Jewish Voice for Peace Condemns CA Assembly Vote to Support Limiting Free Speech on UC Campuses
Applauds few legislators who refused to vote for deceptive resolution meant to limit criticism of Israeli policies
[OAKLAND—August 29, 2012] Jewish Voice for Peace is appalled that the CA State Assembly passed a resolution yesterday which was presented as a broad condemnation of anti-Semitism on UC campuses but which goes far beyond that in supporting putting limits on the free speech of students, faculty and community-members who criticize Israeli policies. ( See “Anti-Semitism resolution hits anti-Israel protestors”, AP)
Cecilie Surasky, Jewish Voice for Peace Deputy Director: “This resolution wants the University of California system to treat Israel differently from virtually every other country in the world, including the United States, by claiming much criticism of Israeli policies is hate speech. If any legislator tried to introduced a similar resolution claiming criticism of Iran was anti-Muslim, or attacks on Utah were somehow anti-Mormon, they’d be laughed out of office. And rightly so.
That’s one reason the Jewish community is completely divided on this issue —when the UC campus climate report on Jewish life referenced in the resolution made similar far-reaching recommendations to limit speech critical of Israel, the biggest pushback came from Jewish UC students, faculty and alum. The implications of limiting academic inquiry and free speech, even speech that makes some people uncomfortable, are deeply troubling. Just as alarming, this resolution cheapens the very serious charge of anti-Semitism.“
View full statement:
Rebecca Pierce: U.C. report on Jewish campus climate: Results marginalize, misrepresent students critical of Israel
The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories has long been a controversial topic in the United States, especially on college campuses. Personal identity can influence how people view the conflict, causing some to assume that this discussion is, or should be, conducted strictly along ethno-religious lines. This assumption, however, has the potential to chill speech and push dissenters out of their communities. As a Jewish and African American student critical of Israeli policy and involved in Palestinian solidarity organizing at U.C. Santa Cruz, I experience this firsthand.
Since coming to UCSC, my ability to participate in Jewish student programming while active in the campus Committee for Justice in Palestine has met constant challenges. Last year, I was repeatedly subjected to abusive online comments by a staff member at a center for Jewish life because of my decision to be in CJP and participate in Jewish student programming. This is not the only time I’ve been targeted, and I’m not the only Jewish student to experience something like this. Unfortunately, recent steps by the University of California to “improve campus climate” appear poised to make this situation even worse.
On July 9, U.C. President Mark Yudof’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion presented the “University of California Jewish Student Campus Climate Fact-Finding Team Report & Recommendations.” Authored by Rick Barton of the Anti-Defamation League and Alice Huffman of the California NAACP, it is ostensibly based on testimony from meetings with Jewish students at six U.C. campuses. I was part of a Jewish student panel that discussed the report when it was released, and had no choice but to dispute much of its findings.
I was present at the UCSC meeting in fall 2011 and discussed the difficulties of maintaining involvement in both CJP and my campus Jewish community. But upon receiving the report, I discovered my experiences, and those of other Jewish students critical of Israel, were almost entirely absent.
In fact, while the authors note there are some Jewish students involved in what they label “the anti-Zionism movement,” the document portrays Palestinian campus organizing as problematic, or even anti-Semitic by nature, often through unchecked generalizations.
Letter to UC President Yudof regarding Campus Climate Report on situation of Jewish, Muslim and Arab Students
Dear President Yudof,
We, the California Scholars for Academic Freedom** write to urge you not to adopt the recommendations of the Jewish Student Campus Climate Report. We find the report’s recommendations pose a clear threat to academic freedom at the University of California. First, the report is based on sloppy methodology and clear bias. A comparison with the Muslim and Arab Student Campus Climate Report is instructive. The latter explains exactly how many people they spoke with, how they were put in touch with them, and lists their names and affiliations. The Jewish Student Campus Climate Report merely implies that they spoke with a range of people but never specifies with whom and how they were chosen. In fact, the two people who conducted the Jewish Student Campus Climate Report appear to have spoken almost exclusively with those who would like to silence criticism of Israel on UC campuses.
