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An Open Letter to University of California President Mark Yudof

UC President Mark Yudof

UC President Mark Yudof
Photo Credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory/US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration

Dear University of California President Yudof,

Last week, two shameful events occurred on University of California campuses that made Jewish students feel targeted, intimidated, harassed, and unsafe. We charge the UC administration with failing in their basic responsibilities – to protect Jewish students from a hostile environment and to ensure their rights to freedom of speech.

On February 27 at UC Davis, Jewish student groups sponsored the presentation of talks by two Israelis, one Jewish the other Druze. The speakers were repeatedly interrupted by hecklers, whose intent was clearly to disrupt the proceedings. Not only did a heckler hurl outrageous accusations against one of the speakers, calling him a “rapist” and “child molester,” but the heckler brazenly stated: “I will stand here and heckle you until you leave…My only purpose is that this event is shut down.” The heckler also told audience members that he was paid $50 by “Muslim students” to disrupt the event.

Twenty-four hours before the Jewish students’ event, members of the UCD Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) sent a communication to SJP supporters outlining a two-pronged strategy for shutting down the event: they would pack the room with pro-Palestinian students who would leave en masse in the middle of the event, and some students would remain to continuously heckle the Israeli speakers. Both parts of the strategy were carried out at the event, and the event ultimately had to be curtailed because of the disruption.

Besides illegally conspiring to disrupt a lawful meeting and thereby suppress the freedom of speech of the Jewish students and their speakers, members of the SJP and their supporters created a physically and emotionally hostile environment for the Jewish students. According to one eyewitness:

“As fear of physical altercations mounted, several 911 calls were made. The campus police appeared but refused to remove, reprimand, or otherwise take any action against the disrupters. The police stated they were given “orders” not to take action against the disrupters, but instead, to close down the program if it got out of hand.”

Shockingly, and in stark contrast to your repeated assertions that the University is committed to protecting the rights of free speech and ensuring the safety of all students, the campus police did nothing, and even refused to take the names of disrupters. In addition, at least two high-level UC Davis administrators were present at the event, and they, too, refused to respond to these egregious violations of University policy and state law, which left Jewish students feeling unsafe and violated.

A few days later, on February 29, SJP students at UC San Diego brought to the Associated Students Council for the third consecutive year a resolution asking the University of California to engage in a secondary boycott of Israel by divesting from American firms that do business with the Israeli Defense Forces. The resolution was defeated after seven hours, but the Jewish students and faculty who supported Israel were harassed and bullied by pro-Palestinian supporters and falsely accused of racism.

Several Jewish attendees felt targeted and threatened at the meeting: A UCSD faculty member reported that it was “emotionally difficult to bear the hatred and lies.” The president of the student group, Tritons for Israel, stated that “Jewish students feel targeted, and Jewish students don’t feel as safe or comfortable on campus.” Another Jewish student said, “ I am unsafe on this campus when there is talk of divestment…and by voting ‘yes’ you are making the campus very hostile for students who go here.” The Hillel Director stated: “Many of our students clearly suffered a traumatic blow from that experience. I witnessed the verbal assault on Jewish students and the tears that followed.” At the conclusion of the meeting, one Jewish student, concerned that other Jewish students might be physically assaulted on their way home, cautioned them to avoid walking alone.

In light of your May, 2010 statement that the University of California would not divest from Israel, the SJP resolution was a wholly symbolic gesture intended to further the well-coordinated international campaign to economically strangle the Jewish state and bring about its destruction, a campaign which the US State Department has deemed anti-Semitic. Sadly, the resolution effort revealed the utter ineffectiveness of what you had previously touted to the Jewish community as one of your “assertive” moves to address anti-Jewish bigotry.

Please understand that the student groups behind these incidents are not like other University-funded student organizations. The SJP has as its primary mission the promotion of anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaigns and others efforts to harm the Jewish state. SJP chapters on UC campuses are closely allied with Al-Awda: the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, an organization which advocates the elimination of the Jewish state and has ties to terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah that call for the murder of Jews world-wide. Many students in the SJP are also members of the Muslim Students Association (MSA), an organization founded by the Muslim Brotherhood, a virulently anti-Semitic Egyptian-based organization dedicated to instituting Sharia law and a Muslim empire throughout the world, in part by means of violent jihad. According to an NYPD police spokesman, “some of the most dangerous Western Al Qaeda-linked/inspired terrorists since 9/11 were radicalized and/or recruited at universities in MSAs,” and more than a dozen former MSA leaders and members have been convicted of terrorist activities and plots. In addition, some pro-Palestinian UC students have expressed support for the Iranian regime, whose supreme religious leader recently called for the destruction of Israel and the annihilation of all Jews. In fact, one student who participated in the disruption of the Jewish students’ event at UC Davis can be seen holding an Iranian flag in the left-hand side of a video clip of the event.

About the Author: The AMCHA Initiative was founded by University of California faculty, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, Lecturer in Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University of California Santa Cruz, and Leila Beckwith, Professor Emeritus in Pediatrics at University of California Los Angeles. For more than 8 years, both women have been involved in academic and advocacy efforts to combat the rise of campus antisemitism. They have written articles and lectured in the U.S., Canada, and Israel about academic anti-Zionism and antisemitism.


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Last week, two shameful events occurred on University of California campuses that made Jewish students feel targeted, intimidated, harassed, and unsafe. We charge the UC administration with failing in their basic responsibilities – to protect Jewish students from a hostile environment and to ensure their rights to freedom of speech.

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