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How Anti-Zionist Faculty Captured a University of California Campus and What It Means for the Future of Jews in America

McHenry Library at University of California, Santa Cruz. Photo: Jay Miller/Wikimedia Commons

“Let’s make it clear – zionism is not welcome on our campus” read a recent Instagram message, which was followed by raised fist and Palestinian flag emojis.

At first blush, this posting appeared to be one more bullet in the barrage of vitriolic hatred and harassment aimed by anti-Zionist students groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Israel’s supporters on campus, especially Jewish students, in the aftermath of Hamas’ genocidal attack on Israel last fall.

But that’s not the case. The above message shunning the campus presence of Zionism — and by obvious extension, Zionists, which the vast majority of Jews identify as — wasn’t authored by students at all.

Rather, it came from their professors — more than 100 of them — founders of a Faculty for Justice in Palestine chapter at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC).

Let that sink in. A large group of faculty at one of the finest public university systems in the world is using a popular social media platform to proclaim the modern-day equivalent of the ubiquitous Nazi-era slogan “Juden sind hier unerwünscht” (“Jews are not wanted here”).

Even more chilling is the fact that the faculty group’s message was part of a larger post urging their colleagues and students to attend an on-campus “March Against Zionism” organized by an allied anti-Zionist student group, whose goal was “to make it clear that the racist settler-colonial ideology of zionism is not welcome on this campus!”

Like the student brownshirts in the early 1930s, who vilified and bullied Jewish students and professors until they were completely purged from German universities, the student organizers of the faculty-supported “March Against Zionism” threatened to — and actually did — disrupt a Jewish student gathering and harass its participants.

Much ink has been spilled discussing the explosion of antisemitic harassment on college campuses nationwide since October 7, with a lot of it describing the outsized role played by anti-Zionist student groups like SJP. However, a recent study conducted by my organization of the anti-Zionist activism of faculty at the University of California found that they play a crucial role in fomenting campus antisemitism, and nowhere is that more obvious than at UC Santa Cruz.

In fact, if one wants to understand how antisemitism could engulf US campuses at warp speed after the Hamas attack, one need look no further than UCSC and the faculty group that has committed itself to purging Zionism and Zionists from campus and collaborates with anti-Zionist student groups to get the job done.

Like its nine sister campuses and nearly 100 campuses across the country, UCSC became home to a chapter of Faculty for Justice in Palestine, or FJP, after the Hamas attack. Established in response to a call from the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), FJP chapters are intended to provide support for student groups like SJP and to engage them and their fellow faculty in advancing the implementation of an academic boycott of Israel (the academic arm of the BDS movement) on their campuses.

USACBI’s overarching goal is combating “the normalization of Israel in the global academy.” To that end, the organization’s guidelines call for boycotting educational programs in or about Israel, and canceling or shutting down pro-Israel events and activities; encourage academic programming and campus events that portray Israel in a wholly negative light, as a pariah state unworthy of normalization; and condone the denigration, protest, and exclusion of pro-Israel individuals on campus. All of these academic BDS-associated activities have had a devastating impact on students and faculty who want to study in or about Israel, or who identify with the Jewish State.

FJP’s anti-Zionist impact and the resulting harms have played out in two distinct campus arenas.

First, in its collaboration with SJP and similar student groups, FJP has amplified the students’ anti-Zionist messaging and activity, and given them academic legitimacy. For instance, FJP at UCSC was co-sponsor of an SJP-authored BDS resolution that passed overwhelmingly at a student senate meeting, during which Jewish students who opposed the resolution were prevented from speaking, heckled, and harassed.

Afterwards, the faculty group celebrated the resolution’s passage by posting a message stating: “Major congrats to y’all, and to every other UC student body that has voted to divest in recent weeks. WE KEEP GOING UNTIL PALESTINE IS FREE!”. UCSC’s FJP has also used its clout to protect anti-Zionist students from being prosecuted for abusive behavior, as when it joined in a statement calling on the UC Regents to drop charges against students who had unlawfully disrupted a Regents meeting with demands for the University to boycott Israel.

Second, FJP’s mutually beneficial collaborations with academic departments have significantly strengthened the anti-Zionist reach and impact of both FJP and the individual departments with which the group collaborates. Consider, for example, that it was academic BDS-supporting leaders of UCSC’s Critical Race and Ethnic Studies (CRES) department who founded the campus FJP chapter, that more than 60% of CRES’ principal faculty are members of the faculty group, and that an invitation to join FJP and help “organize for Palestine” has been prominently displayed on CRES’ departmental homepage since November. It’s therefore not surprising that CRES has become a primary beneficiary of the group’s political muscle in its time of need.