Second, the Muslim and Arab Student Campus Climate Report explains in great detail the exact nature of the discrimination that Muslim and Arab students experience on UC campuses, while the Jewish Student Campus Climate Report quotes unnamed people as feeling upset about criticisms of Israel. In fact, the report focuses almost exclusively on criticism of Israel as a supposedly objective measure of anti-Semitism while giving short shrift to the broad range of Jewish student experiences on UC campuses. The Jewish Student Campus Climate Report, despite a brief one-sentence disclaimer, essentially equates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, despite having to acknowledge that much of this criticism comes from Jewish faculty and students.
Indeed, one key piece of harassment is missing in this report: the harassment conducted by those who do not want to hear any criticism of Israel voiced at all on UC campuses. The harassment by these individuals has been intense, both against Muslim and Arab American students and faculty and against other Jewish students and faculty who criticize Israel. This harassment has occurred on all the UC campuses. Case in point: the UC Santa Cruz campus. Two individuals at UCSC mobilized thousands of emails to criticize faculty who exercised their academic freedom of speech to criticize Israel. These harassers are the ones who equate Jewish students and faculty who criticize Israel with Nazis.
They also claim bias in these events and lack of “balance,” despite the fact that they have organized numerous events that are propaganda for the state of Israel. More recently, individuals who try to suppress academic freedom of speech in relation to Israel have tried numerous campus avenues and legal means to try to suppress this speech.
Finally, the Muslim and Arab Student Climate Report has a range of sensible recommendations, including a streamlined reporting system for reports of discrimination, multicultural centers for dialogue across cultural and religious differences, more accommodations for religious observance, and enhanced educational opportunities about the Middle East and Islam. In contrast, the Jewish Student Campus Climate Report basically recommends censorship: developing a policy against “hate speech” and banning campus sponsorship of offensive activities. Given that this recommendation comes in the context of a report that focuses almost exclusively on debates about Palestine/Israel, this recommendation is certainly too one-sided.
Indeed, we are concerned that the Jewish Student Campus Climate Report, given its almost exclusive focus on Israel, will yet again make Muslim and Arab students feel unheard and unwelcome at the University of California.
The fact that you appointed Richard D. Barton, National Education Chair of the Anti-Defamation League, to carry out the “research” for the Jewish Student Campus Climate Report ensured a one-sided, biased report not based at all on objective research. The Anti-Defamation League is famous for its activism in the United States to suppress criticism of Israel. Barton’s leadership on this report meant from its inception that its sole goal would be to try to suppress criticism of Israel on the UC campuses. Otherwise, you would have appointed a neutral person with a history of conducting objective research.
The conflation of criticism of Israel with anti-semitism has become a common tactic by those who want to silence any criticism of Israel. We would never dream of equating criticism of the authoritarian government in China or the Free Tibet movement with anti-Chinese racism, despite the fact that many of our Chinese students identify strongly with mainland China and Chinese culture. We would never dream of equating criticism of authoritarian governments in Africa with racism against African Americans. More recently, we have not worried that criticisms of Egypt’s government or of Syria is a form of anti-Arab racism. The only way to counter speech we do not agree with is to encourage more speech.
Public universities have a special responsibility to protect academic freedom and freedom of speech. Academic freedom includes the freedom of professors to conduct and disseminate scholarly research, to design courses and teach students in the areas of their expertise, and to enjoy First Amendment protections for extramural speech. (The latter is a right enjoyed by everyone within the jurisdiction of the U.S. constitution, but is the third leg of the principles of academic freedom because professors should not be professionally penalized for non-academic speech that they engage in beyond the academy.)
The Jewish Student Campus Climate report points toward a dangerous trend of attempts to criminalize any speech discussing boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel or settlements in the occupied territories, echoing a new law in Israel that punishes any public discussion of these activities. We do not want this abrogation of freedom of speech to be applied in California or by extension in the United States.
The courts have signaled that universities have a special responsibility to harbor even extreme speech. We urge you to affirm that the University of California strives to be a leader with regard to academic freedom and freedom of speech.
California Scholars for Academic Freedom
View full letter and signatures here:
August 9, 2012
President Mark G. Yudof
Office of the President
University of California
1111 Franklin Street, 12th Floor
Oakland CA 94607
Dear President Yudof:
I write to you on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and its Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) to express our concern about aspects of the recently released report on “University of California Jewish Student Campus Climate” commissioned by the UC Campus Climate Advisory
MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.
