UC Santa Cruz cancels Israeli speakers. Israeli Consulate Outraged-not!

Here’s the short version. An April 20 talk by Palestinian and Jewish Israeli citizens on the cost of war and Israeli militarism is canceled at the last minute by UC Santa Cruz administration after some 90 Jewish students protest and 2 faculty write hard-hitting letter comparing proposed talk to hanging a noose to intimidate African American students. Talk organizer finds alternative venue anyway, but Israeli peace group co-sponsoring talk gets really ticked off and writes even harder-hitting letter to faculty and students. Anti-Defamation League, Israeli Consul General say nothing about Israeli citizens being banned from a University of California (UC) campus.

UCSC cedes point, that criticism of Israel is attack on Jewish American students- while Israeli-Jews say to American Jews, “get your own Jewish identity without sacrificing our children for your fantasy.”

Here’s a response from Israeli feminist anti-militarist  group New Profile to the suggestion by UCSC faculty and a student that the speaking tour, which includes a New Profile member, threatens the student’s Jewish identity. (Below this quote, should you hunger to read the whole megillah, you’ll find the original statement from organizer Scott Kennedy, the complaint letter from the Benjamins, and the New profile response.)

Furthermore, while we can sympathize with the student, Jenna Miller, that Israel is central to her identity,” she lives in America (as do both of you, apparently), whereas the speakers live in Israel, as do we.

We therefore pose this question to you, since you appear to condone Israel’s colonization of Palestine: Just how many more generations of our children, grand children, and great grand children, and our neighbors’ children and their children, et al. do you wish to fight and die so that you, Jenna, and others like you can feel that this place somewhere out there that is called Israel is central to your identity, disregarding the price we in Israel pay, namely that of burying our young. Till today Israel has seen 12 wars and military campaigns—-yes 12! In less than 62 years, with the next war always just around the corner!!! ….

How many more Israeli parents and families must become bereaved and grieve while you ply your pen to keep students and faculty from hearing truths—perhaps the saddest truth of all being that excepting war zones as Afghanistan, Israel is the least safe place in the world for Jews. Nowhere else have so many Jews been killed since WWII. No where else is every Jewish child obliged to conscript at the age of 18. No where else is there so much post-traumatic distress symptoms among Jewish youth. Please convey this to Jenna Miller.

And now, all the original documents. from Scott Kennedy, speaking tour organizer and peace activist

“April 20th “Unheard Perspectives” Mid East Program Canceled by UCSC with 48 hours notice”

A program featuring Jewish and Palestinian Israeli citizens speaking on will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday April 20th at the Messiah Lutheran Church, 801 High Street in Santa Cruz. This is a new time and place for the program “Costs of War on Israeli Society: Two Unheard Perspectives.” The Resource Center for Nonviolence was informed on Sunday night, with less than 48 hours notice, that the program scheduled for a Cowell College residential meeting room had been canceled. The “directive” to cancel the event reportedly came from the upper UCSC administration.

Scott Kennedy is coordinator of a two week speaking tour with Ofra Yeshua Lyth of Tel Aviv and Ismail Kharoub of nearby Jaffa, the Palestinian Arab community recently featured in the film “Ajami,” nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards. Lyth is treasurer of New Profile, an organization of feminist men and women working to demilitarize Israeli society that supports the right of conscience for military refusers in Israel.

“This cancellation by UCSC confirms the very need for this speaking tour,” said Kennedy. “Even UCSC wants these perspectives to go unheard. Given that the event was to take place on 4/20, we have to wonder what UCSC administrators are smoking! They are acting like a Texas school board, not a campus of one of the world’s great universities.”

Kharoub and Lyth have during the past ten days spoken at Monterey Institute of International Studies, California State University at Fresno, California Lutheran University, Modesto Junior College, and San Joaquin Delta College. They spoke in churches in Thousand Oaks, Davis, Sacramento, Fresno, Stockton, Modesto and Sunnyvale. Their program has been sponsored in different communities by Jewish Voice for Peace, Friends of the Middle East/MIIS, Monterey Peace & Justice Center Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions/Ventura, Fresno Center for Nonviolence, Peace Fresno, WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom/Fresno Branch), Modesto Peace/Life Center, Church of the Brethren/Fresno, and Architects of Peace The speakers have also spoken before a dozen high schools and community groups.

