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5/18/02

The Village Voice on SFSU

Glenn Reynolds caught this article in the Village Voice about the SFSU incident. He's also got a lot of other great stuff; check out his site and read down a bit. Just search on SFSU; you're sure to find it.

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5/17/02

Searching for the truth

There's a new article in the SF Bulletin regarding the events on SFSU. Shelley Powers sent me an email regarding it, and also wrote a post about it. She says the event has been blown out of proportion. She writes:

Anti-Semitism is not to be tolerated -- I may not agree with the Bulletin's unqualified support for Isreali policies, but I can agree with it's battle against anti-Semitism. And based on this, I plan on attending as many of these events as possible in this area, in order to fight anti-Semitism. However, this does not change my viewpoint on the policies inacted in the Middle East -- it only reflects what I've known and felt all along: that all racism and bigotry, including anti-Semitism is wrong, and to be stopped wherever it occurs.

I've also sent the link to the Bulletin's article to Mike Sanders, Meryl Yourish, and Glenn Reynolds. Considering that the article was written by people who were there and directly involved, I would think that they would be interested in hearing what it says.

I do ask that my interest in finding the truth about this event not be misrepresented. At most I ask you to write that I sought the truth. And printed it when I found it.

End of story.

I am very interested in hearing from people who were there and directly involved. That is why when I first received the letter, I immediately sent email to the other three webloggers who were carbon-copied the letter and asked them not to print it until I fact-checked the events. I subsequently contacted Laurie Zoloth and the program director for the SFSU Hillel. When I was confident the letter was not a fake, I published it.

Shelley has this to say about the part of the SF article she quoted:

However, it would seem as if the events weren't quite as "drastic" as was originally reported:

The conversation was getting heated on both sides," explained Polidora (SFSU Public Relations Director). "Our goal was to keep everybody safe."

But Polidora also pointed out that much of what happened is based on perception. "Everyone has a unique perspective depending on where they're coming from," she said. "Everyone saw it differently."

Indeed. Perception is important. Interestingly, Shelley did not quote this part of the same article:

Sophomore Dikla Tuchman, an organizer of the pro-Israel rally, said she and others in her group were cleaning up and saying their goodbyes when the event was "sabotaged" by pro-Palestinians, armed with whistles and bullhorns. Although the rally had ended at 1:30 p.m., Hillel had reserved the campus space until 2 p.m., so "it was still our time" when the pro-Palestinians demanded that the Jewish students clear out, she said.

She added that the campus public safety officers told her, "There is nothing we can do here," when asked why the pro-Palestinians were allowed to intrude.

"All of a sudden the entire counter-protest was surrounding us and screaming and yelling as we were trying to go about our business," said Tuchler, 20. "People were just screaming their heads off. It got really hateful. I've never seen as much rage in the faces of people as what I saw that day."

Yes, indeed, the truth is important. Absolutely, perspective matters. The perspective you're going to get from a public relations director is going to be one that completely benefits the university. The truth will not necessarily match what the PR people say. Ms. Tuchman's account certainly falls under the "heated" conversation definition, but--there's that perspective thing again. One person's "heated conversation" is another person's hate and rage.

I'm going to take a wild guess and say the PR Director was not at the rally. Ms. Tuchler was. Laurie Zoloth was. President Corrigan was not. And no, I wasn't. But I did take the time to make sure that events weren't being fabricated. You may not like to hear that hatred like this happened, but it did. Was it exaggerated? I don't believe so. I wasn't there. But I did watch the O'Reilly show Tuesday night that had student representatives from both sides of the issue, and the Palestinian student was agitated and enraged while only talking to O'Reilly, and the Hillel representative was calmly pointing out the events of the day. Funny, that.

Unfortunately, this isn't the end of my story. Anti-Semitism exists, continues, and must be fought--every time and every place it rears its ugly head. And the truth has always been important to me. Not the perception of truth: Objective truth. There is a difference.


