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Is an attack on Israel an attack on individual Jewish identity?

A report by a University of California advisory council threatens to limit free speech on its campuses by determining that dissent of Israel can amount to an attack on one’s personal identification with the state. 

By Tom Pessah

In February of this year three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot were jailed after they performed a song in a Moscow cathedral, calling on the Virgin Mary to “throw Putin out.” The performance was condemned by the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, who felt he was “under attack by persecutors” and called the song “blasphemy.” Charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility,” the women face up to seven years in prison if convicted. The case is being followed closely to determine whether in today’s Russia, offending religious feelings could merit serious restrictions on the freedom of speech.

Free speech is also facing a crucial test on American campuses. Last month, a University of California advisory council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion published a report on “Jewish student campus climate.” Requested by UC President Mark Yudof, the report calls for the dietary needs of Jews on campus to be adequately met. It also recognizes the need to accommodate students who wish to observe Jewish holidays.

Just as important are the distinctions that the report draws between Jewish identity and support of Israel’s current policies. The authors rightly point out that “the Jewish communities on the [UC] campuses are very diverse, making generalizations difficult.”  They state that “this is especially true when it comes to the issue of Israel.” They therefore describe “holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel” as “anti-semitism.”

However, the authors also emphasize that “for many Jewish students, their Jewish cultural and religious identity cannot be separated from their identity with Israel,” and that “pro-Zionist students see an attack on the State of Israel as an attack on the individual and personal identity.” The report makes no effort to discuss the validity of these “attacks.” Instead, it calls for “policies that give campus administrators authority to prohibit such activities on campus,” as well as “education” to address “the root causes of harassment.”

Since one of the authors of the report is a member of the Anti-Defamation League, an organization which opposes even criticism of Netanyahu, these recommendations could lead to unprecedented restrictions on students’ free speech.

Some examples that the report offers, such as “the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy,“ are indeed not simply offensive, but demonstrably false. But it also very rare to hear such accusations on U.S. campuses. The report focuses on more common claims, like the use of the term “apartheid” to describe Jewish-only settlements with separate infrastructure, a separate legal status and separate voting rights, built on Palestinian land. This term has been used by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and a team of South African legal experts.

Mock checkpoints “in which Israeli soldiers are portrayed as engaging in indiscriminate acts of violence and degradation of Palestinians” are, in fact describing a harsh everyday reality for many Palestinians. “Ethnic cleansing” is not simply a slur, as the authors imply, but a description of the ongoing expulsion of Palestinians from their land, both in 1948 and today.  These are all crimes, but the report would limit discussion of them by privileging the feelings of students attached to Israeli policies over the experiences of their Palestinian victims – as well as those of Israelis and internationals who hope to end these policies.

There is a real threat of criminalizing dissent on UC campuses. In 2011, eleven students at UC Irvine were convicted of misdemeanors after they had non-violently protested a speech by the Israeli ambassador on their campus. Some of the students had lost family members in the attack on Gaza in 2009, when the current ambassador served as the IDF’s media relations officer.

As some have noted, no Muslim students are requesting limitations on free speech about the Islamic Republic of Iran or about Saudi Arabia, despite the religious and national affiliation that some students feel with those countries. A new petition points out that claims of a hostile environment for Jewish students contradict all the available quantitative evidence. Restricting discussion of state policy in order to protect religious identity is wrong – both in Russia and in the U.S. As the petition emphasizes, it is essential to maintain free speech and debate about Israel on campus.

Tom Pessah is an Israeli graduate sociology student at the University of California, Berkeley


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  • COMMENTS

    1. Tom, Perhaps an exception to the proposed restrictions on speech can be included for speech by Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe.

      I am thinking of my 87 year old mother who left Vienna in 39 and occassionally is asked to speak about her experiences. She is quick to use the “a” word and phrases like “”ethnic cleansing” when criticizing present Israeli policies.

