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Op-ed: UCLA must condemn Hamas attacks, fight antisemitism on campus

By UCLA Faculty Against Terror

Dec. 5, 2023 8:47 p.m.

This post was updated Dec. 6 at 7:59 p.m.

Editor’s Note: This submission is an updated version of an open letter to the university. More than 350 members of UCLA faculty signed this submission. Please see the original letter to view the complete list of signatories.

To Chancellor Gene Block and the UCLA administration:

We are UCLA faculty who are deeply concerned about the recent terror attack by Hamas, the celebrations of the attack in rallies on the UCLA campus and the UCLA response. We are concerned about the impact of these on the sense of community at UCLA, as well as on the safety of our community of students, staff and faculty on campus.

On the morning of Oct. 7, Hamas terrorists launched an attack on Israeli civilians, entering Israel from Gaza. The terror attacks were cruel and horrific beyond anything that has been seen since the days of the Holocaust.

As a result of the massacre performed by Hamas, around 200 bodies of Israeli civilians were not identifiable even three weeks after the terror attack. Reports allege that babies were beheaded, entire families were tortured and then executed, women were abused and their mistreated naked bodies were paraded, entire villages were completely wiped out, and the Hamas terrorists massacred and slaughtered over 260 innocent youth from many nationalities at a music festival.

The terrorists took around 240 hostages back to Gaza, mostly children, women and the elderly. The victims of the terror attack include citizens of Israel, the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Nepal, Thailand, the Philippines, Russia, China, Turkey, Germany and many other countries – several of whose nationals are also being held hostage in Gaza. Many in the Jewish world already refer to the Oct. 7 terror attacks as a second Holocaust.

While we all have our different political views on the Israeli-Palestinian situation, the Oct. 7 slaughter should be condemned irrespective of political views. UCLA leadership must make the strongest possible statements condemning the barbaric Hamas attacks. There is no room for moral equivalence. There is no room for “both-sideism.” There is no room for ambiguity.

In addition, while we all cherish the First Amendment and its guarantees of freedom of speech and assembly, UCLA must ensure that any hate speeches and celebrations of the Hamas massacre by students and faculty on our campus are prevented from crossing the line from protected speech to unlawful incitement.

We were horrified to see rallies on campus in which the massacres by Hamas were celebrated, including explicit calls for violence – such as chanting “Intifada” or event advertisements featuring images of weapons and violence. These celebrations create an atmosphere of fear. One cannot imagine that UCLA will allow for celebrations of the killing of George Floyd or for celebrations of the Armenian genocide or the celebrations of the 9/11 attacks. It is inconceivable why such celebrations are not denounced by UCLA leadership, regardless of political views. The atmosphere on campus results in Jewish students, staff and faculty who are afraid to be on campus, show solidarity with Israel or practice their freedom of religion in public.

We therefore urge the UCLA leadership to take the following actions:

  • Denounce in the strongest possible terms any celebrations of Hamas terror attacks and killings. The administration must take firm steps – including a public statement – to denounce any campus rallies crossing the line from speech to incitement, such as those rallies where speakers call for violence and spilling of blood.
  • Join President Joe Biden and the European Union in characterizing Hamas as a terrorist organization.
  • Hold student groups and UCLA community members who directly participate in such incitement – for example, distributing event invitations that encourage incitement – accountable by enforcing existing UCLA policies prohibiting such behavior.
  • Enforce UCLA’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to fight antisemitism in all its insidious manifestations, including anti-Israelism by designating a special envoy to coordinate this fight.

We thank you in advance for your consideration of these requests. We write to you in anticipation of ready collaboration and a reasonable discussion of our concerns. With broad support from concerned colleagues, we will advocate for the liberal values that this university is supposed to champion for the protection of students against antisemitic abuse.

We thank you for your consideration – for your work to create a more inclusive community – and we look forward to speaking soon.

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