The latest SFSU information

Well, that break didn't last long. I checked my email and found this letter from Sara Goldblatt, the Program Coordinator for the SFSU Hillel. It's another account of the SFSU Pro-Israel rally. And she has the President's email for us, too. Keep those cards and letters coming. It's interesting to note that the President's letter was not written until after a meeting complaining about the incident (see below).

Also, don't miss Mike Sanders' superb essay that collects the latest news on the web of the SFSU incident while also making his usual thoughtful remarks. Also, belated thanks to Kathie Heijtink for her help in publicizing (and stimulating debate) over the incident.


Dear Friend
I know many of you have heard about the May 7th Pro-Israel/Pro-Peace/Anti-Hate Rally at San Francisco State University. San Francisco State University is a campus where having a quality Jewish life has always been a challenge. The strong liberal sentiment of the campus combined with a large Palestinian student body that has strong feelings of anger and frustration has meant that this has always been a hotbed of protest. This was true during the first intafada and is especially true now.

The latest incident occurred at the tail end of what was the most successful Pro-Israel rally here on campus in more than a decade. It was organized by Hillel and the student run Israel Coalition. There was strong support for the rally from the local community, both in terms of speakers and in attendance. There was a strong message of support for Israel, and speeches against the recent incidents of anti-Semitism at San Francisco State University.

The problem occurred after the administration of the university failed to follow their own guidelines with regard to demonstrations and counter-demonstrations. After the rally ended but before the student organizers, Hillel staff and some community members had left the plaza, counter-protestors were allowed to come in to the reserved space on the plaza. Some tore down Israeli flags and began demanding in rough and offensive language the removal of two Israeli flags that had been placed on the side of the Student Center for the duration. At that point Paul Cohen, the Hillel International representative for Northern California, together with Laurie Zoloth and Fred Astren, faculty members of the university, approached Vice President Saffold to request police assistance as it was clear that lack of space between the two groups was becoming of concern.

The response of the police was not to push the counter-protestors back, in accordance with university regulations, but rather to surround the Pro-Israel students as they attempted to complete their clean-up. In the face of counter-protestors screaming abuse and being held back by the police officers Jewish students sung "Oseh Shalom", a prayer for peace.

The main goal of the police was to remove the Jewish students from the university for their safety. This made the Pro-Israel students feel that they had no place on campus, since the emphasis was on removal of the students who were being attacked, rather than the violators of school policies and free speech.

SFSU is presently investigating the incident and is finally beginning to understand that hate speech on campus leads to hateful acts. They have also come to understand the need for a pro-active rather than reactive approach to hate incidents and violations of school policy. San Francisco Hillel staff and students have continually taken the leadership role in representing Jewish student rights on campus. Both before and since the rally they have led the way in meetings with the university administration and in coordinating and supporting studentactivity.

San Francisco Hillel executive director, Seth Brysk, took the lead in organizing a meeting between the president of the University, Jewish students, faculty, parents, and community members in the aftermath of the rally. It was after this meeting that the widely circulated letter by President Corrigan condemning the behavior of the counter-demonstration was released.

Nevertheless, the continued support of the wider Jewish and Pro-Israel community is needed and appreciated. Letters to President Corrigan, expressing concern for Jewish students need and ability to openly express their heritage, culture and pride, are essential, as well as thanking him for the strong stance that he has taken thus far. His e-mail is [email protected]

Finally, your financial support will enable San Francisco Hillel to continue our struggle at San Francisco State University. Support of students, diverse programs and the production of quality educational materials in support of Israel are vitally important for both the Jewish and non-Jewish students at San Francisco State University.

Sara Goldblatt
Program Coordinator
San Francisco Hillel
33 Banbury Drive
San Francisco
CA 94132


Perhaps I should just publish my cell phone number and you folks can contact me directly? (Insert silly ascii grin here.) Hey, tomorrow, I'm going to see at least three apartments; try not to do too much while I'm gone.

