Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin: University of California must fight back against anti-Semitic acts

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a faculty member at the University of California, Santa Cruz is the founder of AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization that combats anti-Semitism on college campuses. Nominated as a Jewish Community hero, Ms. Rossman has a well earned reputation are a fierce and tireless protector of civil rights of Jewish students, on California campuses and throughout the country

Documenting anti-Semitic incidents in the UC System, she writes in the San Jose Mercury News:

It's not hard to connect the dots. On campuses where anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaigns have been promoted, anti-Semitism has increased and Jewish students report feeling emotionally and physically harassed, threatened, unsafe, and targeted for anti-Jewish bigotry.

The University of California is no exception. Just in the past few months:

At UC Berkeley, in the wake of a contentious BDS campaign, the message "Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber" was found scrawled on a bathroom wall. This past month, a Jewish student leader reported, "We still find anti-Semitic slogans written on bathrooms. A lot of students find swastikas and come to me," and he added that many Jewish students are frightened.

At UC Davis, in the days leading up to an anti-Israel divestment vote, the university's Hillel House was defaced with "grout out the Jews." Less than two days following the vote, large swastikas were spray-painted on a UC Davis Jewish fraternity. Several Jewish students reported feeling unsafe, one writing: "I no longer feel as though UC Davis is a completely safe environment for Jewish students or a place where I can feel free to express my support for Israel."

At UCLA, shortly after the student government approved an anti-Israel divestment resolution, four student senators who sponsored that resolution brazenly argued that a candidate for the student judicial board was not eligible simply because she was a Jew. According to one Jewish student leader, "People say that being anti-Israel is not the same as being anti-Semitic. The problem is the anti-Israel culture in which we are singling out only the Jewish state creates an environment where it is OK to single out Jewish students."

At UC Santa Barbara, after three years of divisive anti-Israel divestment campaigns, large flyers blaming Jews for 9/11 were posted on campus. At a student senate meeting this past month, a Jewish student shared: "For the first time in my life, I felt that my identity, an unchangeable part of who I am, was under attack and my entire existence as a Jew was being questioned. No one in this room can look at this past year's incidents and tell me that anti-Semitism doesn't exist. ... I'm scared for my safety."

In response to this alarming increase in anti-Semitism, student leaders at UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC Santa Barbara have approved resolutions condemning anti-Semitism.  It’s a start, but its not enough.

Read Tammi Benjamin-Rossmans' recommendations here

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