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Contact: Nicole Rosen

Santa Cruz, CA, September 20, 2023 – In a newly-exposed letter, University of California (UC) faculty tasked with developing California ethnic studies high school standards referred to Jews as “highly funded lobby groups” and attacked attempts to prevent antisemitic materials from becoming part of ethnic studies courses as “censorship” and “racism.” The letter, written by the University of California Ethnic Studies Council, also attacked Governor Newsom’s recent reminder to schools that ethnic studies courses must not contain bias, bigotry or discriminatory materials, and the authors publicly admitted anti-Zionism should be “part and parcel” and one of the “animating commitments” of high school ethnic studies courses.

Ninety-nine education, civil rights and religious organizations, in an effort organized by AMCHA Initiative, presented the Council’s letter to the University of California Board of Regents at its meeting today as evidence of the Council’s antisemitic sentiments, and the groups demanded the Regents reject the Council’s proposal for a UC ethnic studies admissions requirement that is being considered by the University of California. That proposal, if approved, would force virtually every high school student to take an ethnic studies course whose content would be determined by UC faculty “experts” who believe antisemitic portrayals of Jews and anti-Zionism should be incorporated into high school ethnic studies courses.

The organizations point out that the UC Ethnic Studies Council’s letter, as well as past actions and statements of Council leaders, “underscore[s] how highly inappropriate it is for these individuals to be developing the state’s ethnic studies standards.” They note that this information “makes it crystal clear that the UC faculty driving the ethnic studies admission requirement proposal view opposition to Zionism and activism to harm the Jewish state and its supporters as core components of their ethnic studies discipline. They promote antisemitic stereotypes of Jews and the Jewish state and encouragement to antisemitic activism as ‘part and parcel’ of ethnic studies courses at the University of California and beyond.”

The Council, which represents over 300 ethnic studies faculty on UC campuses, is the group pushing UC to adopt this proposal, which was inspired by AB 101, legislation approved in 2021 to make passing ethnic studies a requirement for high school graduation in California. In addition, the working group tasked by the UC Academic Senate with developing the course criteria for this proposal – which will effectively determine the content of required high school ethnic studies classes - are members of the Council’s leadership team. At a meeting of the Academic Senate in April, they argued the proposed UC admissions requirement course criteria developed by university “experts” would help “set the standard of what a college preparatory ethnic studies course would consist of,” according to minutes from the meeting.

The letter warns that “given the openly antisemitic sentiments of these ‘experts,’ and their own contention that anti-Zionism constitutes a core element of ‘authentic’ ethnic studies,” such a scenario would likely include antisemitic content in the mandatory ethnic studies class that students would have to take or risk being ineligible for UC enrollment.

For example, Christine Hong, co-chair of the UC Ethnic Studies Council, is part of the Founding Collective of the recently established and highly controversial Institute for the Critical Study of Zionism. Six other Council members serve on the Institute’s growing Advisory Board. The Institute proudly claims, “[O]ur opposition to Zionism…is a first principle.” The “Points of Unity” guiding the Institute’s work identify Zionism as “a settler colonial racial project” linked to “group supremacy,” “ethnic cleansing,” and “racism.” Hong and three other UC Council faculty are helping to organize the Institute’s inaugural conference, entitled “Battling the ‘IHRA Definition’: Theory and Practice,” aimed at delegitimizing the most authoritative and widely-accepted definition of antisemitism. The conference is also sponsored by the UC Ethnic Studies Council.

On a recent podcast, Hong drew on antisemitic tropes of Jewish power and malevolence, and accused Jewish organizations in North America of being “antagonists” in all of ethnic studies’ struggles against racism and colonialism. Hong asserted that Jewish groups’ attempts to keep antisemitism out of high school ethnic studies classrooms in California were examples of “U.S. fascism,” while her colleague Emmaia Gelman, on the same podcast, accused the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish organizations that fight antisemitism of “racism” and “white supremacy.”

In addition, Hong and many of her Council colleagues are vocal proponents of BDS, including committing to integrate the antisemitic boycott into their teaching and academic work, and are strongly aligned and work closely with leaders of the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Consortium (Liberated), whose founders and affiliated educators were involved with developing the antisemitic first draft of the state-mandated model curriculum and are now peddling an even more antisemitic version of the first-draft curriculum throughout the state. A large advertisement for the Liberated group’s services is prominently displayed on the homepage of Hong’s department, and a Liberated-focused course is being taught by a UC Ethnic Studies Council Steering Committee member who helped write the UC ethnic studies admissions requirement proposal and course criteria.

The “proposal is an outrage. It is both wrong and highly dangerous. At a time of record high antisemitism, it must be stopped. We urge you to immediately reject the UC ethnic studies admissions requirement proposal and publicly guarantee that no version of it will be accepted in the future,” wrote the organizations which include the American Jewish Congress, B'nai B'rith International, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, World Jewish Congress North America, Club Z, Association of Jewish Psychologists, the Daniel Pearl Foundation, Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and numerous California campus organizations including Bruins for Israel, Davis Faculty for Israel, and Hillels of Davis and Sacramento, San Diego, and Silicon Valley .

AMCHA Initiative is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to combating antisemitism at colleges and universities in the United States. The organization monitors more than 450 campuses for antisemitic activity, as defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and the U.S. government.  AMCHA is not a pro-Israel advocacy organization, nor does it take a position on current or past Israeli government policies; criticism of Israel that does not meet the IHRA and U.S. government criteria is not considered antisemitic by the organization. AMCHA has recorded more than 5,000 antisemitic incidents on college campuses since 2015 which can be accessed through its Antisemitism Tracker.

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