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September 18, 2015 6:46 pm

UC Regents Reject Resolution on Intolerance for Failing to Mention Antisemitism

avatar by Eliezer Sherman

UC President Janet Napolitano. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

UC President Janet Napolitano. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

University of California regents roundly rejected a “statement of principles against intolerance” presented at the UC regents’ September meeting for failing to specifically address the problem of antisemitism across California’s public universities.

The UC leaders scrapped the statement and resolved to launch a consultative “process” by students, faculty, chancellors and stakeholders to come up with an alternative resolution aimed at tackling intolerance and, perhaps, specifically the growing phenomenon of antisemitism on campus, which is often tied to issues surrounding the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Critics of the statement expressed shock that the page and a half document on intolerance, which was drawn up by UC Provost Aimee Dorr and Vice Provost for Diversity and Engagement Yvette Gullatt, failed to define antisemitism, though it was the victims of anti-Jewish abuse that had pushed the regents to discuss the issue in the first place. Dorr explained that antisemitism was left out of the statement over concerns of “inclusion.”

According to Adjunct Professor Gary Fouse of University of Irvine, who was present at the meeting and testified, most of the regents who commented on the statement following several testimonials by students and other interested parties blasted it for failing to address the Jewish community’s concerns.

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Regent Norman Pattiz said it was “insulting” that the very group who raised the issue in the first place was completely left out of the statement meant to address its concerns. According to Fouse, Regent Bonnie Reiss assured those who offered testimonials that “We need to tell you we hear you,” adding that the statement on intolerance should reflect these concerns.

During student testimonials, regents heard about incidents across the UC campuses: at UC Berkeley, “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber” was scrawled on a bathroom wall; at UC Los Angeles, a candidate for student government’s eligibility was questioned over her Jewish faith; at UC Santa Barbara, flyers blaming Jews for 9/11 were scattered around campus; at UC Davis, the university’s Hillel House was vandalized with graffiti that read “grout out the Jews,” just around the time the school’s student council was voting to divest from Israel.

Activist Tammi Rosman-Benjamin has been leading the nonprofit AMCHA Initiative’s efforts to urge the UC regents to adopt the State Department definition of antisemitism, which includes language identifying the demonization, delegitmization and holding a double standard of Israel as antisemitic. While UC President Janet Napolitano expressed guarded support for adopting the definition during an NPR interview earlier this year, incorporating the State Department definition has faced criticism by groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace that allege it could stifle open political debate so integral to campus life.

Speaking to the Algemeiner, Rossman-Benjamin reiterated that the “State Department definition is the single most authoritative and useful mechanism for recognizing antisemitism,” but doubted whether the final resolution would use the State Department’s language.

Jewish Voice for Peace meanwhile expressed concern over the UC Regents meeting’s focus on antisemitism above “other forms of bigotry and intolerance on campuses.”

“The way much of the discussion went made it very clear to us that this is not just a debate about how best to oppose intolerance, but much more about a divide between those who want to shut down criticism of Israeli policies and those who want to engaging in meaningful political debates. Going forward, we are concerned that only one Jewish voice is being heard — there is no monolithic Jewish opinion on anything, particularly when it comes to Israel, and it is vitally important to understand that there is a distinction between demonization of Jewish people and political criticism of Israel’s policies as a country,” the group said in a statement to The Algemeiner. 


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