By Jorge Casuso
November 7, 2023 -- Two legislators representing Santa Monica signed a letter to top officials of the State's university systems expressing "outrage and concern" over the recent "explosion" of antisemitism on campuses.
State Senator Ben Allen and Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur were among the 18 members of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus that unanimously called for an immediate halt to the increasing hostility toward Jews.
"(W)e have heard shocking reports from Jewish students, faculty, and staff who have been traumatized by a barrage of physical abuse, threats, intimidation, hate speech, online harassment, and exclusion from academic opportunities," the Caucus wrote.
"Sadly, there is a widespread feeling among Jewish students -- as well as within the broader Jewish community -- that many campus administrators do not understand the severity of the crisis and have been unwilling to take appropriate action to meet this moment.
"This is unacceptable and must change immediately," said the letter to University of California President Michael V. Drake and California State University Chancellor Mildred García.
The letter -- which notes the Caucus supports "robust protections for freedom of speech and academic freedom" -- denounces the "physical assaults, vandalism, and calls for violence and genocide against Jews since Hamas’s terrorist attack against Israel on October 7.
"As you know, these events are part of a nationwide wave of campus antisemitism that has included violence, lockdowns, and unprecedented security protocols at Jewish student centers," the letter said.
The series of attacks were "punctuated by the recent arrest of a Cornell University student who called for raping and killing Jewish students in response to the Israel-Hamas war."
The letter then lists attacks that have taken place at seven California campuses and the "increased need for armed security at Jewish student centers."
"The failure by many administrators to speak with moral clarity and forcefully condemn the Hamas massacre has predictably served to normalize hate speech –- calls for the elimination of Israel (and by extension violence and genocide against Jews) have become increasingly less subtle and more overt," the letter said.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance to schools and colleges, "reminding them of their legal responsibility to protect students from discrimination," said U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), who called for the action.
The move is intended "to protect Jewish students from increasing acts of hate and harassment on college campuses," Rosen's office said.
“Rising antisemitism on college campuses following Hamas’s brutal terrorist attack on Israel is extremely alarming and unacceptable," Rosen said in a statement Tuesday.
"Every student has the right to learn free from harassment, and schools have a legal responsibility to protect them.”
Last month AP reported that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration "is taking the extraordinary step of ordering state universities to ban a pro-Palestinian student organization from campuses, saying it illegally backs Hamas militants."
At DeSantis's urging, the State's university system Chancellor Ray Rodrigues directed university presidents "to disband chapters of SJP (Justice in Palestine)," according to AP's October 27 report.
“It is a felony under Florida law to ‘knowingly provide material support ... to a designated foreign terrorist organization,’” Rodrigues said in the letter.
On Monday, the City of Santa Monica will offer a free virtual training to help bystanders stand up against hate and intolerance ("City Holds Training to Stop Public Harassment," October 31, 2023).