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5/16/02

More on the SFSU riot

Glenn Reynolds, a.k.a. Instapundit, wrote his Fox News column on the riot and aftermath.

People shouldn’t be punished for demonstrating, or for counter-demonstrating, regardless of their views. Had the riot at SFSU targeted black, or gay, or Muslim students, there would have been a media explosion, and campus administrators around the country would be holding meetings and taking steps to prevent such events at their schools. But violence, threats of violence, theft and vandalism should be punished. No matter who the guilty party is.

Yeah, I agree. But the riot was against Jews, and for some reason, that made it seem less important to the world at large. I'm just saying.

Also via Glenn, an article from the Jerusalem Post. I haven't seen it yet; my friends' connection isn't the best. But the good news is that this incident is being publicized. It needs to be. We need to stop this behavior now, before blood is shed.

Another article in a San Francisco-area Jewish newspaper makes me wonder how long the reporter stayed. I'm guessing not for the whole scene.

Also, don't forget to check out Joe Katzman's ideas for follow-up so that this riot is never repeated.

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5/15/02

Road trip!

I'm leaving for Richmond this morning, and will be staying there for about a week. I'm bringing the laptop, but I have little time for current events when Heidi and I get together. Expect a blog in the evening and morning, but not so much during the day unless I get some downtime. And as the reason I'm taking this trip is to find an apartment in Richmond, I don't expect a lot of downtime. Actually, I do expect a lot of downtime, but not that kind. My whole body relaxes as soon as I get out of New Jersey. Well, no, I hate driving through Delaware (what a ripoff!). Maryland. That's the ticket. I relax by the time I'm halfway through Maryland. I just adore the bridge over the Susquehanna, although I can never drive over it without thinking of the old Abbott & Costello routine. ("Susquehanna hat company.")

In the meantime, there are a bunch of emails that will be going unanswered until I can catch up (sorry, folks). Also, I'm suspending the new email rules because I got an earful (a good one, not a bad one) from someone who I've forgotten if I'm allowed to quote or not, so I'll just go back to what I've been doing before I made a rule. At least until I have a little time to breathe and think.

Go hang out with Josh or Joe or Kathy or Gary while I'm busy driving. Sardonic Views tipped me to the SFGate editorial, but the archives aren't quite working yet, I am assured they're going to be fixed soon. Just read the main blog, it's not far down. Or check my links page and help yourself to the smorgasbord. Dang, I never did get to write my Sexism in Blogland blog. Or my Third Watch Season Finale blog. Or my I So Predicted Willow As The Big Bad This Year blog. Maybe next week.

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5/14/02

A San Francisco newspaper speaks

There was an editorial in SFGate today, and a representative from the SFSU Hillel organization and one from the Palestinian counter-demonstrators were both on O'Reilly tonight.

I don't have time to dig for a transcript, but I think O'Reilly was way too soft on the Palestinian. Then again, I think she made a total ass of herself, so maybe he felt sorry for her.

Hm. Message from the Prez and The Corner (besides Instapundit) yesterday. O'Reilly and an editorial in the SFGate today.

Folks, I think you got the message out. Keep up the good work.


Joe Katzman has answers

Joe took some precious time away from sitting shiva for his grandmother and came up with a great list of things we can do in the wake of the SFSU riot. Here are some of his ideas:

[2] If the demonstration was "allowed" to get so out of control, why have the organizations responsible for holding it not been placed under certification review on campus? The fact that Corrigan's letter says nothing about that (and indeed, seeks to actively confine the issue away from any organizational responsibility) is the main reason why I still suspect President Corrigan's motives.

This should be an explicit goal of the campaign - achieving the decertification on campus of the organization who put this demonstration together, leveraging all the classic "anti-discrimination" provisions the left has worked so hard to set up on our campuses. "Creation of hostile environments, "contributing to an atmosphere of intolerance," etc. If the university won't use that standard here too, it reveals itself as biased and is still protecting those responsible.

