UC-Irvine Student Leader: SJP Allegations of Sexism and Racism Against IDF Troops Who Visited Campus Are ‘Blatant Lies’
A student leader at the University of California-Irvine (UCI) has vigorously rejected allegations from the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter that IDF soldiers who visited campus last month made racist and sexist comments to its members.
“These are blatant lies, a load of baloney,” Kevin Brum — founder and president of UCI’s Students Supporting Israel (SSI) — told The Algemeiner on Tuesday about claims published by Electronic Intifada of supposed discriminatory language and harassment aimed at SJP members by Israeli reservists who came to UCI for an educational program in early May.
“I asked them [the soldiers] about these allegations and they said it’s all made up,” Brum said. “Given how important these issues of sexual assault and racism are, I find it disgusting that SJP would make this up to fit their agenda.”
The five soldiers were brought UCI by the Reservists on Duty group during Israeli Apartheid Week and spent at least three days near SJP’s “apartheid wall,” talking with members of the student group and passersby about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The troops also led a Q&A session one evening, an event that ended in a police escort leading program attendees out of the building, after some 40 protesters — including members of SJP — shouted down the program and blocked the building’s main exit.
The soldiers who stood near the “apartheid wall,” SJP claimed, “disguised their intent” and “secretly record[ed]” their discussions. One soldier was accused of calling a student an “18-year-old punk-ass bitch” and of having “taunted a female demonstrating at the wall in a sexually threatening tone, saying in Arabic, ‘You want me to stick it in you, don’t you.’”
SJP member Ghiyath Alazzah has reportedly written an email to other West Coast SJP chapters, stating: “These soldiers do not just use propaganda, they use intimidation tactics like taking video footage…using hidden microphones, attempting to incite to violence by using extremely racist and sexist obscenities in Arabic, English and Hebrew, and even going so far as to physically grab a student.”
Muslim-Bedouin Mohammad Kabiyah, one of the soldiers with Reservists on Duty, explained to The Algemeiner that he, accompanied by a videographer, approached SJP members on the first day under the cover story of being a “Palestinian from Jenin.”
“I wanted to get an understanding of what they were thinking in a nonconfrontational way,” said Kabiyah, who explained that an Arabic-speaker who “understands the Israeli-Arab culture” can have an especially effective impact on anti-Israel or Israel-ambivalent students.
The next day, Kabiyah “revealed” himself to SJP as a member of the IDF group. Talks were tense after that, he said.
Kabiyah rejected the charge that any physical or verbal harassment was committed by any members of the Reservists on Duty delegation.
Brum was particularly baffled by the claim — in a letter to the UCI chancellor from the anti-Israel lawfare group Palestine Legal, on behalf of SJP — that the troops were “foreign military agents.”
“Three of the five were US citizens, another was a Lebanese-Christian refugee and a fifth was a Bedouin (Kabiyah),” said Brum.
Electronic Intifada also claimed the national SSI organization was “backed by Israel lobby groups and has close ties to the Israeli government.” Brum rejected that charge as laughable.
“SJP is panicking. They know the facts are on our side,” said Brum, adding that footage taken during the Reservists on Duty Q&A session proved his version of events.
UCI has received multiple letters of complaint from local and national organizations concerned about the administration’s handling of last month’s disrupted event, including one from Hillel International calling the ongoing investigation into the incident “unacceptably slow,” and another signed by 50 groups demanding action be taken against SJP for allegedly repeatedly and intentionally disrupting pro-Israel programs.