In May, the City College of San Francisco’s Board of Trustees laid off 38 faculty members supposedly to address a looming budget deficit during a special meeting attended by over 360 faculty opposed to the cuts. Another 12 faculty are retiring and won’t be replaced.
That’s 50 teachers, but there’s more: according to the AFT Local 2121, the union that represents CCSF faculty, at least 150 part-timers won’t be hired back because of a state mechanism that mandates part-timers not take the place of laid-off full-time faculty. Those aren’t technically layoffs but those teachers will still be out of a job. Many have worked at the college for years — for some, decades. This will disproportionately impact faculty of color and younger teachers. And where does that leave the students one wonders.
The problems at CCSF are not just about money. Entire programs are being suspended and classes already enrolled in are being removed from the schedule by the Chancellor. These classes were already budgeted. The Chancellor and the Board of Trustees are removing opportunities for students and community members, hoping everyone will just go away. All the cuts and layoffs threaten the College’s ability to educate the most marginalized San Franciscans. Ensuring that job training, English as a second language classes and necessary resources are available to the most vulnerable people in our city should be foremost in any decision. The AFT had been working with the City of SF to raise new revenues and the decision by the board undermined their attempts to avoid the layoffs.
The week before the meeting, there were several rallies in support of the faculty. Many faculty members camped out in front of the Administration building for several days and 10 people were arrested. In spite of the protests, 5 of the 6 [not to be trusted] trustees voted for the layoffs. Four of the trustee seats are open for election this November. According to a Union spokesperson, the “…message all week long has been loud and clear: Your ‘yes’ vote on these layoffs is our ‘no’ vote in November.”
Labor leaders from SEIU 1021, AFT 2121, the SF Building Trades, and Stationary Engineers are joining forces for a ballot measure to ensure that City College has the funding it needs to provide affordable, quality education and job training. There was a kick-off event at Dolores Park on June 11 to start a signature gathering drive for The San Francisco Workforce Education Reinvestment in Community Service Act (SF WERCS) to be put on the ballot in November 2022. Contact the AFT at 311 Miramar Ave, San Francisco, CA 94112 or AFT2121.org for more info or to help gathering signatures.
Budget concerns are the excuse the trustees are using but the Union has proposed a budget that accounts for a cost of living adjustment from the state and makes cuts on different areas such as consultant fees. The state of California has a budget surplus, why can’t money be allocated to save City College? Or save the schools in Oakland for that matter? Or actually, prioritize education all over the state?
On June 4 in downtown South San Francisco an historic event took place. Early Childhood Education 4 All the South San Francisco Universal Pre-K campaign, submitted nearly 6000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot this November. The group is a coalition of childcare providers, preschool teachers, local unions, community organizations, parents, activists, and San Mateo County residents who understand that early care and childhood education (ECE) is part of a strong and healthy community. Their website explains that South City’s existing public preschool program for children aged 2.5 to 5 years old is so popular that it has a four-year waitlist—with 700+ families! Parents and caregivers who don’t win a spot in this affordable program end up paying more than $20,000/year per child for licensed childcare just so they can go to work, assuming they can find someplace that has space for their child. But many families can’t afford ECE at all, and may have to rely on more informal arrangements which may or may not be safe or educationally rigorous, and can mean that their young children don’t get what they need to thrive in kindergarten and beyond. As a retired elementary school teacher, I can’t stress strongly enough how important a good pre-K program is for children. It’s the difference between a child who’s looked at lots of books and been read to and one who doesn’t know how to open a book. Or a child who’s never played with/investigated and explored a variety of materials and one who’s had a chance to do that and can start to group and categorize them by size, shape, and color and more.
In addition to providing excellent ECE to all families living and working in South San Francisco, the ballot measure will ensure that qualified, experienced preschool teachers and care providers are paid a living wage. In San Mateo County the average full-time ECE worker earns barely enough to cover housing, much less preschool for their own children. To address this, the measure would raise the wage floor for ECE workers to 230% of South City’s minimum wage and provide access to union representation and benefits.
The ECE website addresses the question of why people who don’t have children should care about this measure and states that providing quality early care and education to low-income families is the best way to raise high school graduation rates, lower incarceration rates, and reduce unemployment.