      Needless to say, the potential restriction on speech is troubling. Thanks.

      Reply to Comment
    2. XYZ

      Look at it this way….the Palestinians said it would be “racism” to hold a minute of silence for the Israelis murdered at the 1972 Olympics. In other words, to say anything was wrong about killing the athletes, or killing any Israelis, is equivalent to criticism of the Palestinians as a whole, who apparently feel that killing them was a good thing, and perhaps that it was unfortunate that more weren’t killed.
      If if it okay to be sensitive to Palestinian feelings if they feel offended by criticism of terrorism carried out by Palestinian terrorists, then we should certainly say that we should equally be sensitive to Jews who are personally offended by criticism of Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Aaron

      Were the convicted students guilty of the misdemeanors they were convicted of, i.e., disruption of a public meeting? Does it matter whether or not they were actually guilty? Or is it the law against disrupting public meetings itself that’s the “real threat of criminalizing dissent”?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Tom P.

      Arnon, Pussy Riot may also be “guilty” of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility”, which is a punishable crime in Russia. This isn’t the only time any lecture was disrupted on UC campuses. Remi Kanazi describes how he was heckled by a guy who didn’t like his performance at UC Santa Cruz. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/07/2012711112719984650.html I don’t heckle people, myself, but I think we should still ask whether this really should be considered a misdemeanor (and not, say, a subject for internal disciplinary charges), and is the current law being equally applied to non-muslim students.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Adam

      Both in terms of substance and rhetoric, this has to be one of the most dishonest things I’ve read in 972. Pessah begins by comparing the heavy-handed censorship of a punk band in Russia to the University of California’s attempts to address speech and actions offensive to many Jewish students. A university is not a country. All colleges and universities have speech codes and attempt to regulate hate speech. These codes and regulations would not hold up for a minute in a court of law in the United States, but academic institutions have the right to impose them. The U of C system has a complex set of speech codes in place; one of the chief complaints of the Jewish students in this report is a double-standard when it comes to the University’s speech codes: comments against or about Muslims, African Americans, or gays that would never be tolerated under the University’s hate speech codes are allowed when the discussion concerns Jews and/or Israel. Another, smaller example of Pessah’s dishonesty is his claim that the ADL is opposed to any comments critical of Netanyahu. He cites an incident in which two world leaders personally disparaged Netanyahu, and the ADL protested. From this one incident, Pessah draws the preposterous conclusion that the ADL is against any criticism of Netanyahu. The most serious misrepresentation in this article concerns what the report actually says. The report acknowledges, and is attempting to sort through, the complex challenges of defining when criticism of Israel and/or Jews crosses the line into hate speech according to the University’s speech codes. Personally, I’m against all speech codes, but the harassment of Jewish students who support Israel is a very real on American college campuses, and members of the Jewish community on these campuses have the right call for consistency in the way these speech codes are applied. Finally, the Pessah concludes, “… no Muslim students are requesting limitations on free speech about the Islamic Republic of Iran or about Saudi Arabia, despite the religious and national affiliation that some students feel with those countries.” It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Pessah that students from these countries are protected by the University’s speech codes in a way that Jewish students are not.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Tom P.

      Adam, unfortunately I feel that both in substance and in tone your comment is a perfect example of the very problems the article is trying to highlight. The report very reasonably warns against holding a religious group, Jews, collectively responsible for the actions of a state, Israel, but then proceeds to confuse any “attacks on Israel” with anti-semitism. In response, you criticize toleration of offensive comments “when the discussion concerns Jews and/or Israel.” What is the nature of this “and/or”? bigotry against the Jewish religion is very different from criticism of Israeli policies, but you are systematically conflating the two.

