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3) You wrote that the Chancellors “have taken an aggressive position in prosecuting abusive and intolerant behavior,” but members of the Jewish community have seen no signs of that with respect to abusive and intolerant behavior directed against Jewish students. In fact, UC administrators have even been implicated in some of this behavior. Consider the following:
• In October 2010, we sent UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau a letter expressing our concern that an authorized unit of UCB’s College of Letters and Sciences was an official co-sponsor of an event whose primary focus was promoting a boycott of Israeli academics and businesses, and whose speakers and non-academic co-sponsors had all promoted campaigns to harm the Jewish state. We pointed out that anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns are not only a violation of the core principals of academic freedom and antisemitic according to the working definition adopted by the U.S. State Department, but these campaigns had already contributed significantly to a hostile environment for Jewish students at UCB. We respectfully asked Chancellor Birgeneau to sever the university’s involvement with this event and publicly condemn the BDS campaign on his campus. Chancellor Birgeneau refused our requests.
• In May 2010, the Israel Apartheid Week event presented by the Muslim Students Association (MSA) at UCSD, which was replete with speakers, exhibits and imagery that demonized and delegitimized Israel and her supporters, was sponsored by 18 academic departments and administrative units on that campus. (Dr. Jorge Mariscal, a UCSD professor of literature, gave a glowing testimonial of the event, writing on the MSA’s website that he had rarely seen “a more sophisticated and tempered demonstration of activism.” Interestingly, soon after writing this Professor Mariscal was appointed to the President’s Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion). This year, the UCSD-MSA’s “Israel Apartheid Week,” which included a 60-foot long “Apartheid Wall” and speakers well-known for their antisemitic rhetoric, was sponsored by UCSD’s Cross Cultural Center and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.
• In June 2011, a few weeks after the UC Irvine Muslim Student Union presented their week of events demonizing Israel and featuring speakers who advocate boycotting and eliminating the Jewish state, that organization was given an award for “demonstrating a commitment to transforming structures of inequality and injustices through reflection and action” by the UCI Office of the Dean of Students.
• In June 2011, an event entitled “Teach-in on Islamophobia” took place at UCSC, organized and co-sponsored by two academic units and several student groups, including the UCSC Muslim Student Association and the Olive Tree Initiative. The speakers at the event, who were well-known for their anti-Israel animus and activism, blamed the Jews for Islamophobia and used language that demonized the Jewish state and Jews. A large table set up at the event contained materials advertising and promoting the U.S. Boat to Gaza, one of the boats participating in the “Freedom Flotilla II,” whose organizers had ties to terrorist organizations including Hamas. Sitting at the table and handing out a personal letter encouraging students to endorse the U.S. Boat to Gaza was a UCSC college administrator, who was to be among the passengers on the boat. In response to a letter sent to UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal by the Zionist Organization of America, which raised serious and legitimate concerns about the event, UCSC Counsel Carole Rossi defended the faculty and administrators who organized the event, and showed no concern at all for its anti-Jewish content or the effect it would have on Jewish students.
These examples show that UC administrators not only ignore intolerant and abusive behavior directed against Jewish students, they also condone, award, and even engage in it.
4) Finally, we hope you can see that the information upon which the AMCHA Initiative has based its campaign is not at all “out-dated,” nor are we “completely uninformed.” Sadly, your false characterization of us, and your unwillingness to fairly consider our concerns or their importance to the California Jewish community, suggests a dismissiveness and lack of sensitivity that many of us find deeply disturbing.
Please understand that the Jewish community of California will not remain silent while Jewish students are being harassed and intimidated on UC campuses. We hope that you and all other UC administrators will commit yourselves to addressing the problem of anti-Jewish bigotry forthrightly, publicly, and immediately.
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, Lecturer, University of California at Santa Cruz firstname.lastname@example.org
Leila Beckwith, Professor Emeritus, University of California at Los Angeles email@example.com
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