UC Regents Statement on Intolerance Misses the Mark
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Naomi Dann | firstname.lastname@example.org | 845-377-5745
March 15, 2016–The draft statement of principles on intolerance released by the University of California Regents working group fails in its stated goals to provide guidance for UC administrators to challenge all forms of discrimination and hatred. The draft statement, which should be about protecting all UC students from bigotry, is the product of a flawed process driven by the agenda of those whose intent is to suppress student activism in support of Palestinian human rights. The experts consulted by the working group who drafted this report do not reflect the diversity of the University of California student body, and their role clearly indicates that the main goal of this process has been to codify legitimate political criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic.
The preamble to the principles explicitly defines anti-Zionism as a form of discrimination and anti-Semitism, which is both inaccurate and harmful to free speech. Anti-Zionism critiques the action and history of a nation-state, not the Jewish people. In fact, there has been debate and dissent within the Jewish community over the political ideology of Zionism for as long as it has existed.
A letter to the UC Regents signed by over 250 faculty, notes that, “In our view, criticisms of Zionism, a political set of beliefs and national ideology, has a complex history that has developed for over a century, and it is not to be conflated with anti-Semitism. States such as Israel and the United States are openly criticized in public life, and their political beliefs and policies are subject to critical debate, in accord with our basic First Amendment rights. The definition of “anti-Zionism” as intolerance and/or bigotry is vague and overbroad…This effort to reduce anti-Zionism to bigotry, if successful, would shut down thoughtful inquiry, undermine our educational mission, and limit thoughtful and open public debate on an issue of great public importance.”
Given the current political climate of elevated rhetoric and violence against Black, Muslim, Latino and Arab students, it is remarkable that the main form of discrimination highlighted in the report and the principles is anti-Semitism. As Tallie Ben Daniel, Jewish Voice for Peace’s academic council coordinator noted: “This statement of principles should demonstrate that the UC Regents is as committed to challenging all forms of racism, including Islamophobia, as it is to challenging anti-Semitism. The UC Regents are responsible to their entire student body, and it is both inappropriate and harmful to single out one form of discrimination while students experience multiple forms of bigotry and oppression.”
Eitan Peled, Jewish Voice for Peace at UCLA student leader: “This document does not represent my lived experience as an Israeli student at UCLA. As a student who considers my work advocating for Palestinian human rights as an expression of my Jewish values, I am surprised to see that criticism of a modern nation-state that regularly violates international law is so centered in a report against intolerance. Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, and prejudices against both undocumented and LGBTQ students have no place on our campuses. But political debate over Zionism and the abusive policies of the state of Israel absolutely should be debated vigorously, not silenced by accusations of discrimination.”
We are deeply concerned that this report will be used by those whose interest is in silencing political criticism of Israel and policing student activism and academic freedom at the University of California.
Jewish Voice for Peace 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 60 chapters, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Council, an Artist Council, an Academic Advisory Council, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S. intellectuals and artists.