      Regarding the ADL, despite calling the article’s claims “dishonest”, you still fail to explain why an organization opposing anti-semitism weighs on on personal criticism against the Israeli prime minister without even trying to explain why this was anti-semitism. The ADL has also attacked Jewish Voice for Peace, a national organization with many chapters all over the U.S. http://www.muzzlewatch.com/2010/10/15/ant-defamation-league-smears-peace-groups-jewish-voice-for-peace-on-top-10/ , and has even supported the Israeli government’s policies towards Turkey by actively lobbying against recognition of the Armenian Genocide http://www.muzzlewatch.com/2007/05/16/%E2%80%9Cnever-again%E2%80%9D-means-for-everyone/ . All this is way beyond their mandate of working against anti-semitism.

      Finally, a distinction needs to be drawn between genuine harassment of students and feelings that are hurt by criticism of Israeli policies. The examples the report gives, such as using the words “apartheid” or “ethnic cleansing”, fail to draw these distinctions.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Mark

      Other recent examples of trying to silence free speech were not mentioned in this piece. One very famous one was mohammed caricatures, published in a Danish newspapers. Terrorists throughout the muslem world responded, none of them suggested free speech should be protected.
      The fact is that UC is home for terrorists supporters and apologists, and these people are exploiting free speech for their purposes. These people will never tolerate anything else, and their holding of the first amendment is purely opportunistic and cynical.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Adam

      @Tom P. “The report very reasonably warns against holding a religious group, Jews, collectively responsible for the actions of a state, Israel, but then proceeds to confuse any “attacks on Israel” with anti-semitism.”

      Am I to understand by this comment that you don’t believe any “attack on Israel” can ever cross the line into anti-Semitsm?

      Reply to Comment
    9. Tom P.

      Adam, in order to claim that an attack on Israel “crosses the line” and becomes anti-semitism, you need to clearly define what that line is. Claiming Israel is a part of the world Jewish conspiracy would be using specific anti-semitic tropes in the context of criticizing Israeli policies. But Obama’s personal dislike of Netanyahu, the words “ethnic cleansing”, “apartheid”, or protests against checkpoints in the West Bank – none of these are directed towards the jewish religion.

      The persistent misuse of the word antisemitism in this context is creating the opposite problem for Jewish students critical of Israeli policies:

      While UC students have consistently complained that anti-Semitism is cast about to stifle critique of Israel’s policies, the council members dismiss their concerns that “the charge of anti-Semitism is used in a manner to suppress that criticism”.

      Rebecca Pierce, a Jewish African-American student interviewed for the report at UC Santa Cruz, said, “Both former Leviathan Jewish Journal editor, Shani Chabanksy, and myself personally gave the advisory council representatives articles written by Jewish students at UC Santa Cruz who felt the Department of Education complaint and investigation into our university was being used to silence campus criticism of Israeli policy. Our statements and experiences, which we relayed to Barton [the ADL representative], were left completely out of the report.”
      http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/07/2012711112719984650.html

      Reply to Comment
    10. Y-Man

      “for many Jewish students, their Jewish cultural and religious identity cannot be separated from their identity with Israel.” well that’s their fucking fault. grow up, children.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Y-Man

      Mark, you have to be the most willfully obtuse commenter I’ve seen in a while.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Y-Man

      @ Adam “It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Pessah that students from these countries are protected by the University’s speech codes in a way that Jewish students are not.”
      Are you honestly saying that IRANIANS are treated better in America than Zionist Jews! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

      Reply to Comment
    13. Adam

      “Are you honestly saying that IRANIANS are treated better in America than Zionist Jews! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

      That’s not what I said. I said the sensitivities of students from Iran and other countries in the middle east are better protected than the sensitivities of Jewish students in American universities. In American society at large, I think it’s much more difficult to be Muslim than Jewish, but that’s not the case in academia.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Rebecca

      @ Adam.
      I think you’re assertion here is just false. I’m a Jewish student in the UC and I have to say, as such, I have much more access to programs and organizations related to my culture and heritage than Arab, Iranian, or Muslim students. At my campus we have Modern and Biblical Hebrew classes, Yiddish classes, and a Jewish studies major, not to mention Hillel, Chabad, a Jewish Journal, and a pro-Israel student group funded by StandWithUs. There are NO Arabic classes and no Middle-Eastern resource center, the only representation that Muslim, Arab, or Iranian students have is in small student orgs. That inequality is part of what makes the report so outrageous.

