Friday, May 09, 2008

Praise and commentary on the UC iFest 2008

I have to praise Hillel, Jewish Federation, Anteaters for Israel, AEPi, and Epsilon Phi for putting on the 2008 UC iFest. My only participation was as a spectator for the "Israeli" Shabbas Dinner, but this video shows what they did over the past week.

Educating the students, faculty, administration, staff, and local community members with the positive facts about Israel was a great step.

The hookah smoking and nightclub partying...well...I can only chalk it up to them being from a younger generation.

On Yom HaShoah, one of the powers-that-be in the campus Jewish leadership announced that the iFest events would include educating the Jewish students on questions to ask the anti-Semites that are coming to campus. I've talked to two different individuals who regularly spend time on campus, and both said that they did not see this.

Maybe it did happen, and both of them missed the event(s). If it did, great - I look forward to seeing the results of those efforts. But if that did not happen - if the education was merely a litany of positive facts about Israel - then I must express my concerns.

Positive facts are an important part of the process of combating anti-Semitism. But the MSU's speakers work from an irrational standpoint, and the positive facts are going to only get the students so far.

So, let me offer up some suggestions for the students. Check back on these pages, as I don't have time right now to link everything.

  • Myths and Facts - a most valuable resource for a lot of the schlock dished by the anti-Semites

  • Film or audio record the anti-Semites, whether they're indoors or outside; you have a right to do so as UCI is a public university, and as long you are doing it quietly and peaceably, nobody is allowed to stop you. Post the video online and then post a comment with a link to the video in the latest blog post such as this one, Red County, or Reut R Cohen's.

    Not that they won't try; rumor has it Nida Chowdhry, the UCI MSU's Public Relations Board member, as well as some blond burly Russian guy - tried to stop people from filming Wednesday night's Norman Finkelstein event. To paraphrase (perhaps quote) Lee Kaplan of Stop the ISM, there is no such thing as a secret society on a public university (read: UCI) campus. On top of that, only a judge can legally force you to erase any recording you make; so if the police, administrators, or the MSU tell you to erase a recording you've made, politely tell them "no". If you get arrested for quietly and peaceably recording events, or if the police confiscate your camera equipment and tamper with your recordings, the lawyers will have a hayday making mincemeat of the other side.

  • Know the campus policies - I'll post a compendium of applicable policies later, but for now, here's a link to the UCI implementation of the UC-wide policies and the UCI Principles of Community. We play by the rules, so there's no reason why the MSU or anybody from UCI shouldn't.

  • If you experience anti-Semitism, or know someone who has, you need to report it. First, if you or someone else is injured, call 9-1-1 ASAP or get to a medical facility.

    Next, go here to get a list of email addresses to contact; give details such as who was there (people involved as well as bystanders), when it happened, where it happened, what happened.

    Also, tell a leader in Hillel immediately. I have received assurances from a prominent board member that Hillel will make sure to do whatever it takes - filing complaints, following up, contacting attorneys - if the university administration does not take your complaint seriously. If the Hillel doesn't do its job - or if it tells you to suck it up or, even worse, calls you a troublemaker - call the ZOA at 212-481-1500 and ask to speak to Susan Tuchman.

    In case you're wondering why I'm so suspicious of Hillel and the UCI administration, it's because of my own experiences. I'm hoping this iFest event is evidence that Hillel has changed their ways.

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