Here’s the short version. An April 20 talk by Palestinian and Jewish Israeli citizens on the cost of war and Israeli militarism is canceled at the last minute by UC Santa Cruz administration after some 90 Jewish students protest and 2 faculty write hard-hitting letter comparing proposed talk to hanging a noose to intimidate African American students. Talk organizer finds alternative venue anyway, but Israeli peace group co-sponsoring talk gets really ticked off and writes even harder-hitting letter to faculty and students. Anti-Defamation League, Israeli Consul General say nothing about Israeli citizens being banned from a University of California (UC) campus.

UCSC cedes point, that criticism of Israel is attack on Jewish American students- while Israeli-Jews say to American Jews, “get your own Jewish identity without sacrificing our children for your fantasy.”

Here’s a response from Israeli feminist anti-militarist  group New Profile to the suggestion by UCSC faculty and a student that the speaking tour, which includes a New Profile member, threatens the student’s Jewish identity. (Below this quote, should you hunger to read the whole megillah, you’ll find the original statement from organizer Scott Kennedy, the complaint letter from the Benjamins, and the New profile response.)

Furthermore, while we can sympathize with the student, Jenna Miller, that Israel is central to her identity,” she lives in America (as do both of you, apparently), whereas the speakers live in Israel, as do we.

We therefore pose this question to you, since you appear to condone Israel’s colonization of Palestine: Just how many more generations of our children, grand children, and great grand children, and our neighbors’ children and their children, et al. do you wish to fight and die so that you, Jenna, and others like you can feel that this place somewhere out there that is called Israel is central to your identity, disregarding the price we in Israel pay, namely that of burying our young. Till today Israel has seen 12 wars and military campaigns—-yes 12! In less than 62 years, with the next war always just around the corner!!! ….

How many more Israeli parents and families must become bereaved and grieve while you ply your pen to keep students and faculty from hearing truths—perhaps the saddest truth of all being that excepting war zones as Afghanistan, Israel is the least safe place in the world for Jews.Nowhere else have so many Jews been killed since WWII. No where else is every Jewish child obliged to conscript at the age of 18. No where else is there so much post-traumatic distress symptoms among Jewish youth. Please convey this to Jenna Miller.

 

And now, all the original documents. from Scott Kennedy, speaking tour organizer and peace activist

 

“April 20th “Unheard Perspectives” Mid East Program Canceled by UCSC with 48 hours notice”

 

A program featuring Jewish and Palestinian Israeli citizens speaking on will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday April 20th at the Messiah Lutheran Church, 801 High Street in Santa Cruz. This is a new time and place for the program “Costs of War on Israeli Society: Two Unheard Perspectives.” The Resource Center for Nonviolence was informed on Sunday night, with less than 48 hours notice, that the program scheduled for a Cowell College residential meeting room had been canceled. The “directive” to cancel the event reportedly came from the upper UCSC administration.

 

Scott Kennedy is coordinator of a two week speaking tour with Ofra Yeshua Lyth of Tel Aviv and Ismail Kharoub of nearby Jaffa, the Palestinian Arab community recently featured in the film “Ajami,” nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards. Lyth is treasurer of New Profile, an organization of feminist men and women working to demilitarize Israeli society that supports the right of conscience for military refusers in Israel.

 

“This cancellation by UCSC confirms the very need for this speaking tour,” said Kennedy. “Even UCSC wants these perspectives to go unheard. Given that the event was to take place on 4/20, we have to wonder what UCSC administrators are smoking! They are acting like a Texas school board, not a campus of one of the world’s great universities.”

 

Kharoub and Lyth have during the past ten days spoken at Monterey Institute of International Studies, California State University at Fresno, California Lutheran University, Modesto Junior College, and San Joaquin Delta College. They spoke in churches in Thousand Oaks, Davis, Sacramento, Fresno, Stockton, Modesto and Sunnyvale. Their program has been sponsored in different communities by Jewish Voice for Peace, Friends of the Middle East/MIIS, Monterey Peace & Justice Center Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions/Ventura, Fresno Center for Nonviolence, Peace Fresno, WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom/Fresno Branch), Modesto Peace/Life Center, Church of the Brethren/Fresno, and Architects of Peace The speakers have also spoken before a dozen high schools and community groups.

 

Kennedy serves on the national board of directors of the Refuser Solidarity Network (www.refusersolidarity.org) and as coordinator of the Middle East Program of the Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz. He helped organize and coordinate the speaking tour to raise awareness of the United States of the toll exacted on citizens of Israel by the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

Below is the flier distributed about the event. Also included is a letter sent to campus administrators by two members of the UCSC community, demanding that the event be cancelled. According to Kennedy, the gathering was organized by residential assistants at Oakes and Cowell Colleges in the same way as dozens of other events on campus. It was primarily intended for Cowell and Oakes students but others from the community were welcome to attend. The event on campus was not published on the speaking tour’s website. The opportunity for students and others to meet the two guests from Israel arose because planning for another venue in the San Jose did not materialize. No donations or fund raising was to be done at the event.

 

According to Kennedy, “While a bureaucratic excuse has apparently been given for canceling this event, it seems clear that the University has been cowed by extremists who want these Israeli voices to remain unheard. It’s a shame, for what it says about public discourse on Middle East events in Santa Cruz and the United States, for what it says about the influence of extremists on the free debate of ideas on Middle East issues, and for what it says about the collapsing space for free speech and the exchange of ideas at the University.”