      @Tom, quick note:
      The person who interrupted Remi’s speech was female.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Rebecca

      @Adam
      There are also well-funded groups like the ADL, StandWithUs, and the Amcha Initiative that devote much of their time to bullying those engaged in Palestinian rights speech on campuses. I’ve yet to see a similar effort launched on behalf of Palestinian students upset by Israel related speech.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Aaron

      I don’t know what happened at the
      UCI speech, and I never will know from reading the Electronic Intifada articles that were linked to, but there’s a difference between mild heckling and trying to prevent a speaker from delivering his speech. I don’t consider *stopping* such illegal *disruption* so that a speaker can *deliver* his speech to his audience to be a “real threat of criminalizing dissent.” Dissent? Really?
       
      We should always be concerned that laws are applied impartially. That’s kind of a Mom and apple pie issue. The actual facts of the incident make all the difference here, but the Electronic Intifada articles don’t seem interested in reporting the facts one way or the other. OK.
       
      Unrelated question: What’s the relevance of Rebecca Pierce’s race to this whole thing? That kind of confused me, frankly. What conclusions are we supposed to draw from it?

      Reply to Comment
    17. Rebecca

      @Aaron
      Why do you feel obligated to draw a conclusion? I’m sorry that the fact that some Jewish people have other factors in the way they identify is confusing to you.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Adam

      “There are also well-funded groups like the ADL, StandWithUs, and the Amcha Initiative that devote much of their time to bullying those engaged in Palestinian rights speech on campuses. I’ve yet to see a similar effort launched on behalf of Palestinian students upset by Israel related speech.”

      Rebecca– The above statement is very much at odds with the experience of many members of the UC Jewish community and with the facts themselves. Disruptions and bullying are common at pro-Israel events; no one bullies students engaged in Palestinian rights.

      http://www.jsantisemitism.org/articles/BeckwithJSA231(2).pdf

      Reply to Comment
    19. Jogortha

      Soon the term “antisemitic” will cease to have any meaning.. that’s how much it has been abused. So, what would happen if a group of native-american students said that any talk of the creation of America offends their national and religious identity. What would you think would happen if they asked to be accommodated the way the article describes pro-israel groups are? It ought to be considered that asking for special treatment by a specific group might create hostility against it from other groups just because other groups aren’t afforded such special treatment?

      Reply to Comment
    20. Richard Witty

      Where is the line between dissent and harrassment?

      Its real. To say that dissent never harrasses (to the point of legal assault), is a lie.

      But, the action of harrassment should be the determining factor.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Piotr Berman

      I do not understand why Universities should help students (as well as faculty and staff?) to preserve their identities. “Identity” seems to be an individual matter.

      Clearly, critiques of Israel are only one of a multitude of ways Jewish identity can be compromised. Comely students could entice Jews to date, eat cheeseburgers and shrimp salad, “much better than potato salad”, join a group preparation for an exam on the Shabbat day etc.

      “the report calls for the dietary needs of Jews on campus to be adequately met” — and what is adequate? Are the report authors aware that some Jews are less strict but some are more strict? And that dishes and silverware has to be sorted to proper dishwashers, and that some time before the Passover or crumbs of leavened breads have to be removed from the food preparation areas and so on? And what good does it do if the Student Union building has a place with kosher food if it next to a counter emitting enticing smell of pepperoni pizza?

