For the last several months a controversy has roiled at the University of California over pro-Israel organizations giving money to student government candidates as a means of forestalling divestment initiatives on campus. You’d think this would be a national scandal. Nope, it’s been covered chiefly by college papers.
Amanda Schallert at the Daily Bruin at UCLA has the latest news: that a Los Angeles real estate exec who gives to many rightwing pro-Israel groups funneled money through the UCLA Hillel to provide to students running for office on a slate called Bruins United, which helped to defeat divestment proposals on the campus for two years in a row– though a divestment measure passed last month. The Daily Bruin:
A source who was granted anonymity for fear of reprisal gave The Bruin dozens of emails in which Bruins United candidates solicited campaign donations from off-campus Israel supporters.
In the weeks before the last two spring USAC [Undergraduate Student Association Council] elections, Bruins United candidates emailed Adam Milstein, a pro-Israel donor, asking for financial help to get elected and vote down a forthcoming divestment resolution.
USAC voted on resolutions in each of those following academic years calling for the University of California to divest from American companies that some say profit from human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza.
The emails given to The Bruin indicate that Milstein then forwarded the candidates’ funding requests to other pro-Israel donors. In an email, Milstein asked his contacts to donate to the Bruins United candidates’ campaign fund and make checks payable to Hillel at UCLA. The leadership fund that received the donations in Hillel is not meant to solely support Jewish student leadership in USAC, but the emails indicate and the source said that Hillel channeled some of the money to Bruins United….
Milstein, who is a member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee National Council and the Israeli-American Council, is a donor to many pro-Israel organizations and to the UCLA Foundation. He is also the source of numerous social media posts that some say are Islamophobic.
Leading up to the 2013 USAC election, Milstein gave at least $500 to the fund in Hillel at UCLA earmarked for “UCLA student government leaders.” In the 2014 election, he gave at least $1,000 to be directed to the slate, according to emails and attached documents obtained by The Bruin.
Several members of Bruins United, UCLA Hillel and the Jewish community also attended a fundraiser at Milstein’s home in late April this year , where pro-Israel donors and Jewish community leaders donated to the Hillel leadership fund, and in turn to Bruins United, the source told The Bruin…
One of the Bruins United leaders who serves in student government is Avinoam Baral, an Israeli. He sent out an email to the Milstein Family Foundation last March stating that the funding must not be revealed:
“I can not stress enough how discrete (sic) this initiative must be. If this letter or any evidence of outside organizations involvement in these student government elections were to be found by our opponents it would compromise our campaign, Bruins United and all student government pro-Israel activism across America.”
Pretty explicit agenda on Baral’s part. Another student who acknowledges getting money from Milstein via Hillel is Avi Oved, who opposes divesting from Israel and is about to assume an important position: University of California Student Regent, a sitting member of the board of the University of California. The current student regent is Sadia Saifuddin; Oved is to take her place.
Even more explicit is an email (PDF here) from Adam Milstein, in which he directed that money be sent to Hillel so as not to bear fingerprints:
Avi and Avinoam represent the Jewish community and the pro-Israel advocates on the UCLA campus. It’s of extreme importance that they prevail vs. some anti-Israel, pro-BDS students that are competing against them. They have asked me reach out to the pro-Israel community in Los Angeles and to anyone else who is willing to support their cause and ask for contributions IMMEDIATELY necessary for their campaign fund.
Checks can be written payable to Hillel at UCLA. Please ear mark in the memo, UCLA Student Government Leaders.
The Berkeley student newspaper first reported the existence of this email last July, saying that it gave the lie to a Milstein statement that he he had only ever given funds to Hillel at UCLA and other similar organizations, not to Bruins United.
When asked about his donations by the UCLA paper this week, Milstein, who is devoted to defending “Judeo Christian principles,” told the Daily Bruin that questioning his funding is anti-Semitic:
When asked for comment on this article, Milstein referred to a statement he released over the summer saying he did not donate to the Bruins United slate or to Oved, but did donate to Hillel. He added in an email that he thinks he did not leave any instructions with his donations to direct the money to Bruins United.
“These allegations against Adam Milstein and the Milstein Foundation represent yet another step in an anti-Semitic smear campaign that seeks to marginalize Jewish and Pro-Israel students,” the statement from the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation said.
Milstein’s foundation gives to a smorgasbord of Zionist and neoconservative organizations, including Camera, MEMRI, the Israel Project, the American Israel Education Fund (part of AIPAC), the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, StandWithUs, Aish, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Friends of the Reut Institute. Alex Kane covered Milstein’s denials that he was contributing to student elections last summer, here. And here. Those posts showed Milstein’s history as a Muslim-basher and said that earlier emails had caught him “in a lie.”
I imagine these revelations will fuel the Open Hillel movement, a generational undertaking inside the Jewish community to dissociate campus Jewish organizations from Zionist advocacy.
Milstein’s efforts are part of a national undertaking. Muzzlewatch reported in 2010 that Jonathan Kessler of AIPAC, the big Israel lobby of which Milstein is a leader, promised to attempt to make sure that pro-Israel students “take over” student governments that are favorable to divestment measures:
When asked about fighting the Berkeley pro-divest initiative, Kessler said, “we’re going to make sure that pro-Israel students take over the student government and reverse the vote…This is how AIPAC operates in our nation’s capital. This is how AIPAC must operate on our nation’s campuses.” Kessler is at 3:58 in video below. Student elections are happening now at UC Berkeley and you can bet everyone’s looking for the AIPAC-Manchurian candidate, if such a thing exists.
P.S. UC Davis chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine is organizing a petition drive to have their school divest from four companies, Raytheon, G4S, Veolia and Caterpillar, that are complicit in Israeli human rights violations.
Thanks to Annie Robbins.