Kennedy serves on the national board of directors of the Refuser Solidarity Network (www.refusersolidarity.org) and as coordinator of the Middle East Program of the Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz. He helped organize and coordinate the speaking tour to raise awareness of the United States of the toll exacted on citizens of Israel by the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Below is the flier distributed about the event. Also included is a letter sent to campus administrators by two members of the UCSC community, demanding that the event be cancelled. According to Kennedy, the gathering was organized by residential assistants at Oakes and Cowell Colleges in the same way as dozens of other events on campus. It was primarily intended for Cowell and Oakes students but others from the community were welcome to attend. The event on campus was not published on the speaking tour’s website. The opportunity for students and others to meet the two guests from Israel arose because planning for another venue in the San Jose did not materialize. No donations or fund raising was to be done at the event.

According to Kennedy, “While a bureaucratic excuse has apparently been given for canceling this event, it seems clear that the University has been cowed by extremists who want these Israeli voices to remain unheard. It’s a shame, for what it says about public discourse on Middle East events in Santa Cruz and the United States, for what it says about the influence of extremists on the free debate of ideas on Middle East issues, and for what it says about the collapsing space for free speech and the exchange of ideas at the University.”

For more information, contact Scott Kennedy  kenncruz@pacbell.net.

And the complain letter from the Benjamins:

Subject: concerns about an anti-Israel event sponsored by Cowell/Oakes

Date: Fri, 16 Apr 2010 13:30:42 -0700

From: Tammi Rossman-Benjamin

Dear Provost Shemek and Provost Lau:

We are deeply concerned about a program entitled “Costs of War on

Israeli Society: Two Unheard Perspectives”, that is scheduled to take

place on April 20th at Cowell College, with the sponsorship of both

Cowell College and Oakes College. (See attached flyer).

We believe there are three compelling reasons why you should withdraw

your Colleges’ sponsorship of this event immediately:

*1) **The program is politically motivated and directed, and your

Colleges’ sponsorship of it violates University of California policy

prohibiting the use of the University’s name, facilities and resources

for political purposes.*

As you may know, the “Costs of War” event that your Colleges are

sponsoring is just one of fourteen stops of this program on a California

speaking tour that has been organized by Scott Kennedy

<http://web.me.com/kenncruz/2010_California_New_Profile_Tour/Welcome.html>

of

the Resource Center for Nonviolence (RCNV), and it is the only one with

formal university sponsorship. According to a report

<http://www.vcstar.com/news/2010/apr/13/israeli-peace-activists-tell-clu-audience-that/?print=1>

on

this event at a previous venue last Tuesday, the purpose of the tour is

to promote the work of the Refuser Solidarity Network

<http://www.refusersolidarity.net/about.php> and New Profile

<http://www.newprofile.org/english/?cat=7>, two organizations that

actively promote the demilitarization of Israel and provide support to

Israeli men and women who refuse compulsory military service. Along with

the RCNV, these two groups are co-sponsors of the April 20th event.

The RCNV, too, is an organization that has engaged in a great deal of

anti-Israel political activism in order to demonize and delegitimize the

Jewish state. Over the last decade, the RCNV has sponsored several dozen

events about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, both on the UCSC campus

and in the community, and all of these have been unabashedly

anti-Israel. In addition, the RCNV is a member

<http://www.endtheoccupation.org/groups.php> of the US Campaign to End

the Occupation, which supports illegal boycotts, divestment, and

sanctions against the Jewish state.

Scott Kennedy, the founder and director of the RCNV, makes no secret of

his pro-Palestinian sympathies: He flies a Palestinian flag outside of

his Santa Cruz home and was warmly welcomed by the leader of the

terrorist organization Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, when he met with him in

Gaza <http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/01/01/18342694.php> in

November 2006, on one of the many trips he has made to that region in

support of the Palestinians. Kennedy himself was a featured speaker at

“Pulse on Palestine”, another Israel-bashing event sponsored by Cowell

College and the RCNV in January 2009. At that event, Kennedy used his

university-sponsored bully pulpit to encourage students to engage in

activism against Israel by joining or donating money to several

organizations that engage in anti-Israel activism, some with links to

terrorist organizations.

