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UC Chancellors Who Praise Israel Student Junkets Have Gone on Them Themselves

ucla pro israel

UCLA pro-Israel student group

During the UCLA student elections, there were two factions vying for positions.  The progressive group had the support of the Palestine peace activists and the conservative one had the support of the pro-Israel students.  Two of the pro-Israel candidates had participated in free Israel junkets hosted by Aipac and the AJC.  They had not reported the trip as required under campaign disclosure rules.  So the progressive faction asked all the candidates to pledge that they would not participate in free Israel trips.  Several agreed.  The pro-Israel candidates largely refused.

Into this brouhaha stepped the UCLA Chancellor Gene Block to say that he detested such litmus tests and that students should be free to travel where they wish under anyone’s auspices:

“I am troubled that the pledge sought to delegitimize educational trips offered by some organizations but not others,” Chancellor Gene Block said, in an email to students, faculty, and staff.

“I am troubled that the pledge can reasonably be seen as trying to eliminate selected viewpoints from the discussion. “If we shut out perspectives, if we silence voices, if we allow innuendo to substitute for reasoned exchange of ideas, if we listen only to those who already share our assumptions, truth gets lost, our intellectual climate is impoverished and our community is diminished,” he said.

As someone who attended UC campuses for years as a grad student, I can tell you that many chancellors are somewhat dim, remote figures whom students never meet or see.  Bloch seems perfect for the part.  It should be noted that the pledge doesn’t seek to delegitimize “educational trips.”  It seeks to delegitimize free trips offered by ideologically partisan groups.

uc chancellors join israel junket

Project Interchange lauds UC chancellors for joining AJC’s Israel junket

If Chancellor Block could show me Palestinian education missions he and other UCLA students took to Palestine, then I might accept his odd claim that the pledge seeks to eliminate viewpoints from discussion.  Because these pro-Israel trips don’t include the Palestinian perspective.  If they do at all it’s in tiny increments.  When Project Interchange takes Bloch to Palestine, then I’ll be mollified.  Till then, not so much.

It didn’t hurt the cause to note the UC system raises tens of millions of dollars from pro-Israel Jewish donors.  But there’s an even more salient fact that Bloch concealed: in fact, most UC chancellors, provosts and deans have been invited on, and joined such free junkets through the AJC’s Project Interchange (h/t Rania Khalek).  This non-profit spends tens of millions sending thousands of journalists, academics, business leaders, politicians and ethnic minority leaders to Israel on its dime.  There they are “sold” the Israeli story.  Despite claims that they meet Israeli Palestinians, this is not the point of the trip, nor do they spend much time pondering any issues or questions related to Israel’s Palestinian citizens and its Occupation of millions of other Palestinians.

Speaking of narrow-minded campus insularity, Brandeis student Daniel Mael is spearheading a counter-Open Hillel group he calls Safe Hillel.  You might think this was an effort to ensure physical safety for vulnerable campus populations.  But what it really is is an attempt to make the campus safe for pro-Israelism.  Mael’s object is to rid campuses of any discussions that threaten his pro-Israel equanimity.  Because such dangerous, scary talk is bad for the health of Jewish kids on campus.  They can’t take it.

Thank God, Open Hillel is willing to hear all points of view, including those outlawed from Hillels for the past few years as being anti-Israel.

I didn’t know till today (h/t to reader Oui) that Mael had smeared me in the pages of the Jerusalem Post in an “Open Letter” he wrote to Open Hillel (why you’d write an open letter to a progressive Jewish group in the neocon Jerusalem Post is a mystery):

There is a further danger here. Who will you open up Hillel to? You may know that Richard Silverstein, a likely candidate for an Open Hillel event, recently wrote, in reference to a published work of Chloe Valdary, an African-American Zionist, a “negro” an “Uncle Tom” and a “house slave.” What would be your policy about Silverstein? If “openness” is your first principle, one that trumps loyalty to truth and to the Jewish people, then you are obligated in principle to let anyone speak. If Open Hillel succeeds, then Hillel, the center of Jewish life on campus, needs to welcome into our tent those who call for the murder our people and the destruction of the Jewish state – because you think “talking” leads to reconciliation.

