Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, AMCHA Initiative co-founder and director, issued a statement in response to recent anti-Semitic graffiti at UC Davis, saying, “What happened at UC Davis is incredibly frightening and alarming,” and noting that “to those of us monitoring this closely, it is clear the wave of anti-Semitism that has haunted UC’s Jewish students over the past few years is only escalating and must be addressed.”
Last Saturday, cars and walls at a UC Davis campus parking lot, outside an apartment complex, were defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti, swastikas and hate messages, including the message “[Expletive] Jews.” Chancellor Linda Katehi said in a statement earlier this week: “I am deeply troubled and disappointed that the campus community has experienced another incident that included damaged property and, even more grievously, offensive and disparaging slurs. This is conduct most unbecoming and completely against our principles of community.”
“We applaud Chancellor Katehi for swiftly condemning this most recent anti-Semitic act at UC Davis and calling for a welcoming, tolerant and safe community,” Rossman-Benjamin said, but insisted that “it is critical the UC Regents adopt the State Department definition of anti-Semitism to educate students and faculty about how some of the extreme rhetoric often used during divisive BDS campaigns breeds a climate of hate that encourages anti-Semitic incidents like this.”
The US State Department definition recognizes that contemporary anti-Semitism has assumed various disguised forms and, as the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found, is often “camouflaged as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism.” The State Department definition acknowledges activity that demonizes and delegitimizes Israel and denies its right to exist as anti-Semitism.
According to AMCHA, UC has experienced many incidents of anti-Jewish discrimination this past academic year, including swastikas spray-painted on a Jewish fraternity after fraternity brothers spoke against divesting from Israel, “grout out the Jews” and “Hitler did nothing wrong” carved into school property after contentious BDS campaigns, a Hillel event for the LGBT community protested and disrupted by anti-Israel students and faculty, flyers blaming Israel AND all Jews for 9/11 plastered on campus and a Jewish student running for office questioned about her eligibility by anti-Israel activists simply because of her religion. UC Jewish students report feeling afraid to tell fellow students they are Jewish, walk to the Hillel house for Sabbath dinner and wear a Jewish star necklace. Many report being bullied, harassed, intimidated and assaulted.
The UC Regents recently formed a working group to address anti-Semitism on campus. Over the past six months, more than 50 Jewish organizations, including ADL, AJC, Hillel, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and AMCHA and more than 3,000 UC students, faculty, alumni, California residents, rabbis, Jewish day school principals and educators, including the world’s preeminent scholars of anti-Semitism, have written to UC in support of adopting an accurate definition of modern anti-Semitism to properly identify and educate the campus community about contemporary Jew-hatred. Specifically, the groups have urged the adoption of the State Department definition of anti-Semitism.
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