Below is a letter that Leila Beckwith, Roberta Seid, and Tammi Rossman-Benjamin sent to UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau describing concerns about an upcoming event promoting an academic boycott of Israel, which is being co-sponsored by an official academic unit at the university. They are urging Chancellor Birgeneau to ensure that official university sponsorship of this event is withdrawn and to publicly condemn the BDS campaign on his campus.
University of California at Berkeley
200 California Hall #1500
Berkeley, CA 94720-1500
Dear Chancellor Birgeneau:
As faculty of the University of California, we are very concerned that an authorized unit of the College of Letters and Sciences at the University of California at Berkeley is an official co-sponsor of an event whose focus we believe will be to promote a boycott of Israeli academics and institutions as well as American corporations. This event will not be an academic inquiry; it will not advance scholarship.
The Muslim Identities and Cultures Working Group of The Townsend Center for the Humanities, situated administratively at the University of California at Berkeley within the College of Letters and Sciences, is co-sponsoring an event on October 26 entitled, “What Can American Academia Do to Realize Justice for Palestinians” (http://www.mecaforpeace.org/events/berkeley-ca-what-can-american-academia-do-realize-justice-palestinians). This event is organized by the Students for Justice in Palestine, whose stated mission is to promote boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel (BDS) (http://calsjp.org/2010/04/12/announcements/direct-action/).
The event will have two speakers: Lisa Taraki, Associate Professor at Bir Zeit University and co-founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (http://right2edu.birzeit.edu/news/article178), and Hatem Bazian, a Lecturer at UC Berkeley, endorser of the Israel Divestment Campaign (www.israeldivestmentcampaign.org), and signatory of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (www.usacbi.wordpress.com). The latter organization is also a co-sponsor of the event, as is the Middle East Children’s Alliance, an organization that actively promotes the BDS campaign against Israel (https://www.mecaforpeace.org/project/education-and-action/allies/boycott-divestment-and-sanctions-against-israel).
The co-sponsorship of this event by a Working Group of the Townsend Center for the Humanities establishes an official association of the University of California at Berkeley with the promotion of a boycott against Israel. We believe this is morally reprehensible, a violation of the mission of the university, and a discredit to your administration, for the following reasons:
- The boycott of Israeli scholars is an infringement of academic freedom and is vigorously opposed by the American Association of University Professors (http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/comm/rep/A/acaboy.htm) and 446 American University Presidents (http://www.ajc.org/atf/cf/%7B42D75369-D582-4380-8395-D25925B85EAF%7D/NYTimes_College_Presidents_Full.pdf ).
- The BDS movement is antisemitic according to the Working Definition of Antisemitism of the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia as adopted by the U.S. State Department. Some of the movement’s leaders have openly stated that the purpose of their campaign is nothing less than the elimination of the Jewish State, and BDS events routinely exhibit disturbing forms of antisemitic imagery and discourse. (http://www.jewishresearch.org/v2/cashe.htm)
- The BDS campaign contributes to a hostile environment for Jewish students on your campus.
- The BDS campaign defies the UC Regents’ stated policy that boycott, divestment, and sanctions will be used only against countries that the U.S. government deems genocidal (http://octaskforce.wordpress.com/2010/05/10/uc-regents-statement-on-divestment).
- Promoting an extension of the Arab boycott against Israel is a violation of U.S. law.
We therefore urge you to:
- sever the university’s involvement with this event by ensuring that the Townsend Center withdraws its co-sponsorship;
- publicly inform the UCB community of your action and the reasons for it;
- issue a public condemnation of the BDS campaign on your campus.
We respectfully request a response.
Professor Emeritus, UCLA
CC: Mark Yudof, President University of California
University of California Regents
Richard D. Barton, UC Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture, and Inclusion
Anthony J. Cascardi, Director of the Townsend Center for the Humanities, UC Berkeley
Paola Bacchetta, Coordinator Muslim Identities and Cultures Working Group of the Townsend Center for the Humanities
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