UC regents have bigger issues than student rep debate

July 18, 2014

For the second consecutive year, the UC regents board is embroiled in an unnecessary and counterproductive controversy over the views of its student representatives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On Wednesday, the regents voted to confirm the selection of Abraham “Avi” Oved, a UCLA economics major who will begin his senior year this fall, to be a student representative on the university governing board. Oved has previously served as the internal vice president of the campus undergraduate student government, and he was the selection committee’s unanimous pick for the regents board due to his thoughtfulness and boundless energy, committee members said.

But Oved is also an active member of student Jewish organizations at UCLA and an opponent of the movement to have the University of California divest its holdings in companies that do business with the Israeli military. That, regrettably, helped incite an effort to stymie his appointment.

Oved’s appointment comes during a period of contentious debate on UC campuses about the Middle East. Last year, for instance, the U.S. Department of Education exonerated UC Berkeley, Irvine and Santa Cruz of allegations of anti-Semitism in connection with protests that some Jewish students felt constituted harassment. This spring, Students for Justice in Palestine called on UCLA student council candidates not to take trips to Israel under the sponsorship of three pro-Israel groups.

Last year, this page supported the appointment of a Muslim student, Sadia Saifuddin, to the Board of Regents despite harsh objections from Jewish organizations because of her advocacy for divestment. Now, we support Oved as well.

The people involved in these squabbles should take a cue from the two student appointees themselves, who have, for the most part, said the right things. Oved said he would “reach out to communities that may have felt uncomfortable” with his nomination. And despite casting the only vote to delay Oved’s confirmation, Saifuddin welcomed the opportunity to work with him and to help guide him “through the myriad moral and political factors” student regents face.

Nominee for California student regent draws rare ire

SAN FRANCISCO — The University of California’s governing board confirmed its first Muslim student member Wednesday, despite some Jewish groups’ claims that she marginalized Jewish students and promoted an anti-Israel agenda.

Regents voted unanimously to ratify UC Berkeley student Sadia Saifuddin’s nomination, with one regent, Richard Blum, abstaining from the vote.

UC Berkeley senior Sadia Saifuddin was picked from a field of 30 applicants to serve on the UC Board of Regents during the 2014-15 academic year. As student regent-designate, the 21-year-old Pakistani American would participate in meetings but wouldn’t be able to cast votes during the school year that begins this fall.

Saifuddin’s critics had urged the regents to reject the nomination, pointing to a student government proposal Saifuddin co-sponsored calling for the university to divest from companies with economic ties to the Israeli military or Israeli settlements on the West Bank. The critics said it was evidence she is unqualified to represent all of the UC system’s more than 222,000 students.

Jewish Voice for Peace, a Berkeley-based group that opposes Israeli settlements in the West bank and Gaza, issued a statement Wednesday saying that Saifuddin had been “made the target of yet another intimidation and repression campaign against anyone who dares criticize Israel on campus.”

Islamophobia Studies Journal launched by UC Berkeley

The Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project at UC Berkeley announces the launch of Islamophobia Studies Journal, a a bi-annual peer reviewed academic periodical focusing on emerging research on and analysis about the nature of Islamophobia and its impact on culture, politics, media, and the lives and experiences of Muslim people.

Closing arguments expected in Irvine 11 case

But at UC Irvine, the case of student protesters who disrupted a speech on campus by the Israeli ambassador last year appears to not have resonated.

In a Santa Ana courtroom Monday, closing arguments will be heard in a case involving Muslim students and the right to free speech. But the so-called Irvine 11 trial, the issues of which are deeply rooted at UC Irvine, has not quite resonated on campus — yet.

The jury’s verdict is what could matter, said David Snow, co-director of the school’s Center for Citizen Peacebuilding, a group that promotes reconciliation. “The hammer hasn’t really fallen yet.”

UC Berkeley Report Documents Growing Islamophobia in U.S.

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 6/23/11) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender today released a report based on available data and interviews with experts that documents growing Islamophobia in the United States and offers recommendations about how to challenge the troubling phenomenon.

