Jewish, Pro-Israel Groups Denounce Exclusion by Cal Poly Student Collective Opposed to ‘Zionist Ideology’
Jewish and Zionist groups at the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo condemned on Thursday an attempt to exclude their community following a racially-charged incident on campus.
After a photo of a Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity member in blackface surfaced earlier this month, a student group called the Drylongso Collective published a set of demands for the administration, “in consultation with … the Black Student Union” (BSU).
That list included a call for increased “funding for ALL cultural clubs, with the exception of organizations that are aligned with Zionist ideology.”
The demand drew concern from members of the university’s Jewish and pro-Israel community, including Hillel of San Luis Obispo, Chabad of Cal Poly, Mustangs United for Israel, Alpha Epsilon Phi, and Alpha Epsilon Pi.
“No one deserves to be targeted because of their race, religion, identity, or culture, especially on our campus,” the groups — which previously pulled out of a cultural fair in solidarity with the BSU — wrote in a letter.
“For 2,000 years, the Jewish people were forced into Diaspora and subjected to oppression throughout the world,” they explained. “Zionism is the response to this, and the ancient belief that the Jewish people have the right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland.”
“With this in mind, many from the Cal Poly Jewish community have been deeply hurt” by the inclusion of anti-Zionist language “within the list of otherwise agreeable demands” by the Drylongso Collective, the groups continued.
They noted that civil rights attorneys and Cal Poly’s Associated Students, Inc., a student services organization, “have confirmed that excluding clubs associated with Zionist ideology is illegal” — claiming, specifically, that it represents a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“The European Union, the U.S. State Department, and many others recognize denying Israel’s right to exist as a form of anti-Semitism,” the groups observed. “While Jews around the world disagree deeply about almost every issue, support for Israel’s existence is one of the few issues on which the vast majority agree.”
They appeared to dismiss a defense released by the Drylongso Collective following criticism that it unfairly targeted Zionist students, which noted that Jewish members of the collective were involved in authoring the list of demands. “The approval of an anti-Zionist clause by one or more Jewish students does not invalidate the hurt felt by other Cal Poly Jewish students,” the groups wrote. “We will not stand idly by and we will not let any Zionist, Jewish, or any other minority students feel marginalized or attacked on our campus.”
The incident drew similar concerns from CAMERA on Campus, an education organization focused on Israel and the Middle East.
In a statement shared on Tuesday, CAMERA related that representatives for Mustangs United for Israel, to which it provides support, had earlier spoken to the secretary of Cal Poly’s Multicultural Center, “who acknowledged that excluding Zionist clubs from the list of demands is illegal” and that the demand would be removed.
A spokesperson for the university likewise told the Algemeiner on Friday that targeting Zionist groups “is inconsistent with Cal Poly’s values and is not something the university will consider.”
However, last Friday, the Multicultural Center had publicly shared “a one-sided statement” released by four faculty members who lead Cal Poly’s Women’s and Gender Studies Department, CAMERA pointed out. The faculty letter expressed “solidarity with the BSU and the Drylongso Collective,” and did not acknowledge the targeting of clubs “that are aligned with Zionist ideology.”
It also included a 2015 statement from the National Women’s Studies Association, released following the organization’s endorsement of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.
BDS describes itself as an effort “to isolate Israel academically, culturally, economically and militarily.” While supporters say it seeks to pressure Israel into complying with international law, many leading Jewish communal groups have denounced the campaign for denying the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.
“We demand that the center publicly declare their intentions of removing the illegal language” in the Drylongso Collective’s list of demands, CAMERA urged. “Whether it be nationality, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or otherwise, discrimination of any form is absolutely unacceptable.”
The Drylongso Collective did not immediately respond to a request for comment.