MESA rejects all forms of discrimination, bigotry and racism, including anti-Semitism, and it supports prompt and forceful action in response to anti-Semitic incidents on university campuses. We therefore understand the concerns that led to this effort to examine the experiences of Jewish students on UC campuses, and to the parallel report on “Muslim and Arab Student Campus Climate.” Nonetheless, we feel that the report and recommendations concerning the UC system’s Jewish students deploy a vague and expansive definition of hate speech, one that seems to encompass the expression of political opinions. As a result they frequently fail to draw a clear distinction between the legitimate expression of political views, on the one hand, and hate speech or anti-Semitism on the other. Criticism of Israel’s policies and of Zionism, including assertions that Israel is an “apartheid state,” are political statements, and even though they may be unwelcome to staunch supporters of Israel they do not constitute hate speech or anti-Semitism. We recognize that speech and actions expressing intense criticism of Israel’s policies, and even challenging its legitimacy as a state, may make some students,
Jewish or otherwise, uncomfortable. This is, however, not sufficient justification for categorizing such speech and actions as hate speech or as anti-Semitic, or for prohibiting or restricting them. We are therefore distressed by the report’s recommendation that UC “push its current harassment and nondiscrimination provisions further, clearly define hate speech in its guidelines, and seek opportunities to prohibit hate speech on campus,” apparently in order to make it less likely that Jewish students will encounter opinions that make some of them uncomfortable. We believe that such use of hate speech guidelines clearly threaten not only the First Amendment’s protection of free speech but also the principles of academic freedom that are so central to the mission and functioning of our institutions of higher education.
We therefore call on you to reiterate your commitment, as a matter of university policy, to defend the free expression of political opinions by UC students and faculty, including those that some members of the UC community may find repugnant, even as the university remains vigilant about expressions of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism. We further ask that you explicitly disassociate yourself from the language and recommendations contained in this report, because its advocacy of a broad and loose definition of hate speech may undermine the First Amendment rights of UC students and faculty as well as the principles of academic freedom.
We thank you for your attention to this matter and look forward to your response at your earliest convenience.
Fred M. Donner
Professor of Near Eastern History, University of Chicago
Yaman Salahi: How UC devalues Arab and Muslim student voices
Los Angeles, CA – For years, University of California (UC) leaders have walked a fine line between complying with First Amendment limitations on their power and placating pro-Israel interest groups agitating against the growing clout of Palestinian solidarity activism.
Under pressure, UC President Mark Yudof in 2010 commissioned two committees to issue reports on the so-called “campus climate”. One focusing on Jewish students and the other on Arab and Muslim students, the new reports – which characterise criticism of Israel as an affront to Jewish students – have prompted many to believe that the UC intends to curb campus speech critical of Israel.
At their core, however, the reports demonstrate that UC not only has a free speech problem, but an equality problem.
Normalising support for Israel
The report about Jewish students is laden with ideological predispositions that undermine the credibility of its findings and recommendations regarding campus activism. One section of the report, for example, addresses what is called “The Anti-Zionism/Anti-Israel Movement and its Impact on Climate” (but which proponents of this movement call a movement for freedom, justice and equality).
By framing the issue in this way, the authors presume that Palestinian solidarity has an “impact” on campus climate, as if, prior to this movement’s emergence, university campuses were characterised by some “normal” state of affairs in which all students felt welcome and equal. But that could not be further from the truth and the fact that this forms the starting point explains some of the report’s findings.
Although the report inquires into such matters as whether mock checkpoints and walls, die-ins and other demonstrations criticising human rights violations by Israel’s occupying army negatively affect Jewish students, there is no similar inquiry into the “impact” frequent celebrations of Israel’s creation and speeches by Israeli combatant soldiers and government officials might have on Jewish students who do not identify with Israel and its policies, or on Arab or Palestinian students whose families were killed or exiled as a result.
There is similarly no inquiry into whether on-campus recruitment for Jewish-only Birthright trips has an impact on non-Jewish students who have attempted to apply.
Instead, pro-Israel activities are described as such: “Israel advocacy organisations play an active role on each campus and have engaged outside agencies such as AIPAC, J Street, ADL, Stand With Us and many others in the effort to promote a deeper understanding for all students of the challenges which confront Israel, the Palestinians and the region as a whole.”
Compare the way these movements are described – “Israel advocacy organisations” vs “Anti-Israel Movement” – and how their missions are understood, promoting a deeper understanding vs possibly creating a hostile climate.
