Letter from Tammi Benjamin to Chancellor Wu of UC Hastings College of Law regarding anti-Semitic event planned for campus

Tammi Benjamin sent me a copy of the following letter, which she wrote to Chancellor Wu to protest an upcoming event entitled “Litigating Palestine:  Can Courts Secure Palestinian Rights.”

I am copying the letter in its entirety, and hope you will forward it to as many people as you can, and that you will voice your concerns about this event to Chancellor Wu.

Dear Chancellor Wu:

On March 25 and March 26, 2011, University of California Hastings College of the Law is officially co-sponsoring and funding a  conference entitled “Litigating Palestine: Can Courts Secure Palestinian Rights.” The conference is listed on Hastings’ official website, and you, in fact, are opening the conference by welcoming the participants.

It is, of course, completely within the purview of Hastings College of the Law to examine lawfare as it pertains to the Israeli-Arab conflict.  However, the authorized description of this event makes it clear that conference participants will be advocating for one side of the conflict, the Arab side, and seeking to exploit Western courts in order to agitate against Jews and the Jewish state through anti-Israel lawfare.  This is not only a misuse of the name and resources of the University of California for political and partisan purposes, it is also ethically and morally reprehensible.

Moreover, we believe that this event fits within the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism issued by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), endorsed by the U.S. State Department in its Reports on Global Anti-Semitism, and used as well by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in its examination of campus anti-Semitism.  As the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has observed, “Anti-Semitic bigotry is no less morally deplorable when camouflaged as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism.”

The EUMC Working Definition identifies the following practices as anti-Semitic and distinguishes them from acceptable forms of criticism of a sovereign nation’s policies:

  • Denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination

  • Applying double standards by requiring of Israel behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

The Trans-Arab Research Institute, which is the sponsoring organization, has stated that part of its mission is the elimination of the Jewish state.  Several of its board members are affiliated with the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and serve as some of its leaders.  In addition, more than half of the speakers at the event are also affiliated with the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigns, and at least one  talk will be devoted to finding legal strategies for defending these campaigns.

This leaves no doubt that the conference was organized for the purpose of harming the Jewish State. Your law school has provided funding and is therefore complicit in this effort.

The heads of sixty Jewish organizations — including the Anti-Defamation League, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations,  Bnai Brith, Hillel, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox movements,  both Democratic and Republican supporters, as well as organizations from Mexico, Australia, Belgium and the United Kingdom — have recently signed a statement identifying Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaigns against Israel as “part of a greater effort to undermine the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in their homeland, Israel.”  They condemn such campaigns and assert that its “proponents have provoked deep divisions among students and have created an atmosphere of intolerance and hatred.”  We are copying this letter to the heads of many of those organizations.

Finally, we believe that this event may be in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Right Act.  As you probably know, there has been a recent change in the interpretation of Title VI by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.  Now, under Federal law, anti-Semitic animus on campus is comparable to other forms of bias and must be aggressively combated by the university administration.   The Office of Civil Rights has already opened two investigations of possible Title VI violations at the University of California.  One of the complaints, submitted by one of us, argues that university funded/sponsored events that are virulently anti-Israel have created a hostile environment for Jewish students at the University of California Santa Cruz, in violation of federal law.

For the reasons we have outlined above, we urge you to publicly announce that you are withdrawing all Hastings College of the Law funding and sponsorship of this event, as well as your own participation in it.

Sincerely,

Leila Beckwith, Professor Emeritus, University of California at Los Angeles

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, Lecturer, University of California at Santa Cruz

CC: Hastings College of the Law Board of Directors

Governor Jerry Brown

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom

State Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg

Assembly Speaker John A. Perez

Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Fiona Ma

Heads of the following organizations, who are signatory to a statement condemning Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigns against Israel:

Aish HaTorah

Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity

American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE)

The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)

American Jewish Committee (AJC)

Anti-Defamation League (ADL)

Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA)

B’nai B’rith International

The Board of Deputies of British Jews

Boycott Watch

Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations

The Fellowship for Campus Safety and Integrity

Hadassah

Hagshama – The Department for Diaspora Activities of the World Zionist

Organization

Hasbara Fellowships

Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life

The International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists

Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC)

The Israel Project (TIP)

Conrad Giles, Rabbi Steve Gutow

Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA)

The Jewish Federations of North America

Jewish National Fund (JNF)

Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI)

Masa Israel Journey

MERCAZ USA

National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ)

National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC)

Orthodox Union (OU)

Rabbinical Assembly

Republican Jewish Committee (RJC)

Simon Weisenthal Center

StandWithUs

Union for Reform Judaism (URJ)

United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and campus division KOACH

Women’s League for Conservative Judaism

World Jewish Congress, North America

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA)

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