It is also worth mentioning that Ofra Yeshua-Lyth, who is one of the two

featured speakers in this program, is a well-known Jewish anti-Zionist,

who has written a book <http://www.eretzbrith.com/comments.html> which

calls for the elimination of the Jewish state. Yeshua-Lyth also actively

supports Israelis who refuse compulsory military service

When you consider all of these points, it is quite obvious that the

April 20th event which your Colleges are sponsoring will be politically

motivated and directed, and that your sponsorship of it therefore

violates UC policy

<http://www.ucop.edu/ucophome/coordrev/policy/9-18-70att.html>, which

expressly

prohibits the use of the University’s name, facilities or resources for

political activities.

2) The program is being brought to UCSC for the express purpose of

promoting and raising money for a foreign NGO that encourages illegal

activity in its home country, and your Colleges’ sponsorship may violate

federal law.

According to Scott Kennedy, who organized the California tour of the

“Costs of War” program: “Proceeds from the speaking tour will support

the work of *New Profile*, a feminist Israeli organization that offers

support for those refusing military service”. By providing a venue and

funding for this event, you are also supporting an organization which

actively encourages Israelis to break Israeli law and has been

investigated by the Attorney General of Israel for incitement to avoid

military service. Your Colleges’ sponsorship of this program may thus

be a violation of both U.S. law and UC policy

<http://www.newprofile.org/english/?cat=7>, which prohibits the use of

University property “for the purpose of organizing and carrying out

unlawful activity”.

*

*

*3) Most importantly, your Colleges’ sponsorship of a program whose sole

purpose is to harm the Jewish state will be deeply offensive and hurtful

to many Jewish students on our campus, and an egregious violation of

UCSC’s Principles of Community. In addition, the fact that over the

last several years both Cowell and Oakes Colleges have sponsored

numerous virulently anti-Israel programs, but none that demonizes or

delegitimizes any other minority group on campus, is perceived by many

Jewish students as a flagrant double standard that is anti-Semitic in

effect if not in intent.*

*

*

The very same day a noose was found scrawled on a bathroom door at the

Earth and Marine Sciences Building last month, Chancellor Blumenthal

sent out a letter to the entire UCSC community, which included the

following sentiments: “There is no place on this campus for racial

intolerance or hate of any kind… there is more work to do as we strive

to build a diverse community, firmly rooted in principles of equality

and justice. Please join me in reaffirming that vision of our future and

upholding our Principles of Community

<http://www.ucsc.edu/about/principles_community.asp>”. Not only will

the “Costs of War” be an event filled with intolerance and hate, it will

also violate every one of UCSC’s Principles of Community.

*

*Please understand that /demonizing and delegitimizing Israel and her

supporters or calling for the elimination of the Jewish state are at

least as offensive and hurtful to a Jewish student as a Compton Cook-out

or noose are to an African American student./* And the pain is so much

greater when the student’s own College sponsors an event of this nature.

Consider, for example, what then-Cowell College senior Jenna Miller

wrote to Cowell administrators Adrianne Waite and Jim Carter, pleading

with them to revoke Cowell’s sponsorship of the Israel-bashing event

“Pulse on Palestine”:

*

“As a Jew, Israel is central to my identity–to my culture, to my

religion, to my ethnicity. To claim so misguidedly that Israel is

illegitimate, and furthermore, should be revoked–is so hurtful and

so offensive beyond words. Cowell’s sponsorship of this event is

more than hurtful, it’s absolutely unsettling. My trust in UCSC as a

non-discriminatory academic environment has been damaged.”

*

On the same day that Jenna sent her letter, a petition signed by 90

Jewish students, requesting that Cowell College withdraw its sponsorship

of “Pulse on Palestine” because the event “is politically biased and

discriminates against the Jewish student population”, was also presented

to College administrators. However, the students’ pleas were ignored.

