Sunday, April 17, 2016

I have recently been in touch with the gentleman, who is relatively new to the job, and I am not the least bit surprised that he has not responded. I did, after all, refer to his university as among the most racist in the country... which it clearly is.

In any case, I thought that I would share those notes with you guys:

Be strong. Fight back.

Between the kid with the dreads and GUPS yelling and screaming at Jerusalem mayor Barkat, I do not envy you, nor Professor Astren, one little bit.

The truth, of course, as you know, is that Jewish kids on campuses across the country are getting defamed, or even physically attacked, if they stand up for rights of Jewish sovereignty and self-defense within the Jewish homeland, which is the State of Israel.

I am a PhD from Penn State who earned a Masters degree in American History from SFSU in 2000 and who has taught at Penn State, SFSU, and City College of SF.

I saw the hatred and contempt for the Jewish people and the Jewish state when I was there as a student.

I will never forget walking by the Malcolm X Student Plaza and seeing a bunch of students from an African-American student organization standing on a platform with a big American flag behind them with Stars of David replacing the normal five-pointed stars in the American flag.

It was surreal.

I suggest that you encourage the students of Hillel to take up a martial art.

Krav Maga would make good sense.

Jewish college students need to learn self-defense, both physically and in terms of the history of the Jewish State of Israel.

They need to know that the Jews are not the aggressors in this conflict.

Peace to you, please.

Michael Lumish, PhD

Editor, Israel Thrives

{By the way, I met my wife at SFSU.}
I have no reason to doubt the integrity of this gentleman and I have absolutely nothing against him.

In any case, I followed up a few days later with this:
No response?

Y'know, the truth is that these kids are not prepared to meet their enemies, but GUPS and Rabab Abdulhadi are prepared.

They are going to tell you straight to your face that Israeli Jews are land thieves.

They will tell you, without blinking, that Israel is a racist, imperialist, colonialist, militaristic, apartheid, racist country.

You and your kids need to have an immediate response.

Do you?

You have to stand up strong for the Jewish kids and I very much hope that you do so.

I can come and speak to them about social media, but I suspect that you will not like what I have to say.
Mr. Benn is fully aware that there is a problem on his campus. In response to the Jerusalem mayor, Nir Barkat, fiasco - where the mayor was prevented from speaking by screeching crybullies with an authoritarian agenda -  he writes in a note to friends of SFSU Hillel:
Following extensive communication and coordination, President Wong will meet this coming week with Jewish student leaders at SF State, and major Jewish community leaders from the Bay Area, to discuss how the University will ensure that events like last week do not happen again. 
That is certainly a good place to start. He continues:
When President Wong meets with our students, he will hear how shaken they were by (1) the deprivation of their right to speak, listen and participate in a robust exchange of ideas; (2) being subjected to aggressive, hostile and vulgar abuse. He will hear their strong and justified questions about their place in the campus community. 

Look, what I want from this guy, as a Jewish alumnus of the university, is strong leadership. Furthermore, I have no reason to believe that he will not provide such leadership. What he says in his letter is fair and it makes sense.
Our students who support Israel realized several years ago that aggressive confrontation on the quad (1) was not who they wanted to be as people; and (2) more fundamentally, was a completely ineffective strategy.
I am not, however, certain why Benn thinks that Jewish self-defense is ineffective. I am certainly not advocating that Jewish kids go onto the quad and beat the holy hell of out members of the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS). In fact, that's the whole point. Any kid who knows how to handle him or herself is far less likely to get into a fight than one who does not.

Any kid who knows Krav Maga or Kung Fu, for example, or just boxing, is not going to get bullied, because bullies only pick on the weak.
Since then, the students embarked on a sophisticated and impressive program of coalition building on campus. This goes beyond a superficial "come to our events and we'll come to yours" approach. Our students have built real substantive relationships based on shared values, and understand on a deep level what really matters to other groups.

And it has worked. We regularly see student government leaders, and members of the Black, Latino, LGBT and Women's Center student leadership at Shabbat. And we've also sent leaders of those groups to Israel, where they see for themselves that simple, one-sided narratives do not reflect the complicated, rich and amazing realities there. 
I could not applaud this more.

Coalition building is tremendously important and I would also suggest to Mr. Benn that he encourage his students to join with other indigenous students on campus. The Jewish people are the indigenous people to the Land of Israel and thus should meet with other indigenous students in common cause to stand up for indigenous rights.
But support us.

And I don't just mean financially.

Really support us. Reply to me with a message I can pass on to our staff and students at tonight's Shabbat telling them how proud you are of all they're doing. And trust that, as the organization that invests day-in and day-out in student life, we have their interests at heart, and will create the best possible environment for them to thrive on campus.
My reputation on that campus is shot because I killed it myself.

And although hiring anti-Semitic anti-Zionists who want to partner with An-Najah university was just flat-out stupid, this does not mean that SFSU is hopelessly racist. Like any other sizable American university it is diverse and the average Jewish kid, who does not bother himself with pro-Israel / pro-Jewish politics, is not likely to receive a hard time.

I have no desire whatsoever to denigrate SFSU Hillel director Ollie Benn.

I just want him to be a strong leader for the kids and, if his letter is any indication, it looks to me like he may very well be.

I would encourage you guys to give the SFSU Hillel, and Mr. Benn, a positive shout out.

415 - 333 - 4922

They deserve your support.

Michael Lumish is a blogger at the Israel Thrives blog as well as a regular contributor/blogger at Times of Israel and Jews Down Under.

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