The silence about the “impact” of pro-Israel events reflects an attitude that pro-Israel expressions are simply a positive part of the normal, benign landscape of campus life. At the same time, events presenting a critical view of Israel are perceived to be anomalous and alien, or, worse, divisive, as if students were previously unified in their love and support for Israel.
There is no recognition that different groups of students might perceive these events very differently, or an explanation of why one group’s perceptions should trump the others’.
JVP Asks UC President to Table Biased Report on Jewish Life on Campuses
[BERKELEY—July 25, 2012] Jewish Voice for Peace calls on University of California President Mark Yudof to table a recently released report on Jewish student campus climate and to disregard its controversial recommendations until a methodologically sound and even-handed report can be conducted.
The report, co-authored by Anti-Defamation League national education chairman Richard Barton and NAACP California president Alice Huffman, is coming under heavy criticism by a number of groups, including many Jewish students and faculty members, for poor methodology and bias.
Cecilie Surasky, Jewish Voice for Peace Deputy Director: “Rather than offering a genuine exploration of a range of Jewish student life issues—which we would support — the report reads like a blueprint for limiting pro-Palestinian activism and further marginalizing the growing numbers of students, many of them Jewish, who are critical of Israeli policies.”
President of the University of California: Table the Jewish Student Campus Climate Report and Recommendations.
** This is the initial letter sent to President Yudof on July 20, 2012. In addition to the 27 faculty and students who originally signed this letter, more than 2000 have added their signatures here: http://www.change.org/petitions/letter-to-pres-yudof-in-response-to-jewish-campus-climate-report
July 20, 2012
President Mark Yudof
University of California Office of the President
Dear President Yudof:
We, the undersigned University of California undergraduate students, graduate students, alumni, faculty and parents, write to you as members of the UC Jewish community who are deeply concerned and troubled by the Jewish Student Campus Climate Fact-Finding Team Report and Recommendations recently issued by Richard D. Barton and Alice Huffman. We share the commitment to “address[ing] challenges in enhancing and sustaining a tolerant, inclusive environment on each of the university’s 10 campuses” which your Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion aims to do. However, the report and recommendations it includes omit the experiences of many students and faculty in the Jewish community, grossly misrepresent educational initiatives focused on Israel and Palestine and political organizing in support of Palestinian rights, and threaten academic freedom on our campuses.
For these reasons we ask that you table the report and its problematic recommendations and in the future only consider recommendations derived from a demonstrably equitable and representative study of campus climate for all students at the University of California.
Listed below are some of the most problematic aspects of the report:
1. How did the authors decide with whom to speak?
On the first page of the report, the authors state that they visited six UC campuses where they met with undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, senior administrators, and representatives of off-campus Jewish organizations and on-campus non-Jewish organizations. That is the full extent of the methodological information the authors provide.
We believe that this report represents only a very partial view of Jewish people on UC campuses. The authors do not tell us how or why they chose the people with whom they met, who they met with, or whether the meetings were open to anyone, especially students, who wished to participate and, if so, if they were publicized as such, and what rationale guided their choices. At UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley, participation was by invitation-only, and a number of Jewish students who are publicly active and involved in campus Jewish life only learned of this report upon its publication.
Whose Jewish opinions did the authors include in this report, and why? Did the authors makes an effort to include students from left-wing groups on each campus in order to understand the divisions among Jews as well as the values and experiences of the left-leaning Jews? Did they make an effort to speak with the Jewish students who choose not to affiliate with traditional Jewish organizations? If not, why not?
2. Misrepresentation of Palestinian rights and anti-occupation movements on UC campuses.
Throughout the report, the authors portray student organizing on behalf of Palestinian rights and against the Israeli occupation as anti-Israel, carried out in bad faith, harmful to Jewish students and latently anti-Semitic. We believe this is a gross misrepresentation of the movements in which we are involved, which advocate for human rights for all peoples in the region. Criticizing the Israeli government and military are not inherently anti-Semitic acts.
There is a disconnect between the authors’ empirical findings and their exclusive focus on the feelings of students who advocate for Israeli policies. The authors claim that “the Jewish communities on the [UC] campuses are very diverse, making generalizations difficult” (page 2) and “this is especially true when it comes to the issue of Israel,” as some “Jewish students participate actively in pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist activities” (page 3). Yet when the authors speak of activism on the issue of Israel, they ignore those Jewish students’ experiences and instead only focus on the sense of “hostility” and “isolation” that the Israel-advocating students feel. This disconnect compromises the report and also shapes the misrepresentation of student organizing on campus. Many students who actively participate in organizing for Palestinian rights don’t see their political activism as “anti-Israel” or “anti-Zionist,” as the report claims; in fact, some of these students even identify as Zionists.
