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May 19, 2015 2:28 pm

Hundreds of UC Alums Join 23 Groups Urging Schools to Adopt State Department Antisemitism Definition

avatar by Eliezer Sherman

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University of California, Riverside is offering a course that meets the US State Department definition of antisemitism. Photo: Amerique via Wikimedia Commons.

Fueling a roiling debate over antisemitism on college campuses, more than 500 alumni from the University of California wrote a letter to UC President Janet Napolitano on Tuesday urging the UCs to adopt a number of measures to rein in antisemitic acts against students.

Joining a coalition of 23 organizations that simultaneously sent a missive to the UC president, the alumni called on UC administrators to adopt the State Department definition of antisemitism, which includes the demonization or delegitimization of Israel along with a more religious or ethnic prejudice or hatred directed against Jews.

The students called on the UCs to train campus staff and authorities to “identify anti-Semitic behavior, and direct them to develop clear protocols for addressing campus antisemitism with the same promptness and vigor as they do other forms of racial, ethnic, and gender bigotry and discrimination.”

They called for greater on-campus initiatives aiming to educate students about antisemitism and anti-Jewish behavior.

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“No student should feel harassed, intimidated, threatened or marginalized. We implore you to better protect Jewish students at the University of California,” they said, commending three UC student bodies for adopting resolutions condemning antisemitism.

The alumni letter came just a day after 57 rabbis from California and 104 UC faculty members sent a similar request to UC administrators urging the adoption of the State Department definition, which appears to be at the crux of the debate.

Critics of a resolution based on the State Department definition say it would restrict students’ ability to criticize Israel on campus.

An open letter by more than 250 members of Jewish Voice for Peace asked the State Department to amend its definition fearing it could be used to “silence critics of Israel.” Other critics have said lumping together criticism of Israel with genuine antisemitism would undermine real instances of antisemitic behavior.

Meanwhile, a similar bill calling on the UCs to adopt a resolution condemning antisemitism on campus was presented to the California state senate in late March, and passed the first hurdle.

The Brandeis Center released a report earlier this year together with Trinity College indicating that at least 54% of Jewish students experienced or witnessed antisemitic behavior on campus in 2014.

Many believe a situation where faculty or campus groups strongly criticize the Jewish state for its policies in the West Bank or Gaza Strip has created an environment where Jewish students feel threatened in class, on campus or in their residences.

Flyers discovered around UC Santa Barbara last October blamed the Mossad for causing the 9/11 terror attacks.

Swastikas were discovered daubed on a fraternity at UC Davis just a few months ago.

And protesting Israeli policies, Students for Justice in Palestine has erected fake checkpoints across the UCs, even spurring one student at UC Los Angeles to file a complaint over “harassment.”

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  • Susan H Somerville

    Combating anti-Semitism on the UC campuses will set an example for other colleges and universities in the US and Canada to follow suit, which is an important step in the education and moral fiber of American and Canadian students.
    This kind of positive action on the part of UC alumni, professors, students, and community members is long overdue. but let’s hope that it is not too late.

  • BRYNABABY

    The BDS campaign is not simply criticizing Israel policies, they are inventing Israeli policies, fomenting lies, distortions and inaccuracies about Israel that definately make anti-Zionism and anti-semitism, one and the same!!

  • The resurrection of Israel is divine,is a miracle!! It is the confirmation of the promise of HASHEM to return His people to the promised land.
    Hashem, has presented Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish people on a silver platter,but the logic of the non believers are against of the idea of a miracle.
    They do not accept the interference of HASHEM.
    They believe that they know better, and here is the problem.
    The Jewish people alone can not stand against the whole world.Israel without Hashem will be destroyed.
    Here is a war between Hashem and the nonbelievers.
    Hashem will be the victor.

  • brenrod

    It is not the criticism of Israel that is the problem, it is the exaggeration,lies, libels and slander which incite anti semitism. Those telling the lies should be made to pay, brought to justice just as a radio commentator was convicted of inciting to genocide in Rwanda by the ICC. The libelers should be considered to be inciting genocide in the same way the euro churches incited pogroms with their blood libels.

  • Edward J . Alweis

    What is being done about Jewish faculty who support anti-Israel activities claiming they are not anti-Semitic acts?

    • BRYNABABY

      They should be subject to the same disciplines, firings, condemnations, etc. that non-Jewish faculty should be subject to (and too often aren’t!)