To add insult to injury, a Cowell administrator callously asserted that

the College had “every right” to sponsor such an offensive event. These

students, however, were well aware that Cowell College would /never/

assert “every right” to sponsor an event that was homophobic or racist,

and they experienced the College’s unwillness to extend the same respect

and sensitivity to Jewish students as a form institutional

discrimination that was anti-Semitic in effect if not in

intent. We are sure that many Jewish students will feel the same way

now if you do not withdraw your sponsorship of this event.

*

In conclusion, we believe that it is legally, ethically and morally

imperative that Cowell and Oakes Colleges remove their sponsorship of

this event immediately. Furthermore, we recommend that organizations

like Scott Kennedy’s Resource Center for Nonviolence, which has time and

again come to campus to sow the seeds of hate against the Jewish state

and the Jews who identify with it, be banned from the campus and

prohibited from sponsoring future events at UCSC.

We look forward to hearing from you soon about our concerns.

Sincerely,

Ilan Benjamin

Professor of Chemistry

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin

Lecturer in Hebrew

CC: George Blumenthal, Chancellor

David Kliger, Executive Vice Chancellor and Campus Provost

Felicia McGinty, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs

UCSC Counsel Carole Rossi

Jim Carter, Cowell College Administrative Officer

Susan Welte, Oakes College Administrative Officer

Debra Ellis, Cowell College Coordinator for Residential Education

Mandie Stout, Oakes College Coordinator for Residential Education

And finally, from New Profile:

From New Profile

Dear Tammi Rossman-Benjamin and Ilan Benjamin,

We have carefully perused your letter of Friday, April 16, 2010 to Provost Shemek and Provost Lau, and have seriously considered your “three compelling reasons” that the college should withdraw sponsorship for an event about “Costs of War on Israeli Society: Two Unheard of Perspectives.”

We wish here to comment on certain statements and viewpoints in your letter that we believe to be erroneous.

1. Not the least of these is your contention that the program was “politically motivated.” The speakers, after all, were not running for office nor asking that the audience vote on an issue. Furthermore, would you have claimed the same had the speakers been from AIPAC, an acknowledged lobby? What has happened to freedom of speech? And where is freedom of speech more important than in colleges, where young minds are being formed? Should students be denied the opportunity to hear opinions not frequently available except from discussions the nature of one on “Costs of war”?

Would it not have been wiser on your part to allow the event to take place, to attend it, and during the Q and A to express objections to ideas that you disagreed with? Or were you afraid that your objections would have seemed weak, senseless, or uninformed in the light of the information that the speakers had brought to the fore?

2. As for your implying that there is something shameful about ‘actively promoting the demilitarization of Israel and providing support to Israeli men and women (18 year olds!) who refuse compulsory military service,’ would you have claimed the same for organizations that aided American COs during the Vietnam war, when the draft was compulsory. One reason that America has no draft today is that its leaders learned from that experience that you cannot force individuals of conscience to kill or be killed.

So it is in Israel that there are young people who are pacifists or who disagree with their governments’ policies and refuse to enlist. Many of them are willing to pay the price and have served time in prison.

Civil disobedience is a time-honored and respected practice in the United States, as it should be everywhere. Jimmy Carter’s first act as president was to offer amnesty to Vietnam War ‘draft dogers.’ And just this month the City Council of Berkeley, Calif. passed a resolution calling for “Universal and Unconditional Amnesty for Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan War Military Resisters and Veterans Who Acted In Opposition to the War for Matters of Conscience” (http://www.couragetoresist.org/x/content/view/825/1/)

In the same spirit, New Profile guides youngsters who request help. New Profile does nothing illegal. NP does not, as you claim, ‘actively encourage Israelis to break the law.’ NP does help individuals who need guidance about the law, who have questions, and NP tries to encourage Israeli youth to think (something that Israeli education fails to do). But NP neither actively calls for refusal nor incites, as you can readily see from our website www.newprofile.org .

You are correct to state that NP was investigated, but you neglect to mention that the charges were dropped due to lack of evidence http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3798368,00.html Furthermore, the investigation was not instigated by the police, but began at the bequest of “the High Court of Justice following a petition filed by the Israeli Forum for the Promotion of Equal Share in the Burden to have the New Profile movement dismantled following the content published on its website.”

