The documented increase in anti-Israel activity so far this academic year has been most apparent in California, which has seen a significant increase in the number of scheduled anti-Israel events.
Since the beginning of the academic year, there have been 40 anti-Israel events scheduled to take place on college campuses compared to the 15 events scheduled during that same time period last year.
These events, which are frequently sponsored by groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), have addressed how to initiate Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaigns against Israel and often attempt to bring attention to their activism by couching their hostility towards Israel in social justice terms, linking the conflict in Gaza to other unrelated issues.
Just this week, for example, the UCLA student government endorsed “A Resolution to Divest from Corporations Engaged in Violence against Palestinians.” The resolution, which was submitted by UCLA SJP, calls for the university to divest from 11 corporations, including Boeing, Caterpillar, Cement Roadstone Holdings, Cemex, General Dynamics, General Electric, Hewlett Packard, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and United Technologies. Although the resolution was passed under the pretext that those corporations violate Palestinian human rights, none of those companies listed are actually engaged in violence against Palestinians.
Other examples of the types of events that California universities have hosted so far this semester include:
- Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), a weeklong series of anti-Israel events which usually occurs on campuses in the Spring, took place at UC Riverside from November 17-20, 2014. IAW at UC Riverside featured four events, which included a “die-in” and a performance by Remi Kanazi, an Organizing Committee member of the US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel, who uses spoken word and poetry to promote anti-Israel initiatives like divestment and a one-state solution.
- A lecture delivered by Alison Weir at San Diego State University titled “The hidden history behind the US & Israel,” based on her most recent book, in which she claims that supporters of Israel have exercised undue control over American society for “over a hundred years.”
Although anti-Israel activity is not a new phenomenon on campuses in California, this year’s increase is not a surprise, as it follows 47 anti-Israel demonstrations that occurred in California during Operation Protective Edge. Many of these demonstrations were co-sponsored by student groups like the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) at San Francisco State University and various SJP chapters throughout the state. At several demonstrations, participants held signs that compared the State of Israel to Nazi Germany and at a demonstration in San Francisco, participants burned an Israeli flag.
Additionally, in late September, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), the leading organization providing anti-Zionist training and education to college students throughout the country, began the academic year with a call for an “International Day of Action on College Campuses,” advocating for a variety of BDS-related initiatives in an effort to isolate and demonize Israel and Jewish communal organizations. ADL documented only ten “Day of Action” demonstrations in the U.S. with three having taken place at California universities such as Stanford University, San Jose State University, and UC Berkeley.
Even with the rise in anti-Israel activity on many campuses in California, most Jewish and pro-Israel students report feeling comfortable to express their religious and political beliefs at their schools. While anti-Semitism does occur too often at colleges throughout the country, generally respect is the norm, and anti-Jewish bigotry is not openly tolerated. This message is often conveyed by university administrations, who are on the front lines of the struggle to combat hate on campus while balancing free speech, academic freedom, and maintaining universities as the “marketplaces of ideas” simultaneously.
An example of this occurred after a very divisive and difficult quarter on the UCLA campus in the Spring of 2014 surrounding the Israel-Palestinian issue. At that time, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block issued a statement on The Importance of Civil Discourse, reminding the campus community that “Political speech that stigmatizes or casts aspersions on individuals or particular groups does not promote healthy debate but debases it by trying to intimidate individuals and groups… [I]f we listen only to those who already share our assumptions, truth gets lost, our intellectual climate is impoverished and our community is diminished.”