This all sounds great, right, but how would it get funded? The plan is that ECE For All would be fully funded by taxing South City’s biggest corporations and that a modest new corporate tax will bring in an estimated $30 million annually for the program. South San Francisco is home to the largest biotech cluster in the world (over 200 companies) including Genentech, valued at over $100 billion.
The campaign has been a volunteer effort, not one of the hard-working “turf walkers” was paid to gather signatures. According to Margaret Brodkin of Funding the Next Generation, this is “the most expansive and progressive measure for early care ever and would set the highest bar in the country for progressive preschool policies.” The measure will tax big corporations, provide universal preschool, and give teachers a living wage! Support this campaign any way you can, visit ece4allssf.org.
As UV readers may remember, in September 2020, SFSU shut down an online open class entitled “Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice and Resistance: a Conversation with Leila Khaled.” The class was organized by Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi, an associate professor and a member of the Department of Ethnic Studies, who is a Palestinian scholar and founding director of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) Studies program at SFSU, and Dr. Tomomi Kinukawa, a lecturer in the university’s Department of Women and Gender Studies.
Leila Khaled was born in Haifa and is a Palestinian refugee. She is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The online panel also included Rula Abu Dahou, acting director of the Institute For Women’s Studies at Birzeit University in Palestine’s West Bank, and Ronnie Kasrils, member of the South African Communist Party, the African National Congress and a founder of the ANC’s armed struggle formation Umkhonto we Sizwe, Sekou Odinga, member of the Black Panther Party, the Black Liberation Army and a former 30-year political prisoner, and Laura Whitehorn, a civil rights and antiwar activist who served 14 years in federal prison
But just as the class got started tech giants Zoom, Facebook and Google-owned YouTube caved in to Zionist pressure and shut it down. Zoom representatives said Leila Khaled’s participation was the reason the company shut down the class in an attack on academic freedom, the Palestinian community and anti-Zionist Jews.
After a long struggle through the SFSU grievance process, the panel organizers and participants were vindicated. On Oct. 14, a panel of three SFSU faculty members upheld the grievance. It ordered the university to issue a public apology to Abdulhadi for not upholding academic freedom. The panel found that SFSU not only caved into pressure from tech giants, but failed to defend Abdulhadi and Kinukawa against threats of arrest made by the Lawfare Project if the class went forward, and even amplified the threats. The Panel said the school must provide a site for rescheduling the event on an alternate platform without interference.
Abdulhadi commented on the victory findings: “This is a huge victory not only for us, but for everybody speaking about Palestine and for our ability to teach about Palestine as part of the indivisibility of justice. After the pain and the anguish for over a year that we have suffered, by being vilified by character assassinations, by being chased by Zionists, by the hate mail, by all the nastiness that has happened, by the fact that the university did not have our backs, we were vindicated.”
The california board of education (cbe) is attempting to finalize the model curriculum for ethnic studies in public schools. The possibly final meeting will be on March 18, and people have been urged to call in once again to make public comments, which the board will ignore.
In 2016 the legislature passed AB 2016 requiring the state board of education to adopt a model ethnic studies curriculum. An advisory board was set up to review curriculum proposed by several experts in ethnic studies. The draft curriculum published in the summer of 2019 was attacked as being far too radical. Zionists took the lead in the attack, claiming the curriculum was anti-Semitic. So it has gone through several rounds of drafts, each getting further from the concept that ethnic studies needs to address the work, culture, oppression, and resistance of people of color in California. In February all of the writers and advisory committee members involved in the original draft of the curriculum wrote to the board of education demanding their names be removed from the revised draft.
Meanwhile in September AB 331, which would have required an ethnic studies course for high school graduation was vetoed by gov. newsom, who called it not sufficiently inclusive. By the time the bill had passed the legislature, it included “guardrails” which would have established a basis for suing a school or school district if the parent considered the curriculum to be “biased” in any way. Some advocates for ethnic studies are now promoting development of “liberated ethnic studies.” For more information, see http://www.liberatedethnicstudies.org.
In a letter this month supporting a return to the original curriculum as the basis for ethnic studies in California, QUIT! (Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism) wrote:
QUIT!, Queers for Palestine, a community-based activist group, strongly opposes the current version of the CA Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) We support an Ethnic Studies curriculum that centers the voices and experiences of communities of color. The original version of the ESMC, written by experts in the fields of education and Ethnic Studies, provided guiding principles to ground the Ethnic Studies course in anti-racist, de-colonial and liberatory pedagogy. Students taking the original Ethnic Studies course would have been empowered with critical thinking skills to analyze current systemic injustices.
