Just by chance today I came across this old article by Freedom and Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which mentioned my words at UCI prominently. I should note that FIRE does a lot of good work in this area, but on this occasion, they opposed our efforts based on their belief that it would infringe upon free speech, specifically in regards to criticism of Israel. As such, they took issue with some of my remarks. Below is the article.
Here is my posting on the UCI meeting from which my words are quoted. I had a written copy of my statement from which I read to the regents.
"My name is Gary Fouse, I am an adjunct teacher in the UC Irvine Extension. I am also the co-author of a letter to President Napolitano signed by over 100 UC faculty expressing alarm at campus anti-Semitism, asking that the university confront this problem and adopt the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism.
The Israel-Palestinian debate has led to an atmosphere where many Jewish students who support Israel are often spending their college years in a climate of intimidation- not just from pro-Palestinian students, but in many cases from professors in the classroom.
The problem is not neo-Nazis or skin heads; rather it is the pro-Palestinian lobby such as the Students for Justice in Palestine, BDS promoters, and their faculty allies. Every year, these groups invite speakers to campus, some of whom cross the line from legitimate criticism of Israel to attacking Jews as people. Over the years here I have seen and heard it first hand right here on this campus.
I thought that the regents were going to consider adopting the State Department definition of anti-Semitism. Are you instead going to pass some vague resolution opposing intolerance in general? That would be useless.
I ask you as a concerned Gentile to treat anti-Semitism with the same seriousness as you treat intolerance against other groups."
Being an activist, I don't mind having someone take the opposite point of view or even call my arguments absurd. It goes with the territory. However, I would like to make a couple of points.
I can see where FIRE took the context of my reference to the State Department's definition of anti-Semitism and took it to mean that without that definition, the statement would be useless. That was not what I meant. What I meant was that a vague statement opposing intolerance in general and not specifically addressing anti-Semitism would be useless. The State Dept. definition to me personally was of secondary importance. At the time, however, it was suspected that it would be left out even though UC President Janet Napolitano was initially supporting it. As it is, the State Department definition considers certain kinds of attacks against Israel as being anti-Semitic. The final version of the Regents' statement did specifically refer to the problem of anti-Semitism on campus and did include a reference to certain anti-Zionist forms of anti-Semitism. (For some reason the State Department's definition of anti-Semitism, which I have posted several times before on this site, is currently down from the Internet.)
As to the statement by the ex-Berkeley student, I have never said-nor did I say at the meeting- that speech against Israel should be banned. As I said, my concern was with some speakers who crossed the line from legitimate criticism of Israel to attacking Jews as people. I recognize that even anti-Semitic speech is protected speech. What I was asking was the university treat Jew hatred as they would other forms of bigotry and confront it at least by calling it out for what it is.
If my argument was "absurd" it was not because I was arguing, as FIRE implies, that criticism of Israel should be banned. I was arguing that the university should recognize anti-Jewish acts and expressions and speak out against them as they do when other groups are victimized.