How our protest against an anti-Israel extremist for UC Student Regent sparked a national conversation.
The David Horowitz Freedom Center’s public opposition to an extreme anti-Israel candidate for UC Student Regent has helped to trigger a national conversation about the growing problem of anti-Semitism on college campuses.
UC Berkeley student Sadia Saifuddin was recently appointed student regent-designate for the University of California over protests by the Freedom Center and a few others who opposed her nomination on the grounds that her extreme anti-Israel views and activism with organizations known for their anti-Semitism make her unfit to represent all students in the UC system. The controversy sparked by the Freedom Center’s opposition has become national news.
During her years at Berkeley, Saifuddin was a leader in two Muslim Brotherhood-linked organizations, the Muslim Students Association and Students for Justice in Palestine, which regularly invite anti-Semitic speakers to UC campuses and sponsor an annual hate-week known as “Israeli Apartheid Week.” She was also an active participant in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement which calls for the destruction of the Jewish state and led vicious attacks on Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a lecturer at UC Santa Cruz who has dedicated herself to protecting Jewish students from anti-Semitism on UC campuses.
In an open letter sent to the University of California Board of Regents, the Freedom Center’s chairman, David Horowitz, and director of campus campaigns, Jeffrey Wienir, urged the Board to reconsider their selection: “Appointing Sadia Saifuddin to the Board of Regents would be an offense to the ‘Principles of Community’ for UC Berkeley which are supposed to be core values in the UC system, and which call on UC students to ‘respect the differences as well as the commonalities that bring us together and call for civility and respect in our personal interactions,’’ the letter stated. “How is it respectful for the organizations that Sadia Saifuddin represents to sponsor ‘Israeli Apartheid Weeks’ which support terrorist organizations like Hamas and call for the destruction of the Jewish state?”
Despite the regents’ failure to reconsider their nomination of Saifuddin, the Freedom Center’s protests garnered widespread press coverage of Saifuddin’s questionable ties to anti-Semitic organizations and helped to raise awareness of the often-threatening environment confronting Jewish students on UC campuses.
In covering the story, the Associated Press framed their coverage in light of the Freedom Center’s objections: “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.” The AP story about Saifuddin’s controversial nomination was picked up by dozens of other newspapers and websites.
Numerous other publications and websites including The San Francisco Chronicle, The Los Angeles Times, The San Jose Mercury News, IsraelNationalNews.com, JWeekly.com and The University Herald picked up the story that Saifuddin’s confirmation was controversial because of her anti-Israel leanings and associations, with many directly citing the Freedom Center’s stance.
In an editorial in the Los Angeles Times, the editors offered their congratulations to Saifuddin but noted that the “one glitch” in her resume is her outspoken criticism of Israel which the editors labeled “the third rail of UC politics.” The Times editorial went on to quote David Horowitz’s statement in his open letter that "If [Saifuddin] were confirmed, it would set a dangerous precedent to encourage anti-Semitism on campus, which is already a big problem in the UC system."
We may have lost the battle against Saifuddin’s confirmation as UC Regent. But by sparking a national conversation about how her anti-Israel activism and leadership in organizations known for their anti-Semitism should disqualify her for such a position, we are a step closer to winning the war.
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