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UC Regents should seize its Moynihan moment on anti-Zionism

UC Regents should seize its Moynihan moment on anti-Zionism

A chance to speak out against the “great evil … loosed upon the world”

On November 10, 1975, the United Nations General Assembly passed the infamous “Zionism Is Racism” Resolution 3379:

“Determines that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination”

The Resolution came on the heels of the failed 1973 Yom Kippur attempt by Arab armies to destroy Israel with Soviet backing, and the 1973 Arab oil embargo to pressure the West to abandon Israel.

Resolution 3379 was not phrased as anti-Jewish hatred. It was framed in terms of anti-Zionism, a rejection of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in the homeland of the Jewish people.

But the anti-Zionist phraseology did not fool anyone, least of all United States Ambassador to the United Nations Daniel Patrick Moynihan. In what would become one of his most famous speeches, Moynihan rose to denounce the Resolution as anti-Semitic and to declare it a “great evil… loosed upon the world.”

Here is an excerpt from his speech (emphasis added):

The United States rises to declare before the General Assembly of the United Nations, and before the world, that it does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act.

Not three weeks ago, the United States Representative in the Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee pleaded in measured and fully considered terms for the United Nations not to do this thing. It was, he said, “obscene.” It is something more today, for the furtiveness with which this obscenity first appeared among us has been replaced by a shameless openness.

There will be time enough to contemplate the harm this act will have done the United Nations. Historians will do that for us, and it is sufficient for the moment only to note one foreboding fact. A great evil has been loosed upon the world. The abomination of anti-semitism — as this year’s Nobel Peace Laureate Andrei Sakharov observed in Moscow just a few days ago — the Abomination of anti-semitism has been given the appearance of international sanction….

As this day will live in infamy, it behooves those who sought to avert it to declare their thoughts so that historians will know that we fought here, that we were not small in number — not this time — and that while we lost, we fought with full knowledge of what indeed would be lost….

The United States of America declares that it does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act….

The proposition to be sanctioned by a resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations is that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” Now this is a lie. But as it is a lie which the United Nations has now declared to be a truth, the actual truth must be restated….

(full speech here.)

Moynihan, on behalf of the American people, didn’t need to give that speech. He could have just cast a No vote; or given a speech steeped in international politics and policy.

Moynihan gave that speech because he and the U.S. administration had the guts to call anti-Zionism what it is — anti-Semitism by a different name.

Moynihan, as a spokesman for the official policy of the United States government, could have shied away by worrying that expressing opposition to anti-Zionism might stifle or prejudice the debate among private citizens. But he didn’t shy away. He seized the moment to declare the principle of U.S. opposition to anti-Semitism in its newest form, anti-Zionism.

Resolution 3379 was revoked in 1991, but that “great evil … loosed upon the world” lives on, and is thriving.

It lives on everyplace that anti-Zionism is fervent. In Iran, where the Mullahs couch their desire to annihilate Israel in terms of anti-Zionism. In the Arab world, where the most hideous portrayal of Jews in official and social media hides behind the veil of anti-Zionism. And in the capitals of Europe, where Jews cannot walk in public wearing Kippas (Yarmulkes) for fear of attack, where mobs chant “Jew, Cowardly Pig, Come On Out And Fight” and carry signs that “The Jews are Beasts,” all in the name of anti-Zionism.

And that “great evil” lives on at U.S. campuses and in faculty lounges, where the language of “Zionism is Racism” is the rallying cry of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Attend just about any campus BDS rally, frequently co-sponsored by the anti-Zionist “Jewish Voice for Peace” and Students for Justice in Palestine, and you will hear it. You’ll also hear it at some faculty associations where BDS resolutions have passed, such as the American Studies Association, and other associations where it is under consideration, such as the American Anthropological Association.

There are many universities and colleges where the veil of anti-Zionism has let slip for overt anti-Semitism, such as Vassar and Oberlin. But nowhere is it more pervasive than in the University of California system.

It is no coincidence that the UC system is home to the founders and most open purveyors of the U.S. academic and cultural boycott of Israel, who couch their arguments in the language of Resolution 3379. The campus climate is heavily skewed towards anti-Zionism, which almost always ends up targeting Jewish supporters of Israel on campus.