WHY THIS MATTERS: Unless decertification occurs, Islamicist and leftist organizations on campuses will be sent the message that they can create an environment where this kind of behaviour is tacitly encouraged, with no consequences for their organization. Which means we will see more incidents like this, especially on campuses like Berkeley, Brown, and UMichigan.

[3] In a similar vein, unless there are a number of expulsions of individuals, there's no real deterrent value in the administration's response. Suspensions won't do, because that just puts them back on the campus to commit more acts of violence. If a safe environment is your end goal, expulsions need to be a campaign goal too. The local Jewish community can and should play an active role in identifying perpetrators, creating a list, and then keeping the pressure on. Otherwise, the people responsible will walk. Count on it.

Read the rest. I'm going to post my letter that I'm sending to the president of SFSU later. Also, bloggers--link to Joe's piece. Spread the word.

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5/13/02

SFSU stands up for what's right

The President has another letter to the community. Although I'm not pleased with his minimizing the events:

Rather, it was the lack of civility and decency on the part of a very few demonstrators at points during the rally, and much more markedly after it, when rhetoric and behavior escalated beyond what this campus will tolerate

President Corrigan makes some promising statements:

The demonstrators' behavior is not passing unchallenged. The University's code of student discipline and event policy allow for individual and group sanctions ranging from warning to suspension to expulsion for certain violations, and some of what took place on Tuesday may well fall within that area. Our videotaped record of the event is being reviewed now by SFSU Public Safety to note violations and identify violators so that the University's disciplinary procedures can begin. In one instance, that of a protestor who seized and stamped on an Israeli flag, the case has already gone forward. I fully expect to see other cases presented. If we identify violations of public law, we will refer cases to the District Attorney, with our strong recommendation for full prosecution. We have requested that the District Attorney assign a member of the hate crime unit to work with us, and our Department of Public Safety is contacting individuals who have reported behavior at the rally which would warrant legal action on our part.

I hope you will agree that no love of homeland, no fear or grief for loved ones in the actual area of Middle East conflict, excuses the behavior that has been reported. This is not a war zone. It is a campus, a place where all must feel physically protected even as we engage in the disputation that is part of a teaching and learning environment. But when disputation degenerates into bigotry and hate, we must -- and do -- act. We did so in the case of the "blood libel" flier (as I reported several weeks ago), and we are doing so now. The anguish and fear that the May 7th events have caused for members of our community can only intensify our active commitment to making this campus a hate-free zone.

We have reviewed, and will continue to review, the policies and procedures that guided our responses during the May 7 event. We may well adjust them. Certainly, we will take steps to ensure that encounters like those I have described will not recur. Nothing justifies such acts of overt hostility, or even the implied threat of physical assault. Such behavior is not an expression of free speech.

The vast majority of this campus community would condemn the hateful speech and threatening behavior we saw last Tuesday. It is a very few individuals who are fomenting this discord. Yet, as we see, their impact can be profound -- if we allow it to be. Despite the claims of some, this is not an anti-Semitic campus. But as history shows us, silence and passivity can at times of crisis be very little different from complicity. All of us -- and I would say especially members of the faculty, who have the greatest opportunity to educate and influence our students -- have a responsibility to help maintain this as a safe and sustaining environment for the expression and exploration of opposing views.

I hope that the review of the videotape brings real action against those who threatened the students and their guests. In the meantime, I think a little extra push won't hurt.

Many of you have emailed me the same question regarding the post below on the anti-Semitic near-riot at SFSU: What can we do?

I'm working on the question. But in the meantime, I think publicity is our strongest weapon. Hatred grows best when it remains unchallenged, and there is nothing that a college hates more than bad publicity. So I have put Laurie Zoloth's letter in a plain text file for you to download or cut and paste. Email it to your friends. Email it to talk-radio personalities. Email it to your local newspapers and television stations. Email it to anyone you can think of who will find it an outrage and want to do something about it.

