The University of California is debating whether to affirmatively oppose anti-Semitic behavior amid a wave of impassioned campus activism that has sparked tensions between Palestinian-rights supporters and strong allies of Israel.
For the second time in five months, a committee of the university’s governing board is scheduled to vote Wednesday on what’s being called a “Statement of Principles Against Intolerance.”
The proposed declaration describes the university’s role as an institution dedicated to the free exchange of ideas on the one hand, and on the other, a place where “acts of discrimination that demean our differences” are unwanted.
But in response to pro-Israel groups who had demanded that more be done to protect Jewish students, it also twice calls out at anti-Semitism as an example of bias that university leaders have a duty to challenge.
“Anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination have no place in the university,” the draft now under consideration reads.
Jewish groups are urging the Board of Regents to adopt the document, which was written by a committee the board appointed to address complaints that an earlier version drafted by UC administrators failed to explicitly condemn anti-Semitism.
“It is not always easy to balance protecting Jews and other minority groups from racism with upholding the First Amendment and academic freedom, but I believe the regents were able to do that successfully,” said Max Samarov, director of research & campus strategy for the pro-Israel organization StandWithUs.
Pro-Palestinian groups and faculty members with research specialties in the Middle East are less enthusiastic. They are upset that anti-Semitism is the only type of intolerance specifically mentioned in the principles at a time when Muslims in the U.S. increasingly are being targeted.
They also are troubled by language in a report accompanying the proposed statement that lists anti-Zionism — the rejection of Israel’s right to exist — as another form of discrimination that doesn’t belong at the university.
“It implies that strong statements against the policies and practices of the state of Israel or other statements that could be deemed ‘anti-Zionist’ have no place on campus,” ACLU Senior Counsel Alan Schlosser said. “As a statement of the official policy of the regents, this could very well chill constitutionally protected speech on this very controversial and current issue.”