Executive Summary:

American Muslim reflections on Islamophobia in the United States occur in full recognition that virtually every minority in our nation has faced and in most cases continues to face discrimination. Islamophobia is close-minded prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims. An Islamophobe is an individual who holds a closed-minded view of Islam and promotes prejudice against or hatred of Muslims. It is not appropriate to label all, or even the majority of those, who question Islam and Muslims as Islamophobes. Some individuals, institutions and groups deserve recognition for their outstanding contributions to pushing back against Islamophobic trends during the period covered by this report: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Loonwatch.com; Congressional Tri-Caucus; Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN); Jon Stewart, Aasif Mandvi and The Daily Show; Keith Olbermann and Countdown with Keith Olbermann; Stephen Colbert and The Colbert Report; Media Matters for America; interfaith leaders; and Rachel Maddow and The Rachel Maddow Show. Some individuals, institutions and groups were at the center of pushing Islamophobia in America during the period covered by this report: Pamela Geller and Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA); Robert Spencer and Jihad Watch; Brigitte Gabriel and Act! for America; Frank Gaffney and the Center for Security Policy (CSP); Steven Emerson and the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT); Newt Gingrich; the four members of Congress who called for an investigation of Muslim Capitol Hill interns; Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda and other violent extremists; and Daniel Pipes. According to those interviewed for this report, on a scale from 1 (best situation for Muslims) to 10 (worst possible situation for Muslims) Islamophobia in America stands at a 6.4. Interviews were conducted in September and October of 2010.

Jewish advocacy group says its members should face same criminal charges as Muslim students involved in UC Irvine protest

A Jewish advocacy group says its members should also face criminal charges in light of Orange County prosecutors’ decision last week to charge 11 Muslim student protesters with conspiracy to disrupt the Israeli ambassador to the United States’ speech at UC Irvine last year.

When 11 students affiliated with the Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine disrupted a speech by the Israeli ambassador to the United States last year, they no doubt knew there would be consequences.
Jewish Voice for Peace, a liberal group that advocates for peace between Israelis and Palestinians and against Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, said the student protesters at UC Irvine were targeted because they are Muslim.

Jewish groups that have interrupted speakers in the past — including a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year in New Orleans — have not faced criminal charges, they noted.

Charges filed against Muslim students in California who disrupted Israeli ambassador’s speech

A group of Muslim students accused of disrupting a speech by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren at the University of California, Irvine, were charged Friday with misdemeanor conspiracy counts, ending speculation about what would come from their actions nearly a year ago.

The 11 students each face one count of misdemeanor conspiracy to disturb a meeting and one count of misdemeanor disturbance of a meeting, the Orange County district attorney’s office said. If convicted, they could face anything from probation and community service to six months in jail.

The students were arrested Feb. 8, 2010, after shouting and protesting during Oren’s speech on U.S.-Israeli security, forcing the diplomat to stop his remarks for 20 minutes. Eight of the students were from UC Irvine, and three were from the nearby campus of the University of California, Riverside.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said it is “deeply troubled” by the decision and called on the district attorney to dismiss the charges immediately.

“We are unaware of any case where a district attorney pressed criminal charges over this type of nonviolent student protest,” the ACLU said in a statement. “The district attorney’s action will undoubtedly intimidate students in Orange County and across the state, and discourage them from engaging in any controversial speech or protest for fear of criminal charges,” the statement said.

Reactions to the protest at UC Irvine against Israeli official

More than two weeks ago, the speech by the Israeli ambassador, Michael Oren, was disrupted by a group of students at UC Irvine. Since then, different Jewish and Muslim groups have reacted to the incident. The Zionist Organization of America (based in New York City) asked donors to rethink their donations to the university while The Council on American-Islamic Relations (a leading Muslim civil rights group) argued that no charges should be filed against the protestors. In the incident, the protesting students were held by campus police till the speech ended but were not taken into custody. The Muslim Student Union has said that independent individuals protested the ambassador’s speech and that the Union was not involved.