100+ UC PROFESSORS URGE ADOPTION OF U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT DEFINITON OF ANTISEMITISM
Leading Anti-Semitism Scholars Wrote to UC Yesterday
Contact: Nicole Rosen
Santa Cruz, CA, September 1, 2015 – Alarmed by the recent escalation of anti-Semitism at the University of California (UC), more than 100 UC professors today wrote to UC President Janet Napolitano and the Regents, UC’s governing board, in support of using the U.S. State Department definition of anti-Semitism at UC and to urge UC to adopt it.
The following is a copy of the letter:
We are 128 faculty at the University of California who are deeply disturbed by the alarming increase in anti-Semitic activity that we are witnessing on UC campuses. We firmly believe that a critical step in addressing this escalating problem is for the University of California to adopt the State Department definition of anti-Semitism, which accurately identifies the contemporary manifestations of this age-old hatred.
The State Department’s linkage of certain kinds of anti-Israel expression to anti-Semitism has been affirmed by scholars of contemporary anti-Semitism, virtually every mainstream Jewish communal organization, and by Jewish students themselves, who report being harassed, threatened, assaulted, targeted and discriminated against as a direct result of divisive anti-Israel activity on their campuses.
For example, in the wake of virulently anti-Israel BDS campaigns that were accompanied by egregious acts of anti-Semitism on several UC campuses this past year, Jewish students reported:
“I no longer feel as though UC Davis is a completely safe environment for Jewish students or a place where I can feel free to express my support for Israel.” – UC Davis
“These attacks on my identity and rights to self-determination have not only affected me emotionally, but have had devastating effects on my academics and have hindered my purpose on this campus – to be a student.” – UCLA
“For the first time in my life, I felt that my identity, an unchangeable part of who I am, was under attack… I don’t wear that star of David necklace anymore. I don’t tell most people that I’m Jewish, and I definitely don’t tell them that I’m pro-Israel…I’m scared for my safety.” – UC Santa Barbara
In recognition of the undeniable connection between certain forms of anti-Israel expression and acts of anti-Semitism, student governments on 3 UC campuses — UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC Santa Barbara —unanimously approved resolutions adopting the State Department definition.
As academics, we recognize that the robust exchange of ideas is a cornerstone of our University, and we fully respect the freedom of speech and academic freedom of all members of the campus community. We firmly reject the claim that adopting the State Department definition is in any way opposed to these freedoms of expression.
The State Department definition itself acknowledges that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic,” and we wholeheartedly agree. Moreover, we understand that even speech that crosses the line into anti-Semitism is, in most cases, protected under the First Amendment.
Rather than stifling free speech, adopting the State Department definition will raise awareness about contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism, provide a tool for identifying and discussing anti-Semitic incidents and encourage further anti-discrimination education. Anti-semitic rhetoric may not be against the law, but it is bigotry, and it must be identified and called out with the same promptness and vigor as all other forms bigotry.
We urge you to adopt the State Department definition of anti-Semitism, and to ensure that Jewish students are afforded the same protections as all other students at the University of California.
A list of the professors who signed the letter can be seen here.
Yesterday, 34 of the world’s preeminent scholars of anti-Semitism wrote to Napolitano and the UC Regents in support of the State Department definition and to urge UC to adopt it.
UC will be discussing the adoption of a “Statement of Principles” against various forms of intolerance, including anti-Semitism, at its September meeting. Many Jewish leaders, scholars, groups, students and faculty have stated that before UC can properly condemn anti-Semitic behavior, it must accurately understand anti-Semitism. They have urged UC to include in its “Statement of Principles” a reference to the full U.S. State Department definition, which recognizes that contemporary anti-Semitism has assumed various disguised forms and, as the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found is often “camouflaged as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism.” The State Department definition acknowledges activity that demonizes and delegitimizes Israel and denies its right to exist as anti-Semitism.
Nearly 50 Jewish organizations, including ADL, Hillel, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, ZOA and AMCHA have written to UC in support of the State Department definition and have urged UC to adopt it as a standard, campus-wide tool for identifying and educating against anti-Semitism. In addition, thousands of UC students, faculty and alumni and California rabbis, Jewish day school principals and residents have also written to UC leaders, calling on them to adopt the State Department definition.
This past academic year, swastikas were spray painted on a Jewish fraternity, “grout out the Jews” was carved into school property, a Hillel event was protested and disrupted, flyers blaming Jews for 9/11 were plastered on campus and a Jewish student running for office was questioned about her eligibility simply because of her religion. UC Jewish students report feeling afraid to tell fellow students they are Jewish, walk to the Hillel house for Sabbath dinner and wear a Jewish star necklace. Many report being bullied, harassed, intimidated and, in some cases, assaulted.
AMCHA Initiative is a non-profit, grassroots-based, organization, dedicated to monitoring, investigating and combating anti-Semitism at institutions of higher education in America.