ZOA: New UC President needs to stop anti-Semitism at UCI

The ZOA mentions the Task Force in its critique of UCI. The new UC President’s reply will be posted as well, when it’s published. Download the letter: ZOA Letter to UC President

ZOA CALLS ON UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESIDENT TO RECTIFY ANTI-SEMITISM PROBLEMS AT UC CAMPUSES

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has urged the newly-appointed President of the University of California (UC), Mark G. Yudof, to address ongoing problems of anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing on two UC campuses: UC Irvine and UC Santa Cruz. In an eight-page letter to President Yudof dated August 8, 2008, the ZOA described in detail “the pattern of anti-Semitism on both of these campuses, and the hostile environment that the bigotry has engendered for students and faculty.” The ZOA noted that President Yudof has publicly identified himself as a Jewish activist and a strong defender of Israel, and thus presumably would “share our concern about campus anti-Semitism.” The ZOA called on President Yudof to take several “reasonable steps . . . to rectify the ongoing problems.” (To read the ZOA’s letter to UC President Yudof, click here.)

With respect to UC Irvine, the ZOA described the events regularly sponsored by the university’s Muslim Student Union (MSU), which “demonize and vilify Jews, Zionism and Israel.” According to the ZOA, “[t]he events’ titles alone convey just how false and hateful the events are,” including “Zionism Hijacking Judaism,” “Israel: The 4th Reich,” and “From Auschwitz to Gaza: The Politics of Genocide,” a program absurdly suggesting that the systematic and deliberate murder of Jews in Auschwitz is comparable to the situation today in Gaza. Last May, the MSU sponsored such programs as “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine”; “Death to Apartheid: A Farewell to Zionism”; and “Silence is Consent: Stop the Palestinian Holocaust.” The ZOA pointed out that “[t]hese events promoted the monstrous lie that Israel is committing genocide and perpetrating a holocaust on the Palestinian Arabs.”

The ZOA informed President Yudof that at UC Irvine, speakers accuse the Jews of controlling the media and the government and of being responsible for 9-11. They have compared “Zionist Jews” to Nazis. They have justified and advocated suicide bombings and terrorism against Israeli Jews. And they have called for Israel’s destruction.

The impact on Jewish students, according to the ZOA, has been serious. Students have been afraid to wear anything that would identify them as Jewish or Israel supporters. Students avoid those parts of the campus where hateful speakers and programs are taking place, or they avoid the campus altogether. Students’ academic performance has suffered. Some students have feared for their safety. At least two students have left UC Irvine and went to study elsewhere because they could no longer endure the hostility on campus.

The ZOA noted that UC President Yudof has publicly recognized that university leaders have constitutional rights and the freedom of expression. President Yudof has publicly stated that university leaders have the moral duty to speak out forcefully against anti-Semitism.

Yet UC Irvine’s Chancellor, Michael Drake, has never condemned any of the anti-Semitism that has occurred on his campus in any of his messages to the university community, according to the ZOA. The Chancellor issued a campus message in which he said that he abhorred hate speech, but “[h]e never mentioned the word ‘anti-Semitism.’ And he did not tie his general anti-hate message to a specific program or speaker on the campus,” thus losing “the opportunity to educate the perpetrators and the university community about what he believed was objectionable and why.” (When Chancellor Drake has publicly condemned anti-Semitism, he has done so in general terms, without reference to a particular speaker or program, and he has “conveniently . . . done so off campus, to a predominantly Jewish audience” – at a town hall meeting with members of the Orange County community, at the American Jewish Committee’s annual dinner in Orange County, and at a Hillel Summit in Washington, D.C.)

The ZOA noted that its criticism of Chancellor Drake’s silence has been echoed by others. The independent Orange County Task Force, which conducted a year-long investigation of allegations of anti-Semitism at UC Irvine, condemned the Chancellor and called on him to “publicly identify and denounce hate speech when it occurs” on his campus. The Orange County Register published an editorial criticizing the Chancellor’s administration for “punting in its response” to hateful speech. In May 2008, in response to the MSU’s event entitled “Never Again? The Palestinian Holocaust,” U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) wrote to the Chancellor, calling on him to condemn the MSU’s event, which “appears intended to encourage violence against the State of Israel and propagate the spread of anti-Semitism.” Congressmen Sherman stated in his letter to Chancellor Drake: “As an American, you have a right to speak out. As Chancellor, it is your duty to condemn anti-Semitism, especially when it occurs at the UCI campus.”

