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Santa Cruz, CA, May 16, 2024 – AMCHA Initiative Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin issued the following statement following CSU Chancellor Mildred García putting Sonoma State University President Mike Lee on leave after his capitulation to encampment demands, including committing the state school to a full academic boycott of Israel:

“We applaud CSU Chancellor Mildred García for putting President Lee on leave, and hope that he is not allowed to return. Any university leader who agrees to implement an antisemitic boycott that undermines the academic mission of the university, tramples on the educational opportunities and academic freedom of the university's students and faculty, and incites animus and harm towards the school’s Jewish members, must be removed. However, getting rid of President Lee is not enough. CSU must repudiate President Lee’s 'agreement' and state unequivocally that no CSU school will ever agree to an academic boycott of Israel.

“A dedicated CSU statement that specifically addresses the harms of an academic boycott to the CSU community and guarantees that CSU will not permit any of its 23 campuses to agree to an academic boycott of Israel, nor will one be implemented system-wide, is urgently needed. California legislators, too, need to enact legislation to ensure that an academic boycott of any country will never be implemented at any state school.

“Make no mistake, an academic boycott hurts US students and faculty at least as much, if not more, than it hurts Israeli academics. There’s no way to implement an academic boycott of Israel without trampling on the academic freedom of U.S. students and faculty wanting to study in or about Israel, and inciting hatred and harm towards Israel’s on-campus supporters, particularly Jews. This extends far beyond study abroad programs. It is an attempt to drive all Zionists - which according to a Pew study includes 80% of Jews worldwide - out of the university. In addition, our research shows schools with BDS activity are about 3 times more likely to have incidents targeting Jewish students for harm than schools with little or no BDS activity. And the vast majority of anti-Zionist motivated harassment incidents of Jewish students were consistent with actions prescribed by the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), the movement behind Sonoma State’s decision. PACBI and its faculty foot soldiers are ground zero for academic boycotts and the antisemitism we are seeing explode on campuses nationwide, and their spreading of hate must be stopped.

The guidelines of the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel campaign, which coordinates academic BDS activity internationally, including calling for shutting down study abroad programs, also calls for boycotting educational programs in or about Israel and canceling or shutting down pro-Israel events and activities, as well as encourages the denigration, protest and exclusion of pro-Israel individuals — all activities that can have a devastating impact on students and faculty who want to study in or about Israel, or who identify with the Jewish state.

AMCHA Initiative’s studies have consistently found a strong correlation between BDS activity and acts of antisemitic assault, harassment and vandalism on campuses nationwide.

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 600 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 7,000 antisemitic incidents on college campuses since 2015 which can be accessed through its Antisemitism Tracker.

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