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November 26, 2014

California Campuses See Increase in Anti-Israel Activity

The documented increase in anti-Israel activity so far this academic year has been most apparent in California, which has seen a significant increase in the number of scheduled anti-Israel events.

Since the beginning of the academic year, there have been 40 anti-Israel events scheduled to take place on college campuses compared to the 15 events scheduled during that same time period last year.ucla-divest-bds

These events, which are frequently sponsored by groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), have addressed how to initiate Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaigns against Israel and often attempt to bring atten­tion to their activism by couching their hostility towards Israel in social justice terms, linking the conflict in Gaza to other unrelated issues.

Just this week, for example, the UCLA student government endorsed “A Resolution to Divest from Corporations Engaged in Violence against Palestinians.” The resolution, which was submitted by UCLA SJP, calls for the university to divest from 11 corporations, including Boeing, Caterpillar, Cement Roadstone Holdings, Cemex, General Dynamics, General Electric, Hewlett Packard, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and United Technologies. Although the resolution was passed under the pretext that those corporations violate Palestinian human rights, none of those companies listed are actually engaged in violence against Palestinians.

Other examples of the types of events that California universities have hosted so far this semester include:

  • Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), a weeklong series of anti-Israel events which usually occurs on campuses in the Spring, took place at UC Riverside from November 17-20, 2014. IAW at UC Riverside featured four events, which included a “die-in” and a performance by Remi Kanazi, an Organizing Committee member of the US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel, who uses spoken word and poetry to promote anti-Israel initiatives like divestment and a one-state solution.
  •  A lecture delivered by Alison Weir at San Diego State University titled “The hidden history behind the US & Israel,” based on her most recent book, in which she claims that supporters of Israel have exercised undue control over American society for “over a hundred years.”

Although anti-Israel activity is not a new phenomenon on campuses in California, this year’s increase is not a surprise, as it follows 47 anti-Israel demonstrations that occurred in California during Operation Protective Edge.  Many of these demonstrations were co-sponsored by student groups like the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) at San Francisco State University and various SJP chapters throughout the state. At several demonstrations, participants held signs that compared the State of Israel to Nazi Germany and at a demonstration in San Francisco, participants burned an Israeli flag.

Additionally, in late September, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), the leading organization providing anti-Zionist training and education to college students throughout the country, began the academic year with a call for an “International Day of Action on College Campuses,” advocating for a variety of BDS-related initiatives in an effort to isolate and demonize Israel and Jewish communal organizations. ADL documented only ten “Day of Action” demonstrations in the U.S. with three having taken place at California universities such as Stanford University, San Jose State University, and UC Berkeley.

Even with the rise in anti-Israel activity on many campuses in California, most Jewish and pro-Israel students report feeling comfortable to express their religious and political beliefs at their schools.  While anti-Semitism does occur too often at colleges throughout the country, generally respect is the norm, and anti-Jewish bigotry is not openly tolerated.  This message is often conveyed by university administrations, who are on the front lines of the struggle to combat hate on campus while balancing free speech, academic freedom, and maintaining universities as the “marketplaces of ideas” simultaneously.

An example of this occurred after a very divisive and difficult quarter on the UCLA campus in the Spring of 2014 surrounding the Israel-Palestinian issue. At that time, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block issued a statement on The Importance of Civil Discourse, reminding the campus community that “Political speech that stigmatizes or casts aspersions on individuals or particular groups does not promote healthy debate but debases it by trying to intimidate individuals and groups… [I]f we listen only to those who already share our assumptions, truth gets lost, our intellectual climate is impoverished and our community is diminished.”

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February 27, 2014

Eviction Notices At Northeastern Kick-Off Israeli Apartheid Week

Update: February 27 – Yesterday, members of the University of North Carolina (UNC) SJP chapter, distributed hundreds of mock eviction notices in residence halls on the UNC campus. Just like at Northeastern University, where the students began to use the hashtag “#BostonMockEviction” on Twitter after posting them, at UNC they began to use “#UNCMockEviction.” The mock eviction notices were also used to promote UNC’s Israeli Apartheid Week, scheduled to take place on the campus from March 3 to March 7.

