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September 25, 2016 / 22 Elul, 5776
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NO PROTECTION FOR YOU

UC Jewish Prof: Civil Rights Office Rolling Back Protection for Jews

The Office of Civil Rights seems to have rolled back the recent extension of protection from anti-Jewish discrimination on campuses.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin teaches at UC Santa Cruz. She filed a Title VI Complaint in 2009, and an appeal in 2013

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin teaches at UC Santa Cruz. She filed a Title VI Complaint in 2009, and an appeal in 2013
Photo Credit: Facebook

The University official took these steps while even the United Nations — hardly a bastion of pro-Israel propaganda — has officially found that Israel’s naval embargo around Gaza is an appropriate and legal means of preventing the importation of weapons that would be used to attack the Jewish state.

COLLEGE SPONSORSHIP OF FILM VILIFYING PRO-ISRAEL JEWS

(2) An additional allegation raised by Rossman-Benjamin concerned the sponsorship by two California colleges of a screening of the film, “Between Two Worlds,” and a follow-up question and answer session by the filmmakers.

The film, according to Rossman-Benjamin, focuses on in-fighting in the Jewish community, particularly between Jews who who support Israel and those who seek to harm it through various activities such as boycotts.  The film presents pro-Israel students as extremists who seek to silence legitimate criticism of Israel.

Rossman-Benjamin documented the horrified responses of Jewish students to the showing of the film, and the submission of a petition signed by 70 UCSC students which stated:

We believe the screening of this film is intended to vilify, delegtimize, and silence many Jewish students who feel that the campus climate is hostile towards them because they identify with Israel. …. The fact that residential colleges, including Colleges [the two were referred to by numbers for privacy purposes], support such positions and the incitement of hostility by sponsoring this and similar events which demonize and delegitimize Israel and Jewish students on campus who support Israel is horrifying to say the least. As UCSC students, we … find it highly inappropriate for a College to portray Jewish supporters of Israel as extremists and Jewish values as antiquated.

The response from the Director of Academic and CoCurricular Programs for the two Colleges, Provost Helen Shapiro and UCSC chancellor George Blumenthal ignored the concerns of the students and instead focused solely on the “Colleges’ right to show the film.”

Adding insult to injury, the school officials shared with the filmmakers the concerns by the Jewish students and the fact that the students filed hate/bias complaints about the film.

Making great hay from this breach of privacy, the filmmakers proceeded to send out emails and announce on their website that there had been a “McCarthyite network inside the Jewish community,”  referring specifically to the UCSC Jewish students’ petition. The filmmakers wrote that “would-be censors are connected to a larger campaign trying to use the U.S. Civil Rights Act to silence debate, claiming films like ours create a hostile environment for students.”

That sure is one way to silence students from raising concerns in a way that should have been treated with respect, including respect for their privacy.

ZIONISM AS SYNONYMOUS WITH RACISM IN FEMINIST STUDIES CLASS

(3) Yet another example of how the university’s sponsorship and control over academic activities and content created a hostile environment for Jews on campus was the case of a UCSC Feminist Studies Class on Race and Gender.  The class explicitly described Zionism as synonymous with racisim, and texts were given equating Zionism to colonialism.

Rossman-Benjamin submitted several articles from the syllabus as supplements to her underlying claim which included faculty who used their classrooms or class resources to promote hatred towards the Jewish state, thereby contributing to the hostile environment on campus.  The feminism class readngs were, according to Rossman-Benjamin, “unabashedly anti-Zionist or anti-Israel, three of them encourage anti-Israel activism, and one of them, arguably, condones terrorism against Israel.”

Astonishingly, the OCR ignored Rossman-Benjamin’s evidence concerning “A Teach-In on Islamaphobia,” “Between Two Worlds,” and the Feminist Studies Class.  Instead, in rejecting her Complaint as not worthy of further action, the OCR mentioned incidents which the professor had not included as part of her Complaint: an event called “Costs of War on Israeli Society,” as well as the event “Truth and Consequences of Israel’s Gaza Invasion.”

In addition to ignoring claims she did make and referring to ones she did not, the OCR mischaracterized Rossman-Benjamin’s allegations regarding anti-Semitic graffiti on campus.

The anti-Semitic graffiti per se was not the gravamen of Rossman-Benjamin’s concern, it was the response by the university officials which, in the professor’s view, provided raw evidence of a double standard in treatment of ugly, anti-minority actions on the campuses that was the issue.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the U.S. correspondent for The Jewish Press. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com


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