AMCHA Report: UC Santa Cruz Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Dept. Engaged in “Anti-Zionist Advocacy”

Report claims department likely violated both UC policies and state laws
January 12, 2024
Wayne Hsieh, Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED

The AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to investigating, documenting, educating about, and combating antisemitism at institutions of higher education in America, released a report on Thursday, Jan. 11 alleging that UC Santa Cruz’s Critical Race and Ethnic Studies (CRES) Department has engaged in “anti-Zionist advocacy” over the past couple years that “likely violate[s] UC policy and state law.”

The report, which was obtained by the Journal, begins by noting that, during the May 2021 Israel-Hamas conflict, the CRES “issued a virulently anti-Israel statement that explicitly positioned their department as politically motivated and directed, identifying themselves as ‘activists committed to anti-colonial, anti-racist, feminist, and queer organizing’ who ‘refuse to use objective language that would render us silent as Palestinians continue to experience an ongoing Nakba.’” The statement also pledged departmental allegiance to “the struggle for Palestinian liberation,” and endorsed an open letter committing faculty to bringing the academic boycott of Israel (the academic arm of the antisemitic BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement) onto their campus and into their classrooms,” the AMCHA report added.

The AMCHA report proceeded to document various instances in October, following the Oct. 7 massacre, in which the CRES “issued a statement that justified Hamas’ Oct. 7th massacre, rape, torture, kidnapping and maiming of thousands of Jews, claiming that Israel was wholly to blame because of ‘75 years of settler colonial displacement’” and announced that they would not be engaging in any university work on Oct. 20 in solidarity with a “Palestinian-led Global General Strike.” Additionally, the CRES department held a teach-in titled, “The Genocide in Gaza in our Classrooms: A Teaching Palestine Workshop.”

“Several CRES faculty members provided an extremely one-sided version of events in which Hamas’ atrocities against Israeli citizens were not mentioned even once, and Israel’s attempts to defend itself were called ‘genocide,’” the report stated. “In addition, a number of speakers (all CRES professors) stated as fact, or strongly implied, that Israel had bombed a hospital in Gaza and massacred ‘800 Palestinians.’ It’s inconceivable that these professors were unaware that by October 24th, almost all mainstream news outlets, as well as U.S. and U.K. intelligence services, had concluded that the incident in question was caused by an errant rocket fired by the Islamic Jihad group, that hit the hospital parking lot and caused significantly fewer casualties and far less damage than what was initially reported by the Hamas-controlled government. Nevertheless, not one of the speakers even mentioned that there was contradictory evidence suggesting that perhaps Israel was not to blame for what had happened at the hospital, but simply repeated Hamas-aligned propaganda intended to incite rage and justify anti-Israel violence.”

Additionally, in November, the CRES’s web homepage promoted a “Shut It Down for Palestine” event on Nov. 9 that was organized by UCSC’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter; the event advertisement urged students and faculty to “skip school and work, do not look away from the genocide” and protest on campus instead. “According to a community announcement sent out from the UCSC Chancellor’s office on Nov. 13th, the protest itself involved unlawful behavior, including ‘blocking the main entrance of our campus for hours, preventing ingress and egress, closing the intersection, and creating unsafe situations where drivers were waved into the intersection by protestors and then surrounded,’” the AMCHA report stated. “The SJP-organized, CRES-promoted and attended event impeded, and in some cases shut down, campus operations for many hours, making it difficult or impossible for members of the campus community to get to classes, meals, healthcare, and childcare.”

On Nov. 17, the CRES announced on its webpage that they’re forming a Faculty for Justice in Palestine (FJP) chapter, linking a statement pledging their support for the “liberation of Palestinian land” and the “the right of return.”

“It is important to point out that the CRES posting was responsive to a recent call issued by the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) for faculty to form FJP groups on campuses ‘in order to support NSJP [National Students for Justice in Palestine]…and engage in Palestine solidarity work generally,’” the AMCHA report stated. “The USACBI call adds, ‘As advocates for the BDS movement, we ask that founding members [of FJP chapters] make a commitment to the founding principles of USACBI,’ which include support for implementing an academic boycott of Israel on their campuses.”

The CRES posting also defied “the UCSC Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor’s Nov. 13th message to the UCSC Instructional Community warning about the potential UC policy violations involved with engaging in political advocacy ‘in the classroom and other instructional spaces,’” the AMCHA report contended.

The actions by the CRES highlighted in the report likely violated both UC policies and state laws prohibiting the use of the classroom for “political indoctrination” and using the UC campus to endorse a political movement, the report argued. Additionally, the AMCHA report cites correspondences from UC officials to AMCHA stating that UC policy bars academic student employees and faculty members from promoting BDS in the classroom.

“CRES’s commitment to anti-Zionist political advocacy and activism … violates students’ fundamental right to be educated and not indoctrinated.” – Tammi Rossman-Benjamin

“CRES’s commitment to anti-Zionist political advocacy and activism, as a department and as a core element of its discipline, can’t help but corrupt the academic mission of the university and violate students’ fundamental right to be educated and not indoctrinated,” AMCHA Initiative Co-Founder and Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, who is also a former UCSC faculty member, said in a statement. “Our research has consistently shown that on campuses where individual faculty and departments use educational spaces for anti-Zionist political advocacy and activism, rates of antisemitic activity – including assaults, threats of harm, vandalism, and bullying – are significantly elevated. Against the backdrop of a more than 700% increase in campus antisemitism since Hamas’ horrific massacre of Israeli civilians on October 7th, CRES’s unbridled expression of animus towards the Jewish state and its supporters absolutely contributes to a hostile, antisemitic environment for Jewish students, faculty and staff at UCSC.”

The university and the CRES did not immediately respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.

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