(JTA) — The University of California system held a public forum to discuss modifying a proposed statement of “principles against intolerance” that does not specifically mention anti-Semitism.
The proposed statement condemns bias, violence, threats and hate speech based on race, ethnicity, religion, citizenship, sex or sexual orientation.
About 90 people commented on the statement during a five-hour forum, the UCLA student newspaper, the Daily Bruin, reported.
“We have a problem here. The problem is anti-Semitism,” said Rabbi Evan Goodman of the Santa Barbara Hillel, according to the Orange County Register. “Many of us believed that anti-Semitism was a thing of the past … We were wrong.”
Leore Ben David, a campus coordinator for the Zionist Organization of America, said Jewish students are fearful to show their support for Israel, The Associated Press reported.
“I am not here today to silence criticism of Israel,” she said. “I am asking this working group to take a stand against racism and injustice.”
Jewish and pro-Israel groups, as well as alumni, have called on U.C. President Janet Napolitano and the Board of Regents to formally adopt the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism in order to properly identify anti-Semitic expression on campus. The definition includes more general ethnic and religious hatred against Jews as well as demonizing Israel, and denying Israel’s right to exist.
Organizations critical of Israel say that such a definition would limit free speech and conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.
Recent incidents on U.C. campuses include swastikas drawn on a Jewish fraternity house at Davis and the questioning of a candidate for student judiciary board about her Jewishness and Jewish affiliations at UCLA.
Student governments at seven University of California campuses have passed resolutions in favor of Israel divestment.