October 31, 2006
By Daryl Temkin, Ph.D.
The University of California at Irvine (UCI) has become a center stage campus for anti-Israel and anti-Semitic speakers and demonstrations. The Irvine campus is not unique; they are just a leading campus which condones anti-Israel/anti-Semitic programming. Generally initiated by the campus Muslim student organizations or by the faculty members of the liberal arts departments, this kind of campus programming has been going on for a number of years. This situation has created an understandable amount of anguish and concern among Jewish students and it has even led to students choosing not to attend UCI.

The anti-Semitic speakers have used the “free speech” clause to justify their statements and it is simple for them to assert that what they are saying is “true.â€? In their view, “Israel and the Jews are the cause of the world’s problems. The Muslims are just responding to the problems that the Jews and Israel have caused.” This “logicâ€? concludes that, “Muslims would not be forced to behave as they do if Israel and the Jews would stop provoking them.” This sounds similar to the logic which claims that the rapist would not have to rape if women would behave and dress differently. (On that note, this week, the Islamic world announced that if a woman is not wearing the “burka” or full Islamic covering, it would be considered her fault if she was raped or accosted.)

Recently, several swastikas were found inscribed on the University of California’s Irvine campus. Unfortunately, there are swastikas found on many American university campuses as well as high schools. The Jewish community is so used to this type of offensive occurrence that a newly drawn swastika incident usually doesn’t get much attention unless the consequence reaches a significant level of outrage. This occurred several weeks ago — on the first day of Ramadan. On that day, two Los Angeles area freeway overpasses were adorned with large swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans. That event got some coverage but was rapidly squelched and little attention was given to the fact that the incident just happened to coincide with the first day of Ramadan.

Interestingly and ironically, the local Muslim community leaders interpreted the appearance of these degrading emblems as symbolic of Muslim unity with the Jewish community. Muslim spokespeople presented the idea that, the swastikas appearing on the first day of Ramadan was a symbol against both Jews and Muslims. We are certainly living in very strange times.

In regards to the UCI event — the newly appearing swastikas at the University could have also gone unnoticed. However, the UCI campus has been a hotbed for claims that anti-Zionism has nothing to do with being anti-Semitic. Anti-Zionism is acceptable on the campus because Muslims claim that it is not against all Jews, it’s only against Zionist Jews. However, the swastika symbol doesn’t differentiate one Jew from another.

The anti-Israel Muslim speakers have learned to emphasize that Muslims are only against Zionist Jews and that non-Zionist Jews are acceptable. However, many of the Muslim speakers, while delivering their passionate presentations often forget to state the cover up words that they are supposed to say and end up hatefully lumping all Jews together. In regards to the UCI situation, the swastika incident has been attributed to the activities of the Muslim students.

Even in light of the above information, the UCI swastika incident could have gone unnoticed. However, something very odd occurred which took this event not only a step but perhaps a leap forward. The following provides a brief background:

The Vice Chancellor of UCI, Manuel Gomez, has been asked for the past years to take a more active role concerning the anti-Semitic hate speech that has been fulminating on his campus. After student and community organizations confronted the UCI administration with this issue, Gomez’s response was that “free speechâ€? protects the speech rights of these campus programs. “Free speech” protects “hate speech” – unless the hate speech leads to violence; otherwise it has to be allowed and tolerated.

The dream of concerned student and community organizations was for the university administration to acknowledge that hate speech is being promoted on its campus and even though freedom of speech is a foundation of the American Constitution, the university faculty and administration condemn or at least do not support the hate speech programs. Complaints from UCI students continued and Jewish students reported their discomfort and personal fears in the face of the frequent hate speech events. The position of the administration was neutrality, which is better described as silence, which ends up being a tacit support for the continued hate speech and anti- Semitic programs on this campus.

The “leapâ€? that occurred with the appearance of the UCI swastikas was an interview with the Vice Chancellor. Mr. Gomez when questioned about the swastikas on his campus reverted to his discussion of free speech and hate speech. Except this time, Mr. Gomez went a step further: He is quoted as stating that “one person’s hate speech is another person’s education.”

His statement inferred that hate speech is subject to interpretation. If a person agrees with the hate speech, then that person is learning from the hate speech position, and that can be regarded as “education.â€? Just like, “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”

At what point do we throw our hands up and scream, “The University has lost its mind!” Moral relativism which has become a pillar of much of higher education has once again crossed the line. Well recognized hate speech, swastikas on campus, and all the anti-Western preaching are just to be regarded as “education”. It’s simply one opinion versus another opinion.

When Vice Chancellor Gomez was asked for his opinion, did he simply not know what to say or did he say what he meant to say? Was it a “foot in mouth” moment or was it just the outcome of the current university educational environment?

The UCI swastika incident was another opportunity for Vice Chancellor Gomez to make a difference. He should have articulated an educational standard for the University, its faculty, and its student body. Instead, a very different educational standard than what might have been expected was established.

For the sake of memory, once there was a time that universities served to raise the standards of a society.

This weekly column is published in the English edition of Ha’aretz, Shalom LA, Israel-Jewish Life, and also appears in various North American and European publications, web magazines, and blogs
Membership to the Israel Institute is welcomed! Contact: Membership@Israel-Institute.org

Dr. Temkin frequently lectures on topics of Israel, Judaism and Jewish values, contempary issues and their threats to Western civilization, as well as issues of concern to Christians and Jews. For speaking engagements and lecture dates, contact: DT@Israel-Institute.org

Daryl Temkin, Ph.D.