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UC Regents’ Condemnation of Anti-Semitism & Anti-Zionism is Timely for UC Davis
Jennie Gross Brandeis Blog
March 24, 2016

 

Wednesday’s announcement from the Regents of the University of California is particularly timely for the Davis campus, where a disruptive protest temporarily halted a lecture by Israeli diplomat George Deek earlier this month. LDB’s legal staff sent a letter to UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi on Monday, asking her to make a strong statement condemning the acts that disrupted the visiting diplomat’s lecture.

Mr. Deek’s lecture, “The Art of Middle East Diplomacy,” might have had a positive influence on campus relations between groups with opposing views on Palestine. The announcement of the event described Mr. Deek as an Arab-Christian Israeli who has been involved in the promotion of mutual understanding and co-existence between Jews and Arabs in Israel since he was a young man.

Arab-Israeli Diplomat for Israel, George Deek
Arab-Israeli Diplomat for Israel, George Deek
He was only about five minutes into the lecture when anti-Israel protesters marched to the front of room with a large banner, obstructing the audience’s view of the speaker and drowning out his voice with loud chants of “free, free Palestine,” “Allah ahkbar,” and “long live the intifada,” followed by increasingly incendiary invective, including “Israel is anti-black,” “when Palestine is occupied, resistance is justified,” and “Palestine will be free, fight white supremacy.”

Mr. Deek could not be heard (and could barely be seen) until the raucous protesters chose to leave. He later told a faculty member that he had never experienced a disruption like this while speaking.

The lecture on diplomacy might have had a positive influence on campus relations between groups with opposing views on Palestine, but the protesters that shouted him down proudly assert their refusal to engage in civil discourse. In a statement on the website Liberation, the protesters claim that they “did not participate within the established framework of the event because [they believe] discourses about ‘dialogue’ and ‘democracy’ function to silence anti-Zionist voices.” LDB’s legal staff note that willful disturbance of an assembly violates California Penal Code § 403. We believe that the protestors here violated §403, as well as the UC Davis’s “Principles of Community,” reaffirmed less that one year ago.

You can read the LDB legal staff’s letter to Chancellor Katehi below.

—-

March 21, 2016

VIA E-MAIL

Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi
University of California – Davis
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616
chancellor@ucdavis.edu

RE: Disruption at George Deek event on March 7

Dear Chancellor Katehi,

We write on behalf of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB), and with appreciation for our prior communications with you regarding anti-Semitism on the UC Davis campus. As you know, LDB is a national public interest advocacy organization dedicated to fighting campus anti-Semitism. We do so through legal advocacy, and through our work with university administrators nationwide to establish best practices to combat and prevent campus anti-Semitism. Our President and General Counsel, Ken Marcus, recently testified in front of the Task Force on Intolerance, and he spoke well of your comments at the hearing.

We write today to express our concern about the disruptive protest that interrupted a lecture given by Israeli diplomat George Deek on the UC Davis campus on Monday, March 7, 2016. Mr. Deek was invited by the campus group, Aggies for Israel. His lecture, “The Art of Middle East Diplomacy,” might have had a positive influence on campus relations between groups with opposing views on Palestine. The announcement of the lecture described Mr. Deek as an Arab-Christian Israeli who, since he was a young man, has been involved in the promotion of mutual understanding and co-existence between Jews and Arabs in Israel.

Mr. Deek came to promote dialogue, but was shouted down by protesters who proudly assert their refusal to engage in civil discourse.[1] He was only about five minutes into his lecture when the protesters marched to the front of room with a large banner, obstructing the audience’s view of the speaker and drowning out his lecture with loud chants of “free, free Palestine,” “Allah ahkbar,” and “long live the intifada,” followed by increasingly incendiary invective, including “Israel is anti-black,” “when Palestine is occupied, resistance is justified,” and “Palestine will be free, fight white supremacy.”

Mr. Deek could not be heard (and could barely be seen) until the protesters chose to leave. He was silenced for over three minutes. He later told a faculty member that he had never experienced a disruption like this while lecturing. The same faculty member, Deanne Myer, Ph.D., wrote to you describing her fear and intense feelings of intimidation. We have heard similar reports from others who attended the event, and imagine that many of the students, faculty, and staff who attended Mr. Deek’s lecture were also intimidated and afraid.

As you know, willful disturbance of an assembly of this type violates California Penal Code § 403. We believe that the protestors here violated §403, as well as the UC Davis’s “Principles of Community,” reaffirmed less that one year ago.

This unfortunate event calls to mind the words President Yudof, responding to similar events four years ago:

University campuses are proper venues for collisions of ideas and viewpoints. Conflicting viewpoints not only are inevitable but also healthy in this context. What is not acceptable are acts meant to disrupt the speech of others. What is not acceptable are hate-driven physical and, yes, verbal attacks on any group or individual that are meant to silence or intimidate those who would express differing opinions. . . .

But I want to make this clear: I condemn the actions of those who would disrupt this event. Attempting to shout down speakers is not protected speech. It is an action meant to deny others their right to free speech.

“Open letter to UC community from President Yudof” (March 8, 2012), available at http://ucnet.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/2012/3/open-letter-to-uc-community-from-president-yudof.html, emphasis added.

We applaud this statement, and we hope the University will stand behind it. We ask that the University investigate the disruptive protest at Mr. Deek’s lecture, and that you make a strong statement condemning these acts, consistent with President Yudof’s statements in 2012.



Sincerely,

The Louis D. Brandeis Center
for Human Rights Under Law

/s/Jennie Gross

Jennie Gross
Senior Staff Attorney
jenniegross@brandeiscenter.com

Aviva J. Vogelstein
Staff Attorney
avogelst@brandeiscenter.com



[1] A later statement from the protestors stated, “We did not participate within the established framework of the event because we are aware of how discourses about ‘dialogue’ and ‘democracy’ function to silence anti-Zionist voices.” See https://www.liberationnews.org/uc-davis-students-disrupt-visit-of-israeli-diplomat/, accessed March 21, 2016.


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Over 50% of Jewish American college students report that they experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism on their campuses during the 2013-2014 academic year. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has announced that campus anti-Semitism “is a serious problem which warrants further attention.” Campus anti-Semitism can include subjecting Jewish students to different treatment, harassment, violence or a hostile environment. In some cases, campus anti-Semitism is related to anti-Israel sentiment. In other cases, it is not. For most purposes, we define anti-Semitism according to the U.S. Department of State definition of anti-Semitism. .
 
 
 
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Alvin H. Rosenfeld
Alvin Rosenfeld is Director of The Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, the Irving M. Glazer Chair in Jewish Studies and Professor of Jewish Studies and English at Indiana University in Bloomington.
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