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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Letter to UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi




The AMCHA Initiative and several other organizations have sent a letter to UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi asking her to investigate the recent actions of the Students for Justice chapter at her campus in the wake of the recent incidents there, which include the spray paining of a swastika on a Jewish fraternity house.


From: Tammi Rossman-Benjamin
Date: February 10, 2015 8:43:27 AM PST
To: Chancellor Katehi <chancellor@ucdavis.edu>, katehi@ucdavis.edu
Subject: Serious concerns about SJP members at UC Davis


Dear Chancellor Katehi,

We are 23 organizations with hundreds of thousands of members and supporters who are deeply concerned about recent anti-Semitic incidents at UC Davis, which are creating a hostile campus environment for Jewish and pro-Israel students.  While we commend you for already taking some important steps in addressing these problems, we urge the university to conduct a full investigation into the conduct of the registered student group called Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and one of its members, Azka Fayyaz.  We believe that the investigation will reveal that both the SJP and Ms. Fayyaz have violated university policies and fostered divisiveness, hatred and bigotry on campus in violation of the Principles of Community. They should be held accountable for their misconduct.  

As you know, on January 29th, the UC Davis student government passed an anti-Israel divestment resolution written and promoted by the SJP. A video of the meeting at which the vote was taken shows that as Jewish and pro-Israel students left the meeting room, they were heckled with loud chanting of "Allahu Akbar."
Later that evening, Azka Fayyaz, who is not only an SJP member intimately connected with the anti-Israel divestment resolution but also a student senator, celebrated the passage of the resolution in postings on her Facebook page.  Two of Fayyaz’s postings are particularly troubling, because they support and promote violence against Jews and the destruction of Israel.  In one of the postings,  Fayyaz wrote: “Hamas and Sharia law have taken over UC Davis. Brb crying over the resilience.”  As you surely know, Hamas is a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization; its charter calls for the murder of all Jews and the destruction of Israel.  In the second posting Ms. Fayyaz is even more open about her call for Israel’s destruction, proclaiming,  “Israel will fall insha’Allah 😊 #UCDDivest.”  (We should note that these are not Ms. Fayyaz’s only openly hateful acts; on a separate occasion, she helped hold a sign depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with devil’s horns and an Adolph Hitler mustache and outrageously equating Gaza – which is controlled by the terrorist group Hamas, not Israel – with a concentration camp.) 

Both the SJP’s conduct and the conduct of Ms. Fayyaz are anti-Semitic, according to U.S. government standards.  In its 2008 comprehensive report on contemporary global anti-Semitism, the State Department made it clear that it is not legitimate criticism of Israel to hold Israel to an impossible double standard (which is what the UC Davis divestment resolution does, by singling out democratic Israel alone for condemnation, when there are other countries in the world with truly horrific human-rights records), or to deny Israel’s right to exist, or to demonize Israel, or to compare Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.  These are all manifestations of anti-Semitism, and the State Department explained why:  “[D]isproportionate criticism of the Jewish State and/or Israelis and demonizing them as barbaric, unprincipled, selfish, inhumane, etc. is anti-Semitic and has the effect of causing global audiences to associate those bad attributes with Jews in general.”  

Given these open expressions of anti-Semitic hate and bigotry by the SJP and Azka Fayyaz, it can hardly be surprising that less than two days after the divestment vote and Fayyaz’s Facebook postings, the house of the Jewish fraternity AEPi was vandalized on the Jewish Sabbath, spray-painted with swastikas.  You rightly condemned this conduct publicly, making it clear that it “is not only repugnant and a gross violation of the values our university holds dear, it is unacceptable, and must not be tolerated on our campus or anywhere else.”  We could not agree more with your statement that “[n]othing rivals a swastika as a more potent or offensive symbol of hatred and violence toward our Jewish community members.”

We commend you for your strong public condemnation of the anti-Semitic vandalism, and your call for a police investigation of the vandalism as a hate crime.  But we believe that more can and should be done, so that Jewish students will feel safe and welcome at UC Davis, and your university will not continue to be tainted by hate and bigotry.  We understand that unfortunately there has already been yet another act of anti-Semitic vandalism at the Hillel House across from your campus.

To address the ongoing problems, we respectfully urge you to take the following steps:  

  • Conduct a full investigation into the conduct of the SJP and Azka Fayyaz, consistent with university policies.  We believe that the investigation will substantiate that they have engaged in conduct that (1) threatens the health and safety of Jewish and pro-Israel students in violation of Section 102.08 of the Policies Applying to Campus Activities, Organizations and Students ("Policies"); (2) harassed other students in violation of Section 102.09 of the Policies; (3) disturbed the peace at the student government meeting on January 29th, in violation of 102.15 of the Policies; and (4) expressed an intent to terrorize other students, faculty and staff who are Jewish and support the Jewish State of Israel, in violation of Section 102.24 of the Policies.  In addition, their conduct has made a mockery of the university’s guiding Principles of Community:  Instead of fostering a climate of mutual understanding, respect and civility, the SJP and Fayyaz have been divisive, hateful and bigoted.

  • If, as we expect, the evidence substantiates the wrongdoing of the SJP and Azka Fayyaz, then they should be disciplined, consistent with university policies.  Ms. Fayyaz should be removed from her position in the student senate, since her hateful anti-Semitic conduct does not serve the student body she was elected to represent.  The SJP’s registration should be revoked and it should lose all group privileges on campus, until it can demonstrate that, like other student groups, it can conform its conduct to the university’s rules and the Principles of Community.

  • Issue a strong public condemnation of the SJP and the conduct of its members.  With anti-Semitism rising at an alarming rate around the world and right here in the U.S., it is more critical than ever that you continue to send the message to the university community that while UC Davis supports free speech and the robust exchange of ideas, it will not tolerate anti-Semitism or any other form of hate and bigotry.   Hateful and divisive groups like the SJP need to finally get the message that the university will not tolerate harassing, intimidating or threatening conduct, and that the SJP and its members will be held to the same rules and standards as everyone else.


As you surely know, federally funded universities like UC Davis are required under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to ensure that Jewish students are afforded a campus environment that every student is entitled to – one that is physically and emotionally safe and conducive to learning.  We are counting on you to continue to show strong leadership in furtherance of this legal and moral imperative.
Sincerely,

Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity (AEPi)
AMCHA Initiative
Americans for Peace and Tolerance
Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law
Chabad of Davis
Chabad of Greater Sacramento
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA)
David Horowitz Freedom Center
Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET)
Hasbara Fellowships
Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel
Iranian American Jewish Federation
Israeli-American Council (IAC)
National Conference on Jewish Affairs
LA Advocacy Collective
Middle East Political and Information Network (MEPIN)
Proclaiming Justice to the Nations   
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East   
StandWithUs
Students and Parents Against Campus Anti-Semitism
The Lawfare Project
Training and Education About the Middle East (T.E.A.M.)
Zionist Organization of America


Cc:  UC President Janet Napolitano
       UC Regents
UC Davis Associate Chancellor and Chief of Staff Karl M. Engelbach
       UC Davis Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter
UC Davis Associate Executive Vice Chancellor - Campus Community Relations Rahim Reed
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