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(Jeff Haynes / Agence France Presse)

US university lecturer’s shocking hate speech against Arab, Muslim students condemned

Students at the University of California, Santa Cruz are circulating a petition calling on the office of the university president to condemn shocking, inciteful hate speech and virulently racist assumptions by a UCSC lecturer against students involved in Palestine solidarity activism on campus.

The lecturer, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, is a well-known anti-Palestinian racist and inciter of accusations against students and professors who criticize Israeli policies. A video of a speech she gave at a synagogue on 20 June 2012 has surfaced, in which Rossman-Benjamin claims that students “have become poisoned by the rhetoric they hear on campus,” ostensibly referring to Palestine-related activism and criticism of Israel’s policies against Palestinians.

“And who are the primary sources of this?” she asks in the video. “Primarily the MSA [Muslim Student Association] and the SJP [Students for Justice in Palestine] students … they are generally motivated by very strong religious and political convictions, they have a fire in their belly, they come to the university, many of them are foreign students who come from countries and cultures where anti-Semitism is how they think about the world … These are not your ordinary student groups like College Republicans or Young Democrats. These are students who come with a serious agenda, who have ties to terrorist organizations.”

Rossman-Benjamin, as The Electronic Intifada has extensively reported, is the co-founder of an outside political group, the Amcha Initiative, which seeks out professors who criticize Israel, accuse them of “anti-Semitism,” and urge university administrations — or state officials — to take punitive action against them. (They have yet to succeed. For example, Amcha’s attempt to have the state’s Attorney General take prosecutorial action against Dr. David Klein of California State University - Northridge for his open support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement was rejected by the Attorney General herself.)

Amcha’s co-founders have also attempted to file civil rights law claims at the Department of Education, alleging that Jewish students face discrimination and harassment due to Palestine solidarity organizing on campus.

Students associated with the Committee for Justice in Palestine have written an open letter to outgoing University of California President Mark Yudof, demanding that he condemn Rossman-Benjamin’s hate speech and what they say has been the university’s promotion of “an environment where students are open targets for hate groups” because of the lecturer’s comfort in proclaiming that students are tied to terrorist groups.

The entire background information posted by UCSC’s Committee for Justice in Palestine is below, and is published along with the petition.

Petition by UCSC Committee for Justice in Palestine, Santa Cruz:

A video has surfaced, showing UC Santa Cruz Hebrew lecturer Tammi Rossman Benjamin making extremely offensive comments about the Muslim Students Association and Students for Justice in Palestine groups at an off-campus event in June 2012. Benjamin describes their members as “foreign students who come from countries and cultures where anti-Semitism is how they think about the world.” She makes openly racist and defamatory claims that MSA and SJP are connected to terrorist organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood. Benjamin also singles these student activists out from all others, saying, “These are not your ordinary student groups like College Republicans or Young Democrats. These are students who come with a serious agenda, who have ties to terrorist organizations.”

These comments reflect the worst stereotypes and slurs leveled at Arab and Muslim communities in the post-9/11 era. They have absolutely no place in a university environment and it is completely unacceptable for a University of California lecturer to be making them, especially about students. What is even worse is that these comments are part of a pattern, one that the University of California Office of the President has been complicit in promoting.

Tammi Benjamin leads an extreme pro-Israel group called the Amcha Initiative, which has launched a series of censorship attempts targeting UC and California State University academics and student groups, based on claims that academic critique of Israel is tantamount to anti-Semitism. In 2011 they filed a complaint against UCLA professor David Shorter for linking to a page related to the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement on a class website, prompting an improper investigation that was eventually dismissed.

In February 2012 the Amcha Initiative tried and failed to shut down Israeli historian Ilan Pappe’s speaking tour at CSU campuses, falsely claiming that he was “anti-Semitic” and supportive of terror. Tammi Benjamin was also behind a federal complaint alleging that campus political and academic speech critical of Israel creates a hostile environment for Jewish students at UC Santa Cruz, resulting in an ongoing Department of Education investigation into the school. The ACLU recently condemned the federal investigation into UC Santa Cruz as “disturbing” and having “a chilling effect” on student organizing in a letter criticizing a similar investigation at UC Berkeley.

In March 2012, Tammi Benjamin and the Amcha Initiative sent a letter to UC President Mark Yudof with racist rhetoric tying student groups to terror, and misrepresenting an incident at UC Davis. The next day President Yudof responded with a system-wide email that adopted the Amcha Initiative’s false narrative, without any condemnation of their inflammatory language or baseless claims.

