For Immediate Release – March 16, 2016
Press contact: Liz Jackson, Staff Attorney, Palestine Legal | 510-206-6800 | Ljackson@palestinelegal.org
UC's proposed intolerance statement – calling anti-Zionism a form of discrimination – is unenforceable.
The University of California (UC) Regents Working Group on Principles Against Intolerance has asked the Regents to adopt a report and an accompanying policy on Principles Against Intolerance at their March 23 meeting in San Francisco Mission Bay. The report states that “anti-Zionism” is a form of discrimination.
Palestine Legal urges the Regents to reject the Principles and the attendant report. The document cannot be enforced against anti-Zionist speech activities because any such enforcement would violate the First Amendment, the California Constitution, and UC’s own policies protecting free speech, and would invite legal challenge.
The Regents set up the Working Group in response to demands from Israel advocacy organizations that have repeatedly called on UC to shut down speech critical of Israel by characterizing such speech as antisemitic. Their primary demand – that the UC Regents adopt a discredited State Department Definition of antisemitism that encompasses criticism of Israel – failed.
Instead, the Working Group has now produced a report that states “Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.”
The conflation of antisemitism with anti-Zionism is erroneous. It serves to facilitate university actions to malign and punish students, faculty and other community members who criticize Israeli policies. It also contradicts the findings of the Department of Education, which concluded after thorough factual investigations that anti-Zionist activities on UC campuses were protected political speech, not antisemitic discrimination or harassment.
Liz Jackson, California based attorney for Palestine Legal and UC Berkeley alumnus, explained, “The document attempts to create a vague and overbroad policy to restrict the expression of a particular political viewpoint. How are students and scholars to know what is permissible to say about Israel?”
Jackson added, “The University cannot mask the anti-intellectual nature of this by reciting the First Amendment and professing to encourage dissenting views. It’s crystal clear the intention is to chill the expression of views critical of Israel.”
Although the Working Group claimed to address “all forms of intolerance,” it demonstrated a singular interest in implementing the demands of Israel advocacy organizations to the exclusion of other pressing issues like institutionalized sexual harassment and anti-black racism. In preparing its report, the Working Group met with four –and only four – “experts” on intolerance, all of whom were men, and two of whom have a demonstrated record of demanding the university restrict speech critical of Israel.
The statement accepts, without any investigation, the premise promoted by Israel advocacy organizations that antisemitism is a rising problem on UC campuses. In fact, the data shows otherwise.
The UC invested heavily in a statewide quantitative campus climate survey. The results show that Jewish community members on every campus consistently report high levels of comfort. Moreover, the ADL noted that incidents of antisemitism on campus are the lowest since they began tracking them in 1999. (See the “Anti-Semitism Surge That Isn’t”). It seems the Regents Working Group on Intolerance opted to ignore this data, relying solely on the politicized demands of Zionist interest groups.