AMCHA’S Responses to Antisemitic Activity at University of California Los Angeles
8. Milan Chatterjee, a UCLA law student and the former president of the Graduate Student Association (GSA), was vindicated as a result of his judicious, good faith efforts to prevent the GSA from becoming embroiled in what has been a heated – as well as hateful and hostile – debate on campus about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
- INCIDENT: In September 2015, a registered student group sought funding from the GSA for a diversity event. The request was granted, with the stipulation that the GSA would not be funding any event organized by or connected with “Divest from Israel or any related movement/organization.” Mr. Chatterjee made it clear that this stipulation applied equally to advocates for and against BDS. The Diversity Caucus representative agreed to the stipulation and the group accepted the funding without objection and the diversity event took place on November 5, 2015 with the GSA’s financial contribution. Many organizations participated in the event, including supporters of and opponents to BDS. Over two weeks after the diversity event, legal representatives of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) criticized the stipulation alleging that the stipulation violated the First Amendment. More than three months after the diversity event, the SJP and the Diversity Caucus filed a complaint against Mr. Chatterjee, alleging that he violated University of California policy (PACAOS 86.30) requiring viewpoint neutrality in the allocation of mandatory student fees.A vicious public relations campaign against Mr. Chatterjee and numerous efforts to remove him from his position as GSA president then ensued. UCLA’s role aided SJP’s harassment and bullying of Mr. Chatterjee.
- 8/15/16 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative signed onto a letter with the Israeli-American Coalition for Action, the Israeli-American Council, the Lawfare Project, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs and the Zionist Organization of America. The letter asked Chancellor Block to, “(1) Investigate the breach of confidentiality of the Investigative Report and hold all wrongdoers – students, student groups, and UCLA professional staff – accountable; (2) Require the DPO to rescind its Investigation Report; and (3) Publicly exonerate Milan Chatterjee, apologize to him, and assure him that this ordeal for him is over.”
7. Controversial BDS supporter Cornel West is invited by the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies to be the keynote speaker at a conference honoring the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.
- INCIDENT: A growing number of organizations and individuals have expressed outrage that Cornel West has been invited by the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies to be the keynote speaker at a conference honoring the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.
- 4/24/15 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative organized a coalition letter of 23 organizations to Professor Presner, Director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies. The letter stated, “We represent 21 organizations with hundreds of thousands of supporters and members who are deeply concerned about the alarming rise of antisemitism on campuses across the country, including at UCLA. We wish to add our collective voices to the growing number of organizations and individuals who have expressed outrage that Cornel West has been invited by the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies to be the keynote speaker at a conference honoring the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Our distress at the invitation to Cornel West is based on his past statements which have had the effect of demonizing and delegitimizing the Jewish state, and his affiliations with groups that seek Israel’s elimination…”
6. A Jewish candidate for a Judicial Board position is openly discriminated against in an antisemitic incident when four students question her qualifications for the position on the basis of her being Jewish and affiliated with the Jewish community.
- INCIDENT: On February 10, 2015, four UCLA Undergraduate Student Association Council (USAC) members questioned UCLA Judicial Board candidate Rachel Beyda’s qualifications for the position solely on the basis of her Jewish identity and affiliation with the Jewish community. The discussion was overtly anti-Semitic, stereotyping Beyda’s political affiliations based on her ethnicity and resurrecting the traditional anti-Semitic canard of divided loyalty.
- 2/20/15 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative joined 11 other organizations as a signatory on a letter sent to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, asking him to publicly condemn the event as antisemitic.
- 2/24/15 – UNIVERSITY RESPONSE: Chancellor Block issued a statement that did not condemn the event as antisemitic, rather expressing concern about bias on campus, “I have been troubled by recent incidents of bias on campuses across our nation. Sadly, UCLA is not immune to these occurrences. At a recent Undergraduate Students Association Council meeting, a few council members unfairly questioned the fitness of a USAC Judicial Board applicant because of her Jewish identity…We should all be glad that, ultimately, the judicial board applicant was unanimously confirmed for her position.”
- 3/10/15 – STUDENT COUNCIL RESPONSE: The undergraduate student government unanimously passed “A Resolution Condemning Anti-Semitism” which included the full US State Department’s definition of antisemitism, including demonizing or delegitimizing Isreal, and holding Israel to a double standard.
- 3/11/15 – UC PRESIDENT AND REGENT CHAIR RESPONSE: UC President Janet Napolitano and Board of Regents Chair Bruce Varner made a statement which strongly condemns the recent antisemitic incidents at the University of California and affirms that acts such as these “will not be tolerated.”
