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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘UCSD’

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

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin lives and teaches in the belly of the beast, and although she is on faculty, her position as lecturer of Hebrew Language at the University of California, Santa Cruz means she has practically no political pull.

But Rossman-Benjamin is not easily deterred.

For years the Jewish instructor has been trying, in her own, respectful, non-confrontational way, to right a serious wrong she sees and hears from students about, on the California campuses: rank anti-Semitism. First she filed a Complaint in 2009, and then, just two weeks ago, filed an Appeal from the Office of Civil Rights refusal to act on her Complaint.

IN 2010, DEPT OF EDUC. EXTENDED CIVIL RIGHTS LAWS TO PROTECT JEWS FROM DISCRIMINATION

And in fact, there was good news on the legal front in the past few years: a much heralded announcement regarding the Civil Rights laws, by which the U.S. Department of Education extended legal protection from discrimination to Jews.

But a decision in August by the Office of Civil Rights to close the file on Rossman-Benjamin’s Complaint, coincidentally on the same day and for the same reasons it rejected two other Complaints filed alleging anti-Jewish discrimination against California colleges, may well mean that the legal protection extended to protect Jews from discrimination in education has been rolled back up.

The Office of Civil Rights has thus once again shut its door to Jews discriminated against – whether through overt action or by the creation of a hostile environment – on U.S. college campuses.

Rossman-Benjamin carefully documents dozens of examples of discriminatory behavior creating a hostile environment for Jewish students qua Jews in the Appeal she filed less than two weeks ago.

But here’s the real issue: Rossman-Benjamin is not focused on the nastiness of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic students, her concern – indeed the sole focus of a complaint she filed with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights – is the official sponsorship of such actions, activities and antagonisms by the universities themselves.

Inexplicably, the OCR chose to ignore the essence of Rossman-Benjamin’s claim. Instead, it pretended that the professor was complaining about student behavior, and then rejected the complaint as unworthy of its review because, according to the OCR, Rossman-Benjamin was complaining about First Amendment protected speech.

The fact that other “First Amendment protected speech” was deemed worthy of review and indeed, nearly immediate corrective action and investigations both by the universities and the OCR, when the speech was directed at groups other than Jews, is very much a significant aspect of Rossman-Benjamin’s appeal.

But first, let’s look at the main focus of Rossman-Benjamin’s complaint, and how the OCR responded.

THE UNDERLYING COMPLAINT, FILED IN 2009

Rossman-Benjamin’s 2009 Complaint charged that professors, academic departments and residential colleges at the California universities were promoting and encouraging anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish views and behavior, and creating a hostile environment for Jewish students, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Specific examples of anti-Semitic behavior in the Complaint included:

ZIONISM AS PROMOTING ETHNIC CLEANSING

(1)  The university department-sponsored “A Teach in on Islamophobia: Between the War on Terror and Arab Revolution,” sponsored by the Asian Diasporas Research Clustier of the Institute for Humanities Research and by the UC Center for New Racial Studies, as well as various anti-Israel organizations, such as the Students for Justice in Palestine.

At this teach-in, both panelists blamed Israel and American Zionist organizations and individuals for contributing to Islamophobia to silence all criticism of Israel; one panelist referred to Israel as a “colonial settler state” whose Zionist ideology promotes “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid,” and said that anyone who “challenged these ‘truths’ is engaging in Islamophobia and racism.”

OFFICIAL PROMOTION OF THE FREEDOM FLOTILLA TO BREAK ISRAEL’S BLOCKADE OF GAZA

Debra Ellis, the university official responsible for coordinating educational events at the California campus at which this event took place, was seated at a table promoting a U.S. boat to Gaza as part of the Freedom Flotilla II.  Ellis handed out copies of a letter she wrote, encouraging students to go to the official U.S. Boat to Gaza website, to endorse the effort to launch a U.S. boat to Gaza, to “write letters to Gaza” that would be transported on the boat, and to write federal, state and city representatives, encouraging them to endorse the campaign.

The BDS State of Mind

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

Visit http://israelcampusbeat.org for the latest Israel trends and events on campus.

Pronouncements attempting to appeal to the conscience of academics supportive of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement often depict Israel as a Nazi-like state. These views — once labeled extreme — have become increasingly mainstream as academics call for Israel’s destruction, not by might or power but by bad analogies and misguided ideas.

A careful look at the BDS movement and its methodology shows not legitimate criticism but a movement that is racist and anti-Semitic. Why? BDS clearly targets Israel. Its stated goals vary but all include the “right of return” for Palestinian “refugees.” The effort is cloaked to give the impression that ending specific Israeli policies, such as the “occupation” or “apartheid,” would also end efforts to ostracize Israel. Yet their maximalist demand — the flood of Palestinian refugees, which would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state — is carefully hidden.

In February 2012, the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) student government defeated, for the third year running, a resolution calling on the University system to divest from US companies that supply Israel’s defense forces. The Associated Students of UCSD heard public debate on a resolution brought forth by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) calling for the school to divest from General Electric and Northrop Grumman because they supply components of Apache helicopters sold to Israel, which then uses them to “violate” Palestinian human rights and expand the “occupation.”

UCSD Professor Shlomo Dubnov, who heads the campus chapter of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, spoke out against the divestment. Consequently, on March 2, SJP leaders sent a letter of complaint to faculty, administration and members of the UCSD Campus Climate Council “to address the hostile campus climate being created for students of color and students from underserved and underrepresented communities.” Five student organizations also made claims against UCSD professors and staff who spoke against the resolution, stating that “while we understand that it is a public meeting, for them to refer to themselves in their position as ‘UCSD staff’ or ‘UCSD professor’ is uncalled for. They used their positions as University employees to verbally attack students and to even erase the existence of many individuals in the room.”

This tactic to silence pro-Israel professors through claims of intimidation and legal threats is of great concern, not only to the individuals who might be forced to think twice before speaking out but to the universities themselves.

All of this makes combating BDS complicated and confusing, especially for those who want to believe that there is room for debating the “facts” presented by BDS supporters. What makes this battle so arduous for the pro-Israel community — and so attractive for Israel detractors — is the umbrella of academic freedom, which makes it “legitimate” to debate all aspects of Israel, from specific policies to its elimination altogether.

Institutions of higher education should be bastions of critical thinking, and academic freedom should not be selectively used as a bludgeon against pro-Israel speech and a “get-out-of-jail-free card” for anti-Israel speech. Academic freedom has already been manipulated to mean that anti-Israel ideologues have nearly complete license to propagandize in the classroom. Now efforts to exercise free speech and push back are being criminalized as “intimidation.”

If there is an upside, it is that the pro-Israel community has redrawn the lines of acceptable discourse. While not everyone agrees with the policies of the Israeli government, a consensus has emerged over the basic belief of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Ultimately, BDS does not employ legitimate criticism but, in essence, questions Israel’s very existence.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/on-campus-indepth/the-bds-state-of-mind/2012/07/22/

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