University of California students mobilize against California bill equating activism with anti-Semitism

Israel/Palestine

This summer saw the release of a controversial Campus Climate Report that conflated criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism and recommended broad forms of censorship of pro-Palestinian speech, ranging from limiting who can be invited to speak on campus to enforcing balance at pro-Palestine events. It was followed by HR-35, a non-binding California Assembly bill that endorsed the reports and claimed that use of terms like apartheid to describe Israel should be banned on campus.

Recently, the UC Students Association passed language opposing HR-35 and affirming students’ rights to engage in boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaigns. These student leaders have come under attack from pro-Israel students who claim that their united opposition to the bill was not taken into account and who have tried to pressure the UCSA to reverse its vote. In response, over 1000 current and former students from around the University of California system have signed a petition thanking UCSA for their vote and denouncing the censorship and repression of pro-Palestine speech at the UC system. Organizers hope that the new year brings even more attention to the issue and continues to grow the petition over time.

Below is a press release detailing students’ mobilization:

UC STUDENT PETITION SUPPORTING UCSA’S RESOLUTION AGAINST HR-35 SURPASSES 1,000 SIGNATURES

Students voice their united opposition to California Resolution HR-35 and thank the UC Students Association for vocally opposing it while taking a morally consistent stand against racism. HR-35 proposes broad bans on student speech supporting Palestinian rights and criticizing discriminatory Israeli policies.

Today a petition signed by UC students and recent graduates who support the University of California’s Student Association (UCSA) resolution regarding HR-35 surpassed 1,000 signatures. Signers applauded UCSA “for standing up on behalf of the UC community and defending [their] right to advocate for human rights,” and for representing the “majority viewpoint at the UC which opposes racism in all forms, whether it be anti-Jewish acts by anti-Semites or anti-Palestinian policies undertaken by Israel in its discriminatory and illegal occupation.” The petitioners thanked the UCSA for its robust rebuke of State Assembly bill HR-35.

HR-35 is a non-binding resolution passed through the California State Assembly over the summer. The bill inappropriately labels criticism of Israeli state policy as anti-Semitic and recommends broad forms of censorship of students and faculty at the UC to prevent criticism of Israel.

Attorney Liz Jackson, cooperating counsel with the Center for Constitutional Rights characterized HR-35 as “an anti-democratic attempt to intimidate and silence students from expressing pro-Palestinian views.” Jackson explained, “HR-35 mislabels advocacy for Palestinian rights as inherently anti-Semitic. This is a complete distortion of students’ human rights advocacy. To argue that such speech should be restricted, as HR-35 does, is to decimate the principle of free speech and it is plainly unconstitutional.”

HR-35 is part of a well-documented pattern of intimidation against those speaking out in support of Palestinian rights on UC/CSU campuses, noted in a recent letter from civil rights groups to the UC Administration. Its passage comes shortly after the release of a controversial Campus Climate report that recommends similar forms of censorship of pro-Palestinian students, ranging from limiting the pro-Palestinian speakers allowed on campus to “enforcing balance” when pro-Palestinian speakers do come to campus.

Both the climate report and HR-35 have been widely criticized and opposed by civil rights groups such as the National Lawyers Guild and Center for Constitutional Rights, community organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace and the Council on American Islamic Relations, and academic groups such as the California Scholars for Academic Freedom and the Middle East Studies Association. The ACLU of Northern California recently warned of the “chilling effect” that related federal lawsuits targeting Palestine human rights activists are having on UC students’ constitutionally protected speech rights.

UC Berkeley student Ley Cerezo added that “HR-35 inevitably encourages a climate of fear in a student body whose dedication to activism ought not to be censured nor even reserved for mere toleration, but celebrated in a system of public universities. Just as we speak out against the many injustices sustained by various bodies of government, so too do we continue our opposition to any illegitimate limitations on our speech.”

Today’s petition, signed exclusively by current and former UC students in the space of a few weeks, demonstrates the breadth of public opposition to censorship and attacks on the pro-Palestine community. Students say that as a new year starts and students return to campus, they look forward to collecting more signatures and building public awareness of threats to pro-Palestinian advocacy.

Read full petition here: https://sites.google.com/site/ucstudentsagainsthr35/ and find a link to this press release and other relevant backgroud information at www.ucsjp.posterous.com.

2 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    January 10, 2013, 12:04 pm

    This is really great news. I grew up (til age 5) a few blocks away from UC Berkeley campus (there were parks then where there are buildings today!) and have retained the warmest feelings for the place, especially after the free speech era in the 1960s. It seems free-speech sensibility (and fondness for human rights) are alive and well.

    May the horrible attempts of the ziobots continue to blow up in their faces (i.e., may the ziobots continue to be “hoist by their own petards”).

    • Carowhat
      January 10, 2013, 7:20 pm

      I went to grad school at Berkeley in the late sixties. The famous free speech era, it seemed to me, was anything but that. Anyone who failed to share the prevailing left wing ideology was condemned, slandered and on occasion physically attacked. I had come to Berkeley directly from the US Naval aviation. It seemed to me that one was a lot freer to voice contrary opinions in the Navy than was ever possible at UC Berkeley. The Navy only cared that you did your job. At Berkeley, they had ubiquitous thought police trying to stamp out “badthink.”

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