Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Letter Sent to then-Chancellor Cicerone and the Letter Cicerone Refused to Sign

June 2, 2004
Chancellor Ralph J. Cicerone
The Chancellor’s Office
510 Administration Building
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-1900

Dear Chancellor Cicerone,

On March 15, 2004, several representatives of the Israel on Campus Coalition1 organized a meeting with Assistant Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Sally Peterson. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss our concerns regarding incidents of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist behavior and speech on the UCI campus. While we appreciate the fact that Ms. Peterson issued a written response following our meeting, unfortunately we view the content of her response as far from adequate. Other meetings with Vice Chancellor Manuel Gomez and other administrators have yielded similarly unsatisfactory results.

Over the past two years UCI has been a silent observer as speeches which are in fact "hate speech” have been delivered on the campus. One such occurrence was in the Spring of 2002, at a forum which you attended. One of the panelists, Visiting Professor James Sterba, spent his allotted time justifying suicide bombings against civilians. Unfortunately, neither you nor Vice Chancellor Gomez distanced himself from such a view either then or later. More recently, in winter 2004 and again during the week of May 17, 2004, UCI witnessed a public lecture by Amir Abdel Malik Ali, a known hate-monger invited by the Muslim Student Union during its “Anti-Oppression Week” and again during its “Anti-Zionism/Zionist Awareness Week.” Mr. Ali had the honor of making his hateful speech from a lectern emblazoned with the UCI emblem. This was not his first appearance at UCI, and the tone, style and content of his past remarks have been well documented. His tirades were infused with venomous hatred. His speech was peppered with such intellectually enlightening insights and worn-out conspiracy theories such as “the bad Jews were going to assassinate President Gore to allow Vice President Lieberman to assume the Presidency” and “we all know that the Mossad (Israeli security service) destroyed the Twin Towers.” He spewed forth insults, lies, and hateful and baseless claims as if they were factual truths. His talk was a page taken straight from the notorious propaganda manual of Jew-haters, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” demonizing and delegitimizing the Jewish People.

A public university cannot restrict such speech, abhorrent as it is. However, the University Administration, and in particular you as Chancellor, has the obligation to speak out vigorously and unambiguously. It is time for you, as Chancellor, to exercise your freedom of speech and publicly oppose extremist messages as antithetical to the goals and identity of the institution. Such statements are consistent with principles of academic freedom and are a necessary step in distancing the University from expressions of bigotry. If in fact the Principles of Community, which you consistently reaffirm, are an integral part of the guidelines by which the University community conducts its affairs, then it is time for you to lead the faculty, administration, and student body in reaffirming these principles. Silence is complicity.

Other University presidents have embraced the opportunity of issuing such statements. In September 2002, Harvard President Lawrence Summers issued a memorable speech citing the upturn in anti-Semitic incidents and noting that supposedly progressive universities were taking part in actions that were anti-Semitic in effect if not in intent.

Chancellor Berdahl of UC-Berkeley was signatory to a letter, published in The New York Times, warning against extreme anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish activity on campus. It is my understanding that you chose not to sign the letter. In September 2002, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman, concerned about a forthcoming conference which featured vehemently anti-Zionist speakers, issued a statement which closed with: ... “The agenda of the conference represents the views of the organizers and not the University of Michigan.”

The events organized by the Muslim Student Union have violated your message of civility in every way. Anti-Zionism/Zionist Awareness Week was not designed to provide an atmosphere of positive engagement and mutual respect. The construction of the “apartheid wall” during a week characterized by vicious propaganda and baseless lies directed against Jews precipitated an incident, which you were quick to label a “hate crime.” While we applaud your efforts to ensure free speech and maintain an environment of civil discourse, the incident is representative of much deeper issues.

The re-awakening of anti-Semitism (often dressed in its new guise of anti-Zionism) is a worldwide epidemic, documented by governments including the US, France, Germany, and Italy. Secretary of State Colin Powell recently attended a European Union conference on this very subject. We recognize that the University of California at Irvine has an obligation to protect the free market of ideas, but that obligation does not stop it from entering the market.

The members of the Israel on Campus Coalition would like to begin a dialogue with you regarding these and other serious matters, and suggest meeting with you no later than next month. Please give us at least two weeks’ notice of a convenient meeting time so that we can arrange our schedules.

We look forward to your prompt reply and anticipate your response with great interest.

Allan Bernstein DPM MBA
Chair, Israel on Campus Coalition of Orange County

1 The Israel on Campus Coalition is an umbrella group consisting of major Jewish communal, educational and advocacy organizations in Orange County (including among others Hillel, The Anti-Defamation League, The American Jewish Committee, and The Jewish National Fund) and community volunteers.

Here's the letter referred to above from - published October 7, 2002 in the NY Times - that then-President of UC Berkeley signed, but UC Irvine felt was beneath them to sign. The signatures are so numerous that they became illegible when in image format, so I'm just posting the link:

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