QUIT! as an LGBTQ organization, recognizes that the struggle for Queer liberation cannot be achieved without a clear intersectional anti-racist and de-colonial focus that was woven into the original Ethnic Studies. We stand in solidarity with communities of color in the struggle for a genuine Ethnic Studies that provides empowering representational models of people of color. We recognize that LGBTQ students faced a similar struggle, in which we were frequently told that our need for accurate curriculum was impossible to achieve.
In particular, we demand that the Arab American lessons, including Palestine, that were written by Arab American educators, be reinstated under the Asian American rubric. We find intolerable the use of a racist definition of anti-Semitism as criticism of Israel and the inclusion of Ashkenazi Jews in Asian American Studies, which have no basis in foundational scholarship.
We also demand the restoration of the original key Ethnic Studies concepts, guiding principles and pedagogy that defines the foundations of an Ethnic Studies course compared to a general course in history. This will entail reinserting the key terms and definitions aligned with Ethnic Studies scholarship and the correction of erroneous information about Ethnic Studies.
Finally, as one of many groups who spoke at the Instructional Quality Committee, addressed public comments to the California Department of Education, and showed up in support of principle based Ethnic Studies that included Arab American Studies and Palestine, we are appalled that tens of thousands of comments and letters could be ignored in forming the revisions of the original Ethnic Studies Curriculum. The resulting revision has led to the silencing of all those who are struggling to create a public education system that is formed by and serves our students of color and their families, who make up the majority of California’s public schools.
As California works to educate all students from kindergarten to community colleges to expand educational possibilities, and as California strives to address systemic racism through transformational policies, it is urgent that the State Board of Education sends a message of support for an anti-racist, de-colonial and liberatory Ethnic Studies in the spirit of the 1968 Third World Liberation Front and Black Student Union strikes. It is not too late to call for the reinstatement of curriculum to reflect the current anti-racist struggles for liberation.
City College of San Francisco (CCSF) was founded in 1935. Over the years it grew and now provides classes to one in every nine residents in the City; some come for credit and then move on to four year colleges, others take the many non-credit courses or get requirements for a midlife career change. CCSF provides free education to San Franciscans and has become the single largest job and skills trainer. San Francisco has always seen itself as a leader in inclusiveness, innovation, creativity and quality. CCSF reflects those values which have led to an institution that is multicultural, accessible and affordable. Prominent in their mission statement is that CCSF is a Sanctuary College in a Sanctuary City in a Sanctuary State and proud of it.
But once again CCSF is being attacked and its existence threatened. The CCSF administration has put 60% of its instructors, librarians, and counselors on notice of potential layoff. This will leave more than 20,000 students struggling to complete their education. Nursing, English, Biology, Aircraft Maintenance, Automotive, Construction, English as a Second Language, and Philippine Studies to name a few, are all programs where classes are currently full. Many classes will be severely cut or lost altogether.
Even though S.F. is one of the richest cities in the world, there has been an on-going conservative push to privatize and aggressively underfund public education which undermines everyone. CCSF consistently offered residents pathways to a living wage, lifelong learning, and advanced college degrees. We all need to stand up for CCSF – for the students, and workers who make it work by investing in the long-term health of the college. If we don’t, CCSF will be unrecognizable and the whole city will suffer.
On March 12, there was a zoom press conference and an in-person demonstration at City Hall, sponsored by AFT 2121 (an American Federation of Teachers local). Over 650 people participated all told. There were many powerful and moving stories by community members, students and faculty testifying to the importance of CCSF and emphasizing the threat that the layoffs pose to the educational opportunities that can change people’s lives for the better. City and State leaders and the College trustees all have a responsibility to use every resource to protect CCSF. The new federal stimulus package includes COVID relief for colleges. The City must use this money to provide this support, immediately rescind the layoff notices and commit to restoring our City College. But we also will need long-term solutions in addition to last-minute rescues. The years of chronic underfunding and disinvestment must end.
AFT 2121 is asking everyone to contact City and State representatives and ask them to find the funding to save CCSF. See aft2121.org for more info on more actions. Or contact them at 311 Miramar Ave. SF CA 94112/415-585-2121.
