“Politically Correct Anti-Semitism”. Harassment continues at the University Of California

Note: On February 12, 2008, the Orange County Independent Task Force completed a year-long investigation at the University of California, Irvine ( UCI). Over 80 hours of interviews, as well as, documents, written complaints and numerous visits to the campus were used in the compilation of the subsequent Report and Recommendations.  Among the reports findings were that  ” acts of anti-Semitism are real and well documented. Jewish students have been harassed. Hate speech has been unrelenting. For the most part, Jewish organizations in Orange County have been ineffective in dealing with anti-Semitism at UCI.  Therefore, Students with a strong Jewish identity should consider enrolling elsewhere unless and until tangible changes are made.”

 The University administration  rightfully argued that it cannot and will not stifle free speech on campus. However, University leaders have a First Amendment right and a responsibility to identify and denounce hate speakers and hate speech and as it occurs.  In our view University Of California officials, including UC President Mark Yudof, have failed to adequately address anti-semitic hate speech and harassment on it’s campuses. The complete 34 page report can be found at:


The Following is an article from the San Fransisco Chronicle:

UC report on anti-Semitism draws ire

Nanette Asimov   Updated 10:56 a.m., Thursday, August 9, 2012

Katherine Orr had just started her freshman year at UC Berkeley last August when she was stunned to see five students in military fatigues carrying what looked like rifles and stopping students at Sather Gate.

“They were asking people, ‘Are you Jewish?’ They were trying to be like soldiers interrogating Palestinians along the border,” Orr said. “They were re-enacting what was happening on the West Bank.”

To students who regard Israel as an essential Jewish homeland, this event and others like it that are staged each year on University of California campuses seem hostile, like poorly concealed anti-Semitism – especially when the Israeli flag with its Star of David is paired with a Nazi swastika, says a new report by a UC fact-finding team seeking to understand Jewish students’ experiences.

But to students who oppose Israeli policies and support such sensational protest methods, some recommendations by the team – that UC adopt a definition of anti-Semitism, prohibit hate speech and consider banning campus sponsorship of offensive activities – have become a new subject for protest.

More than 2,200 students, faculty and alumni – many of them Jewish – have signed a petition asking UC President Mark Yudof to set aside the report. Two letters sent last month to Yudof from Jewish students and from Arab, Muslim and Palestinian students and their supporters made similar points.

The dispute is a collision between civil rights and free speech, where allegiances can’t always be sorted out by religion. And it suggests a microcosm at UC of the conflict in the Middle East: angry, defensive, intractable.

Shaky harmony

Mistrust among student groups has festered for years. But 2010 was especially rough for multiethnic harmony:

Swastikas appeared in numerous locations at UC Berkeley and UC Davis. Also at Davis, someone defaced the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center with derogatory words.

At UC San Diego, students used racial slurs and caricatures of black people in Facebook invitations to two “Compton Cookouts” ridiculing Black History Month. A student used slurs on campus TV to mock those who complained. Someone hung a noose in the Geisel Library.

At UC Merced, students posted a cartoon video lampooning classmates who requested a Chicano studies minor.

The incidents were “quite simply the worst acts of racism and intolerance I’ve seen on college campuses in 20 years,” Yudof said at the time. “We must – and will – deal with the causes of the offending behaviors.”

Yudof convened an Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion to study students’ experiences and offer solutions.

‘Daily harassment’

On July 9, two teams of experts reported to the council on the experiences of Jewish students and of Muslim and Arab students across UC. One team concluded that Muslim and Arab students feel “marginalized and alienated on campuses” and that many experience “daily harassment,” from classmates, faculty and staff.

No objections have surfaced to the proposals addressing Muslim and Arab students, which focus mainly on sensitivity training and doing more to recognize their needs.

By contrast, the report on Jewish students offers dramatic solutions to a more circumscribed brand of animosity: anti-Israel virulence and its ripple effect.

Diverse perspectives

The report identifies extensive diversity among Jewish students, from participation in Orthodox groups to pro-Palestinian activism.

Yet, “Jewish students at all campuses were clear that the most pervasive negative issue impacting their daily experiences on campus were intergroup challenges related to political disagreements about the state of Israel and Palestine,” said the report by Richard Barton of the Anti-Defamation League and Alice Huffman of the California NAACP.

