Saturday, April 16, 2016

A Few Thoughts for SFSU Hillel Director Ollie Benn

Michael L.

{Also published at the Elder of Ziyon.}

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.

Benn Dear Ollie,
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.


  1. And now it turns out, as we learn from our friends at Pro-Israel Bay Bloggers, that we have SFSU President Les Wong on tape from April of last year saying this at around the 18:20 mark:

    "I want to offer my personal congratulations to the student leadership of GUPS. They have been an inspiration for me. And they have helped me when I have to tell other community groups to mind their own business. GUPS is the very purpose of this great university."

    These are same students who screamed at Jerusalem Mayor Barkat, "Intifada! Intifada! Long live the intifada!"

    Calling for an intifada is nothing less than calling for the murder of Jews.

    GUPS is the very purpose of this great university, huh?

    The man should be booted from his position.

    1. By the way, Wong said this:

      "And they have helped me when I have to tell other community groups to mind their own business."

      I wonder who these other peope are that he has to tell them to "mind their own business"?

      My guess is the math club.

  2. What a nice post and letter! I just sent SFSU Hillel a donation because of your post. No one deserves to be bullied for who they are or what they believe, the way Jewish students are being singled out and bullied on campuses today.

    1. Thank you for the compliment. Much appreciated.

  3. It appears to be a losing battle considering what is happening to Jewish faculty members:

    "Jewish faculty on U.S. campuses paying a heavy price for standing up for Israel."

    Unsurprising and incredibly depressing.

  4. Also: This is one of the most repellent and alarming pieces I have read recently. You really need to read it right up to the last sentence. It's really something. "Privilege" is one of the most toxic ideas to permeate the present culture. This, among others things, is where it leads.

    h/t Adam Holland, and John Paul Pagano. ( Both these guys are excellent at monitoring antisemitism etc on their Twitter feeds.)

    1. Thanks, K. I'll check it out.

    2. Mike,
      I presume you've seen the latest UNESCO ruling on the Temple Mount. It beggars belief. And the countries that voted for it.
      Really stunning, even for the UN. And that's saying something.

  5. Oh, c'mon, Trudy!

    You just like to get me all in an uproar!


    "I suspect there will be at least one US college that either calls for or indirectly perpetrates an ethnic cleansing of Jews from that college..."

    This is not going to happen. Not anytime soon, anyways, and I suspect that you know it.

    Students might call for "Zionists off campus!" as we are seeing anyway, this will result in a perhaps significant drop in Jewish enrollment. However, no college administration in the US would officially condone any such policy.

    Of course, the administrations do not have to do anything negative toward Jews. All they have to do, as Wong has done, is praise those who would see us dead.

    "if it propagates like cancer to most US campuses, again, it will be unfortunate that US higher education becomes a worthless meaningless political re education camp..."

    I am sure that David Horowitz would agree.

    But you have to understand - as I suspect that you do - most students on campus are not involved in either pro-Israel or pro-Arab political activity. It is obvious that considerably more students have a socially and artificially constructed hatred of Israel than was the case 15 years ago, even 10... perhaps 5!

    And that obviously a worrying trend.

    But your average engineering student simply doesn't give a shit.

  6. No. Because STEM subjects have mostly been left alone by the post-modernist left. It is difficult to convince students of engineering or Maths that there are no such things as "facts." They are trying to make STEM students sit through various "social justice" courses, though. So one should take notice of that.
    And, of course, engineering graduates do not go into careers in politics or the media. They don't tend to run the country; they're too busy actually making things.
    It's not all right to be complacent about what is happening on campuses because it probably doesn't include STEM students, it's not STEM students that go on to influence the rest of the population with their political views.
    And if Jewish youngsters stop enrolling in various colleges because of the anti-Jewish atmosphere, what difference does it really make that they weren't forced out by the state? Apart from the technicality, that is?
    Just asking...

  7. So how did we get here? Graduates of grievance "studies" programs are unemployable, yet they continue on the vast scale. We all know there is a difference between a Ph.D in Physics and a Ph.D in gender theory. One just isn't. How many queer socialist resistance studies "professors" are in high demand in the private marketplace? My guess is zero. So who's paying for it?

  8. Jacob,

    From John Ellis:

    Disaffected radicals wish to swell the ranks of the disaffected, not the ranks of the cheerfully upward mobile.

    "Genuine progress for minority students would mean their joining and thus strengthening the mainstream of American society -the society that campus radicals loathe."

    Not unrelated:

    It never stops. And the children/students are the victims. Always.