Leila Khaled was a leader in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and in 1969 and 1970, she participated in two of the boldest and best known actions of the Palestinian militant resistance movement. She was only 26 in 1970, and a poster of her sculpted face framed by a keffiyeh next to a rifle she appears to caress became iconic, decorating the rooms of a generation of international feminists. The chance to hear her speak “live,” especially in conversation with other scholars and activists focused on gender justice, felt like the opportunity of a lifetime.
Zoom cancelled the airing of the class on its platform the evening prior to the event, after the link had already been sent out to the more than 1500 people who had preregistered. Scrambling around on the morning of the event, we were told we could see it on Facebook. Facebook shut down the live streaming and even removed the announcement of the webinar from AMED Studies events, threatening co-sponsors that they risk the shutting down of their pages. It moved to YouTube, which abruptly shut it down after 23 minutes.
These corporate platforms were all responding to pressure from Zionist organizations which have relentlessly targeted the AMED program, its director, Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, and the student group General Union of Palestinian Students on campus for harassment and threats. SFSU and the rest of the California State University system use Zoom as a primary mode of online teaching during the COVID-19 shutdown. In fact, SFSU has an exclusive contract with Zoom, making it dependent on Zoom for conducting its university affairs. However, rather than seriously challenging Zoom’s corporate control over education and defending the rights of its faculty, the University administration chose to defer (in the words of its president) to a “private [company’s] . . . right to set its own terms of service in its contracts with users.”
San Francisco State created the AMED program in the wake of September 11, 2001, in order to recognize and redress the hostile environment that exists for many Middle Eastern, North African and Muslim students on its campus. This was a groundbreaking program with the potential to be a model for schools around the country. Unfortunately, SFSU has never stood behind the program, which has been attacked from its outset with increasing intensity and viciousness.
USABI issued the following statement regarding what happened at SFSU:
“What happened in September at SFSU should alert all higher education faculty to the threats posed by these private companies on campuses across the country and internationally. It is particularly dangerous for teaching, research and learning about Palestine. It also has serious implications in these very conservative times for universities everywhere as centers of knowledge production about many controversial issues and ideas, particularly those related to gender, sexuality, migration, racism, policing, and the criminalization of Black and Indigenous lives. WE MUST STOP THIS DANGEROUS TREND and come together to demand that:
“1) SFSU provides an alternative public platform for a rescheduled webinar that assures no students or other participants will be denied the right to attend and hear from Leila Khaled and the other luminaries on the panel.
“2) SFSU commits publicly to assuring that it will guarantee respect and protection for the academic freedom of its faculty, following the protocols of established faculty governance.
“3) SFSU’s President issues a public apology to Professors Abdulhadi and Kinukawa, their invited guests, and all the 1,500 SFSU students and other participants who registered for the open classroom.
“4) Faculty and students across the country demand of their own universities a renewed and firm commitment to defend academic freedom and to resist any monopoly over our curricula by these tech giants and any other powerful external interests. Demand universities END CONTRACTS WITH ZOOM!”
On December 21, Professors Abdulhadi and Kinukawa filed a claim against SFSU, as a procedural step toward filing suit against the college and Zoom over this censorship. The Oakland-based civil rights law firm Siegel & Yee is representing them.
Get more info about this campaign and steps you can take at usacbi.org. The original webinar did take place with private recording, but it’s unclear if it is available to stream on any platform at this time.
During the August 2020 Instructional Quality Committee (IQC) meeting of the California Department of Education (CDE), Superintendent of Education Tony Thurmond affirmed that Arab American Studies is an integral part of Ethnic Studies and would be included within the Asian American rubric for California’s Model Ethnic Studies Curriculum (ESMC). Thurmond’s proclamation came after months of organizing against attacks by right-wing Zionist organizations that advocated making Jewish studies a component of the model curriculum and for the inclusion of a definition of anti-Semitism that would disallow any criticism of Israel or the lessons on the history of the Palestinian struggle for liberation. Support for Arab American Studies and an Ethnic Studies centering the experiences of people of color was expressed by tens of thousands of people both through public comments and petitions. Supporters and the Coalition demanded that Thurmond’s promise be articulated in the newest revision of the ESMC. However, an early November release of the curriculum only further weakened the guiding principles of Ethnic Studies and relegated Arab American Studies to an appendix, called the “interethnic bridge building appendix.” None of the original, carefully worked out and empowering curriculum designed by ethnic studies specialists and K-12 Ethnic Studies teachers were included in the revision. (The revision and CDE information about the status of the ESMC can be found at https://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/cf/modelcurriculumprojects.asp ).
