Wednesday, December 12, 2007

US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights issues report on UCI's response to anti-Semitism

I will comment later once I have time to read through everything.

The 11-page report, as published by the OC Register

Full article: (Link)

Civil rights investigation clears UCI
Agency says lack of evidence in allegations by Jewish students.
The Orange County Register

IRVINE – A federal civil rights investigation into allegations of anti-Semitism at UC Irvine found “insufficient evidence” that the university failed to respond appropriately to complaints by Jewish students, according to a reportreleased this afternoon.

Investigators with the department’s Office for Civil Rights visited the campus 11 times since 2006 to monitor demonstrations and interview students and staff. They failed to substantiate complaints that campus officials had ignored or downplayed anti-Semitic behavior, according to the Nov. 30 report released today.

UCI has earned a national reputation, spread largely by bloggers and pro-Zionist organizations, of being, in one organization’s words, “the most notoriously anti-Semitic campus” in America.

That appellation has been vehemently denied by campus officials, who say tensions between Jewish and Muslim students on their campus are about the same as at similar schools.

Earlier this year, the University of California released a report showing that 85 percent of UCI students said they believed there was respect for all students regardless of race or religion on campus. That is about the same percentage as other UC campuses around the state.

The Department of Education investigation was launched in 2004, after complaints filed on behalf of students by the Zionist Organization of America, a pro-Israeli organization with chapters in a dozen cities, including Los Angeles.

Some Jewish students complained about harassment, including reports of swastikas on campus and destruction of a Holocaust memorial display.

Muslim students have similarly complained about problems, including a fire that destroyed a mock depiction of the Palestine wall.

Jeffrey Rips, executive director of the Hillel Foundation of Orange County, which operates a Jewish student union at UCI, said he had not had a chance to review the report yet today, which is the last day of Hanukkah.

“I’m glad they finally came out with a report,” Rips said. “One way or another, it can give direction to the campus.”

The Los Angeles office of the Zionist Organization of America referred callers this afternoon to the East Coast office, which had closed for the day.

In its report, the civil rights office said that none of the 13 allegations could be substantiated. Some could not be acted upon because they were too old. The agency requires that complaints be filed within 180 days unless they show a pattern of discrimination.

According to the report, the agency found that several years-old complaints, including one of a rock thrown at a Jewish student and destruction of a Holocaust memorial in 2003, did not contribute to a hostile environment on campus because they “constitute isolated acts that were unrelated to the timely alleged acts.”

In other cases, investigators found that university officials acted appropriately, or that the complaint could not be conclusively identified as anti-Semitic.

For example, a swastika found in a bathroom in the Social Ecology building could not be considered anti-Semitic because it was accompanied by a vulgar phrase toward Asians.

In another reported incident, where a Jewish student’s flag of Israel displayed on the door of her dorm room was defaced with a swastika, the agency found that the university “responded promptly and effectively.”

“When OCR (Office of Civil Rights) investigated the timely allegations that suggested a possible hostile environment based on national origin, OCR found, in all instances, that the University took prompt and effective action to address the incidents,” according to the report.

While acknowledging that speeches, articles, marches, symbols and other events sponsored by the Muslim Student Union were “offensive to Jewish students,” they determined that they were not based on their national origin, but “rather based on opposition to the policies of Israel.”

In the case of inflammatory campus speakers, investigators found that most speakers “distinguished opposition to Zionism from opposition to Jews.”

The report also states there is “no evidence that the University implemented a systematic discriminatory policy.”

UCI Chancellor Michael Drake issued a statement saying that campus officials are “very gratified with the outcome and closure of this matter.”

“We are firmly committed to freedom of speech and open discourse, which are central to our missions of teaching, research and public service, and equally committed to maintaining a safe, non-threatening environment for all members of our campus community,” Drake said in his statement.

Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, who has been critical of UCI in the past, said he wasn’t surprised that many of the older complaints were not substantiated.

“This is a classic case of distant bureaucracy in action,” DeVore said.

Contact the writer: 714-796-7994 or

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Professor Dershowitz's speech from last Thursday

UPDATE 12/5/2007 3:31 PM PST

A friend helped me summarize the text below:

My beef is that Professor Dershowitz did not say, and should have said Thursday night or in reply to my email "yes, I said those words" and then talked about the context of that section the article - how he was trying to come up with an acceptable form of torture, and how testicles, while used by most torturers, should be completely off limits.

And now, my original post:

This post is definitely not going to make me any friends in the Jewish community, so I took a lot of time to think this over before publishing this. It's still doesn't give justice to what I'm feeling and thinking inside, but at least it'll get some of my thoughts out of my head.

Audio of the speech and Q&A

(as the content is graphic, you will need to register with LiveLeak to listen to it - sorry folks. If you know of another site online that serves up 100+ MB MP3's for free, post in the comments.)

I had been looking forward to Professor Dershowitz's speech for some time. Ask anybody who talked with me about it - I said that he wasn't Ann Coulter or Daniel Pipes. He knows how to properly phrase the facts and challenge those who need to be challenged without going over the line.