  • SARA RIFKA

    PERHAPS CALIFORNIA SHOULD SLIDE INTO THE OCEAN…….WHERE ARE ALL THE VOICES OF JEWISH PEOPLE WHO LIVE, MAKE MONEY, PASSIONATELY RESIDE IN MULTI MILLION DOLLAR RESIDENCES,,,MAKE MOVIES AND CLAIM TO BE JEWISH…ALTHOUGH ONLY THEIR FATHERS CAN CLAIM THIS DESIGNATION…..SICK…..SICK.

    THIS SHOULD NOT EVEN BE A COMMENT…NOR SHOULD IT EVEN HAVE POWER………SO ON BEHALF OF A CANADIAN…..I THINK THE JEWS IN CALIFORNIA AND IN AMERICA SHOULD LOOK INTO THE MIRROR AND ASK SEVERAL QUESTIONS.

    WHY DID WE INVITE OBAMA TO FRONT AND CENTRE…..

  • AS Jews we must stand together or fall divided. Adopt the State Department definition.

  • Lauren Goldman

    Students for Justice in ‘Palestine’ and Jewish Voice for Peace are ‘palestinian’ front organizations, along with J Street, and The New York Times is their media outlet. They send activists to every event concerning Israel, where they shout down speakers and just disrupt the venue. Of course, their aim is to appear large and intimidating and to dominate the dialog concerning Jews and Israel. Most of the pro-‘palestinian’ on-campus actions are populated with a large percentage of non-students who wear masks, yet there is no mention of this lack of security. Perhaps all funds for these institutions, provided by Jewish individuals and foundations, should be immediately frozen until the issue of anti-Semitism is addressed and resolved. There is no reason to support entities which allow threats to and intimidation of our children.

  • Gershon Gerrit Polak

    How can I moderate such an experience?

  • Gershon Gerrit Polak

    As a young boy after WWO11 I was called Jewboy.
    When I told these youngsters that I was proud to be a Jew, they never called me anything like that again!
    Today after 60 years I meet them ones a year and they could’t be nicer

  • CGG

    At last! There’s some indication that UC students (at least some alums) have brains! How sad that administrators let this BS go on so long. Their job is to ensure the well-being of all students. I can only surmise why they let Jewish students endure harassment and marginalization not only by their peers, but also by some professors. This is a shameful chapter in UC’s history.

  • Dear Students and 23 Coledge’s who stand for the Just Right every Jewish or Non Jewish student’;s is entitled too. To all be treated with Respect. We must learn how to live together and through Education of the knowledge and History of the Jewish Race. getstu9

  • Scott

    If there is an online petition to assist the UC Alums group, please someone post it on this comment section.
    I, as a UC Alim would like to lend my voice to the petition.
    Thanks in advance….

    • thyme s siegel

      All who want to sign a petition asking University of California administration to adopt the U.S. State Department definition of anti-semitism[Jew-hatred] should go to the Amcha Initiative website to sign. Alumni of UC are especially encouraged to sign the petition and indicate their alumni status and year of graduation.Start a similiar petition at your own alma mater… Todah Rabah. Thank you.

  • Julian Clovelley

    There is a difficult problem built into the use of the term “antisemitism”, and that is that this mid nineteenth century term is very poorly defined. Whilst persecution of people regarding themselves as, or regarded as, “Jewish” people has been undeniable by any sane person, and unacceptable in the mind of any rational individual, the act of taking the word for granted creates enormous problems when it comes to any kind of campaign against it. The defining of the term antisemitism is far too wrapped up in the concurrent development of Zionism.

    To a traditional Jew, who may see himself the possessor of a special unique Genealogy, the definition no doubt seems obvious – most especially if his religious worldview is itself constructed within the traditions of synagogue Judaism. But law requires clearer definition than that provided by an interested group’s cultural assertions and assumptions

    That is the kind of problem that resulted in Amnesty International’s membership in the UK going against the views of the managing committee of the organisation, and voting down a resolution relating to “antisemitism”

    There has to be a huge justification for singling “antisemitism” out from any other form of racial prejudice – a minefield of debate that cannot avoid challenging the traditional Jewish view of themselves. Such is “law” and such is “academia”

    The definition supplied by the US Department of State really isn’t good enough when it comes to being universally applied, in that it contains the built in assumptions of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, and then adds its own.

