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July 21, 2021 4:49 pm
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UCLA Faculty Group Decries ‘Hateful and Offensive’ Asian American Studies Dept. Statement Slamming Israel

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

The entrance of UCLA. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Nine UCLA faculty members issued a letter on Monday denouncing a statement by the Asian American Studies department that condemned Israeli “settler colonialism” and accused the Jewish state of supporting Asians and Asian Americans to “yellow-wash” its reputation.

On May 21, the school’s Asian American studies program posted the “statement of solidarity with Palestine” on its department website, condemning the recent hostilities between Israel and Hamas as “the latest manifestation of seventy-three years of settler colonialism, racial apartheid, and occupation.”

It also condemned the “exchange of military tactics and financial support” between Israel and the US, and alleged that Israel “has too often upheld its support of Asian and Asian American individuals as proof of multicultural democracy, over and against the ethnic cleansing of Palestine via a process of ‘yellow-washing.'”

Monday’s letter, signed by nine professors calling themselves the Faculty Committee for Academic Integrity, said the Asian American Studies statement was both “hateful and offensive” as well as a breach of the duties of an academic department.

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“Individual University faculty members are, of course, free to take public stands on political controversies,” the letter said. “But for an academic department to do so is certainly ethically wrong, and almost certainly a violation of university policy and California law.”

It was addressed to University of California President Michael Drake, and signed by computer scientist Judea Pearl, chemical and biomolecular engineering professor Yoram Cohen, and law school professor Neil Netanel, among others.

The group cited school policy that it argued forbids faculty from using university assets to endorse or advance political views, as well as state law that it said prohibits the same from those using the Regents of the University of California name.

Beyond its legality, they continued, the statement “does harm to students and to the environment of mutual respect, diversity and inclusion that should characterize all academic programs.”

“This is particularly troubling in the present case, in which political disagreement is entangled with ethnic identity,” it said. “Jewish students who identify with Israel and who are Asian-American studies majors, or even enrolled in one of the department’s classes, can now expect, quite reasonably that their academic careers will suffer because of their beliefs or identity.”

Tweeting about the letter’s release on Monday, Judea Pearl commented, “When a student union is hijacked by BDS cronies, students suffer but the university continues to function. When an academic department is hijacked, the university is dismembered, marking the end of higher education. A group of us decided enough is enough.”

A UCLA spokesperson declined to comment.

In a statement to the Jewish Journal, UC President Drake said he “appreciated the concerns raised by the authors of the letter,” and that the university would “continue to ensure that its campuses are welcoming, inclusive spaces for all students as UC continues its rich tradition of free speech and diversity of thought.”

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