Admittedly, the event itself was a bit theatrical, making it like Professor Dershowitz and Rabbi Spitz were sitting by the fireplace in nice, upholstered chairs. But when the Q&A came on, I was impressed.

Then came the fourth and final question (which starts at time stamp 1:11 / 71 minutes on the above recording):

The questioner is a Muslim student, who begins by asking Professor Dershowitz why he said he supports legalized torture.

Professor Dershowitz denies ever saying such a thing.

The student says effectively "well I have this quote" and precedes to read the following:

"Quote. I want maximal pain, minimum lethality. You don't want it to be permanent, but you want to cause the most excruciating, intense, immediate pain."

Professor Dershowits interrupts the student at this point, stating "No, you got that from a hate web site that made it up. So let me tell you my views. Everywhere I go the same quote is read and it comes from the same place."

At this point, the student breaks in and says "let me finish" and continues: "Now, I didn't want to write about testicles, but that's what a lot of people use. Unquote." The student then says "so my question is, in the past 5 years, since this interview appeared, have you come to a clearer position on the abuse on genitalia in torture and would you be willing to practice what you preach".

Professor Dershowitz's response was first to talk about supposed urban legends about him, then he goes into what he says his beliefs are. He says he has written about torture since 1988 and "I am categorically opposed to the use of torture under all circumstances. That is my normative view," but he wants there to be what I think he would term to be a "torture warrant" should a person in a US enforcement role request the use of torture so there is accountability.

So Professor Dershowitz basically says - without explicitly saying it - that the quotation is false.

Now, you may be asking, where did this student get this quote? - a left-of-center online news magazine which I would not consider a "hate web site" to use Professor Dershowitz's term - on September 12, 2002 published an interview by Suzy Hansen of Professor Dershowitz, supposedly interviewing him while he was at his summer home in Martha's Vineyard. The topic was his then recently published book, Why Terrorism Works.

Page 4 includes this Q&A:

Aren't there other forms of torture that would be less painful than that, that you might have considered?

But I want more painful. I want maximal pain, minimum lethality. You don't want it to be permanent, you don't want someone to be walking with a limp, but you want to cause the most excruciating, intense, immediate pain. Now, I didn't want to write about testicles, but that's what a lot of people use. I also wanted to be explicit because I didn't want to be squeamish about it. People have asked me whether I would do the torturing and my answer is, yes, I would if I thought it could save a city from being blown up.

You'll note that the wording of the answer published by appears to more or less match the quote from the student's question.

Now several questions need to be answered here:
1) Could this be a made up quote?
Maybe, but it seems doubtful, and here's why:
I found this MP3 excerpt of the same interview on Salon's website. The questions and answers posed in this excerpt start about 4 questions after the quoted Q&A I list above. So if there is an audio recording of part of the interview, chances are the entire interview was recorded. If that is the case, why would Ms. Hansen have to make anything up for her published interview?

2) If this was a made up quote, did Professor Dershowitz, upon finding out, respond in some of his writings?
It appears not. I've checked Professor Dershowitz's website's publications page - nothing, though the Salon interview is also not listed. His blog began 3 years later, so that doesn't count.

3) What does Professor Dershowitz think about this?
I emailed him Friday morning with a brief summary of what you've read so far, asking him three key questions: If I obtained the whole interview, would I hear
something different? Is in your view "a hate site" like you
described it last night? Did misquote you?

Here was his response:
I stand by everything I said in context. I don't approve these methods. I approve requiring a warrant when they are used, as they will be in a ticking bomb situation. I have writen [sic] extensively and clearly about this problem yet the questioner misquoted me and wrenched my remarks completely out of context to make it sound as if I supportted [sic] these forms of torture which I do not. He got the misuote [sic] not from salon but from a hate website

It pains me that this was his response.

We've all said things in the past that we later regret. I've taken people to task in this blog for things that they've said, especially when they refuse to own up to it (for instance, Chancellor Drake's comments on May 31, 2007, denying that anti-Semitic speakers are invited to campus more than 2 to 3 weeks a year).

In addition, many of us have complained that the administration looks the other way when anti-Semitism happens on campus, ignoring documented violations of university rules. How can I then look the other way when someone from our side refuses to admit that they've said something?

Why didn't Professor Dershowitz just say "yes, I've said that, but five years later, here's what I've come to believe"?

It's estimated that 1,000 people attended that speech. Most of those people paid $18 to reserve a seat (that includes me); a large portion paid $100 for a VIP version of the event; and let's not even talk about the donors who footed the majority of Professor Dershowitz's speaker's fee, which is rumored to be several tens of thousands of dollars.

How can we now accept anything that he said as true? How can we continue to say that we have the truth on our side?

Professor Dershowitz made it clear Thursday night as well as in some of his more recent articles that he does not support legalized torture. He put on a great performance on Thursday night. I just wish he could have at least been a bit more explicit about the article.