    (You might enjoy looking through the archives at David Thompson's blog on typepad. He's a connoisseur of the politicization of Academia. "Clown Quarter" and other categories. He's in the UK but most of his material is from the States. And a lot of his commenters are, too. )

  9. From Ann Treneman's "Notebook" in the London Times:

    "I hadn't realised how much I missed the likes of Spitting Image until I saw Corbyn the Musical. Sometimes only political satire can expose how far certain perceptions have taken hold. One song in particular showed how the problem of antisemitism in the Labour party is now way past the point of being easily fixed.
    ...He wonders if Jeremy has become too moderate. "Let me give you my CV," he warbles, "as director of atrocity!" Hassan is "passionate about his role, of bombing with a heavy toll."
    Then he belts out this:
    Jeremy, please explain
    Why can't I hijack this plane?
    Your path is so strange to choose
    I thought like me you hate the...

    Every person in the audience knew that the word hanging in the air was "Jews." I'm only surprised we didn't all sing it out ourselves. Everyone laughed, at Corbyn, at Labour, at their lacklustre attempts to quash that perception. Once something has gone that far, where everyone thinks it's true, despite the flurry of denials, it's beyond a joke and Labour will struggle to make us think otherwise."

  10. Kate and Jacob,

    And if Jewish youngsters stop enrolling in various colleges because of the anti-Jewish atmosphere, what difference does it really make that they weren't forced out by the state?

    That's a very important difference, actually.

    It's the difference between de jeure and de facto racism.

    De jeure racism, of course, is what we saw in Nazi Germany and the Jim Crow south in the US.

    It is government sponsored.

    De facto racism just means some guy down the road doesn't like black people, or whatever.

    That matters, too, because it can and does have a highly negative influence on people's lives, (hello Gramsci), but de jeure racism injects that racism into the culture top-down.

    I am sure that you understand that I am not complacent about what is going on with the campuses. In fact, I think that SFSU President Wong needs to pay a heavy price for patting the heads of students who incite hatred toward Jews.

    I intend to do what little I can do to see that he pays it.


    So how did we get here?

    The short answer is WWII.

    After the war, for perfectably understandable reasons, we saw the rise of what I like to call "rights liberalism."

    By the mid-sixties, in the West, this led to the up-punching of the New Left, which is anti-capitalist, anti-American, and, since '67, anti-Israel.

  11. I understand that it's not "state-sponsored racism." Of course. However, if creating an atmosphere in which a particular group is ostracized and treated with hate becomes normalized, as is happening, then the results to that group are that they are pushed out of participating in the institutions in that country. If the state cannot, and will not, make an intervention, then the net results for that group are not particularly different. Am America in which Jewish children are not welcomed on campuses would be what sort of a country? That is what I meant. The technical difference of what "kind" of racism it is is, perhaps, less important in a world in which Jewish children - and no other children - are persuaded that many of the institutions available in their country are no longer open to them. Albeit without that being made "official". Ultimately, if you take it to the ends of the hypothesis, where do the Jewish children go to college? And why is it all right that they are looking at a twenty-first century when that might well become an issue?
    Waiting for racism to become state-sponsored before seeing racism in action seems a little odd. I would hope that one doesn't have to make comparisons with Hitler's Germany before getting seriously concerned. This is insidious. And there's no reason to believe that the atmosphere on college campuses is going to go in another direction.

  12. I don't think it has much to do with "rights liberalism." Actually fighting for rights is a good thing. Some people did that. Successfully, too.
    The response to two world wars, begun in Europe, by the European intellectuals was to be reluctant to believe that Europe was not rotten at its heart. And to believe that civilization had never really been civilized.
    The Western soul-searching never stopped. And there was a deep mistrust of Western culture and history. And of Western values. The subsequent rise of postmodernist theories was a response to the self-flagellation following the second world war. No one could place any trust in the values of a part of the world that had caused such horror. Ideas that dominated the social sciences had started at the end of the nineteenth century and continued to roll on, gathering pace, as the world wars took their toll. Once the idea that there is no objective reality took hold, there is only narrative and experience. Narrative and experience are all that one can be concerned with. History and facts do not exist in any real sense. Nor are they wanted.
    If you look at that little video I linked to on the other thread, you can see college students who cannot discriminate between fact and fiction. Reality and unreality. That is no accident. It serves a purpose. There is no "truth." Just what you feel. The only thing of importance is not to deny someone's experience. It is the route to an intellectual and moral abyss. Hence, cultural and moral relativism are all. If everything is relative, then...
    It's not that difficult to see how it happens.
    Everyone is lost.
    And, sadly, that is where some thinkers are happiest. Unfortunately, they have taken everyone else with them.
    Fighting for rights is a constructive thing to do. This is symptomatic of something very "destructive." Sometimes the response to the world and its difficulties is to tear it all down. Bit by bit.