SWC Joins 34 Jewish Organizations Urging California Regents to Take Action Address Anti-Semitism & Threats to Free Speech

March 18, 2024

Joint letter lists 13 actionable requests to address physical intimidation of Jewish students & use of “heckler’s veto” to block campus speech   

In response to a dramatic increase in verbal and physical assaults on Jewish and Israeli students in California’s public universities that have gone largely unaddressed by University administrators, including the intimidation and silencing of Israeli guest speakers, the Simon Wiesenthal Center co-signed a letter from 35 Jewish organizations in California calling on the University of California Regents to take specific steps to protect Jewish and Israeli students and to protect free speech which is increasingly imperiled.

As cited in the group letter, since the October 7th attacks against Israel, both Jewish & Israeli students in California’s schools have been spat-on, bullied and harassed. In addition, Jewish & Israeli speakers have been shouted down and various speaking events cancelled under threats of violence.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, SWC Associate Dean and Global Social Action Director noted, “The harassment of Jewish & Israeli students, and the shouting down and shutting down of Israeli speakers has achieved the worst of 2 worlds. An ethnic and religious minority has been subjected to a unique level of intimidation without sufficient University protection, and the free exchange of ideas and diverse viewpoints, which is the primary purpose of a University, has been imperiled.”

In addressing this point, the joint letter to the California Regents said: 

“While free speech is fundamental to our democracy and our values, there must be zero tolerance for speech that threatens or incites violence. Furthermore, UC campuses should not tolerate a 'heckler’s veto' or platform denial -- freedom of speech does not afford the right to silence others. Finally, the fact that discriminatory harassment may involve speech does not relieve a school of its obligation to respond if the speech contributes to a hostile environment under Title VI. Schools must take these obligations seriously.”

The full letter to the California Regents can be read here.

For further information, please email Michele Alkin, Director of Global Communications at malkin@wiesenthal.com or Erik Simon at esimon@wiesenthal.com, join the Center on Facebook, or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent directly to your Twitter feed. 

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is an international Jewish human rights organization. It holds consultative status at the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the OAS, and the Latin American Parliament (PARLATINO).   

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