Chancellors of all ten UC campuses signed a letter on December 13 reaffirming their commitment to working with Israeli academic institutions and scholars.
This letter comes in response to the growing popularity of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI). USACBI was founded in 2009 by a group of scholars seeking to limit the cultural and academic influence of Israel. USACBI is the offspring of the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement (BDS), a global movement calling for Palestinian equality, rights, and justice. The BDS movement began in 2005 following a call from 170 Palestinian Civil Groups.
Prior to the release of the UC Chancellors’ solidarity letter, faculty members of Pitzer College in Claremont voted to suspend a study abroad program in Israel over concerns of Israel students’ rights and two University of Michigan faculty members refused to write letters of recommendations for students seeking to study abroad in Israel.
In response to these incidents, AMCHA—Hebrew for “your people”—launched a national campaign aiming to convince college officials to oppose USACBI. AMCHA is a non-profit organization that claims to document, investigate, educate, and combat instances of anti-Semitism at higher education institutions.
Currently, USACBI has the support of more than 1,400 postdoctoral scholars. At least 19 of those on the list are UC San Diego professors.
Communication Professor Gary Fields, one of the supporters, defended Chancellor Pradeep Khosla’s decision to sign the statement and suggested that UC chancellors were responding to pressures from organizations affiliated with Israel that are concerned about BDS publications regarding the brutalities in Israel.
“Indeed, the state of Israel is able to enlist a vast number of entities in the U.S. to defend its interests and has targeted the boycott campaign on college campuses as its primary concern,” Fields said. “The right to boycott is an issue of academic freedom and free speech. Just as the administration is free to condemn boycotts, faculty and students are free to support and uphold them.”
The UC Administration has previously released documents condemning opposition to Israel. In 2016, the UC Board of Regents adopted an anti-discrimination policy that linked anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. Zionism is the movement that supports the development and protection of a Jewish state within the Israeli nation that contains parts of Palestine, a disputed land claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians.
Rabbi and Executive Director David Singer of UCSD’s Hillel Center, the largest campus resource center for UC San Diego’s Jewish student body, welcomed the chancellors’ opposition.
Singer released the following statement to The Triton:
“UC San Diego’s greatness as a top academic institution is manifest through the the exchange of ideas with our partners and peers across the nation and around the world. The university is meant to be a crossroad of ideas, and that is something which we must safeguard. Chancellor Khosla is right to object to anything that would undermine this special value. Hillel is deeply opposed to any actions that delegitimize or demonize Israel, academic boycotts included.”
Tajairi Neuson is a Staff Writer for The Triton. You can follow him @tajairi