June 11, 2021
Pradeep K. Khosla, Ph.D.
University of California San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive #0005
La Jolla, California 92093-0005
VIA EMAIL: (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dear Chancellor Khosla,
We write on behalf of the StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department and the StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism, divisions of StandWithUs, an international, non-profit education organization supporting Israel and combating antisemitism. The purpose of this letter is to express our deep concern over the biased, antisemitic, politically-charged Statement of Solidarity with Palestine (“Statement”) recently made by the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Studies Program at the University of California San Diego (UCSD).
We find the timing of the Statement especially concerning given the sharp rise in antisemitic incidents throughout the country: Jews are being attacked for wearing a yarmulke; synagogues, campus Jewish centers and kosher restaurants are being vandalized and Jewish restaurant patrons assaulted; and antisemitic Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (“BDS”) resolutions and statements in support—such as the one at issue here—proliferate on college campuses nationwide.
We are deeply concerned that the Statement will cause the Jewish community—especially Jewish students and faculty—further harm at this time. The BDS movement systematically promotes national origin discrimination against Israel as well as antisemitism more broadly. The purpose of BDS is not to protest or change Israeli government policy as some claim, but to isolate and pressure Israel until it ceases to exist. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti has said, “we oppose a Jewish state” and that Jewish people “are not entitled to self-determination.” Furthermore, there are countless examples and reports showing how similar BDS campaigns in North America fuel hatred against local Jewish communities. This Statement only adds more fuel to the fire of rising antisemitism.
In line with the agenda of BDS, the Statement also slanders Israel as a “settler colonial” state. This dehumanizing and misleading rhetoric implicitly denies 3,000 years of Jewish history, identity, and rights in their ancestral homeland. Not surprisingly, the Statement ignores that Jewish identity came into being in the land of Israel. The Jewish people have maintained a continuous presence in Israel throughout history and, despite repeated expulsions, have maintained an unbroken connection to that land. For centuries, yearning for a return to Israel/Zion has been a central component of Jewish identity. Today, Jews fulfill their inalienable rights to self-determination in the State of Israel. Recognizing these realities, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism includes, “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination” as a form of antisemitism. This has been endorsed by the Biden Administration. BDS meets this definition of antisemitism because it seeks to deny the Jewish connection to their ancestral home and to strip Jews of their right to self-determination there.
Academic departments should never take sides in political disagreements that could ultimately marginalize their students based on components of identity, such as religion, ethnicity, or national origin, and lead to discrimination. Permitting academic departments to post such biased and divisive statements with no condemnation by upper-level administrators amounts to a tacit university seal of approval of such sentiments. In fact, because the Statement was sent on behalf of a UCSD academic department, readers may even view it as a university statement and endorsement, not realizing that individual departments do not speak for the university as a whole. This leaves Jewish and Israeli students within the AAPI department—and the university at large—feeling threatened, marginalized, and targeted by the university.
Furthermore, while the content in the Statement is protected free speech, it is biased, misleading and caters solely to the perspectives of anti-Israel voices. This seems at odds with UCSD’s mission to “[transform] California and a diverse global society by educating, by generating and disseminating knowledge and creative works, and by engaging in public service.” It is difficult to imagine language less accepting of diversity and open to differing perspectives than the language contained in the Statement.
We recognize and appreciate the campus environment as a place for diverging viewpoints and discourse. The fundamental pillars of free expression and campus speech dictate that free thought and expression is essential to an institution of higher learning. However, academic departments should not be leading a political debate on behalf of a university in a manner that ostracizes your Jewish and Israeli students. While we do not promote prohibiting speech—even harmful and hateful speech—campus administrators play a critical role in creating ethical boundaries and in setting examples of tolerance for the university. When conduct on campus extends beyond these ethical boundaries, it is imperative that campus leaders exercise their own First Amendment rights and unambiguously condemn the intolerance as it happens.
As such, we ask:
1. That your administration condemns the Statement as nonreflective of your administration’s official viewpoints.
2. That your administration issues a statement acknowledging that for many individuals, Zionism is an integral part of their Jewish identity. This statement has been adopted already at many other campuses faced with such hateful activity, including recently at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. This will go a long way toward making Jewish students feel protected and valued by their university.
3. That your entire faculty receive diversity and equity training this summer specifically on what constitutes antisemitism and how best to protect against a hostile campus climate for Jewish students. We suggest that such training incorporate an understanding of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism, the consensus international definition of antisemitism. We are also happy to recommend education providers who can conduct these trainings.
4. That your administration issues a public statement condemning and rejecting the BDS movement against Israel. Student governments have a right to espouse hatred; you have a right—and an obligation—to condemn it. Numerous universities have done so, demonstrating moral clarity and leadership on this issue.
If you remain silent, your administration will become complicit in bias, discrimination, and divisiveness, sending a message that it is permissible, and perhaps even fashionable to attack and stigmatize UCSD’s Jewish and Israeli students.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter. Given the urgency of this matter, we look forward to your response by June 18, 2021.
CEO and Co-Founder
StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department
StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism