The University of California revised a proposed policy on intolerance to include "anti-Zionism" and anti-Semitism as forms of discrimination that won't be tolerated on UC's 10 campuses, releasing the long-anticipated draft statement Tuesday to both praise and criticism.
The new statement prepared by a working group was applauded by Jewish organizations that had demanded more be done to protect students against anti-Semitism after several high-profile incidents, including one in which swastikas were spray-painted on a Jewish fraternity house.
"We're very, very pleased that the working group really indicated very clearly what Jewish students have been feeling and all of us have known for a long time, which is that anti-Zionism is the most common face of anti-Semitism in college campuses," said Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a professor at UC Santa Cruz and director of the AMCHA Initiative, which investigates cases of anti-Semitism against university students.
The proposed statement says "anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California" and calls on university leaders to "challenge speech and action reflecting bias, stereotypes, and/or intolerance."
The UC's governing board considered a policy rejecting intolerance and upholding academic freedom drafted by the president's office at its meeting in September but Jewish groups contested it was too weak and needed to specifically address "anti-Zionism," which includes calling for the elimination of Israel.
"The fact is that anti-Zionism is viewed as anti-Semitism by most Jewish students and by the vast majority of the Jewish community," said Rossman-Benjamin.
Groups critical of Israel's treatment of Palestinians said the proposed policy, which will be voted on by the UC Board of Regents during March 23 meeting in San Francisco, could be used to silence them.
"As a student who considers my work advocating for Palestinian human rights as an expression of my Jewish values, I am surprised to see that criticism of a modern nation-state that regularly violates international law is so centered in a report against intolerance," said Eitan Peled, a UCLA student and campus leader for Jewish Voice for Peace, which has been critical of Israel's treatment of Palestinians.
"Debate over Zionism and the abusive policies of the state of Israel absolutely should be debated vigorously, not silenced by accusations of discrimination," Peled said.