In May 2009, the Muslim Student Union (MSU) at UC Irvine, hosted the school-sponsored event, “Israel: The Politics of Genocide” on campus, where over 850 people attended.
Present at the event was guest-speaker, and a member of the British Parliament George Galloway, notorious for his fervid support of the Palestinians in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The event promoted Galloway’s cause “Viva Palestina,” a humanitarian organization that sends convoys with aid to the Gaza strip. The MSU sent out collection boxes at the event to support Viva Palestina.
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) posed complaints against the MSU because they believed that the convoys supported the Hamas, a group identified by the U.S. State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).
The ZOA deemed the event as anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic. They informed UCI and the U.S. Justice Department of complaints that they have received in response to the May conference. ZOA’s president and director authored a lengthy letter to UCI Chancellor Diane F. Geocarris with courtesy copies to other high officials, including UC President Mark Yudof and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The correspondence strongly encouraged an investigation of MSU for possibly funding Hamas and practicing anti-Semitism. The ZOA accused the MSU on further grounds of violating university technicalities with the fundraiser.
In a retaliating correspondence addressed to the UCI’s chancellor, the MSU does not deny that they had violated university technicalities.
“As undoubtedly have every student organization on campus as well as university administrators,” commented MSU representatives in a letter to Chief Campus Council at UCI, Diane Geocaris,
However, according to MSU’s President, Mohamed Abdelgany, it was in their knowledge that all fundraising efforts were in support of a humanitarian aid convoy, as described on Viva Palestina’s Web site.
“All items will be delivered and donated to one or more non-governmental organizations/committee of organizations to be dispersed within the medical community in Gaza based on need,” according to the Web site.
Abdelgany explained his understanding of the Web site’s statement afterward.
“We did have collection boxes at the event. Viva Palestina, in our understanding, is a convoy for humanitarian aid, to alleviate suffering. [We were] trying to help donate to NGOs,” Abdelgany said.
MSU is among many organizations that contributed to Galloway’s Viva Palestina convoy. Abdelgany believes that the ZOA’s primary focus on the Muslim union is another attempt to suppress and limit their first amendment rights to free expression.
In the aforementioned correspondence, the MSU stated that the Zionist Organization’s complains made things personal.
“ZOA’s complaint is not about rectifying MSU’s wrong, but rather it is about what it has always been about: censorship, defamation and malicious prosecution,” said MSU representatives.
The Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, Susan Tuchman, says that they have no direct disputes with the MSU but are more so concerned with the university’s “lack of action.” She believes that the university should live up to certain obligations in response to such complaints.
ZOA’s national president Morton Klein commented on the state of the investigation as a result of this conference. “Steven Emerson, a distinguished terrorism expert, is investigating Viva Palestina,” Klein said.
UCI Assistant Vice Chancellor, Susan L. Menning confirms that there is an FBI investigation as well as the university’s own investigation of the allegations.
“We will notify the school and students after the investigation is complete. However, we are unable to disclose any information right now,” Menning said.
UPDATE: In the October 26 issue of the “New University,” the article titled “UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Under Investigation” stated that UC Irvine administration confirmed an FBI investigation of the Muslim Student Union. No such investigation has been confirmed by UC Irvine administration as of November 1.
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