Letter to UC President Napolitano Regarding Adopting U.S. State Department Definition of Antisemitism to Protect Jewish Students
To: President Napolitano
March 19, 2015
Dear President Napolitano,
We are 23 organizations representing hundreds of thousands of supporters who are deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of Jewish students at the University of California.
First, we acknowledge and appreciate your statement strongly condemning the recent antisemitic incidents at the University of California that have included swastikas drawn on a Jewish fraternity house at UC Davis and the inappropriate questioning of a candidate for student judiciary board about her Jewishness and Jewish affiliations at UCLA. We are also extremely pleased that in response to the escalating antisemitic activity on UC campuses, the student senates at UCLA and UC Berkeley have each unanimously approved resolutions condemning campus antisemitism.
What these recent antisemitic incidents have in common is that they are an inevitable consequence of pervasive anti-Israel activity, particularly Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaigns, being promoted on UC campuses. For example, the swastikas drawn on the Jewish fraternity house at UC Davis appeared less than two days after a contentious vote in the student senate on an anti –Israel divestment resolution sponsored by the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Just after the vote, an SJP-affiliated student council member who had sponsored the divestment bill wrote on her Facebook page: “Israel will fall insha’Allah #UCDDivest”. And the four student senators who challenged the candidate for the judicial board based on her Jewishness and Jewish affiliations were authors, sponsors and supporters of the most recent anti-Israel divestment bill at UCLA.
There is a well-documented relationship between BDS and acts of anti-Semitism, particularly on college campuses. At schools where BDS campaigns are promoted, Jewish students have routinely reported being harassed, physically and verbally assaulted, threatened, vilified, and discriminated against. Jewish students’ property and the property of Jewish student organizations have been defaced, damaged, or destroyed, while Jewish student events have been disrupted and shut down.
Student leaders have themselves recognized the clear connection between virulent anti-Israel expression and these recent antisemitic incidents, and it is for this reason that the UCLA student senate included in their unanimously-approved resolution language from the U.S. State Department’s definition of antisemitism which acknowledges that antisemitism may manifest itself with regard to the state of Israel by, for example:
- Demonizing Israel:
- Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis
- Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis
- Blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions
- Double standards towards Israel:
- Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation
- Multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations
- Delegitimizing Israel:
- Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist”
We believe that the UCLA and UC Berkeley student senates’ unanimous acknowledgement and condemnation of antisemitism on UC campuses should be taken extremely seriously by your office, and we ask you to take the following steps to address the problem:
- Formally adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of antisemitism in order to identify all forms of antisemitic expression on UC campuses.
- Charge UC chancellors with training campus administrators and staff involved in discrimination prevention, student affairs, and equity, diversity and inclusion, to identify antisemitic behavior, and direct them to develop clear protocols for addressing campus antisemitism with the same promptness and vigor as they do other forms of racial, ethnic, and gender bigotry and discrimination.
- Charge UC chancellors with developing initiatives for educating the campus community about antisemitism and anti-Jewish discrimination.
We look forward to hearing that you will take these steps to ensure the safety and well-being of Jewish students at the University of California.
Thank you again for your leadership on this matter of such vital importance to members and supporters of the Jewish community.
Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity (AEPi)
American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists
Americans for Peace and Tolerance
BEAR: Bias Education, Advocacy & Resources
Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA)
CUFI on Campus
Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET)
Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel
Iranian American Jewish Federation
Israeli-American Council (IAC)
National Conference on Jewish Affairs
Middle East Political and Information Network (MEPIN)
Proclaiming Justice to the Nations
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
Students and Parents Against Campus Anti-Semitism
The Israel Group
The Lawfare Project
Training and Education About the Middle East (T.E.A.M.)
Zionist Organization of America
UC Provost and Executive Assistant of Academic Affairs Aimee Dorr
UC Vice President of Student Affairs Judy Sakaki
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson
California Senator Carol Liu, Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Education
California Assembly Member Jose Medina, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Higher Education
California Assembly Member Shirley Weber, Chair of the Select Committee on Campus Climate
California State Senator Marty Block, Chair of Legislative Jewish Caucus