Send an email to President Corrigan thanking him for his strong response to the events of May 7th. Urge him to punish those involved in unlawful actions. But first, reread Laurie's letter. What I would like to know is why the Campus police refused to do anything when asked. Will that be part of the investigation as well?

As I don't want to flood the poor man's inbox, nor subject anyone else to an unfair amount of spam, it's going to the Public Affairs inbox. I'm sure the message will get to the President.


The shame of SFSU

This is a message from Laurie Zoloth, the director of the Jewish Studies program at San Francisco State University. These are her thoughts after participating in the demonstration on campus last week.

Things like this don't just make me sick. They make me afraid to be a Jew. Americans need to wake up and stop this kind of hatred.


Dear Colleagues,

Today, all day, I have been listening to the reactions of students, parents, and community members who were on campus yesterday. I have received email from around the country, and phone calls, worried for both my personal safety on the campus, and for the entire intellectual project of having a Jewish Studies program, and recruiting students to a campus that in the last month has become a venue for hate speech and anti-Semitism. After nearly 7 years as director of Jewish Studies, and after nearly two decades of life here as a student, faculty member and wife of the Hillel rabbi, after years of patient work and difficult civic discourse, I am saddened to see SFSU return to its notoriety as a place that teaches anti-Semitism, hatred for America, and hatred, above all else, for the Jewish State of Israel, a state that I cherish.

I cannot fully express what it feels like to walk across campus daily, past maps of the Middle East that do not include Israel, past posters of cans of soup with labels on them of drops of blood and dead babies, labeled "canned Palestinian children meat, slaughtered according to Jewish rites under American license," past poster after poster calling out "Zionism=racism, and Jews=Nazis." This is not civic discourse, this is not free speech, and this is the Weimar Republic with brown shirts it cannot control. This is the casual introduction of the medieval blood libel and virulent hatred smeared around our campus in a manner so ordinary that it hardly excites concern--except if you are a Jew, and you understand that hateful words have always led to hateful deeds.

Yesterday, the hatred coalesced in a hate mob. Yesterday's Peace In The Middle East Rally was completely organized by the Hillel students, mostly 18 and 19 years old. They spoke about their lives at SFSU and of their support for Israel, and they sang of peace. They wore new Hillel t-shirts that said "peace" in English, Hebrew and Arabic. A Russian immigrant, in his new English, spoke of loving his new country, a haven from anti-Semitism. A sophomore spoke about being here only one year, and about the support and community she found at the Hillel House. Both spoke of how hard it was to live as a Jew on this campus how isolating, how terrifying. A surfer guy, spoke of his love of Jesus, and his support for Israel, and a young freshman earnestly asked for a moment of silence, and all the Jews stood still, listening as the shouted hate of the counter demonstrators filled the air with abuse.

As soon as the community supporters left, the 50 students who remained praying in a minyan for the traditional afternoon prayers, or chatting, or cleaning up after the rally, talking -- were surrounded by a large, angry crowd of Palestinians and their supporters. But they were not calling for peace. They screamed at us to "go back to Russia" and they screamed that they would kill us all, and other terrible things.

They surrounded the praying students, and the elderly women who are our elder college participants, who survived the Shoah, who helped shape the Bay Area peace movement, only to watch as a threatening crowd shoved the Hillel students against the wall of the plaza. I had invited members of my Orthodox community to join us, members of my Board of Visitors, and we stood there in despair. Let me remind you that in building the SFSU Jewish Studies program, we asked the same people for their support and that our Jewish community, who pay for the program once as taxpayers and again as Jews, generously supports our program. Let me remind you that ours is arguably one of the Jewish Studies programs in the country most devoted to peace, justice and diversity since our inception.

