SWU pressure leads UCLA to probe anti-Zionist incident

While SWU will maintain a watchful eye on whether UCLA follows through on promises in its response to probe the incident for evidence of discrimination and harassment, the quick response from the administration appeared to signal that it has the university’s attention.

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May 30, 2019 23:06
3 minute read.
UCLA campus

UCLA campus . (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Stand With Us (SWU) was able to declare an initial victory on Thursday after its letter threatening legal liability against UCLA got the university to take some action regarding an incident in which a guest speaker called Israel-supporters white supremacists.

The Jerusalem Post was provided with a copy of the UCLA response.

While SWU will maintain a watchful eye on whether UCLA follows through on promises in its response to probe the incident for evidence of discrimination and harassment, the quick response from the administration appeared to signal that it has the university’s attention.

On May 14, Professor of Arab and Muslim Ethnicities at San Francisco State University Rabab Abdulhadi was invited by UCLA Prof. Kyeyoung Park to speak to her anthropology class.

Abdulhadi reportedly used the opportunity to rant against Israel and its supporters, calling Zionists – wherever they might live – white supremacists.

Reportedly, a Jewish student in the class, Shayna Lavi, challenged Abdulhadi’s comments, leading Abdulhadi to ridicule her.

There are alternate similar reports about what happened between Lavi and Park following the incident, but each report alleges that Park was dismissive.

Stand With Us’ letter, sent last Friday, added that Park negatively singled out a student later, who had filed a claim against her and Abdulhadi with the university’s anti-discrimination office.

The letter also recited a long list of recent and past anti-Israel or anti-Jewish incidents at UCLA. These ranged from the administration protecting pro-Palestinian students from consequences for vandalizing and ruining a Jewish event, to the UCLA student government taking acts to support the Students for Justice in Palestine’s platform against Israel.

Moreover, the letter was not merely a generic complaint to discuss the university’s framing of academic freedom. Rather, the letter listed specifically applicable legal provisions which could make UCLA liable for discrimination and harassment if it does not fully address the incident and the broader environment in which many anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incidents have occurred.


SWU CEO Roz Rothstein and top legal experts Yael Lerman and Carly Gammill wrote that, “At a minimum, we encourage your administration immediately to issue a statement condemning Abdulhadi’s discriminatory behavior and use of UCLA’s class space to promote her antisemitic agenda.”

In addition, SWU said that an apology by Park was insufficient, since the professor continued to publicly embarrass the student who had challenged Abdulhadi following the incident.

SWU called on UCLA to, at the very least, take reasonable disciplinary action against Park for her part in the incident.

In the written response from UCLA only days later and obtained by the Post, the university said that several students in Prof. Park’s class had “raised concerns about the nature and content of a May 14 lecture delivered by a guest speaker that they felt went beyond legitimate criticism of the State of Israel and veered into antisemitism.”

UCLA added that it is, “committed to academic freedom as well as building an inclusive learning environment without discrimination and harassment… Allegations of discrimination or harassment have been conveyed to the Discrimination Prevention Office, which investigates reports of discrimination or harassment.”

Finally, the university said that UCLA is known as a top university for Jewish and Israel activity on the West coast.

SWU told the Post that it “awaits the findings of UCLA’s investigation into this latest instance of blatant antisemitism, as reportedly being conducted by the UCLA Discrimination Prevention Office.”

“We trust that the administration understands the urgent need for swift and decisive action here… We will continue to monitor the situation at UCLA and are prepared to take further action as necessary,” said SWU.

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