UC Berkeley suspends student’s course labeled anti-Israel by critics


U.C. Berkeley has suspended a student-led course, “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis,” after an outcry from Jewish community leaders who called it biased, anti-Zionist and in violation of the university's academic standards.

The university made the decision Tuesday after determining that the student facilitator, Paul Hadweh, “did not comply with policies and procedures that govern the normal academic review and approval of proposed courses for the DeCal program” for student-led courses, said Dan Mogulof, the school's assistant vice chancellor.

A day earlier, Berkeley Hillel had called upon U.C. President Janet Napolitano and U.C. Berkeley administrators to condemn the one-credit course in a strongly worded statement.

“Any perusal of the syllabus will show that this is a one-sided course which puts forth a political agenda. It does not tell the truth. It ignores history. It ignores facts, such as the inconvenient one that Jews have inhabited Israel for 3,000 years,” Hillel International President and CEO Eric Fingerhut and Berkeley Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman said in the statement. “This course seems to be a matter of political indoctrination in the classroom and is a violation of the newly adopted principles by the U.C. regents on intolerance.”

The course was to be offered as part of the university's DeCal program, in which students propose and teach one-credit courses under the supervision of a faculty sponsor. Other DeCal classes offered this academic year include “Cal Pokeman Academy,” “Art Anatomy” and “Science in Oakland Elementary Schools.”

The course syllabus said it would cover the history of Palestine from the 1880s to the present and “explore the connection between Zionism and settler colonialism.” Students were to be required to attend an event “relating to Palestine” during the semester and make a final presentation proposing a “decolonial alternative” to the region's problems, not restricted to the two-state solution.

Forty-three Jewish and educational organizations signed a letter by the Santa Cruz-based Amcha Initiative, a nonprofit that monitors anti-Semitism in higher education, addressed to U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, expressing deep concern about the course.

“A review of the syllabus … reveals that the course's objectives, reading materials and guest speakers are politically motivated, meet our government's criteria for anti-Semitism and are intended to indoctrinate students to hate the Jewish State and take action to eliminate it,” the letter stated. The letter called the faculty sponsor, Hatem Bazian, “a well-known anti-Zionist activist who is also the chairman of American Muslims for Palestine.”

UC Berkeley opens public system’s first kosher dining station


A dining station at the University of California, Berkeley will be certified kosher, the first in the public university system.

The dining station by Cal Dining is also designed to appeal to Muslims who eat halal, the local Berkeleyside news website reported.

“A lot of people don’t know what ‘kosher’ means or what the criteria is that dictates it,” Josh Woznica, president of the Jewish Student Union, told the news website. The dining station “could be a place where people could learn more about different values and cultures. It has the potential to be an intersection of ideas – a station that’s open to everyone.”

The meat served at the station will be kosher certified. Muslims who observe halal generally can eat meat slaughtered according to Jewish dietary laws, since theirs is a fellow Abrahamic religion. All the kosher food at the station also will meet halal standards, according to the report.

“The implementation of the new food station also relieves a lot of food security concerns for students who eat kosher or halal,” Sarah Bellal, external vice president for the Muslim Student Association, told Berkeleyside. “Moving to Berkeley and starting college already requires adjustment in terms of academics and social life. No longer being able to eat the food you used to eat at home is yet another way students may need to adjust.”

She said she is pleased that Jewish and Muslim students will have the opportunity to eat together on campus.

“Our communities coming together to share meals at Berkeley is symbolic of a centuries-long shared tradition between Jews and Muslims — a tradition that includes many other religious commonalities,” Bellal said.

Campus Anti-Semitism at UC and Stanford


So far as we are concerned, Berkeley’s Golden Bears have already won the Stanford Axe, the trophy in their annual “Big Game” with the Cardinals, despite the fact that college football season is still months away.

Our reason: the contrast between recent actions of the presidents of UC and Stanford to the challenge of campus anti-Semitism.

First, the good news: UC President Janet Napolitano for personally agreeing with the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, which includes denial of Israel’s right to exist—not criticism of Israeli government policies—as a manifestation of anti-Semitism. The State Department’s “working definition” reads: “anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” Examples include: accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust, and accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interest of their own nations.

