StandWithUs Concerned About Recent UCSC Conference on Zionism

, Roz Rothstein, Leave a comment

(Los Angeles) — StandWithUs [SWU], a Los Angeles-based international organization, today urged the University of California, Santa Cruz [UCSC], to take steps to stem anti-Israel, anti-Jewish messages on its campus, such as those that were promoted at a UCSC March 15th conference on Zionism. StandWithUs asks that these steps be implemented by the beginning of the fall term in September, 2007. SWU sent a letter expressing its concerns and recommendations to the UCSC Interim Chancellor Blumenthal and to the Office of Student Judicial Affairs that monitors matters of bias.

StandWithUs, whose mission is to ensure informed, balanced discussion about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and who represents concerned citizens and parents residing in the UCSC area, was deeply disturbed by the March conference entitled, “Alternative Histories Within and Beyond Zionism.”

According to faculty and community members who attended, including UCSC alum Gil Stein, the conference speakers promoted anti-Israel, anti-Jewish prejudice by distorting facts and history to delegitimize the Jewish state, equate Israeli and Nazi policies, minimize the Holocaust, and urge divestment from Israel. The conference was organized by Lisa Rofel, professor of Anthropology, and co-sponsored by the Institute for Humanities Research, College 9/10, Feminist Studies, Anthropology, CGIRS, Community Studies, Sociology, Politics, and History.

“StandWithUs firmly supports academic freedom and a free market place for all ideas,” reports Roz Rothstein, SWU international director, “but this one-sided, politicized conference violates elementary scholarly and educational standards.” The speakers cited research that has been discredited. The organizer rejected recommendations for other qualified speakers who could have presented different viewpoints and facts. “Such one-sided events spread misinformation and prejudice.”

None of the five invited speakers is a recognized scholar of the history of Zionism or of Israel. They do, however, actively promote a political agenda. Self identified as anti-Zionists, they have regularly spoken out publicly against the Jewish state, signed anti-Israel divestment petitions or other public letters calling for America to an end its aid to Israel and for boycotts against Israeli academics, or have organized anti-Israel events such as “Israel Apartheid Week”

The conference’s political advocacy violated Article IX of the California Constitution which does not allow public Universities to promote partisan politics. Yet UCSC academic departments endorsed and funded this highly political event while deceptively publicizing it as educational. This violates the spirit and letter of Article IX and is a misuse of taxpayer and student tuition money.

“The University of California has a responsibility not only to the students and faculty, but to all Californians, to refrain from promoting an ideology or personal agendas,” stated Santa Cruz attorney, UCSC alum and StandWithUs member, Gil Stein.

The conference fostered prejudice and a hostile campus environment for an American minority group: Jews. The US Civil Rights Commission, dedicated to combating bigotry on campuses, recently concluded that, “Anti-Semitic bigotry is no less morally deplorable when camouflaged as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism.”

“This event is just the tip of an iceberg,” continued Rothstein. “UCSC, has hosted several other similar events that go beyond simply criticizing Israel’s policies. Programs like this create a hostile environment for Jewish and pro-Israel students. In its recent report, the US Civil Rights Commission deplored these developments and encouraged University administrations to take a firm stand against the bigotry of what has been called the “new anti-Semitism.'”

StandWithUs urges UCSC to take a similarly firm stand. It asks the administration to:

1. Require the academic departments to refund the public monies they misused for this political event.
2. Sponsor conferences, lectures or debates that present alternative views.
3. Re-examine and reinforce guidelines for academic and intellectual standards, for distinguishing facts from unsubstantiated allegation, and for distinguishing political advocacy from legitimate educational programs.
4. Develop mandatory sensitivity-training programs for faculty and students about anti-Semitism and its recent variant, anti-Zionism.

StandWithUs urges that these actions be completed by the beginning of the fall term in September, 2007.

StandWithUs encourages UCSC to take these steps so that it will live up to its mission of being a center of learning and informed discourse.

StandWithUs, an international, non-profit Israel education organization hosts speakers and conferences, offers website resources and creates brochures and materials widely distributed in universities, libraries, high schools, churches and communities. Based in Los Angeles, the organization has offices and chapters in New York, Michigan, San Francisco, Chicago, Buffalo, Orange County (CA) and Israel. SWU was founded in 2001 in response to the second Intifada and the misunderstandings about the challenges that Israel faces. StandWithUs Campus helps college students fight anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias on campuses.

Roz Rothstein is National Director of StandWithUs.