SFSU yanks pro-Palestinian Web site denying the Holocaust

Following a number of letters and e-mails from enraged campus Jews, SFSU administrators — who provide free Web access for hundreds of student groups — pulled the plug Monday on the General Union of Palestinian Students' site.

The GUPS site is linked to www.ummah.net — "the Muslim directory" — which contains a section entitled "The Holocaust that never was." Articles refer to the Holocaust as "the lie of the century" and claim "that the all stories about Holocaust created in sake of Zionist-Jews own benefit [sic]."

Interspersed between horrific, bloody photos of "Israeli massacres" are claims of Jewish ritual murder in Chicago in 1955 and a section on Talmud claiming Jews believe gentiles to be non-human, on par with beasts and have free reign to rob, cheat and kill non-Jews or marry Jewish toddlers.

In addition to ummah.net, the GUPS site is linked to the Hamas Web page, the Holy Land Foundation — a "charitable" organization whose assets were frozen by the United States for allegedly operating as a terrorist front — and an online copy of the anti-Semitic hoax "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion."

Text on the GUPS site itself referred to "the so-called holocaust," accused Zionists of controlling all media and contained graphics depicting Israel's destruction.

"This is a collection of the most virulent hatred I've ever seen. Not only the links to the Holocaust denier Web site, which is extremely disturbing…but what they've done with the attacks on the Talmud, on rabbinical texts, on Judaism as a religion is reprehensible," said Laurie Zoloth, SFSU's Jewish studies chair. "You can link from the San Francisco State server, which is paid for by California taxpayer dollars, and go right to the worst social pornography I've ever seen."

After being alerted to the site's content late last week, SFSU's Web Committee met on Monday and disabled the GUPS page for a variety of violations of SFSU campus and Internet bylaws. It is unknown for how long the material was present on GUPS' site, and there is no timetable on when the site might be reactivated.

The 14-member committee found the site violated SFSU Web policy in disseminating "obscene, harassing, threatening, or unwelcome communications," and contradicted sections of the student code of conduct in directing "abusive behavior toward members of the campus community."

The committee also found the site to be in violation of sections of Title V of the state administrative code regarding disruption of the educational process and misuse of campus property.

The Web Committee recommended SFSU's dean of students and office of programs and leadership development look into possibly punishing the Palestinian student organization.

Phone calls to several GUPS leaders were not returned. GUPS' adviser, Professor Dwight Simpson, refused to be interviewed.

Jewish students and campus leaders said it's time for the pro-Palestinian student group to be held accountable for its actions.

"I don't think one can do wrong, apologize, be pardoned and do it over and over again and simply be pardoned each time," said Mike Kopaigorodsky, an SFSU senior. "I think they should not be given university privileges."

For sophomore Isaac Goldstein, "it confirmed my assumptions that this group of people are very anti-Semitic even though they claim not to be. I'd like to see them suspended or restricted in one way or another. There have been many problems — this is just the icing on the cake."

In recent months, GUPS has infuriated campus Jews by holding rallies in which speakers praised suicide bombers and compared Zionism to Nazism and co-sponsoring a rally poster depicting a SPAM-like can emblazoned with a dead baby and the text "Palestinian Children Meat…Slaughtered According to Jewish Rites Under American License."

SFSU President Robert Corrigan received an apology for that poster claiming the pro-Palestinian student group did not understand the significance of the blood libel. But the content of their Web page exposes them as liars, claim some campus Jews.

"This group claimed they didn't understand the blood libel, but this could not be a clearer account of the oldest of medieval tropes," said Zoloth. "Where was their adviser? Doesn't anybody check this? Who knows how long this was up? Who knows how many students learned to hate from this site?"

Following a well-publicized fracas at a pro-Israel rally on May 7, Corrigan formed a task force on campus inter-group relations. Muata Kenyatta, a task force member and adviser for the Muslim Student Association, was dismayed by the GUPS site, but said the views it presents are not held by the majority of SFSU's Muslim community.

"I don't know what's wrong with these kids today," he said. "I'm African-American and 50 years old, and my relationship with the Jewish community was always that we were struggling at the same time. Kids today, they have a totally different understanding — or lack of it — and are not as sensitive as they should be."

Seth Brysk, the executive director of San Francisco Hillel, said he isn't sure how well the GUPS site represents the group, but is fairly certain that extremists are the ones who are calling the shots.

"Hopefully I'm not naïve, but I hope this is a minority opinion," he said. "Whatever the opinion is, the Jewish community has no choice but to confront it. I'm not giving up my Jewish identity, and I'm not asking my students to. It's simplistic to say this problem can be solved outright, but, unfortunately, hatred and anti-Semitism have been around for thousands of years, and our community is touched by it as well."

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is a columnist at Mission Local. He is also former editor-at-large at San Francisco Magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.