As documented in a recent report by my organization, CRES’ extensive use of departmental resources for anti-Zionist activism — including helping to establish and support an institute whose mission is to dismantle Zionism, publishing statements and hosting educational events blaming Israel for Hamas’ October 7 massacre, shutting down the department as part of a “global strike” against Israel, and much more — has raised significant concern among the UC Regents. Although CRES’ use of departmental resources for political activism is in violation of university policy and state law, UCSC administrators have been unwilling or unable to stop them. As a way of addressing the problem, the Regents have been deliberating over a policy prohibiting departments like CRES from using their university website for making political statements. Although it only deals with one small part of the problem, the proposed policy is a step in the right direction. And yet, for CRES and other politically motivated and directed departments, it is a step too far.

In an effort to thwart any attempt to limit their anti-Zionist activism, CRES and other UCSC anti-Zionist faculty deputized FJP to help spearhead an academic senate resolution calling on the administration to defend the faculty’s “right” to continue engaging in political advocacy (which they euphemistically call “public scholarship”), and to resist any attempt by the UC Regents to stop them. The UCSC faculty’s overwhelming support for the resolution now makes it virtually impossible for their administration to challenge CRES or other faculty whose anti-Zionist activism violates university policy or state law.

Think about it: Within a few short months, a faculty group that takes its marching orders from a nationally-coordinated campaign to rid US campuses of Zionism and Zionists has enabled the ideological capture of its institution by anti-Zionist faculty, and effectively neutralized administrative attempts to stop it.

The only hope of derailing this out-of-control train lies with the UC President and Regents, who have the authority to hold campus administrators accountable for not enforcing university regulations and the law. If UC leaders are unwilling or unable to exercise their authority, it won’t be long before the University of California, and in short order universities across the country, become wholly inhospitable and unsafe for their Jewish members, echoing the darkest chapters of Jewish history.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin is the director of AMCHA Initiative, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to combating antisemitism at colleges and universities in the United States. She was a faculty member at the University of California Santa Cruz for 20 years.

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Reuters Inflates By Millions 1948 Refugees Who Went to Jordan

Jordan’s King Abdullah II addresses the assembly on the opening day of the Global Refugee Forum, in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 13, 2023. Photo: Jean-Guy Python/Pool via REUTERS

In an otherwise informative and very important May 15 article shedding light on a worrisome development with respect to Iranian belligerence in the region, Reuters falsely inflated the number of Palestinian Arab refugees who fled to Jordan in the wake of the 1948 war (“Jordan foils arms plot as kingdom caught in Iran-Israel shadow war“):

Most of [King Abdullah’s] 11 million people are of Palestinian origin, because Jordan took in millions of Palestinian refugees fleeing their homeland in the turbulent years following the founding of Israel. [Emphasis added.]
The total Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war who dispersed across the Middle East and beyond did not reach even one million. As Reuters itself reported in recent days, some 700,000 Palestinian Arabs became refugees in the wake of the failed Arab war to annihilate Israel in 1948 — not millions. And only around half of those 700,000 ended up in Jordan. (The Arabic version of the same story on the thwarted weapons smuggling does not contain the “millions” error.)
In 1949, the West Bank had a population of 740,000, including 280,000 refugees, and the East Bank had a population of 470,000, including 70,000 refugees. Taken together, the population of Jordan exceeded 1.2 million inhabitants, two-thirds of whom were of Palestinian origin (Jordanian-Palestinians).
In other words, Jordan took in some 350,000 Palestinian refugees (280,00 from the West Bank and 70,000 from the East Bank), not “millions.” I have contacted Reuters, requesting they issue a correction.

Tamar Sternthal is the director of CAMERA’s Israel Office. A version of this article previously appeared on the CAMERA website.

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Palestinian Boys Arrested in East Jerusalem for Planned Pipe Bomb Attacks

Illustrative: Israeli soldiers search a Palestinian’s car at a checkpoint in Hebron in the West Bank, August 22, 2023. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma

i24 News — The Jerusalem Police revealed on Tuesday that they had thwarted a planned series of pipe bomb attacks in East Jerusalem.

A month-long investigation by the Central Unit of the Jerusalem District uncovered a cell of four minors, all residents of East Jerusalem, who were plotting attacks against transport vehicles and security forces in the Silwan area.

The investigation found that the boys meticulously planned their attacks, assigning specific roles among themselves for procuring materials, collecting them, monitoring, and placing the bombs. They had begun researching bomb-making on social media and had purchased some of the necessary materials, even conducting unsuccessful experiments with the explosives.

