Letter to UC Irvine Chancellor Gillman Regarding Implementation of the Regents Statement
May 25, 2016
Dear Chancellor Gillman,
We are 36 Jewish and civil rights organizations representing hundreds of thousands of supporters who are deeply concerned about the long-standing and pervasive problem of anti-Semitic anti-Zionism that has incited hatred of Jews and acts of aggression and violence against Jewish and pro-Israel students on your campus.
As you know, in March the UC Regents unanimously approved a Statement Against Intolerance, which acknowledges that anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism are no less discriminatory than racism, homophobia or sexism, and “have no place at the University of California.”
Recent events on your campus demonstrate the critical importance of promptly and comprehensively implementing the Regents statement at UC Irvine.
Last Wednesday evening, UCI Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) carried out a pre-meditated and violent disruption of an event hosted by Jewish and pro-Israel student groups. According to eyewitness accounts and video footage, an angry mob of more than 40 members of SJP and other affiliated organizations attempted to forcibly enter the room where 10 students were watching a documentary film about the Israeli Defense Forces. Understandably terrified and fearing for their safety, Jewish and pro-Israel students who were at the film screening held the door shut to prevent aggressive protesters from entering the room, whereupon protesters pounded on the room’s door and windows and, for about an hour, screamed slogans that demonized and delegitimized Israel and called for and condoned terrorism against Jews, such as “Fuck Israel!”, “Intifada, Intifada, long live the Intifada!” and “When people are occupied, resistance is justified.” Event attendees were effectively held hostage for more than 45 minutes after their event had ended, until they could be safely escorted from the room by police.
The SJP students’ efforts to disrupt a Jewish student event and terrorize its participants are tactics of a strategy known as “anti-normalization” that is associated with the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and used by SJP groups across the country and anti-Zionist activists throughout the world. On campus, “anti-normalization” actions are directed toward suppressing all forms of pro-Israel or Zionist expression and specifically target for harm Jewish and pro-Israel students who do not endorse the BDS movement’s anti-Zionist tenets. In a recent study of anti-Semitic activity on more than 100 U.S. colleges and universities, more than half of the incidents that directly targeted Jewish students for harm were carried out by members of SJP and related groups in clear conformity with these “anti-normalization” goals. Incidents included the disruption of Jewish students’ events; the harassment, denigration, or physical and verbal assault of Jewish students for their perceived support of Israel; the vandalizing of Israel-related displays; discrimination against Jewish students’ participation in school activities because of their presumed pro-Israel stance; and attempts to block student trips and academic exchange programs in Israel.
Moreover, acts of anti-Jewish violence and aggression do not occur in a vacuum. They often grow out of a campus environment steeped in hateful anti-Zionist expression that uses classic anti-Semitic tropes to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state and those who support it. It is no coincidence that the week before Jewish and pro-Israel students were threatened and had their freedom of expression and assembly egregiously violated by SJP members, the Muslim Student Union (MSU) and SJP co-sponsored “Anti-Zionism Week 2016,” a series of events and exhibits whose express purpose was to voice opposition to the existence of the Jewish state, and promote BDS and terrorism as a means of eliminating it.
One of the week’s events, a talk by a virulently anti-Zionist Neturei Karta rabbi, Yisroel Dovid Weiss, provides an excellent example of the kind of anti-Semitic anti-Zionism that has poisoned the campus climate and created a hostile environment for many Jewish students at UCI. During his talk, Weiss made several remarks about Zionism and Zionists that employed classic anti-Semitic tropes accusing Jews of mendacity, criminality and controlling the government and media, canards made popular in the fabricated anti-Semitic text, Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Weiss likened Zionism to “a Madoff scheme,” claimed Zionists have “billions and billions of dollars” and use their money to intimidate “the media” and “any politician who dares …to show too much sympathy for the Palestinian cause,” and stated that “newspapers are conglomerates that are owned or controlled by Zionist organizations.” It’s important to point out that if a non-Jew were to utter such statements about Jews, the statements would be easy to recognize as anti-Semitism; Weiss’ Jewishness in no way mitigates his anti-Semitic remarks. Just as an African American can utter racist remarks and a homosexual homophobic remarks, so too can a Jew, even a rabbi, utter anti-Semitic remarks. We are sure you will agree: bigotry is bigotry, no matter who utters it.
