The University of California, Irvine’s chancellor again refused to speak out against acts of anti-Semitism on his campus.
Michael Drake, confronted over his position at the opening plenary of Hillel’s summit Monday in Washington, issued a blanket condemnation of hate speech, including anti-Semitism, saying it had no place in society.
“It’s deplorable. It’s deplorable,” Drake said. “And we reject it absolutely.”
Drake declined to comment, however, when asked by JTA after the summit how he feels about some of the anti-Israel activity that has taken place at UC Irvine. He said the university wished to remain “content neutral.”
UC Irvine students have charged that they have been physically and verbally harassed by Muslim students, and that speakers are routinely invited to campus who compare Israel to Nazi Germany.
Drake’s participation in the summit generated vocal opposition from groups who say his refusal to condemn specific incidents of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity makes him unfit to speak at the event. Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life has rejected that position.
A representative of the Coalition of Jewish Concerns-Amcha interrupted the plenary following the opening remarks, seizing the microphone on the rostrum and accusing Hillel of adopting a “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude. The representative, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, also distributed a letter criticizing Drake.
A letter last week sent to Hillel’s president, Wayne Firestone, from 41 Jewish students condemned Drake’s invitation. Firestone met with the students last Friday.
In a meeting with reporters following the plenary, Firestone reiterated Hillel’s position on the Drake invitation and said he was “proud” the organization had given the chancellor a platform. Firestone said Drake’s participation created a “public accounting” and was an opportunity to “build sensitivity” among university administrations to issues of Jewish concern.