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Reprinted from Alternet
With a majority of schools in the University of California (UC) system and the UC Student Association voting to divest from companies profiting from Israel's occupation, the pro-Israel lobby is pushing for a clamp-down on Palestine solidarity activity at UC schools. Not only do they want to forbid demonstrations against Israeli policy on campus, they want to effectively ban the BDS movement, which advocates boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel to pressure the country into respecting the human rights of Palestinians.
Shockingly, the extreme demand that the UC system adopt a definition of anti-Semitism that would effectively classify most forms of Palestine solidarity activism as hate speech, and punish them as such, has won support from some of California's most influential Democrats. They include Janet Napolitano, the President of the University of California and former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Also backing the campaign is Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and her husband, the UC Regent and scandal-stained arms profiteer Dick Blum. According to lawyer Ken White, the Democratic power couple has threatened to "make trouble if the [university administration] didn't commit to punish people for prohibited speech." Blum has vowed that anyone who violated the new speech code be punished or expelled.
Behind this lobbying push is a little-known professor of Hebrew studies at UC-Santa Cruz named Tammi Rossman-Benjamin. A hardcore supporter of Israel's right-wing government, Rossman-Benjamin has helped pioneer the use of speech codes and manipulation of the law to undermine Palestine solidarity campaigns -- a tactic that pro-Israel advocates refer to as "lawfare." Through the AMCHA Initiative, a right-wing nonprofit group that functions as Rossman-Benjamin's personal political vehicle, she helped devise the radical crackdown on free speech at UC schools.
In the past, Rossman-Benjamin unsuccessfully crusaded to force California's Attorney General to prosecute a professor at California State University-Northridge, David Klein, for his support for the BDS campaign. She has repeatedly attempted to compel the federal government to define public criticism of Israel as a violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, insisting that activities that offend the sensibilities of pro-Israel Jewish students constitute a violation of those students' civil rights.
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