Both Rabbi Meyer H. May, Executive Director of the Wiesenthal Center, and Aron Hier, director of the Center’s Campus Outreach program, have attended meetings over the course of months throughout the state urging UC Regents, chancellors, and policy makers to adopt the State Department definition which will also be voted on by the UC Board of Regents this July.

In contrast, Stanford’s SAE fraternity house has recently been defaced with a swastika, in addition to painted personal slurs and epithets.

Liana Kadisha, president of the Stanford Israel Association told the Stanford Daily that there has been a “rise in hostility toward Jewish communities,” on campus since the university student senate approved a divestment resolution. Kadisha also said: “My parents are from Iran and left that country because it wasn't open really to Jews anymore and so I don't think they would ever expect that at Stanford, so many years later we would be dealing with these types of incidents.”

Nationally, the SAE fraternity, site of the Stanford swastika, has a history of racial and religious discrimination. It banned Jews until some time after World War II, and only in recent years has it really opened its doors to Jewish members. Unfortunately, as is clear from the national headlines about what happened at the University of Oklahoma, it is far from outliving its history of bigotry against African Americans.

In a related incident, Stanford undergraduate Molly Horwitz, a candidate for the Student Senate, was vetted by the Students of Color Coalition about her fitness for office. This followed February’s ugly campus debate that ended in a vote for a resolution for divesting in companies doing business on the West Bank as a way of punishing Israel.

During the divestment debate, Horwitz wrote several posts on Facebook against it. But then she and her campaign manager scrubbed Horwitz’s Facebook page to hide all posts indicating support for Israel, including a photograph of a pair of shoes decorated to look like the Israeli flag. Why? Because: “We did it not because she isn’t proud—she is—but the campus climate has been pretty hostile, and it would not be politically expedient to take a public stance.” Reportedly, Horowitz’s inquisitors are also being investigated for allegedly asking its endorsed candidates to sign a contract promising not to affiliate with Jewish groups on campus.

What’s the response by the Stanford authorities to the latest swastika incident? Stanford University Department of Public Safety (SUDPS) spokesman Bill Larson said that the incident will be recorded as a hate crime. Well and good.

But what about the response by University President John Hennessy? He said: “I am deeply troubled by the act of vandalism, including symbols of hate, that has marred our campus. The University will not tolerate hate crimes and this incident will be fully investigated, both by campus police and by the University under our Acts of Intolerance Protocol. This level of incivility has no place at Stanford. . . . I ask everyone in the University community to stand together against intolerance and hate, and to affirm our commitment to a campus community where discourse is civil, where we value differences and where every individual is respected.”

This sound good, but lacks one critical component: any mention of anti-Semitism. President Hennessy, who commendably has opposed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, suggests that we examine the University’s “Acts of Intolerance Protocol.” We have. This 4-page document’s definition of “acts of intolerance” includes: Gender or gender identity, Race or ethnicity, Disability, Religion, Sexual orientation, Nationality, Age, Social or economic class. Very inclusive. But anti-Semitism—is it a crime against “religion” or “ethnicity” or “nationality” or some hybrid?—falls between the cracks. Significantly, when the reader gets to page 4, there is a listing of two dozen “University resources available to students, faculty and staff.” No inclusion of Hillel, the Stanford Israel Association, the Jewish Students Association, or any other group with a Jewish or pro-Israel identity. 

What’s going on here is a form of “euphemism” practices on campus from the U.S. to the UK. George Orwell, who satirized “Double Speak” in 1984, treated euphemism as a wide variety of techniques to distort and obfuscate reality, often for political reasons or what we would call today political correctness. We can still smile at the Victorians’ description of a pregnant woman as “being in an interesting condition.” Describing torture as “an enhanced interrogation technique” is something else again. As to anti-Semitism, the euphemistic strategy is to deny it any specific mention in a list of “hate crimes.”

Adopting the State Department’s definition is an important step in the right direction.

Aron Hier is Director of Campus Outreach for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Historian Harold Brackman is a Center consultant.