- 3/12/15 – AMCHA INITIATIVE RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative issued a statement that applauded the Student Senate’s of UCLA and UC Berkeley for passing antisemitism resolutions, as well as UC President Napolitano and Board of Regents Chair Varner for their statement.
- 3/19/15 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: In response to the upsurge in antisemitic incidents across the UC system, AMCHA Initiative coordinated a coalition letter to UC President Napolitano which included twenty two other groups, asking the UC system to:
- “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.”
- 3/31/15 – UNIVERSITY RESPONSE: Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Janine Montero, responds with a generic letter that does not address any concerns of the coalition and states, “Please know that the chancellor, I and our whole leadership team take anti-Semitism very seriously. We strive to maintain a University that is inclusive, welcoming and respectful of all our members. While no campus is immune to anti-Semitism, which can emerge during the sometimes difficult, even painful political debates that occur in our larger society, the Chancellor, the Dean of Students, I and others have and will continue to stress to our students the necessity of working together without stereotyping, intimidation or hostility. Most of the time our students are able to live up to that standard, but occasionally some falter. When four students on the Student Council faltered in this case, a university administrator urged them to rethink their assumptions and the vote to confirm our Jewish student’s appointment to the judicial board was unanimous. Nonetheless, this incident concerned us all. The student newspaper condemned it, I publicly did the same and the chancellor was concerned enough to send a statement addressing the matter to all 80,000 of our students, faculty and staff.”
5. UCLA’s Center for Near East Studies is shown to have an overwhelmingly anti-Israel bias, and a majority of Israel events containing antisemitic content, in a three year comprehensive study of the center, 2010-2013
- INCIDENT: AMCHA Initiative tracked antisemitic discourse and anti-Israel bias in the public events sponsored by UCLA’s Gustav E. von Grunebaum Center for Near East Studies (CNES), 2010 – 2013. The Antisemitic Activity and Anti-Israel Bias at the Center for Near East Studies, University of California at Los Angeles 2010 – 2013 Report revealed that 93 percent of CNES Israel-related events had an overwhelmingly anti-Israel bias. Seventy-five percent contained anti-Semitic content and 84 percent of featured speakers have engaged in anti-Semitic activity, including the demonization and delegitimization of Israel, denying Jews the right to self-determination, comparing Israelis to Nazis and condoning terrorism.
- 9/17/14 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative released its report at the UC Regents Meeting in San Francisco on September 17, 2014. The same day, it was also announced that the results of the report were cited in a joint statement by 10 organizations to the leaders of the House Education and Workforce Committee as primary evidence that Middle East centers funded under Title VI of the Higher Education Act have failed to comply with federal law. The organizations included Accuracy in Academia, AMCHA Initiative, American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Endowment for Middle East Truth, The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, Middle East Forum, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, and the Zionist Organization of America.
- 9/17/14 – UCLA’S RESPONSE: In response to the release of AMCHA Initiative’s study, the UCLA media relations office issued a statement claiming that the university “remains dedicated to complying with all federal laws and respecting the free and open exchange of ideas representing diverse viewpoints.” However, UCLA’s statement nowhere addressed the extensive data AMCHA Initiative had collected showing that the egregiously anti-Israel public outreach events of CNES clearly violated the Title VI stipulation that the center’s programming reflect “diverse perspectives and a wide range of views.”
- 9/30/14 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative writes Chancellor Block a letter asking for a response that addresses the concerns raised by the student, stating “We believe that our study warrants careful review by your office, and we urge you to forthrightly address the serious problems we have raised regarding CNES.”
4. UAW 2865 Releases Statement of Intent to Support Antisemitic BDS Movement and Bring Propaganda to Classroom
- INCIDENT: The 83-member joint council of UAW 2865 – representing all of the TA’s, tutors and readers at the 9 teaching campuses of the University of California –issued a statement outlining the union’s intent to support the anti-Israel and antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and to seek a full-membership vote on the statement this coming year. The nine teaching campuses include UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Los Angeles, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, and UC San Diego. In the statement, the union exclaimed the need to “educate” others on the “settler-colonial” and “apartheid” nature of the Jewish state.
- 8/12/14 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative coordinated a coalition letter to UC President Napolitano which included eleven other groups – Americans for Peace and Tolerance, Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, Hasbara Fellowships, Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs, The Lawfare Project and Zionist Organization of America. The letter asked President Napolitano to ensure antisemitic propaganda and BDS are not brought into UC classrooms by the Union of Student Workers.
