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Thursday, September 6, 2012 | return to: views, opinions


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House Resolution 35 exposes anti-Semitic fervor on California campuses

by jennifer gorovitz

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Public education is in peril, and it’s not from the forces you’d expect.  We all know that the state’s schools are plagued by shrinking budgets and rising enrollment. What many people don’t realize is that our public universities — the institutions we pay our tax dollars to support  — are overrun with anti-Semitic rhetoric that extends beyond the boundaries of what should be considered free speech.  Our children attending state universities are also frequently unable to keep kosher, or find matzah in the cafeteria during Passover.

For those who may think I am exaggerating, last week the California State Assembly felt compelled to pass House Resolution 35, condemning the growing number of anti-Jewish acts on California’s college campuses. The fact that there was even a need for such a resolution indicates a major problem that stewards of our public universities must address.

vgorovitz_with_nameHouse Resolution 35 is the result of a July report released by the University of California Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture, and Inclusion. The 10-page report confirms that “Jewish students are confronting significant and difficult climate issues as a result of activities on campus which focus specifically on Israel, its right to exist and its treatment of Palestinians. The anti-Zionism and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movements and other manifestations of anti-Israel sentiment and activity create significant issues through themes and language which portray Israel and, many times, Jews in ways which project hostility, engender a feeling of isolation, and undermine Jewish students’ sense of belonging and engagement with outside communities.”

The report also described protests at various campuses where Israeli Jews are portrayed as “Nazis” who commit modern genocide. Among these protests is an annual “Israel Apartheid Week” which features students in “die-ins,” in which students pretending to be Palestinians collapse as if they had been murdered en masse by Israeli Jews. During these protests, the Star of David integrated with the swastika is a common symbol.

These shocking findings prompted Assembly member Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), a co-author of the legislation, to state, “Our students deserve to learn in an environment of peace and tolerance, on campuses that are safe havens for knowledge. This is our common goal.”

My heart was breaking as I read these details. As an organization, the Jewish Community Federation spends considerable time and resources working to create a more peaceful, pluralistic society in Israel. And yet here, in our own country, we run a very real risk that our children will encounter dangerous, aggressive behavior as they take their first steps into adulthood.

Does this sound like the kind of situation we should expect from a university system whose motto is “Let there be light”?

This kind of behavior must not be tolerated. In the Bay Area, where political correctness and free speech are often used as a battering ram, I have no trouble maintaining that there is a vast difference between expressing a viewpoint and making a threat. One is an acceptable form of behavior, the other is not.

I also find it disheartening that college students can no doubt easily find a gluten-free, vegan muffin and a soy latte, but nothing to eat if they are observant Jews.

So what can be done?  First, I encourage Jewish parents to read the report at http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/documents/campus_climate_jewish.pdf. Pay attention in particular to the ten recommendations at the end of the report that say U.C. should, in part: adopt a hate speech–free campus policy; develop cultural training; adopt a definition of anti-Semitism; adequately address the dietary needs of Jewish students, faculty and staff on U.C. campuses; and develop model practices that accommodate religious observances (holy days).

 If you (or your child) are considering attending one of the U.C. schools, ask campus officials if they have read the report and whether any of the recommended policies are in effect on campus.

Next, I challenge the U.C. system to produce a report card within 12 months that highlights whether any of these policies have been adopted.

In the meantime, and for always, the federation will continue to fund all the university Hillels in Northern California to ensure a safe haven and a welcoming atmosphere for Jewish students to be with one another. Supporting our Hillels has never been more needed and more important in my lifetime.

In both ways, we will help the U.C. system uphold its motto — we will keep the light of conscience shining down on this process and ensure that anti-Semitism has no place in our state’s university system.


Jennifer Gorovitz
is the CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma and the Peninsula.


Comments

Posted by Dan Spitzer
09/06/2012  at  03:37 PM
Thank You, Ms. Gorovitz, for Your On Target Commentary

Free speech is very important both on and off campus. But when there are incidents during the absurdly named Israel Apartheid Week “celebrated” on UC campuses throughout the state, the actions often taken by Students for Just Us in Palestine go beyond free expression and enter the realm of anti-Semitism.

It doesn’t matter that such ilk as Rebecca Pierce who belongs to an Israeli hate organization at Santa Cruz denies the realities, there is plenty of photographic evidence of swastikas being unfurled on banners during Israel Apartheid week and other such actions on UC campuses.

At UC Berkeley, I had to push my way through pro-Palestinian students, Arabs and (a few) Jews among them blocking my way at Sather Gate and screaming at me, “Are you Jewish?!” I’ve seen many an unpleasant demonstration so it wasn’t exactly traumatizing for me, but imagine what this is likely to do intimidation-wise to an 18 to 22 year old Jewish student!

This sort of odious activity goes far beyond the realm of free speech and has no place on a state-supported university campus. Just imagine if the targets had been African Americans, Arabs, or Hispanics rather than Jews! Does any reasonable person believe that the university community and administration would tolerate similar behavior targeting non-Jews?

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Posted by Michael Harris
09/06/2012  at  09:20 PM
Sign the petition to urge UC to adopt the report's recommendations!

For those who haven’t yet signed the StandWithUs petition that recognizes the truth of what was described in the UC Commission’s report and urges its recommendations to be adopted, add your name here:  http://www.standwithus.com/petitions/uc/

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Posted by Sam Liron
09/06/2012  at  11:51 PM
Dan, well said. Sam Liron.

Dan, well said. Sam Liron.

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Posted by Sam Liron
09/07/2012  at  12:08 AM
Thhank you, Ms Gorovitz

Ms. Gorovitz, Thank you for speaking up.  It is encouraging to see the Jewish Federation president concerned about this alarming issue which plague our California Campuses, but also all over the USA.  It is time Jewish organizations take this issue seriously and devote resources to combat this new anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Israel criticism, culminating in Israel delegitimization and BDS campaign.

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Posted by craven_maven
09/07/2012  at  11:19 AM
Arab Money Funds UC Anti-Semitism

Understanding and characterization of the rising tide of anti-Semitism on American college campuses is incomplete without recognition of the role Arab support and funding of university academic departments and student groups plays in fomenting this bigotry.

For example, from http://www.campus-watch.org/article/id/1103, we learn that:

1) “$5 million was donated to UC Berkeley’s Center For Mideast Studies from two Saudi sheiks linked to funding Al Qaeda.

2). UC Berkeley’s Center For Middle East Studies website boasts of receiving a $5 million dollar grant courtesy of Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and Sheikh Salahudin Yusef Hamza Abdeljawad, another major donor.

3) UC Berkeley’s Saudi funded academics have more than satisfied Saudi goals of using US campuses to teach hate for America and Israel. The Israel divestment petition was begun at UC Berkeley and has been promoted by faculty there.”

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Posted by craven_maven
09/07/2012  at  11:27 AM
College Courses and Programs Teach Anti-Semitism

Campus anti-Semitism originates not only from student hate groups, but also from the schools themselves, from the faculty and the courses they teach. Campus-watch.org is an excellent internet source for information about this.

From http://www.campus-watch.org/, we learn that:

1) “Writing for Campus Watch, Rima Greene and I report on a recent lecture from University of San Francisco professor Stephen Zunes, who continues to act as an apologist for the bellicose Iranian regime.”

2) “This morning at FrontPage Magazine, Cinnamon Stillwell, Campus Watch West Coast Representative, reports on a recent program at the University of California, Berkeley, by members of the “Islamophobia” Lobby:

The Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project (IRDP)—a program of the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender (CRG)—recently held its third annual conference, “Critical Discourses on Islamophobia: Symbols, Images, & Representations.” As in previous years, speaker after speaker decried an imaginary racist, imperialist, Orientalist Western juggernaut, while disregarding the very real predations of Islamism.

The first day of the conference brought in approximately eighty people at its peak, including a number of women in hijab (head scarf), typing furiously on laptops. Others sported keffiyehs and dreadlocks; a smattering of Arabic and French could be heard; and a scruffy, bearded fellow wandered around with what appeared to be a journal under his arm, Historicizing Anti-Semitism, that one suspects is not exactly kosher. It was just another day in Berkeley.”

3) From http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=21875, we learn that:

Last Spring, among the many troublesome anti-Israel stories that were released to the public was the news that Snehal Shingavi would be teaching a UC Berkeley class this Fall titled, “The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance.” The course description included the following: “The brutal Israeli military occupation of Palestine, [ongoing] since 1948, has systematically displaced, killed, and maimed millions of Palestinian people…This class will examine the history of the [resistance] and the way that it is narrated by Palestinians in order to produce an understanding of the Intifada.

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Posted by eric
09/08/2012  at  12:42 AM
Thank you, Tammi!

The author of this article fails to acknowledge the organization which has worked tirelessly to force the University wide system to take action - Amcha Initiative.  Things like this don’t just happen and the Organized Jewish Community, as so frequently in the past, has been remiss on this issue.  Tammi Rossmann, the founder of Amcha, willingly subjected herself to attacks from within the Organized Jewish Community, her co-faculty members across the UC System and the University Administration to force this issue.  Her energy and investment of endless hours on behalf of the students, who were left defenseless by those who are paid to help them, deserves recognition across the entire California Jewish Community.

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
09/08/2012  at  08:26 AM
And Thank You Eric! Where is J in Reportage on Tammi?

Why do we have nary a story in a paper which supposedly serves the Bay Area Jewish community focusing upon one of California’s most important and articulate defenders of Jews?

Instead, we regularly are “treated” with nonsense op-eds by Israel haters such as the heads of Kesher Enoshi, JVP, and the likes of Rebecca Pierce and even Michael Lerner.

It’s time for J to stop being so remiss in reportage of the remarkable work of this extraordinary woman. Nothing less than a cover story is called for…

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
09/08/2012  at  04:58 PM
My Apologies, Sue...

I stand corrected. I was out of the country when this was published but I nevertheless should have fact-checked…

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Posted by gitelsura
09/11/2012  at  11:11 PM
Thank you, Rebecca

You handled these comments with high intellect, confidence and dignity.  Usually the comments section devolves into name-calling on both sides.  But by refusing to respond in kind to insults and slurs, or to be diverted from the substance of your argument,  you actually managed to bring to this section a thoughtfulness and sobriety it usually sorely lacks.

I learned a lot from you—both in substance and in style.

My appreciation.

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
09/12/2012  at  08:48 AM
gitelsura, your praise of rebecca demonstrates that

idiot-loges of a feather flock together.

And btw, gitelsura, there wasn’t one word about your wonderful Rebecca of Storybrook Farms. Are you even literate? Were you capable of reading the op-ed’s content? Judging from your past posts and comprehension of history, one wonders if you even have your GED…

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
09/12/2012  at  08:58 AM
Hey Gitelsura, Rebecca and Others Who Shill for the Palestinians, Read This:

Gazans protest anti-Islam movie
http://www.ynetnews.com

Dozens of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have burned American flags and chanted “Death to America,” protesting an American film that mocks the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. The protest Wednesday in Gaza City was sponsored by supporters of the Popular Resistance Committees, a militant group aligned with the ruling Hamas movement. (AP)

For the JVP, Kesher Enoshi, SJP and other propagandists out there, let us know how you feel about the Palestinian Islamofascists who did the above? The betting is you will remain silent as your Palestinian pets, for you, can do no wrong…

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
09/12/2012  at  10:23 AM
For All Those Who Advocate Absolute Freedom of Speech, Can You Imagine...

what would happen if someone tried to show the film that sparked violence vs US embassies and precipitated the killing of the American Ambassador to Libya on a UC campus? Does anyone seriously believe the ACLU would defend the right to show the film?

No, the ACLU and people like Rebecca Pierce would be either MIA or trying to physically halt the screening…

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