State legislators urge University of California to act against anti-Semitism


The state Assembly on Monday unanimously approved a measure urging the University of California to condemn all forms of anti-Semitism.

UC, meanwhile, said it will not tackle any possible new policies regarding anti-Jewish bias on its 10 campuses at next week’s meeting of the regents. Instead, officials said that the UC regents will discuss various forms of intolerance, including anti-Semitism, and issues of free speech at the following meeting, in September.

The Assembly resolution was introduced in response to several troubling incidents at UC, including the defacing of a Jewish fraternity house at UC Davis with swastikas in January.

“It is imperative that the California Legislature continues its strong tradition of standing up to hatred and ignorance,” said Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) on the Assembly floor before Monday’s vote.

The state Senate voted in favor of the measure in June, and the resolution received the support of former Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles), a University of California regent, who testified in its favor at an Assembly committee hearing later that month.

Some Jewish and pro-Israel groups have been pressing UC to adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism. That definition defines more general ethnic and religious hatred against Jews but also declares that it is anti-Semitic to demonize Israel, deny Israel’s right to exist, liken Israeli policy to that of the Nazis and blame Israel for all inter-religious tensions.

In contrast, organizations that have protested Israel’s occupation of the West Bank have said that such a definition would limit free speech and conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.

The Assembly resolution includes a reference to part of the U.S. Department of State’s definition but does include it in full; the resolution does not mention the parts about Israel at all. The measure, which would not have the force of law, will now head back to the state Senate for a concurrence vote, where its prospects appear good.

In a statement released Monday, the UC system officials noted that UC President Janet Napolitano and former regents Chairman Bruce Varner have publicly condemned anti-Semitic incidents.

UC “has long held itself to the highest standards of inclusion, tolerance and the free flow of ideas and expression,” according to the statement. 

The regents in September will consider “a statement of principles against intolerance, including, but not limited to anti-Semitism and other types of intolerance,” the statement said. The hot-button issue of whether to include the full State Department definition of anti-Semitism is still being discussed, officials said.

UCLA’s student government unanimously approved a resolution condemning anti-Semitism earlier this year. That move came after an uproar in February, when a candidate for UCLA’s student judicial panel, which examines ethics issues, was asked if her religion -- she's Jewish -- might present a conflict of interest on matters that came before the panel. Those student leaders later apologized and the student was unanimously approved for the position without delay.


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