Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Bias at UC-Santa Cruz

Cross-posted by Gary Fouse

UC Santa Cruz Students on the march

On March 1, 2009, I wrote an article on this week's anti-Israel forum being held at the University of California at Santa Cruz, in which the speakers were both known opponents of Israel. One UCSC professor, Ilan Benjamin, wrote to officials at the university protesting the one-sided nature of the forum. (Professor Benjamin is Israeli-born.) I am attaching below (with Professor Benjamin's permission) the correspondence between him and university officials regarding this event. In the interest of privacy, I am deleting e-mail addresses and names of the other university officials involved.

On Mar 1, 2009, at 12:26 AM, Ilan Benjamin wrote:

Dear ___________________

I am writing this letter to express several grave concerns I have about the "teach-in" entitled "Understanding Gaza," that Colleges 9 and 10 are presenting this coming Thursday (announcement reproduced below):

1. It is clear that this is a politically-motivated event, whose sole purpose is to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish State. The two featured speakers are well-known for their extreme anti-Israel bias: Ms. Barrows-Friedman spoke at Cowell College in January and, among other anti-Israel statements, called for supporting the boycott of the Jewish State and accused Israel of "ethnic cleansing" and creating a "massive concentration camp" in the Gaza Strip. Hatem Bazian signed a public document that included the statement: "We reaffirm our rejection of Zionism as a form of racism, and emphasize our active refusal to normalize either with Zionists or with their institutions." (In case you do not know, Zionism is the national movement to establish a Jewish State). If you wish, I can provide you with numerous additional quotes that demonstrate the anti-Israel animus of these two speakers. In addition, according to your flyer, representatives of Jewish Voice for Peace and the International Solidarity Movement will also be present at the event. Both of these organizations are committed to political activism against the Jewish state, as is clear from their respective mission statements.

2. I find it highly misleading and, frankly, quite offensive to suggest that this event will provide a "Jewish American" perspective. The vast majority of American Jews would strongly object to Ms. Barrows-Friedman's calls for divestment and boycott of the Jewish State and would be highly offended by the characterization of Gaza as a "massive concentration camp." Moreover, "Jewish Voice for Peace" is an extreme fringe group, not recognized as legitimate within the mainstream Jewish community.

3. This university-sponsored event will undoubtedly be highly offensive and hurtful to many Jewish students on our campus. Coming on the heels of the egregiously anti-Israel Cowell College event "Pulse on Palestine," as well as many other extremely biased anti-Israel events that have taken place at UCSC over the last few years, many Jewish students on our campus are feeling emotionally and intellectually threatened. (In fact, 90 students signed a petition to Cowell College administrators describing how hurtful that college's sponsorship of "Pulse on Palestine" was to them). Even more troubling for Jewish students on our campus is the knowledge that while no college would ever sponsor an event that was homophobic, sexist or racist, some colleges, including Colleges 9 and 10, are more than willing to present events like "Understanding Gaza," which are so insensitive to their feelings as Jews.
4. The situation in Gaza is very complex. As a service to students and in keeping with the educational mission of the University, you could have organized a teach-in featuring scholars who were not politically-motivated, and who could have explained to our students both sides of this issue: on the one hand the difficulties that Israel, as a democracy, faces when trying to balance the need to protect its civilian population from terrorists who seek its destruction with the need to minimize Palestinian casualties, and on the other hand, the difficult conditions of the Palestinians in Gaza. But by having such a one-sided, politically-motivated event, in which both speakers will undoubtedly vilify and demonize the Jewish State, you are not only depriving our students of an excellent opportunity for learning about and discussing this complex issue, you are also violating the most cherished values of our University.

As a professor on this campus for 20 years, the president of a local synagogue for the last 8 years, and the father of two UC students, I am certain that this event will be deeply offensive and hurtful to many faculty and staff on this campus, to members of our local community, to UCSC parents, and, especially, to our students.
I ask you to please reconsider your college's sponsorship of this extremely one-sided and offensive event. I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.
Dr. Ilan Benjamin
Professor of Chemical Physics
Department of Chemistry
University of California, Santa Cruz


On Mar 2, 2009, at 11:18 AM, ___________ wrote:

Dear Ilam Benjamin,

We are responding to your email regarding the "Understanding Gaza" event on 3/5/09. We acknowledge that one event can not incorporate all aspects of a complex issue such as this one. This is a student-initiated and -planned event and we trust it will do a good job of showcasing some perspectives on this important crisis. We have hosted events on the Israel-Palestine conflict in the past that have displayed various perspectives and opinions on the conflict and related issues, and we will continue to do so in the future. We hope that by modeling respectful listening and engaged discourse we can help students learn more about various issues including this one.



From: Ilan Benjamin
Date: March 2, 2009 9:47:05 PM PST
To: ____________
Cc: ____________

Subject: Re: "Understanding Gaza" teach-in at Colleges 9 and 10

Dear ___________,

I find your response to be highly insensitive and deeply disturbing.

You completely ignore the serious concerns I raised about how hurtful this event is to the Jewish community, and especially to Jewish students at UCSC. Your college's goal of fostering "respect for diversity" apparently excludes respect for Jews. Why else would you bring two speakers who are well-known for their profound animus towards the Jewish State and their numerous calls for boycotts against it, and are considered anti-Semitic by many in the Jewish community? Even more troubling is your blatant double standard: You would never present an event that was offensive to students of color or to gays and lesbians, yet time and again you present events that are deeply offensive to Jews. Why?
Dr. Ilan Benjamin
Professor of Chemical Physics
Department of Chemistry
University of California, Santa Cruz

Here is another example of UCSC's academic bias, which concerns an attempt to have conservative talk-show host and supporter of Israel, Dennis Prager, appear at UCSC in 2004. What follows below is correspondence between Professor Benjamin and university officials.

From: Ilan Benjamin
Date: February 11, 2004 1:41:10 PM PST

Subject: letter to ___________

Dear ____________,

In response to my request to co-sponsor a talk by Dennis Prager
I got from ___________ a reply, which I believed you received as well,
that said: "After consultation with our Provost, CAO, other professional and student staff, and given our goals of fostering an environment of respectful dialogue on this multi-faceted issue, as well as the amount of programming we
have already done on this issue this year, Colleges Nine and Ten have decided not to cosponsor the talk by Dennis Prager."

Implying the talk we are advertising may not foster an environment of respectful dialogue.

A few days ago we learned that on the same night and at the same time of Prager's lecture a second showing of a controversial movie is planned and is sponsored by college 9 and 10. This movie was shown last year and made a large number of Jewish students upset for its extreme one-sided depiction of the situation in Gaza. I would not categorize this movie as fostering dialogue.

Beside the obvious unfairness of this whole episode, I think you should know that this makes a lot of people in the community very upset.

Ilan Benjamin, Ph. D.
Professor of Chemistry
University of California, Santa Cruz

Fousesquawk comment: For those of you not familiar with Dennis Prager, he always keeps his debates respectful, and I find it curious that the university official(s) would imply that Prager would not engage in respectful dialogue. It is precisely what he does.

As for the present week at UCSC, it looks like students will be again subjected to a one-sided "forum" on the Israel-Palestine conflict. No one will be there to speak for Israel. No one will be there to speak for America when our country is, as always, damned for its support of Israel.

No comments:

Post a Comment