It is no wonder that Tammi Benjamin felt comfortable publicly claiming students were tied to terrorism last June, when the University has rewarded her organization for doing so in the past. These actions are damaging to Muslim and Arab students and their allies, and promote an environment where students are open targets for hate groups. The University of California and the Office of the President must take a clear stand against hate speech directed at marginalized communities, and distance itself from extremists like Tammi Benjamin and the Amcha Initiative that work to smear and silence student human rights campaigners.

We ask that University of California President Mark Yudof:

  • Release a statement from the UC President’s Office condemning Tammi Benjamin’s hateful comments in the video and previous Amcha Initiative statements.

  • End any UC cooperation and communication with extremist groups like the Amcha Initiative that target advocates for human rights.

  • Formally retract any statements issued at the request of the Amcha Initiative, and take proactive steps to address the negative impact the UC’s past cooperation with the group has had on free speech and campus climate for Muslim and Arab students and groups like SJP and MSA.

Editor’s note: The letter and petition to Yudof was organized by the Committee for Justice in Palestine at UC Santa Cruz, not a chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine as previously noted. It has been corrected. 

Comments

Benjamin is falsely accusing Arab and Muslim student organizations of connections to terrorist organizations because the best defense is a strong offense. Her goal is to deflect attention from the ugly reality of the pro-Israel student groups whose members receive both training and funding from the Israeli government in support of its well-organized Hasbara campaign, which defends Israel's state terrorism and war crimes including systematic ethnic cleansing, collective punishment, and the use of military force against a defenseless captive Palestinian civilian population.

Ask youself: Why is it that Israel can use an Iowa bank and a major American credit card company to finance its assassination teams, which travel on stolen passports ( http://www.wrmea.org/component... ), but Americans can't use their American credit cards to donate money to Wiikileaks? That is a good indication of just how much power the state of Israel wields over the American people. But it's not enough. They want to rob us of what remains of freedom of speech on our college and university campuses, too.

well if the president of the university doesn't take action, he clearly shows he supports this lady's false and racist/hate claims. fact is, he already showed approval if anything once before. i agree with the article that his behavior totally explained why this lady "felt so comfortable" speaking in this manner. so the university should be taking action against the president himself if he is a supportive of instigating a hateful environment at the school. now is the time for him to take action to protect all students...time will soon show what he does...

The University of California system has a long and revered -- at least here in the UK -- tradition of being progressive and supporting freedom of speech. However the use of apparent freedom of speech to attack the freedom of others to express their conscience, particularly when that attack uses racist, xenophobic hate speech, is intolerable and besmirches the reputation of a fine educational institution. UCSC must consider its relation to Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, who has apparently made a career of such public viciousness.

Amnesty and HRW and many other renowned NGOs which continuously condemn Israel racist policies and track their record of human right abuses. It's astonishing. All what SJP and other Palestinians rights activist are asking for is to comply with international law and human rights. Attacking their rhetoric? What about Israel's "official" media's rhetoric? Does she have an idea about how offensive the language is? Or is it something she simply agrees with?

Well BDS supporters, such as myself, must be encouraged when Ms. Benjamin admits to the growing success of the campaign ! We should all work even harder to bring about non-violence change to spotlight the oppression of the Palestinian people and to bring a just and equitable peace to Palestine.
Where the desperation shows in this presentation , as well as others, success
has found fertile ground.

Excuse me, but calling Arabs anti-Semite is ridiculous, because as anyone with a brain will know, Semite includes ARABS. Semite refers to a family of languages and has nothing to do with Jews except that they are part of that family. Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Phoenician and a couple more. Semite is a word stolen to be used to exclusively by Jews. Sick!

Anyone with a knowledge of the history of the term will know, "anti-Semitism" doesn't refer to being against Semites in general any more than "antibiotic" means "against life", despite its root words "anti-" against and "-biotic" life. The term "anti-Semitism" was coined by an anti-Semite names Wilhelm Marr to mean "against Jews" and not to mean "against Semites". Playing word games doesn't change the meaning or the prevalence of hatred against Jews, whatever you choose to call it.

After listening to the over generalizations and complete lack of specifics generated by Tammi Roseman in this video, I have to conclude that Sean Hannity wrote her speech. Mitt Romney should hire her to accompany Rush Limbaugh. Her use of the phrase, "from outside of this country", was priceless, especially since Israel is another country whose current administration is pushing for an exclusively Jewish State; A concept so UN-American, it makes communism look good. The melting pot has spoken.