UC Intolerance Principles a Step in the Right Direction

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Contact:Tallie Ben Daniel | Phone: (510) 465-1777 | Email: tallie@jewishvoiceforpeace.org

UC Intolerance Principles a Step in the Right Direction

Jewish Voice for Peace commends the University of California for discussing anti-Semitism in the context of racism, Islamophobia, and other forms of bigotry

Irvine, CA (September 17, 2015)—Jewish Voice for Peace commends the University of California Regents for considering today a statement of principles against intolerance that articulate opposition to all forms of bigotry and hatred. While the statement of principles could be strengthened by a better analysis of how institutional structures, not just intolerance, perpetuate racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of hatred, we are pleased that the document under discussion includes strong provisions regarding protection of freedom of speech and academic freedom.

The statement under discussion at the UC Regents meeting today rightfully does not include the controversial State Department definition of anti-Semitism. This particular definition of anti-Semitism includes vague provisions that can and have been used to stifle legitimate criticism of the State of Israel, and falsely conflates Jewish people with the State of Israel. Advocates of this particular definition of anti-Semitism want it adopted explicitly because it would codify advocacy for Palestinian rights through the tactics of boycott, divestment and sanctions as anti-Semitic.

Eitan Peled, a student at UCLA and Israeli-American citizen, stated: “As a Jewish student on a UC campus, it is frustrating to hear Israel advocacy organizations make false claims that activism for Palestinian rights makes campuses a ‘hostile environment’ for Jewish students. Many of us are actively involved in solidarity work with Palestinian classmates, and we see how these charges are used in attempts to silence human rights advocacy. As an Israeli citizen, this could even be used to stifle me criticizing my own country.”

Dr. Tallie Ben Daniel, Academic Council Coordinator with Jewish Voice for Peace and UC alum, added “The institutionalized racism and Islamophobia on campus, and the repression against Arab and Muslim students who speak up for Palestinian rights is extremely concerning. As an alum and current instructor in the UC system, I value my students’ rights to open and frank discussion. I am concerned that some in the public comment session today seemed to prioritize the emotional discomfort of some Jewish students over academic inquiry into critical issues relating to Israel and Palestine.”

The Statement of Principles are a step in the right direction. The UC system as a whole can undoubtedly do more than to ensure that the UC system adequately addresses issues of intolerance and institutionalized discrimination on its campuses. For example, well-funded initiatives to recruit and retain faculty and students of color would be a welcome addition to these principles, as would initiatives to make the university system more welcoming to undocumented students and gender nonconforming students.

Jewish Voice for Peace encourages the UC Office of the President to continue talking to a diverse range of students as they discuss how best to oppose intolerance while continuing to protect academic freedom and freedom of speech, and implores the UC to refrain from adopting any definition of anti-Semitism that conflates Judaism with the State of Israel.

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Jewish Voice for Peace (www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org) is a national, grassroots organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for a just and lasting peace according to principles of human rights, equality, and international law for all the people of Israel and Palestine. Jewish Voice for Peace has over 200,000 online supporters, over 65 chapters, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Council, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S. intellectuals and artists.

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