Imagine if the KKK asked to hold a conference at UCLA. Does anyone seriously believe that the administration would allow it to take place, or make excuses about the Klan having a First Amendment right to hold the event?
When I was a graduate student at UCLA in the 1980s, we complained about antisemitism on campus, and the administration disregarded our concerns. By contrast, African-American students took over a building on campus until their demands for changing school policy were met and Latino students successfully urged the administration to punish a fraternity for holding a “Viva Zapata” party.
These thoughts and memories were provoked by UCLA’s decision to allow the national conference of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to be held on its campus on November 16-18. The views of SJP are Klan-like and would never be permitted to be expressed if the target were not Jews.
For example, SJP believes Zionism “can be destroyed,” and supports that objective. Suggesting that the national movement of the Jewish people, which holds that Jews have the right to self-determination in their homeland — Israel — should be destroyed is a call for mass murder, like the Klan’s desire to do away with the Jews. Similarly, SJP’s call for Palestinian refugees to return to “their homes” is a euphemism for the destruction of Israel.
Like many others spouting antisemitic views, SJP members typically claim they are just critics of Israeli policy. But one need only look at their Facebook page and other posts to see the truth.
On November 2, for example, the SJP Facebook page had a graphic regarding who controls the press. A dozen media outlets were listed — along with the names, photos, and titles of Jews who work at them. Next to each picture was a Jewish star. One year ago, the founder of SJP, UC Berkeley lecturer Hatem Bazian, retweeted photos mocking Jews as entitled people who “kill, rape, smuggle organs & steal the land of Palestinians.” SJP chapters have also used Nazi-like propaganda and comparisons of Israelis to Nazis, another hallmark of antisemites.
As Dan Diker noted in his expose of SJP, “Students for Justice in Palestine Unmasked,” the group “has maintained links to convicted terrorists and terror groups” and “sanctions violence, bigotry, harassment and intimidation of Jewish and Israel-friendly students and faculty on campus.”
The group’s support for terrorists is reflected, for example, by past invitations to the conference given to convicted terrorists such as Khader Adnan, a senior member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Rasmea Odeh, a former member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
UCLA is also enabling SJP’s efforts to conceal what is said at the conference. No recording is allowed and, although UCLA is a public university, it is allowing SJP to exclude the public from attending the meeting.
Ironically, the organizers are worried about disruptions, which is one of SJP’s principal tools for trying to prevent Israeli and pro-Israel visitors from speaking on campus.
UCLA does deserve one iota of credit for sending a cease and desist letter to National SJP for creating the impression that the university endorses the conference by advertising it with the UCLA logo.
“UCLA did not grant permission for this use nor would it permit use of its name in a manner that could imply endorsement of violence,” the letter said.
SJP did not immediately comply. Even after removing the UCLA logo, the poster advertising the conference still had the UCLA’s Bruin mascot wearing a kaffiyeh sitting below a kite that has a Palestinian flag one side and a shaded area that looks like a map of the entire State of Israel on the other.
Professor Judea Pearl was justifiably horrified. He told The Jewish Journal:
“I have served on the faculty of UCLA for 49 years and I have never thought I would see the day when the symbol of my university would turn into a Hamas recruitment poster. The NSJP Conference reminds us that hate did not stop at Pittsburgh. U.S. campuses, emboldened by our blindness and inaction are now offering racist groups a fertile ground to spawn their venom, test out intimidating tactics, and gain academic legitimacy. The stench of hatred and sounds of incitement to hostilities that will emerge from the NSJP Conference will damage UCLA’s reputation irreparably.“
Before allowing UCLA’s name to be further sullied, administrators should ask the organizers these simple questions:
- Do you condemn terrorism, and, specifically, attacks on Israeli civilians?
- Do you believe Israel has the right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state in the Middle East?
- Do you believe the Jewish people have the same right to self-determination as the Palestinians?
- Do you support Hamas and its charter calling for the destruction of Israel?
- Do you agree that all of Palestine; i.e., what is today Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, should be a Palestinian state?
UCLA has an obligation to find out whether the university will be hosting a conclave of students interested in peace and tolerance, or a version of a Klan rally. All evidence points to the latter. The question is whether at the 11th hour university officials will treat the SJP conference the way they would a meeting attacking any other minority on campus.
Do the right thing UCLA, and cancel the conference.
Mitchell Bard is the Executive Director of AICE and Jewish Virtual Library.