JVP Statement Opposing CA Assembly Vote on Limiting Free Speech at UC
Applauds few legislators who refused to vote for deceptive resolution meant to limit criticism of Israeli policiesContact: JVP Deputy Director Cecilie Surasky, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jewish Voice for Peace Condemns CA Assembly Vote HR 35 Calling for Limiting Free Speech on UC Campuses
[OAKLAND—August 29, 2012] Jewish Voice for Peace is appalled that the CA State Assembly passed a resolution yesterday which was presented as a broad condemnation of anti-Semitism on UC campuses but which goes far beyond that in supporting putting limits on the free speech of students, faculty and community-members who criticize Israeli policies. ( See "Anti-Semitism resolution hits anti-Israel protestors", AP)
Cecilie Surasky, Jewish Voice for Peace Deputy Director: "This resolution wants the University of California system to treat Israel differently from virtually every other country in the world, including the United States, by claiming much criticism of Israeli policies is hate speech. If any legislator tried to introduced a similar resolution claiming criticism of Iran was anti-Muslim, or attacks on Utah were somehow anti-Mormon, they'd be laughed out of office. And rightly so.
That's one reason the Jewish community is completely divided on this issue —when the UC campus climate report on Jewish life referenced in the resolution made similar far-reaching recommendations to limit speech critical of Israel, the biggest pushback came from Jewish UC students, faculty and alum. The implications of limiting academic inquiry and free speech, even speech that makes some people uncomfortable, are deeply troubling. Just as alarming, this resolution cheapens the very serious charge of anti-Semitism."
Joining a coalition of civil and human rights groups, JVP sent this letter ( http://ca.cair.com/images/uploads/HR_35_Letter_to_Lawmakers.pdf) of concern to every member of the California Assembly.
Jewish Voice for Peace earlier called on University of California President Mark Yudof to table a recently released report on Jewish student campus climate and to disregard its controversial recommendations to limit free speech until a methodologically sound and even-handed report could be conducted.
The report, co-authored by Anti-Defamation League national education chairman Richard Barton and NAACP California president Alice Huffman, has come under heavy criticism by a number of groups, including many students and faculty members, for poor methodology and bias and for far-reaching recommendations that would chill free speech and academic freedom in order to silence organizing for Palestinian rights.
The UC Ad Hoc Committee on Jewish Campus Climate, a broad group of Jewish students, faculty and alum who have written an extensive critique of the report called for it to be tabled (see signers at link):
"...the report and recommendations it includes omit the experiences of many students and faculty in the Jewish community, grossly misrepresent educational initiatives focused on Israel and Palestine and political organizing in support of Palestinian rights, and threaten academic freedom on our campuses."
- UC grad Yaman Salahi and Israeli UC student Tom Pessah's op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle: Human rights advocacy is not hate speech.
- UC Santa Cruz student Rebecca Peirce's op-ed in J Weekly,
- U.C. report on Jewish campus climate: Results marginalize, misrepresent students critical of Israel
- UC Berkeley grad student Sarah Anne Minkin debates Rick Barton, co-author of report, on Southern California Public Radio
- Yaman Salahi, Al Jazeera, The echo chamber of campus anti-Semitism
- Remi Kanazi, Al Jazeeera, Silencing pro-Palestinian speech on campus
- Annette Asimov, San Francisco Chronicle, UC Report on Anti-Semitism draws ire.
- Naomi Zeveloff, The Forward, U. of Calif. Weighs Banning 'Hate' Speech
The UC system is a key battleground for groups that seek to limit criticism of Israeli policies. They see UC as a testing ground for efforts to silence debate that include intimidating students and professors, making unsubstantiated claims of anti-Semitism against those critical of Israeli policies, encouraging legal action against schools and student protestors and so on.
While some Jewish students feel uncomfortable with public criticism of Israeli policies, whether articulated by other Jews or non-Jewish students, that does not make that criticism anti-Semitic. The answer is more speech and enhanced communication, not limiting speech in order to avoid the discomfort of some students.
Jewish Voice for Peace is a national grassroots peace organization dedicated to promoting a US foreign policy in the Middle East based on peace, democracy, human rights and respect for international law. With offices in Oakland and NY, over 115,000 online activists, 35 chapters and a Rabbi's Council, JVP’s board of advisors includes Judith Butler, Tony Kushner, Ed Asner, Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, Eve Ensler and others.
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