Mael, in his description of Valdary conveniently omits that she’s a Christian evangelical fundamentalist funded by Israel Lobby groups like CAMERA.  She herself has gone on two free Israel junkets with Aipac and another Israel Lobby group.  Further, she’s not just a “Zionist,” but a settler Zionist.  Someone might want to tell Mael and Jerusalem Post editors that Negro spelled with a small “n” is indeed racist much like spelling Palestinian with a small “p” or Jew with a small “j” is.  A race is spelled with a capital letter.

But that’s not the most important point: note that he proceeds to speak of those who support the “murder of our people” and Israel’s destruction–in the same paragraph.  So there you have it.  In the eyes of this misguided Zio-punk I’ve become a Jew-killer.  Isn’t it interesting how this goes.  Wasn’t it Goebbels who said don’t create a small lie because no one will believe it.  But create a big lie and say it often enough and people will start believing it.  Mael is the proponent of the big lie.  Perhaps, being young and intellectually immature, he doesn’t even realize what he’s doing.  He may have well-intentioned motives.  But the end result is noxious toxins injected into the American Jewish body politic.

The irony in all this is that when I was a grad student at two UC campuses I was intensely active in campus Hillels.  I considered the rabbis there my spiritual advisors.  At UCLA, I organized the first ever Jewish culture festival which included lots of Israel-related activities.  At UC Berkeley, I taught Hebrew language at Lehrhaus Judaica and attended High Holiday services where my brother was the hazan and baal tefilah.  Hillel was at one time my Jewish home on campus.  It was where I felt comfortable as a Jew.  Back then Hillel was an open place.  It entertained a multiplicity of voices.  Speaking of which, the very first New Jewish Agenda meeting I attended in 1980 was at UC Berkeley.  New Jewish Agenda could not hold a meeting at a Hillel today, if it existed.  It couldn’t even hold a funeral there.

There’s another ex-Brandeis student Mael reminds me of: Jack Abramoff.  Brandeis alumni who knew Abramoff described him as the Ever-Ready bunny of the campus Republicans.  He was the power, the passion, and even the brutish violence behind campus Young Republicanism during his days on campus.  Mael is taking up the Abramoff mantel.  Hopefully, he won’t become a lobbyist and pocket big bucks from unsavory clients as Abramoff did.  With any luck, when he graduates he can make aliyah and become a gofer for Avi Mayer and Natan Sharansky at the Jewish Agency.  It seems to be the sinecure for Diaspora Zionists in search of a nice cushy job and salary.  Or alternatively, he could become a writer for Commentary like Noah Pollak.  As of now, he’s published at Meir Kahane’s former shmateh, the Jewish Press and David Horowitz smear-sheet Frontpagemagazine.  He’s definitely got a future in the pro-Israel industry.

By the way, no one from Open Hillel has ever invited me to any event, though I’d love it if they did.  Because of Mael’s well-timed smear, Open Hillel will be afraid of doing so.  And that’s the way this works.  Good job, Dan.  You’ve earned your Zio-stripes.

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{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Nonsense May 20, 2014, 5:54 AM

    So your beef is that Israel / Israel lobby provides for free trips to the state of Israel during which the only perspective those who travel are getting exposed to is the Israeli one.

    Your solution – limit the freedoms granted to them by the US constitution to travel to where they feel like traveling on the dime of whoever wants to pay for their trip.

    And you call yourself progressive?

    Why don’t you just embrace the american way of life and compete ? form another organization that will invite those who will chose to go to the Palestinian Authority, and expose them to what you see is the the true narrative ?

    • The Rahnameh May 20, 2014, 5:49 PM

      “Limit the freedoms granted to them by the US constitution to travel to where they feel like traveling on the dime of whoever wants to pay for their trip.” Thank you! Finally, a seemingly pro-Israeli commentator who believes truly that the financial terrorism (euphemistically “sanctions”) on Iran leveled on the basis of pure lies and a hoax are clearly in violation of the Constitution rights of any US person.

