Two separate petitions have begun circulating across the state of California which express serious concerns about House Resolution 35, a non-binding resolution that was passed with no debate at the very end of the state Assembly’s term in August. One petition is aimed at garnering support (from University of California students and alumni) of the University of California Student Association’s condemnation of HR 35, and another has started to circulate from the California Scholars for Academic Freedom urging the state to rescind the resolution altogether.
HR 35 explicitly conflates political activism related to Palestine solidarity with anti-Semitism, and urges university administrations to take steps to “to utilize existing resources, such as the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights’ working definition of anti-Semitism, to help guide campus discussion about, and promote, as appropriate, educational programs for combating anti-Semitism on their campuses.”
As The Electronic Intifada has reported, immediately after the resolution’s passage, civil rights groups condemned it, saying that:
HR 35 is a poorly researched, highly ideological resolution that contributes to a climate of intimidation faced by Muslim and Arab students on California campuses. Additionally, it will serve to chill the speech of the many Jewish students who wish to voice critical viewpoints about Israel. HR 35 threatens California’s cherished tradition of respect for freedom of speech in educational settings.
Members of the California Scholars for Academic Freedom also condemned HR 35, saying in early September that:
The resolution poses a clear threat to academic freedom in the University of California and the California State University systems. … HR 35 does not create new law, but it calls upon university administrators to deny First Amendment rights to students and faculty.
One week later, the University of California Student Association (UCSA), a body which represents hundreds of thousands of students across the University of California, not only denounced HR 35 in a 12-0 vote but demanded that the University of California stop profiting from Israel’s occupation.
Petition to support University of California Student Association’s condemnation of HR 35
The UC students and alumni petition states, in part:
HR-35 is part of a well-documented pattern of intimidation against those speaking out in support of Palestinian rights on UC/CSU campuses, noted in a recent letter from civil rights groups to the UC Administration.
We applaud UCSA for standing up on behalf of the UC community and defending our right to advocate for human rights and in support of international law.
We thank UCSA for reiterating that students have a right to advocate for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against companies complicit in the systematic violation of human rights, as our campuses have repeatedly done, most notably by the unanimous vote by the UC Irvine student government last month.
We reiterate that votes to oppose Israel’s discriminatory policies by multiple UC campuses express a consistent anti-racist position, and that such opposition to Israel’s ongoing violations of Palestinian rights is not equivalent to anti-Semitism.
And we express confidence in UCSA’s ability to represent the student population and strongly oppose ongoing efforts to pressure UCSA to reverse its vote. We affirm that UCSA speaks for the majority viewpoint at the UC which opposes racism in all forms, whether it be anti-Jewish acts by anti-Semites or anti-Palestinian policies undertaken by Israel in its discriminatory and illegal occupation.
It can be viewed and signed by clicking here.
Petition “to renounce and rescind” HR 35
The California Scholars for Academic Freedom’s petition states, in part, that:
We, the undersigned, oppose House Resolution 35 in the strongest possible terms. The resolution poses a clear threat to academic freedom in California universities. It calls upon university administrators to deny First Amendment rights to students and faculty by erroneously equating criticism of Israel with anti-semitism. If the California legislature wishes to put itself on record as being against racism in California universities, it should not limit itself to anti-semitism but should denounce all forms of racism, including those against Muslim and Arab students and faculty.
… California faculty and students have the right to unrestricted inquiry in the matter of Palestine/Israel, and for that purpose, Palestinian voices are essential, though rarely given the opportunity to be heard on California’s university campuses.
HR 35 was written to serve the propaganda aims of the government of Israel at the expense of constitutionally protected rights of California residents. As California goes, so goes the nation, it is often said. If HR 35 is let stand without vocal opposition from within and beyond California, this mode of censorship will be replicated throughout the United States.
We therefore urge you in the strongest possible terms, whether you reside in California or elsewhere, to sign this petition calling on California State representatives to publicly renounce House Resolution 35, and to vote to rescind it.
The entire petition can be viewed and signed by clicking here.