The Regents of the University of California commissioned a study of the problem of anti-Semitism and the connection to anti-Zionism on campus. That study resulted in Final Report of the Regents Working Group on Principles Against Intolerance (pdf.) which is up for consideration by the Regents this week.

The Report recites in its introduction the background giving rise to the study:

During the 2014-15 academic year, the Regents received correspondence and public comment from a variety of sources expressing concern that there has been an increase in incidents reflecting anti-Semitism on UC campuses. These reported incidents included vandalism targeting property associated with Jewish people or Judaism; challenges to the candidacies of Jewish students seeking to assume representative positions within student government; political, intellectual and social dialogue that is anti-Semitic; and social exclusion and stereotyping. Fundamentally, commenters noted that historic manifestations of anti-Semitism have changed and that expressions of anti-Semitism are more coded and difficult to identify. In particular, opposition to Zionism  often is expressed in ways that are not simply statements of disagreement over politics and policy, but also assertions of prejudice and intolerance toward Jewish people and culture. [Footnotes removed]

The Report then makes a statement that has generated public controversy (emphasis added):

Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California. Most members of the University community agree with this conclusion and would agree further that the University should strive to create an equal learning environment for all students. This said, members of the community express widely divergent views about how the University should respond to incidents of overt, and more particularly, covert anti-Semitism and other forms of prohibited discrimination and intolerance. In light of the evolving nature of anti-Semitism, some commenters recommended that the Regents endorse or adopt a definition of anti-Semitism that has been attributed to the U.S. Department of State. They express the view that adopting a definition of anti-Semitism would help members of the University recognize and respond to anti-Semitism. Some commenters urged the Regents to sanction members of the University community who express views thought to be anti-Semitic, while others asserted that the State Department definition would sweep in speech protected by principles of academic freedom and the First Amendment. Sanctioning people based on their speech, they say, would violate the First Amendment. Others expressed concerns about defining and focusing on anti-Semitism alone when other forms of bias and prejudice also occur on UC campuses, but have not been specifically defined or addressed in Regents policy. Finally, some commenters asserted that expressions based on stereotypes, prejudice and intolerance impact the learning environment for some members of the University community, and that prohibiting such expressions altogether should be deemed a legitimate approach to enforcing the University’s nondiscriminationpolicies.

The Report, after lengthy analysis, then goes on to list Regents Policy: Principles Against Intolerance (starting at page 8). Among those policies are broad anti-discrimination policies already in effect:

b. University policy prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin,
religion, sex, gender, gender expression, gender identity, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, medical condition (cancer-related or genetic characteristics), genetic information (including family medical history), ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation, citizenship, service in the uniformed services, or the intersection of any of these factors. Prohibited discrimination arising from historical biases, stereotypes and prejudices jeopardizes the research, teaching and service mission of the University. This mission is best served when members of the University community collaborate to foster an equal learning environment for all, in which all members of the community are welcomed and confident of their physical safety.

The proposed Principles Against Intolerance then continues to address specifically anti-Semitism, with the highlighted sentence again generating controversy:

c. Human history encompasses many periods in which biased, stereotypical or prejudiced discourse, left unchallenged and uncontested, has led to enormous tragedy. In a community of learners, teachers, and knowledge-seekers, the University is best served when its leaders challenge speech and action reflecting bias, stereotypes, and/or intolerance. Anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination have no place in the University. The Regents call on University leaders actively to challenge anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination when and wherever they emerge within the University community. [Footnotes removed]

There also are strong free-speech and academic freedom provisions in the Report Pinciples:

d. Freedom of expression and freedom of inquiry are paramount in a public research university and form the bedrock on which our mission of discovery is founded. The University will vigorously defend the principles of the First Amendment and academic freedom against any efforts to subvert or abridge them.

e. Each member of the University community is entitled to speak, to be heard, and to be engaged based on the merits of their views, and unburdened by historical biases, stereotypes and prejudices. Discourse that reflects such biases, stereotypes or prejudice can undermine the equal and welcoming learning environment that the University of California strives to foster. The University seeks to educate members of the community to recognize, understand and avoid biases, stereotypes and prejudices. [Footnotes removed]

As such, the Report and the Principles attempt to strike a balance of condemning various forms of discrimination, including anti-Semitism in its various forms, while protecting speech and academic freedom. There is no sanction imposed on anyone who violates the Principles, and no prohibition against such advocacy.

