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StandWithUs Letter to UC Santa Cruz

StandWithUs wrote to UC Santa Cruz regarding an upcoming event with an attendance requirement that unabashedly silences the viewpoint of many Jewish members of the campus community, stifles open debate about an important matter of public concern, and likely constitutes compelled speech that is likely in violation of the First Amendment. We asked UCSC to take action. 

 



March 7, 2024 

 

Cynthia K. Larive, Ph.D. 

Chancellor, University of California, Santa Cruz 

Kerr Hall, University of California, Santa Cruz 

Santa Cruz, CA 95064 

 

VIA EMAIL: chancellor@ucsc.edu   

 

RE: Urging Administrative Action to Address Antisemitism and Likely Constitutional Violations at University Campus Event  

 

Dear Chancellor Larive, 

 

We write to you from StandWithUs, a nonprofit, non-partisan education organization with the dual mission of supporting Israel and combating antisemitism. We are deeply disturbed by the upcoming March 8, 2024, event at your campus entitled “Recentering the Struggle” to be hosted by the University of California, Santa Cruz (“UCSC”) chapter of Jews Against White Supremacy (“JAWS”), and co-sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine at UCSC (“SJP”) and the UCSC Center for Racial Justice (“CRJ”). CRJ appears to be supported by UCSC’s Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Department.1 

 

The upcoming event is an “Antizionist shabbat service,” film screening, and panel to be held at UCSC’s Resource Center for Nonviolence. JAWS describes the event as being “rooted in the necessity of recentering the Palestinian struggle for liberation in our antizionism.” As a condition of attendance, attendees must confirm their agreement with the organizers’ points of unity.2 The three points to which an attendee must agree (the “Points of Unity”) are:  

 

  1. In this space no form of racism or bigotry will be tolerated, including but not limited to Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism.   

  2. We recognize that antizionism is not antisemitism and thus reject the IHRA definition of antisemitism. (Emphasis added.) 

  3. We ask that all attendees come in good faith, respect one another, and come with intention to critically examine dominant narratives. 

 

As explained in full below, we believe that there are multiple antisemitic components of this event that are antithetical to UCSC’s values. First, the event organizers reject, and require the event’s attendees to agree to reject, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism (the “IHRA Definition”). The IHRA Definition is the most widely used and accepted definition of anti-Jewish bigotry worldwide and the one that most Jews agree best represents their actual experiences. The event, and the co-sponsorship by one of the UCSC Resource Centers, effectively denies the mainstream Jewish community the right to define its own identity and attacks against that identity, and simultaneously communicates that anti-Zionist forms of antisemitism are acceptable at UCSC. 

 

Additionally, the imposition of a requirement that attendees express agreement with the organizers’ Points of Unity unabashedly silences the viewpoint of many Jewish members of the campus community, stifles open debate about an important matter of public concern, and likely constitutes compelled speech that is likely in violation of the First Amendment. 

 

We therefore urge the University to: 

 

  1. Publicly recognize that JAWS and its event are promoting a form of antisemitism and send an unequivocal message to the campus community and event organizers that your administration condemns this bigotry;  

  2. Affirm the importance of the IHRA Definition as an educational tool that can help students and administrators identify the various forms of contemporary antisemitism, including those promoted by JAWS and its event;  

  3. Ensure the elimination of the event’s requirement that registrants express agreement with JAWS’ “Points of Unity,” due to its likely violation of federal and state law, as well as university policies; and 

  4. Require the UCSC CRJ, which is co-sponsoring the event, as well as the USCS Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Department that appears to support the CRJ, to publish readily visible disclaimer statements communicating that their sponsorship is not an indication of endorsement of the event by the UCSC administration or UC system. 

 

I. The Event’s Emphasis on Anti-Zionism Is Not Merely Divisive but Blatantly Antisemitic. 

 

JAWS and its upcoming event promote antisemitism by targeting and demonizing Zionism. For many Jews, however, Zionism is a critical part of their ethnic and religious identity—a fact acknowledged by California State University, the University of Illinois, the University of North Carolina, and others. Targeting Jews for marginalization and ostracization because of their Zionism or connection to Israel is no more acceptable than targeting any other aspect of Jewish identity.  

 

To be clear, Zionism is not simply a political movement, as groups like JAWS espouse. Zionism certainly does include political support for the basic rights of Jews to self-determination in Israel, the birthplace of their ethnic identity, language, culture, and religion. But Zionism, properly understood, is a much broader expression of the Jewish people’s age-old connection with their ancestral home. Today, almost half of the world’s Jews live in Israel, so Zionism focuses on support for Israel’s existence and well-being as a Jewish and democratic state. Given the long and ongoing history of antisemitic oppression and violence (amply exemplified through current events around the globe, including on U.S. college and university campuses), Jews around the world understand Israel to be vital to their safety, survival, and human rights.  