The IQC met over two days. Oral public comments were made during the first day. The demands of the Save Arab American Studies Coalition, after much outreach and organizing, were represented by several speakers who addressed the need for Arab American Studies and the guiding principles of Ethnic Studies. The principles are essential to distinguish an anti-racist, decolonizing and liberatory Ethnic Studies from a multi-culturalism, “all lives matter” program currently proposed by the CDE for California’s predominately student of color population. Youth, such as Hedaia, appealed to the IQC members:
“I am a Palestinian Arab Student. Do you know how it feels to be called a terrorist by your teacher and classmates? It’s dehumanizing. As much as I tried to assimilate at my high school, I was always a scary Arab with a hard name to pronounce. This is how I grew up, facing Islamophobic and Arab slurs.”
A curriculum that enables students to develop tools to critically analyze anti-racist and decolonizing thinking and strategies for creating systemic changes in the world, would also enable all California students to make connections among colonial and anti-racist struggles. Hedaia, along with many others who spoke about the positive impact that a liberatory Ethnic Studies had in their lives, reminded the IQC that “By removing Arab American studies from the central curriculum, you are removing the existence of people who have contributed to this society and need to be represented in a positive light.” IQC committee members, and those listening to the public comments heard that “Representation matters,” so that having an inclusive curriculum is not sufficient. An Ethnic Studies curriculum must examine how people are represented, as we were reminded by many of the speakers who had graduated from university level Ethnic Studies programs.
Supporters of a principled and communities of color-centered Ethnic Studies curriculum outnumbered the detractors during the public comment period. Yet, several points stood out in the opposing view: they wanted, and did get, a watered down curriculum that couldn’t really be called Ethnic Studies any longer, they were staunchly pro-capitalist and wanted to replace “capitalism” in the curriculum to “systems of oppression,” and they wanted a definition of anti-Semitism that would vehemently disallow any criticism of Israel and discussions about Palestinians.
The political power of the Zionist lobby was demonstrated by the recent appointment of Anita Friedman to the IQC, who is also on the national board of AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Commission), the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group in the United States. The fact that she has no expertise in Ethnic Studies, did not prevent her appointment to consider the ESMC. In addition, the CDE is using the Simon Wiesenthal Center, another Zionist organization, to develop curriculum for the ESMC, a curriculum that is intended to be representative of communities of color. Pro-Israel and Zionist groups have used their influence to destroy the intent of Ethnic Studies, and are moving the education of our youth further to the right and deeper into a white and Euro-centered curriculum, that Ethnic Studies was intended to counteract.
Where do we go from here?
The struggle for Ethnic Studies is never over. The Save Arab American Studies Coalition (savearabamericanstudies.org) is continuing the struggle as the IQC finishes its final work before passing the curriculum on to the State Board of Education, where it will be revised again. Currently, the coalition is asking all educators to sign on to a petition for educators to speak out. This petition is linked to the savearabamericanstudies.org, TAKE ACTION, or at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScgFSkcoRjIMjQC9WAESyYCX4yNkfawPtT7f1RoyENOra_l3A/viewform. The coalition is also asking organizations to write a letter to the CDE by January 20th as part of their anti-racist work. The demands of the Coalition, summarized here, are to re-empower experts in the field of Ethnic Studies to work on the revisions for the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum to ensure an Ethnic Studies based on principles that distinguish Ethnic Studies from multiculturalism and inclusion. Secondly, Arab American studies must be an integral part of Ethnic Studies, not a footnote or afterthought, and Palestine must be part of Arab American Studies. Finally, the State Board of Education must approve an Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum that is anti-racist and decolonial, examining systemic and structural racism and colonialism as well as strategies for liberation. The voices and experiences of communities of color must be central to Ethnic Studies and to the conversations about what should be included in Ethnic Studies. Remember to visit savearabamericanstudies.org for updates, actions, or to join in the struggle.
