Should free speech include hate speech? What is the fine line between healthy debate and intimidation? What should the role of the university administration be in assuring that students are not intimidated? How should the community work with the university to create an atmosphere of tolerance on campus?
These are some of the questions that have been percolating in the Jewish community of
Hate speech is protected under the First Amendment unless it incites to violence, but the fundamental problem is that it is still anti-Semitic, and the university administration has a duty to speak up against it, explained Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., director of the Center for Law and Justice at the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).
In August the ZOA urged University of California (UC) President Mark G. Yudof, to address ongoing problems of anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing at UC campuses. The ZOA described the events regularly sponsored by UCIs Muslim Student Union (MSU), which demonize and vilify Jews, Zionism and
The ZOA informed President Yudof thatAt UC Irvine, speakers accuse the Jews of controlling the media and the government and of being responsible for 9-11. They have compared Zionist Jews to Nazis, advocated suicide bombings and terrorism against Israeli Jews, and called for
While UC President Yudof has publicly stated that university leaders have the moral duty to speak out forcefully against anti- Semitism, the ZOA said that UC Irvines Chancellor, Michael Drake, has never condemned any of the anti-Semitism that has occurred on his campus in any of his messages to the university community. Although the chancellor issued a campus message saying that he abhorred hate speech, he never mentioned the word anti-Semitism or tied his general anti-hate message to a specific program or speaker on the campus, according to the ZOA letter, which added that Chancellor Drake has only condemned anti-Semitism in general terms, off campus, to a predominantly Jewish audience.
The ZOA noted that its criticism of Chancellor Drakes silence has been echoed by others. The independent Orange County Task Force, which conducted a year-long investigation of allegations of anti-Semitism at UC Irvine, condemned the chancellor and called on him to publicly identify and denounce hate speech when it occurs on his campus. The Orange County Register published an editorial criticizing the Chancellors administration for punting in its response to hateful speech. In May 2008, in response to the MSUs event entitled Never Again? The Palestinian Holocaust,
U. S. Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) wrote to the Chancellor, calling on him to condemn the MSUs event, which appears intended to encourage violence against the State of Israel and propagate the spread of anti-Semitism. Congressmen
The ZOA urged UC President Yudof to insist that UC Irvines chancellor exercise his moral leadership and speak out clearly and forcefully against the MSUs anti-Semitic speakers and programs. According to Tuchman, that is part of the chancellors First Amendment right.
After the task force report was issued, a group of concerned citizens circulated a petition expressing concern about the situation at UCI. It reflects the depth and breadth of the emotion on this matter in the community and the distance between them and the leadership in the local Jewish organizations on the UCI situation, according to Marty Migdall, one of the organizers of the petition campaign.
As former chair of the Orange County Independent Task Force on Anti-Semitism, Jesse H. Rosenblum, Ph.D., strongly endorses ZOAs request to the president of the
Recent UCI graduate Reut R. Cohen said that she was very happy to see the ZOA take the initiative to address the UC president about the situation at UC Irvine The Muslim Student Union on campus promotes ethnic hatred, advocates for terrorism, and calls for the downfall of both America and Israel This is an issue that affects the entire community and the reputation of a very good university. This group received money from student government to host some of the most absurd and hateful speakers imaginable By remaining silent, we are not alleviating any of these problems.
Another recent UCI alumnus, who wished to remain anonymous, said I am heartened that the ZOA continues to pressure the UC and UCI administrations for once (1) to demonstrate real public recognition of, and (2) to take effective action against the on-going anti-Semitism on campus A good start would be for Chancellor Drake to finally publicly define the term anti-Semitism, and then demonstrably identify prior examples of anti-Semitism on campus.
However, James Weiss, M.D., a member of the Board of Directors of Jewish Federation of Orange County, takes exception to the facts in the ZOAs National President Morton A. Kleins letter. According to Weiss, In the first sentence of page 4, Mr. Klein writes, UCI is presently under federal investigation for the second time He is referring, I believe, to an investigation by the Department of Educations Office of Civil Rights (OCR). As far as I know there is no second investigation as yet underway. According to the ZOAs press release from June 6, 2008, OCR indicated that it had determined that several of the ZOAs allegations are appropriate for investigation under the laws enforced by OCR. . . . We will contact you soon to discuss the allegations and complaint resolution process. OCR had yet to begin an investigation and to my knowledge one not been started as of today.
Weiss agrees with the ZOAs position that anti-Semitic speech should cease on the UCI campus, as it should everywhere around the world. He said, Certainly the Muslim Student Union (MSU) has been guilty of anti-Semitic speech there. It was my personal observation that the anti-Semitic rhetoric on display was much more muted during MSUs week of demonstration in May 2008, compared to similar events in previous years. It is my belief that the toned down rhetoric this year is due in large part to the efforts of Chancellor Michael Drake, as well as the efforts of the Jewish Federation of Orange County, Hillel, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the American Jewish Committee (AJC), Stand With Us, and others.
Weiss cited positive data about Jewish Life on the UCI campus:
Hillel has a new energized team to work with students and cultivate them to become leaders.
This past summer Chancellor Drake traveled to
Chancellor Drake has urged any Jewish student to come directly to him any time he or she felt intimidated. During the last academic year, Chancellor Drake kept in constant touch with Jewish student leaders to ensure that their voice was heard and safety protected.
Tuchman acknowledged that Chancellor Drake has made more efforts than his predecessors, but she wants him to let the perpetrators know that anti-Semitism is against the values of the university. If just one student is being harassed, we as a community have to be concerned about it, and so does the chancellor, she concluded.
Some Antidotes to Hate Speech on Campus
Jewish National Fund and Media Watch International sponsor the Caravan for Democracy Program, which drives constructive dialogue on college campuses throughout the
StandWithUs is an international education organization that ensures that