A Jewish student leader reported to us that these recent acts of anti-Jewish bigotry at UCI are by no means exceptional. Rather, they are wholly consistent with the long-standing and pervasive pattern of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist behavior perpetrated by members of SJP and MSU, which, over the last several years, has created a toxic and hostile environment for many Jewish students. Nevertheless, according to the student leader much of the blame rests with UCI administrators, who have acted with a discriminatory double standard when it comes to addressing Jewish student concerns:
“For many years administrators have allowed groups like SJP and MSU to stifle Jewish students’ free speech, freedom of expression, our right to hold events on campus like any other group, and essentially our right to exist on this campus. The administration holds one group’s freedoms and levels of comfort and security on this campus overwhelmingly over another. They have allowed hatred to run rampant here, for our events to be ruined numerous times a year, for us to be victimized at our own events, for our freedoms to be taken away, and for other groups to seek to crush our spirit and to dictate our existence here. No other group of students is treated with such discrimination and callous disregard.”
Furthermore, Jewish students report that UCI administrators have consistently turned a blind eye to acts of anti-Semitism that would have been promptly and vigorously condemned were they directed against any other racial, ethnic or gender minority. For example, when a Vice Provost was apprised of Weiss’ anti-Semitic screed during “Anti-Zionism Week,” he did not publicly condemn it. But when, during the same week, the Vice Provost was informed of a poster advertising a student-sponsored event that contained the word “faggotry,” he issued a swift and forceful public statement condemning the flyer, writing: “Homophobia as well as other forms of bias contradicts our campus’ enduring commitment to inclusive excellence. Let me be clear: bigotry has no place here or anywhere.” In addition, he recommended that one way to overcome such bigotry and “strengthen the bonds of community” is to utilize programming resources for educating the campus community about LGBT issues.
In light of the Regents Statement Against Intolerance, which stipulates that anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism are to be treated no differently than any other form of bigotry and call on University leaders “to respond promptly, and at the highest levels of the University…when intolerant and/or discriminatory acts occur,” we ask you to share your response to the following questions with us:
How do you plan to implement the Regents statement in addressing the alarming problem of anti-Semitic anti-Zionism that has created an intolerable campus climate for Jewish students at UC Irvine? Specifically, what rules, policies and procedures will you invoke or enact, and what educational initiatives will you establish, to ensure that anti-Jewish bigotry will be treated as promptly and vigorously as all other racial, ethnic, or gender bigotry, and to guarantee the safety and well-being of Jewish students, and all students, at UC Irvine?
We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity (AEPi)
Alums for Campus Fairness
AMCHA UCLA Alumni
American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists
American Institute for Jewish Research
Americans for Peace and Tolerance
BEAR: Bias Education, Advocacy & Resources
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA)
CUFI on Campus
Davis Faculty for Israel
Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET)
Fuel For Truth
Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel
Iranian American Jewish Federation
Israel Peace Initiative (IPI)
Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA)
National Conference on Jewish Affairs
Middle East Political and Information Network (MEPIN)
Proclaiming Justice to the Nations
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi
Stop BDS on Campus
Students and Parents Against Campus Anti-Semitism
Students Supporting Israel at UC Irvine
Students Supporting Israel at UCLA
The Israel Christian Nexus
The Israel Group
Training and Education About the Middle East (T.E.A.M.)
Zionist Organization of America
Cc: Thomas A. Partham, Vice Chancellor Student Affairs
Douglas M. Haynes, Vice Provost for Academic Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
UC Board of Regents
Assemblymember Shirley Weber, Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Campus Climate
Senator Marty Block, Chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus