A young man in a turban, his face covered, marches around UC Irvine with signs saying “Death to Infidels. Death to Israel” during a week of campus demonstrations by Muslim students.

Here’s the catch: He’s not Muslim. In fact, he’s not even a student at UCI.

Instead, he’s one of many outsiders who have become embroiled in a campus war of words between a small number of Jewish and Muslim students.

Was he aware that passers-by might actually think he was a terrorist?

“Of course,” said Max Gibson, 27, a self-proclaimed Zionist who lives in San Diego and is affiliated with a college Republican group. “It was to make people think.”

Gibson’s masquerade, authentic enough to spur campus police to disarm him of fake bombs strapped to his body, is an example of how real events at UC Irvine have spun off into their own sometimes fictional existence, spawning street theater and reverberating worldwide on dozens of blogs.

Events at UC Irvine are no different than at many other schools. A recent University of California study found 85 percent of UCI students agreed there was respect for all students, regardless of race or religion – roughly the same percentage as at other UC campuses.

Yet UCI has achieved a blog-inspired reputation for anti-Semitism – a notoriety that many campus observers say is unfair and unwarranted.

“A lot of the blogs distort facts and take things out of context,” said Alex Chazen, president of Hillel: The Jewish Student Union at UC Irvine. “Many of the bloggers aren’t on our campus and don’t even know what’s going on.”


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