Wednesday, September 18

What do the UC’s principles against intolerance mean for Zionism?

Student Regent Avi Oved was a part of a working group that wrote the recently passed Statement of Principles Against Intolerance. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Student Regent Avi Oved was a part of a working group that wrote the recently passed Statement of Principles Against Intolerance. (Daily Bruin file photo)

The University of California Board of Regents finally adopted its long-awaited Statement of Principles Against Intolerance last week after much debate.

If you followed the news at all during the week-long hiatus between the winter and spring quarters, you’d know that Zionism dominated the conversation.

Originally, the Final Report of the Regents Working Group on Principles Against Intolerance stated that anti-Zionism is a form of discrimination that has “no place at the University of California,” a statement that prompted a letter from hundreds of UC faculty members and countless columns from major media outlets. In response, the regents amended the language to read that “anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism,” not anti-Zionism as a whole, have no place at the UC. If the board accepted the original statement, the UC would’ve been the first major university system in the country to condemn anti-Zionism outright.

“Anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism,” however, is an odd thing to say. Anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism are just anti-Semitism. That is to say, “anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism” and anti-Semitism writ large are not distinct and separate categories.

This new language, while certainly softer than the original statement, still leaves a good deal of room for interpretation. Many of the concerns people had before the regents convened last week are valid even after the change.

There is no hard and fast way of determining at exactly what point anti-Zionism becomes anti-Semitism, although the two can certainly overlap. Many people say that Zionism is the belief in the self-determination of the Jewish people and their right to a Jewish state in Palestine. But this particular form of ethnic nationalism is mystified in public discourse perhaps more than any other.

Zionism is often treated as an exceptional movement, when it simply isn’t. Just like many other forms of nationalism – it is just nationalism after all – it developed in nineteenth-century Europe and, just like other forms of nationalism, the nation-state is its gold standard.

So to advocate for the unification of Israel and the Palestinian territories to create a binational state with equal rights for all could be considered the denial of the Jewish people’s self-determination as it would end Israel’s status as an exclusively Jewish nation-state.

Millions of Palestinians living in the West Bank, for example, are subject to military occupation. They cannot vote in Israeli elections despite paying taxes to the state and being subject to its laws. On the other hand, Jewish settlers living in the same region do have the right to vote. Granting these Palestinians the right to vote in Israel’s elections is arguably anti-Zionist since it may damage Israel’s Jewish character. Therefore, under this new statement, one could argue that advocating for equal rights for all citizens living in a binational or pluralist state is a form of discrimination since it would reject the idea of Jewish self-determination. Such sentiments hardly seem bigoted to the rational observer, but others may claim they are an attack on Israel’s “right to exist” and are thus an anti-Semitic form of anti-Zionism.

Student Regent Avi Oved complained that the public’s fixation with the mention of Zionism overshadowed the rest of the document. But when Zionism is the only political movement singled out for protection in a document about bigotry, it is the authors themselves who are fixated on Zionism and are giving it preferential treatment. And of course, anything pertaining to Israel and Palestine is an instant lightning rod for debate.

It is also not difficult to see that the board’s insistence on mentioning anti-Zionism by name in the final document was a way to combat the growing call for the UC to divest from companies doing business in occupied Palestine. Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a lecturer at UC Santa Cruz and the director of the group that led the push for the statement, said as much when she said opposition to Israel within the UC has led to blowback for Jewish students. To think that the attempt to label anti-Zionism as discriminatory would go under the radar, especially at a time when Israel-Palestine has taken center stage in the world of student politics at the UC, is naivety par excellence.

Thankfully, the statement is, according to the UC’s chief lawyer, a statement of opinion and not enforceable policy; the UC isn’t quite Orwellian just yet. Regardless, the idea that the people who govern a major university system can label legitimate discourse as discriminatory is concerning, whether or not it actually stops students and teachers from criticizing or opposing the ethnic nationalist movement known as Zionism. The consequences of such a move are yet to be seen, but it is certain that its critics won’t go quietly.

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Opinion columnist

Aram Ghoogasian is an opinion columnist and a member of the Daily Bruin Editorial Board. He often opines about labor issues, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the University of California.

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  • M2000

    ” They cannot vote in Israeli elections despite paying taxes to the state and being subject to its laws.”

    I thought the entire point was that they had their own state…who are they to suddenly demand to vote in Israeli elections? There are Palestinians who vote in Israeli elections…they’re called Israeli Arabs who decided to stay and not cause trouble…

  • Jaroslaw Waszczuk

    Letter to the editor: Anti-Semitic comments

    on Facebook


    Chief Of Medicine

    Published on April 5,2012

    Filed under Opinion

    In a Feb. 28, 2012 discussion on the official Facebook page of the UC Davis chapter of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), members directed anti-Semitic slum at me.