JAWS refers to itself as an “antizionist organization” that exists to “fight for the liberation of Palestine by any means possible.” According to these Founding Principles, JAWS “vehemently opposes” Israel and states that “Zionism is a white supremacist settler colonial project that inherently cannot be reformed.” Throughout its materials, including the promotion of the upcoming event, JAWS dehumanizes Jews by falsely comparing a central component of their identity to some of the great evils in the world—settler-colonialism, racism, and white supremacy—while disregarding the fact that Jews are a diverse ethnic and religious minority who are the target of white supremacists’ and others’ racism, violence, and even genocide. JAWS also attempts to erase 3,000 years of Jewish history and connection to Israel by falsely casting Jews as colonizers in their own homeland.   

 

JAWS is further engaging in purposeful and targeted antisemitic discrimination by excluding participants from its conference who do not agree to its “Points of Unity,” which includes a statement that demonizes Israel, Zionism, and Zionists. Requiring agreement with the “Points of Unity” denies a central component of Jewish identity, eliminates most Jewish participants, and silences—in what is presented as an academic exercise—the voices of any participants who may have diverse or diverging views.   

 

The IHRA Definition is a critical tool that helps organizations and people of diverse backgrounds recognize the many different manifestations of antisemitism Jews experience today. According to Executive Order 13899, all agencies charged with enforcing the nondiscrimination requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including the U.S. Department of Education, must consider the IHRA Definition when investigating claims of antisemitic discrimination. Thus, JAWS’ rejection of the IHRA Definition is a rejection of a widely accepted definition of anti-Jewish bigotry and an attempt to suppress robust investigation into antisemitism in all of its forms.  

 

II. UCSC Should Condemn the Antisemitism Promoted by the JAWS Event as Antithetical to the University’s Values and the Intent Behind the University of California’s Discrimination and Diversity Policies. 

 

The co-sponsorship of the JAWS event by the UCSC Center for Racial Justice (“CRJ”), which appears to be supported by a University academic department through a logo on the flyer (see Appendix), is tantamount to the University normalizing antisemitism. When bigotry appears typical or allowable, even couched within an academic exercise, it becomes accepted as commonplace. This enables more harmful practices, perpetuates dangerous stereotypes, sanctions hatred, and undermines the principles of inclusivity and diversity the University claims to foster. 

 

This co-sponsorship by CRJ, which is composed of many University professors, as well as the requirement that attendees first confirm agreement with the “Points of Unity,” also likely violates the University of California Board of Regents Policy 4400: Policy on University of California Diversity Statement, UCSC’s Nondiscrimination Statement, and UCSC’s General University Policy Regarding Academic Appointees from the Faculty Code of Conduct/Academic Personnel Manual. In the latter policy, one type of “unacceptable conduct” listed is the “[u]se of the position or powers of a faculty member to coerce the judgment or conscience of a student or to cause harm to a student for arbitrary or personal reasons.” Academic departments should not champion and disseminate one-sided political viewpoints using their official capacity and access to university assets and intellectual property. In giving JAWS and its hateful platform a stamp of approval – even if it is done indirectly through the CRJ -- the UCSC Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Department is acting outside the scope of its departmental purview and professional standards of conduct.  

 

Furthermore, by allowing CRJ to be listed as a co-sponsor in JAWS’ materials, without any disclaimer distancing the UCSC administration from the appearance of endorsing the conference, the faculty leaders of CRJ also fail to comply with the AAUP Report on Academic Freedom and Electronic Communications, which provides that “faculty members ‘should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution’ when in fact they are not doing so.’” 


UCSC can expect that Jewish and Israeli students will reasonably feel threatened, marginalized, and unprotected by a program with UCSC faculty backing that demonizes and dehumanizes them, as the JAWS event does. With the sharp rise in antisemitic conduct locallythroughout the country, and worldwide, alongside the promotion of this program on campus by university centers, we fear that the perception on campus will be that targeting Jews with antisemitism, including its anti-Zionist forms, is tacitly accepted and/or deliberately ignored by the UCSC administration. The University of California Regents has stated that “[a]nti-Semitism, antisemitic forms of anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.” As such, the UCSC administration should take steps to protect its Jewish and Israeli students, condemn this conference, and send a clear message to the campus community that discriminatory and antisemitic actions fueled by this program have no place on campus. 

 

According to UCSC’s Nondiscrimination Statement, “[t]he University of California, in accordance with applicable Federal and State law and University policy, prohibits discrimination against or harassment of any person and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion...ancestry...” The University explicitly states that this nondiscrimination policy pertains to a variety of situations, including “treatment in University programs and activities.”  