      This matter, however, has a lot do with conflicts of interests and the interests of full disclosure. Richard beat you to the punch by implying that a possible solution would be to have educational trips to Palestine, which you admit are territories (and therefore under blockade and obstruction of Israel). There are other facts and nuances as well that you should respectfully factor into your generalization about the American way. I think R. Ward pointed those out excellently below.

      Richard is a progressive. Who would you say is more progressive than Richard in the camp that thinks Israel can be a good thing? And, is it a pissing contest?

      Richard and I may not agree with each other at times about what the “history” and facts actually are, but he appears to be on the right side of what he believes the history to be each and every time. I applaud his morals and values — it’s clear he means well.

    • Richard Silverstein May 21, 2014, 12:52 AM

      @ NOnsense:

      Your solution – limit the freedoms granted to them by the US constitution to travel to where they feel like traveling on the dime of whoever wants to pay for their trip.

      That’s a gross distortion of the position I actually expressed in plain black and white in the post. Or do you not read? I said that anyone should be able to travel anywhere as long as they either pay their own way; or publicly acknowledge where they went, when, and who paid the bill. Then student voters can decide whether they want pro-Israel shills running their student government.

      form another organization that will invite those who will chose to go to the Palestinian Authority,

      I’ll do that when you or Israel raises the first million to accomplish that objective. Till then, I believe in a fair, level playing field. Not one rigged like the Israel Lobby has rigged the junket game.

      • Nonsense May 21, 2014, 8:34 AM

        “I’ll do that when you or Israel raises the first million to accomplish that objective”

        The State of Israel is obligate to the State of Israel point of view. Your wish, that the state of Israel will sponsor your’s / the PA point of view is so out of touch i’m speechless. Petition the PA to establish such program.

        ” or publicly acknowledge where they went, when, and who paid the bill. Then student voters can decide whether they want pro-Israel shills running their student government.”

        Subject here is Students. Student life in US campuses have nothing to do with the I-P conflict, hence someone’s travel on Israel’s dime is irrelevant to his / hers ability to promote issues relevant to student life’s.

        • Richard Silverstein May 21, 2014, 1:28 PM

          @Nonsense: Unlike you 8 believe in democracy, giving people an equal voice & disallowing monopolies of power. For that reason, Israel must never be allowed to have a monopoly on speech, money or power. You believe in pouring money into American politics to benefit Israel. Most Americans detest this option. So I’m afraid you won’t find any sympathy here for your wealthy pro Israel 1% fat cats like Adelson. & your Israel Lobby $80 million annual budgets (Aipac).

          The answer to our political problems isn’t more money, it’s more speech. Free speech, not paid speech.

          Student life in US campuses have nothing to do with the I-P conflict

          That’s nonsense. Students study the Israel-Palestine conflict. Jewish and Arab students live it every day in the classroom and other campus activities. University learning is about life & the world, which includes the Mideast. Stop trying to make artificial, meaningless distinctions.

          • Nonsense May 21, 2014, 2:18 PM

            So your claim is that somehow if Israel invest money into shaping public opinion it limits the american people freedom of speech ?

            Why ? does the fact that Israel have certain programs prevents you from stating your opinion ? writing whatever you want about the state of Israel including inaccurate stories ?

            Does it prevents 972, O139 (the blog you linked to), Yossi Gurevitz , Idan Landu and many others to write their stories ? Does it prevents the MSA from raising funds to be used in campus campaigns against Israel ?
            There is one answer to that and that is NO.

            So i really do not see any base for your complains.

            P.S if your argument would be to prevent donations over a certain limit (for the sake of argument let’s say $500) in ANY political campaign, i will support that wholeheartedly. Unfortunately your logic is directed only at the state of Israel, and i find it discriminatory.

          • Richard Silverstein May 22, 2014, 12:29 AM

            @ Nonsense: Actually, if Israel invests money into shaping American public opinion by giving it to U.S. non-profits or Israel Lobby groups that’s a violation of their non profit status & would cause them to have to register as agents of a foreign power (which they are). And yes, if Israel & the Lobby spends $200-million or $300-million a year in total spending on hasbara here that absolutely poisons political discourse. The fact that Sheldon Adelson can spend $100-million or $200-million (in the next presidential election) to get a president elected who will support Bibi & the settlers is absolutely toxic to American politics. If you keep doing this you will turn the entire American people against Israel eventually. We don’t like our Mideast policy bought & paid for by foreign powers & their domestic agents.

