Ethnic studies professors demanded the University of California stop referring to Hamas’ attack on Israeli civilians as “terrorism,” arguing in a letter to administrators that such language endangers students.
“We call on the UC administrative leadership to retract its charges of terrorism, to uplift the Palestinian freedom struggle, and to stand against Israel’s war crimes against and ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Palestinian people,” a statement from the University of California Ethnic Studies Faculty Council reads in part.
Hamas terrorists launched a surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7, firing thousands of rockets and slaying civilians in the streets. At least 1,400 Israeli citizens and 33 Americans were killed. Israel’s retaliatory strikes have killed more than 7,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.
At least 10 Americans may be among the more than 200 people held hostage by Hamas.
UC leaders condemned the “horrific attack” in a statement on Oct. 9, calling it an “act of terrorism” and highlighting the “loss of many innocent lives and the abduction of innocent hostages, including children and the elderly.”
But the UC Ethnic Studies Faculty Council said administrators’ use of the terms “terrorism” and “unprovoked” have stoked anti-Muslim sentiments and “made Palestinian students and community members unsafe.” The group cited the recent stabbing death of a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy in Illinois.
UC administrative communications “distort and misrepresent the unfolding genocide of Palestinians in Gaza and thereby contribute to the racist and dehumanizing erasure of Palestinian daily reality,” wrote the council, which claims to represent more than 300 faculty members in the university system.
The UC system consists of 10 campuses serving nearly 300,000 students across California. University officials did not respond to a request for comment.
The Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder posted a similar statement on its website last week, rejecting the “language of ‘terrorism’ used by the US and Israel to justify the Israeli state killing machine.”
The department described those protesting for Palestinian liberation as “anti-genocide” activists.
Chancellor Phillip DiStefano quickly distanced the university from the ethnic studies department’s statement, writing Thursday that the statement is “not an official CU Boulder position” and directing readers back to the university’s original statement condemning Hamas’ attacks.
“The university will continue to stand for academic freedom, free speech and non-discrimination, and we will never condone or abide the direct or indirect endorsement of antisemitism, Islamophobia, violence, discrimination, racism or hatred in any form,” DiStefano wrote.
“I hope that as a university, we can embody the peaceful and thoughtful exchange of ideas that we wish for the rest of the world,” he added.
Pro-Palestinian rallies have erupted on college campuses across the nation since the war began. Dozens of student groups have come under fire for issuing statement supporting Palestinian “martyrs” and “liberators.”
Earlier this week, a University of California, Berkeley, graduate student offered students extra credit if they attended a walkout in support of Gaza.