      Reply to Comment
    22. Adam

      The hostile environment for Jewish students and faculty on American campuses is very real. I really don’t care whether it’s labelled anti-Semitism, but the hostile atmosphere exists. Let me provide an actual example from the college where I teach. A Jewish student was enrolled in a film studies course. The professor went off on a tangent about right-wing Zionists that had nothing to do with the subject matter of the course. When the Jewish student emailed the professor to say she was offended by the way he used the term Zionist in class, he replied with a clearly anti-Semitic comment, saying that only the Jews and the Nazis believed they were the “chosen people.” The student dropped the class and never took another course in the film department. She reported the exchange of emails to the Dean of the College. The film studies professor was not disciplined in any way. Except for the anti-Semitic email, the above incident is not an isolated one. If Jewish students want to attend events where they know they’ll encounter views about Israel they find offensive, that’s their choice; no one is forcing them to attend such lectures. However, Jewish students should be able to enroll in classes and not be subjected to opinions about the Israel they find offensive if the class has nothing to do with Israel. Unfortunately, this happens more than people realize. Indeed, the sociology professor at a U of C campus who compared the Warsaw Ghetto with Gaza was teaching a course that had nothing to do with Israel/Palestine or Eastern Europe. In the article I posted by Professor Beckwith, she cites examples of self-censorship by Jewish professors. I can attest to how true this is. Indeed, I’m guilty of it myself. In academia, other people’s opinion of you is the coin of the realm, and Jewish professors with moderate views about Israel silence themselves so as not to devalue their standing within the institution.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Tom P.

      @Adam, I think it would be easier for me to empathize with the examples you are providing if you didn’t, at the same time, devalue the experiences of others. You state that “no one bullies students engaged in Palestinian rights”. Have you spoken to many students of this kind? did you read the petition, the comments on the al-jazeera article I linked to, Rebecca’s comments on this thread? of course all students have the right to expect not to feel attacked, but I wish people didn’t use this legitimate desire in order to silence or deny the experiences of others.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Rorr

      Tom, I’m curious, I know your agenda. But leaving that aside. Say your successful, Israel disappears, the Jewish population id dead or running. And you know that’s what would happen. How would your life be better? Serious question

      Reply to Comment
    25. adam

      Tom– Pardon my cynicism, but you’re too much of an anti-Israel ideologue to be capable empathizing with Jewish students who are subjected to a hostile environment by anti-Israel professors and student groups.

      Reply to Comment
    26. Y-Man

      @Adam, see the problem is you go from that nutjob film professor, which was definitely beyond the pale, to “Indeed, the sociology professor at a U of C campus who compared the Warsaw Ghetto with Gaza was teaching a course that had nothing to do with Israel/Palestine or Eastern Europe” and “ewish professors with moderate views about Israel silence themselves so as not to devalue their standing within the institution.” The latter are not examples of harassment at all. Firstly, you claim that the dust-up with the kooky film prof was not an “isolated incident,” but you offer no proof beyond your word and your single anecdote. Secondly, you very plainly conflate searing criticism of Israeli policy with “harassment.” There is an apt comparison to be made between something like the Warsaw Ghetto and the giant refugee camp known as Gaza, and if you disagree with that, then articulate your viewpoint with evidence and proper debate, like normal, thinking adults do. Don’t go whining to the university administrators to silence people you disagree with.

      Reply to Comment
    27. Rebecca

      @Adam
      No offense but I will trust my actual my first hand knowledge and experiences as a Jew at the UC over your innuendo and exaggerationa any day. Do you not see any irony in telling someone who belongs to the group you claim to be speaking for that their experiences don’t fit in with”fact”? Also posting from yet another right wing group claiming to look out for Jewish students actually just backs up my point even further. Don’t claim to speak for UC Jews, you are wrong in your assumptions and we don’t want your “help”. We need actual representation, not illinformed commentary.

      Reply to Comment
    28. Rorr

      Y-man If you think that Gaza and the Warsaw ghetto are similar then you are in dire need of a history lesson. I suggest Shoah by Claude Lanzman, the world at war, or the war against the Jews, the book.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Rorr

      On the other hand you could just be a jew baiting anti-semite.