            I am of course in favor of campaign finance limits. But it’s hypocritial of you to claim that you are as well since the Lobby and its fatcats would be decimated by such laws. It’s also easy to claim you’re in favor of them when the Supreme Court has ruled that they’re unconstitutional. It’s easy to be for something when you know it can never happen.

          • Nonsense May 22, 2014, 8:24 AM

            @ RS
            “Actually, if Israel invests money into shaping American public opinion by giving it to U.S. non-profits or Israel Lobby groups that’s a violation of their non profit status & would cause them to have to register as agents of a foreign power (which they are”

            So based on the above, I’m sure you’ll agree that NIF (as a primary donor) and any other NGO that receive funds in an attempt to shape the Israeli public opinion, would be forced to register as agents of a foreign power (which they are).

            Thank You so much for clarifying.

          • Richard Silverstein May 22, 2014, 2:47 PM

            @ Nonsense: NIF doesn’t generally fund junkets to Israel for U.S. elites. Not to mention that NIF is a non-profit, not a political organization. It supports social, cultural and democracy oriented projects inside Israel. Unlike Aipac & the Israel Lobby which support an explicitly political/lobbying agenda. Further, NIF is a grantmaking organization. It gives out funding to other groups, which pursue their own work & projects. This is entirely different than Lobby groups, which have their own projects.

            So if you’re OK with forcing all Israeli NGOs including far right settlers groups who received funding from sources outside Israel to register, then I’m OK with forcing NIF to do so as well. But part of this law is forcing NGOs to list all their foreign donors, which means Im Tirzu, NGO Monitor, Honenu & all settlers groups would have to expose their donors. It will essentially mean far right groups will have to admit that they are creatures of a foreign power (that is radical right wing Diaspora Jewry). I’m cool with that. So let me know when you’re OK with that. Then we can talk.

  • R. Ward May 20, 2014, 11:46 AM

    The point is to highlight the conflict of interest that arises when a person takes gifts or perks from a lobby group. If a critic is wined and dined by the oil industry, or the tobacco growers association and then presents themselves as an objective, disinterested commentator on the areas that profit such enterprises, it is a disingenuous position. Taking advantage of perks such as paid trips with meals and accommodation covered by the sponsor undermines the claim to genuine criticism. That’s why ethical journalists refuse such benefits. The chancellors promoting the cause of the Israeli governing party/parties are aware of this in as much as they do not make reference to their participation in these fully paid programs. Writers or commentators today include notes conveying ‘full disclosure’ information. That would go a long way to demonstrate the sincerity of these academics in their public conversations.

  • Bathsheva Gladstone May 20, 2014, 4:35 PM

    #subversive#fascist#tyrant#

    The palestinian vs Israel issues really have no place being hashed out in student government forums to begin with. The outcome is that it undermines the integrity and the objective of the student government, regardless of which side you’re on. Discussions and laws and papers being signed on the faulty premise–that this is where problems of the middle east are solved or at least from where will is imposed upon–are therefore not going to stand up. Or shouldn’t at at any rate.

    So, you’re all for open Hillel, which if that’s your thing fine. I’m not sure why a Jewish organization is wont to entertain notions not in it’s best interest,(we can step out of our front doors for that) but oh well and okay. But, you’re opposed to additional Hillels that aren’t opened to lending an ear to these subversive and opposing groups–some with their hidden agenda. So, in other words you’re all for everybody’s rights as long as they’re thinking what you’re thinking. So the Zionist (as though that’s a bad thing) student should have no autonomy or rights according to you.

    Veddy veddy interesting, herr silverstein. you’ve just earned your stinktier stripes.

  • dcdoc1 May 21, 2014, 7:17 AM

    [RS: "I said that anyone should be able to travel anywhere as long as they either pay their own way; or publicly acknowledge where they went, when, and who paid the bill."]

