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UCSB Black Studies faculty plan ‘day of interruption’ to protest protections for Jews

PICTURED: Jewish student president at UCSB also personally targeted

The UC Santa Barbara Black Studies Department has organized a “day of interruption” for March 7 and subsequent “work slowdowns” to protest steps administrators recently took to support Jewish students and quell antisemitic protests on campus.

Campus leaders last week closed the Multicultural Center and suspended its social media accounts after pro-Palestinian students occupied the venue and hung a parade of antisemitic posters with statements such as “Zionists not allowed,” pictures posted on social media show.

Other signs included: “Get these Zionists out of office,” “Zionists not welcome,” “When people are occupied, resistance is justified,” and “It was never about Hamas, never will be.”

The student government president (pictured), who is Jewish, was also called out and threatened by name. One sign said, “You can run but you can’t hide, Tessa Veksler supports genocide.”

Veksler, the daughter of refugees from the Soviet Union, has been an outspoken supporter of Zionism in her year as student president. In response, she said on Instagram “I am not afraid and I’m not going anywhere.”

Campus leaders temporarily closed the Multicultural Center in response, prompting outrage from Black Studies faculty, who released a statement a few days later calling for the “day of interruption.”

The professors called the MCC closure a “displacement” of students of color, and also cite proposed policies that would allow administrators to have editorial control of UCSB departmental websites, a proposal to allow police on campus for major events, and leaders’ refusal to condemn Israel.

All this amounts to a “threat to BIPOC, queer, and trans students’, staff’s, and faculty’s ability to engage in free and public intellectual activity both in person and virtually.”

The attacks on Jewish students on campus have prompted tension and concern.

“‘Zionists not welcome’ is the same thing as antisemitism,” senior political science major Michelle Lebowski, a senator in the student government, said in a telephone interview with The College Fix. “Zionism is a root part of Judaism.”

Rabbi Gershon Klein, director of the campus Chabad center, told The College Fix he is under the impression the students who wrote the posters will be held accountable.

“We have a strong, confident Jewish community here on this campus,” Klein said. But, he added, when Jewish students were asked at a recent gathering how many had experienced hate on campus, “lots of hands went up.”

“In their classes students hear professors say disturbing things that make it difficult to feel safe,” Klein said.

Noah Weiss, a senior who is an environmental studies major and a strong supporter of Israel, said “Jewish students have to think before they go places.”

“They’re anxious about voicing political views. A Jewish student shouldn’t feel afraid to wear a star of David or a dog tag necklace to free the hostages,” he told The College Fix in a telephone interview last week.

“The most serious concern is that many Jewish students are now afraid of their professors,” Weiss said. “Jewish students are isolated.”

“You’d think, in the wake of the last four years, with BLM, Asian American students, others, Jews support everyone. We’re pretty liberal, especially about civil rights. But no one is supporting us.”

“Jewish students are furious with the administration,” Weiss said. “They’re concerned for their safety. [Professors and peers have] painted Jewish students who are Zionists as genocidal colonizers, and terrorists.”

UCSB has the largest percentage of Jewish students of any of the schools in the University of California system, at 13 percent of the 23,460 students, or approximately 3,000, according to UCSB Hillel.

Response from the administration to recent events was swift.

UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang released a statement the day the posters went up saying the “signage has been removed and campus is conducting a bias incident review based on potential discrimination related to protected categories that include religion, citizenship, and national or ethnic origin. The posting of such messages is a violation of our principles of community and inclusion.”

Yang later released a second statement on Feb. 28, calling the actions antisemitic, explicitly, and promising unspecified consequences. He also announced a new campus wide anti-discrimination policy and set up an office of civil rights.

Rabbi Klein said he appreciated those efforts, saying of administration: “They’re starting to get their act together around this.”

Meanwhile, the pro-Israel nonprofit StandWithUs sent a letter to the administration calling the initial incident “an antisemitic hate crime,” and blaming Students For Justice in Palestine, as well as the MCC staff and student activists, for their actions.

“StandWithUs reminded the University that this conduct is not protected by the First Amendment, violates UCSB’s policies, and has the potential to normalize a hostile, antisemitic environment on campus. Further action is urgently necessary,” the group stated.

Weiss said he thought the MCC incident was surprising.

“There have been tensions between Jewish and pro-Palestinian groups. But nothing physical. No threats,” he said.

In interviews with The College Fix, students said that unlike some other UC campuses, UCSB does not have a large Arab population.

It is the only UC campus not to have passed a BDS statement in its student senate. It is one of only two campuses in the country, the other being Brandeis University, a Jewish school, to pass a resolution condemning Hamas after the Oct. 7 terror attacks on Israel.

Still, many faculty members have voiced pro-Hamas, or pro-Palestinian, or “anti-settler colonialist” opinions in the months since Oct. 7, making some students uncomfortable, they said.

Paris Zhang, a student of Chinese background who is in the process of converting to Judaism, said he believes he has been graded down in certain classes because he wears a yarmulke.

He relayed an example of a TA who compared slavery to modern-day Gaza.

“Palestinians are second class citizens. Gaza is an open-air prison. It’s a concentration camp,” the TA had said, according to Zhang, who added he found the sentiment “shocking.”

“I wanted to speak up in class, but I couldn’t,” he said. “Based on my grade in that class, the yarmulke was enough to lower my grade.”

Lebowski, the UCSB student, told The College Fix “it worries me that my college campus is becoming increasingly anti-Jewish.”

“It won’t be comfortable for Jewish students who don’t agree with that (anti-Zionist) point of view. I’m happy to be graduating soon,” she said. “It’s not comfortable to be Jewish here, now.”

MORE: Jewish students spat on, told to ‘go back’ at Tufts: report

IMAGES: Instagram screenshots

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