Univ. of California student group raps moves to censure boycott efforts


The University of California Student Association voted to condemn attempts to censure boycott and divestment efforts by Palestinian human rights activists.

The unanimous resolution passed Sept. 15 also demands that the university stop profiting from what it termed Israel’s human rights violations.

The student association resolution comes less than a month after the California Assembly approved a resolution calling on colleges and universities in the state to combat anti-Semitism and quash campus demonstrations against Israel. Jewish students reportedly have felt under siege at several University of California campuses, where pro-Palestinian demonstrations are a regular occurrence.

The state resolution, according to the student group, “purports to oppose anti-Semitism,” yet “much of HR 35 is written to unfairly and falsely smear as ‘anti-Semites’ those who do human rights advocacy focusing on Israel’s illegal occupation, alleging that the UC faculty and staff involved in such work are motivated by anti-Semitism rather than by the political ideals of equality and respect for universal human rights they affirm, ideals UCSA and most California students share.”

Jewish students criticized the student association measure, according to the Berkeley campus paper, the Daily Californian.

“The UCSA resolution passed on Saturday blindsided the Jewish community,” Jason Bellet, a senator for Associated Students of the University of California and member of the Berkeley Hillel, told the paper. “When we talk about having a safe and welcoming campus climate, that can’t happen when a bill like the one opposing HR 35 is passed in a nontransparent way, in a way that leaves out members of the community criticizing the process. “

Olamide Noah, the external affairs vice president at the University of California, San Diego, said the student association had been working on the resolution since last month, according to the Daily Californian.

Browns pick Schwartz in NFL draft


The second round of the NFL draft was not 30 minutes old when the phone rang in the Schwartz home on the afternoon of April 27.

The family recognized the Cleveland area code. Mitchell Schwartz, the Cal offensive lineman who was expecting to be drafted, picked up the phone. Then he smiled.

“I’ve never seen such a huge smile,” older brother and current NFL pro Geoff Schwartz said.

With the fifth pick of the second round (37th overall), the Cleveland Browns selected Schwartz.

“The best part was that I didn’t expect to go that high,” Mitchell said on April 29. 

The NFL now has two Jewish offensive linemen, from the same family. There are several pairs of brothers in the league, including offensive linemen Matt and Ryan Kalil, but none are Jews. Matt Kalil was taken fourth by Minnesota and will be Geoff’s new teammate. Geoff previously played with Ryan in Carolina.

Although Geoff’s draft experience was less than stellar — he had to wait until the seventh and final round to be chosen — he was pleased at his brother’s good fortune.

It was fortunate because, as father Lee Schwartz said, once one gets past the obvious first-round choices, “[I]t’s really a crapshoot.”

Before the draft, Mitchell traveled to Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Kansas City, and met with team officials. Lee said his son left Atlanta with the impression that if he was still available when the Falcons picked 55th, they would take him. (Atlanta ended up taking another offensive lineman.)

The family knew Cleveland could take him at 37, but they had seen mock drafts that had Mitchell going 58th to the Houston Texans or 63rd to the New York Giants.

Most mock drafts had Matt Kalil going to Minnesota, but Geoff said the addition does not affect his job.

“He plays left tackle; I play right guard,” Geoff said.

So when Mitchell’s name was called, the family whooped it up and hollered and screamed and jumped up and down.

And then came two realizations: First, “The draft was over for us, and we had no reason to watch it,” Geoff said.

Second, the family had planned a celebratory dinner for Saturday, not Friday.

They went out both nights, Mitchell said.

New UC president keeps kosher, loves Israel


The new president of the University of California’s 10 campuses and 220,000 students keeps a kosher home, lectures on Maimonides’ “Guide for the Perplexed” as intellectual stimulation and spends Yom Kippur at the synagogue.

It might not be enough.

“The higher I rise in the administration, the more difficult it is to do all my atoning in one day,” Mark Yudof observes.

He is also an unabashed supporter of Israel, where he is spending the week of June 30-July 7 as co-leader of a high-powered group of American university presidents and chancellors.

