The University of California recently commissioned a report on the campus climate that accuses students and faculty who are critical of Israel of contributing to a negative environment for Jewish students. Under the false assumption that criticism of Israeli state policies constitutes hate speech against Jewish students, the report recommends wide forms of censorship to limit criticism of Israel. These include banning speakers from campus to enforcing “balance” at political events to prohibiting “hate speech” that is allegedly anti-Semitic under a controversial definition of that word.
Some Jewish students excluded from the report have blasted the assumption that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. The report has been widely criticized in the media and by Palestinian rights advocates, Jewish groups, and free speech supporters. But relatively little attention has been paid to the role of the UC Administration in contributing to a climate of fear, censorship, and intimidation for those speaking out against human rights violations in Israel/Palestine.
The infographic below documents some of the worst examples of the administration intimidating and censoring students and faculty who speak in support of Palestinian rights during the past three years. These incidents give much needed context to the recently released report, which calls for restrictions on speech so severe that even its authors acknowledge may “result in legal challenges.”
(Click on the image below to view it larger.)
- January 2009 – A panel hosted by UCLA’s Center for Near Eastern Studies titled “Human Rights & Gaza” features four professors speaking on Operation Cast Lead, the massive Israeli invasion of Gaza. Although not deemed newsworthy at the time, the event is later labeled as disruptive, anti-Semitic & threatening to the Jewish population in several media outlets.
- February 2009 - UC Santa Barbara’s Academic Senate launches an investigation into Sociology Professor William Robinson and his use of course material referencing the Israeli assault on Gaza in the winter of 2008-9 in his class on global conflicts and struggles.
- June 2009 - The widely criticized investigation of Professor Robinson is dropped after 6 months. Investigators find that he acted “in accord with the principles of academic freedom, especially when teaching a class whose content is the sociology of globalization.”
- February 2010 – A speaking engagement by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren at UC Irvine is interrupted by 11 students protesting Israeli human rights violations who briefly disrupt his speech while walking out. The students, known as the Irvine 11, were arrested and threatened with academic punishments. They also received numerous death threats.
- March 2010 - UC Berkeley’s SJP proposes a motion to the student government seeking to divest from companies financially involved in the Israeli occupation. Although the motion passes by a large majority (16-4), it is vetoed by the student body president a week later. The UC Regents issue a statement supporting the veto.
- May 2010 – In response to the Irvine 11 protest, UC Irvine suspends the Muslim Student Union (MSU), a religious group that facilitates prayer and communal services for all Muslim students on campus. MSU was suspended even though the organization did not endorse the protest, though students who were members of the organization had been involved in the protest.
- June 2010 – UC President Mark Yudof appoints an Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion, following a number of incidents at UC.
- September 2010 - The Third World Mural at UC Davis, which includes a Palestinian flag in the shape of a dove, is defaced and painted over with a Star of David.
- October 2010 – The Anti-Defamation League labels Students for Justice in Palestine one of its Top 10 Anti-Israel Groups in America. Other groups on the list include Jewish Voice for Peace and Friends of Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian ecumenical organization that promotes peace and justice for Palestinians.
- February 2011 - Just under a year after the protest, the Orange County District Attorney charges the Irvine 11 with two misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to disrupt a meeting and disruption of a meeting.
- March 2011 – Tammi Rossman-Benjamin , UC Santa Cruz lecturer and head of AMCHA Initiative, an organization that “combats anti-Jewish bigotry on California campuses,” petitions the US Department of Education to investigate “anti-Israel” discourse at UCSC and whether it constitutes a hostile environment for Jewish students.
- March 2011 – Jessica Felber, UC Berkeley student, sues the University of California alleging that the UC abets a hostile climate against Jewish students by allowing SJP to protest Israeli policies on campus.
- July 2011 – Through the Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion, UC President Mark Yudof creates the Campus Climate Investigation.
- September 2011 - A court finds the Irvine 11 guilty and the students are ordered to do community service. The defendants appeal the verdict.
- November 2011 – Felber’s lawsuit against the UC is dismissed, but plaintiffs are allowed to re-file.
- November 2011 – In a speech to the Anti-Defamation League, UC President Mark Yudof praises the efforts of UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake to impose additional time, place, and manner restrictions on activists protesting human rights violations in Palestine. Drake had directed that his students move their protest to outside his office so that he could personally monitor them.
- January 2012 - California State Northridge Professor David Klein is targeted by supporters of Israel for petitioning against study abroad programs in Israel maintained by the California State University (CSU) system.
- February 2012 - A silent walkout organized by SJP in protest of an event at UC Davis titled “IDF Soldiers Speak Out” is interrupted by a student not affiliated with SJP. Days later, UC President Yudof writes an open letter to the UC system in which he portrays the SJP as responsible for the disruption and without providing evidence, associates the group with other incidents, including the defacing of an Israeli flag and the hanging of a noose at UC San Diego.
- February 2012 – Pro-Israel groups led by Tammi Rossman-Benjamin’s AMCHA Initiative attempt but fail to shut down a lecture series by Professor Ilan Pappe at California State and UC campuses.
- March 2012 - The AMCHA Initiative asks the UCLA Academic Senate to investigate Professor David Shorter for referencing the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement in a class about indigenous struggles. Academic Senate Chair Andrew Leuchter violates university policy and publically reprimands Shorter.
- June 2012 - The California Attorney General declines a petition by the AMCHA Initiative to sue Northridge Professor David Klein for alleged misuse of university resources for hosting online materials about the boycott of Israel using university resources. In declining the petition, the California’s Deputy Attorney General wrote that after carefully considering the complaint his office had found “no basis for any action on our part.”
- July 2012 - The UCLA Academic Senate officially clears Professor Shorter of any wrong doing, finding that the investigation of his course was unmerited and that Academic Senate Chair Leuchter acted inappropriately when accepting the complaint of an outside group.
- July 2012 - The re-filed Felber v Yudof case is settled, with the plaintiffs agreeing that the UC was not at any fault, and the UC agreeing to minor changes to campus policies surrounding protests.
- July 2012 - Lawyers for Jessica Felber in the Felber v Yudof case, Joel Siegal and Neal Sher, initiate a Title VI complaint with the US Department of Education. The complaint asks the federal government to investigate an alleged climate of hostility against Jewish students on campus stemming from criticism of Israel.
- July 2012 – The UC Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion releases its Campus Climate reports on Jewish and Arab/Muslim experiences on campus. The Jewish Students report recommends broad censorship to reduce criticism of Israel on campus. The Jewish Students report puts forth highly criticized recommendations for banning certain forms of speech on UC campuses that are deemed critical of Israel.