Consideration of the revised Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) at the August 13th Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) resulted in an historic announcement by Superintendent of Education, Tony Thurmond, that Arab American Studies is a “part of ethnic studies.” The Curriculum is still being considered by the IQC and will go through its second round of revisions in the coming year. Lara Kiswani, Executive Director of the Arab Resource & Organizing Center, commented, “We are hopeful that if the California Department of Education centers ethnic studies experts in the revision process, California and the rest of the country will be resourced with a robust, relevant and transformative curriculum.”
The original curriculum, drafted by an advisory committee of Ethnic Studies educators, was sent for revisions based on public comments that criticized it as “anti-Semitic” because of the inclusion of Arab American Studies and Palestine. The Coalition to Save Ethnic Studies consisting of educators and community organizations, including Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT!) formed to ensure that the original intent of centering communities of color and the inclusion of Arab American as well as Pacific Islander and Central American studies were seen as integral to the establishment of an Ethnic Studies program in 7-12 public schools. Members of the Coalition were also advocating for a stronger Native American component of the curriculum. The historic strike fifty years ago for Ethnic Studies at the Cal State University system by the Black Student union (BSU) and the Third World Liberation Front (TWLG) served as a paradigm for the 7-12 curriculum.
The TURATH (Teaching Understanding & Representing Arabs Throughout History) 2020 report, conducted by the Arab Youth Organization, demonstrated the need for strong educational programs to teach Arab and Arab American histories and cultures in California public schools. The necessity of a decolonizing anti-racist Ethnic Studies Curriculum is supported by student experiences. One student reported, “As an Arab student I have felt discriminated against multiple times. In seventh grade we learned about Islam. There were many occasions where students would drop pencils and yell ‘there’s a bomb’.” The student added that educators did not intervene to stop the harassment. The TURATH report also discovered that 66% of students interviewed learned about Arabs and Muslims from the TV and internet. The students’ experiences of harassment and ignorance, coupled with the misinformation of commercial media, point out the necessity of a required Ethnic Studies class that provides the tools to critique and transform systemic racism and colonialism, and to be a component of an education of liberation.
One of the purposes of the Coalition was to create an inclusive Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, with Arab American Studies and Palestine lessons as part of the curriculum. The Coalition was also established to work in conjunction with some of the original authors of the model curriculum in order to mount a campaign against right wing Zionist attacks. The revised curriculum supported by the Zionist gutted the intent of Ethnic Studies by failing to weave in the principles of Ethnic Studies into lessons, and by excluding Arab Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Central Americans from the lessons. The Coalition also worked to counter the claims that equated criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.
The success of the Coalition’s campaign was clear during the public comments section of the August 13th IQC meeting where speakers demanded that the IQC reconvene the original authors of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, that the principles of Ethnic Studies as a distinct discipline be restored, and that the curriculum be inclusive of Arab Americans and other communities of color.
The struggle still continues as the IQC decides the next steps in the revision process. The coalition wants to ensure that Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum centers the voices of communities of color and will continue to work in coalition with all impacted communities. For more information about the on-going campaign check out the website: savearabamericanstudies.org.
The u.s. department of education, office of civil rights (OCR), announced two investigations against UCLA last fall for antisemitism.
This may shock some of you, because you might have thought trump’s education secretary betsy devos had already eliminated the OCR. Under her leadership, the department has undermined protections for disabled students, determined that complaints of racism cannot be based on evidence of systemic bias, and adopted new policies removing protections from transgender students. The department has dismissed race discrimination complaints and closed investigations at an unprecedented rate.
But it turns out the OCR does still exist and has a priority — attacking Palestinian student groups and academics and anyone who supports them. That’s what the investigations at UCLA are about.
The first investigation is regarding a complaint filed by Zachor legal in 2018 against a planned national Students for Justice in Palestine conference The complaint was filed before the conference started, based on statements made on SJP websites, which state that zionism is a form of racism, a statement approved in 1975 by the United Nations General Assembly. The second complaint was filed in October 2019 by “stand with us,” a group we in QUIT! know well for their anti-queer and anti-muslim presence at our demonstrations. The SWU complaint is based on a guest lecture by san francisco state university (SFSU) professor Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi (Rabab).
