Israel

Chancellor Rejects Congressman’s Request to Cancel Israel Boycotters’ Conference at UCLA

The Chancellor of the University of California said that he would allow Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a group that promotes boycotts of Israel and which had previously been disciplined by the system, to hold its annual conference at UCLA next month, The Daily Bruin reported Tuesday.

Chancellor Gene Block wrote a letter to Rep. Brad Sherman (D – Calif.) telling him that UC would not cancel the conference and that the university system supported free speech.

Sherman had pointed out in a letter written earlier this month to Block that, in May, SJP had disrupted an “Indigenous Peoples Unite” event hosted by UCLA’s Students Supporting Israel group, silencing those participating. He also argued that the SJP conference would be closed and only those vetted by SJP would be allowed to attend. This would mean that Jewish students would likely be excluded.

“A public university should not allow any organization to implement a litmus test for event participants on their campus based on an applicant’s beliefs, religion or national origin,” Sherman argued.

At a board of regents meeting last month, Justin Feldman, a third-year political science student, said that from his experience, he believed that the conference would be exclusionary. “Given the disturbing and unconventional nature of SJP’s activities, including the recent intimidation of Jewish students … I’m not surprised that this conference is not open to myself or to the public,” he said.

Block said that because student fees would not be used to support the conference, the conference could be closed.

Last year, University of California Irvine put its chapter of SJP on probation, after the group violated campus policy by disrupting an event hosted by Students Supporting Israel.

The University of California’s Board of Regents unanimously approved a “Statement of Principles Against Intolerance,” which included “anti-semitic forms of anti-Zionism.” These were defined as “opposition to Zionism,” which “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.” A conference that equates Zionism with “ethnic cleansing, destruction, mass expulsion, apartheid, and death,” apparently would violate this standard.

[Photo: Congressman Brad Sherman / YouTube ]