Watchdog Organizations Concerned About Appointment of Islamic student activist as University of California Regent

SaidaS2By Daniel Gelman

August 1, 2013

On July 17, Sadia Saifuddin (photo), an Islamic student activist at UC Berkeley and fourth year Social Welfare major, was appointed student regent-designate for the UC system for the 2014/15 school year. The vote by the UC Regents was unanimous, with one abstention by California Senator Diane Feinstein’s husband Richard Blum, who expressed concern about her “divisive” record. The next day, former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano was named the new President of the University of California. It was a big news week for Tammi Benjamin.

The UC Santa Cruz Hebrew and Jewish Studies lecturer co-founded the AMCHA (phonetic “your people” in Hebrew) Initiative several years ago to combat what she sees as campus anti-Semitism. She’s been challenging the administrations of both the CSU (California State University) and UC systems over campus anti-Israel events, classroom propaganda, boycotts of Israel, and threats and assaults against Jewish students.

In March, the student senate at UC Berkeley voted unanimously in favor of a resolution condemning “Islamophobic” hate speech. It accuses Benjamin of “inciting racist and Islamophobic rhetoric.” Saifuddin was the author and co-sponsor. It began after students saw a youtube video of Benjamin lecturing at a Massachusetts synagogue on the ties of Muslim student groups to terrorist organizations.

UCSC Lecturer Tammi Benjamin accuses Muslim and Palestinian activists

AFA Awards Dinner 2013 033

Saifuddin also cosponsored a student bill at Berkeley earlier this year to divest from companies doing business with Israel and signed a letter last year condemning the UC President Advisory Council’s report on campus climate as it relates to Jewish students.

In addition to the resolution, students from the Committee for Justice in Palestine at UC Santa Cruz have been calling for the condemnation of Benjamin by UC President Mark Yudof.  Now they will direct their requests toward the new UC President Janet Napolitano. (see photo [L]of Benjamin receiving Freedom Award at annual AFA dinner)

On the day of the appointment, UC Regent Bonnie Reiss, Chair of the selection committee for student regent congratulated the young Pakistani American woman’s parents. “I want to congratulate you on raising a remarkable young woman that’s so committed to education and  public service, and has the courage to stand up for what she believes in.”

Benjamin had this to say in a letter to UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal in March:

“My statements are being distorted by the Committee for Justice in Palestine (CJP) to demonize me, I believe in retaliation for my speaking out against campus anti-Semitism in general and initiating a Title VI complaint in particular. In exercising my First Amendment rights, a campaign of harassment, defamation, and intimidation has been waged against me by CJP students.”

Most of the events that concern AMCHA are sponsored by campus Muslim student groups. Some are in conjunction with leftist groups or professors.  The Muslim Student Association (MSA) was founded by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1963. Most of the campus Muslim groups are associated with the MSA.

According to multiple source including the FBI and NYPD, the MSA and its affiliate groups are incubators for radicalization and often recruiting pools for radical Islamist movements. Both agencies have engaged in surveillance of these groups on campus. But citing these references is what makes students label Benjamin a hater.

“The MSA has been a virtual terror factory,” Patrick Poole told CBN News in 2011. Poole is an anti-terrorism consultant to law enforcement and the military. “These are MSA leaders, presidents, and national presidents who’ve been implicated, charged, and convicted in terrorist plots,” he said. Poole has written articles referencing MSA fundraising for Hamas and Hezbollah.

These are some of the former MSA student leaders involved with terrorist activity:

– The late al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki-President of the MSA at Colorado State University.
– Omar Hammami, previous leader of the al-Shabaab Somalian terrorist group-President of the MSA at University of South Alabama.
– Abdurahman Alamoudi a former top fundraiser for al-Qaeda in America-former national president of the MSA.
– Sergeant Hasan Akbar who murdered his fellow American soldiers in Kuwait in 2003 and sits on Death Row-associated with the MSA at UC Davis.

Here are some examples of campus events that alarm AMCHA:

– According to American Thinker, “30 Jewish students who were reciting the Mourners’ Kaddish — the Jewish prayer for the dead, on Holocaust Remembrance Day — were shouted down by protesters who countered with grisly prayers in memory of Palestinian suicide bombers. The pro-Palestinian counter-demonstrators, armed with whistles and bull horns, physically assaulted the Jewish students, spat on them, and screamed such charming epithets as ‘Too bad Hitler didn’t finish the job,’ ‘Get out or we will kill you,’ ‘F**k the Jews,’ ‘Die racist pigs,’ and ‘Go back to Russia, Jews.'”
– The American Thinker article continued with: “Muslim students at SFSU (San Francisco State University)  held a demonstration with flyers and posters with a picture of a dead Palestinian baby on a soup can label and the words, ‘Palestinian Children Meat, slaughtered according to Jewish rite, under American license.’” 


