Top University of California officials including President Janet Napolitano and several campus chancellors publicly deplore the way activists pushing UC to boycott Israel seemed to spawn outright anti-Semitic actions and outcries over the last few months.
But they’ve done nothing to stop it. Students who set up mock checkpoints on campuses to harass Jewish students and no one else were not penalized. Nor were students who questioned candidates for student government about their Jewish identity. No one has even been caught in several cases where Nazi-like swastikas were daubed on campus buildings. And no one was caught after the message “Zionists…to the gas chambers” was scrawled on a UC Berkeley wall.
Partly this is because UC has no firm standard by which to tell when protests of some of Israel’s policies sink into outright anti-Semitism.
Now, at last, the 10-campus system’s top policymakers will have a chance to set a standard. The Board of Regents is tentatively due to vote during its July 22-23 meeting in San Francisco on whether to adopt the U.S. State Department’s “Three D” definition of when political protest becomes outright anti-Semitism.
The State Department criteria are simple: If an action aims to delegitimize Israel, denying the Jewish state’s very right to exist, that’s anti-Semitic. If a protest aims to demonize Israel in ways not employed against any other country, that’s also anti-Semitic. And if a protest employs a double standard judging Israel differently from other countries, that’s anti-Semitic, too.
Here’s one clear-cut double-standard at work today: When Israel accidentally killed civilians while destroying ammunition dumps and rocket launch sites planted in crowded schools and neighborhoods in Gaza last summer, loud protests by campus groups led by Students for Justice in Palestine went on for months over the deaths of children and other non-combatants.
But while Saudi Arabian jets bombed Shiite Moslem insurgents in Yemen daily this spring and summer, often killing more civilians in a day than Israel did in its entire Gaza campaign, the same protesters said nothing.
In a springtime letter to Napolitano and all regents, nearly 700 UC professors, student groups, alumni and rabbis urged adoption of the State Department definition, and that it be followed by training of campus personnel to stymie anti-Semitic acts and talk, while not interfering with political protests against things like roadblocks, censorship or settlements in occupied territory.
“It is essential for campus (personnel) to be trained…to identify anti-Semitic behavior and to address it with the same promptness and vigor as other forms of racial, ethnic and gender bigotry and discrimination,” the letter said.
Napolitano soon after said in a radio interview that she thinks UC should adopt the Three D definition and that she will put it on the Regents’ July meeting agenda.
That’s progress. For double standards and lies have abounded at UC throughout the so-called “BDS campaign” to boycott and sanction Israel, while demanding the university divest from companies doing business there. For example, the pro-Palestinian SJP group has denied being anti-Semitic for years, while steadily demonizing Israel as “an apartheid nation,” even though it has absorbed many thousands of black Jews from Ethiopia and taken in several thousand non-Jewish refugees from black African countries like Sudan and Somalia.
SJP denies singling out Israel for protest, saying since it was organized about 10 years ago that it will protest injustice everywhere. But the group has never protested against anyone but the Jewish state.
If the Regents act as Napolitano recommends, they will be adding to a recent series of defeats for SJP, whose BDS campaign was officially rejected by the Illinois and Tennessee legislatures this spring, one dominated by Democrats, the other by Republicans. The Indiana state Senate passed a similar resolution. Student governments at several universities around the nation also rejected pro-boycott resolutions, leaving student officials at the UC campuses in Berkeley, Davis and Los Angeles and those at Stanford almost alone in passing them.
Because it’s well documented that heated debates over those resolutions were soon followed by outright anti-Semitic acts not prevented or punished on any campus, the reality is that inaction by the Regents would amount to conscious enabling of blatant anti-Semitism.