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November 3, 2016 8:04 am

Faculty, Alumni Join Human Rights Organizations in Demanding Eradication of Anti-Zionist Indoctrination in U of California Classrooms

avatar by Lea Speyer

University of California President Janet Napolitano. Photo: Office of the President, University of California.

University of California President Janet Napolitano. Photo: Office of the President, University of California.

A mass appeal to the University of California (UC) system to stop the “growing and worrisome trend” of anti-Zionist faculty members using their classrooms as political platforms is underway, the head of a campus watchdog group told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin — co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative and a UC faculty member — was referring to two letters, signed by various organizations and alumni, imploring UC President Janet Napolitano to enforce existing policies prohibiting “the advance of personal interests” and  “indoctrination” in the classroom.

In a letter sent on Tuesday — spearheaded by AMCHA — members of 47 religious, civil rights, education and research organizations, and 176 UC faculty said they are “deeply troubled” by how “faculty members responsible for overseeing course content…are failing to exercise due diligence in reviewing and approving courses either because they share the anti-Zionist political perspective of the proselytizing instructors and faculty and condone the promotion of that perspective in the classroom, or because they hope to avoid the controversy that rejecting the courses could initiate.”

In addition, the letter said, on “at least four UC campuses, entire departments are dominated by faculty who have publicly endorsed a boycott of Israeli universities and scholars…[and] have misused academic programming on their campuses to promote the political program of BDS.”

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In a second letter sent on Tuesday — organized by the Alums for Campus Fairness, a national network engaged in combating antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment on campus, in partnership with Israel advocacy organization StandWithUs — 590 UC alumni denounced various course offerings as part of “obvious efforts to delegitimize Israel and advocate for the anti-Zionist causes that has taken root among many UC faculties.”

According to Rossman-Benjamin, UC has “very clear policies about what is and isn’t allowed to be taught in the classroom.” Political indoctrination by anti-Zionist faculty members, she said, “completely corrupts the mission of the university.”

“Everybody is entitled to have opinions — that is the beauty of living in the United States — but as UC faculty, we are not paid to express those opinions,” she said. “There is no such thing as free speech in the classroom. You cannot use your position and taxpayer dollars that support you in that position to promote your own personal political agenda. Yet these anti-Zionist professors wrap the mantle of academic freedom very tightly around themselves and say they have the right to say whatever they want about Israel, which many times borders on antisemitism.”

Fear of reprisal prevents more people from speaking out against the phenomenon, she said.

“Students are beholden to their professors for grades, recommendations and even for their careers. They don’t want to upset the balance, which is understandable,” she said. “Faculty see how nasty and vicious some of the anti-Israel boycotters can be, how they go after professors, target them as part of their anti-normalization campaign and defame them.” 

Such fear, she said, often leads to apathy.

The two letters sent to Napolitano come on the heels of an openly anti-Zionist course offered this year at UC Berkeley, which — as The Algemeiner reported, was suspended then reinstated — and an almost identical one at UC Riverside last year.  

The UC system, as reported by The Algemeiner, recently came under scrutiny as a “hotbed” of antisemitism and anti-Zionism. According to a Brandeis University report on campus antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment across the US, the UC system ranked among the top colleges at which Jewish students “perceive a hostile environment.”

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