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Long Beach City College Board of Trustees Criticized for Not Voting on IHRA Resolution

Jewish Journal

February 17, 2021

Photo: Justin / Creative Commons

Jewish groups are criticizing the Long Beach City College Board of Trustees for not voting on a resolution adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism during their January 27 meeting.

During the meeting, which was the same day as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Trustee Sunny Zia alleged that the nonbinding resolution was pulled from the meeting agenda at the last second to have the board’s legal team and the college’s Academic Senate review it; Zia claimed that past resolutions haven’t been subjected to the same level of scrutiny.

Zia added that past resolution discussions have waived the 20-minute limit on public comment, but that limit remained intact for public comments about adopting the IHRA definition. “When it comes to my [Jewish] community, things are different,” Zia said. “Just feels that way.”

Trustee Vivian Malauulu later told Zia that the treatment of the resolution has nothing to do with her community; it had to do with “respect for the time and it has to do with the authenticity of the comments being made.” Zia then accused Maluulu of questioning the authenticity of the public comments, which she said was “quite distasteful.” Zia also asked the board’s president, Uduak-Joe Ntuk, when the resolution would be brought up for the vote and he didn’t give a specific date, but he did assure her that it would be back at some point.

Jewish groups criticized the board’s actions.

“With the U.S. State Department on record embracing the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism, and more than 200 Mayors across America signing on to [American Jewish Committee]’s ‘Mayors United Against Antisemitism’ Campaign, it seems incredulous that the Long Beach Community College District (CCD) would descend into partisan bickering and recrimination over the authenticity of this proposed measure as well as impugn the credibility of its proponents,” American Jewish Committee Los Angeles Regional Director Richard S. Hirschhaut said in a statement to the Journal. “This is a shameful and regrettable blot on the integrity of the CCD that can best be erased by adoption of the IHRA definition. It is a useful resource and tool for understanding antisemitism and, in this instance, can be a ‘teachable moment’ for the CCD as well.”

The Progressive Zionists of California similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “The IHRA definition of antisemitism is a non-legally binding working definition that does not preclude criticism of Israel. However, we are gravely concerned with how the process was abused to shut down crucial conversations around why the IHRA definition would benefit Long Beach Community College’s Jewish students. In a time of rising antisemitism around the country, if it is sufficient to guide policy preferences in the Biden administration’s State Department, it should be good enough for Long Beach as well.”

Carly Gammill, director of the StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism, also said in a statement to the Journal, “Preventing this resolution from coming to a vote, focused as it is on adopting a tool for addressing the bigotry of antisemitism, raises serious concerns about the Board’s commitment to fighting all forms of hate. Further, questioning the authenticity of those citizens who spoke in support of the resolution is manipulative and adds insult to injury. We sincerely hope that the Board corrects this error and ensures that this resolution comes to a vote at its next meeting.”

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Orange County and Long Beach Regional Director Peter Levi said in a statement to the Journal, “ADL supports the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism for the Long Beach Community College District. We are hopeful that board of trustees understands and appreciates the value of the IHRA definition has as well as its wide spread support.”

He added: “This legally non-binding working definition provides valuable guidance for elected officials, university administrators, educational professionals and community leaders on what exactly is antisemitism and the many different forms it can take. This includes when criticism of Israel crosses the line from fair critique of the policies of the Israeli government into the delegitimization of the Jewish State.”

A spokesperson from Long Beach City College said in a statement to the Journal, “Long Beach City College has a shared governance process. This is how all California Community Colleges guarantee faculty and other input in the decision-making process. All resolutions go through some level of review before they are placed on a Board of Trustees meeting agenda. The IHRA resolution was sent to the LBCC Academic Senate as it contains language regarding areas that the Academic Senate has oversight and purview.” The spokesperson claimed that because the resolution mentioned academic freedom, it fell under the Academic Senate’s purview. The spokesperson added that an October resolution endorsing AB 1460, a bill requiring California State University students to take an ethnic studies class as a graduation, went through a similar process.

Maluulu did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.

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