Irvine, Calif. — The University of California, Irvine, has emerged as an unlikely flashpoint in the national Israeli-Arab debate.
The campus' Muslim Student Union drew harsh criticism last week for hosting a week of programs under the title "Holocaust in the Holy Land." Events included a speech on the public quad titled "Israel: the Fourth Reich" and the construction of a mock Israeli wall with students dressed as Israeli army officers conducting aggressive checkpoint searches.
The events prompted a strong reaction from Jewish groups, who called it highly offensive to equate Israel with Nazi Germany.
But it was just the latest dispute in years of tension, mistrust and back-and-forth accusations between activist Muslim and Jewish students at UCI.
In 2003, a memorial to Holocaust victims was vandalized. The next year, an anti-Zionism mural erected by the Society of Arab Students was burned down. No suspects were found in either case.
At the heart of the UCI issue is a fundamental question: Can you be aggressively opposed to the policies and even the existence of Israel without being anti-Semitic? Muslim Student Union leaders say yes; Jewish activists both on and off campus aren't so sure.