-Students occupied the lobby of a campus hall at UC Davis after a solidarity march for Palestine.  According to a source at the student paper The Aggie, the group represented a combination of SJP and the Occupy Movement. They carried banners that read: DEATH TO ZIONISM and LONG LIVE THE INTIFADA. They squashed dissent, surrounded Jewish students, equated the Israeli government with Nazis, yelled “F-CK ISRAEL, pounded fists and raised a fist. No one was punished. (11/12)

-A female Jewish student at UC Berkeley was rammed with a shopping cart by a male from the Students for Justice in Palestine while she attended a counter-protest on campus called Israel Wants Peace Now. The event was meant to counter the annual Israel Apartheid Week, when Muslim students skewer Israel and stage mock checkpoints on campus. The student’s subsequent lawsuit claimed that Jewish students were spat on and the Israeli government was equated with Nazi Germany during the annual Muslim student event. (6/10)

-11 students from the MSU at UC Irvine staged a systematic sabotage of a campus speech by an Israeli Ambassador. They stood one by one, heckled him and refused to let him speak. They were ultimately arrested and convicted.  (2/10)

-California State University Northridge (CSUN) Math Professor David Klein uses his campus web site to promote his Boycott Israel Resource Page. On it he calls Israel, “The most racist state in the world today,” features a photo of a bloody Arabic child, links to anti-Israel blogs, and calls for the end of the Study Abroad program in Israel.

The issue has hit both UCSB and UCLA. In 2009 UCSB Sociology Professor William Robinson sent an email to his students comparing Israel being in Gaza to the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. He was ultimately cleared by the Academic Senate in the name of “academic freedom.” David Delgado Shorter is a Professor of World Arts and Culture at UCLA. He promotes the academic and cultural boycott of Israel via his campus web page.

But many Jewish students are either oblivious to this climate or indifferent. According to a poll conducted in 2003 by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, the average Jewish student in California is neither religious nor Zionist. Many are more likely to identify with the very people opposing Israeli policy. The poll was commissioned by Jewish philanthropists to see why Jewish students don’t seem to care about campus anti-Semitism.

Tammi Benjamin had this to say in her recent letter to the UC Regents regarding Saifuddin’s appointment: 

“Ms. Saifuddin is a member and leader of the UC Berkeley SJP and MSA, two organizations that have engaged in considerable anti-Semitic activity and whose members have harassed and intimidated Jewish students on her campus. She was at the forefront of the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic divestment campaign, and she was the sole author of a reprehensible and defamatory student senate resolution attacking me. Please understand that Ms. Saifuddin has done more to sow the seeds of anti-Jewish bigotry at the University of California than almost any other UC student.”

“Their opinion is irrelevant,” Sadia Saifuddin told the Citizens Journal regarding AMCHA. “Fighting anti-Semitism does not justify the use of ‘Islamophobia.’ If the true goal was to fight hate, then the AMCHA Initiative would fight against all kinds of bigotry. They do not do that. In fact all they do is contribute to a negative and stifled campus climate; one that is not open to diverse opinions and perspectives.” She went on to address follow up questions:

“I do not and will not support any event, regardless of political nature, that crosses over into physical or verbal abuse. All conversations need to be had with respect. It is undeniable that the Jewish community has a connection to Israel. There are some that protest Israel’s existence, but the majority of Israel’s critics protest its illegal settlements and checkpoints, which are against the law and violate the Geneva Convention.”

She continued: “I understand that protests on either side can lead to discomfort, but I also urge people to see their connection to Israel as different than their connection to the Israeli government. Criticizing Israel does not make you a Jew-hater, there is a difference between a government’s policies and the people and their beliefs.”

AMCHA cites the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism. Benjamin says it includes double standards applied to Israel, demonization of the Jewish State and equating it with Nazis. Also the physical and verbal threats/assaults against Jewish students.. 

According to Shari Goodman, Calabasas Chapter President of the watchdog group ACT for America,

“Sadia Saifuddin has close ties to the Council on Islamic American Relations (CAIR), a front group for the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood.  Her call for divestment and boycott of Israel along with her support for the MSA whose motto is to “die for Allah” is indicative of her unsuitability to represent all students within the U.C. system.”

“As head of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano appointed several Muslim Brotherhood operatives to positions of national security.  Her recent appointment to head the U.C. System should raise questions about the influence of Saudi oil money and its role in Napolitano’s and Saifuddin’s appointments,” she added.

 Statements by UC Regents on Saifuddin appointment:

Daniel Gelman has been a freelance Reporter/Writer for several years, specializing in News, Business, Feature, and Op-Ed.


Note relevant text on page one of this internal Cal State 1/13/13  memo.

See last item here.

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