UC President Napolitano Supports Adopting State Department Definition of Antisemitism
University of California President Janet Napolitano said on Thursday that she agreed with a UC-wide condemnation of antisemitism according to the State Department definition of Jew hatred, which includes denying Israel’s right to exist.
When asked by Boston public radio’s Here and Now program whether she supported such a resolution on antisemitism, which would include demonizing, delegitimizing or applying a double to standard to the Jewish state, Napolitano said, “My personal view is that we should.”
“I think there’s a serious point raised there,” she said, adding that the issue “is actually going to be on the board of regents agenda at its July meeting.”
Campus antisemitism watchdog Amcha Initiative quickly praised the stance taken by Napolitano, who became UC president in 2013 after resigning from the department of homeland security.
“We strongly commend Janet Napolitano for joining three UC student governments and the California Senate in understanding that we must implement our government’s definition of antisemitism on campus to identify and address antisemitic behavior with the same vigor as all other forms of bigotry,” said Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, co-founder and director of Amcha, in a statement.
Amcha was one of 23 groups that sent a letter to Napolitano this week, urging the UC president to support the adoption of the State Department definition.
Napolitano’s comments came as the California state senate was quickly moving to pass a bill urging the UCs to do the same.
Student governments at UCs Berkeley, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara all adopted resolutions strongly condemning antisemitism on campus. But activism encouraging anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions measures have also increased across campuses.
UC Davis’ student senate adopted BDS measures earlier this year, though the motion was overturned by the campus court, which said the student senate had overreached..
Amcha said that antisemitic behavior has “dramatically increased” on UC campuses where anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns have been launched.
Incidents of antisemitism this past year on campuses include swastikas painted on a fraternity at UC Davis, flyers that accuse the Mossad of being behind the 9/11 terror attacks, and demonstrations by pro-Palestinian student groups that some students have said involved harassment of Jewish students.
Critics of adopting the State Department definition of antisemitism say it unfairly conflates antisemitism with opposing Israeli policies, and squashes political debate on campus.