Barely a week on the job, and facing a bruising budget battle, Yudof took time out for a wide-ranging interview, a good part focusing on the writings of Moses Maimonides, the great medieval philosopher and biblical interpreter.

After holding the top job at the University of Texas, and before that at the University of Minnesota, Yudof, 63, arrived in California, “with 19 sets of dishes,” to take the helm of the world’s leading public research university and its $18 billion operating budget.

He came as “an energizer, outgoing, who at meetings rarely lets a moment pass without a quip,” a Texas newspaper reported.

Yudof’s self-description adds to the picture.

“I am what I am. I have my weird sense of humor and I’m proud of it. What I’ve found works best for me is transparency, being direct and being honest,” he said.

As president, a Jew and veteran law professor, widely recognized as an authority on constitutional law and freedom of expression, Yudof faces one problem widely reported in the media.

Over the past five years, Jewish students and spokespersons have repeatedly charged that the administration on the UC Irvine campus, now headed by Chancellor Michael Drake, has failed to protect Jewish students against hate speech and intimidation by invited outside speakers and Muslim student groups.

Yudof said he was aware of the hate speech charges, adding that for him, “It is an excruciating conflict when people demean everything that Judaism stands for. Some of these speakers and what they say drive me to distraction, and I hate it,” noting that he had encountered anti-Semitism as a youth and on a couple of occasions in his academic career.

“On the other hand,” he added, “I teach constitutional law, and I have a deep commitment to the First Amendment, which has served us well over time. How do you reconcile that as a Jewish man? It is horrendously difficult.”

As co-leader of the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange trip to Israel, Yudof, even before he became UC president, had invited Drake to be part of the group, and thinks the experience will be beneficial for both of them.

At the same time, Yudof warmly defended Drake.

“I’ve had several conversations with the chancellor, and he has a great heart and enormous sympathy for the Jewish people,” he said. “He is a mensch. Because I take anti-Semitism so personally, I think I can give him some good advice.”

Yudof said he will discuss the issue when he addresses the Hadassah National Convention in Los Angeles on July 14.

Yudof faces somewhat the same conflict between his official duties and personal feelings in handling the problem of UC students who want to study in Israel for a year.

imageThe university’s official Education Abroad Program in Israel was suspended in 2002, following a U.S. State Department’s travel warning for the area.

Although UC has recently come up with some roundabout alternatives, these are cumbersome and make it difficult to assure academic credit for the Israeli courses.

After Yudof returned from an Israel trip last summer, he urged Hillel students at the University of Texas to study in the Jewish state, so his personal sentiments are clear.

Questioned on this issue, Yudof quickly agreed that Israel is a safe place and put the responsibility for the problem on Washington.

“I had the same difficulty at the University of Minnesota,” he said. “We need to talk seriously with the State Department and get officials to revise the rules.”

Yudof was born in Philadelphia, the son of an electrician. Despite his long academic career, he has never quite lost his taste for the blue-collar lifestyle, which includes frequent meals at pancake diners.

“I’m always looking for the perfect pancake,” he said.

His forebears on both sides came to America from Ukraine in the 1890s and over the generations went from Orthodox to atheism to Conservative Judaism.

“I’m much more religious than my grandfather,” he said.

Yudof joined the flagship campus of the University of Texas at Austin in 1971 as assistant professor of law, rising over the following 26 years to full professor and dean.

After a five-year stint as University of Minnesota president, Yudof returned to Texas in 2002, this time as chancellor of the multicampus system.

He credits his wife Judy (the couple has two adult children) with intensifying his Jewish observance and connection, inside and outside the house.

She is the immediate past international president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, representing 760 synagogues, the first woman to hold the post in the organization’s 93-year history.

When she assumed the presidency, she bluntly told reporters, “I didn’t decide to run because I’m a woman, but because I have the leadership skills.”

She currently serves on the council of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and on the international board of Hillel.

“Judy went to Israel quite often, and I went along as the bozo on her arm,” Yudof recalled. “About 20 years ago, Judy said she didn’t feel right about not keeping kosher at home, so we made the change. I’ve had no problem with it except for all those dishes when we move.”

Outside the home, Yudof eats nonkosher food, except for pork.