- 9/8/14 – UC SYSTEM, PROVOST DORR: Provost Dorr responds to the coalition with a letter, confirming that the “University’s position as to the conduct of ASE’s in the classroom is rooted in its academic policies, including the UC Regents Policy on Course Conduct, referenced in your letter.” The letter further states, “We will ask the campuses to remind all the ASE’s about these policies and their obligation to adhere to them.”
- 9/8/14 – UC SYSTEM, PROVOST DORR: Provost Dorr sends a letter to all 9 Chancellors, which states, “Attached is a letter from Tammi Benjamin, AMCHA Initiative, raising concerns about academic student employees (ASE) supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in classrooms. In the last several weeks, we have received over a hundred emails similar to Ms. Benjamin’s. You may have received such inquiries as well. Since we have had queries from your campuses about this issue, I am writing to clarify that the University’s position as to the conduct of ASEs in the classroom is rooted in its academic policies, including the following…” The letter further listed the Policy on Course Content, Management and Academic Rights, Academic Freedom, and the Faculty Code of Conduct.
- 10/7/14 – AMCHA & COALITION THANK YOU LETTER RESPONSE: AMCHA and coalition respond to Provost Dorr’s positive actions with a letter expression gratitude, including stating, “We were very concerned that this would happen with UC teaching assistants, and are therefore grateful that you confirmed: “The University’s position as to the conduct of ASE’s in the classroom is rooted in its academic policies, including the UC Regents Policy on Course Content”. In addition, we greatly appreciate that you sent a letter notifying every UC Chancellor of the need to inform ASE’s that they are obligated to adhere to several university policies which prohibit them from using their instructional positions to promote political propaganda or advocacy, including the promotion of a boycott of Israel. These policies were established for a reason, and we appreciate your reminding the Chancellors to uphold them.”
- 12/8/14 – AMCHA & 21 ORGANIZATIONS PROACTIVELY WRITE UC PRESIDENT NAPOLITANO AND UC PROVOST DORR: Following the UAW 2865 Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) vote on December 4 2014, 22 education, civil rights and Jewish advocacy groups wrote to inquire of UC President Napolitano and UC Provost Dorr whether University of California (UC) policies that prohibit UAW 2865 graduate student instructors from promoting BDS and anti-Israel, and often anti-Semitic, propaganda in the classroom also apply to UC faculty.
- 12/11/14 – ASSEMBLYMEMBER BLOOM WRITES TO UC PRESIDENT NAPOLITANO: Out of concern for Jewish and pro-Israel students, Assemblymember Bloom sent a letter to UC President Napolitano and the UC Regents which stated in part: “I greatly appreciate that Provost Dorr took the time to explicity remind all chancellors that the Regents Policy on Course Content prohibits UAW graduate student instructors from promoting BDS and anti-Israel propaganda in the classroom. Earlier this week, in a letter authored by Tammi Benjamin of AMCHA, 22 education, civil rights and Jewish advocacy organizations wrote to you asking if the Regents Policy on Course Content also applies to UC faculty. I join in asking that question. The classroom must be a place where all views are welcomed and all students feel they can have a voice. The classroom should not be a soapbox for a professor’s political advocacy.”
- 12/18/14 – AMCHA & COALITION OF 21 ORGANIZATIONS WRITE 9 UC CHANCELLORS: Following the passage of the adoption of BDS by UAW 2865, AMCHA Initiative and 21 other education, civil rights and advocacy groups sent a letter to nine University of California (UC) Chancellors urging them to publicly state their commitment to upholding UC policies which prohibit academic student employees (ASEs) from using their instructional positions to promote a boycott of Israel. The letter concludes by stating, “We therefore call on each of you to issue a public statement affirming your commitment to strictly enforcing the Regents Policy on Course Content and to ensuring that Jewish and pro-Israel students have access to a safe and non-discriminatory learning environment.”
- 12/19/14 – UC SYSTEM, PROVOST DORR: In response to a letter sent from the AMCHA-led coalition of 22 groups on December 8, 2014 asking if the UC policies that prohibit UAW 2865 graduate student instructors from promoting BDS in the classroom also apply to UC faculty, Provost Dorr responded by stating, “I understand from your letter that you are concerned that UC faculty may promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the classroom and that you are seeking clarification as to whether the Regents Policy on Course Content applies to UC faculty members. In response to your question, the Regents Policy on Course Content does apply to UC faculty members.”
