Trouble on campus
Trouble on campusIsrael news photo: Creative Commons

Two University of California professors warn that Jewish students face greater dangers as Muslim extremist organizations grow in campus influence.

In an article on, Leila Beckwith and Tammi Rossman-Benjamin – Professor Emeritus at the UCLA and Lecturer at the University of California Santa Cruz, respectively – write of the growth of Al-Awda, the presence of the Muslim Students Association or Muslim Student Union in nearly 600 North American colleges and universities, the activities of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and more.

"Many of the activities of these groups specifically harass and intimidate Jewish students," they write, and "it is not inconceivable that these groups' anti-Semitic discourse and hostility could escalate into incidents of physical violence. Nevertheless, California administrators have been unwilling to respond to, or even acknowledge, the threats that Jewish students face on their campuses."

Al-Awda, for instance, is an organization that opposes Israel's right to exist, supports foreign terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hizbullah, organizes strongly anti-Israel rallies and events, and often features virulently anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic speakers and films at its events.

"Al-Awda has also made significant inroads on college and university campuses in North America," the professors write, "by partnering with dozens of Muslim and pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel student groups. The first four of Al-Awda's seven annual international conventions were held on university campuses (University of Toronto, Hunter College, UCLA, and San Francisco State University)," and its conventions and regional conferences are invariably sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the Muslim Student Association (MSA).

In California alone, SJP and MSA groups from more than ten California public colleges and universities have collaborated with Al Awda in hosting events.

Speaker Boasts at Success in Silencing Israeli

A sample Al-Awda event was reported on by undercover reporter Lee Kaplan this past February. One speaker, Dr. Jess Ghannam, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Global Health Sciences at UC San Francisco and Adjunct Professor of Ethnic Studies at SFSU, gloated at the successful disruption of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren's speech at UC Irvine MSU. "Now, every single Israeli military official and politician will be afraid to speak publicly," Ghannam said. "It's huge!"

The MSA, founded by the extremist Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, has had speakers on college campuses who justify suicide bombers and jihad and/or have acted in support of Hamas. Both the MSA and the SJP have repeatedly promoted anti-Israel events that at times become openly anti-Semitic and voice support for suicide bombers. At UC Irvine, for example, the professors write, "the MSA has been involved in acts of physical aggression, harassment, and intimidation of Jewish students; has produced posters equating the Star of David with the swastika; and hosts speakers who compare Jews to Nazis and praise terrorism."

Chancellors Condemn - But Only in Principle

The response of university officials has been weak, to say the least. For example, Beckwith and Rossman-Benjamin write that "all ten University of California Chancellors recently signed a statement condemning 'all acts of racism, intolerance and incivility' … Nevertheless, not one UC Chancellor has condemned the MSA/MSU or SJP groups on his or her campus for the hateful, anti-Semitic programs they mount, or the hostile and intimidating environment they create for Jewish students."

At a special three-hour UC Regents meeting last month devoted to addressing recent acts of intolerance and bigotry on UC campuses, the discussion focused almost entirely on African-American students and other under-represented minorities. The "longstanding and intolerable harassment and intimidation of Jewish students by members of the Muslim and pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel student groups were not mentioned even once," the professors write.

In addition, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education has refused to afford Jewish students the same protections against harassment and intimidation as it grants to every African-American, Latino, and Arab student. This policy is an above-board feature of Obama administration policy, said Kenneth Marcus, former director of the OCR, who quoted Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali as indicating that the Obama administration would not pursue cases of harassment against Jewish students.

Raising the Alarm

"The MSA/MSU and SJP chapters on many California campuses are unlike other official student groups," the two professors conclude. "Their affiliations with organizations that support terror and seek to wage Islamic jihad make them a threat to every member of the campus community, but especially to Jewish students. The refusal of university and government officials to afford protections to Jewish students on California campuses is absolutely unconscionable and should be protested loudly and clearly by parents, donors, and taxpayers across the state and across the nation."