University of California, Irvine is once again investigating the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine group after a protest of an event featuring Israeli soldiers last month.
But members of Students for Justice in Palestine say they are the ones who endured days of harassment and intimidation by Israeli soldiers invited to campus to give a panel discussion about the Israeli army.
The SJP students say they were subjected to days of racial and sexual slurs in what they believe was an attempt to provoke a reaction.
UC Irvine has been a focal point for Israel advocacy groups seeking to categorize support for Palestinian rights as anti-Semitic.
Documents obtained by Palestine Legal through a freedom of information request show that over the last year Israel advocacy organizations have consistently pressured the UC Irvine administration to crack down on Palestine activism.
They were also instrumental in the school’s adoption of a policy that conflates opposition to Zionism, Israel’s state ideology, with anti-Semitism.
“On the offensive”
In early May, UC Irvine’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel invited members from the Israeli organization Reservists on Duty to campus, coinciding with an Anti-Zionism Week being organized by Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace.
With chapters on several campuses, Students Supporting Israel is backed by Israel lobby groups and has close ties to the Israeli government.
Reservists on Duty says it was founded in 2015 by “Israeli reserve combat soldiers” with the mission to counter the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement on college campuses in the US.
The group describes itself as taking “an extremely proactive approach towards confronting BDS and the movements that defame” Israel and its army.
Reservists on Duty also says that it aims to counter Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem, two groups documenting army abuses that Israeli leaders have dubbed “traitors” and “enemies” of the state.
“We decided to change strategies, stop being on the defensive and to go on the offensive,” Reservists on Duty co-founder Amnon Goldstof told The Jerusalem Post last year.
Reservists on Duty evidently enjoys high-level support from Israel’s military establishment. Its 2016 conference was addressed by Yuval Diskin, former head of Israel’s Shin Bet secret police, as well as by a high-ranking military officer.
Racial and sexual slurs
Six people, including at least five soldiers, from Reservists on Duty first appeared on the UC Irvine campus on 8 May, the kick-off day of Anti-Zionism Week.
This video posted on Facebook by Jewish Voice for Peace shows some of the actions by members of Reservists on Duty that Palestinian rights activists have also described to legal advocates and to The Electronic Intifada: