Recently, two anti-Semitic incidents occurred at UC Irvine that demonstrate the critical need for the university to promptly implement the Regents Statement of Principles Against Intolerance adopted in March. The statement stipulates that anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism are to be treated no differently than any other form of bigotry and “have no place at the University of California."
On May 18, members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the Muslim Student Union (MSU) carried out a pre-meditated disruption of an event hosted by Jewish and pro-Israel students. According to witnesses and university officials, protesters shouted threatening and violent profanities and attempted to push their way inside the room where the event was being held. Jewish and pro-Israel students were effectively held hostage for almost an hour after the event had ended, and escorted out of the building with police protection.
Two weeks earlier, a hate-filled series of events entitled "Anti-Zionism Week 2016" was co-sponsored by SJP and MSU, whose members were complicit in the violent disruption on May 18. The week's events included talks and exhibits that were filled with classic anti-Semitic tropes intended to foment hatred of Israel and its supporters, including a talk by a member of the virulently anti-Zionist group Neturei Karta who accused American "Zionists" of controlling the government and media. It is not hard to see how such hateful events could have incited violent behavior toward Jewish students a short time later.
In both 2015 and 2014, similar violent disruptions of Jewish student events by UCI SJP and MSU members occurred in close proximity to hate-filled “Anti-Zionism Week,” once again highlighting the strong connection between anti-Zionist expression and anti-Jewish hostility that has become apparent on campuses across the country.
In addition, we have received several reports from Jewish and pro-Israel students at UCI about the hostile environment that anti-Zionist activity has created for them, for example:
- I used to be quite active in the Jewish community for my first two years in college. However, after what I have experienced, I have withdrawn myself from Jewish events for fear of being identified and targeted.
- I saw my colleagues feel intimidated to be openly Jewish on campus. Three students were physically assaulted on campus during an Anteater for Israel event. Students felt unsafe walking through campus alone to attend Shabbat dinners. Jewish students felt intimidated to voice their support of Israel in the classroom out of fear of sanction by their professors.
- The SJP often (weekly to bi-weekly) hold up a sign that says death to Zionism across the main walkway on campus, preventing people from easily crossing, hold die ins, walk down the main drag screaming “Free Free Palestine”, “From the River to the Sea Palestine must be Free”, “End the occupation” “Death to Zionist” etc. There are a lot of anti-Semitic symbols on the wall that comes every year. I have heard people be told “You Jews are occupying our land and killing our people.” I have heard about people being called kikes and dirty Jews. There have been multiple social media pages attacking Jews during my time at UCI.
In light of these recent incidents and student accounts, last week AMCHA Initiative organized a letter signed by 36 Jewish and civil rights groups asking UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman specifically how he will implement the Regents Statement of Principles Against Intolerance.
Chancellor Gillman replied to our organizations, stating that he and members of his administration "strongly support the Regents' recently adopted Principles Against Intolerance, and especially their statements against anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism." However, he did not describe his plan of action for implementing the Regents' principles on his campus. Therefore, yesterday our organizations sent a second letter to Chancellor Gillman, reiterating our request for him to answer the following question:
What rules, policies and procedures will you invoke or enact, and what educational initiatives will you establish, to ensure that anti-Jewish bigotry will be treated as promptly and vigorously as all other racial, ethnic, or gender bigotry, and that antisemitism and antisemitic forms of anti-Zionism have no place at UC Irvine?
We are delighted that Congressman Brad Sherman recently sent his own letter to Chancellor Gillman, stating: "Given the May events, it is clear that UCI has not yet enforced the Board of Regents’ ruling...I urge you to enforce the Principles Against Intolerance in an effort to foster a productive campus environment that is safe for all."
Here are a few of the news stories published about AMCHA's efforts to protect Jewish students at UC Irvine:
We need your help in showing Chancellor Gillman that the Jewish community and its supporters cares deeply and is watching.
Please join us in asking Chancellor Gillman to express the concrete steps he plans to take towards implementing the Regents' statement. Email him at: email@example.com