Both complaints have already been investigated by UCLA, and considered to have no merit. The basis for both OCR investigations is discrimination under Title VI (T6) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in federally funded services including education based on “race, color or national origin”. (The term “race” is not defined in the Act. According to the equal employment opportunity commission, “race discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of ancestry or physical or cultural characteristics associated with a certain race, such as skin color, hair texture or styles, or certain facial features.” The EEOC lists the census categories of “American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; Black or African American; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; and White; and one ethnicity category, Hispanic or Latino.” The point of this article is not to discuss the concept of “race”, which is often an assignment made by the supremacists in power. However, the hatred, violence and discrimination directed upon people in oppressed “races” has to be recognized in order to be fought.)
So the UCLA investigations under T6 may be a little shocking to some of us Jews, since we, unlike hitler, don’t consider ourselves to be “a race,” don’t think Jews have a single “national origin,” and certainly are not all of the same “color.” European descended u.s. born white Jews, such as myself, are not a protected class, as defined by EEOC, under T6. That doesn’t mean Jews don’t face hatred and discrimination, particularly from people on the right. Millions of Jews with a similar heritage as I have, were murdered by the german people in the nazi holocaust, with the willing assistance of various other European peoples. White supremacists carried out mass shootings at two synagogues within a six-month period in 2018-19. Still, being attacked by racists doesn’t make you a “race.”
Trump and his buddies have repeatedly promoted antisemitic tropes. At trump’s Chanukah press event, he joked that Jews were greedy money-grubbers and real-estate exploiters like him, and therefore Jews should love and support him (76% of Jews voted against him in 2016, and 79% voted democratic in the 2018 midterms). He has also repeatedly stated that Jews should support him because of their primary loyalty to Israel.
Both UCLA complaints are an attempt to advance the prolonged zionist campaign to stop pro-Palestinian, and particularly boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) organizing on campus. Part of their strategy is to change the definition of antisemitism from what it commonly means — hatred, violence, intimidation or discrimination targeting Jews because of their ethnic and religious identities. The zionist objective has been to define as antisemitism any criticism of the state of Israel, and to equate Zionism with Jews. For example, The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, an intergovernmental body including the u.s., adopted a “non-binding” definition of antisemitism in 2016, that includes as examples of contemporary antisemitism,
• “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” and
• “Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”
In December, in anticipation of his Chanukah party, trump issued yet another illegal executive order. It stated that the department of education would investigate antisemitism under T6. Before the EO was issued, the administration had floated the idea trump would declare Jews to be a nationality. But the EO took a step back and instead states, “While Title VI does not cover discrimination based on religion, individuals who face discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin do not lose protection under Title VI for also being a member of a group that shares common religious practices. Discrimination against Jews may give rise to a Title VI violation when the discrimination is based on an individual’s race, color, or national origin.”
The EO then goes on to cite the IHRA, and the “contemporary” examples as the basis for T6 investigations of allegations of antisemitism. This opens the door for the OCR to investigate antiracist or pro-Palestinian statements as being against Israel, and therefore as antisemitism. Therefore, the SWU complaint is demanding as a remedy from UCLA that it adopt the IHRA definition and apply it to campus events and campus speech.
The first step towards that has already been taken by SFSU. For almost 10 years, Rabab Abdulhadi has been a target for Zionists, including AMCHA, a group that specifically targets colleges and universities, the david horowitz freedom center, the canary mission, hillel, and stand with us. Lawfare has pursued Rabab with traumatic but ultimately baseless lawsuits which have been repeatedly thrown out of federal court for lack of substance. Zionists have put up posters around campus, showing Rabab and other Palestinians as terrorists, and posting personal information, placing them in danger.
As Lawfare was losing in federal court, they brought a similar action in state court against SFSU, under California’s civil rights act, which prohibits discrimination based on “sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, citizenship, primary language, or immigration status.” SFSU chose to “settle” this baseless case, in part by making a statement that, “includes an acknowledgement that for many Jews, Zionism is an important part of their identity.” This follows a unilateral action by former SFSU president leslie wong in his February 2018 apology to Jewish students, faculty, staff and community members which stated that Zionists were welcome on campus.
Of course, SFSU has not taken action to stop the harassment of Rabab, or members of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS). Because of the continual harassment and discrimination Rabab has faced from the SFSU administration, and the failure of the university to adequately address her complaints or their contractual obligation to support her program, Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED), Rabab has filed a lawsuit against the university. It may not surprise any of our readers that the OCR has not supported her case.
