Letter to LA City Council Members Regarding Resolution Entitled “Student Protection from Intimidation and Harassment”

 

To: Herb J. Wesson, Jr., Chairman of the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, City of Los Angeles

June 16, 2014

Dear Chairman Wesson:

We represent 7 organizations deeply concerned about the serious and growing problem of antisemitism on college campuses across the country. A few weeks ago we urged UCLA Chancellor Block, UC President Napolitano and the UC Regents to stop the antisemitic bullying and intimidation of Jewish and pro-Israel students being perpetrated by members of official registered student groups at UCLA, especially Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

We understand that a resolution entitled “Student Protection from Intimidation and Harassment,” presented by Council Member 3rd District Bob Blumenfield and seconded by six other Council members, was recently submitted to the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee and is awaiting approval by the full City Council.

We commend Council Member Blumenfield and the other signatories on the resolution for raising many of our concerns about the highly problematic “ethics pledge” promoted by the SJP, demanding that candidates for all undergraduate student council offices at UCLA sign a pledge not to take trips to Israel that are sponsored by three Jewish organizations.

As the resolution rightly points out:

  • The pledge request was “part of a larger campaign which has used intimidation as a tactic,” it “did not concern a policy issue relevant to the University, but rather the legitimacy of the State of Israel – a democratic country that is a U.S. ally,” and it had a “singular and divisive anti-Israel focus.”
  • Students who refused to sign the pledge “have been the subject of bullying tactics, including extreme social media harassment, intimidation and the filing of specious charges” which “created a major distraction for students during midterm week.”
  • Although UCLA Chancellor Block and UC President Napolitano issued statements indicating “appropriate concern” about the situation, “they do not address serious underlying concerns related to bullying tactics intended to intimidate students with differing viewpoints and to protect students from harassment and personal vengeful attacks”.
  • “[A]dditional action must be taken by the University of California Board of Regents and the President of the University of California system to ensure that students are protected from bullying and harassment.”

It commendably resolves:

“[B]y the adoption of this Resolution, the City of Los Angeles hereby includes in its 2013-2014 State Legislative Program support for administrative action by the University of California Board of Regents and President of the University of California to develop policies and institute practices that will be implemented at every University of California campus so that intimidation or harassment of any student not be tolerated and where appropriate referred to the proper law enforcement agencies.”

On Friday June 6th, three members of our group — Tammi Rossman-Benjamin of AMCHA Initiative, Dumisani Washington of Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, and Sam Levine of Zionist Organization of America — met with UCLA Chancellor Block and members of his administrative staff regarding the matter of the antisemitic harassment, intimidation, and bullying of Jewish and pro-Israel students at UCLA by members of that campus’ SJP group.

At our meeting, we provided Chancellor Block with documents showing that SJP is the only university-funded student organization at UCLA whose very mission targets an ethnic minority for hatred and vilification and whose activities routinely harass, intimidate, threaten and seek to silence members of that ethnic minority on campus, and may well be in violation of university policy and the law. We recommended that SJP be investigated and sanctioned if found in violation of University policy, and that policies be established for prohibiting registered student groups from engaging in behavior targeting any member of the campus community for harassment, discrimination, bullying or defamation.

We believe that the City Council resolution, once approved, will send a sorely needed message to the students who are being targeted, and to the entire University community – that the City of Los Angeles condemns intimidation tactics that interfere with students’ rights to free association and to hold disparate views, and that threaten students’ sense of security and well-being.

We urge you to bring this important resolution to a vote before students return to campus in the fall.

Sincerely,

AMCHA Initiative
Institute for Black Solidarity With Israel
The Lawfare Project
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
Simon Wiesenthal Center Campus Outreach
Stand With Us
Zionist Organization of America

Cc: Los Angeles City Council Members
California Senator Carol Liu, Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Education
California Assembly Member Das Williams, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Higher Education
Members of California Assembly Select Committee on Campus Climate
Members of California Legislative Jewish Caucus
California Jewish Community Leaders