SFSU cites Jewish emigre for hate speech

But that was long enough for the Ukrainian emigre and daughter of Holocaust survivors to hear pro-Palestinian counterdemonstrators shout: "Go back to Russia" and "Hitler didn't finish the job."

Her immediate responses were, "Go f—k your camel" and the Arabic word for "bitch" — remarks that now leave the 50-year-old Jewish creative writing student facing possible criminal charges.

Last week, university police asked the San Francisco District Attorney to prosecute Manaker for alleged hate crimes and other counts stemming from the May 7 rally. Two pro-Palestinian students at SFSU face the same counts, including a charge of vandalism against a student who stomped on an Israeli flag.

The evidence against all three was gathered through witness statements and interviews as well as video footage from the rally, said Ligeia Polidora, SFSU public relations director. In addition to criminal charges, the students — whose names she declined to release — could face campus disciplinary actions.

Campus police, added Polidora, continue to "aggressively and immediately" investigate complaints from the rally, including four cases "in progress," pending suspect identification.

The rally, which started as a pro-Israel, peace gathering, turned sour in its aftermath when campus police allowed counterdemonstrators to enter Malcolm X Plaza.

The event has since drawn international attention because of a widely circulated e-mail, written by Laurie Zoloth, director of the SFSU Jewish studies program, detailing her experience, as well as what she described as the anti-Semitic atmosphere on campus.

It also drew a swift response from SFSU President Robert A. Corrigan, who wrote in an open letter to the campus community that a "terribly destructive" group of pro-Palestinians had "violated the values of the university." Their "hateful speech and threatening behavior…is not passing unchallenged," he wrote.

That's where Manaker comes in. While not on the pro-Palestinian side, she is one of the students whose behavior is being challenged.

But Manaker, who claimed that "even in my worst time in the Soviet Union, I never heard so much anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism and anti-Israel propaganda" as at SFSU, showed little remorse for her action at the rally, during a telephone interview Tuesday.

"I am very proud," said Manaker, a mother of three who immigrated in 1985. "I thought I would die and never get to hear someone read me my Miranda rights."

She said that her comments were merely reactions to the insults being thrown around.

"The good thing is," she added, "I didn't hit anyone."

Not everyone in the Jewish community is reacting with pride regarding Manaker's words.

According to Seth Brysk, director of San Francisco Hillel, Manaker is "one woman, whose questionable behavior is not typical" of Jews on campus and "does not represent Hillel or the Israel Coalition."

To counteract any negative impressions, students and staff of those groups issued an apology last week to the campus newspaper and to the campus pro-Palestinian groups involved in the counterdemonstration.

They have not heard back, nor received any similar apology, he said.

"This was one woman versus dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators who were using hate speech and physical intimidation," added Brysk, who was invited to watch a videotape of the incident last Friday, along with an exclusive group of Jewish community leaders.

"There was more than just name-calling going on their side," he said. "They went across the lines, violated our area, tried to vandalize our material, tried to corner us. I was proud our students acted as mature as they did in these attempts to provoke them."

Yitzhak Santis, Middle East affairs director for the Jewish Community Relations Council, also viewed the videotape and said: "The organizer of the pro-Palestinians did try to push them back and keep them separate, but then turned around and started chanting anti-Israel stuff himself."

He added: "While there were some anti-Arab statements on this videotape, there was a lot more anti-Semitic stuff."

Santis also said he is disappointed by a recent statement released by the pro-Palestinian students and the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee that claimed the 400 pro-Israel rallygoers "goaded the Arab, Muslim and pro-Palestinian activists with racist taunts" while the Palestinian supporters "chanted strictly political slogans" in a peaceful manner.

"There was clear anti-Semitism on their side and they're not willing to own up to it," he said.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League's regional director, Jonathan Bernstein, said the videotape reaffirmed his feeling "that demonstrators and counterdemonstrators were much too close to one another" and that the university "wasn't enforcing some of its own policies" to keep the groups apart.

"The administration and campus police learned a real lesson from this in that they need to take more proactive action to maintain a calm and peaceful climate in situations like this," he said. "All of this could have been easily avoided if they had taken some measures."

There is, however, "no quick, easy solution" to the growing tensions between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students.

As for the charges against Manaker, none of the Jewish community leaders was sure they would stick.

After viewing the videotape, the leaders did discuss some of their ideas with Corrigan about easing the hostile environment — as they did in previous meetings with the president. However, they were tightlipped about Friday's discussion.

"If everything being planned and discussed is implemented, there will be a change in the atmosphere," said Santis. "But a lot of that also depends on the willingness of the [pro-Palestinians] to sit down and talk out and work out what it is to be civil on campus."

According to Polidora, Corrigan has already taken several definitive steps toward improving the climate for both groups, including the formation of a task force to address the issue throughout the summer. The university is also considering the possibility of adding additional Islamic studies courses.

And at SFSU's commencement on Saturday, Polidora said that Cantor Roslyn Barak of San Francisco's Congregation Emanu-El, and Imam Souleiman Ghali, president of the Islamic Society of San Francisco, came together to lead the students in an invocation.

Also at that ceremony, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-S.F.) addressed the tensions and thanked Corrigan for "speaking out for San Francisco State's true values."