Yet the report portrays this activism as strongly anti-Israel and as threatening to Jewish students. The authors make strong, accusatory claims about this activism but they don’t provide any concrete details about the events they describe. The authors do not tell us in what year and on which campus or campuses these events take place and which groups organize them. For instance, the authors state, “The use of the swastika drawn next to, or integrated with, the Jewish Star of David is commonplace” (pages 5-6). On which campus or campuses do the authors think the use of the swastika “commonplace”? What defines “commonplace”? Who, besides the authors, is making this claim? Based on our experiences on UC campuses, swatiskas are irregular, unusual and widely condemned. If they appear at all, they often do so in the hands of non-campus based people. Student activists relate that when they have seen swastikas on campus, they’ve asked the holder to remove the offending sign and symbol. Simply put, our experience challenges the veracity of this claim and many others. The authors use generalizations and distortions to misrepresent our activist movements.
3. Distortion or exclusion of experiences of Jewish community members who identify as Palestinian rights supporters, critics of Israeli policy, or anti-occupation activists.
Though the report acknowledges the diversity of Jewish experience and suggests that this diversity makes recommendations or generalizations difficult, the authors develop and rely upon a narrative that represents the viewpoint of only one sector of students: those who support and advocate for Israeli policies. A number of Jewish students who are critical of Israel and who participated in the campus-based meetings with the authors say that their views were not included in the report.
Even more egregious than mere exclusion, the report contains a substantial claim that directly contradicts the testimony students gave to the authors. On page 7, the authors claim that Jewish students do not use the charge of anti-semitism to suppress criticism of Israel and that “all” of the Jewish students “understand the distinction between criticism of Israel and anti-semitism.” Yet in their meeting with the authors, several Jewish UCSC undergraduates discussed this very problem – the use of accusations of anti-semitism to undermine critics of Israel and limit debate – and presented the authors with articles they had published, both in campus and national Jewish press, arguing that their activism was not tantamount to the anti-semitism of which they were accused. The articles specifically address the Title VI complaint on that campus, with the students arguing that the Title VI complaint is being used to silence criticism of Israel on campus. The report’s authors chose to leave out any reference to the students’ statements or their articles and instead falsely claimed UC-campus-wide agreement on the applications of accusations of anti-semitism.
In addition, the authors either neglected or elected to exclude the well-documented experiences of a significant number of Jewish students and faculty on several different campuses who have reported being bullied, intimidated, excluded or marginalized by right-wing Israel advocates.
For instance, the UC-Berkeley Jewish Student Union refused to allow J Street U to join the union, despite a mission statement saying the JSU is “committed to a pluralistic vision of Judaism.” Another Israel advocacy group at UC-Berkeley built a file on the left-leaning student group Kesher Enoshi, including private messages in the file. The Israel advocacy group then sent the file to the CEO of Hillel International asking for Hillel to cut support for Kesher Enoshi and seriously condemning UC-Berkeley’s Hillel director for not sufficiently marginalizing the group. At UC Santa Cruz, a Hillel employee harassed an undergraduate student on her facebook page, suggesting she didn’t belong in a program with other Jewish students because she is publicly critical of Israeli policies. The authors did not include any of these examples in the report. We are certain that these events are relevant for a report on the campus climate for Jewish students at UC.
4. Misinformation regarding Israel and Palestine.
The authors continuously reveal their bias in their mischaracterizations of basic facts about Israel and Palestine. For instance, they write that Israel’s fence/barrier/wall is “constructed by Israel along its border with the West Bank” (page 5) – though 85% of the barrier is built inside of the West Bank, not on the border between the West Bank and Israel, cutting off tens of thousands of West Bank Palestinians from the West Bank and expropriating thousands of acres of land and precious water sources.