    In all this I think closer calm regard should be paid to the dilemma that Amnesty International’s UK membership displayed. A University is bound by the requirements of its intellectual standard to consider all approaches and definitions. Amnesty members already uncomfortably trod on that ground

    Any approach that is based on “antisemitism” per se is bound to open up the full existential question of what is a “Jew” – all well and good if the Jewish community is ready for that – a potential disaster if it is not. What I would most caution the community is that many people, both within the Jewish community and outside, do not share the internal Jewish traditional view of what constitutes the term “Jewish” – and therefore the internal definition of what antisemitism actually is.

    It is a worthwhile debate but one better avoided in the context of the immediate protection and security here sought, and to which all persons should be entitled, whoever they – or anyone else – thinks they are.

    • Elizabeth Wajnberg

      This little disquisition is a common academic attempt to vaporize the identity of a people that has been around longer than any European and many other.

      Let’s not use “anti-Semitic” which is out of fashion on campus. Let’s use racist. This is racist.

      • cba

        Or plain, clear “Jew-hatred”

      • Julian Clovelley

        “Racist”is a far better term – and a far better way to approach the problem

        Set aside the nineteenth century creation of a modern concept of “Jewish”. that is so dependent on a faulty approach to Genealogy, and creates the ludicrous concept of an exclusive Genealogical stream going back four thousand years – and we have the realisation that what we are dealing with are religious concepts with no historical foundation – hardly unusual in any religion.

        This means that in reality the prejudice against Jews has no realistic basis at all – it is based in two fallacies – one held by the victim and the other an echo in and by the perpetrator of the racist act. The core of the problem is each sees the victim as “the other” – that is the “Jew” incorrectly sees himself as different when he is not, thereby reinforcing the prejudice in the perpetrator who sees the Jew as “the other”

        Grasp that, and there is a possibility that the insane prejudice misnamed “antisemitism” can be eradicated permanently. On the Jewish side the sacrifice required is the rejection of Zionism and the taking of an alternative path into the future in which Jew and Gentile are partners initially and then there is neither Jew nor Gentile.

    • zadimel

      The deliberately circumspect,precautional and,self-possessed paronomasia expresses much ignorance of the complexities of the Jewish peoples,their beliefs and historical presence in ancient Judea.

  • maIsh goretsky

    Recall Meyer Lansky’s response to the german bund
    in the late 30’s.

    Hatred ,due to ignorance an pathology, will never turn into love.

    Iwould much prefer that we are feared to being loved.

    Jabotinsky and Began would understand what kind of response is required.

  • Jackson

    It’s about time.

  • steven L

    BDS = Racism must be handled by the US congress who should vote a bill and applied to all institutions receiving federal and state funds as well towards any country condoning, supporting or financing BDS and BDS-like activities i.e.: antisemitic NGOs from the West and EU in particular but not exclusively.

  • Peter Rosen

    On the campus of UCSD, last week, I experienced the wall of protest against Israel that I found disturbing. It is one thing to protest policies that you feel are incorrect, but the posters depicting Jewish apartheid, and blaming Jews for the death of Palestinians seems very propogandistic, and certainly felt Antisemitic to me. As an emeritus faculty at UCSD, I don’t remember this kind of anti jewish feeling from when I was full time on campus.

  • I applaud this effort, but am pessimistic about the resolution’s prospects. UC faculty and students are at best, uninformed about anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, taking the liberal or leftist view of the underdog. I have rarely met a UC employee or student who knew much about the subject, except to follow the Left line. I say this as a Ph.D. from the History Department at UCLA. Like the characters of Mad Men, they are men and women on the make. http://clarespark.com/2010/10/24/mad-men-and-the-jewish-problem/.

    • Julian Clovelley

      To be honest , I have rarely met a “Jew” who has not left the religion behind who has the first idea about the problem

  • deborah

    beautiful, it is about time.

  • 10

    THE JEWS ARE FREE AND PROTECTED AND YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DEAL WITH THE DISOLVED PALESTINIANS THEY ARE USING THE OLD THREATS TO KEEP ISRAEL AND THE JEWS WITH THEM.

  • 10

    SUGAR AND SALT BELONGS TO GOD AND DELIBERATELY ADDING TOO MUCH OF IT IN MANY FOODS AND DRINKS NOT NEEDED. MANISCHEWITZ TO ASK THE COMPANY TO PUT LESS SUGAR IN THEIR WINES. AVOIDING THE EXTREME AND KEEPING MODERATION.

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