Yet, there has been a concerted effort to get the Regents to reject the Report in its entirety, or at least to expunge the language regarding anti-Zionism.

Some of that push back is in good faith (though I believe mistaken). For example, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh argues:

I’m ethnically Jewish (I say “ethnically” because I’m not religious), and I support Israel. It’s the one democracy among its neighbors, and for all its flaws it’s doing a pretty good job faced with very difficult circumstances. Whatever one might say about whether Israel should have been created in 1948, it’s there, and undoing that decision would be a disaster in many ways. And I do think that a good deal of anti-Zionism is indeed anti-Semitic.

But I think the regents are flat wrong to say that “anti-Zionism” has “no place at the University of California.” Even though they’re not outright banning anti-Zionist speech, but rather trying to sharply condemn it, I think such statements by the regents chill debate, especially by university employees and students who (unlike me) lack tenure. (For more on that, see here.) And this debate must remain free, regardless of what the regents or I think is the right position in the debate.

Smilarly, Conor Friedersdorf argues in The Atlantic that the policy simply extends the same mistake of left-wing inspired speech codes. The L.A. Times Editorial Board insists that it is improper to consider anti-Zionism a form of anti-Semitism, while The FIRE criticizes the Report on free speech grounds.

Some of the opposition is not in good faith, such as that by Jewish Voice for Peace, which reads in part:

Given the current political climate of elevated rhetoric and violence against Black, Muslim, Latino and Arab students, it is remarkable that the main form of discrimination highlighted in the report and the principles is anti-Semitism….

We are deeply concerned that this report will be used by those whose interest is in silencing political criticism of Israel and policing student activism and academic freedom at the University of California.

Jewish Voice for Peace has no standing to object, since it is one of the principle purveyors of anti-Zionism, and uses the word “Jewish” in its title (even though it is not a “Jewish” organization) to provide cover for other groups. JVP seeks to silence Israeli and pro-Israel voices on campus and to damage academic freedom through its support of the anti-Israel academic boycott.

There already are broad anti-discrimination principles in place at various levels of the UC system. So it is hardly the case that unequivocal free speech is the norm.

From a free speech perspective it could be argued that is is better to have no UC anti-discrimination Principles at all, but that is not the current situation. Having declared itself opposed to all forms of discrimination, there is no reason the UC Regents cannot recognize the modern form of anti-Semitism.

The UC Regents should not shy away from the Report’s recognition that anti-Zionism, particularly as it has manifested itself in the UC system, is a form of anti-Semitism, anymore so than Daniel Patrick Moynihan should have shied away from stating that same principle in 1975.


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The left decides what racism is, and you will never win an argument against the left if you accept the left’s premises and language. By these standards, of course Zionism is racism.

Of course, who appointed the left the arbiter of racial morality anyways?

(Not rhetorical: the people who appointed the left the arbiter of racial morality are those on the right who accept the left’s language and premises. Expel them or lose arguments forever).

In practical terms, you can refute Zionism == Racism by simply offering the right of return to people who convert to judaism, and denying right of return to people who give up the faith. If it’s a religious thing, and the religion isn’t racially exclusive, then obviously it’s not racism.

That being said, an odd hybrid of “we’ll use matrilineal blood line to determine who is and who isn’t a jew, regardless of their religious or social practices” and “there is a theoretical path for gentiles to become jews, but it is essentially a de facto limit” makes it maybe not entirely racist, but certainly a shade or two closer to racism than one might like to admit.

I think the bigger, more interesting question is this – should we segregate ourselves into nation states based on monoculture? There are likely arguments on both sides of that debate with strong support for their positions.

    forksdad in reply to jhkrischel. | March 21, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    They are too close to Africa. They would have to pay people to leave. They already have a problem with Africans trying to break into Israel. Can you imagine if 500mil people could instantly qualify for Israeli citizenship just by saying, “I’m Jewish”?

    They’re too close to poverty on a scale most westerners cannot imagine. It would make our illegal alien problem look small and manageable.