In May 2021, UCCS Women’s and Ethnic Studies department (WEST) signed an anti-Israel declaration. This is the third statement of “solidarity” signed by WEST, (though interestingly the only one unpublished on their official webpage.) It’s rife with bigotry, vilifies Jews, and attacks the world’s only Jewish state. This should alarm all UCCS students and faculty who are committed to maintaining trust and inclusion on campus.
The letter promotes a litany of falsehoods, beginning with a condemnation of forced removals of Palestinians from homes in Sheikh Jarrah, which turned out to be a politicized civil dispute that has yet to lead to any evictions. Debunked claims of Israeli apartheid from Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem followed.
One sentence declares that Palestinian women are disproportionately victimized by Israeli policy, though no specific Israeli action is provided. On the contrary, the daily violence and oppression these women face within Palestinian society is ignored. A UNHRC investigator stated that regardless of the conflict with Israel, Palestinian leaders are obligated to protect their citizens from gender-based violence. They have utterly failed in this duty as observed by the UN. The tirade is concluded with the “Right of Return,” a misnomered euphemistic design for erasing Israel and ethnically cleansing Jewish people.
WEST’s endorsement of this unsettles me. A recent article responding to this letter explained why: “once a department signs on to a set of political positions, the academic freedom of those who disagree is compromised.” While freedom of speech is universal, “[this letter] is clearly an effort to stigmatize a specific set of views while ostracizing Jewish and other like-minded people in what is meant to be an intellectually diverse environment.” Further, Article 5 of the UCCS code of conduct states that academic freedom is protected and “subject to no control or authority save the control and authority of the rational methods by which knowledge is established in the field.” I wonder if their endorsement adheres to this policy.
Supporting this letter shows a lack of academic standards and promotes bigotry through demonization and denying Jewish people self-determination as defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. As our chancellor recently declared, “The free exchange of ideas and beliefs is central to a vibrant university experience. But expressions meant to elicit hate among our campus community are unacceptable.” For now, I am staying away from WEST, and I worry for people under their discretion.
Seth Mendel is a 2021-22 CAMERA on Campus Fellow at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.
An abridged version of the article was published as a Letter to the Editor in the UCCS Scribe.