Palestine Legal joins a chorus of California organizations to express our dismay at the all-male panel of experts on “intolerance” that the UC Regents has consulted in efforts to improve the campus climate for vulnerable communities.
In a letter endorsed by Palestine Legal and 37 other campus and community organizations, Jewish Voice for Peace notes that two of the four “experts” the regents chose to consult (Kenneth Marcus of the Brandeis Center, and Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center) are ardent Israel advocates with a demonstrated record of using false and inflammatory accusations against supporters of Palestinian rights to suppress speech. Only one chosen expert, UCLA Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Jerry Kang, can speak with authority to racial bias on campus because of his critical race scholarship on implicit bias and the law and Asian American Communities.
The UC Regents formed a working group in September 2015 to develop a statement of principles against intolerance. The working group was a response to demands from Israel advocacy organizations, including the Brandeis Center and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, that the UC officially redefine anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel. The proposed redefinition has so far been excluded from the draft statement, and the working group ostensibly set out to address all forms of intolerance on campus, saying its first step was to consult with “experts.”
The make-up of the panel of experts and their focus on Israel advocacy, however, indicates that the working group is less concerned about sexual assault, anti-black racism, violence against Muslim students, etc., and more concerned with shielding the campus community from criticism of Israel on the false premise that it is anti-Semitic.
Palestine Legal wrote to the Regents working group in December 2015 to express similar concerns about the panel of “experts.” Since June 2015, we have demanded the UC Regents and UC President Napolitano drop plans to redefine criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic, and urged the university to stand by its educational mission and its legal obligations to promote free inquiry on California campuses.