To be clear about the complaint against UCLA, anthropology professor Dr. Kyeyoung Park, invited Rabab to speak on “Islamophobia and the Attacks against Palestine Organizing and Scholarship,” as part of her class on “Constructing Race.” Two students disrupted the question and answer period by shouting, crying and talking over Rabab. Rabab maintained her cool, and supported the students’ rights to their opinions. SWU then filed a complaint with the university, and then the OCR. Fortunately, the whole class was recorded on video, and it’s pretty clear who was harassing whom. The complaints against Rabab have taken her statements out of context and misrepresented content on her website. Rabab has always placed her support for Palestinian liberation in the context of the general movement for social justice, including advocacy for women’s and queer/trans liberation. As Rabab has commented, “They seek to discredit me and my scholarship, pedagogy and advocacy and paint me as anti-Semitic hater but everywhere they look they find me advocating and practicing the Indivisibility of justice.”
Palestinians, Palestine solidarity, civil liberties, civil rights and academics are concerned that UCLA will agree to settle these complaints within the framework of the demands by SWU and the EO. This would institutionalize that criticisms of israel and zionism are antisemitic, and therefore prohibited in California schools. This is an enormous threat, and the movement is organizing to put pressure on UCLA not to settle. For more information, and current status, go to https://supportprofabdulhadi.org/, or facebook @DefendProfAbdulhadi. If you are interested in signing onto a queer letter supporting Rabab, please contact QUIT! at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This summer, the California Department of Education (CDE) posted for public comment a draft model curriculum on ethnic studies. Within weeks, it was attacked by the Wall Street Journal for being anti-capitalist and was attacked by some Jewish organizations as antisemitic.
Bay area groups including Stand with Us, the Jewish
Community Relations Council, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Jewish
Community Federation, attacked the curriculum. All of these groups have a long
history of using the charge of antisemitism to promote Zionism and attack
Palestinian and progressive activists. The state legislature’s Jewish caucus,
of which scott weiner is a member, demanded the curriculum be changed, and was
supported by the legislative LGBT caucus, also including weiner.
Before the public comment period closed on August 15, the
president and vice president of the state board of education had said they
would revise it. Tony Thurmond, state superintendent of schools, urged that it
be pulled back and redone.
The public comment process was all on-line. After public
comments were summarized, with over 18,000 comments that echoed the zionist
talking points, an app, Act.IL, which according to Electronic Intifada is
funded by the Israeli government, took credit for generating those comments and
forcing withdrawal of the curriculum. The CDE did nothing to verify whether the
comments it received and counted came from people in California, or even from
an actual person.
A law passed in 2016 (AB 2016) required the CDE to develop a
model curriculum which could be used by school districts to develop their own programs.
An advisory committee, consisting of educators with experience in ethnic
studies, met and reviewed the proposed draft curriculum before passing it to
the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) to be posted for comment.
The published draft was more than 300 pages, and included
model classes and information on general themes and specific ethnic groups. It
is centered around communities of color, specifically “Black/African American
Studies, Chicano/a Studies, Native American Studies, and Asian American Studies.”
It explains why these larger core groups should be more specifically identified
and addressed, and in the context of Asian American studies, it provides a
model curriculum on Arab Americans. Within that module, the call for boycott,
divestment and sanctions on Israel is mentioned as a possible topic for
Consistent with how the term “ethnic studies” has been used
in California for 50 years, the curriculum does not specifically address white
ethnic groups such as Irish, Italian, or European or Eastern European Jews. The
Jewish organizations that opposed the curriculum complained this was an exclusion
of Jews, and that the mention of BDS was antisemitic for targeting Israel. The
Education Code currently requires curriculum for grades 7-12 to include
discussion of the Nazi Holocaust, slavery, and the Armenian genocide.
The IQC is establishing a process for revising the model
curriculum. In the meantime, a bill in the California legislature that would
have mandated ethnic studies has been put on hold. Coalitions to support a
strong ethnic studies curriculum have been formed in northern and southern
Rabab Abdulhadi, a Palestinian ethnic studies professor at
SF State, and the only full-time professor in Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and
Diasporas (AMED) Studies, who herself has been under constant fire by Zionists,
is supporting the fight for the model curriculum. Unfortunately, the SF State
Ethnic Studies Department has declined to join with 22 other CSU ethnic studies
departments in a petition supporting the curriculum.