Several weeks ago, my friends Tammi Rossman- Benjamin, a lecturer in Hebrew at U.C. Santa Cruz and Leila Beckwith, Professor Emeritus at UCLA, contacted me about a letter which they wished to address to Mark Yudof, President of U.C. California – the largest college system in the United States. They expressed their outrage with the failure of Yudof and the U. C. Regents to adequately address the rising tide of anti-Semitism on California college campuses and the apparent ease with which Muslim groups and other left wing organizations are able to demonize Jews and Israel in the most vile and inciting language.
In the letter, to which they asked me to append my name and the endorsement of the American Freedom Alliance, they outlined some of the outrageous attacks to which Jewish students have been subjected over the past several years. To wit:
“ Over the last several years, Jewish students have been subjected to - swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti; acts of physical and verbal aggression; speakers, films and exhibits that use anti-Semitic imagery and discourse; speakers that praise and encourage support for terrorist organizations that openly advocate murder against Israel and the Jewish people; the organized disruption of events sponsored by Jewish student groups; and most recently, the promotion of student senate resolutions for divestment that seek to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish State.”
The crowning incident of these macabre developments occurred when grotesque gestures and obscene epithets were hurled at Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, when he attempted to deliver an address to students at U.C. Irvine on February 8. Eleven students , most of them belonging to the college’s Muslim Student Union, were arrested for civil disturbance.
The incident not only shone a kleig light on the problematic campus but also pointed to intense problems of oversight within the U.C. system itself. The failure of the Board of Regents to adequately discipline a campus which has witnessed repeated instances of anti- semitic outbursts from Muslim students and has paid little attention to the growing climate of intolerance, was a making a farce of the Regents’ professed multicultural ethos.
President Yudof’s answer was to institute a series of campus climate committees - groups of academics, campus administrators and lay leaders who might represent a broad multicultural approach to resolving campus problems.
Tammi and Leila’s letter attacked the Yudof plan as being out of touch with reality since it does not expressly deal with the most egregious form of bigotry and hatred - the attack on Jews and supporters of Israel. In other words, their contention was that the campus climate committees have not been convened to specifically address anti-Semitism – which accounts for 80% of the threatened violence and racial slurs on campus, but have been given wide purview for an investigation embracing all forms of racism. The letter composed by Rossman- Benjamin, Beckwith and U.C. Irvine lecturer Roberta Seid, gave explicit recommendations for the course the U.C. President ( himself an observant Jew) , should undertake.
They are too numerous to enumerate here but fall under the rubric of one basic directive : Call this intolerance and bigotry for what it is - a resurgence of the same anti-Semitism which has its roots planted deeply in Western history.
Yudof, disappointingly, has not risen to this challenge. In a letter, dated July 2 and addressed to the fourteen named leaders of organizations who signed the original June 28 letter( myself included) he ducks the demand that the Board of Regents expressly name anti-Semtism as the number one cause of disturbances on our campuses. Instead he urges that the multicultural campus climate change committees be given the opportunity to do their work and provide their recommendations for dealing with outbreaks of racism.
Fair enough. I can take Yudof at his word and wait for his committees to do their work. But we are all, nevertheless, absolutely correct to be skeptical. For multicultural panels throughout the West , such as the ones he has convened, have proved themselves regularly inept in addressing outbreaks of anti-Semitism, particularly from within the Muslim community. Read almost any British newspaper these days ( or the reports that we present weekly from that country in The Western Word) and you will find evidence of multicultural city councils, police boards and government agencies surrendering to the cultural sensitivities of Muslim communities, abjectly bowing to their supposed ‘multicultural’ and rights of free speech to express anger about Israeli policies and against any Jew who supports them.
I rather like Sharon Rappeport’s response to Yudof’s letter. She states that sensible monarchs learned centuries ago that there is never a substitute for first hand experience and every now and then it is good for the King to wander amongst his subjects to see for himself what is really going on in the streets of his towns and villages.
“ May I suggest then that you dress as do many of your ( observant Jewish) students: with a beard, kippa, and tzitzit–the strings hanging on the outside. Then attend a free speech “talk” by Abdul Malek at U.C. Irvine or Santa Cruz and discover what it feels like to be pointed at and screamed at by him and intimidated by his menacing bodyguards. Hang out at “the wall” during “Israel Apartheid Week”–choose any of the U.C. campuses–and try entering a discussion with the organizers of that hate fest, surrounded by banners equating Jews with Nazis. They will tell you straight out that they believe you should be killed.”
It seems inevitable that while the climate change committees slowly deliberate over the nature of violent rhetoric that has engulfed California campuses in recent years, actual violence and murder may not be too far away.
At that point, with blood spilled on our campuses, it may be too late for Mark Yudof and his Board of Regents to officially recognize that, yes, indeed, we have an antisemitic problem that cannot be met by subscription to the usual multicultural pieties or soft touch policies. They can only be stamped out by resort to the most draconian methods – either the dissolution of campus organizations, expulsion of the offending students or direct charges of criminal behavior.