- 12/22/14 – AMCHA & COALITION OF 21 ORGANIZATIONS THANK PROVOST DORR: The AMCHA-led coalition thanked University of California (UC) Provost Aimee Dorr and UC administrators for protecting the well-bring of Jewish students, stating “Thank you very much for your response to our letter …We are…extremely grateful for your acknowledgement that the Regents Policy on Course Content, which prohibits the misuse of the classroom for the advance of partisan interests and political indoctrination, applies equally to graduate student instructors and faculty. We also appreciate that you copied all of the UC Chancellors on your response, and we hope that in light of your very clear statement, administrators on each campus will strictly enforce the Regents Policy on Course Content in the case of both graduate student instructors and faculty, thereby ensuring that all students — including Jewish and pro-Israel students — have access to a quality learning environment that is safe and non-discriminatory.”
3. SJP Launches Harassment and Intimidation “Pledge” Campaign to Target Pro-Israel Students at UCLA
- INCIDENT: In an attempt to target, harass and intimidate pro-Israel Jewish students at UCLA, Students for Justice in Palestine members launched a campaign calling for a Judicial Board investigation of student council members who had taken trips to Israel sponsored by Jewish organizations. The SJP also demanded that candidates for student government positions sign a statement pledging that they will not go on any trip to Israel sponsored by three Jewish organizations. The only country SJP targeted was Israel, and the only trips targeted were those of three Jewish organizations that sponsor trips to Israel.
- 5/14/14 – UCLA’S RESPONSE: UCLA Spokesperson released a statement that the university did not plan to intervene, as it felt it is a student issue.
- 5/15/14 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative and 6 Other Groups – including Institute for Black Solidarity With Israel, The Lawfare Project, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Simon Wiesenthal Center Campus Outreach, StandWithUs and the Zionist Organization of America – wrote the UCLA Chancellor, UC President and UC Regents about the harassment of Jewish students by the Students for Justice in Palestine.
- 5/15/15 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA went before the UC Regents to present the issue.
- 5/19/14 – UCLA’S RESPONSE – CHANCELLOR BLOCK: Chancellor Block responded by stating:
“Just because speech is constitutionally protected doesn’t mean that it is wise, fair or productive. I am troubled that the pledge sought to delegitimize educational trips offered by some organizations but not others. I am troubled that the pledge can reasonably be seen as trying to eliminate selected viewpoints from the discussion… Political speech that stigmatizes or casts aspersions on individuals or particular groups does not promote healthy debate but debases it by trying to intimidate individuals and groups…I am personally concerned any time people feel disrespected, intimidated or unfairly singled out because of their beliefs.” Chancellor Block called on the VP of Student Affairs to intervene and increase respectful dialogue on campus. In addition, Chancellor Block has agreed to meet in the near future with AMCHA Initiative and members of the other groups who have signed our letter.
- 5/19/14 – UC SYSTEM’S RESPONSE – PRESIDENT NAPOLITANO: President Napolitano issued her own strong statement of concern about this matter:
“I share Chancellor Block’s concerns about students at UCLA who target any student seeking to participate in student government who has a relationship with, or wants to travel to, Israel on trips sponsored by certain groups. At the University of California, freedom of speech is a highly valued principle. Yet, other principles are also highly valued, including the principles of civility, respect, and inclusion, and should also govern our campuses. The actions of these students at UCLA violate these principles.”
2. Three UC Campuses Sponsor Boycott Event, Violate State Law and University Policy- Including UCLA
- INCIDENT: Three University of California campuses appear to have violated university policy and state law when they used taxpayer dollars to sponsor events featuring Omar Barghouti, the founder and most vocal advocate of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, on three UC campuses – UC Riverside, UCLA, and UC Davis.
- 1/22/14 –AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative went before the UC Regents to speak about this issue.
- 2/1/2014 –AMCHA’S RESPONSE: After numerous requests to administrators were ignored, AMCHA orchestrated a petition to reach out to legislators for help.
- 4/23/14 –AMCHA’S RESPONSE: More than 1,000 California residents signed the petition asking legislators to help stop University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) faculty from using taxpayer dollars for antisemitism. AMCHA delivered the signed petition along with a letter to the legislators.
1. UCLA Professor David Shorter’s Class Webpages Promoting the Academic Boycott of Israel
- INCIDENT: UCLA Prof. David Shorter used University resources as well as his classroom when he promoted the antisemitic academic and cultural boycott of Israel on the official website for a class he taught on Tribal Worldviews in the 2012 Winter quarter.