      Reply to Comment
    30. Adam

      “No offense but …” Oy, Rebecca, I’m so tired of students who begin sentences “No offense but” and then, of course, say something offensive. At least own your offensiveness. I didn’t post anything from a right wing site. I posted a link to a scholarly article that thoroughly documents the hostile environment experienced by many Jewish students in the UC system. I’m happy for you that your experience has been positive, but there is abundant documentation that many Jews in the UC system have had a different experience. You said in an earlier post “There are also well-funded groups like the ADL, StandWithUs, and the Amcha Initiative that devote much of their time to bullying those engaged in Palestinian rights speech on campuses.” Can you provide any documented examples of the ADL bullying “those engaged in Palestinian rights?”

      Reply to Comment
    31. Tom P.

      @Adam, you posted a link to an article by Leila Beckwith, co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative. Amcha has been at the forefront of attempts to silence criticism of Israel on UC campuses. Here are some examples of their attacks on professors:
      http://electronicintifada.net/tags/amcha-initiative

      in the article you posted there is a section on the “hostile environment” on UC campuses which provides a grand total of two actual examples – one email and one incident at UCLA. Since the author is directly involved in efforts to limit free speech on these issues I’d like to see outside sources confirming what she said.

      The article also alleges that several student organizations use “classical antisemitic tropes of blood libels and accusations
      of Jews controlling the U.S. government, as well as more current tropes of equating Jews/Israelis with Nazis” but provide zero actual examples of that. From my experience as a UC Berkeley student, such incidents do occur but they are extremely rare (certainly more rare than comparisons of pro-Palestine students to Nazis).

      On the other hand we have provided you with several testimonies of students who feel their free speech on Israel is being limited, and we could provide more:

      http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/j-street-u-was-rejected-but-it-won-t-be-silenced-1.408264

      http://www.muzzlewatch.com/2010/10/29/the-zionist-organization-of-americas-effort-to-criminalize-campus-activism-through-federal-civil-rights-legislation/

      now, I really don’t want to get into a competition with you. I really don’t want to devalue the experiences of students who do feel attacked. No one should feel that way on campus. But I’d also appreciate some understanding towards students who don’t share your politics, especially Palestinians who also have feelings and language that offends them, but also Jewish students like Rebecca and myself. If you do not consider our experiences valuable, please don’t expect us to empathize with you. I’m ending this conversation here since I don’t want to engage in a back-and-forth with you.

      Reply to Comment
    32. Aaron

      Rebecca, my question was actually about Tom Pessah’s identifying Rebecca Pierce (you?) by race, not about her/your self-identification. What’s jarring is not that someone self-identifies by race – I do, too, pretty strongly – but that race is even mentioned in this context. I really don’t see the connection. Do you? Is there *supposed* to be a connection?

      Reply to Comment
    33. Jehudah

      Let us be clear: Anti-Israel speech amounts to singling out the nation-state of the Jewish people, Israel, in order to demonize it, to de-legitimize it, to seek its demise. And, by extension, since Israel is the nation-state of a people, the Jewish people, to demonize the Jewish people, to de-legitimize it, to – by some -seek its very demise.

      This is not news. We, Jews, have faced this phenomenon for centuries. Now, under the thin veil of “anti-Zionism” and “anti-Israel” and “anti-settlements” and “anti-wall” and anti-occupation”, we also face it in America.

      We, Jews, must respond in two ways: 1) Expose this reality for what it is and fight it, i.e. The UNHOLY TRINITY, which is made of classic anti-Semites; “progressive” anti-Jewish racists; and, 7th century-based Islamists. 2) Return home, to Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Ian on the Hill

      Useless logic. We ban comment or criticism of anything that anyone feels is part of their identity? Yoga? Football? Trainspotting clubs? Klu Klux Klan? Arrant nonsense.

