work together in finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    Contrary to what is claimed in this article, we have never used imagery from the Nazi genocide against the Jewish people in order to draw an analogy to Israeli policies. We not only recognize that it is offensive, but also that it is historically inaccurate.

    In fact, anybody can browse our website at http://www.calsjp.org to find more information about the types of activities and discourse that we use. We always emphasize the possibility of co-existence, the need for equality, peace, and justice for all in Palestine. We adamantly reject anybody who suggests that either all Jews or all Arabs must be killed or expelled from the area in order to have peace and security.

    Unfortunately, members of Tikvah quoted in your article continue to distort our own organization’s views and activities in order to discredit our organization as well as distract the press and the American public from the atrocities committed by the Israeli military in Palestine. Those who know us and who come to our events know that these claims are false.

    If the writers for the Oakland Tribune would like to speak with any of us or attend our meetings, they are more than welcome to. Contrary to what the article states, we are all available for comment, at any time.

    At the very least, however, the press should not contribute to the witch hunt that has been initiated by Tikvah members against members of SJP. You did not report the graffiti in 145 Dwinelle, a large campus classroom, which appeared after Tikvah members used Facebook to spread the rumor that our organization was behind this vandalism. You can see pictures in the comments section here: http://www.yamansalahi.com/2008/09/19/journal/racism-is-part-of-the-problem-in-israel-palestine-not-the-solution/

  3. Tom P. Says:

    Jewish and Israeli members of SJP (and there are quite a few of us) have been targetted twice by these incidents – as jews, we deplore the equation of a star of david to a swastika, and as members of SJP we feel threatened by the on-campus graffiti agaisnt SJP that Yaman references to, some of which implicitly compares our group to Nazis. Baseless finger-pointing certainly does not alleviate the situation. We have and we continue to engage in constructive dialogue with zionist groups on campus, in spite of our ideological differences, and we deplore any form of hate speech towards any group.

  4. Dan Says:

    Yaman,

    You are completely wrong. Your weak attempt to defend SJP doesn’t even approach the threshold of truth.

    No one is saying there is proof SJP committed the vandalism or anything close to that. However, SJP has made similar statements in the past on campus, and its members have been harassing pro-Israel Jewish students for a number of years.

    You go from saying that SJP isn’t responsible to the vandalism to saying that SJP is completely innocent on every count: that’s ridiculous.

    SJP HAS made patently false comparisons in the past between Israeli leaders and Nazi leaders. At one of your events someone even pointed a sign that said “NAZIs” at a small group of Jews in the audience. Another participant said that what is happening in the Land of Israel is worse than what happened in Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

    I wish that your kind words about coexistence held true, but actions speak otherwise. At most of your events you display a sign that features the entire Land of Israel covered in a Palestinian flag. You chant “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” These actions clearly indicate that at least some of your members support destroying the State of Israel. It also illustrates that your group is racist; you consistently reject Jewish rights while upholding Arabs’.

    Your statement here actually illustrates some of the anti-Semitism rampant in SJP, as you once again expound a Jewish conspiracy theory, claiming without any evidence or info that some Berkeley Jews are running a campaign to deceive the press and American public.

    Then in the greatest contradiction of all, you imply that Tikvah is responsible for vandalism without even the slightest bit of evidence. You essentially do exactly what you earlier criticized Jews for doing.

    I wish SJP actually held the values it claims to hold. But it continues to allows its members to harass Jews and freely engage in anti-Semitic speech.

  5. Ali Says:

    Dan:

    Your charges of an anti-semitic history of SJP and harassing students is simply not true. You are operating under some serious misconceptions and I invite you to take a look through the sjp website: calsjp.org and go to an event and please, be perspective.

    Regarding the event where the “Nazi” sign was held up by a community member, directed towards students: yes that did happen. A community member who is known to attend really any political event on campus from across the political spectrum, and is also known for disrupting the events and getting kicked out, did hold up a piece of notebook paper with Nazi written on it and held it at students. Immediately following sjp members asked him to put it down and or to leave, while trying to keep the event under control. Then the community member left.

    This same community member has also previously verbally attacked sjp members, and yelled in a physically threatening manor. Considering that the community member is not a student, not in sjp and represents his own views independent of sjp, it is unfair to blame sjp for the incident. And if you were at the event, i imagine that you would be easily be able to tell that the Nazi paper holder was not a member of sjp. so what are you trying to accomplish here by referencing this event?

    And seriously, “Jewish conspiracy theory” ? Yaman referenced certain members of a specific student group are making baseless accusations to the Oakland Tribune. One of the individuals, John Moghtador is even quoted in the paper. It’s more like Yaman notes a few individuals are responsible for making false accusations, and that’s where it ends.

    Also, yaman did not say that these students are jewish, you did. he did mention that they are in tikvah, which is a zionist student group. Being zionist and being jewish are not synomous. Just look at John Hagee, definitely politically close to Tikvah’s position, and the man is definatley not jewish.

    Religion is not really relevant, but you are trying to make it an issue and I really think it is deplorable that you pulling the anti-semitic card on sjp. Have you no respect for those that actually suffer from anti-semitism? I have had some really anti-semitic things said/done to me in my life and never have i been in such an anti-racist/anti-sexist space as i have with sjp.

    Don’t project racism on sjp b/c you may disagree with their political position on american foreign policy.

    Do some reading-up on what you are talking about.

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