The suspects, who are all 14 years old and attend the same school, were arrested at the beginning of the month. Their detention has been extended several times by the Jerusalem Magistrate Court. Deputy Superintendent Danny Mizrahi stated, “Revealing their plan, which began to be implemented in the materials they purchased, the preparations they made, and the experiments they conducted, prevented harm to people’s lives and thwarted terrorist operations in East Jerusalem.”

Evidence has been collected against them, and a memorandum has been issued to the prosecution as their detention continues pending the filing of an indictment.

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The Gaza War Led Russia to Embrace Hamas, and Use It as Leverage Against the West

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Former Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a meeting in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 7, 2023. Photo: Sputnik/Sergei Bobylev/Pool via REUTERS

When the Israel-Hamas war broke out in October 2023, Russia had been involved in its “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine for a year and a half. Given the challenges Russia has faced during the war, Putin has sought allies in the so-called “Global South,” and has sought to portray Russia’s war against Ukraine as a war against NATO and what Moscow described as Western neo-colonialism. This overall policy perspective has shifted Russia from its once close bilateral relationship with Israel, which it sees as part of the Western camp, to an increasingly pro-Hamas position.

Interestingly enough however, despite Russia’s rising anti-Israeli (and antisemitic) rhetoric, Israel’s two main goals in its dealing with Russia — the freedom of action for the Israeli air force in Syrian airspace and the continued emigration of Russian Jews to Israel — continued to be achieved. Indeed, Israel expanded its activity in Syria, flying missions all over the country and even bombing the annex of the Iranian embassy in Damascus, an action that was to lead to a serious confrontation between Israel and Iran.

Putin was initially silent during the first few days of the Israel-Hamas war, as the Russian leader was probably assessing its costs and benefits for Russia. On the benefit side, the war diverted US and Western attention from the war in Ukraine, and Putin may have hoped that it would divert US weapons that would have gone to Ukraine to Israel, although Republican Congressional opposition in the US to aid to Ukraine was to serve the same purpose.

In addition, since the Palestinian issue was popular in the Global South, with the exception of the Modi regime in India which remained pro-Israeli — and since US President Joe Biden immediately came out in support of Israel and transferred weapons to the Jewish State — Putin may have hoped that the war would weaken the US position in the Global South.

On the other hand, however, since Iran was an ally of Hamas, there was a danger of a conflict between Israel and Iran, especially when Hezbollah started firing rockets into northern Israel in support of Hamas. In any case, when Putin did publicly respond to the war a few days after the war started, he did not blame Hamas but called the war “a clear example of the failure of US policy in the Middle East which has never defended the interest of the Palestinians in peace talks.”

While Putin did acknowledge Israel’s right to self-defense, saying it had suffered an “unprecedented attack,” he then compared the Israeli invasion of Gaza to the Nazi siege of Leningrad. After Putin’s statement, Russia introduced a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution calling for a cease-fire and the release of hostages (some of whom were Russian citizens). The US, however, vetoed the Russian UNSC resolution because it did not mention the Hamas attack. Several months later, it was Russia that vetoed a similar US UNSC resolution because it did mention the Hamas attack.  Russia also provided humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in Gaza.

In another effort to demonstrate that Russia had a role to play in the conflict, Putin offered to host a meeting of foreign ministers to bring an end to the war, stating that “we have very stable and trade relations with Israel and we have (had) friendly relations with the Palestinians for decades.” The Russian leader, however, got no support for his planned meeting. Putin then had a belated condolence call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in mid-October, but followed it with a formal invitation to a Hamas delegation to visit Moscow — less than two weeks after the Hamas attack on Israel — thereby appearing to legitimize both the organization and the attack. Needless to say, the Israeli leadership was furious with the visit.

It is possible that the pro-Hamas tilt in Russian foreign policy together with the rising tide of antisemitism in the official Russian press, which was often directed against President Zelensky of Ukraine, who is Jewish, may have encouraged near-pogroms in the North Caucasus soon after the visit of the Hamas delegation. Rioters stormed the airport at Makhachkala, Dagestan, as a flight from Israel was arriving; a Jewish community center was set afire; and a hotel was put under siege as rioters sought to discover if there were any Jews among the guests. While Putin blamed the mob’s actions on Ukraine, the actions of the rioters had to be problematic for him as they served to undermine his description of the Russian Federation as a place of inter-faith and inter-ethnic harmony.

Meanwhile, Russia’s anti-Israeli rhetoric was growing, as the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, stated on November 2 that Israel, being an “occupying state” did not have the right to self-defense, under international law. There appeared to be a slight improvement in Russian-Israeli relations in December, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking at the Doha forum, stated that Hamas had carried out a “terrorist attack” — but followed up this statement by commenting “at the same time it is unacceptable to use this event for the collective punishment of millions of Palestinian people with indiscriminate shelling.”

