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StandWithUs Sends Letters to UCSC and NYU Regarding ICSZ Conference

(Los Angeles, CA -- September 1, 2023) -- On September 1st, the StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department and the Center for Combating Antisemitism sent letters to administrators at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) and New York University (NYU) expressing concern about the Institute for the Critical Study of Zionism’s (ICSZ) upcoming conference, "Battling the IHRA Definition: Theory and Activism," advertised as being held on October 13th and 14th on these campuses.

Especially troubling is the fact that academic departments from both institutions were initially listed on the event’s page as cosponsors, despite what appear to be clear violations of University policies and constitutional law inherent in the conference. The ICSZ website no longer lists any NYU academic departments as co-sponsors. If those departments have indeed withdrawn their sponsorship (an issue about which our letter to NYU seeks clarification), we commend that step and call on the academic departments at UCSC to follow suit. Co-sponsorship by any academic departments communicates that anti-Zionist forms of antisemitism are acceptable within those departments and, by extension, on the those campuses. Regardless, it appears that both universities are still scheduled to host the conference.

Read the letter to UCSC HERE. Read the letter to NYU HERE

The manifestations of this conference’s antisemitism are manifold. First, its goal is to “battle” 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 IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism. Additionally, ICSZ’s seven "Points of Unity” refer to Zionism as a racist, colonialist project, and demonize the State of Israel as a colonialist entity, targeting a core component of Jewish identity for the vast majority of Jews. In other words, Zionists are explicitly not welcome at the conference, and many Jews, the population most impacted by the subject at hand, would have to denounce a part of their religious and ethnic identity to attend.

Furthermore, ICSZ’s website initially required attendees to “confirm their agreement” with its “Points of Unity” as a condition of registration. While that language does not currently appear on the website, it may well be included on the conference registration page (a link to which is available only for those who first join an “announcement list”). We believe such a requirement would likely constitute compelled speech in violation of both the First Amendment and UCSC and NYU’s school policies.

“The ICSZ ‘Battling the IHRA Definition’ conference is designed to marginalize Jews and Zionists by denying them their right to define what constitutes bigotry against their own community. Such an objective is highly offensive and would almost certainly be immediately and roundly condemned if aimed at any other minority group. Rather than welcoming the conference on their campuses, the NYU and UCSC administrations should use their freedom of speech to reaffirm their condemnation of antisemitism and support for Jewish students,” said StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein.

StandWithUs’ letters detail the myriad issues that this conference presents for the Jewish communities on these campuses and outline concrete steps for administrative remediation.

About StandWithUs StandWithUs (SWU) is an international, nonprofit, and non-partisan Israel education organization that works to inspire and educate people of all ages about Israel, as well as challenge misinformation and fight against antisemitism. Through university fellowships, high school internships, middle school curricula, conferences, materials, social media, educational films, and missions to Israel, StandWithUs supports people around the world who want to educate their schools and communities about Israel. Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Los Angeles, the organization has chapters and programs throughout the U.S., Israel, the UK, Canada, South Africa, Brazil, and the Netherlands. For the last eleven years, StandWithUs has consistently received the highest possible ratings from Charity Navigator and GuideStar, two charity watchdog groups that assess hundreds of thousands of charities in the United States. www.standwithus.com and www.facebook.com/standwithus and www.twitter.com/standwithus and www.instagram.com/standwithus.com

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