STUDENTS SPEAK OUT, IN THEIR OWN WORDS, ABOUT ANTI-SEMITISM AT UC
New Website Chronicles Personal Accounts of UC Climate for Jewish Students
Contact: Nicole Rosen
“I’m in a Jewish interest sorority and during divestment we’re encouraged not to wear [our sorority] letters because a few times people have come up to sisters during divestment and have started heckling them about BDS stuff.”
“During BDS I actually avoid Hillel, the quad, and even my sorority because I just really don’t want to have to deal with how unsafe campus feels during that time.”
“I have been called an ‘Israeli terrorist’ and ‘Dirty Jew’ many times.”
“I was physically assaulted in an elevator in 2013. I heard my friend get called a ‘Zionist kike’ by SJP. Today I was called a ‘kike’ on campus by SJP. My two female friends and I were shoved to the ground and physically assaulted at our own Israel event in 2014…I am afraid to be on this campus.”
“Any time a BDS activity occurs on campus, the amount of swastikas found in libraries has gone up.”
“Whenever BDS presents the divestment resolution on campus, the entire campus climate changes…My anxiety increases three fold and I genuinely experience PTSD after the meeting.”
“These activities introduce a bias in people’s views of Judaism and blame Jews for actions they aren’t responsible for. It’s the night of the broken glass all over again…”
Santa Cruz, CA, Nov. 10, 2015 – As the University of California (UC) continues to grapple with how to address the recent rise of anti-Semitism on campus, AMCHA Initiative today unveils a website that chronicles the personal accounts of Jewish students’ experiences of anti-Semitism at UC.
AMCHA created the website at the behest of UC Jewish students. Many students reported not being able to attend the UC Regents working group public forum on this issue in October but wanted a way to have input into the Statement Against Intolerance being developed by the Regents. More than 70 students have already submitted testimonials. A complete list of student quotes to date can be viewed here. More are being added regularly. The website will remain open to students who would like to share experiences.
“We applaud the Regents for holding a public forum to hear directly from those on the frontlines but logistics can make that difficult for students. They can’t easily take the day off from classes or have the transportation to get across the state” said Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, AMCHA co-founder and director. “We wanted to give them a virtual hearing, an online platform, to communicate with decision-makers.”
“While those opposed to adopting the State Department definition of anti-Semitism at UC claim students cry anti-Semitism when it’s only criticism of Israel, these testimonials demonstrate unequivocally that all Jewish students are targeted, regardless of their feelings on Israel, and that anti-Israel and BDS campaigns have gone far beyond scholarly debate and criticism directly into hate and anti-Semitism,” stated Leila Beckwith, AMCHA co-founder and a UCLA emeritus professor.
UC has experienced many incidents of anti-Jewish discrimination of late. In the last month since school resumed, swastikas and “F*** Jews” were carved into two cars and tires were slashed on multiple vehicles at UC Davis and a female Jewish student at UC San Diego was followed and harassed by a male SJP student who yelled “racist Zionist cow” at her. Last year, swastikas were spray-painted on a Jewish fraternity after fraternity brothers spoke against divesting from Israel, “grout out the Jews” and “Hitler did nothing wrong” was carved into school property after contentious BDS campaigns, a Hillel event for the LGBT community was protested and disrupted by anti-Israel students and faculty, flyers blaming Israel AND all Jews for 9/11 were plastered on campus and a Jewish student running for office was questioned about her eligibility by anti-Israel activists 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 assaulted.
In September the Regents formed a working group to address the rise of anti-Semitism on campus and develop a statement against intolerance. More than 50 Jewish organizations, including ADL, AJC, Hillel, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and AMCHA and more than 3,000 UC students, faculty, alumni, California residents, rabbis, Jewish day school principals and educators, including the world’s preeminent scholars of anti-Semitism, have written to UC in support of adopting an accurate definition of modern anti-Semitism to properly identify and educate the campus community about contemporary Jew-hatred. Specifically, the groups have urged the inclusion of the State Department definition of anti-Semitism into the intolerance statement.
The U.S. State Department definition 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 a distinction between criticism of Israel’s policies and calls for the destruction of Israel which are anti-Semitic and breed additional anti-Semitism. Pope Francis, President Obama, British Prime Minister Cameron and French Prime Minister Valls have all stated, as is concluded in the State Department definition, that denying Israel’s right to exist is anti-Semitism.
AMCHA Initiative is a non-profit organization, based in California, dedicated to combating antisemitism at institutions of higher education in America.