A fund-raiser being run by a Rutgers University student organization to support efforts to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza appears to be in violation of federal law and university policy, according to an official of the Anti-Defamation League.
Etzion Neuer, regional director of NJ ADL, told NJJN he has “serious concerns” about the Nov. 4 benefit for the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, sponsored by BAKA: Students United for Middle Eastern Justice.
He said the funds raised at the event — scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Busch Campus Center in Piscataway — would in effect be “funneled from an activity supported by a public university to an organization threatening to commit a belligerent act against one of America’s closest allies.”
Neuer said he believed “the NJ State Legislature would be dismayed to learn a state-funded university funded such a gross violation of U.S. foreign policy.”
The fund-raiser also raises questions of civil liability for the university, “because as recent events have shown, running a blockade involves serious risks,” said Neuer in reference to a deadly Israeli raid on a boat that was part of a Gaza-bound flotilla in May.
When BAKA initially applied for funding for the program from the Rutgers University Student Assembly, it was turned down based on information provided by Rutgers Hillel and the ADL. Stipulations require any organization receiving RUSA money be classified as a 50lc nonprofit; Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which will receive any funds raised, does not have that status.
Hillel executive director Andrew Getraer said given the ultimate recipient of the funds, BAKA, which is charging an entrance fee of $5 to the fund-raiser, appeared to be violating university policy. He has been in contact with RUSA about the situation, and ADL has reached out to university president Richard McCormick; no resolution had been made as of press time.
Meanwhile students at Rutgers University are bracing for a campus appearance at the Nov. 4 event of “two heavy hitters” in a movement deeply critical of Israel and its role in the flotilla incident, said Getraer.
Speakers will include Retired U.S. Army Col. Ann Wright, a diplomat and antiwar activist, who was described by BAKA as “a survivor of the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara” during the May 31 incident in which 10 international activists were killed in confrontation with Israeli commandos aboard the Turkish-flagged ship.
Also scheduled to speak is Adam Shapiro, a board member of the Free Gaza Movement and cofounder of the International Solidarity Movement, which was recently named to the Anti-Defamation League’s “Top Ten List” of organizations it calls the “most influential and active anti-Israel groups in the United States.”
On Nov. 2, Rutgers Hillel is scheduled to bring in Neil Lazarus, a Jerusalem-based instructor of Israel advocacy to conduct programs for students at several campus locations. Getraer said student leaders from other colleges throughout the state have also been invited “so they can bring what they’ve learned back to their campuses.”
“Our policy is not to react to such things because that just brings them more attention and more publicity and our experience on campus is that it has not been effective,” said Getraer.
“We will have several dozen of our students trained in pro-Israel advocacy,” he said. “We find the best way to combat anti-Israel activity is with pro-Israel activity, not with protest.”
Neuer urged all NJ residents “to raise their voices against this grossly inappropriate use of student funds” and said on Oct. 29 that he hoped “common sense would prevail and funding will be cut off.”