The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs confirmed to the Journal that Black Lives Matter (BLM) co-founder Patrisse Cullors will be giving a pre-recorded speech as the keynote speaker to the school’s June 11 graduation ceremony.
Cullors, who recently resigned from the Black Lives Matter Global Foundation, said during a 2015 panel, “Palestine is our generation’s South Africa. If we don’t step up boldly and courageously to end the imperialist project that’s called Israel, we’re doomed.” She also encouraged people to look into the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and to show support for Rasmea Odeh, who was convicted of two 1969 bombings in Jerusalem and was deported from Chicago to Jordan in 2017 after pleading guilty of failing to disclose her prior conviction when applying for United States citizenship in 2004.
Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal that UCLA needs to determine if Cullors still holds the viewpoints she expressed in 2015. Judea Pearl,Chancellor’s Professor of Computer Science at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member and Daniel Pearl Foundation president, told the Journal he asked UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Dean Professor Gary Segura if he would ask Cullors if she would retract her 2015 remarks.
Segura said in a statement to the Journal, “Respect for diversity of opinion on matters of public concern is a key tenet of the educational philosophy of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and it’s important to remember that an invitation to speak does not represent an endorsement of all past or future statements by a given speaker. We do not condone racism, sexism, anti-Semitism or any form of bias. The prerecorded commencement message from Patrisse Cullors is one of unity, tolerance and forgiveness. She suggests that a cooperative spirit can help heal old wounds and advance new solutions. I am confident that our graduating students will appreciate her perspective and find inspiration in her call to look forward without judgment in pursuit of a happier, more equitable society.”
Cooper called Segura’s statement a “nicely crafted and articulated deflection and dodge.” “UCLA has the moral obligation to ask their speaker if she still seeks the destruction of the Jewish state but doesn’t have the courage to do so. UCLA graduates know what she has publicly stated in the past—supporting the destruction of Israel. So UCLA believes that this is the messenger to students ‘to find inspiration in her call to look forward without judgment in pursuit of a happier, more equitable society’? Has UCLA decided that promoting genocide now falls under the definition of legitimate ‘diversity of opinion?’” He added that if UCLA doesn’t ask Cullors for clarification, the university “will be contributing to legitimizing the tsunami of anti-Semitic hate that continues to surge right here in Los Angeles and across our nation.”
Pearl similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “For the thousands of Jewish students and faculty at UCLA, Cullors represents a bigoted sect of the BLM movement that criminalizes the core of our collective existence and calls for its destruction. Inviting her as a keynote speaker without explicitly retracting or addressing that bigoted part of her ideology amounts to mainstreaming that bigotry and, by implication, expelling Jewish students and faculty from equal membership in the Bruins tent of ‘equity, diversity and inclusion.’
“I am fairly sure Dean Segura spoke differently on ‘respect for diversity of opinion’ in 2018, when Milo Yiannopoulos came to speak at UCLA, and every trumpet on campus condemned his bigotry towards the Latino community. Let it be recorded that Cullors was offered an opportunity to retract her inflammatory statements and convey to the graduating class how essential it is for human rights activists to work toward a peaceful co-existence of Israel with its neighbors.”
Other Jewish groups weighed in.
“Cullors promotes conspiracy theories connecting Israel and U.S. police misconduct, calls for the ‘end the imperialist project that’s called Israel,’ and refers to all of Israel as ‘Palestine,’” Jack Saltzberg, president and founder of The Israel Group, said in a statement to the Journal. “With this kind of Zionophobia, it’s surprising that UCLA is giving Cullors such a platform.”
Stop Antisemitism Executive Director Liora Rez similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “There are currently millions of African slaves in Libya, Qatar and Saudi Arabia and daily slayings of the Igbo people in Nigeria. Rather than addressing these atrocities, Patrisse Cullors and BLM chose to vilify Israel (a nation who proudly boasts a brown and black Jewish majority) on May 12th as thousands of terror Hamas rockets were being sent from Gaza. Shame on UCLA for giving a stage to this disaster of a ‘leader.’”
American Jewish Committee Los Angeles Regional Director Richard S. Hirschhaut said in a statement to the Journal, “We recognize the compelling voice that Patrisse Cullors represents to so many in the African American community. At the same time, it is regrettable that Ms. Cullors has used her important platform to denigrate and question the very legitimacy of the State of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.
“In light of the disturbing spike in violent antisemitism across America in recent weeks, we hope Ms. Cullors’ pre-recorded commencement message is one of unity, perhaps even using her UCLA platform to condemn this scourge of hate that has left many in the American Jewish community feeling isolated and vulnerable. By so doing, she would amplify the unequivocal repudiation of antisemitism declared by Chancellor Gene Block just days ago.”
The Journal’s request for comment through Cullors’ website was not returned.