Chancellor Drake has not heeded these calls to clearly and forcefully condemn the anti-Semitism on his campus. The ZOA urged UC President Yudof to insist that UC Irvine’s Chancellor finally exercise his moral leadership and speak out clearly and forcefully against the MSU’s anti-Semitic speakers and programs.

In its letter to UC President Yudof, the ZOA asserted that at UC Santa Cruz, “[a]nti-Semitism is also a serious problem.” It derives in part from the programs and speakers sponsored by a registered student group on campus. It is also coming from faculty in the Social Sciences and Humanities. There have been reports to the ZOA that “since 2001, a number of UC Santa Cruz departments and research centers have sponsored more than a dozen events dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All of them have been biased against Israel. During the same time period, none of these departments or research centers has sponsored events about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that were not biased against Israel.”

Students have reportedly been laughed at when they have expressed a pro-Israel perspective in certain classes at UC Santa Cruz. Students also know that there are courses that they should stay away from because of their anti-Israel bias.

The bias has “spilled over into physical acts of anti-Semitism” at UC Santa Cruz, according to the ZOA. There were two recent acts of anti-Semitic vandalism on campus, neither of which was condemned by UC Santa Cruz’s Chancellor. The Vice Chancellor issued a message, but she never mentioned the word “anti-Semitism,” and never forcefully condemned it, instead weakly referring to the vandalism as “offensive” and “upsetting.”

The ZOA noted that students and faculty have complained to the UC administration about the problems at UC Santa Cruz. The local chapter of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) brought its concerns to the Chancellor, the Dean of Social Sciences, and the Senate Executive Committee of the Academic Senate, each time documenting the pattern of political bias and advocacy against Israel. The response to these raised concerns was so lacking that the ZOA wrote to UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal, urging him to address the problems on his campus. He never responded to the ZOA’s letter. According to the ZOA, his silence sent “the troubling message that the issues we raised – echoing concerns that have already been expressed to him by students and faculty – are not important and can be ignored.”

The ZOA urged UC President Mark Yudof to ensure that Chancellor Blumenthal take several steps: First, the Chancellor should issue a public statement to the entire university community, making it clear that UC Santa Cruz considers the two vandalism acts to be expressions of anti-Semitic bigotry that the university condemns and will not tolerate. Second, the Chancellor should, in the future, condemn, by name, anti-Semitic speakers and programs that are sponsored on his campus. Finally, the Chancellor should undertake a comprehensive analysis of university course descriptions and course materials to ensure that (1) principles of academic freedom are not being subverted, sacrificing facts and historical truths to promote a particular political agenda; (2) students have the benefit of the full range of legitimate scholarly views about Israel, Zionism and the conflict in the Middle East; and (3) students are not being discouraged (whether intentionally or not) or intimidated into not expressing their views supporting Israel and criticizing the actions of its enemies.

Morton A. Klein, the ZOA’s National President, implored UC President Mark Yudof to take action and address longstanding problems at UC Irvine and UC Santa Cruz: “President Yudof has identified himself as an Israel advocate who understands the difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and criticism that unacceptably crosses the line into anti-Semitism. The line is repeatedly being crossed on at least two of the UC campuses, and yet no one in the UC administration has even acknowledged the scope of the problem, let alone fixed it. Given UC President Yudof’s background and experience, we are looking to him to stop the tolerance on UC campuses of vicious lies about Jews and Israel.

“President Yudof has also identified himself as a constitutional law scholar who understands that university leaders have their own free speech rights and the moral duty to exercise those rights and condemn anti-Semitic bigotry when it occurs on their campuses. We are thus looking to President Yudof to put those principles into practice so that the anti-Semitism at UC Irvine and UC Santa Cruz is finally firmly addressed.”

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