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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Omar Barghouti's Appearance at UC Davis

Last week, Palestinian propagandist Omar Barghouti spoke at UC Davis sponsored by several faculty departments.  As in the case of UCLA and UC Riverside, the AMCHA Initiative wrote letters to the chancellor protesting the blatant indoctrination attempt by the faculty towards the student audiences. They received a response from UCD Chancellor Linda Katehi, which is below.  here is AMCHA's response.


Dear Chancellor Katehi,

While we appreciate that you responded to our letter of concern regarding the departmental sponsorship of a highly partisan event featuring Omar Barghouti, which took place on your campus last Thursday, we are dismayed that you deemed the departmental sponsorship of this event to be a legitimate exercise of academic freedom.  After watching a videotape of the event, we believe that you are very much mistaken, and that the four sponsoring academic units -- ME/SA, Asian American Studies, Native American Studies, and Asian American Cultural Politics Research Cluster -- are in clear violation of both University policy and California law.

Far more than simply "taking positions on controversial issues," Barghouti and the three other speakers at the event, who were all introduced as "activists" rather than as scholars, used the University podium to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state and encourage students to engage in activism against it, particularly boycott.

Omar Barghouti, Palestinian activist and founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, was the featured speaker at the event. As we feared, Barghouti's talk was pure propaganda and political screed laced with antisemitic tropes, whose unambiguous purpose was to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state and actively promote the academic boycott of Israel.  For example:

- Barghouti claimed that Israel's government is "overtly racist," that Palestinians are "brutalized by [Israel's] escalating colonial and apartheid policies," and that the majority of Israelis view Palestinians "as less than human."

- He accused Israeli soldiers of "hunting children," saying that sharpshooter Israeli soldiers target Palestinian children and shoot to kill, and that the soldiers "entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport," leaving the children with their "stomachs ripped out, the gaping holes in their torsos."

- He accused "Israel and its well-oiled lobby groups" of "buying and paying for allegiance in Congress" and controlling the media.

- He compared those who criticize the BDS movement to "those white Americans who pushed back against the Montgomery bus boycott," implying that anyone who criticizes the boycott of Israel is a racist.

- He praised those student senates that had passed anti-Israel divestment resolutions, and he said to the students in the room, "We hope you are next!"

Another speaker, Sydney Levy, denied the legitimacy of the Jewish state, claimed that Israel exploits the Holocaust to perpetrate injustice against Palestinians, and encouraged UC Davis students to push for an anti-Israel divestment resolution in their student senate.

Speaker Tony Gonzales accused the "Israel Lobby" of "red-washing," suggesting that Zionist Jews had made overtures to, and even bribed, prominent Native American leaders in order to strengthen ties with them, so that Israelis could claim that they, too, are indigenous people.

During the subsequent Q & A session, when a student asked when it was time to move from non-violent means to armed struggle, two of the speakers answered in a way that not only condoned but endorsed armed violence in the struggle to "liberate Palestine":

According to Sydney Levy: "Nonviolence is a tactic, for example the BDS movement uses non-violence as a tactic...but I know of very few countries that have been liberated only with non-violent struggle.  The truth of the matter is that every people that is oppressed has the right to armed struggle...so there is a place for that."

According to speaker Rhonda Ramiro: "The efforts to demonize...the Palestinian struggle and those who have decided to take up arms -- to demonize it as terrorism...it's our responsibility to break through those myths and to uphold that right to self-determination, whether its through armed struggle or non-violent means."  

Furthermore, after the event the faculty moderator called on an SJP leader to make the following announcement:

"I was moved by everything that was said today. If you were moved as well, divestment is coming back to campus [loud applause and cheers], it's coming back in the spring, and we need everybody's help!  This is my email address, and please contact me if you want to join." 

It is clear that this event was not meant to educate UCD students but to indoctrinate them, and to encourage their engagement in anti-Israel political activism, especially boycott. While it may be appropriate for a student organization with a political mission to bring activist speakers to campus and to promote political activism at their events, it is certainly NOT appropriate for official University units to organize, sponsor and fund such events.  And yet, according to the event moderator, ME/SA Professor Noha Radwan, "all these departments came together to make this great event happen."

Moreover, the fact that several faculty members in these departments are clearly themselves anti-Israel political activists who support the academic boycott of Israel suggests that these faculty are misusing their departments' names and University resources to promote their own hatred of the Jewish state and activism to harm it.  In particular, Asian Studies and ME/SA Professor Sunaina Maira, who was specially thanked by the event moderator for putting the event together and being "instrumental in making this happen," is a founding member of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott or Israel and an organizer of the recent Academic Studies Association Boycott of Israeli universities and scholars.

Please understand that political and ideological indoctrination is NOT protected by academic freedom.  According to the "nonindoctrination principle" of the American Association of University Professor's committee on academic freedom (Committee A): "faculty will not use their courses or their position for the purpose of political, ideological, religious, or antireligious indoctrination."

The UC Regents have also prohibited the use of the University for political indoctrination, writing in the Regents Policy on Course Content (also known as the Regents Policy on Academic Freedom) the following:

“[The Regents] are responsible to see that the University remain aloof from politics and never function as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest.  Misuse of the classroom by, for example, allowing it to be used for political indoctrination… constitutes misuse of the University as an institution.”