Mock eviction notices were slid under residence hall doors of many students at Northeastern University earlier this week. Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) took responsibility for the action and claimed that these notices were posted to kick off Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), which is taking place this week on dozens of college campuses across the United States.northeastern-iaw-eviction-2014-sjp

The notices at Northeastern stated that the affected dorm rooms would be demolished in three days and that “eviction notices are routinely given to Palestinian families living under oppressive Israeli occupation for no reason other than their ethnic background…to cleanse the region of its Arab population, and create space for settlements.” In reality, some Palestinians in the West Bank receive eviction notices if their homes were built ille­gally or need to be demol­ished because of Israeli secu­rity con­cerns, not because of the residents’ “ethnic background.”

Language in the notice echoed many of the themes of IAW, including allegations of Israeli racism and apartheid, calls for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel, and claims that Israel is committing war crimes such as ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people. Northeastern SJP later issued a comment on Twitter that “some students don’t like facing uncomfortable facts about Israeli apartheid.”northeastern-iaw-eviction-2014-2-sjp

The notice, various versions of which have been distributed at several other college campuses in recent years, was also made to appear as if it was issued by a municipal court, making the threat of demolition seem more real to the students who received them.

In the past year, anti-Israel stu­dent groups at the fol­low­ing uni­ver­si­ties have cir­cu­lated mock evic­tion notices:

  • University of Michigan, December 2013 – Over 1,000 students received mock eviction notices posted by members of the student group “Students Allied for Freedom and Equality” at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.  These notices claimed that Israel evicts Palestinians from their homes for the purpose of “mak[ing] life so miserable for the Arabs that they leave.”
  • Rut­gers Uni­ver­sity, Octo­ber 2013 – Stu­dents from the Rutgers-New Brunswick SJP chap­ter posted mock evic­tion notices in res­i­dence halls to “edu­cate” stu­dents about the expe­ri­ence for some Pales­tini­ans whose homes are demol­ished. Text on the mock evic­tion notices read, “Your suite is sched­uled for demo­li­tion in the next three days… If you do not vacate the premise within this time frame, we reserve the right to destroy all remain­ing belongings…This may seem like unre­al­is­ti­cally harsh treat­ment, but this is the actual state of affairs in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.”
  • San Diego State Uni­ver­sity, March 2013 – Mock evic­tion notices were posted on stu­dents’ res­i­dence hall room doors by mem­bers of the SDSU SJP chap­ter. The notices, which claimed that “$30 bil­lion US tax dol­lars have been used to fund Israeli apartheid in the past decade,” were meant to raise aware­ness over Israel’s alleged human rights vio­la­tions against Palestinians.

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January 21, 2014

Israel on Trial at the MLA Conference: An Insider’s View and a Perspective on the Trends

The Modern Language Association (MLA), a group comprised of nearly 30,000 humanities scholars, held their annual conference in Chicago, January 9th-12th.  ADL and other pro-Israel organizations were concerned by two items on the MLA agenda:  a roundtable discussion entitled “Academic Boycotts: A Conversation about Israel and Palestine” which was comprised solely of those supportive of an academic boycott of Israel (including academic boycott/BDS front-man Omar Barghouti); and a flaw-filled resolution condemning Israel for allegedly denying Palestinian American academics access to the West Bank.

Left to Right: Professors Cary Nelson, Russell Berman and Ilan Troen at a panel discussion on the sidelines of the MLA Conference

ADL condemned the one-sided panel, saying that the MLA had “given its de facto imprimatur of legitimacy to the campaign to boycott Israeli academics and academic institutions.”

In a heated session, the resolution passed by a vote of 60-53, and it now moves on to the MLA executive committee to determine if it goes to the full membership for a vote.   Fortunately, the delegates declined to consider an “emergency resolution” of support for the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Amy Schwartz, an associate director in ADL’s Chicago office and a member of the MLA, writes in the JTA of her first-person account from the conference, Rampaging Minority Politicized MLA Conference, that the outcomes of the conference compel us to “ continue to educate and inform the MLA membership and initiate outreach to other academic organizations to promote responsibility, academic freedom and integrity.

Writing of those activists behind the roundtable and resolution at the MLA conference, and who pushed forward the vote by the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli academic institutions, Abraham H. Foxman writes in Exposing the Israel Bashers: Opinions Without Facts, Facts Without Context :  “This is group which is devoted 24/7/365 to finding ways to exploit a lack of awareness, naïveté and general disinterest to advance a corrosive, divisive and prejudiced perspective of the highly complex dynamic of achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

The silver lining of these developments remains the forceful reaction by over 200 university presidents from across the United States, who, every day, have come forward to speak out and denounce the academic boycott of Israel.

 

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