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Groups Call on Napolitano to Adopt U.S. State Department Definition of Antisemitism



Contact: Nicole Rosen


San Francisco, CA, May 20, 2015– Following a rash of antisemitic incidents at the University of California (UC), petitions signed by 683 UC professors, UC alumni and California rabbis will be personally delivered to UC President Janet Napolitano and the UC Regents at their bi-monthly meeting today.  The petitions urge the UC Regents to adopt the U.S. State Department definition of antisemitism, which acknowledges that anti-Israel rhetoric can cross the line into antisemitism, and to use the definition to accurately identify and publicly condemn future acts of anti-Jewish bigotry.

The State Department recognizes that the deligitimization of Israel, holding Israel to standards not expected of other countries, comparing Israel’s policies to Nazis and the denial of the Jewish people their right to self-determination — rhetoric commonly used in Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns promoted on UC — as antisemitic.

This past semester, student governments at UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC Santa Barbara unanimously approved resolutions that strongly condemn antisemitism.  Last week, the California Senate unanimously passed SCR-35, a resolution condemning antisemitism.  In identifying antisemitic activity, the student resolutions and SCR-35 invoke the U.S. State Department’s definition of antisemitism.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, AMCHA Initiative co-founder and director, will speak and deliver the three petitions at the Regents meeting. AMCHA Initiative is one of 23 groups that earlier this spring called on UC to adopt the U.S. State Department definition.  The Regents is the governing body of the University of California.

“No student should feel harassed, intimidated or marginalized.  We implore you to better protect Jewish students at the University of California,” wrote the 521 UC alumni. 

“…UC campuses are rapidly acquiring the reputation of being among the most antisemitic in the nation.  It is critical for you and the UC Chancellors to speak out and act forcefully… People of good faith can disagree on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and we are not advocating for a silencing of free speech.  However, opposition to Israel’s policies or actions is no excuse to cross the line into Jew hatred,” wrote the 104 UC faculty.

“…in order to fully meet the needs of Jewish students facing antisemitism and to address the root causes of antisemitism in the UC system, the University of California must, first and foremost, formally adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of antisemitism as a means of accurately identifying all forms of antisemitic expression on UC campuses,” wrote the 58 rabbis. 

The petition signatories also called for further discrimination education for students and urged UC administrators to train campus administrators and staff involved in discrimination prevention and student affairs to identify antisemitic behavior and direct them to develop clear protocols for addressing campus antisemitism.

In addition to crossing the line into antisemitic rhetoric, BDS campaigns often lead to antisemitic incidents and assaults.  For example, just in the past few months:

  • At UC Berkeley, in the wake of a contentious BDS campaign, the message “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber” was found scrawled on a bathroom wall.
  • At UC Davis, in the days leading up to an anti-Israel divestment vote, the university’s Hillel House was defaced with “grout out the Jews.” Less than two days following the vote, large swastikas were spray-painted on a UCD Jewish fraternity.
  • At UCLA, shortly after the student government approved an anti-Israel divestment resolution, four student senators who sponsored that resolution brazenly argued that a candidate for the student judicial board was not eligible simply because she was a Jew.
  • At UC Santa Barbara, after three years of divisive anti-Israel divestment campaigns, large flyers blaming Jews for 9/11 were posted on campus.
  • At UC Santa Cruz anti-Israel faculty and students tried to shut down a Hillel-sponsored LGBT event, threatening that protestors would drown out the speaker and intimidate audience members. As a result of these threats, the event had to be moved to a safer location.
  • At Stanford a pro-BDS student group singled out a senate candidate and asked if being Jewish would affect her decision-making.

“On UC campuses where anti-Israel BDS campaigns have been promoted, antisemitic behavior has dramatically increased and the reality is grim for many Jewish students,” said Rossman-Benjamin before delivering her remarks.  “UC leaders must adopt the State Department definition and use it to identify and address antisemitism with the same vigor as they do all other forms of racial, ethnic and gender bigotry.”

Each of the three petitions can be viewed here.

AMCHA Initiative is a non-profit organization, based in California, dedicated to monitoring, investigating and combating antisemitism at institutions of higher education in America.  AMCHA Initiative’s efforts are bolstered by a network of more than 5,000 members and supporters of the Jewish community — including university alumni, parents and grandparents, rabbis, religious school principals and synagogue members — who have joined together to speak in one voice to ensure the safety and well-being of Jewish students on college and university campuses across the country.




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