NEWARK, N.J. - Jewish groups have raised concerns over a planned Rutgers University student fund-raiser that originally was intended to collect money for a group that sends supplies to Gaza in defiance of the Israeli blockade.
Organizers from BAKA: Students United for Middle Eastern Justice say their fund-raising dinner Thursday is meant to support the sending of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.
A spokeswoman for BAKA, Hoda Mitwally, said the organization was being maligned by groups that issued press releases insinuating BAKA was linked to terrorism, attempting to misuse school funds, or intentionally breaking the law.
"The way we are collecting the money is entirely legal," said Mitwally, a Rutgers senior. "Everything we're doing is essentially for a humanitarian mission, yet we're being accused of just the opposite by those who don't want to recognize there is a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip."
Members of the Jewish group Rutgers Hillel, who oppose the event and contacted the Anti-Defamation League with concerns, said they wanted to ensure that Rutgers was not used as a fund-raising venue for organizations that violate international law or conduct illegal actions against Israel.
"We don't want to infringe on anyone's free speech rights, but when it comes to breaking the law and using the resources of our state university to do that, that is where we object," said Andrew Getraer, executive director of Rutgers Hillel.
The fund-raiser originally was to raise money for a group called U.S. to Gaza that plans to sponsor a boat to deliver supplies to Gaza by defying the Israeli naval blockade, according to stories reported on the website New Jersey Jewish News and in the Bergen Record.
Rutgers University spokesman Greg Trevor said the fund-raiser had been approved by the university's Student Assembly Allocations Committee, but that organizers were told proceeds could not go to U.S. to Gaza because the group lacked the proper charity status.