In looking at the reasons for the change in Moscow’s tone about Hamas, it is possible that Lavrov was appealing to the leadership of the Arab States in attendance who viewed Hamas negatively. This was especially the case of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Putin also made another telephone call to Netanyahu, this time according to Russian sources, to discuss the crisis caused by the Hamas attack. According to the Israeli version of the call, Netanyahu criticized Russia’s UN representatives for their “anti-Israeli positions,” and the Israeli leader also voiced “robust disapproval” of Russia’s “dangerous cooperation” with Iran. According to the Russian version of the call, Putin highlighted “the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.”

In January 2024, Russian-Israeli relations took another turn for the worse, as during a meeting on Syria at Astana, Kazakhstan, the Russian special representative for Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev, stated, in reference to South Africa’s lawsuit at the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of genocide, that Israel’s actions in Gaza represent a “real crime” which “can even be interpreted as genocide.” In addition, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova criticized Germany for defending Israel at the International Court of Justice, given Germany’s actions in World War Two, and she went on to compare Germany’s defense of Israel with its support for Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Russia was stepping up its efforts to woo the Global South. Taking a page from the old Soviet playbook, when the USSR was wooing the Third World with the Soviet Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Association, Putin created, through his United Russia Party, an organization called “The Forum of Supporters for the Fight Against Neocolonialism and the Freedom of Nations.” Meeting in Moscow in mid-February, the organization expressed solidarity with the Palestinians.

Putin also sought to exploit the growing crisis in Gaza to once again urge Palestinian unity between Hamas and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. To do this, he convened a Palestinian unity conference in Moscow at the end of February. Even though it did not appear that Hamas and Fatah were ready to agree to unify — so deep were their differences — neither group felt able to resist Moscow’s invitation. For Hamas, which was getting battered by Israeli attacks, Russia offered important diplomatic cover, especially in the UN, while the Palestinian Authority, which had been sidelined by the ongoing conflict in Gaza, may have seen the Moscow meeting as a means of improving its diplomatic position. In any case, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas did not want to alienate Russia by refusing to participate in the meeting.

Despite the failure of many such “unity” conferences in the past, Putin may have hoped that the rapidly deteriorating situation in Gaza would propel the two major Palestinian groups toward unity. Indeed at the start of the conference, Lavrov offered to the Palestinian groups the services of Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and special envoy to the Middle East, Mikhail Bogdanov, as well as the head of the Oriental Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vitaly Naumkin, to provide “advisory services” to help mediate the discussions. Unfortunately for Moscow, however, the meeting turned out to be a failure despite the final communique calling for unity. Еven the pretense of unity was shattered two weeks after the conference when Hamas attacked Abbas’ choice for the Palestinian Authority’s new Prime Minister, Mohamed Mustafa, a close confidant of Abbas, asserting that the choice was made without consulting it, despite the meeting in Moscow. For its part, the Palestinian Authority attacked Hamas for not consulting it, “when it made the decision to undertake the October 7 adventure which brought down upon the Palestinian people a disaster even more horrible than that of 1948.” Moscow sought to put the best possible light on the continuing Hamas-Fatah conflict by praising the appointment of Mustafa, while also hoping that he would “enjoy the support of the entire Palestinian population.”

As Moscow was trying to forge Palestinian unity, its relations with Israel continued to deteriorate. The Russian deputy UN ambassador, Maria Zabolotskaya, cast doubt on the report by Pramila Patten, the UN Secretary General’s special representative for sexual violence in conflict, about rapes by Hamas fighters during their attack on Israel on October 7. Zabolotskaya, who had questioned Patten’s report on rapes by Russian soldiers in Ukraine, attacked the report on Hamas, calling it a “half-truth which in no way gives a universal picture of what is happening.”

In April, Russia faced its most serious crisis of the war. Up until this time, Moscow had been protecting Hamas at the UN, denouncing Israeli activities in Gaza, and blaming the US for the war in Gaza, all the time trying to improve its position in the Global South at the expense of the United States. In April, however, Iran and Israel directly attacked each other, raising the possibility of a wider war that could have pulled in the United States and caused a US-Iranian war, which would pose very difficult problems of choice for Moscow, given its close tie to Iran on which it continued to depend for drones and missiles. Consequently, Russia sought to play down the conflict (as did the US) and seemed satisfied by April 19 that it did not escalate into the wider Middle East war, which it may well have feared.

