Prompted by recent anti-Semitic incidents at the University of California at Davis, 23 human rights organizations, with a support base in the hundreds of thousands, have demanded UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi conduct a formal investigation into Students for Justice in Palestine and a student senator for their involvement in acts of “hatred and bigotry on campus.”
A letter spearheaded by the California-based anti-Semitism watchdog group, AMCHA Initiative, and the pro-Israel Zionist Organization of America, requests Chancellor Katehi:
Conduct a full investigation into the conduct of the registered student group called Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and one of its members, Azka Fayyaz. We believe that the investigation will reveal that both the SJP and Ms. Fayyaz have violated university policies and fostered divisiveness, hatred and bigotry on campus in violation of the Principles of Community. They should be held accountable for their misconduct.
The “conduct” in question began on January 29th when the Associated Students of UC Davis passed an anti-Israel divestment resolution that called on the UC Board of Regents to “divest from corporations that aid in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and illegal settlements in Palestinian territories.” The legislation was written and promoted by SJP. A video of the meeting reveals that as Jewish and pro-Israel students were leaving the room, they were taunted by chanting of “Allahu Akbar.”
According to the letter, “Later that evening, Azka Fayyaz, who is not only an SJP member intimately connected with the anti-Israel divestment resolution but also a student senator, celebrated the passage of the resolution in postings on her Facebook page. Two of Fayyaz’s postings are particularly troubling, because they support and promote violence against Jews and the destruction of Israel.”
“Both the SJP’s conduct and the conduct of Ms. Fayyaz are anti-Semitic, according to U.S. government standards,” claim the 23 organizations that signed the letter. “The State Department made it clear that it is not legitimate criticism of Israel to hold Israel to an impossible double standard (which is what the UC Davis divestment resolution does, by singling out democratic Israel alone for condemnation, when there are other countries in the world with truly horrific human-rights records), or to deny Israel’s right to exist, or to demonize Israel, or to compare Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”
In an earlier event, Fayyaz compared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Hitler. Her sign equated Hamas-controlled Gaza with a concentration camp.
“UC Davis has had its fair share of problems for Jewish students. In particular, SJP at UC Davis has a history of harassing, intimidating and assaulting Jewish students,” AMCHA Initiative Co-Founder Tammi Rossman-Benjamin told the Salomon Center. “In 2012, SJP disrupted a pro-Israel event, stripping pro-Israel students of their constitutionally-protected freedom of speech.”
She continued, “SJP’s repeated anti-Semitic behaviors breed a climate of hate and bigotry on campus which must be stopped. We believe that if there is someone at UC Davis that can improve the situation for Jewish students, it is Chancellor Katehi.”
Less than 48 hours after the anti-Israel divestment vote, students at the UCD-affiliated Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi awoke to swastikas spray-painted on their fraternity house. Nathaniel Bernhard, vice president of AEPi, told the Sacramento Bee, “It shook me up this morning, makes me feel marginalized on campus. This whole week has kind of been not a great week to be a Jewish student on campus.”
“While we are not by any means suggesting that SJP or Fayyaz were directly responsible for the anti-Semitic graffiti, we do believe that their actions have bred a climate of hate on campus. UC Davis must put a stop to it and protect the safety and well-being of its Jewish students,” explained Rossman-Benjamin.
Andy Fell of UC Davis News and Media Relations could not confirm that Chancellor Katehi had received or was aware of the letter requesting investigation. He furnished the Salomon Center with a letter to the “UC Davis Campus Community” dated February 6 that was signed by the Chancellor as well as Jewish, Christian, and Muslim clergy.
The letter reads in part:
We ask that all of you continue to stand strong and united against intolerance and hatred of all forms. And we hope that others will join us in condemning all forms of hate speech and actions, from whatever quarter they may come.
Paul Miller is Executive Director of the Salomon Center. Follow him @pauliespoint.