University Takes One-Sided Stance in Israel-Palestine Debate

In the past few months, issues relating to the Israel-Palestine conflict and the broader issue of anti-Semitism have come to the forefront of administrative discourse on campuses across California.

Citing recent incidences of anti-Semitism — a swastika painted onto a Jewish fraternity house at UC Davis and a UCLA student questioned about her ability to stay unbiased based on her religion — the UC Board of Regents took it upon itself to draft a set of Principles Against Intolerance, approved back in March. Though this declaration addresses valid student concerns regarding the condemnation of hate speech while maintaining support for the First Amendment, it feels conspicuously one-sided regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Though accommodating the wishes of the Jewish students who defend various contentious Israeli policies, the administration fails to recognize and defend the validity of the opposition.

Such silence in addressing issues that these students face is the rule rather than the exception. This has been illustrated most recently at San Diego State, where posters created by the David Horowitz Center for Freedom listed the names of seven individuals affiliated with Students for Justice in Palestine, the Muslim Student Association and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel.

The administration’s response to the accusations, which claimed that these students “allied themselves with Palestinian terrorists to perpetrate BDS and Jew Hatred” on campus, have been tepid at best.

SDSU President Elliot Hirshman sent an email to students in response to this, which stated, “First, we recognize and fully support the rights of all parties to voice their positions on political issues, whether supportive or critical. We also understand that when parties adopt a specific political position they become responsible for their actions and these actions may produce criticism.”

While Hirshman’s statement addresses the fact that an incident involving conflicting political views took place, it ignores the libelous accusations made against these individuals.

For the targets of these posters, such allegations could jeopardize career prospects, especially in today’s digital age where a Google search of one’s name can easily unearth these accusations of links to terrorism. Yet the administration of a university, which claims to promote constructive discourse on political and social issues without undue consequences, saw fit to respond to a blatant attempt to deter students from expressing their political views with a statement akin to “you had it coming.”

Neither these posters nor the administration’s reaction are unique to SDSU. Just last year, posters of a similar nature were found on our own campus, as well as on UCLA, UC Irvine and UC Santa Cruz.

Despite these attacks targeting students for their political beliefs regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict, the University of California has chosen almost exclusively to address the issue within the context of anti-Semitism on campus, through the aforementioned set of Principles Against Intolerance.

For example, the document’s original form explicitly grouped anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, thereby categorizing it as a form of intolerance. Only after significant pushback from students and faculty did the Regents Working Group amend the language to say that “Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.”

By allowing anti-Zionism to be easily conflated with anti-Semitism, the UC system has allowed for the dismissal of legitimate political discourse as nothing more than hate speech.

The UC system’s reluctance to address the accusations that advocates of the Palestinian cause have faced is all the more concerning when we considering the number of students who feel that their voices have been stifled. According to Liz Jackson, an attorney with Palestine Legal, based in Oakland, her organization has documented more than 76 cases of pro-Palestinian advocacy that were suppressed on Californian campuses last year.

There is no doubt that some expressions and forms of anti-Zionism can be anti-Semitic. This does not mean, however, that the administration should ignore the treatment of students who criticize the foundations of Israel and its near half century-long occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

The Israel-Palestine conflict is an especially polarizing issue, eliciting strong opinions even from those without direct ties to the area or access to the political arenas in which it unfolds.

These tensions will be heightened next week when Tritons for Israel and Students for Justice in Palestine erect displays commemorating or criticizing the creation of Israel as a Jewish state along Library Walk. It’s admirable that the UC administration is attempting to temper discussions which frequently become borderline antagonistic. But rather than simply demonizing one side of the argument for the sake of keeping the peace, administration should for once listen to the concerns of the student population that opposes Israeli occupation, a group that has, for far too long, been ignored.

12 thoughts on “University Takes One-Sided Stance in Israel-Palestine Debate

  1. Same anti-zionist groups have little problem posting libels against students or faculty. Pro-Palestinian students and faculty have harassed in the past pro-Israeli students and faculty, and even though proven to be complete fabrications by official investigation of the university, these attacks lead many of the Israel supporter to to be silent. Some members of UCSD’s pro-Israel community refrain from becoming involved because of fear of being attacked or jeopardizing their career paths.

    One such case was widely documented in the news, such as here

    Regarding the historic homeland issue, Israel is a one tiny country that Jewish people have versus tens or hundreds of Muslim and Christian countries. Denying the Jewish people their national rights is considered anti-Semitism, and this is where the border between legitimate Israel criticism and anti-Semitic hatred lies.

