University of California Must Shield Students From Anti-Israel Hatred

Last week, UAW 2865, the union representing 13,000 graduate instructors on nine University of California (UC) campuses, voted on a resolution calling for the union to join the international campaign for “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” against Israel and urging its graduate student members to pledge their personal participation in the academic boycott of Israeli universities and scholars.

After the announcement of that vote, the UC Board of Regents affirmed that the UC Regents Policy on Course Content strictly prohibits graduate student instructors from using university classrooms to promote anti-Israel propaganda or an antisemitc boycott of the Jewish state.

But what about professors?

More than 40 UC faculty members signed a statement of support for the UAW’s call for BDS. In addition, more than 200 faculty, including several department chairs and program directors have endorsed the academic boycott of Israel.

Faculty have every right as private citizens to support student BDS initiatives and to endorse an academic boycott of Israel. However, many faculty are bringing their enmity towards the Jewish state and the promotion of efforts to harm it into their university classrooms and conference halls. For example:

  • In January, David Lloyd, a Professor of English at University of California Riverside and a founder of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), organized on his campus a lecture by Omar Barghouti, the founder and most vocal advocate of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. The talk was funded and sponsored by the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences along with the Department of Ethnic Studies, a third of whose faculty have endorsed the academic boycott of Israel, including the department chair. Students in eight courses were required to attend and listen to Barghouti’s talk, which consisted of anti-Israel propaganda laced with classic antisemitic tropes used to promote the academic boycott of Israel.
  • Sunaina Maira is a professor of Asian American Studies and Middle East/South Asia Studies at UC Davis, as well as a founder of USACBI and an organizer of the ASA’s academic boycott resolution.   About a month after the ASA vote to boycott Israel, Maira helped the UC Davis Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to organize an event featuring four anti-Israel activists, who demonized and delegitimized the Jewish state and encouraged students to engage in activism against it, particularly boycott. The event, which was used by the SJP group to kick off their campaign to pass an anti-Israel divestment resolution in the student senate in the spring, was co-sponsored by four academic units, including Maira’s Asian American Studies department, more than half of whose faculty has endorsed an academic boycott of Israel.
  • Sondra Hale is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Women’s Studies at UCLA and was the previous co-director of the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies. She is also a founder of USACBI and helped organize a petition calling for the boycott of the Israel Abroad program on UC campuses in solidarity with the academic boycott of Israel. As co-director of CNES, Hale helped organize numerous public outreach events that were egregiously anti-Israel and contained antisemitic content, including several events at which the boycott of Israel was advocated.

This is wrong and must stop. Faculty who misuse the university in this way contribute to the creation of a hostile and threatening environment for many Jewish students, who report feeling harassed and intimidated by their professors and isolated from their peers.

Janet Napolitano and the UC Board of Regents must affirm that it is wrong for professors to bring their personal anti-Israel missions into the classroom and that it violates UC policies that were put in place for a reason. Our classrooms are for education, not indoctrination.

About the Author
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin is a lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz and the cofounder and director of AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization devoted to investigating, documenting, educating about, and combating campus antisemitism in America. She was nominated for Jewish Hero of the Year by the Jewish Federation of North America in 2011 and was named one of 2013’s Bright Pro-Israel Lights on U.S. Campuses by the Jewish Press. Articles and opinion pieces from Rossman-Benjamin have been published in the New York Daily News, Jewish News Service, Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, Algemeiner, Independent Sentinel, Jewish Voice, Jewish Post & Opinion, and others.
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