    What provision(s) of the US Constitution, amendments to the Constitution, Federal Code, etc. allows an individual “to travel anywhere AS LONG AS (emphasis added) they either pay their own way; or publicly acknowledge where they went, when, and who paid the bill”? Does RS know of any? If RS were our philosopher-king, Heaven forfend, would he impose such a requirement?

    [RS: "Then student voters can decide whether they want pro-Israel shills running their student government."]

    Pro-Arab. pro-Palestinian, and pro-Iranian groups have funded travel and programs for Americans with the goal of influencing minds, but for his own singular reasons RS expresses no concern about such efforts by any groups other than supporters of Israel. And UC student voters are free to vote for whoever they want to represent them in student government, but where does RS imagine the legal authority comes from to force disclosures by students of the sort he favors with respect to acceptance of scholarships, travel funding, research assistance, and the like? It sounds like more of RS’s own special notions of “academic freedom”.

    • Richard Silverstein May 21, 2014, 1:47 PM

      @ dcdoc1: I’m not talking about the constitution. But there are laws governing non profits and political campaigns which require disclosure. There are also rules governing campus behavior. Those are the ones that should call for transparency. Aipac has to declare which Congress members they’ve wined & dined in Israel & how much they paid to host them. That should be the rule for all fully paid trips they sponsor for everyone who goes on them.

      Which Arab or Iranian groups have funded programs for Americans with the goal of influencing minds? And how many minds have they influenced compared to the Lobby, and how much have they spent all told compared to the Lobby? All the Arab lobbying groups in the entire country have a total budget of well under $10-million. Aipac’s budget alone is nearly $80-million. The order of magnitude between all Arab & all Israel Lobby groups is probably 50 or 100 to 1.

      where does RS imagine the legal authority comes from to force disclosures by students

      You clearly haven’t been on a campus in a very long time. They are campus codes of conduct that govern all students and election codes that govern conduct by campus candidates. They are enforceable within the campus environment.

  • ckg May 21, 2014, 8:36 PM

    I was a grad student at UCLA in 1980-81 and active in the campus Amnesty International chapter. Our table was always adjacent to the Hillel table on the walk. Small world.

    • Richard Silverstein May 22, 2014, 12:20 AM

      @ ckg: By then I’d already moved on to a PhD program at UC Berkeley. I left UCLA in ’79 after earning my MA. But small world, yes indeed!

    • dcdoc1 May 24, 2014, 10:14 PM

      [RS: " I’m not talking about the constitution."]

      You most certainly are talking about the Constitution, you just don’t you are because you don’t understand the rather obvious First Amendment implications of what you wish to see imposed as a condition for holding student office at UCLA, a state-funded university. Unless what you have in mind was purely voluntary disclosure, which of course requires no special measures, since it is always permissible if a student candidate chooses to advertise where they have traveled and whose dime if not their own (e.g., parents, scholarship, job, advocacy group, etc.); who they have voted for or would vote for in public elections; what publications they subscribe to or regularly read; with whom they have had intimate relations; their family’s income; etc. If they were to be forced to disclose any such “personal” information as a condition to running for student office, however, the courts would not allow it for a minute, even if you RS urged them to do so. The First Amendment not only very severely limits what speech governmental bodies, including public universities, can censor, it also limits what speech (“disclosures”) governmental bodies can compel.

      [RS: "You clearly haven’t been on a campus in a very long time. They are campus codes of conduct that govern all students and election codes that govern conduct by campus candidates. They are enforceable within the campus environment."]

      With ZERO specificity as to which campuses you have in mind (public or private institutions) and with no details whatsoever as to what details of “campus codes of conduct that govern all students and election codes that govern conduct by campus candidates” you have in mind, if any in particular, it is impossible to make anything of this. (Of course they can and do have campus codes of conduct that govern all students and election codes that govern conduct by campus candidates, and most often those codes can stand up to legal scrutiny if challenged. But FIRE is an excellent source of information but many that fair when they are egregious enough to be examined in courts.)

      [RS: "All the Arab lobbying groups in the entire country have a total budget of well under $10-million."]

      What source(s) do you rely on in support of that remarkable assertion?

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