New Profile questions the need for wars, whereas the “Israeli forum for the Promotion of Equal Share in the Burden” accepts wars as matter of fact, and demands that all Israeli youngsters conscript. The Israeli forum failed to delegitimize New Profile, but not for want of trying. The investigation found no evidence to back up the Forum’s complaint. We presume that you trust the judgment of the police, the courts, and the prosecutor.

3. Your claim that the “sole” purpose of the speaking event was to “harm the Jewish state” implies that anyone who disagrees with Israel’s governments’ policies intends to ‘harm the Jewish state.’ Do you also believe that anyone who criticizes US policies aspires to harm America?

And to imply that people as Scott Kennedy and Ofra Lyth or that events of the sort they take part in are anti-Semitic is pure nonsense! It is no more anti-Semitic to criticize Israel than it was anti-American to criticize the Vietnam war, nor is anti-American to criticize the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan! To the contrary!

4. Furthermore, while we can sympathize with the student, Jenna Miller, that Israel is central to her identity,” she lives in America (as do both of you, apparently), whereas the speakers live in Israel, as do we.

We therefore pose this question to you, since you appear to condone Israel’s colonization of Palestine: Just how many more generations of our children, grand children, and great grand children, and our neighbors’ children and their children, et al. do you wish to fight and die so that you, Jenna, and others like you can feel that this place somewhere out there that is called Israel is central to your identity, disregarding the price we in Israel pay, namely that of burying our young. Till today Israel has seen 12 wars and military campaigns—-yes 12! In less than 62 years, with the next war always just around the corner!!!

One bereaved mother, Nurit Peled-Elhanan–who lost her only daughter in a suicide bombing–captures in a nutshell an important aspect of what New Profile is battling by objecting to militarism. Professor Peled-Elhanan, when speaking to the EU Parliament on International Women’s Day in 2005 stated the following:

“. . . Israeli, American, Italian and British mothers have been for the most part violently blinded and brainwashed to such a degree that they . . . are all mind-infected by the same viruses engendered by politicians. And the viruses , though they may have various illustrious names such as Democracy. Patriotism. God. Homeland, are all the same. They are all part of false and fake ideologies that are meant to enrich the rich and to empower the powerful.

We are all the victims of mental, psychological and cultural violence that turn us to one homogenic group of bereaved or potentially bereaved mothers. Western mothers who are taught to believe their uterus is a national asset just like they are taught to believe that the Muslim uterus is an international threat. They are educated not to cry out: “I gave him birth, I breast fed him, he is mine, and I will not let him be the one whose life is cheaper than oil, whose future is less worthy than a piece of land.”

All of us are terrorized by mind-infecting education to believe all we can do is either pray for our sons to come back home or be proud of their dead bodies.”

Is this the message that you fear to have told? Do you wish to hide from American students that Israel’s wars are not from Heaven nor necessary? Do you wish to hide from students that since 2002 Israel’s governments have refused to accept a comprehensive peace package offered by its Arab neighbors? Do you wish to hide from students and faculty the fact that Israel’s governments thus devaluate human life—-Jewish as well as non-Jewish, because the Greater Israel is more important to our leaders than are our children’s lives?

5. Lastly, you attempt to paint Scott Kennedy and Ofra Lyth in evil colors! But of course it is always easier to ply ad hominem rather than to deal with the facts. Unfortunately, you won this battle. Unfortunately for the students, unfortunately for us who live in Israel, where the rituals of mourning over dead sons and daughters killed in the conflict are so frequent and abundant.

How many more Israeli parents and families must become bereaved and grieve while you ply your pen to keep students and faculty from hearing truths—perhaps the saddest truth of all being that excepting war zones as Afghanistan, Israel is the least safe place in the world for Jews. Nowhere else have so many Jews been killed since WWII. No where else is every Jewish child obliged to conscript at the age of 18. No where else is there so much post-traumatic distress symptoms among Jewish youth. Please convey this to Jenna Miller.

Sincerely,

Dorothy Naor

Ruth Divon

Ruth Hiller

Ronit Marian-Kadishay

For New Profile

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