- 3/29/12 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative co-founders sent evidence that Prof David Shorter was using university resources and his classroom to promote an antisemitic boycott of Israel to UC President Yudof, UCLA Chancellor Block, and leaders of the UC and UCLA Academic Senates, and posed one simple question to each of them: Is this protected by the UC rules of academic freedom?
- 4/19/12 – UCLA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative succeeded in eliciting a statement from Dr. Andrew Leuchter, head of the UCLA Academic Senate, regarding the promotion of an antisemitic boycott of Israel on a class website. After consulting with top UCLA administrators, he wrote in an email to the AMCHA Initiative that “it is not appropriate for a faculty member to post a political petition on which he is a signatory as part of a course…and that posting of such materials was a serious error in judgment.” Professor Shorter, at the request of Dr. Leuchter, was then counseled by his department chair not to repeat the mistake. Dr. Leuchter’s statement is an implicit acknowledgement by UC faculty and administration, for the first time, that promoting the boycott of Israel is a political action and therefore subject to state laws and university policies that prohibit the use of public resources for political activities.
- 4/25/12 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: In a letter to Dr. Andrew Leuchter, head of the UCLA Academic Senate, AMCHA co-founders addressed a letter sent to Dr. Leuchter by a group called “California Scholars For Academic Freedom,” which alleged that Dr. Leuchter’s recent statements against the promotion of the boycott of Israel are a violation of academic freedom. AMCHA co-founders showed that the primary concern of CS4AF is not the protection of academic freedom, but rather the protection of academics who wish to exploit the privilege of academic freedom in order to promote an academic boycott of Israel, which, ironically, itself been declared a violation of academic freedom.
- 5/7/12 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative co-founder Leila Beckwith sent a letter to Prof. Robert Anderson, Chair Assembly of the Academic Senate of the University of California, regarding the, “Statement in Support of Faculty Harassed by Opponents of Their Research.” The letter asked Prof. Anderson to explain and support the claims made regarding attacks on scholars engage in research on Middle East politics. It also asked for clarification on whether UCLA Prof. Shorter’s promotion of a boycott on Israel on his class website was protected by the UC’s rules on academic freedom.
- 7/9/12 – UCLA’S RESPONSE: The UCLA Academic Senate Committee on Academic Freedom sent a letter to Prof. David Shorter approving his use of his class website to promote the academic boycott of Israel.
- 7/23/12 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: In light of the statement by the UCLA Academic Senate Committee on Academic Freedom approving of a UCLA professor using his class website to promote the academic boycott of Israel, the AMCHA co-founders sent a letter to the UC Regents and other UC and state leaders, urging them to ensure that UC classrooms are not being used to promote anti-Jewish bigotry.
- 7/31/12 – UC’S RESPONSE: UC President Yudof responded on behalf of the Regents to the July 23rd AMCHA Initiative letter that urged them to ensure that UC classrooms are not being used to promote anti-Jewish bigotry. His response was insufficient and evasive, as he ignored their responsibility as chief officers of the University of California and deferred to the Academic Senate and the UCLA administration.
- 8/6/12 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: Regarding UCLA’s decision to allow the promotion of the boycott of Israel on a UCLA class website, AMCHA responded to President Yudof’s letter on behalf of the regents. AMCHA detailed why his response was insufficient and evasive. They also explained and gave evidence showing that that the issue of anti-Jewish bigotry is not specific to UCLA, but rather is a long-standing and pervasive problem throughout the UC system.
- 8/14/12 –AMCHA & COMMUNITY’S RESPONSE: AMCHA sent a letter to President Yudof and the UC Regents on behalf of over 1,000 members and supporters of the California Jewish community. The letter stated that they were appalled by the decision of the UCLA Academic Senate Committee on Academic Freedom to allow UCLA Prof. Shorter’s promotion of an antisemitic boycott on his class website.
- 8/21/12 – UCLA’S RESPONSE: UC Regents Chairman Sherry Lansing responded to the letter that AMCHA and 1,000 members and supporters of the California Jewish community sent to the UC Regents. She stated that the “Regents do not sanction anti-Semitism,” and yet she was silent regarding the concerns of the Jewish community.
- 9/12/12 – AMCHA’S RESPONSE: AMCHA Initiative responded to UC Chairman Sherry Lansing’s letter in response to the Jewish community’s concerns. They detailed why her silence regarding the concerns of the Jewish community was deeply disturbing. They once again called on the UC Regents to exercise their legal and moral responsibility to deal with anti-Jewish bigotry.