    One member referred to me as “shitstein.” Clearly the use of “stein,” since it has nothing to do with my name, is a direct reference to Jews. This epithet, which was “liked” by several members, followed an exchange where members discussed efforts to identify me and then ridiculed my name. One member commented, “his last name is Siegel. WHO WOULDA THOUGHT.” To which someone responded, “what kinda last names did you think i (sic) was looking for lol.” Mother went on to comment that “they,” in apparent reference to Jews, “all look WAY too similar.” One person referred to me as an enemy, “spewing his crap.”

    I consider this threatening behavior. Since SJP members appeared to have a number of questions about my identity and academic rank, on March 20, I sent an e-mail offering to meet with SJP. So far, they have not replied.

    The Facebook discussion followed a Feb. 27 presentation at UC Davis by two young Israelis meant to convey some of the realities of living in Israel. That event was disrupted by several UC Davis students who attended the lectures and heckled the presenters. Particularly notable were comments made by one student who accused the speakers of turning “Palestine into a land of prostitutes,” and called the presenters “rapists and child molesters.” I quietly attempted (my actions are well documented on YouTube) to get this student to stop his disruption of the meeting. Several members of the audience appealed to the UC Davis police. All to no avail.

    On March 8, 2012, University of California President Mark Yudof issued a strongly worded letter to the UC community condemning the disruptions during the event and calling the comments reprehensible.

    Unfortunately, these kinds of anti-Semitic slum are all too common on college and university campuses and, clearly, UC Davis is no exception. What appears to be challenging is to motivate UC Davis administrators to take strong action and do what they are supposed to do (maintain academic integrity) in the spirit of President Yudofs comments.

    I wrote an e-mail to UC Davis Provost Ralph J. Hexter, asking the university to take action against SJP for their hate speech directed at me, which I believe has no place on the official Facebook site

    of a UC Davis-sanctioned student organization. Provost Hexter referred my complaint to Courtney M. Robinson, Asst. Director for Policy and Conduct at UC Davis. She e-mailed me in response.

    “(I) have thoroughly reviewed it in the context of the UC Standards of Conduct for Students. While the comments posted on the Facebook page are understandably offensive, the actions of the students that posted them do not violate any of the standards. Additionally, such speech is protected under the First Amendment, and although the comments are not consistent with the campus’ Principles of Community, those principles do not constitute a policy,” she wrote.

    I am deeply troubled by these findings. If they do not violate UC Standards of Conduct for Students, then there is a serious problem. UC Davis administrators should not shrink from their responsibilities. When faculty are the target of racist and threatening behavior from students, university administrators should not hide behind misguided notions of “First Amendment” rights. If analogous comments had been made about any other minority or LGBT individuals, Ms. Robinson’s findings certainly would have been different. It appears that Ms. Robinson and the UC Davis administration do not take hate speech and threats seriously when directed against Jews. An intolerable precedent has been set.

    David Siegel MD, MPH, FACP, FAHA

    Chief of Medicine

    VA Northern California Health Care System

    Professor and Vice Chair Department of Medicine

    UC Davis School of M

  • Jaroslaw Waszczuk


    Netanyahu: ‘Palestinians Killed The Dinosaurs’

    Oct 22, 2015


    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed today that Palestinians were responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs.

    In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper this morning, the hardline conservative leader was asked to defend his recent comments, in which he claimed Palestinians were responsible for the Holocaust.

    “Well it wouldn’t be the first time they tried to drive a group to extinction,” Netanyahu told the network. “The Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, Rwanda. Even the end of the Dinosaurs. Whenever a group is threatened with annihilation, you better believe the Palestinians are behind it.”

    A puzzled Anderson Cooper pressed Netanyahu on his most outrageous claim, asking “I doubt Palestinians were involved in any of those things. But do you seriously believe they killed the Dinosaurs? Human beings didn’t even exist 65 million years ago. And most scientists believe the Dinosaurs were killed by an asteroid. I mean, how is that even possible?”

    “Anderson I’m not saying the Palestinians actually hunted down each individual dinosaur to extinction,” Netanyahu replied, “Of course that didn’t happen. That’s ridiculous. That makes no sense at all.

    “What I am saying is that Palestinian Hamas fighters traveled back in time to 65 million years ago and set off a large series of explosives that knocked the Earth off its orbit and straight into the path of an oncoming asteroid.

    “This operation was intended to wipe out the Dinosaurs, so that humanity could rise and Islam could take over the planet. Reptiles don’t believe in God, Anderson. So if you want to create an Islamic Caliphate you have to get rid of the reptiles. That’s just logic 101.

    “This was no laughing matter. It was a barbaric act that destroyed an entire civilization. Millions of innocent Dinosaur families perished as a result of Hamas’s disgusting actions. Women. Children. Even unborn eggs. All were burnt to a crisp when Islamic time travelers rammed Earth into that asteroid.

    “And that’s why keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of Muslims is so important. They’ve destroyed life on Earth before, so we know they’ll do it again.”

    Benjamin Netanyahu has served as Israel’s Prime Minister since 2009, after previously serving in the same post from 1996 to 1999. He was recently reelected in March.