Similarly, the authors describe campus re-enactments of Israeli checkpoints (page 5) as exposing students to “what Palestinians are allegedly subjected to” – thereby again undermining the veracity of Palestinians’ checkpoint experiences, which are widely documented. Of the Nakba, which is the Arabic name for the catastrophe that befell Palestinians upon the establishment of the state of Israel, the authors note that “Nakba” is how “Palestinians refer” to that event. Yet we use the term Nakba, too, because we accept that name as the Palestinian name for the events of 1948 and their effects.
5. Anti-Defamation League involved in writing the report.
While the ADL has a strong record of civil rights and anti-racism work, they are active in the effort to vilify and marginalize people and organizations working in support of Palestinian rights. The ADL has become known for accusing critics of Israel of being anti-semitic and denouncing Palestinian rights supporters, including Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace. The ADL has a history of spying on civil rights organizations and Palestinian rights supporters and was strongly opposed to the building of an Islamic Center near the World Trade Center site.
Richard D. Barton has a long history of leadership with the ADL, most recently as its National Chair of Education. Why was a member of such a well-known rightwing group chosen to spearhead this report? Was there any attempt made to balance his voice with more moderate voices?
Recommendation #1: UC should review its policies on University sponsorship and neutrality and develop model institutional protocols for such activities.
We believe that UC faculty and administrators are fully capable of and empowered to make sound decisions regarding sponsorship of campus events. Any action by UC administrators to curb these decisions will be, and will be rightly seen as, infringement on faculty authority as well as free speech.
Moreover, the loss of sponsorship could spell an end to much student-led educational initiatives, which rely on faculty and administrative sponsorship for access to funding and venues. We expect that many students would choose not to attend a university that imposes political litmus tests on the programs and events they can initiate and lead.
Additionally, through their repeated misrepresentation of people, values and events in this report, the authors have proven themselves untrustworthy with regard to Jewish and Israel-Palestine related campus issues. We are quite certain that we would disagree with them on many if not most of the events they would deem “unbalanced” and “biased.”
Recommendation #2: UC should adopt a hate speech-free campus policy.
We believe in the principles of free speech and that these principles stand on their own and do not require any additional regulation. Hate speech should be answered with more speech, better speech, non-hate speech. We are committed to speaking up and speaking out. And we are also committed to ensuring anyone else’s right to speak, and not putting the reins of control over speech into the hands of any authority.
Recommendation #3: UC should develop cultural competency training around the Principles of Community, and such training be required of all community members.
Who would develop this training, who would attend, and who would decide which narratives to emphasize? There are already many academic and student-support units on UC campuses tasked with research and teaching about cultural difference and diversity; indeed, the UC is internationally known for its excellence in this area. Any kind of training should be developed by leaders from these units.
Recommendation #4: UC should adopt a UC definition of anti-Semitism and provide model protocol for campuses to identify contemporary incidents of anti-Semitism, which may be sanctioned by University non-discrimination or anti-harassment policies.
The report suggests that UC adopt the European Union’s working definition of anti-semitism. While much of the EU’s definition is fully appropriate and acceptable, the portions of it that relate to the state of Israel are highly problematic. For instance, there are times when it is appropriate to question whether certain individuals place Israel’s interests above that of their own country. Also, while we, as Jews, strongly disagree with many policies of the Israeli government and don’t believe it speaks to our Jewish values, the clause stating that it is inherently anti-semitic to “hold Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the state of Israel” is exceedingly complex. Both the state of Israel and the mainstream American Jewish establishment claim that Jews are united behind the state of Israel. Indeed, the notion that “wherever we stand, we stand with Israel” is common in many Jewish institutions. By what criteria does one distinguish between the Jewish organizations’ claim to stand with Israel and the concept of holding Jews accountable for Israel’s actions? What makes one of those an inherently anti-semitic act? We believe that the very existence of the question challenges the usefulness of the EU’s working definition of anti-semitism.
By the same token, we are cautious about the recommendation that the UC should engage organizations to educate administrators, faculty and students to “help explain the intersection, distinctions and overlap between anti-Semitism and the protest of Israel policies and actions.” As we have argued throughout this letter, we strongly disagree with the charge that opposing Israeli policies is anti-semitic. The charge of anti-semitism is often used to silence inquiry into and debate about the histories and policies shaping the region.’
