More Than 500 UC Faculty Members Call on Board of Regents to Address Anti-Israel Activism by Faculty, Departments

Letter demands that “individual faculty who violate these policies must face significant disciplinary consequences.”
May 8, 2024
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

A May 8 letter signed by at least 503 UC faculty members is urging the UC Board of Regents to hold faculty and departments accountable for “promoting anti-Israel activism and inciting antisemitism.”

The letter noted that the board is facing “enormous backlash” from faculty over a potential policy that would bar departments “from using their university websites for making political statements.”  They are the same faculty members whose  “anti-Zionist activism not only brazenly denies Jewish students and faculty their academic freedom, but alarmingly, seeks to purge them from campus life altogether,” the letter contended. “The university must take immediate steps to stop this.” The letter also claimed that these anti-Israel faculty members are playing “a pivotal role in encouraging, supporting and even participating in the pro-Hamas rallies and illegal encampments that are fueling vicious antisemitism on many of our campuses.”

The letter pointed to a study from the AMCHA Initiative showing that there’s been “a more than ten-fold increase in anti-Zionist faculty advocacy and activism on UC campuses since Oct. 7” as a result of the establishment of Faculty for Justice in Palestine at the UC schools. “These chapters’ chief aim is to bring the academic boycott of Israel — a key component of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement — onto their campuses and into their classrooms and other educational spaces,” the letter stated, explaining that FJP is following the guidelines set forth by the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI). The USACBI’s guidelines call for the “boycotting educational programs in or about Israel, and canceling or shutting down pro-Israel events and activities; promoting academic programming and campus events that demonize and delegitimize Israel; and condoning the denigration, protest, and exclusion of pro-Israel individuals on campus.”

Those academic BDS-associated activities are “not only flagrant violations of the academic freedom of students and faculty who want to study in or about Israel, they have had a devastating impact on Jewish students and faculty who identify with the Jewish State,” the letter continued. “Indeed, the explosion of antisemitic activity on UC campuses since Oct. 7 – an estimated 2000% increase over the same time last year — can in large measure be directly linked to these academic BDS-compliant efforts.”

The letter alleged that entire academic departments are now endorsing anti-Israel activity, such as the Ethnic Studies Department at UC San Diego declaring that they are boycotting Israel, which it referred to as a “settler… apartheid state.”  It  emphatically states that “the academic boycott of Israel, which anti-Zionist faculty are relentlessly implementing in their classrooms and conference halls, on their websites and social media pages, and — with the help of anti-Zionist student groups — in the campus square, student newspaper and student government, is nothing less than an attempt to completely purge UC campuses of Zionism and Zionists … Please understand that these efforts have made our own campuses inhospitable, threatening and unsafe for the vast majority of Jewish students and faculty who identify with the Jewish state and the Jewish people.”

The letter also accused university administrators of failing to “enforce policies prohibiting faculty from using their positions and university resources for political advocacy and activism.” It urged the board to “establish and enforce robust procedures that ensure campus administrators are held accountable for addressing violations of university policy regarding faculty abuse. Individual faculty who violate these policies must face significant disciplinary consequences. Departments that commit themselves to academic BDS and the genocidal aspiration of destroying the Jewish state are in flagrant violation of their scholarly mission and university regulations, and should be shut down. Administrators unwilling to enforce UC policy should themselves be sanctioned for dereliction of duty.

“If you cannot curb the unchecked political activism of faculty and departments, the University of California will soon become Judenrein — wholly inhospitable and unsafe for its Jewish members — and the University will lose a vital part of its research and teaching staff and its student body, and suffer irreparable reputational and financial harm,” the letter concluded.

“One purpose of the letter is to assure the administration that they have the backing of the faculty to stand firm against the demands of the encampment leadership, which parrot the demands of the BDS movement.” – Prof Judea Pearl

Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of computer science at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member and Daniel Pearl Foundation president, told the Journal, “one purpose of the letter is to assure the administration that they have the backing of the faculty to stand firm against the demands of the encampment leadership, which parrot the demands of the BDS movement. Any capitulation to these demands would have far reaching consequences throughout higher education, and would amount to rewarding students’ lawlessness and antisemitic intimidation.”

UC Santa Cruz Chemistry Professor Ilan Benjamin also told the Journal, “I have been a faculty member at the University of California for 35 years, who has often spoken out against the abuses of anti-Zionist faculty and departments on my campus. However, since Oct. 7 the problem has become orders of magnitude worse. Now whole departments are not only issuing pro-Hamas statements and calls for dismantling the Jewish state, but are openly endorsing academic boycotts of Israel, whose primary goal is to purge Zionism and Zionists — Jewish faculty like me! — from the University.”

At this time, the UC Board of Regents has not responded to the Journal’s request for comment.

UPDATE: A spokesperson from the UC president’s office said in a statement to the Journal, “University of California President Michael V. Drake, M.D., shares the concerns raised by the authors of the letter. The events in the Middle East, combined with an alarming rise in antisemitism and islamophobia nationally and on college campuses, have had a profound and personal impact on many of our students, faculty, and staff, with many in our community experiencing trauma, fear, and frustration. President Drake has been clear about his priorities and ongoing efforts to ensure that our campuses are safe welcoming, inclusive spaces for all students. Antisemitism is antithetical to the University’s values and our campus codes of conduct and is unacceptable under our principles of community. We look forward to working with campus leaders, faculty, and staff to foster a safe and respectful environment where all members of our community can learn, work, and thrive.”

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