"You Jews… ya'll the new Nazis!"
This message is brought to you by the Muslim Student Union. Literally. Last Thursday during the MSU's annual Anti-Israel Week (or, as some people call it, Hate Week) the MSU's favorite speaker, Malik Ali, apparently slipped up and forgot to preclude the word "Jews" with "Zionist"– his standard tactic of getting away with anti-Semitic rants by turning Jews into a political entity. Which begs the question: if it was Zionism and not Jews Malik Ali abhorred so much, would he really have forgotten to mention Zionism in his diatribe?
Between the resumption of peace talks in the Middle East and May being "Kindness Month" at UCI, the MSU's rape of the First Amendment to demonize Israel this year comes at an awfully awkward time. A torn-up Israeli flag splattered with red paint ("blood") and decorated with sneaker prints hung from a wooden makeshift tank. Unmanned tables with cartoons depicting the Jewish state as Nazis, baby-killers and the KKK occupied a portion of the Ring Road near the flagpoles (and never mind that Arabs enjoy more freedom in Israel than any country in the Middle East). A kaffiyeh, a scarf-like article of clothing associated with Islamic terrorist groups like Hamas, hung next to a quote from Anne Frank, suggesting that the victim of all Holocaust victims would be against the idea of Zionism (last year Anna Baltzer, one of the MSU's own speakers, told them on the sly to remove a picture of Anne Frank wearing a kaffiyeh).
This year's MSU lineup of speakers primarily featured well-intentioned but ill-reputed or misinformed speakers, exemplary of the MSU's habit of often presenting skewed facts or one-sided half-truths. Monday's main speaker was Hedy Epstein, a woman the MSU flaunted as a Holocaust survivor. In reality, Epstein left Germany in 1939 to live out World War II in the safety of England. At her speech on Monday, Epstein unashamedly admitted that she "might not always know the right answer" and described audience members who asked her questions as "the enemy." More concerning, though, is her belief that Israeli-Palestinian peace talks "have not accomplished anything," and thus the next logical step is to economically cripple Israel. Simply because the peace talks are not meeting Epstein's speedy standards is not a reason to foist all blame onto one side. Epstein comes off as a sweet old lady whose heart is in the right place, but she chooses to pursue justice through antagonism and hostility rather than peace.
Tuesday's primary speaker was Norman Finkelstein, a failed academic whom DePaul University denied tenure in June 2007. Both Finkelstein's critics and authors whose work he has approvingly cited, such as Benny Morris, have accused him of grossly misrepresenting their work. Peter Novick, a noted historian whose work Finkelstein said "inspired" his book "The Holocaust Industry," has described the latter's work as "trash."
Finkelstein's 2006 article suggesting political rival Alan Dershowitz be targeted "for assassination" because of his pro-Israel views was accompanied by a cartoon of Dershowitz masturbating to Lebanese corpses. Finkelstein was also invited to the 2006 Holocaust denial conference in Tehran alongside noted bigots like ex-KKK member David Duke. For obvious reasons, this is a man not to be trusted on anything informational.
Thursday featured the MSU's all-star Malik Ali, an imam from Oakland who has consistently expressed his belief that Jews control the media, government and economy of the USA. He has also asserted the conspiracy theory that Israel, not Al Qaeda, was responsible for 9/11 and described Iranian President and world-class Looney Tune Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as "a pretty good guy." During his speech on Thursday, Ali stated his support for the Islamic terrorist groups Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad. When an audience member proceeded to ask Ali if he supported jihad at UCI, the MSU member manning the audio equipment shut her microphone off. After it was eventually turned back on, Ali answered that he does support jihad at UCI "as long as it's in the form of speaking truth and power," to which many MSU members applauded. He ended his rant with the comment, "You Jews… ya'll are the new Nazis!" It's quite undeniable that Ali is a charismatic and provocative speaker. Then again, so was Hitler. Ali must have missed the memo from Martin Luther King Jr., who once said, "To stand against Zionism is to stand against the Jews. Make no mistake of it." Go ahead. Look it up.
I visited Israel and the West Bank this past summer with a group of UCI students. We met with many high-profile figures: the mayor of Qalqilya, Hebron, Chaifa, Jenin, and the director of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to name just a few. Not one person we talked to, not one Israeli or Palestinian (except for an al-Jazeera journalist) said anything nearly as disgustingly hateful as what we are used to hearing and seeing during Hate Week. In the West Bank, we met with several different Palestinian families, many of whom told us that they did not understand why some people in the US were so adamant about destroying Israel; at the end of the day, they told us, they just wanted to be able to travel into Israel hassle-free to work and to visit their friends and relatives. Likewise, many Israelis we spoke with said they couldn't wait for the day when Israel does not need the security fence to protect them from terrorists; a lot of them miss being able to visit with their Palestinian friends in the West Bank.
It's incredibly unfortunate that extremist elements have come to define the conflict; Palestinian extremists attack Israel, thereby drawing equally extreme reactions from the Israeli government. These Palestin"ian extremists, selfish in their desire to satisfy their angst against Israel or the West, or the holy fire instilled in them by Allah, negatively impact the lives of normal Palestinians who just want to get on with their day. The MSU, on a different level, is no different; they have hijacked the Palestinian cause and negatively impact more moderate students who just want peace so everyone can get on with their day. The MSU's Hate Week is nearly a mirror image of the Hate Week in George Orwell's "1984," where brainwashed citizens screamed and threw books at images of Goldstein, the big-nosed Jew the government has charged to be responsible for all evil in that world. The MSU is more concerned with destroying their self-perceived evil than they are with preserving the very people they claim to champion. The MSU's Hate Week, like the Israeli flag that they buy each year to viciously destroy and hang up in pride, serves no purpose except to divide students on campus and inhibit peace. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an indescribably complicated situation that cannot be sufficiently explained by representing only one side. The methods which the MSU uses to fight for Palestinian justice, ironically, only damns the Palestinians to eternal statelessness and oppression under Hamas' corrupt regime.
Aaron Elias is fourth-year English major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.