In looking at Moscow’s response to the escalation between Israel and Iran there are several things to note. First, as might be expected, Russia criticized Israel for its attack on the embassy annex while blaming the US as well. Then, when Iran retaliated with its major attack on Israel, Moscow urged Israel to stay calm. The Russian warnings did not succeed in preventing the Israeli retaliatory attack on Iran which destroyed a SAM-300 complex that was guarding an Iranian nuclear installation at Natanz. However, Moscow must have been relieved that the Iranian leadership played down the Israeli attack and saw no need to escalate further. Still, the relative ease with which Israel had destroyed the Russian-built SAM-300 complex had to be of concern to both Russia and Iran because it underlined Iran’s vulnerability. Nonetheless, following the Israeli attack, tension eased, and it appeared — at least in the short run — that a more general Middle East war had been avoided, a situation that Moscow welcomed.

Despite the easing of tension, Russian-Israeli relations continued to deteriorate in April. In early April, Russia supported the Palestinian Authority’s request to obtain full membership in the UN — much to the displeasure of Israel — and even when the US vetoed the Palestinian request, Moscow promised to continue the effort to obtain full UN membership for the Palestinians. A new low in the Russia-Israel relationship was reached on April 19 when Russia urged the UN to sanction Israel for its failure to comply with a UNSC resolution (on which the US had abstained) that called on Israel for a cease-fire during Ramadan. As might be expected, given Russian policy since the war broke out, Russia also condemned the US for its aid to Israel. The Russian call for sanctions against Israel is a useful point of departure to draw some preliminary conclusions about Russian policy toward the Israel-Hamas war.

First, the deterioration of relations between Israel and Russia during the war has been significant. Not only did Moscow legitimize the Hamas attack on Israel by inviting a Hamas delegation to Moscow only two weeks after the Hamas attack, but it also protected Hamas by introducing UN Security Council Resolutions to end the war that made no mention of the Hamas attack while vetoing a US UNSC resolution that mentioned Hamas. It also supported the South African effort to bring genocide charges against Israel at the International Court of Justice, downplayed Israeli claims that Hamas had sexually assaulted Israeli women during its October 7th attack, and called on the UN Security Council to sanction Israel for its actions in Gaza. Still, while Russian invective against Israel, sprinkled with a large dose of antisemitism increased, Russia continued to allow Israeli war planes to fly through Syrian air space to attack Iranian and Hezbollah positions in that country, and it also continued to permit Russian Jewish emigration to Israel. In trying to explain Russian behavior, one can point to Moscow’s desire to maintain high-tech trade relations with Israel, and also its possible concern that with Assad’s still shaky control over Syria, Israel might move to help Assad’s enemies.

Second, at least by default, Russia has benefited in the Global South from the continued flow of US arms to Israel during the war, a policy that was unpopular in the Global South (except in India where the Modi regime is closely allied to Israel) where the Palestinian issue has resonated. By supplying humanitarian aid to Gaza and backing the Palestinian positions at the UN, Moscow could claim an improved position in the Global South, even as it sought to conflate its war in Ukraine with the Palestinian struggle against Israel. Still, the Russian position was not without its problems. Hamas is unpopular with the leaderships of a number of Arab states which Moscow has been courting, such as Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, and the clash between Israel and Iran in April 2024 had the potential of escalating into a full-scale war that would have threatened Russia’s ally Iran, especially if the US got directly involved in the conflict.

A third preliminary conclusion that could be drawn from this study is that Russia has had little influence over the events that transpired after the Hamas attack of October 7th. Thus its call for an international conference to settle the war proved unsuccessful; the key diplomatic efforts to achieve a cease-fire were undertaken by the US, Egypt, and Qatar, not Russia; despite a major diplomatic effort, Moscow was unable to forge a reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, and Russian was even unable to extract all the Russian citizens who were held hostage by Hamas despite all that Russia had done diplomatically for the Palestinian organization. Finally, despite Moscow’s warnings, Israel attacked Iran directly, an event that also showed the vulnerability of Russia’s SAM-300 system.

In sum, in the first six months of the war, it can be said that while Russia may have gained politically from the war — because of the close US-Israeli relationship — its influence in the conflict was quite limited and the deterioration of Russian-Israeli relations may yet change the Israeli position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Prof. Robert Freedman is one of the leading U.S. authorities on Israel, the Middle East, and American foreign policy. He is a former President, the Hebrew University in Baltimore, and currently is a Visiting Professor at Johns Hopkins University. His has advised policymakers in State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Israeli Defense Ministry and the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and has been a commentator on major American news outlets. A version of this article was originally published by The BESA Center.

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