Furthermore, as we have pointed out previously, this event is in clear violation of at least two state laws -- California Government Code 8314, which prohibits the use of state university resources for personal purposes, and California Education Code 92000, prohibits the use of the University of California's name and reputation for the purpose of advancing a boycott.

In light of these violations of university policy and state law, please tell us what steps you intend to take to ensure members of the Jewish community, taxpayers, and legislators that UCD's name and resources will not be used to promote hateful propaganda and an antisemitic boycott of Israel?


Sincerely,

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin
Co-founder, AMCHA Initiative

Leila Beckwith
Co-founder, AMCHA Initiative




On Jan 17, 2014, at 1:19 PM, Linda P.B. Katehi wrote:

Dear Ms. Rossman-Benjamin, Ms. Beckwith, Ms. Rothstein, and Ms. Rubin;

Thank you for your email concerning the lecture this week by Omar Barghouti and others sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine, a registered student organization, and co-sponsored by four academic departments.

It is my obligation as the Chancellor of UC Davis to protect the academic freedom and right to freedom of expression of the members of this community. I know you will agree that independent thought and diversity of opinions are the backbone of a great university, and indeed, that academic freedom and freedom of expression are necessary for any university to fulfill its mission of producing and disseminating knowledge.

As you note, it is important that UC Davis as an institution does not take sides on political issues in contravention of university policy. We also do not censure faculty from taking positions on controversial issues or prevent a lecture or debate on those issues in campus events. This would run counter to the basic principles of an academic community. UC Davis is committed to providing a forum that encourages the presentation and debate of all points of view, and we welcome events in which participants may disagree with Mr. Barghouti’s point of view.

As you reference in your letter, I elected to express my views on this topic in a widely disseminated communication to the UC Davis community on December 28, 2013, in which I was joined by Provost Hexter. In this communication, we strongly opposed the boycott of Israeli academic institutions and maintained that a boycott is inimical to the principles of free speech and academic freedom that are the bedrock of teaching and scholarship. I elected to express my point of view on this topic, and I feel very strongly about it. Despite how I feel personally, I have the duty to protect the rights of students, faculty, and staff to express their own opinions and beliefs.

Sincerely,
Linda P.B. Katehi
The University of California is subject to the California Public Records Act, which provides public access to public agency records. Please be mindful as you compose your messages that the University is committed to transparency so most emails will be subject to public disclosure, with limited exceptions.”
Linda Katehi
Chancellor UC Davis
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616
Tel: (530) 752-2067
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I have already spoken about the faculty involvement of bringing Barghouti to UCR and UCLA, so I won't repeat what I have already said. It is clear that the same problem exists at UC Davis in that the faculty are not merely allowing a certain point of view to be aired, but actively supporting that point of view and not exposing students to opposing points of view. Beyond that, I want to highlight what two other speakers were quoted as saying:

"According to Sydney Levy: "Nonviolence is a tactic, for example the BDS movement uses non-violence as a tactic...but I know of very few countries that have been liberated only with non-violent struggle.  The truth of the matter is that every people that is oppressed has the right to armed struggle...so there is a place for that."

"According to speaker Rhonda Ramiro: "The efforts to demonize...the Palestinian struggle and those who have decided to take up arms -- to demonize it as terrorism...it's our responsibility to break through those myths and to uphold that right to self-determination, whether its through armed struggle or non-violent means." 

Levy is with Jewish Voice for Peace, a radical anti-Israel group that disrupted Bibi Netanyahu's speech in New Orleans a few years back. Tony Gonzalez is with the American Indian Movement, and Rhonda Ramiro is with BAYAN, which has something to do with the Philippines. 

I will leave it to the reader to decide whether the speakers were defending violence against Israelis by those two statements. 

I would also like to quote Chancellor Katehi:

"I know you will agree that independent thought and diversity of opinions are the backbone of a great university, and indeed, that academic freedom and freedom of expression are necessary for any university to fulfill its mission of producing and disseminating knowledge."

Really? In that case, UCD and numerous other universities are lacking. That is because when it comes to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, it is the latter which dominates the discussion. You will not see the above people bring in pro-Israel voices to counter Mr Barghouti. If some other organization like say Hillel, Stand With Us or Campus Republicans bring in say, the ambassador of Israel, we know what is going to happen, don't we? There will be disruption and chaos from the "diversity" crowd.

That's because the university mentality says that diversity is bringing in radical left thought that goes counter to what Mom and Dad taught us. Likewise, speakers who slam America are providing "diversity". Ironically, however, those speakers, people who talk about "armed struggle", never need security. Their speeches are never disrupted. Why is it that Barghouti is never disrupted on a college campus, but if an Israeli ambassador comes to speak on campus, they are literally driven from the stage (UC Irvine 2010)) 

And speaking of UC Davis, here is what happened when an Israeli consul general came to speak at the law school in 2011.



I don't think I would hire any of those future lawyers. They are clearly unable to argue their case.

And remember this incident when two Israeli soldiers came to speak at UC Davis in February 2012?



So, just what diversity is Chancellor Katehi talking about?




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