For example, a willingness to denounce Israel is often a litmus test for acceptance into social-justice groups on campus, the report found.

Tension also exists with faculty, the authors found, with students describing “instances of overt hostility toward Jewish or other students” who express pro-Israel views.

The report points to anti-Israel protests – like the one seen by Orr – where activists erect “apartheid walls” to simulate the West Bank barrier, portray Palestinians being killed by Israeli soldiers, distribute flyers accusing Israel of genocide or combine a swastika with the Star of David.

Such protests hurt students because they are “devoid of context, with the unmistakable message that Israelis/Jews are carrying out a unilateral campaign of violence directed against innocent Palestinians,” the report says.

To address the problem, Barton and Huffman recommend banning hate speech, perhaps banning campus sponsorship of “unbalanced and/or biased events,” and requiring everyone to take “cultural competency training.”

“The team recognizes that changes to UC hate speech policies may result in a legal challenge, but offers that UC accept the challenge,” the report says.

In an interview, Barton likened the situation to “allowing the Klan to walk around campuses and say things about black people.”

But those backing the petition say they are outraged by such conclusions.

Free speech concerns

“The report is a distortion,” said Sarah Anne Minkin, a Berkeley doctoral candidate in sociology who is Jewish. “The authors omitted a great part of the Jewish community on campuses – Jews who are critical of Israel, supportive of Palestinian rights, and also deeply committed to Jewish life and culture.”

The petition to Yudof accuses the report’s authors of emphasizing right-wing views and ignoring bullying of anti-Israel Jews from their pro-Israel counterparts at UC. And it opposes the recommendations to outlaw hate speech and define anti-Semitism.

“We believe in the principles of free speech and that these principles stand on their own and do not require any additional regulation,” the petition says.

Tough limitations

Halting anti-Israel activism would harm the free speech of Arab, Muslim and Palestinian students, says the letter to Yudof from those student groups, the National Lawyers Guild and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“We’re concerned with speech restrictions,” said attorney Liz Jackson of the National Lawyers Guild. She said students want to be free to criticize Israel and use the Israeli flag – with its Star of David – as a prop in political protests. “Yes, many Jews strongly identify with the nation-state of Israel. But that does not mean that any criticism of Israel is a criticism of Jews,” said Jackson, who is Jewish.

Orr, the student who saw the protesters with fake guns asking people if they were Jewish, hadn’t heard of the report or the petition. Growing up in a non-Jewish neighborhood, she was no stranger to anti-Semitism.

“I was used to a lot of nasty things being said about me because I was Jewish,” she said. More recently, Orr wore a Star of David necklace on a family trip to Germany. At the airport, “an officer started yelling at us and calling me a ‘stupid Jew,’ ” Orr said. “At that moment, I did understand why there are right-wing Jews on the defensive.”

‘Politically correct’

She described anti-Israel protests on campus as “politically correct anti-Semitism” because “they use fake guns to intimidate Jewish students.”

“But as much as I hate ‘hate speech,’ we should not suppress it,” said Orr, who is president of the Jewish Law Association at Berkeley. “It’s a public university, and we should protect our free speech.”

Yudof, a First Amendment scholar, agrees.

“I believe our current policies may go as far as they can, given constitutional limitations,” he wrote Wednesday in response to the letter from Jewish students, who applauded the news.

And in answer to the letter from Muslim and Arab students, Yudof said the job of his Advisory Council on Campus Climate is to ensure that campuses are welcoming to everyone.

“I am a vigorous defender of free-speech rights,” he wrote. “While hurtful speech may make that goal difficult to achieve at times, the answer is not to restrict speech, but rather to see that all our community members feel supported.”

His office is reviewing the recommendations.

Read the reports

The UC President’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion sent two fact-finding teams to visit six campuses and study the experiences of Jewish students and Muslim and Arab students. The report on Jewish students has become the focus of a petition drive to squash it and its recommendations. Here are both papers:

— Report on Jewish students: bit.ly/N9CMCe

— Report on Muslim and Arab students: bit.ly/RdIzYq

Nanette Asimov is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: nasimov@sfchronicle.com. Twitter: @NanetteAsimov.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/education/article/UC-report-on-anti-Semitism-draws-ire-3774302.php#ixzz236lnud2S

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