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August 11, 2016 4:36 pm

Major Jewish Campus Groups Hail UC Irvine Decision to Implement Regents ‘Statement Against Intolerance’ as ‘Major Step’ in Combating Antisemitism, Anti-Zionism

avatar by Lea Speyer

Photo; UC Irvine.

Photo: UC Irvine.

The University of California, Irvine’s (UCI) recent announcement that it will begin to fully implement a groundbreaking statement against intolerance is a major step forward in combating campus antisemitism, the heads of two major Jewish campus groups told The Algemeiner on Thursday.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative — which combats, monitors and documents antisemitism at institutions of higher education in America — and Roz Rothstein, CEO and co-founder of  Israeli advocacy organization StandWithUs, praised the decision by UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman to adopt the UC Regents “Statement Against Intolerance,” which asserts in part that antisemitism and antisemitic forms of anti-Zionism “have no place at the University of California.”

“UCI’s announcement is a welcome development, and we thank Chancellor Gillman for being a leader in this regard,” Rothstein told The Algemeiner, while Rossman-Benjamin noted that Gillman is the “first of 10 UC chancellors to make the Regents statement a living document, giving it meaning on campus.”

UCI became the epicenter of controversy after the school played host to two major antisemitic and anti-Zionist events in May. As part of “Anti-Zionism Week 2016,” anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox sect Neturei Karta member Yisroel Dovid Weiss was invited to give an address to students, during which he invoked classic antisemitic tropes that were used with respect to Zionism and Zionists.

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Two weeks later, as The Algemeiner reported, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and other anti-Israel groups at UCI violently demonstrated against an event featuring IDF veterans and the screening of a movie about the Israeli army.

According to reports at the time, the protesters blockaded attendees and shouted, “Long live the intifada,” “f*** the police,” “displacing people since ‘48/ there’s nothing here to celebrate” and “all white people need to die.” One female student was harassed and chased, to the point that she was forced to take refuge inside a nearby building. Police were eventually called in, but allowed the protest to continue.

The incidents prompted 36 Jewish and civil rights organizations — led by AMCHA — to issue an open letter to UCI’s chancellor, demanding the school adopt the Regents statement.

“Right after that event, the coalition of 36 organizations wrote to Chancellor Gillman asking him to view it as an ongoing pattern and relationship between it and the one from the week before, during anti-Zionism week. This is an important relationship, because it highlights the way in which antisemitic anti-Zionism affects campus life and foments and incites actions against Jewish students,” Rossman-Benjamin said.

While not a policy document, the Regents statement is “aspirational, and really speaks to the issue of antisemitism and antisemitic anti-Zionism, treating them as any other form of discrimination, such as racism or homophobia,” Rossman-Benjamin told The Algemeiner.

Though it cannot be enforced by the UC Regents, the statement is very clear in “directing UC chancellors on the need to implement its policies and run with them,” Rossman-Benjamin said.

“The ball was put in the chancellors’ court, and it is up to each of them to take the document and make sure their campus policies, procedures and programs are consistent with the Regents statement to address the problem of campus intolerance and antisemitism, which is an important kind of intolerance not addressed well on UC campuses,” she said.

Rossman-Benjamin hopes that the nine other UC chancellors will “follow Gillman’s suit” and adopt the Regents recommendations. UCI said it will begin evaluating its policies and procedures on how best to implement the statement.

Rothstein said that only time will tell how UCI “translates words into action against intolerance this year.” She added, “We hope that this new UC Regents policy will be fully implemented across the UC system, so that Jewish and other students who face hate get the badly needed protections they deserve.”

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