Saturday, January 18, 2014

UCR Academic Boycott Event Follow-up

Dear Chancellor Wilcox,

Two of us (Rabbi Singer and Rabbi Cohn) attended the talk by Omar Barghouti on Tuesday, which was sponsored by the UCR College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS) and the Department of Ethnic Studies.  Rabbi Singer reported that dozens of students attended the talk, presumably because it was designated a "CHASS Annual Theme Event," which, according to the CHASS website, is "part of the requirements for quarterly assignments for CHASS Connect, CHFY 001E 075, CHFY 010, HASS001, HASS010 and the CHASS F1RST Learning Contracts."

As we feared, Omar Barghouti's talk was pure propaganda and political screed, whose unambiguous purpose was to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state and actively promote the academic boycott of Israel.  For example:

  • Barghouti called Zionism "a racist European ideology that was adopted by the dominant stream of the Zionist order to justify and politically recruit for its colonial project of establishing an exclusive, supremacist Jewish state in historic Palestine," and he claimed that most Israelis view Palestinians "as less than human." 
  • He accused Israeli soldiers of "hunting children," saying that sharpshooter Israeli soldiers target Palestinian children and shoot to kill, and that the soldiers "entice them like mice" into playing football and then shoot them with silencers.
  • He accused "Israel and its well-oiled lobby groups" of "buying and paying for allegiance" and controlling the media, saying: "Just open any TV channel, read any mainstream paper, and it's all Israeli propaganda." He also said, "Israel's lobby works overtime to fabricate, to vilify, to intimidate -- that's just the nature of the beast."
  • He compared those who criticize the BDS movement to "those white Americans who pushed back against the Montgomery bus boycott," implying that anyone who criticizes the boycott of Israel is a racist.
  • He praised the student senate at UC Berkeley for passing an anti-Israel divestment resolution, and said to the students in the room, "We hope you are next!"

Barghouti was not interested in imparting knowledge to the UCR students in the room who came in fulfillment of a CHASS course requirement.  Rather, his unmistakable purpose was to indoctrinate them with a hatred of the Jewish state and those who support it, and to win their hearts and minds to help advance the Palestinian campaign to boycott Israel.

Moreover, UCR English Professor David Lloyd, who introduced Barghouti and moderated the event, announced the following to the audience during the question and answer period:

"I was the professor who very proudly invited Omar Barghouti to speak on this campus.  I have absolutely no shame for having done so. I will also say that I am not only a signatory of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, but I am also a founding member of that...Many professors at this university are signatories of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel." 

This event, for which dozens of UCR students fulfilled a course requirement and received course credit, is a crystal-clear case of political indoctrination, one which runs antithetical to the scholarly values upon which UCR is built and which perverts the very mission of the University.

Political and ideological indoctrination is NOT protected by academic freedom.  According to the "nonindoctrination principle" of the American Association of University Professor's committee on academic freedom (Committee A): "faculty will not use their courses or their position for the purpose of political, ideological, religious, or antireligious indoctrination."

The UC Regents have also prohibited the use of the University for political indoctrination, writing in the Regents Policy on Course Content (also known as the Regents Policy on Academic Freedom) the following:

“[The Regents] are responsible to see that the University remain aloof from politics and never function as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest.  Misuse of the classroom by, for example, allowing it to be used for political indoctrination… constitutes misuse of the University as an institution.”

Furthermore, as we have pointed out previously, this event is in clear violation of at least two state laws -- California Government Code 8314, which prohibits the use of state university resources for personal purposes, and California Education Code 92000, prohibits the use of the University of California's name and reputation for the purpose of advancing a boycott.

In light of these violations of university policy and state law, please tell us what steps you intend to take to ensure members of the Jewish community, taxpayers, and legislators that UCR's name and resources will not be used to promote hateful propaganda and an antisemitic boycott of Israel?

We eagerly await your response.


Rabbi Suzanne Singer
Riverside Temple Beth El

Rabbi Hillel Cohn
Rabbi Emeritus Congregation Emanuel, Redlands

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin
Co-founder, AMCHA Initiative

Leila Beckwith
Co-founder, AMCHA Initiative

Cc:   UC President Janet Napolitano
        UC Regents
UC Chancellors

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