      Reply to Comment
    35. Rebecca

      @Aaron
      My guess is Tom was referring to an AJE article the describes me as African America and Jewish, which is exactly how I self-identify. I don’t like to refer to myself as only being Jewish because that would negate the other parts of my identity as someone who is mixed race. Too often mixed Jews are asked to check their “otherness” for the comfort of others, that is something I cannot do. As far as I’m concerned, if my Jewishness is relevant my blackness is too.

      Reply to Comment
    36. Mareli

      It sounds as though an attack on Israel is an attack on individual Jewish identity if a Jewish individual identifies with Israel. In other words, it is up to the individual Jew to decide whether an attack on Israel is an attack on him- or herself. Many Jews do not identify with the current political government of Israel while still identifying with Israel as a nation. Other Jews say that an attack on Israel is an attack on Jews everywhere. Since Jews themselves cannot seem to agree on this question, it is doubly difficult for others to do so.

      Reply to Comment
    37. Y-Man

      @Rorr see, you just engaged the debate about this comparison civilly and intelligently. People like Adam and Jedudah are running to the administrators because they are too mentally feeble to do what you do, and too fascist to change their thinking.

      Reply to Comment
    38. Fat Freddy's Cat

      Rebecca, No Muslim on campus would dare make you uncomfortable or bully you due to your protected status as an AA. A Caucasian Jewish student cannot say the same thing. Perhaps you should have some empathy for your fellow Jewish students and accept that certain actions directed at them crossed over from expressing an opinion to harassment and intimidation. Even if you yourself did not witness them These individuals do not carry your status as an untouchable.

      Rorr, my inclination is to side with your other hand.

      Reply to Comment
    39. Rebecca

      @FFC
      I’m not sure why you think you’re in a position to tell me me what it is like on my campus, or how being half black factors into my non-existent “status as an untouchable” (what does that even mean?). I think this goes back to the issue behind the climate report which is that people claiming to speak for Jewish students seem unwilling to actually listen to them. While I feel for any student who is bullied for their beliefs, you seem to be carrying some very bizarre notions of race and status into this conversation that don’t reflect the situation at UCs at all. If anything I get privilege from the fact that the Jewish part of my heritage is Ashkenazi. The idea that I somehow get a bump up in status for being half black is just laughable.

      Reply to Comment
    40. Adam

      Rebecca– As it turns out, you are, or were, a student activist for Palestinian rights. That’s fine. What isn’t fine is that you’ve represented yourself as a typical UC Jewish student. “I will trust my actual my first hand knowledge and experiences as a Jew at the UC over your innuendo and exaggerationa any day. Do you not see any irony in telling someone who belongs to the group you claim to be speaking for that their experiences don’t fit in with”fact.” I think it’s fair to say that the majority of Jewish students at UC are not engaged in activism for Palestinian rights. Your experiences as a Jewish student at UC are not typical.

      I think the larger context for understanding this issue is that Jews, for all practical purposes, have been left outside of the multi-cultural umbrella. Jews are viewed as “white” and don’t have the same minority status African Americans, gays and lesbians, or Latinos. Many forms of speech that would offensive to Muslims or gays, for example, are censored or suppressed in various ways on university campuses, and Jewish students who are offended in the ways that Israel is demonized wonder why the same protections don’t extend to them. As I said in an earlier post, I don’t support speech codes of any sort and therefore don’t support efforts to label certain types of anti-Israel discourse as “anti-Semitic” for the purpose of censoring it. However, many forms of speech and conversations are suppressed on university campus, and it would be naive to assume otherwise.