Based on the above critique of the method and the outcomes of the report, we request that the recommendations be tabled and that you consider pursuing a demonstrably equitable and representative study of campus climate for all students at UC. As Jewish students, faculty, alumni and parents, we see ourselves as allies and resources to the UC community in facing our collective challenges. We believe that fighting injustice is a Jewish value, and disagreement is such a long-held Jewish practice that it was codified in the Talmud, Jewish oral law, 2000 years ago. Our connection to and criticism of Israel, support for Palestinian rights and opposition to the occupation are all deeply, richly Jewish. We will continue to fight against anti-semitism when we see it and fight against the misuse of the charge of anti-semitism to silence inquiry, debate, and activism. Education should enable learners to try on new ideas and step up to face grave problems. Our campus climate is troubled, highly charged, and extremely contentious, but we believe that the University of California is equal to the challenge.
Alana Alpert, BA, UC-Santa Cruz, 2006
Roi Bachmutsky, BA, UC-Berkeley, 2013 (expected)
Daniel Boyarin, Hermann P. and Sophia Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture, Departments of Near Eastern Studies and Rhetoric, UC-Berkeley
Allison Deger, BA, UC-Berkeley, 2009
Elizabeth Elman, BA, UC-San Diego, 2011
Jeremy Elster, BA, UC-Berkeley, 2012
Andrew Gordon-Kirsh, BA, UCLA, 2010
Emily Gottriech, Adjunct Associate Professor in the Dept. of History and Middle Eastern Studies, Vice Chair for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, UC-Berkeley
Itamar Haritan, BA, UC-Berkeley, 2009
Ari Y. Kelman, Jim Joseph Professor of Education and Jewish Studies, Stanford
University; BA, UC-Santa Cruz 1994; Professor, UC-Davis 2006-2011
Chana Kronfeld, Professor of Modern Hebrew, Yiddish and Comparative Literature, UC-Berkeley; PhD UC-Berkeley 1983.
Mark LeVine, Professor of History, UC-Irvine
Eyal Matalon, BA, UC-Berkeley, 2009
Eyal Mazor, BA, UC-Berkeley, 2010
Sarah Anne Minkin, PhD Candidate in Sociology, UC-Berkeley
David N. Myers, Professor of Jewish History and Chair, UCLA History Department
Maya Paley, BA, UC-Berkeley, 2006
Tom Pessah, PhD Candidate in Sociology, UC-Berkeley
Rebecca Pierce, BA, UC-Santa Cruz, 2013 (expected)
Zoe Rudow, BA, UC-Berkeley 2012
Shaul Setter, PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature, UC-Berkeley
Asaf Shalev, BA, UC-Berkeley, 2010
Naomi Shiffman, BS, UC-San Diego, 2010
Roger Waldinger, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, UCLA
Zohar Weiman-Kelman, PhD Comparative Literature, UC-Berkeley
Simone Zimmerman, BA UC-Berkeley, 2013 (expected)
Remi Kanazi: Silencing pro-Palestinian speech on campus
On July 9, 2012, the University of California’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion presented its fact-finding report and recommendations on Jewish Student Campus Climate. According to a letter written by UC President Mark Yudof, the report was launched in response to the 2010 Berkeley student government vote to divest from companies selling weapons to the Israeli military and the 2010 UC Irvine protest against Israeli ambassador Michael Oren.
The “climate report” was tasked with “fact-finding about the challenges and positive campus experiences of Jewish students at UC and to identify steps needed to make campuses more inclusive and welcoming for Jewish students”. The council also presented a fact-finding report on Muslim and Arab Student Campus Climate.From the outset, the Jewish Student Campus Climate report focuses on non-violent protests and speeches critical of Israel, a state in clear violation of international law, not anti-Jewish bigotry. In fact, nearly 50 per cent of the report (excluding the introduction and recommendations) covered “the Anti-Zionism/Anti-Israel Movement and its Impact on Climate”.
Specifically, the use of the words “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid” to describe Israel’s policies are presented as problematic, while anti-Zionism and the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel are referred to as “manifestations of anti-Israel sentiment on campus”.
What is the definition of “anti-Israel”? We are never told. Imagine a UC report referring to protests against the war on Iraq as “manifestations of anti-American sentiment on campus”. One of the three key demands in the BDS call is equality for all Palestinians living inside the state of Israel. Imagine referring to the Montgomery Bus Boycott as an “anti-American” period in our history.
The report further presents Palestine Awareness Week as a “negative experience” for Jewish students, a framing that disregards the viewpoints of many Jewish students involved in organising and planning the event.