The University of California governing board unanimously approved a statement condemning anti-Semitism and “anti-Semitic forms” of anti-Zionism.
The regents’ vote Wednesday represents a compromise between the demands of free speech advocates, who claimed that a blanket condemnation of anti-Zionism would suppress legitimate criticism of Israel, and Jewish groups seeking to protect pro-Israel Jewish students from harassment and discrimination, several media outlets reported.
The approved “Principles Against Intolerance” — which condemns all forms of discrimination and affirms the legal right to academic freedom and free speech — accepts a link between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism but not language, called for by some Israel advocacy groups, equating the two.
The report did not specify punishments, but urged educators to “challenge” bias and affirmed the importance of “mutual respect and civility.
The directors of the AJC’s Los Angeles and San Francisco chapters responded to the vote with a statement saying, “We commend the UC Regents for taking action against hostility toward Jewish students on UC campuses. We also applaud the Regents for pointing out that some individuals and groups pursuing a virulently anti-Israel agenda on UC campuses have crossed a threshold into discrimination against Jewish students.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, Wednesday’s vote took place at a “packed” meeting after speakers spoke “passionately for and against the statement, citing family backgrounds as Holocaust survivors and Palestinians living under Israeli occupation of their traditional lands.”
Abraham Oved, a student regent said at the meeting, according to the Times, that the statement under consideration “unequivocally embraces the First Amendment” yet protects students who have been called “Zionist pigs” or been told “Zionist pigs should be sent back to the gas chambers.”
The proposed statement, which numerous Jewish groups spearheaded by the Amcha Initiative championed, spurred “a flood of dueling petitions, letters and articles,” the LA Times reported.
Opponents, among them groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine that promote boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, argued that the push for a statement was simply an attempt by pro-Israel groups to stop the BDS movement.