Are Jews safe on campus?
This article is just about California...for now....
On Feb. 13th, Al-Awda (The Palestine Right to Return Coalition) held its Fifth Al-Awda West Coast Regional Conference in the La Mesa Community Center in San Diego. Undercover investigative journalist Lee Kaplan attended the meeting and wrote an article that raises several issues that should be very troubling for anyone concerned about the safety of Jewish students on California campuses.
Al-Awda is an organization that, according to the Anti-Defamation League, opposes Israel's right to exist; supports groups on the U.S. State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Hezb'allah; organizes numerous rallies, demonstrations, and events to demonize Israel and her supporters; and actively encourages boycott, divestment, and sanctions in order to isolate and economically strangle the Jewish state. (Two of Al-Awda's three co-founders are leaders of major anti-Israel boycott campaigns: Mazin Qumsiyeh co-founded the Boycott Israeli Goods campaign, and Jess Ghannam co-founded the U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel). Al-Awda's annual international conventions and regional conferences feature virulently anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic speakers and films, as well as workshops which teach how to mount successful boycott and divestment campaigns against Israel.
Unfortunately, Al-Awda has also made significant inroads on college and university campuses in North America 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, University of California Los Angeles, and San Francisco State University), and all of its conventions and regional conferences have been sponsored by numerous student groups, particularly Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the Muslim Student Association (MSA). In California, SJP and MSA groups from more than ten California public colleges and universities -- including UC Los Angeles, UC San Diego, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, San Francisco State University, San Diego State University, CSU Fullerton, and CSU San Bernadino -- have collaborated with Al Awda in hosting events.
The Al-Awda regional conference in February is a case in point of how much influence Al-Awda wields over California university campuses. A major emphasis of the conference was the promotion at California universities and colleges of a campaign to divest university holdings from Israel. The featured speakers came from diverse University of California and California State University campuses, and included Dr. Jess Ghannam, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Global Health Sciences at UC San Francisco and Adjunct Professor of Ethnic Studies at SFSU; students from SDSU and Cal State Northridge; and Dr. Jamal Nassar, Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Cal State San Bernadino.
The first to speak, Dr. Ghannam gloried in the success of efforts to delegitimize Israel. He singled out for praise the members of the UC Irvine MSU for their "heroic efforts" disrupting an invited lecture at UCI by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, and he added: "Now, every single Israeli military official and politician will be afraid to speak publicly. It's huge!" At a special workshop promoting divestment on California public university campuses, one SJP student from SDSU explained how the UC Divestment program has developed a campus-wide network in California, tailored to each campus community. She also reported on an SJP campaign to take control of the student government at SDSU by filling ten senate seats and the senate body presidency with SJP members, who would then be able to promote their divestment campaign. The meeting concluded with Dr. Jamal Nassar, Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Cal State San Bernadino, who promised that Al-Awda could host a conference at Cal State San Bernadino anytime, because Arabs have special connections within his campus administration.