Jewish students are fighting anti-Semitism at this university

In response to University of California San Diego recently sponsoring two events featuring controversial speaker Taher Herzallah, senior Blake Dickman organized a peaceful sit-in in front of Chancellor Pradeep Khosla’s office.

Recent graduate Nov Dubnov said that on the day of one of the events, a swastika was found in the on-campus library bathroom.

University of California San Diego recently sponsored two events featuring controversial American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) Director of Outreach Taher Herzallah

Herzallah is known for his inflammatory rhetoric against Israel and its people. 

In response, senior Blake Dickman organized a peaceful sit-in in front of Chancellor Pradeep Khosla’s office. 

The purpose of the sit-in, Dickman told Campus Reform, was to get the Chancellor to “recognize what we as Jewish students have been going through, and to explicitly express our concerns for our safety by having a Hamas affiliate-Mr. Herzallah’s- presence on campus.”  

“Inviting a speaker who openly incites violence against Jews is blatantly anti-Semitic and poses an extreme threat and danger to the Jewish population on campus,” he continued. 

Recent San Diego graduate Nov Dubnov told Campus Reform that Khosla “only gave us 15 minutes of his time.” 

“I personally believe [that] was kind of rude and inconsiderate,” he continued.

Concerns from students were motivated by Herzallah’s long history of rhetoric against Israel and Israelis. 

In 2010 Taher Herzallah, along with nine other students, disrupted Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren’s speech at UC Irvine. 

Herzallah and the others were charged and found guilty for unlawfully disrupting the speech, and put on three years of informal probation.

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At a 2014 AMP con­fer­ence, Herzallah said that “Israelis have to be bombed, they are a threat to the legit­i­macy of Pales­tine, and it is wrong to main­tain the State of Israel. It is an ille­git­i­mate cre­ation born from colo­nial­ism and racism”, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League.

In February 2017, Herzallah was arrested for protesting during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on David Friedman’s nomination for U.S. ambassador to Israel. Herzallah was charged with unlawful disruption of Congress.

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) first announced on May 1 that it would be hosting the May 4 event on campus featuring Herzallah. 

Dubnov said that on the day of the SJP event, a swastika was found in the on-campus library bathroom. The day after, two Israel–themed art pieces were allegedly vandalized.

Dubnov shared with Campus Reform that he and a friend drew “proud to be Jewish, love everybody” and the Flag of Israel on a wall in the school’s graffiti park on the night of the SJP event. 

The next morning, Dubnov discovered that it was graffitied over with “You are proud of apartheid. Free Palestine.” 

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Because Jewish students on-campus experienced “severe hostility” following the event, Dubnov started a petition on stating that “Chancellor Khosla should be held responsible for his clear negligence, ignoring his Jewish students’ safety when they went above and beyond to bring it to his awareness.”

The petition has garnered 1,700 signatures as of May 24. 

Dubnov also told Campus Reform that he posted 100 flyers around campus promoting the petition, but they were “torn down by the next morning.”

In an attempt to address students’ concerns, Khosla sent an email to the student body condemning anti-Semitism, but announced that Herzallah will ultimately be allowed to speak because “the university vigorously defends the principles of the First Amendment and academic freedom.”

“It is a great disappointment that some speakers on our campus may choose to exercise their right to free speech by advancing antisemitic points of view, and while those speakers have a right to be heard, they do not have a right to be free from criticism,” the email states.

StopAntisemitism provided Campus Reform with a statement on the matter in which it says that Khosla’s “condemnation of antisemitism and call for civility and respect fell short.”

Dickman had a similar message about Khosla. 

“Unfortunately, some members of the student community have only spewed more antisemitic rhetoric as a response to the Chancellor’s message,” Dickman said.

On May 9, Herzallah spoke for a second time on campus. The UC San Diego Institute of Arts and Humanities event “Global Freedom Struggles from Kashmir to Palestine” hosted Herzallah as a panelist. 

“There’s another thing from a student club having a terrorist speaker versus a university. A university paying, hosting, taking time out of their own faculty’s day to host an event” is “especially what’s hurtful,” Dubnov told Campus Reform

“As a Jewish [former] student, it disgusts me. And it disgusts a lot of other students as well,” he continued.

Dubnov started a second petition called “Condemn UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla for protecting antisemitism and sponsoring speakers.” 

As of May 26, the petition received 145 signatures. 

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“Hate speech can be codified as ‘free speech’ until it incites discrimination, hostility and violence,” StopAntisemitism’s statement reads, “which is prohibited under international law according to the UN.”

“And that’s exactly what we were afraid would happen – and did happen – with federally convicted felon Taher Herzallah’s multiple speaking engagements at UCSD and the resulting antisemitic graffiti on campus,” StopAntisemitism’s statement continues. 

When asked how the environment on-campus is now, Dubnov told Campus Reform that the Jewish community feels “extremely defeated.” 

“StopAntisemitism calls on Chancellor Khosla to utilize his own free speech and condemn Herzallah’s words to let his Jewish staff and students know that the university does not endorse, and will not condone, hateful and inciteful [sic] rhetoric that jeopardizes their safety on campus,” StopAntisemitism told to Campus Reform

UC San Diego, Khosla, AMP, UCSD Institute of Arts and Humanities, and Herzallah did not respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment in time for publication.