Some call it ‘Israel Hate Week’ on college campuses
By Marsha Sutton
Get ready for hate.
Next week, the University of California San Diego will present, with great fanfare, Israel Hate Week – also known as Israel Apartheid Week, Justice in Palestine Week, Anti-Israel Week and, by the other side, Israel Solidarity Week.
Its names are many but its single-minded objective is clear: to mobilize anti-Israel sentiment to protest alleged Israeli persecution of Palestinians and de-legitimize the Jewish state.
If UCSD were confronted with African-American Hate Week, would officials sit still for this? How about Lesbian Hate Week? Mexico Hate Week?
Yet Israel Hate Week is permitted – nay, endorsed – by an administration that shields itself under the umbrella of free speech. The fine line, so the argument goes, is that it is acceptable to hate Israel, the Mideast’s only democracy, because the protests are not directly targeting Jews.
But this is a fallacy. When free speech turns to hate speech, it cannot be tolerated. It’s time to call this annual event for what it is – a flat-out assault against Jewish students on campuses across the country. And UCSD has become a prominent epicenter.
Such an honor we San Diegans could do without.
American Jews are linked to Israel, as a second homeland, in a similar way Irish-Americans or Italian-Americans are tied to their heritage. So an attack on Israel, especially attacks that distort the truth, is easily interpreted as an attack on Jews.
Those who argue that they are only protesting Israeli policies and are not against Jews are splitting hairs. These public demonstrations have become shameful, blatant expressions of anti-Jewish rhetoric disguised as virtuous opposition to crimes against humanity.
If the anti-Israel movement were really nothing more than a protest against nations accused of human rights violations, then surely other countries would be named. China, for one, with its horrendous record, should top the list. Saudi Arabia and North Korea would also earn high marks for this dubious distinction. And how about Syria? But only Israel is targeted, indicating a clear double standard and a transparent, ulterior agenda.
The climate has become so toxic at many University of California schools that UC president Mark Yudof was compelled to write an open letter on March 8 condemning the intolerance.
Yudof cited examples on UC campuses of vandalism of the Israeli flag and shocking insults hurled at invited Israeli guests during their presentations.
“Attempting to shout down speakers is not protected speech,” wrote Yudof, calling such behavior reprehensible. “It is an action meant to deny others their right to free speech.”
He offered firm support for the frank discussion of issues of substance and encouraged the respectful exchange of conflicting ideas on college campuses, but drew the line at words and behavior that inhibit or threaten others.
“What is not acceptable are hate-driven physical and … verbal attacks on any group or individual that are meant to silence or intimidate those who would express differing opinions,” Yudof wrote.
When one of UCSD’s libraries known as CLICS (Center for Library & Instructional Computing Services) closed permanently on June 10, 2011 due to budget cuts, it was re-claimed by students, some of whom draped the public facility with numerous Palestinian flags.
In reaction to this “takeover,” one lone Israeli flag was hung and quickly torn down a few hours later. Subsequent comments on social media made it clear that CLICS is not a friendly sanctuary for Jewish students seeking a quiet place to study.
These actions would never be tolerated at a county or city library, so why are they permitted at a state-supported university library?
Regardless of one’s political position on Israel (and there are many across the spectrum that should be legitimately explored and respectfully debated), no one at a public university has the right to make other students feel harassed and afraid.
That open discrimination has continued since the notorious “Compton Cookout” fiasco at UCSD two years ago, albeit directed against a different ethnic group, indicates that little has changed. UCSD’s silence on anti-Israel activity leaves many Jewish students feeling as maligned as African-American students were made to feel.
Israel Hate Week, in all its ugly glory, is an embarrassing spectacle for a university claiming to be a welcoming place of higher learning that values and respects diversity.
This issue matters to people of other ethnicities and religions as well, because persecution of one group of students can easily be extended to others at a campus becoming known for its pervasive culture of intolerance.
Diffusing the anger, repairing its damaged reputation and re-establishing a climate of patience, acceptance and respect should be UCSD’s foremost cultural imperative.
Let us hope that this year people with opposing viewpoints will engage in civil discourse that helps bridge differences, rather than employ hateful words and actions that alienate and polarize. And let UCSD become, once again, a campus that respects the humanity, dignity and rights of all people.
Editor’s Note: According to Christine Clark of the UC San Diego News Center, two student-sponsored “weeks” are held on campus, May 14-17: Justice in Palestine Week, which is presented by the Muslim Students Association (MSA) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and Solidarity Week, which is presented by the Tritons for Israel (TFI) and J Street (JSU).
The week, she said, typically features tables staffed by students set up along Library Walk to offer fliers and informational pamphlets.