As the counter demonstrators poured into the plaza, screaming at the Jews to "Get out or we will kill you" and "Hitler did not finish the job," I turned to the police and to every administrator I could find and asked them to remove the counter demonstrators from the Plaza, to maintain the separation of 100 feet that we had been promised.

The police told me that they had been told not to arrest anyone, and that if they did, "it would start a riot." I told them that it already was a riot. Finally, Fred Astren, the Northern California Hillel Director and I went up directly to speak with Dean Saffold, who was watching from her post a flight above us. She told us she would call in the SF police. But the police could do nothing more than surround the Jewish students and community members who were now trapped in a corner of the plaza, grouped under the flags of Israel, while an angry, out of control mob, literally chanting for our deaths, surrounded us. Dr. Astren and I went to stand with our students.

This was neither free speech nor discourse, but raw, physical assault.

Was I afraid? No, really more sad that I could not protect my students. Not one administrator came to stand with us. I knew that if a crowd of Palestinian or Black students had been there, surrounded by a crowd of white racists screaming racist threats, shielded by police, the faculty and staff would have no trouble deciding which side to stand on. In fact, the scene recalled for me many moments in the Civil Rights movement, or the United Farm Workers movement, when, as a student, I stood with Black and Latino colleagues, surrounded by hateful mobs. Then, as now, I sang peace songs, and then, as now, the hateful crowd screamed at me, "Go back to Russia, Jew." How ironic that it all took place under the picture of Cesar Chavez, who led the very demonstrations that I took part in as a student.

There was no safe way out of the Plaza. We had to be marched back to the Hillel House under armed SF police guard, and we had to have a police guard remain outside Hillel. I was very proud of the students, who did not flinch and who did not, even one time, resort to violence or anger in retaliation. Several community members who were swept up in the situation simply could not believe what they saw. One young student told me, "I have read about anti-Semitism in books, but this is the first time I have seen real anti-Semites, people who just hate me without knowing me, just because I am a Jew." She lives in the dorms. Her mother calls and urges her to transfer to a safer campus.

Today is advising day. For me, the question is an open one: what do I advise the Jewish students to do?

Laurie Zoloth,
Director, Jewish Studies Program


I received an email from Laurie confirming that the above is her letter.

And she added this:

It should also always be mentioned that until the last half hour, the campus and community held the largest rally for peace and for Israel in many years, and that it was a huge success was due to the wonderful Hillel leadership and students. It was a proud moment for our campus--but the way it ended was well over the line of civic discourse.


It took almost no time to find these links from the SFSU website: Letters from the President of SFSU regarding the tolerance displayed after September 11th. I can find no such essay regarding the riot of last week.

Messages from President Robert A. Corrigan
'I am very proud of the work we have done' 11/5/01
International students: 'You have a family here' 10/24/01
Free speech and civility: keeping the balance 10/8/01
Campus adopts "Love is stronger than hate" message 9/24/01
Spirit of mutual support, avoidance of scapegoating mark campus response 9/17/01


And now that you're finished, here, read this gem from the SFSU website (emphasis mine):

Human Relations launches "hate-free" Web site

Those seeking help dealing with the aftermath of the events of Sept. 11 will find plentiful resources at the SFSU Office of Human Relations "hate-free" Web site.

The "Coping With Our National Tragedy" site offers valuable tips and resources for making sure that the SFSU community remains free of hate and hurt, at a time when emotions are running high among all Americans.

The site contains an explanation of the difference between hate speech and free speech; tips for keeping discussions and debates from escalating into angry confrontations; and therapeutic writing exercises.

Links to many campus, local and national Web sites also are included.

Guess they should have sent the Palestinian students and their supporters there first, huh?

The only news article I could find was a brief mention near the end of this, which complains only of anti-Semitic slurs yelled out.

Tell me again how this is anti-Zionism, and not anti-Semitism. I'm dying to hear an explanation. Well, no, not yet. But if it were up to these protestors, I would be.

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