      Reply to Comment
    41. Rebecca

      @Adam,
      How can you claim again to know what is “typical” for Jewish students at the UC? I am an active member in the UC Jewish community, participating in multiple Jewish orgs, including Hillel and our Jewish Journal. I also personally know most of the students in our campus pro-Israel group through these activities, many are my friends and family. This gives me a much better handle on UC Jewish life than some anonymous outside commentator, and in I no way did I misrepresent that. The fact that I have different political beliefs than you does not make me any less a Jew, or erase my involvement in my own community. FYI almost half of our campus Palestinian solidarity group is Jewish, including leadership. To try and discredit me that way is just sad, and frankly tired. It is what that bogus report attempts to do, and is why the authors blatantly left out testimony they heard but didn’t like.

      Yes, I know there have been situations in which some Jewish students have felt uncomfortable in the classroom or some other space, but this is not coming from “Muslim” students as people are claiming. In fact more of it comes from our town’s scary white supremacist movement. Given the resources available to Jewish students at the UC (I know they are there because I use them), it is just wrong and ignorant to try to compare us to what is available to students of color and say we come out at a disadvantage. You clearly have no idea what it is like to be Black, Muslim, or Latino in the UC system, it is dangerous and at times deadly. I’m not interested in this conversation anymore because clearly you don’t respect my perspective and experience, based solely on my perceived political beliefs. This is exactly what is pushing young Jews like myself from our own communities, and why people like the authors of the report, or even yourself, cannot accurately claim to represent us.

      Reply to Comment
    42. Rebecca

      I’m definitely not saying I speak for everyone, our community is diverse. The problem with this report is that it erases that.

      Reply to Comment
    43. Adam

      Rebecca–

      I never for a moment questioned your Jewishness. You actually proved my point when you said, “I also personally know most of the students in our campus pro-Israel group through these activities, many are my friends and family.” My point was simply that your views about Israel are probably not typical of most UC Jewish students. You’re right– I don’t know any students in the UC system. But I teach at an east coast college, and I’ve been involved with many dialogues with Jewish and Muslim students, and, when tensions flared on my campus between Jewish and African American students, I played a central role in mediating between them. I’ve said a number of times on this thread that I don’t agree with any attempts to label anti-Israel speech as anti-Semitic in order to silence it, but you seem to have overlooked this in order to cast me as the antagonist.

      Reply to Comment
    44. Fat Freddy's Cat

      Rebecca, exactly. The purpose of the report is to address the unacceptably high level of intimidation and harassment that goes on in the UC system and to find a remedy. Under the cloak of free speech, certain individuals abused their privileges and invited greater regulation on themselves. The fact that you do not claim to have been bullied is good for you, but is no longer part of the discussion on how to protect the civil rights of others. One can not refute the claims of others by merely being x percentage Jewish or y percentage black, that is nonsensical.

      Reply to Comment
    45. Piotr Berman

      “Both in terms of substance and rhetoric, this has to be one of the most dishonest things I’ve read in 972. Pessah begins by …”

      If this is “one of the most dishonest things one can read in 972″, the standards of this site are very high. Tom is a sociologist and he wrote quite carefully.

      Adam’s example of “hostile atmosphere” are quite unconvincing to me. It is not clear that professors should refrain from off-hand remarks unrelated to their lectures. An unfavorable remark on “right wing Zionist” is not even directed at Zionists in general so it is hard to tell that is directed at Jews in general. A remark “only Jews and Nazis believe to be Chosen People” seems inaccurate: I am not aware of such Nazi belief, so it is a gratuitous attempt to put “Jews” and “Nazi” in the same sentence. Lame, but leftist Jews are routinely compared with Nazi collaborators (including university situation, like Israeli professor criticizing BDS conference in campus newspaper), Palestinians and Iranians are routinely classified as Nazis, while feminists are dubbed “feminazis”.

      More bizarrely, leaders of NGO Monitor seem to believe that questioning the status of Jews as Chosen People is anti-Semitic, “a reading of the New Testament that considers the Church to have superseded the Jewish people in God’s promises”. The generalization that “Jews view themselves as God’s Chosen people” does not appear ex nihilo.

      Reply to Comment
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+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

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