 

By sponsoring a program that rejects the legitimacy of IHRA (albeit a debate fully protected by the First Amendment), the University is supporting a conference that may well lead to increased antisemitic sentiment on campus and discrimination against Jewish and Israeli students. Respecting First Amendment principles as we do, we are not seeking cancellation of the JAWS event. However, if the event’s antisemitic rhetoric and calls to action should lead to discriminatory conduct against Jews on campus, this would be in violation of UCSC policies, as well as federal and state law. As such, UCSC should take proactive measures to ensure that by sponsoring a program rife with hate speech and divisive intent, the result is not a discriminatory environment and does not lead to backlash against Jewish and Israeli students on its campus.   

 

III. The Event’s “Points of Unity” Requirement Likely Violates Freedom of Speech Protections Under Both Federal and State Law. 

 

As a condition of attending the event, JAWS demands that participants confirm their agreement with the “Points of Unity.” This requirement of conformed belief is likely in violation of the compelled speech doctrine encompassed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, as well as UCSC’s policy on the exercise of free speech. 

According to the RSVP form for the event, JAWS states: “In order to attend this event, we are requiring everyone agree to the following points of unity.” Although JAWS is a private organization, UCSC and its sponsors are state actors. As a result, they may not require that participants attest to these terms and conditions, as such a requirement likely constitutes a violation of established freedom of speech principles. The First Amendment right to freedom of speech extends beyond the freedom to speak to include the freedom not to speak. The compelled speech doctrine, recognized repeatedly in rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court, establishes the principle that a governmental entity cannot force private citizens to make statements in support of beliefs, compel private citizens to recite or adopt specific positions or viewpoints, or apply punishment for a private citizen’s refusal to articulate support of a particular message.  

 

The classic example of compelled speech is discussed by the Supreme Court in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943). The Court ruled that a state cannot force children to stand, salute the American flag, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance in public school, holding that the students’ First Amendment rights allowed them to refrain from compliance with school rules that conflicted with their personal beliefs. Years later, the Supreme Court again confirmed that the “right of freedom of thought protected by the First Amendment against state action includes both the right to speak freely and the right to refrain from speaking at all.” Supreme Court decisions have continually held that freedom of speech principles prohibit a government entity, such as UCSC, from telling people what they must say. 

 

The State of California likewise recognizes the compelled speech doctrine. The California Constitution Article I, Section 2(a), provides that “every person may freely speak, write, and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects.” The Supreme Court of California has made clear that “[o]ne does not speak freely when one is restrained from speaking. But neither does one speak freely when one is compelled to speak.” Gerawan Farming v. Lyons, 24 Cal.4th 468, 514 (2000).  

 

Lastly, the “Points of Unity” requirement violates UCSC’s own policy, which recognizes free speech as both constitutionally protected and a fundamental value on campus, and embraces the laws of both the U.S. and California constitutions regarding freedom of speech. In your own comment regarding this policy, you make the following statement, which UCSC’s sponsorship of this conference directly opposes: “We embrace our responsibility to sustain the expression of a wide range of viewpoints without implying our endorsement of them.” 

 

In short, in allowing the “Points of Unity” requirement to be imposed as a condition of attending the JAWS event, UCSC will be effectively compelling private speech in violation of its own policies. The “Points of Unity” requirement would also appear to constitute governmental compulsion of private speech in violation of fundamental constitutional principles.   

 

IV. Conclusion 

 

In light of the foregoing, we ask that the University: 

 

  1. Publicly recognize JAWS and its event are promoting a form of anti- Zionist antisemitism, and send an unequivocal message to the campus community and conference organizers that the UCSC administration condemns this bigotry;  

 

2. Affirm the importance of the IHRA Definition as an educational tool that can help students and administrators identify various manifestations of contemporary antisemitism, including those promoted by JAWS and its event;  

 

3. Ensure the elimination of the event’s requirement that registrants confirm their agreement with JAWS’ “Points of Unity” due to its likely violation of federal and state law; and 

 

4. Require the Center for Racial Justice and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Department to release disclaimers distancing UCSC and the UC system from any semblance of endorsement of the JAWS event. 

 

We thank you for your time and consideration of this important matter. We are available to discuss this further with you and would appreciate a response to this letter by March 7, 2024.     


Sincerely, 

 


Roz Rothstein       Yael Lerman   

CEO and Co-Founder         Director  

StandWithUs       StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department     

 

 

 

Carly F. Gammill  

Director 

StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism 


 




APPENDIX 




 

 







 

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