LOS ANGELES -- Physical threats and violence perpetrated against Jewish students at UC Irvine; swastikas spray-painted on the doors of Jewish students at UC Santa Cruz; flyers and posters dredging up the medieval anti-Semitic blood-libel of Jews slaughtering children at San Francisco State University; a Jewish student verbally assaulted and threatened with physical harm at a Muslim Student Association event in the student union at California State University, Long Beach.
These are just a few examples of the growing problem of hostility towards Jewish students that is fueled by anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rhetoric in classrooms and at university-sponsored events on California campuses. More than 3,000 faculty, students and concerned citizens have signed a petition that directs faculty and administration on each California public university campus to address this problem.
The petition asks that the administrators at all levels of the University of California and California State University systems address this problem by directing faculty on each campus to review course materials, curricula and invited speakers to ensure that the full range of scholarly views about Israel and Zionism are presented. In addition, universities are asked to develop and implement courses to educate students about contemporary anti-Semitism.
The petition was initiated by University of California faculty members Ilan Benjamin, Leila Beckwith and Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, together with Ed Beck, president of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), an international faculty organization committed to addressing issues of anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism on college campuses. Benjamin, Beckwith and Rossman-Benjamin will be among the UC and CSU faculty and students on hand to deliver the petition to the Board of Trustees of the California State University and the Board of Regents of the University of California, at their respective meetings on September 20 and 21.
Ilan Benjamin is a professor of chemistry at UC Santa Cruz and founder of the UCSC chapter of SPME. "Besides creating an environment which many members of the campus community find intellectually and emotionally threatening," says Benjamin, "our faculty group believes that such one-sided political bias severely compromises the academic integrity of California's public universities and is a serious breech of public trust."
Leila Beckwith, an emeritus professor of pediatrics at UCLA and recent co-founder of a UCLA chapter of SPME, adds: "Our petition does not seek to stifle the free speech of faculty, or to take away their academic freedom. Rather, we are asking university administrators to remind their faculty that university policy demands that academic freedom be tempered by academic responsibility, particularly in the case of a political bias which creates a hostile environment for some students. After all, according to California law, it is the administration that protects the universities against political misuse."
Organizations representing a large and diverse constituency have written letters supporting the efforts of the petition initiators. These organizations include Arabs for Israel, Christians' Israel Public Action Campaign, American Jewish Congress, Center for Law and Justice of the Zionist Organization of America, Accuracy in Academia, Middle East Forum, California Republican Jewish Coalition, Raoul Wallenberg Jewish Democratic Club and distinguished scholar, Thomas H. Henriksen, Hoover Institute. The letters of support, as well as materials which document the problem, will be presented at the upcoming meetings.
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