  2. It is clearly not Anti-Semitic to believe that Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish State as it exists at the expense and deprivation of the indigenous Arab population that was ethnically cleansed and that is now subject to military occupation and apartheid under a Zionist colonial settler state. Anti-Zionism does not equal Anti-Semitism and the University Admins and Legislators who punish and stifle the voices of students speaking out on behalf of Palestinian rights are censoring legitimate and necessary free speech on campus.

    1. You apparently have a different definition of “apartheid”, “ethnic cleansing”, “indigenous” and “free speech” than does Merriam-Webster. But best of luck with your “narrative” (as opposed to “fact”).

      1. Typical Zionist denial. Try visiting the West Bank and Gaza and seeing the “Facts on the Ground” for yourself. Though I’m sure “Hasbara” is much more comforting. Do you need a definition for that? “Hasbara is a form of propaganda aimed at an international audience, primarily, but not exclusively, in western countries. It is meant to influence the conversation in a way that positively portrays Israeli political moves and policies, including actions undertaken by Israel in the past.”

        1. So important you had to post it twice?

          Actually, “hasbara” is Hebrew for “explanation” — as in, “explanation of facts”. But I understand that you would purport to use the term as an ad hominem (the same way you use the term “Zionist”).

          Try visiting Israel and seeing Arabs (including but not limited to Arab Jews, who originated in North Africa and the Levant) and people of every religion, race, color, and creed living in peaceful coexistence. Hardly “apartheid” (def.: “racial segregation; specifically: a former policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa”).

          Unfortunately, many people — apparently you included — object to Jews, of all the people of planet Earth, being given the right to self-determination in the land to which they are indigenous. Also unfortunately, at the time of the creation of the State of Israel, surrounding Arab states attacked it, with the goal of eradicating it (and all the Jews in it) while encouraging indigenous (non-Jewish) Arabs to leave (while also expelling Jewish Arabs from their countries).

          But getting back to the original article, how is it that you can post your comments on the UCSD Guardian’s website while at the same time claiming that “University Admins and Legislators” are punishing and stifling “the voices of students speaking out on behalf of Palestinian rights”? That strikes me as self-contradictory.

      2. Typical Zionist denial. Try visiting the West Bank and Gaza and seeing the “Facts on the Ground” for yourself. Though I’m sure “Hasbara” is much more comforting. Helps you sleep at night. Do you need a definition for that?

    2. It is clearly anti semitic for Arabs to claim that Jews have no right to the land both were born in.

      Abraham is the father of both Ishmael, whose descendants are the Arabs, and Isaac, whose son Jacob became the father of the twelve tribes of Israel.

      Abraham is buried in Hebron, in the cave of the Patriarchs in the West Bank. His sons Isaac and Jacob (Israel) are also buried there.

      Jacob’s wife Rachel is buried in Bethlehem, also in the West Bank.

      The claim that the Jews are not indigenous to the land is completely false. Even their genetic makeup shows a close relationship between them and Arabs.

      While Israel is constantly being accused of ethnic cleansing, the Arabs are the real experts.

      900,000 Jews, 99% of the population living in the Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa, left during the mid 20th century. Not just from a desire to emigrate, but also due to violence, persecution, loss of employment, and a host of other reasons based solely on their ethnicity. The number of Jews who left was even greater than all of the Arabs who fled during the 1948 war.

      So please base your opinion on verifiable facts. This seemingly impossible situation will never be resolved if we continue to believe and spread lies.

  3. It’s curious that the editorial board decided to run this piece on Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom Hashua). Didn’t you think it might make at least some Jews on campus uncomfortable?

  4. Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, the desire to return to its historic homeland two thousand years after being forcibly expelled therefrom. If you are opposed to self-determination of an indigenous population in its historic lands — but only when they are Jews — then, yes, you are an anti-Semite, a.k.a. Jew-hater.

    Ory Sandel
    UCSD (John Muir College) Class of 1991

    1. What about Muslims and Christians who also consider that land their historic homeland? Is it fair to specifically call it a Jewish land when it’s shared by several other religions?
      I certainly understand that antisemitism often hides behind anti-Zionism, but criticizing Israel should be fair game.

      1. Of course Israel deserves criticism as any country does. But that isn’t the point of contention here.

        That students who publicly ally themselves with a convicted terrorist, in a group whose founder calls for intifada in America, and in large numbers bully the university president, also deserve to be called out and criticized.

  5. The anti zionist student group attempts to hide behind anonymity. They expect a university president to protect their privacy for things they say and do publicly, even though they are adults. They should stop hiding under the college administrator’s coattails.and face the consequences of their actions.

    If they have a case of libel, by all means take it to court, But do not expect the bumpy road of contentious viewpoints to be smooth and trouble free.

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